Segarini: The Art of Touring 4 – Look out! He’s got a gun!!!

Part 3 can be found here

It is hard getting up on Sunday mornings, especially when the alcohol content in your blood stream refuses to dissipate. Any sound can cause your ears to bleed, and any bright light sears the eyeballs and creates a pain more apt to be associated with a tooth ache or listening to an American Idol contestant talk about the meaning of life. Maybe vampires aren’t really blood sucking monsters. Maybe they’re just Eastern European drunks who are smart enough to tuck themselves into a closed space to block out any and all noise, avoid direct sunlight, and sleep all day.

There is a great trick I learned in my formative years from my juvenile delinquent cousin, Phid, that can get you through mornings like these, but will lead to a recurrence of The Agony of Too Much Fun if you don’t take the proper precaution.

The Trick: Drink 3 or 4 glasses of water. It revitalizes the alcohol in your system to the point where you regain most of the previous night’s buzz.

The Precaution: As soon as the pain begins to resurface, start drinking again. You did not hear this from me.

So here we are at some un-godly hour, throwing stuff into suitcases, triple checking to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything, (you always do, no matter how many times you check), and, one by one, stumbling downstairs to the lobby to await the always perky and prepared John Frankenheimer to bring the rent-a-car around to the front of the hotel to gather us up like a special-ed class going on a field trip. A drug free, responsible Otto, and his short-bus load of Ralph Wiggums’…

Once again, we have a plan. You may have already guessed that it will go awry, but you would be wrong…sort of.

The plan for the first leg of our trip was simple: Following our equipment truck, we would cross the border and drive to Buffalo New York, where we would exchange our Canadian Vista Cruiser for an American Vista Cruiser. They will be identical, except the American Vista Cruiser won’t smell like McDonalds, the Colonel’s Chicken, or Rock Band funk…yet.

The reason for the exchange is simple. The further South you travel in the U.S, the less respect Canadian goods and money receives from the locals. Back in ‘69 in any border town, you could get American money ‘at par’ for your Canadian dollars, and people trusted that your Hertz or Avis car was easy to rent to someone going into Canada. Further south, they wouldn’t let you drop the car off, thinking it was Herdz or Avos or some sort of trick on your part, and the money would be looked at with that blank stare usually reserved for when you attempt to pay for your dinner with a mattress tag or a balloon animal.

The border crossing goes without a hitch. Stunning in itself, we are now certain that this tour will be a glorious victory and problem free, instead of ending up like the Bay of Pigs because Bobby Kennedy forgot to request air support. Hope springs eternal.

Within a few minutes of arriving in Buffalo we were escorted to our new Vista Cruiser, loaded in our luggage, and pulled out of the parking space in the downtown parking garage where the rent-a-cars waited for their next adventure. We are now officially on our way. The guys in the back seat are pulling out reading material, John is adjusting his sun visor and whoever was sitting between him and the guy riding shotgun is already turning the knob on the radio, looking for the hippest station he can find. We make it down one ramp to the next level when things take a turn for the weird. A Twilight Zone moment so completely absurd that writing it out for you right now makes me wish this was a movie so you could watch it…but I know you, use your mind theatre.

We negotiate the ramp and start to drive down the aisle to the next one, when an unmarked car and two police cruisers come out of nowhere and block us off front and rear.

Before anybody could even blink there were officers of the law at all 4 doors, and, directly in front of us, two guys in ill-fitting suits pointing the biggest fucking guns I have  ever seen at the car, and, because we were in the car, directly at us.

“FBI! Put your hands where we can see them!”, barked one of the Suits.

Did we obey? Did we respect the request proffered to us by Mulder and Mulder?

No.

Everybody burst into gut-busting laughter. Whoever was sitting in the seat next to me laughed so hard, the gum he was chewing flew out of his mouth past my head, and stuck to the window next to me. The cop standing next to the door backed up just a little.

The Suits started moving toward the car, their guns getting larger with every step. We shut up. The laughter was replaced by silence so total I thought I’d gone deaf.

Artist rendering of FBI guys with BFG’s

Jim DeCoq, a well read native of Regina and a fine guitar player, channeled Dorothy Parker and managed to mutter, “What fresh hell is this?”

“Shut up”, the rest of us hissed, under our breath.

Then, a knock on the driver’s side window and that annoying whirrrrr as the window descended.

“Yes sir” said John, as cool as cool can be.

“Let’s see some identification and the papers on this car”, said the agent, his eyes darting back and forth like he was expecting our henchmen to come lunging out from between the rows of parked cars. This man was so clenched, his mouth barely moved when he spoke. The faint aroma of flop sweat and other bodily effluvia began to waft through the car like a week old egg salad sandwich, the potential for disaster growing with every passing second.

While John slowly opened his sport coat to retrieve his wallet, he calmly asked, “What seems to be the problem, Sir?”

“The bank on the corner was just robbed by six men fitting your description”, he said flatly, “We need to look through the car to verify your involvement”.

Six men that looked like us? What are the odds there?

And that’s when the slow motion dance began. Slow. That’s how they wanted it. Slowly do this, slowly do that. Slow was the operative word. Sooo…slowly we opened the doors. Slowly we exited the car. Slowly we put our hands on the hood and slowly we ’spread ‘em’. Slowly they patted us down, slowly they went through our wallets and pockets…and slowly they ransacked the car like Boris and Natasha ripping apart Rocky and Bullwinkle’s house looking for a chunk of Upsidaisium.

A Mom Segarini Interlude…

Unbelievably, this was not the first time most of us had been surrounded by the police and accused of a crime.

