So, a few moons ago I spent an evening in the delightful company of my good friends, Shafe and Katie. It’d been a while since I saw Katie so catching up on new events and reminiscing about old times became the highlight of our evening. However, if you know people like my friends Katie and Shafe, then you know that your pleasant evening will eventually be riddled with random freaks and unforeseen happenstances. Being chased down an alley by a crazy homeless lady demanding that her palm be read is just the kind of night I would expect, and hope for, when in Shafe and Katie’s company.
While enjoying a drink with them at a local Eugene whiskey bar/Japanese restaurant called Izakaya Meiji Company, Katie recalled a time when we were roommates. I had just returned home from a HAPPY BASTARDS’ tour and, according to her, I had many interesting stories to tell. Katie mimicked me, adding more of a drunken sailor gruff to my voice, So, I turned to face him and I squinted at him with my one good eye!” Katie then broke character, turning into a fit of laughter. Me on the other hand, I was surprised. I had no clear recollection of this.
“Who was I talking to?” I asked, trying to narrow down a handful of people it could have been. Katie replied that she didn’t remember but said that she’d never forget me, “squinting at him with my one good eye, fuming with anger.”
Katie continued laughing, obviously locked in a memory that my mind hadn’t accessed for some time. Then she suggested that I write about some of my tour experiences for my P.E. column. She posited that the readers (You) would get a good kick out of it. So, let’s give this a go.
In the summer of 2005, we left Eugene in the evening time. Our roadie, Will, offered up his old 80’s Dodge van to transport us across the states, as far as Illinois. The main purpose of the tour was to attend C.L.I.T. FEST in Minneapolis, MN, in which we’d been cordially invited to play.
By the time we made it to eastern Oregon, it was dark. We didn’t have a gig this first night on the road and we needed to find a place to sleep. I remember watching the painted lines on the highway curve around and pass by. Then, we drove upon a car with a trailer hitched on the back. The trailer crossed over the highway line so much so that I questioned the sobriety of the driver. The car-n-trailer continued to drive erratically.
So, you can understand my confusion when the State Highway Patrol flashed their red and blue lights behind us. Seriously?! Having been on the road for less than a day, and thoroughly perplexed by this unforeseen event, we all tensed up. Will pulled the van over to park and suggested that we all keep quiet to let him do the talking. After many “Yes Sirs” and an inspection of the old Dodge van, the copper let us go. I don’t even know why he pulled us over, really. I believe he told Will that he didn’t signal a lane-change well enough. All in all, it was bogus and we quickly surmised that eastern Oregon had some good ol’boys laying down the law. I hoped that this wasn’t a precursor to our 16-day tour.
We stayed at a KOA campsite that night and our spirits bounced back to an excited high. One weird mishap with an overzealous cop wouldn’t get us down.
The second day on the road and our first gig was in Salt Lake City, UT. Have you ever been to this city? Their liquor laws are/were…peculiar. We played at a private bar. Don’t let the word “private” allude to anything fancy, rock-starrish, or even cultish. We were told that due to Utah’s unique liquor laws, many bars had to claim to be “private” establishments in which patrons purchased memberships in order to drink. I didn’t understand the details but we got free drinks. The show had a poor turn-out, but at least we played.
Okay readers, now I’m going to practice chronological disorder. Giving you all a day-by-day account sounds boring to me and I want to skip to highlights as they come to mind.
The band decided to go to Wall Drug, located in South Dakota. For years I had bit my lip in a perplexing fashion every time I witnessed a bumper sticker that said, “Wall Drug”. What was this place? Aaah, it drove me crazy! I imagined a gigantic store with ceilings that rose to 100 feet. Throughout this expansive, but sterile, store I imagined walls upon walls of cookie-cutter shelves filled with 1000’s and 1000’s of prescription medications. I couldn’t understand why so many people across the U.S. raved about this store. Bumpers on vehicles that read “Impeach Bush” on one side and “Wall Drug” on the other seemed too much for my mind to comprehend.
Thankfully, the day had come that I could put my over-worked imagination to rest. Welcome to Wall Drug, y’all!
Wall Drug is a strip of stores located in the middle of nowhere with the sole purpose of sucking in tourist dollars in exchange for trinkets and knick-knacks. It’s like an amusement park without the roller coasters. It’s like a Midwestern swap-meet with shinier, pricier items to sell. Sorry to all the Wall Drug fans out there but I am not on your team. With all the bumper-sticker hype traveling throughout the states and years of anticipation, I was sorely let down. But wait! It gets better! What could squash my already burst bubble? Answer: being accused of shoplifting something from this obnoxious example of American consumerism. That’s right, but let’s back up little bit. So, the thing is, I wanted to get a souvenir for my roommate. Once I saw Wall Drug I thought that there could be no better; this was a souvenir mecca.
Consequently, I have never been accused of shoplifting in my life. If undercover lifter-patrol suspected me, they certainly never let on. But, this day at Wall Drug was clearly a new experience for me. I had realized a worker was following me around. I stopped and she asked me if I was having a good day. I said, “Sure”. She asked if she could help me. I responded that I was just looking around. Determined, she then pointed at the belt buckle in my hand and asked if I planned on buying it. I responded, “Um, yeah, I just did.”
Then another, older lady came up and indicated to the younger that I’m the one. “I’m the one what?” I wondered. The younger lady asked to see my receipt. I dug through my purse, presented it to them both, and tensely waited for my verdict to be handed to me. It was then determined. My receipt for this belt buckle that I purchased for my roommate was indeed authentic. “Have a good day!” they instructed me as I tongued the bitter taste in my mouth.
Alright readers! I’m losing battery power and mental steam. I’m going to make this column a two-parter. To be continued…
Take care and stay real.