By Adam Schatz
Adam Schatz is a member of Man Man, Landlady, The Shoe Ins, Father Figures and other excellent bands. He happens to enjoy donuts and we like him. After appearing on DC editor Brandon Wetherbee’s talk show and eating donuts with NYC editor Megan Burns, it made sense to ask the musician to write about what he knows: touring and donuts. Before we get to the sugar, here’s a new Landlady single. It’s very easy to put it on repeat and lose a morning.
This is a donut a day. I’m in six cities throughout the week with Man Man, touring to the Shaky Knees festival in Atlanta and back. I’m going to try to eat the towns’ best donuts each day. That’s all I’ve got so far.
Bryan pulls up outside my hotel and I get in his car. It’s white and the half-seatbelts automatically zip over your shoulder once the door is closed, back when car companies though that was the most important technology to flex until they figured out how to get minivan doors to close and open automatically (and eventually be stuck shut for eternity).
We’re in Richmond, Virginia and it’s my first time really being in Richmond, Virginia. There have been passing throughs, but this is real daylight and a real full day to get on top of it. Bryan plays trombone and barks through a megaphone in the tremendous 11 piece No BS! Brass Band that calls Richmond home, and rally behind the chant “RVA All Day.”
The Richmond donut target is The Sugar Shack and we head there after an espresso that nearly knocks me off balance, due to a caffeine sensitivity that likens me to when a 3rd grader is allowed a second Capri Sun. But I persevere, and damn, damn, damn, Lamplighter Roasting Company is a good place to get one’s rocks shifted around, if not off completely.
We (Man Man) arrived in town late last night after loading up the van in Philadelphia with equipment we’d packed away after our last tour in February. As we drove I looked out my window and thought about the man who wakes up and says “Today, like every day, is the day I put on my leather vest with a terrifying laughing clown on the back, and take to the roads.”
Bryan teaches trombone and also teaches yoga because he’s a musician and we’re spending a lot of time talking about music and about yoga, and about how I know nothing of it due to a fear of doing thing at the same time in a room with other people (It’s also why I stopped going to temple). But I have, for this past week, been attempting some meditative physical activity. I found a 15 minute Qi Gong warm up video on YouTube and have been letting a fit looking Chinese monk named Bruno take me through a series of breathing driven stretches poses and repetitive motions for the past seven mornings. I skipped it today because I was sharing a room with our guitar player. See earlier about doing that sort of thing in a room where other people can see you doing that sort of thing.
But at home I’ve been doing it. I wake up. I try not to look at my phone. I fail, maybe. I go pee in my bathroom. Then I do it. I breath I move I “throw all the thoughts I do not need away” as Bruno instructs me. I’ll do anything for that guy.
Before the donuts, Bryan tells me that one way that Yoga as a practice came to become regular was as an Indian response to British colonialism to show they had their own forms of strength. I connect some dots. I know that my basic attempts to right myself and slow down are in response to digital colonialism. I feel the same way about the music Bryan and I make. The bands who are making sounds that give others meaning, the improvisors, and the Landlady record me and my family have worked so hard on that will be alive in July. We are leading crusade against the short attention span.
We’re also just dudes in vans with instruments in our hands. But let’s not take all the weight out of it. Not yet.
Speaking of weight. Donuts. We leave The Sugar Shack with a box of the good stuff. Donuts are the solution because they’re construction is so simple but the smack you with joy. And they’re cheap. They’re for everyone. Unless you’re a monster. Then they’re not for you, you monster.
The real deal, these are. Yeast, not cake donuts, so they have the fluff but weren’t too huge, and they’re chewier than they have to be. Like they are trying extra hard. Which feels supreme. The salted caramel has chunks of salt that cracks in your teeth, the kind that I imagine would be left if you ran the Dead Sea through a sieve. Other flavors: cream cheese / chocolate and espresso both are super sweet but I can handle it. If it was all I ate for a day, I’d explode. But in the Richmond sun, it is just right, just right. I award Sugar Shack our highest rating: 1 out of 1 golden star.
In the hotel lobby, nametag:Cleveland, tells me how to walk down to the canal, man made in the James River. I take my map that hotels in towns like Richmond have where everything is hand draw (Cleveland gives me the newer one because it had the “you are here” location in easy to spot purple.” At the banks, the water moves and bridges stretch every few steps to different or similar destinations. I take the long bridge to Belle Isle:
“At 54 Acres, it is the largest island in the James River at Richmond, and one of the most historic sites in the city. Virginia Indians fished in the river here long before the English arrived, Captain John Smith was among the first Europeans to visit in 1607, and William Byrd I acquired the island in 1676. William Byrd II, the founder of Richmond, called it “the broad rock island.”
I imagine William Byrd the first was awfully proud of his son for founding a city, even if his island naming skills were lacking. Joggers jog and men in collared shirts look at the water move, and I walk past them all onto the land. A nature trail wraps around the Isle but I move only a short distance along it, standing on a stone structure that could either be a fairly recent form of Christian sculpture, or one of the more ancient examples of dick graffiti.
I cut through a small path down to the water, using a self-patented leisurely karate chop motion to avoid sailing face first into spider webs. I reach to the rocks and I take off my shoes and socks and see a pelican fly above. I breathe in and out and clock in my 15 minute warmup for the first time without Bruno doing it in front of me. My feet feel rock, that has been previously claimed by British colonialism. But I think they missed the pelican. And my legs tingle. Am I feeling enlightened, or am I feeling a tick bite me?
Real triumphs come few and far between, but I live one by not googling “is the James River safe?” before letting my feet go into the water. Or checking in on River MD. Or Moss.org. I lose grip on the slimy moss and am knocked off balance. I nearly fall fully into the water that nametag:Cleveland would later tell me was certainly not safe, but I settle for a silly looking stumble that would only have been embarrassing had someone been watching me from the bridge, but would have already seen me “awaken the dragon” minutes earlier, so looking silly may just be my new calling card in Richmond / the world (.org).
Real triumphs come when you realize you haven’t looked at your phone for longer than you can think “Hey what’s on my phone??” That’s where I’m at. I dry my feet. I pee on the wet ground. I karate chop out of the wilderness. I am an animal. Feed me a donut.