My Trip around the country in 2001 with Halley

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Leg 11: Red Rocks to St. Louis and Trey Anastasio Band show #4 Riverport Amphitheater, Maryland Heights, MO

July 19-20

I awoke in my car after as good of a night of sleep as I was going to get in a '92 Saturn, took Halley out for a walk and ran into the guy who smoked PCP a few days prior. He was surprisingly calm. I was beginning to think he wasn't on PCP. I wrote a paper on it in 6th grade and more so, had seen this video that forever scared me from taking PCP. I opted against a shower, just in the interest of time, packed up our stuff, got Shawn and Siobhan ready to head out and we were all on our way to St. Louis!

Leg 11: 895 Miles
           On the way though, I HAD  to do some touristy stuff. It had been far too long without me going to the nearest landmark to check out whatever was important in the area and buy some crap. So we went to William 'Buffalo Bill' Cody's gravesite, just up the road from Chief Hosa on the way out of town. It was a cool stop off, and on the way, we got to see the bison preserve, seen below.

Bison, not buffalo

             The light brown little one in the middle got up when we parked the car to admire them from the fence and she immediately saw Halley, head popping out of the car and wagging her tail furiously as we walked to the fence. She let out a few quick barks which the entire herd ignored, except for the smallest member. It came towards the fence in a slow pimp strut that had me get Halley back in the car and keep us from preventing a stampede. We drove up to the grave, took pictures and got on the road. It was going to be a long drive to St. Louis and it was getting humid out. 

            The drive to St. Louis was far, 14 hours in total and it was hot. I mean really truly, HOT and humid and sticky and uncomfortable. If you recall, there are three 20-somethings in a car as well as a 1 and a half year old dog with all their gear and no air conditioning whatsoever. This wasn’t good. And to top it all off, we were driving through intense humidity at night - 95% with a nighttime temperature of 89 degrees in central Kansas. Even the dark of night didn't cut us any slack in our travels across the country.

            The drive through the night was miserable but alleviated only because it was a straight drive and we could go upwards of 75 mph to make up some time. That time was lost at a rest stop where we tried, along with many other travelers both on and off tour, to cool down at a rest stop, somewhere just west of Abilene. There was no respite and we were marinating in the humidity. I was so exhausted I passed out in the drivers seat - not fell asleep - passed out. I came to dizzy and groggy with the first sign of morning, drank a half gallon of water and then some, popped a few Advil and took over driving. There was a stop to be made soon.

American Jazz Museum and Negro League Hall of Fame, Kansas City, Missouri
           Being a fan of baseball and music combines in only one place aside from Damn Yankees and that is 18th and Vine in Kansas City, Missouri, where the American Jazz Museum and the Negro League Hall of Fame reside side by side on the most famous jazz corner not in New Orleans. I parked the car in a lot just across the street under some shade where it was cooler, asked Shawn to give Halley some water while I went into the museum. In the interest of time, I sped through the museum, saw what I came to see and kept myself wanting enough to see it all again at a later date, with more time to myself. Rube Foster, Buck O'Neil, Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Paige and other great baseball players who were in most cases relegated to a 'separate but equal' league amid the racism of the first half of the 20th century. I had read 'Only the Ball was White' by Robert Peterson in bits and pieces previously and it was enough to convince me to see this dedicated area for those who were every bit as good as their contemporaries in the American and National Leagues, but were merely the predecessors of Jackie Robinson and others who crossed the color-barrier in the 1950s. 

           Pumped up and wide awake, we stopped for some food and sped along to St. Louis. Ten hours down and four more to go. I drove the whole thing hoping for a breeze to come in and cool us down, but no such luck. We melted the entire way to the Mississippi River, which was the first and only destination I wanted to make. We parked the car and started to head towards the Big River when I turned my head down a street and saw something that was both puzzling and mildly appalling. A group was picketing a conference of US Bishops (presumably Catholic) with vile signs saying 'Fags die god laughs' and 'Repent or perish', among others. I didn't know what the hell this was, but I figured it was some regional thing and headed to the Mississippi with Halley so she could cool down in its waters. 

            (Years later, I learned this is part of Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church, based in Kansas. A sad group of non-Christians purporting to be Christians. It was a regional thing.)

