Wednesday, September 22, 1999

Road Warriors' Guardian Angel Busy Again

At about four thirty yesterday afternoon, just off to the side of I-70 about three miles west of the Eisenhower Tunnel right on the roof of the Rocky Mountains, and aboard a very seriously broken down bus (whose brakes had failed, and with a six-mile downhill gradient facing us) and with the first snow of a coming winter starting to swirl about, things did not look at all good for us, starting out for San Diego on a run that would take us all the way through the Rockies, and then the canyons of the Colorado River, and finally all the way across the Mojave Desert. We had only done sixty-odd miles of a one thousand, one hundred - mile total, and here we were with all our cellphones getting no signal, and awfully, awfully stranded and vulnerable, as huge semi - articulated trucks thundered past us on their downhill runs, each one swaying our parked home - on - wheels sickeningly as they went, and nothing but two bits of 'fallen rock' under our wheels to keep us from hurtling on downwards into eternity.

Thank the Big Yin for falling rocks, I say, for without them we were surely doomed to suffer a very scary ride before careening off the highway into the void below. However, just as we were starting to recall bits of Piers Paul Read's book, "Alive", and tales of the Donner Party were filtering into everyone's psyche, a freak cloud clearance gave me a weak radio signal that allowed us to call an emergency dispatch centre, who in turn sent a Highway Patrol car to our rescue. Never have so many hooligans been so happy to see a policeman in their lives, as by now it was growing dark, and the snow was becoming a soon-to-be serious issue as well.

A good natured and thoroughly helpful chap he turned out to be, too, and in what seemed comparatively no time, he had a giant tow truck summoned from Denver to take our ailing vehicle off the mountain, and a warm passenger van en route to similarly rescue its weary, wary occupants. Meanwhile he had lent Matt, our fearless tour manager his own warm car to dial up all the hotels he could, in that city (all sold out due to a massive convention - except one - the most convenient and comfortable one for us, that miraculously had just five rooms suddenly open up due to late cancellations). I think Matt enjoyed his little power play from the cop car, for when I went up and lent in the window, pushing a pen towards him and intoning, "would you mind blowing into this, sir.." he immediately adopted a very stern and believable manner, and replied, "step away from the vehicle, sir" and followed it up with the classic TV drama words, "and kindly remove your hands, slowly, from your pockets!" Of course, by now the cop was pissing himself, and I think was totally pleased to be able to take part in our rescue.......we were his first band, I think, although he says they have several of these rescues every week up there.

As if all these 'lucky' coincidences weren't enough, we then heard from the driver who took us the sixty miles back to the hotel, that had we been five minutes later in getting through to his dispatcher, there would have been no more drivers on duty, and heaven knows what then could have happened to the chilled bodies of the average white (now a bit blue) men. Hence my 'guardian angel' headline to this piece - that's twice now in three months, if you recall the Memphis rescue on the fourth of July.

I think we have to review certain procedures thoroughly, as we're pushing our luck with that overworked heavenly intervenor, and I wouldn't want to test our fortunes a third time, any time soon. We shall set off in a few hours, in a brand new vehicle, currently speeding toward us across the plains from Kansas City, and we will surely achieve the fastest load-up known to man, as we have a scant eighteen hours to make the journey to the coast, so will take turns to sit up through the night, and day with our driver, chatting away about anything and nothing in particular, as that is the best way to keep someone from the eventual fatigue and loss of focus that inevitably sets in after about six or seven hundred miles of constant forward motion. So, you see, truth is...

How to be a successful musician........1) learn damage control 2) never 'diss' your band members or crew - your life may depend on them 3) know how to ingratiate yourself with fire, police and ambulance people, not to mention hotel managers and breakdown mechanics 4) NEVER leave the whisky on the bus if you are forced to abandon ship 5) NEVER start a journey without said refreshment in the first place - there are no St. Bernard dogs in the Rockies,
6) be at all times totally, totally positive that you're going to surmount ANY situation, and you surely will, and 7).....oh, yes - it might be an idea to learn an instrument, too.

Have fun, but, you know what.........don't try this at home. For a quiet life, see my forthcoming book about the Music business, tentatively entitled, "1001 Much Easier Ways To Earn a Living" - Part one: rocket science and brain surgery.

See you all on the other side of The Great Divide.