Earlier in the year, we were at my mom’s in Stockton doing laundry and having a huge impromptu dinner, My mother loved having everyone in the house, and took great pleasure in making sure everyone was well fed and happy. An amazing person, my Mother. One of these days, I’ll share some stories with you about just how wonderful she was.

On this particular occasion, we had finished our dinner, collected our laundry, and were getting ready to drive back out to our shared house, located in the middle of a potato field on highway 99, and affectionately referred to as “Cold Red”, because it was red…and cold. There are some fine stories there, too.

Anyway, we’re loading the laundry and ourselves into our van, and a few cop cars come skidding around the corner and block us in, in front of my mom’s house. No guns this time, but a belligerence that was palpable. These guys did not like us long haired hippies.

They were convinced we were a gang of B&E artists that had been plaguing the neighborhood for several weeks, breaking into homes and stealing televisions, stereos, jewelry and cash. They tore the van apart and the laundry bags, and seeing some musical gear, decided to give us a thorough, personal search.

My mom, by now watching from the porch came charging down to the street and read the chief policeman the riot act. With her hands on her hips, she laid into this guy and informed him that we were her boys, and hard working musicians, and we wouldn’t ever steal, and don’t you have real criminals to catch, and get off my property, etc. He actually looked frightened, and humbled. He apologized to my mother, gathered his troops, and off they went.

Everybody hugged and kissed my mom, she headed into the house to do the dishes and clean up the mess that we had left, and we motored off to Cold Red and our life of starving musicians.

One of our bunch, a great friend of the band and sometimes roadie was unusually quiet on the ride.

“Your mom is amazing”, he said to me.

“Yeah, I know”. I replied.

“No…really amazing”. He said.

“How so?”, I asked.

“Her timing”, he smiled. “The cop that was searching me had just asked me to take off my boots when she interrupted the proceedings”.

“So?” I asked.

He answered me by taking off his boots. There, on the floor of the van, he poured out 3 baggies of pot, a pill bottle full of Dexedrine, and about 100 hits of Owsley acid.

Love you, mom.

End of interlude We now re-join our ongoing story, already in progress…

Of course, the FBI and Buffalo’s finest never found any cash. They also discovered that we had just come in from Toronto and posed no threat to any bank, just to ourselves.

After they were satisfied with the information, Clenchy, The FBI Agent with Ice in his Veins, waved us on our way, and they disappeared down the ramp in front of us. No apology, no, sorry for the delay, no nothing. One of the Buffalo cops was kinda funny, though. After finding out who we were, asked for, and got, our autographs. Still, despite the guns and all, the little girls at the Science Centre were scarier.

Buffalo FBI sketch of Roxy

Are we there yet?

We find our way out of Buffalo by sheer luck, after driving around in circles for about 30 minutes.

“Where the hell are we”, someone asked.

“The dirtiest city I have ever been in”, I answered looking at a filthy, dull, grey, grime covered building we’d passed 3 times in the last 10 minutes. “This place needs a bath”.

“…and I need some food”, a chorus from 5 of the 6 of us.

Like most rock bands, ours traveled on its stomach, and it’s liver. Enough food and liquor, and no energizer bunny could possibly keep up with us. We were young…what did we know.

So another hour spent, hunkered over some fine diner food at a truck stop next the entrance to the highway we’d been searching for, for the better part of an hour, no longer in a hurry thanks to cheap slabs of home made meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a couple of ice cold beers. John started tapping his foot and checking his watch, which only made us slow down and order pie, ice cream, and a cold one for the ditch. How did he ever put up with us?

Finally, we’re on the road, and after a few minutes hook up to I90, and smooth sailing to the Big Apple. It’s late in the afternoon, and we have less than 500 miles to cover. I figure we’ll be in Manhattan by midnight, maybe as late as 2 am.

Just before dusk, the warm glow of the waning sun winked off like a blown lightbulb. It just all of a sudden got really, really dark. If we would have been in Kansas, I would have looked for a funnel, but we were in upper state New York. I looked out the window. Clouds as dark as the inside of a dog, materialized from nowhere, a Spielberg sky suddenly time-lapsed into the color of approaching doom. I wondered if I had brought my rosary. Then, like a cherry bomb went off in the car, a HUGE clap of thunder, and a streak of lightning as bright as the sun simultaneously shook, and lit up the car and its surroundings.. Everybody made that little schoolgirl ‘Eeek!” you hope nobody hears…and then it started to rain.

Did I say rain?

I’m sorry, I meant to say that John must have taken a wrong turn because now we were driving through Niagara Fucking Falls.

If it rains for 2 days in a row in L.A, everybody goes to church they get so frightened. If this downpour were to happen in Los Angeles, people would be jumping out of buildings.

Here, on I90, rolling down the highway on the way to stardom, it was just business as usual.

All at once, we became alert and diligent. John had 5 pairs of eyes on the road with his, navigating, warning of approaching turns and oncoming headlights, a team of highly motivated musicians, fearless in the deluge, stoic and resolved to stay the course and arrive at our destination safe, and triumphant. For hours, we bravely faced the onslaught, secure in the knowledge that our perseverance and dedication to our shared dream would get us through the night. Then, it started raining even harder.

“Fuck this”, we all decided at once, “let’s find a motel.”

Fortunately for us, we came across a barely visible sign within 20 minutes of realizing we didn’t have an inflatable raft in the Vista Cruiser, and 2 of the guys couldn’t swim.

It was actually 2 signs that appeared in the windshield as the headlights drifted across them. The large sign on top said, Welcome to Utica New York, the smaller sign directly below it said A-1 Motel Next Exit.

We should have known better by the name alone…

Next: The Art Of Touring 5: Dank? What the hell is dank?

Segarini’s column appears here every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck.com with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

One Response to “Segarini: The Art of Touring 4 – Look out! He’s got a gun!!!”

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