Since it’s National Donut Day, we think it’s a good time to revisit this piece from May 19, 2014.
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.
*Knock knock* … *knock knock knock* ….
I wake up and I panic. I know what’s happening and I’m not sure I can stop it. It’s early, it’s 9 AM in Raleigh, North Carolina and I forgot to put the do-not-disturb hanger on the door knob. One more knock and I know she’s coming in. I know she’s coming in and she wants to clean. She thinks we’re outta there because we haven’t shouted back because we just woke up to the knocks and haven’t had enough time to process everything, and she will enter the room expecting an empty mess she can address and will instead find two more-or-less naked dudes on their respected beds. I never got her name.
Up I jump, running silently to the door and stopping it with my hand as it starts to open and I cough out a “No, thank you!” with the voice you normally have to shed before answering a phone call that wakes you up when you need to pretend that you weren’t asleep.
“I’m sorry,” the hotel cleaner sang back. It was so melodic. It took me by surprise, as it would when this exact transaction would repeat itself 40 minutes later.
The drive down to Raleigh is one of my favorites of the eastern US. Trees tower on either side of the highway generously confined to two lanes. The road almost narrows the closer we get to where we’re going and we’re breathing the proof that a third lane sucks all the romance out of highway driving. Don’t get me started on a fourth. The trees are real trees, none of those cell phone towers in cheap day-of-Halloween disguises. And even though a hotel room tends to be an inherently stale region-less environment, the time on the sidewalks and on stage for the citizens of the city / town / principality prove that romance lives on in the streets as well. The triangle of North Carolina seems of have its wits about it, and the people who live there know they’ve found a place where the weather tends to add up and rents don’t, where culture can breathe evenly and hush puppies are fried. I’m pretty sure the water supply tastes like crap, but that doesn’t seem to affect morale much. Or the donut production.
Dan picks me up and we have limited time to get to our destination and back, Daylight Donuts, not a short drive away. He’s a good deal my senior but we both grew up in Massachusetts and conversation quickly falls towards the sense memory donuts trigger for both of us, coming from the land where Dunkin was king. Founded in 1950 by William Rosenberg in Quincy, MA, one of the most Massachusetts towns in all of Massachusetts, Dunkin Donuts is to Boston what anonymous bodegas are to New York City and what whales used to be to the ocean.
Every birthday or special event in school, a big box of munchkins, powdered sugar and jelly, instantly, everywhere. Airport memories of it still being dark outside, to beat Thanksgiving lines, and the arrivals sidewalk outside the automatic doors smell like gasoline and cold air, and the carpet inside the arrivals area of Logan Airport smells like the Dunkin Donuts 30 feet away, the only thing open, the only thing you care about. In 1997 Fred The Baker, the 15-year-strong human mascot for DD in television commercials retired and on that day Dunkin Donuts across the state declared “Free Donut Day.”* I was 10 and I flipped out. A real perk to being 10 is you don’t understand that 79 cents for a donut is basically the same thing as zero cents for a donut. So a free donut in that moment was the most magical thing I could wrap my growing brain around.
The displays were old school, trays and labels, flavors you were forced to accept and avoid, others you drifted towards. I speak in the past tense because now those previously magic O’s now taste like compacted dust with sugar on top. Daylight Donuts in Raleigh matches the display, there are the ones you recognized, and the few you ask about. The kind lady behind the counter talks us through our order and we leave with a variety of four. Turns out daylight is also a chain. Founded in 1954 in Tulsa. That was the decade. What did American’s eat for breakfast in the 1940’s? I imagine it was mostly raw eggs.
The taste is right. Not dry, not ill-willed, and anchoring, as the donuts are an anchor on our continued timeline, no different from my childhood or Dan’s childhood before mine, or our fore-father’s great-grandchildren who ate the first Dunkin or Daylight Donut after taking their chickens to the dump.
I’m late coming back to the hotel and Man Man continues our tour to the unlikeliest of destinations: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We’re playing at a House Of Blues, another Massachusetts original that used to be a small venue with modest attitude in Harvard Square, Cambridge before being closed down, the brand acquired by villainous big-wigs Live Nation who now run thirteen tasteless big venues around the US. This one had a beach theme and we played on the deck in back, exciting because we could benefit from the sea breeze during the show, and complicated because the stage was actually just a small wooden platform that proved no competition for a local man to bring his big dog to the front row and eventually up there with us to be proudly confused in front of a bunch of human beings.
A giant sign on the road towards the water boasts Myrtle Beach is birthplace of Vanna White, and I will not pretend that is not impressive. But the truest impressions are made in the gigantic beach clothes / boogie boards / vulgar T-shirts / knives store that’s also conveniently placed on the way to the beach. This is a true one stop shop, the next best thing if you don’t get to spend your whole day at Alligator Adventure, a destination we sadly have no time for but advertises “buy one ticket, next day is free.” I bet the alligators all wear sunglasses. Next time.
Inside the giant slap bracelet / switchblade comb / muscle shirt / pitbull towel store, items stack up along the walls and the ceiling went on for hours. I’m about to ask the clerk her feelings on Barack Obama but am distracted by the 50% off marking on throwing stars. The stars of the show however, live within a glass prison. Climbing along man made structures, gazing out at back scratchers and the back scratchees, these hermit crabs see everything. The lucky ones remain in the store. Those less fortunate are hand picked, by the worst kind of parent who thinks a live hermit crab (or any hermit crab) is a suitable vacation souvenir.
I dare anyone to try and spell souvenir correctly in three attempts. It’s impossible.
The unlucky hermit crab is taken out of the store. It is most likely put in a sandy pocket, and the best thing that can happen to it is the little monster accidentally drops our hero out the window and it falls down a drain, free to live it’s life in the beautiful belly of a cool-ass alligator living in the underbelly of Myrtle Beach.
The worst thing that can happen to this hermit crab is it makes it home and is placed in a cage with a mirror. And it will see that throughout it’s entire existence in servitude, it’s shell has been painted with the Confederate flag. The hermit crab will sigh, and understand.
In 2005 Michael Vale, the actor who was Fred The Baker, died of complications related to diabetes. That same year I graduated high school and looked towards a life outside of Massachusetts, to discover how life lived in other places. To eat sushi for the first time, to ride a subway train in the wrong direction for too long to not notice, to make choices and mistakes and revisions all leading towards going to a lot of different places that weren’t Massachusetts every year to play music and discover anything new. To meet a sad crab and play a rock show for a dog and his best friend. To drive two lanes at a time, and to never forget where I came.
*Not to be confused with the nationwide, annual Free Donut Day. From a Dunkin Donuts press release: National Donut Day, held the first Friday of June each year, was originally established in 1938 by the Chicago Salvation Army to honor women who served donuts to soldiers during World War I. Dunkin’ Donuts has led the donut category for more than 60 years, selling approximately 2.4 billion donuts and MUNCHKINS® donut hole treats combined globally per year.