Friday, May 11, 2012

At the Laundromat in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with Hamell On Trial “Halfway” > “John Lennon” (Bonus Video Friday)

Following yesterday’s Donald Ray Pollock blog and in keeping with the week’s theme of books and their relationship to the working class, a little story from the road:

August 25th, 2006 - Ed Hamell and I were in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the town of Ontonagon to be exact, for an outdoor festival gig.  Checkout at our hotel was at 2 pm, the show wasn’t until 7 pm, so we decided to kill some of the downtime doing laundry.  Ed was asleep in his car in the laundromat parking lot, I was inside reading and tending to our mélange of black jeans & t-shirts.

While I was waiting, a bottle-blonde single mom came in and threw a load of skimpy pink outfits & soiled baby clothes in one of the washers.  She was cute, favored Kaley Cuoco from that T.V. show Big Bang Theory, and couldn’t have been a day over 19.  She said, "Is that a book?"  I looked down at my copy of Doghouse Roses by Steve Earle, chuckled, replied, "Yes," and she said I must be in town for the music festival.  I said I was and she told me the name of the club where she was dancing that night and suggested I should stop in.  I thanked her for the info but told we were leaving right after the set to get to the next show.  She continued with, "Is that your buddy outside sleeping in the car?"  I said, "Yeah, it is."  She asked, "Why is he sleeping in the car?"  I replied, "Where else would he be sleeping?"  That pretty much ended our conversation since we then appeared to her to be penniless, and therefore incapable of mustering the cost of a lap dance.  A pudgy friend of the blonde stopped in with more skimpy pink clothes to throw in with her load.  She stopped, looked at me and said, with a touch of wonder and disbelief in her voice, "Are you reading a BOOK?"  "He’s with the music festival," the first girl broke in before I could reply, "he’s not from here."  The second girl nodded, that seemed to settle the discussion for her.  The entire encounter was now veering dangerously close to Bill Hicks’ "Waffle House waitress ‘What you readin’ for?’" routine.

"Will you watch our clothes while we make a beer run?" the blonde asked as she and her friend counted out, with no small effort, a bunch of crumpled one-dollar bills between them.  "Sure," I said.  I think my literary endeavors had convinced them that I was an alright guy, somebody who could be entrusted with the task of providing security for their stage attire, such as it was.  "There’s a guy asleep in his car out in the parking lot," the second girl said as they walked towards the door.  "Yeah, he hasn’t got any money either and he probably reads books, too," the first girl replied.  They both got into a beat-to-shit Camaro and drove away.  I miss being on the road.

I crisscrossed these United States for ten years as road manager for Hamell On Trial.  I toted the guitar seen in this video from sea to shining sea, as it were, guarding its safety always.  From small clubs all over New York City to theaters up and down the California coast, and everything in between (punk-rock dives, gorgeous listening rooms, an art gallery or two, outdoor festivals, and your garden variety bars across America) Ed and I drove the miles and made the shows.

inspirational verse; "I see you on the cover of Rolling Stone or one of those other corny music magazines, that’s just an excuse to sell fashion or bullshit, but occasionally sticks in a good writer or political story so at the board meeting they can ease their conscience that the majority of their readership has the IQ of a Creed fan." – Hamell On Trial, 2005

© 2012 Ricki C.

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