January 23rd, 2006 around 2:36am in Ann Arbor, Michigan
"Check it out you guys..." Looking at his watch, Brian Bagdonas, bassist of Portland's Foghorn Stringband, waited until our conversations stopped before continuing. "I'll bet you ten bucks that in 10 minutes, Chowdy is going to come in here and mess with one of us." He made this pronouncement with little emotion- as if he were telling us that the sky was blue. Everyone looked around at each other and smiled. We had gotten to know each of the Foghorners pretty well after almost a week of daily gigs and nighttime socializing. So, in this case, I knew that "Chowdy" (otherwise known as Caleb Klauder, Foghorn's prankster mandolinist), wasn't going to be coming in for just anyone, I knew he was coming to mess with me. You see folks, sometimes when the boredom of the road sets it's teeth deeply into our pelts, we have no choice but to do something pointless and stupid, and in our case, sometimes we wrestle.
I remember the first time it happened. The Wilders were down in El Paso, Texas. We had just spent about 9 hours in Juarez, Mexico and were wound up from the cross cultural experience. I was sitting in The Chief, (y'all remember our 5th member right? now quarantined indefinitely in long term storage in an Oak Grove, Missouri KOA). Anyway, I was just sitting in the RV minding my own business, when, out of nowhere, Estebel pounced on me. Estebel (Betse spelled backwards...with an le) is the name Betse chose as her mexican wrestling persona. When she spots weakness in a potential opponent, she gets a funny smirk on her face, then launches an attack. This was my first meeting with Estebel, and I was both blind-sided and flabbergasted. She caught me totally by surprise, and due to the limited mobility of the RV, I found myself pinned on the transmission hump. Rather than fight a losing battle, I willingly surrendered to the obvious victor-vowing to never, ever, let my guard down again.
But, of course, I did let it down again, and this time it was in Lafayette, Louisiana. We had just spent a week recording "Throw Down" at Dirk Powell's studio, and were in Lafayette to do a bar gig to help pay our personal expenses for the recording. It was Betse's birthday, January 28th, and I was again sitting in the Chief, which was parked outside the bar. I guess it was the combination of her birthday, and the need to release the pent-up recording stress, that prompted Estebel to rise up against me once more. Again, she chose to launch her attack while I innocently sat there on the couch. I maneuvered as best as I could, but the dark princess of mexican wrestling persevered by using the limited space of the RV to her full advantage. Once again, I was pinned to the transmission hump and humiliated. A few minutes later, Estebel launched another attack against Ike- still wearing his polyester western-style leisure suit from the show. Now Ike is a competitive guy, and all I've got to say about the match is this: Even though his polyester pants got ripped out, Ike did NOT get pinned. And even though he had a huge scratch on his forehead and rug burns on his knees, he NEVER got pinned. And although I'm ashamed to admit it, I broke wrestling protocol by jumping into the match to try to help her roll him over, STILL he was resistant to our double team attack. He was crushed, shoved, scooted, yanked, and pried upon, with reckless disregard for safety or compassion, and he WOULD NOT be pinned. It was a triumph of personal will, and he's still proud of it.
Yes, sometimes we wrestle. It's happened in hotel rooms, parking lots and living rooms across America. And, so far, no one has been permanently injured. Although we laugh about it after the fact, during the match, regardless of the combatants, it is a deadly serious game. I tell you these stories so that you will understand why I had a sense of dread when Brian made his prediction. You see, earlier in the evening Caleb had all but challenged me to a match. A few evenings before, he had wrestled all three other Wilders in a Super 8 Motel in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That night, he wrestled Nate in the lobby, then Ike in the second floor hallway, and finally, Estebel herself, as the match loudly moved into Ike and Nate's room . But "Rowdy Chowdy" had yet to grapple with the oldest Wilder. I looked around the living room and imagined what might happen if he attacked. Caleb is slightly taller than me and has a natural wrestler's body. He is also about 7 years younger and more wiry, with short, powerful arm and leg muscles. I was going to need some room if I was to have any advantage. I moved a side table out of the way and removed several breakable objects that might somehow find their way into the impending match. The others watched me with curiosity as I continued to move objects around, opening up the ring for maximum maneuverability. Then we heard Caleb coming.
About 7 minutes had passed since Brian's original pronouncement, and everyone was still standing there waiting. Caleb came back into the living room with a smile on his face and said, "hey, what's going on?". "Nothing," we all said simultaneously. For a moment, I thought that Brian's prediction might have been wrong. Then Caleb was standing next to me and he said, "Hey Phil, how are YOU doing?", as he put his right arm around my shoulders. Before I could answer, however, I realized he was making his move. His left arm quickly crossed my chest as he locked his hands together and started driving me toward the carpet. I had anticipated this side assault, however, and rather than pushing back against him, I quickly turned my hips out and grabbed onto his right arm, essentially pulling him harder in the direction he was already pushing. He fell hard onto his back and I landed very neatly on top of his chest. He was clearly surprised, and before he could even respond, I had already thrown my left arm backwards around his head into a half nelson and scooped up his left leg locking my hands together. With him pinned to the carpet beneath me, I balled my left hand into a fist and drove it deep into his sternum just for good measure. He fought for only a moment before saying, "ok, ok. you got me."
Now, would I have been so successful had Brian not pointed out the possibility of a sneak attack? I think not. Caleb is a strong guy and I personally witnessed the ferocity of his assault on Ike earlier in the week (Ike did NOT get pinned, but did have a huge scratch on his head). However, by winning the match so convincingly, I think there might be two things that could happen. One unlikely result would be that I have eternally earned Caleb's respect. Due to this, he will steer clear of further attacks on me in the future. The other, more likely possibility, will be that he will seek a rematch. We will be playing four more shows on Foghorn's Northwest home turf in the next two weeks.
I am currently cultivating eyes in the back of my head...
Friday, February 17, 2006
Monday, February 06, 2006
Here's Phil skateboarding in Bakersfield, CA... this morning, Feb. 6! Thanks Mom & Dad for the digital camera! Stay tuned, I'll be doing an actual post in a few minutes!
Hey, here's Nate too... it was really fun watching the guys zoom around. Nate's friend John was with us too (he came up from LA for Supergrass), and he did some skating too. No, I didn't! And no, Ike didn't! Ike wanted to shoot some hoops with his new b-ball but there were no hoops at this park, just about 20 horseshoe plots and baseball & football field.
We so rarely get a chance to hang out a bit before we have to leave a town. It was a real bonus to get an extra night here in B'field, at a very nice hotel. We watched the Superbowl (yay Steelers!), enjoyed the hot tub, and got to sleep in with a late checkout today, which gave us just enough time to make that foray into the park.
So now we have a couple of days off. We think we'll take it easy and drive a bit towards Santa Cruz, and maybe enjoy a visit to the beach, or else it looks like Pinnacles National Monument might be a good route to take. I have no idea what it is, but it sounds like mountains.
I plan to tell y'all some stories about the Foghorn tour... it was more than fun and we can't wait to see them again next week. Or maybe this weekend -- they're playing SF on Thursday and Saturday, and we play Berkeley Friday, so we may get a little reunion. Gol-dangit, those dudes are sure fine musicians, fine people, good spirited high spirited comrades! We love 'em. Miss them right now, sniff.
Well... guess that's about all I got for you right this minute. I'll work on a synopsis of the Foghorn tour and will submit it for your collective edification and enjoyment, soon's I can get it written. Stay tuned for more digital photos! Thanks again, M&D!
Posted by Betse Ellis at 2/06/2006 12:20:00 PM