Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Snake in the Grass

I was getting ready to leave Winfield on Monday. I'd stayed over Sunday night but wasn't up for campground shenanigans due to already losing enough sleep (and my voice) over the weekend. So I splurged on a motel room in town, slept decently, and the next morning headed in to tear my tent and its belongings down.

I had come in to the festival at night, the Wednesday before, when it was already looking really full. My festival family welcomed me in, helped me to set up, and made me feel right at home in this little neck of the woods that was to be home for the next several days. (y'all are the best -- thanks so much -- I miss y'all already)

I came back to the now almost empty camp grounds. My tent was the lone survivor of the neighborhood. Fighting the strong Kansas winds, I emptied my tent of its contents, turned my tent over to dump out dirt clods and grass, laid out my tarp and staked it so it could dry, and began to pile all my stuff around my car.

My car is small (compact) and packing it requires careful consideration. It's not one I can pack by just throwing stuff in any old way. So I couldn't really start packing it until everything was in its respective bag, box, or rolled up or whatever. It took a good hour of work to get to this point.

I had put things near their packing location. For example, my tent, camp chairs, tables, and cooler were near the back of my car. My suitcase, hanging bag of clothes, violin case, and some other odds and ends were near the passenger door. I had opened both doors of the car, having gotten to the point where I was ready to start the big pile-in. My violin case was on the ground right beside the passenger seat area. My hanging bag was draped over the open passenger door. A couple other odds and ends sat nearby. I was about ten feet from this side of my car, and the wind was blowing, so things were flapping around a bit.

But none of them were moving through the grass.
Like the five foot long blacksnake.
Going about 10 mph.
Sliding right past me.
Heading straight for my car.
Slithering over the odds.
And the ends.
Working its way up my violin case.
Its head now above the case.
Peering inside my car.
(This takes about three seconds)

I'm crying out, "no, no, no".
I'm running toward the car.
I'm praying the snake will be scared.
I'm waving my arms toward it.
It slides off the case.
Goes under the car.
(The other door is open too...)

I shove my case out of the way...
Throw my hanging clothes off the door...
Slam the passenger door...
Run around my car...
Slam the driver's door...
Stand there shaking...
What if it's in the car...
What if it's in the car...
Where did it go...
Is it in the car?
Oh, sh**.
Where is it.

I emptied out what was already in my car. Poked something under the seats. No sign. I moved my car a few feet. No snake. Nothing to do but pack up. After I'd driven an hour or so, it occurred to me that the snake could have crawled up into the engine where it was nice and warm. So I stopped and lifted the hood, peered around. Nothing.

Nothing to do but hope that old snake stayed in Winfield.

But I haven't been out to my car since I got home.

What if it's sunning itself in the windshield?


Certainly not.

I hope...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Home Safe

Howdy folks,
We all made it safely home from the eastern tour. Sorry I didn't write more of the day-to-day drudgery for you, but it was a pretty intense trip, and we had precious little time for relaxation. The gas prices ($3.69 per gallon in Maine!!!) and Labor Day motel price gouging ($120.00 a night for absolute flea bag crap!!!) basically smacked us down for the entire trip, but we made some new fans and friends and were fairly well recieved by the masses. We are still sweating out our new CD deadline of Wednesday with no news thus far. After spending so much dough on the eastern tour, we desperately need to have it for Winfield or we will miss out on huge potential sales. Everybody please send a prayer to the CD manufacturer, AND the truck driver who will deliver it into our hands. If all goes well, the new CD, entitled "Throw Down", will be available by this weekend to all of those who go to Winfield. I have also made arrangements for the CD to be available for purchase on our website by this weekend as well. Everything came together marvelously, the artwork that Betse and I did is pretty danged neat and Ike and Dirk worked very hard to make it sound awesome. Pick it up and Throw Down! I will be shipping web orders all next week.
drive safely to Winfield!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Spin One For The Zipper

August 25th: Trumansburg, New York

Here's a personal detail; I absolutely love fairs. I fondly remember my pop taking me to Sedalia almost every year to spend a day at the Missouri State fair. We'd browse the exhibits, check out the 4H contest winners and then, inevitably, I'd drag him to the midway to get on some sketchy rides and try (unsuccessfully) to win a dumb stuffed animal or a switchblade comb by tossing rings over coke bottles, or shooting moving targets with a poorly sighted BB gun. He'd top off the day by letting me eat some god-awful batter-dipped meat byproducts before yanking me out of there kicking and screaming for more. Maybe it's the corn-dogs, or the rides, or just the complete spectacle of it, but I'm a fair junky for life. So, you can imagine how happy I was when we arrived in the quaint downtown of Trumansburg, New York, and I looked out the window of the van and saw a ferris wheel. This nifty little town fair looked to be a microcosm of all my favorite fair memories- impossibly dangerous-looking rides, batter-dipped foods of all nationalities and, of course, crazy-looking carneys barking at the pretty girls and generally creeping everybody out.

We arrived in the late afternoon a little wobbly from two+ days of solid driving from KC. Since the stage hands were still setting up for the concert, there wasn't much happening yet, so we all scattered and took in the sights in our own way. We were here in Trumansburg as as a supporting act for Buffalo Zydeco, a group made up mostly from the members of New York state jamgrass heroes, Donna the Buffalo. Also on the bill, was a Louisiana band that we had heard loads about, The Red Stick Ramblers. We parked the van in the shade and, out of sheer boredom, actually practiced some new songs before we had to get dressed for the show. We were the first band up and, after being introduced, we got down to the business of playing our stuff for this crowd of local Trumansburgers- none of whom had absolutely any idea of who we were. We got a warm response, but I could tell that the crowd was saving themselves for the main act. This mattered little to me, however, because I was now off work, and ready to get my fair on.