Douchebag protesters in St. Louis 
           Getting to the river, we noticed it to be a bit muddier than expected but this didn't bother Halley, or me for that matter. She hopped in and out, cooling down on the banks while I took my mocassins off and cooled down as well. Behind us was the St. Louis Arch, a marvel of architecture and bigger than I pictured it. We couldn't take the elevator to the top since Halley was with us but we weren't much interested in that. Cooling down near the water or at least getting something to eat was needed. Whatever we ate, it wasn't memorable. Instead, we got back to the car, found a crack pipe underneath our car that we use to take this picture with Halley (notice the half smile as in 'yeah, this is cute') and ditched it to head out on the road to Riverport Amphitheater. This is where the day got a little foggy. 
A good idea at the time
            There was nothing written in between the car and the concert when I referred to my 2001 notes but later recalled a fun drive to the venue, parking as one of the first cars and friendly neighbors who were showering Halley with food and water, despite her otherwise happy and healthy appearance. She spent most of the day in the car relaxing in the shade of a newly cool day. This was good because I needed a nap, which I got until around 6pm when the lots got louder and I had to wake up, tend to Halley and myself and get  ready for the show. This was the same deal as Red Rocks - I would go in when they started playing or when Halley was comfortable, whichever came first. However, Shawn and Siobhan were both there and not going into the show so I could go in a bit early. I splurged on some solid food and a beer and chatted with neighbors here and there. I don't recall a single thing about this show. A complete blank is drawn, even the sit-in with Medeski. And there's a good reason for that. 

            I got drunk. Piss drunk and tried in vain to sober up, with limited success. That summer, Camel Cigarettes were promoting their cancer sticks at music venues with these giant Turkish tents called 'Camel Casbah Lounge'. Since my name was on file (or I put it on file there) I was able to enter, get free smokes and enjoy underpriced cocktails that normally would pose a major problem. Instead, I had myself a few delicious Grand Marniers (I have no idea why I drank that, likely bartender's choice) and watched the show from this comfy yet desolate area. The show was going on and it was now late in Set 1. I was enjoying the fans above that kept the room cool. I all but passed out in the cool climate of this wonderful tent. I made my way to the private porto when I felt sick and puked up at least half the Grand Marnier and much of dinner. I still don't remember what it was, but it tasted terrible. I meandered out to the rest of the venue in time to crash a meeting of The Phellowship, the sober group of fans that meet at setbreak and provide a safe environment for those who choose not to do drugs or drink. And this was my introduction to them. Good timing. I stopped drinking for the rest of the night and drank copious amounts of water. I knew I didn't make the wisest call, but  I saw what I was doing and got my shit together, quick. 

           And that's why I always throw The Phellowship folks some love at any given show. 

7/20/01 • Riverport Amphitheatre • Maryland Heights , MO

Set 1: Last Tube, Cayman Review, Burlap Sack and Pumps, Moesha, First Tube, Come On Baby Lets Go Downtown, Alive Again
Set 2: Money Love and Change, When, Quantegy > Sand > Nothing But a G Thing, Push On Til the Day
Encore: Will It Go Round In Circles
(John Medeski sat in on keyboards the entire show)

Just a terrible picture. Don't use disposable cameras from the lawn. 
           I drank water and rested in the Casbah Lounge the rest of the show except for the encore, but made a beeline out to the car since I was missing Halley and needed to see her to sober up. Plus the car needed rearranging and Shawn and Siobhan had to help drive me to Cincinnati to Hillary's place. But when I got there
Shawn and Siobhan started cleaning out the car with their stuff as they had found a ride back to Syracuse courtesy of the group we met at Red Rocks. It was probably for the better: things got tense in the car at times despite best intentions all around and we could all use a break. Plus I was going to Hillary's for 4 days or so and didn't want to have them hanging around. So I welcomed this change in plans. 

            My arrival to the car however was a bit scary as I saw the two of them were packing up the other car with their stuff while Halley was walking around in the lots, loose with her collar and leash on. She ran towards me when she saw me, which was a split second after I saw her, just in time to keep her from running into the lanes of cars leaving the show. This wasn't good, sober or drunk and I snapped at Shawn 'What the fuck?' He apologized, said they were in a hurry and got ready to leave. Shawn and Siobhan bid farewell, threw me half of what they owed me ($100 of $200) and since we worked together in Syracuse, I could get the rest later this summer or on tour. And just like that, it was Halley and I together alone for the first time of the entire trip.

