Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hamell On Trial Gets Up Close & Personal in Dayton, Ohio

It was November 2003, in the midst of a Midwestern swing on Hamell On Trial’s early 2000’s Never-Ending Tour.  My friend Kyle Garabadian, Ed and I headed out for Dayton, Ohio.  It was a Saturday night gig at the Canal Street Tavern, only an hour and a half away from my home base of Columbus.  Canal Street was consistently the best-attended and definitely the most congenial of Ed’s Ohio venues.  Owner Mick Montgomery was (and still is) a prize and a prime example of that thinning breed of rock club owners; a good guy who knows and cares about music and takes great care of the acts he books.

The show that night went great except Ed was being heckled by one really drunk middle-aged woman.  She was evidently a fan/associate of the opening act and kept yelling for them to come back on.  After awhile I found it necessary to tell to her to shut up.  She eventually drank herself into a stupor under the watchful, approving gaze of her husband and grown son.  (I think they also wanted her to shut the fuck up.)  Hubby went to get the car at some point and I wound up having to help her kid walk/carry her out of the bar.  In the process, all three of us fell down the steps.  Just another Saturday night in Ohio.

We left Canal Street way too late because it was always just so damn easy to hang out with Mick and his staff and lose all track of time.  It was between 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning when we hit a BP gas station on the outskirts of Dayton for provisions.  (Some combination of Hostess cupcakes, milk, microwave food, potato chips, coffee and Mountain Dew were essential for late night drives when 24-hour diners were unavailable.)

The only other customers of the gas station in those pre-dawn Sunday morning hours were four drunk teenagers cruising for microwave burritos.  And I mean young teenagers, 16 or 17 years old tops, no way were they anywhere near legal to buy alcohol.

We’d gassed up the car and Kyle and I are sitting in it waiting for Ed, whom we last saw in line at the microwave.  Kyle said to me from the back seat, "Hey, I think Ed fell down."  I looked up from opening my orange cupcakes to see Ed straightening up and rushing over from the other side of the gas pumps.

"Did you fall down?" I asked as I pulled away from the station island.  "No, I didn't fall down," Ed replied, "I got in the wrong goddamn car."  "What?" Kyle and I chorus as I paused at the station entrance to check traffic.  "I came out of the gas station and got into those drunk kids' car by mistake." Ed explained.

Kyle and I were now laughing so hard I had to pull back into the station because I couldn't drive.  "I'm glad you both think this is so amusing. I could have gotten shot."  Ed said testily.  "But you didn't get shot,"  Kyle comforted, "If you had gotten shot we probably wouldn't be laughing so hard."  "How did you get in the wrong car?"  I asked, tears in my eyes from laughing, "There were only two cars in the whole place."

It turned out Ed was concentrating hard on his microwave sandwich, saw a car with a driver and somebody in the back seat he claimed looked like Kyle and plonked himself down in the passenger seat.  He never looked up from unwrapping his sandwich for what must have been at least 30 seconds, until the kid in the driver’s seat said simply, "Dude."

Ed looked up into a stranger's drunken 16-year-old face and realized he was in the wrong vehicle.  He bailed out fast, stumbled getting out, pulled himself up and that's when Kyle thought he fell down.  I'd have paid a huge sum of money to have a video camera on that kid's face as a bald, dressed-head-to-toe-in-black Hamell On Trial invited himself into his car and settled in for a late night snack.  I bet Ed scared the fuck out of those poor drunk kids.  No wonder all the driver could manage was a monosyllabic "Dude."

"I could have been killed, you know." Ed said, as Kyle and I tried to stop laughing, regain our composure and furrow our brows pensively to feign concern.  It's my sincerest hope to this day that Ed gets hugely famous and someday those boys see him on the Grammy Awards, recognize him and tell all their wives, kids and/or friends, "One time in Dayton at a gas station at 3 o’clock in the morning that guy got in our car by mistake."

Their friends and families will never believe them.

postscript – Two months later in Birmingham, Alabama, Ed and I were leaving a movie theater at midnight and Ed AGAIN started to get into a strange car, which this time, just by luck, was unoccupied.  "That's not our car." I said nervously, because we were not in a nice neighborhood.

"Yes, it is." Ed replied and sat down in the passenger seat.  "No, it's not," I insisted, standing well clear of the vehicle and speaking quietly through the open driver's side window, "our car was locked and the windows were rolled up.  And where did all those beer bottles come from since neither of us drink?"

I stepped away, waiting for shots to ring out and bullets to start hitting us and/or the car.  Ed surveyed the liquor-strewn interior of the car and exited calmly but quickly.

I worry about Ed when he tours by himself nowadays, I really do.

© 2012 Ricki C.

Hamell On Trial / Canal Street Tavern / Dayton, Ohio

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