We changed out of our soaking show clothes and lingered in the backstage area to marvel at the Red Stick Ramblers who had stormed the stage in our absence. These guys were pouring it on thick and the crowd danced and sweated and screamed for more. The Ramblers mix western swing and cajun fiddle tunes with the same effortless indifference that our band mixes old-time fiddle tunes with honky tonk. After standing, gape-mouthed and humbled for most of their set, my stomach took control of my brain and demanded something deep-fried immediately. I found Nate and Ike, and quickly deputized them as my fair posse, then we headed out for the midway. Common sense dictates that rides must always precede food, so we purchased tickets and Ike dragged us over to the bumper cars. Now don't get me wrong, I love to smash into other cars. But when you learn to drive in Kansas City, it's a lot of work just avoiding the cars that are trying to smash into you, so neither Nate or I were much interested in Ike's first choice. We made another loop, spent some money on a slice of pizza to tide us over, and then, turning another corner, Nate suddenly said, "Let's ride THAT." Ike and I looked up and stared into the face of THE ZIPPER. It's impossible to describe, but I'll try. The Zipper is an oblong tank-track-shaped structure which has two-seat cars mounted and hanging about every 5 feet. The whole track rotates around a center point tower about 20 feet off the ground. As the oversized chain drive pulls the tank track in circles, the individual human torture cages are free to flip forward, backward and upside down, with each centrifugal spin. Ike watched The Zipper for a moment and then quickly said, "sorry dude, no WAY am I getting on that."

Nate looked at me and flashed me his saddest puppy dog eyes, and I was transported back in time. I now understood what mechanism was in place back at the old MO State fair-why my dad always allowed me to drag him into this kind of crap even though it was probably the last thing he wanted-why I ALWAYS got my way, at least for awhile. I looked at Nate and said, "alright, what the hell." We walked back to the ticket booth and acquired the sufficient admission fee. As a precautionary measure, Nate ran with Ike to the bathroom, and as I walked back to get in line, I noticed the two carneys who, in moments, were going to hold our lives in their hands. The Zipper operator, who shall from this point forth be referred to as "Brutus Maximus", was a solid pro-wrestler type of a guy weighing in at a solid 250lbs+. He had a shaved head and an evil smirk and I could see him eyeing me as I stood at the gate. His assistant, who shall from this point forth be referred as "Renfield", was a wiry guy, barely 5 feet tall, with a handlebar mustache and huge thick oval coke bottle glasses. Brutus had stopped The Zipper momentarily so that Renfield could hose out one of the cars. It seemed a strange time to do routine maintenance on the ride, and then it dawned on me what he must be hosing. Nate and Ike returned from the bathroom and I called out to them, "Dude, check it out, they are HOSING OUT one of the cars. You know what THAT means." Brutus Maximus overheard me and smirked again, clearly enjoying his profession. Renfield finished up with his hose and slammed the door shut as Brutus Maximus cranked her into gear again. As is the case with its benign cousin, The Ferris Wheel, The Zipper can only unload one car at a time. So it took several minutes for Brutus and Renfield to get the few folks standing in line in front of us on board. We stood and watched the superstructure rotate, each car blurring with speed and spin, backwards, forwards, and upside down, before Brutus slammed on the brakes and Renfield opened the cage to release it's woozy occupants. It made me dizzy just to watch, and I briefly considered forgetting the whole thing, but somehow it gave me pleasure to be willing to do something, for once, that was "too crazy" for Ike.

Before I could chicken out, the Zipper stopped rotating again and Renfield swung open the door to an empty cage. Brutus smirked at us again as he took our tickets and Nate and I crawled into our seats. They were wet. Before I could even speak, Renfield slammed the door like an insane jailer and I looked at Nate and said, "Dude, this is the car he was HOSING OUT." The last thing I saw as I looked out of our cage was Renfield and Brutus Maximus laughing. Then all hell broke loose. We were up moving on the outside of the track and then we were inside, then upside down, then outside again. Nate and I held on to the bars of our cage for dear life and screamed our heads off as we flipped upside down and right-side up, again, and again and again. Then Brutus Maximus reversed the gears. Now we were on the inside track, flipping upside down the other direction, now outside, then inside again and another flip, and another. Every once and awhile our cage would be on the end of the track flipping at exactly the same time that the whole track reached the outside point of maximum centrifugal spin. It was at those points that I thought our car was going to fly off the track, landing us somewhere in New Jersey. The terror continued for, what seemed like a half hour, and then suddenly Brutus Maximus slammed the whole track to a stop. He was letting some other lucky jerks off at the bottom while Nate and I hung upside down like bats on a cave ceiling, hose water still dripping around us. Seconds later we were off again, flipping, whipping and spinning around while the blood drained from my forearms. Another brief stop and then we were headed back to the bottom. Suddenly the direction reversed and we flipped about 8 consecutive spins, then the car rocked back the other way and we flipped another 8 spins the other direction, then back again for another 8. We were near the bottom of the track and very close to the end of the ride yet we were now spinning more than ever. I looked out of the cage past my white knuckles and glimpsed Brutus Maximus laughing his head off. I realized that he was deliberately spinning us trying to make us sick. I screamed at Nate, "Dude, he's screwing with us." I don't remember now what Nate said in response because we were again spinning over, and over, and over again. Just when I could almost feel that piece of pizza climbing back up my esophagus, suddenly everything slammed to a stop. Renfield's handlebar mustache and glasses appeared at the door to our cage and the rest of the fair appeared in my shaken vision. We were free. Nate and I spilled out of our cage like soggy sardines and wobbled toward the exit gate. My brain was still spinning but as I passed Brutus Maximus, I smiled and said, "good JOB dude." He smirked back at me and then refocused on his evil lever, throwing it into gear to torture his next unsuspecting prisoners.