             But this change in plans came at a cost - I was drunk and had to get my shit together fast and drive east towards Cincinnati alone with Halley. I took my time, there were tons of cars in the lot and I had to get some food and drinks for us before getting on the road, as well as a route to take. Food and water was easy, as was cleaning the car. Finding a route was a bit difficult since I still couldn't see in only line of vision. I figured out that driving on route 50 east would take me direct to Cincy and I could call Hillary when I got there to be guided into town. Otherwise, it was a straightshot. So I was all set to go - food, water, Halley, a map, my phone charged, cigarettes. The only thing missing was my sobriety. And the patience of the security guard who told me to leave or I would be arrested for trespassing. I was in no shape to drive but I was in REALLY no shape to sit in jail while Halley was left alone or sent to animal control, so I took my chances. 

            Note: This was the dumbest decision I ever made and I'm not sure how I got through it. Alot of sugar, caffeine and water helped, as did the drive and the music but somehow, I made it from St. Louis to Cincinnati, roughly 350 miles overnight on a US Route that was two lanes for most of the ride, depending where we were. Once into Illinois, I recalled from 'National Lampoons Vacation' not to stop in East St. Louis, Il and drove past it as fast as possible. I drove fast for a little while actually. Too long, because I really truly had to go to the bathroom and needed a break from the driving. And then, out of nowhere, the lights lit up in my rearview mirror.

            Rather than panic, I pulled over to the side of the road, noting a sleeping Halley who was unflinched from the shoulder of the highway leaning her seat lower to the ground. I gained my composure, chewed up a mint quickly and kept my hands on the wheel. The officer approached the car as I wondered if i swerved or was speeding or was clearly incapable of being on the road in this state. But I never saw the face of the officer. She clearly had blonde hair as I recall shoulder length hair that was not put up but we never made eye contact. If that had happened, game over. Within moments, license and registration were given to the officer, she went to her car, wrote up a ticket quickly and came back, giving me instructions on how to handle the ticket. I barely had spoken a word before she was gone. Off and flying into the night down the road towards a gas station that appeared like a mirage. I set the ticket aside and bolted for the bathrooms that had eluded me since the venue. Surprisingly, I didn't piss myself in the car while she pulled me over, I simply lost the urge to go. And now it was back with vengeance.

            Making it to the gas station, I filled up the tank, emptied my tank and took a break to recapture what it was that just happened. I was pulled over, drunk but given a ticket for 50 in a 35? That was it? This moment was sobering in many ways. I had my first ticket after nearly 8000 miles of travel and eluded a fate that was even worse. I was quite literally sober at this moment in time, took it to pray and thank whoever it was that looked over me there and got back on the road after a 20 minute break. 

            The next seven hours were spent listening to music, comedy albums and talk radio, all in the interest of keeping me awake, alert and focused on the road. I smoked cigarettes relentlessly and chugged this new drink 'Red Bull' as well as water that kept me awake with a twice an hour need to pee. Around 4am I had my first long talk of the road with Halley, going over a myriad of topics, reflecting on the trip, talking aloud with her responding in stares and glares, barks and whines. I got through Illinois easily but Indiana took forever. By the time I was nearing Ohio, it was 7am, light out and I was fading fast. I started calling Hill's cell phone left and right when I was getting close and she picked up around 7:40am, just in time to guide me off the highway and into her neck of the woods. Where she lived I have no idea, I never wrote it down and when we broke up, it didn't really matter. It was a nice area of Cincy though, suburban and a good ten minutes or so to get to downtown from there. I was guided into her driveway, pulled the car up outside the garage, got out and gave her a long sweaty hug, as I was now unshowered for nearly three days, having been to two concerts and ridden in a car 22 hours since my last shower, over a timezone ago. We were happy to see each other but I was happier to see a bed. I crashed on the bed downstairs in the basement and passed out before Hill could get me a glass of water or I could shut my car doors. Halley got on the bed with me and followed Hill's every move, a little protective I think since I was exhausted and needed rest, as did she. And I slept for a solid eight hours before I was woken up to go to dinner with Hillary and her family......

              I fell asleep realizing what I had done to get to see Hillary, driven halfway across the country in an intense heat, got drunk, drove and got a ticket in the process before driving the remainder straight through. Little did I know that ticket could have been much worse. Much, much worse.

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