Monday, June 16, 2008

Road ta Gobble Holler

What’s this? Another blog? Only a week after he posted his last one? Is it the Apocalypse? Should we repent all sins? Will the universe end in 2012 as the Mayans predicted??? Can I wear white after Labor Day?

Yeah, well, guess I’m just in that kind of mood. Probably the coffee. For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea several months back. My snoring was keeping Rebecca awake (can’t have that!), so I went to the sleep center here at the hospital where I work to see what can be done about it. After some testing, it was confirmed that I have very poor sleep. Didn’t surprise me in the slightest. My mother suffered from it, and she had a surgery to help treat it.

What did surprise me is some of the things the doctor said the apnea was affecting, most notably my metabolism. He promised me that once I started getting proper rest, my metabolism would shift, I’d feel completely different, with more energy. With that, I’d be able to drop off weight, because as it stands suffering from sleep apnea, my body couldn’t, my metabolism wouldn’t let it. It was like a Catch-22. My palette had become thicker in my mouth due to weight gain. I had to lose weight to correct this. You try to lose, but you can’t lose. All affected by sleep quality and its association with metabolism. Kind of a downward spiral.

So, after starting the therapy of sleeping with a mask that kept my airflow open through the night, giving me restful sleep, he prescribed me some stuff to help me lose weight (basically a mild appetite suppressant, and a blood sugar conditioner to turn my body into a fat burning machine as opposed to a carb burning one), so that would in turn shrink my palette, and ultimately alleviate the condition. On top of that, he suggested two things to increase my weight loss: restrict carbs (nothing as Draconian as Atkins induction phase, but sensible carb reduction: eliminating sugary stuff, pastas, white bread, yeah, beer too) and start drinking coffee to kick up my metabolism.

Well, I’ve been getting the best sleep of my life, and I’ve quickly lost about 45 lbs since February basically just eating ribeye steaks, drinking Bud Select (3 grams of carbs!), and drinking coffee. Wow, this is easy! It’s made a profound difference. Obviously just losing the weight will give you energy, but it runs deeper than that. I do have much more energy, and stamina, and I feel younger, to be sure. When I turned 40, I felt 40. Now I’m approaching 42, and I feel much more like 32. It’s really been that kind of change. I hope to drop about another 45 lbs by fall, and we expect that my apneaotic condition will have improved enough that I won’t have to wear the C-PAP mask to bed.

Long story short: I’m feeling much, much better. And, I’m excited about it.

Well, I’ve bored you enough with that. As for the paranormal occurrences I’ve written about recently, there’s basically nothing new to report. I’m stunned at the success. Was it some kind of placebo effect? While hard to dismiss that, that would illustrate everything we experienced was mental, in our minds. But there was physical evidence events were occuring. So, I think I can rule out it went away because we believed it went away. The next question seems to be is this just a lull, or is it permanent? Only time can answer that. But I feel more comfortable over there than I ever have, while I’m still very watchful, and always observing.

So, since there’s nothing paranormal to report (and honestly, since that experience, I’ve been still trying to wrap my head around it, so I’ve kind of back off pursuing my interest in it. I haven’t given it up, but, for now, I just don’t want to deal with it!) I’ll tell you about some Rock Bottom stuff. We’ve been gigging plenty, and there are all kinds of stories.

We’ve had a great time down in Poplar Bluff playing the “South’s Gunna Do It Again, Biker Style” rally’s on Labor Day the past two years. Lotta fun! Well, that parlayed into being invited to play at Gobble Holler Rally outside of Farmington, Mo. Needless to say, we were excited!

We played the Friday night before this show at Club 111, which wasn’t a bad show, but not one of my best. The beer was flowing strong, and we took a few detours towards the end of the night that I’d wished I hadn’t steered us towards. When I woke, I cleared the cobwebs, and thought “hmm, what the hell were we thinkin’?” Oh well.

My daughter was over in Mattoon for a softball tournament, but with the hellacious rains Friday, the entire thing had been cancelled. They were on their way back, they told me, waking me with a noon phone call. I could feel my brain slosh around inside my fuzzy cranium as I pulled myself from my bed. I have to get motivated.

I’d hoped to get out on the road by about 2pm, but that sure as hell wasn’t happening. I also had to make up with Bec. We were both a bit too drunk last night, and sometimes we get surly, and rub each other the wrong way. Wow! Nothing better than to wake up, hung over, remembering stupid shit you played, said, and fought about. I’m getting too old for this shit.

But, once the dust cleared, we said our peace, and kissed and made up in an adult fashion. We aren’t children, and we’re not perfect either. I was looking forward to taking her down to Farmington, and although she was feeling pretty yucky, she was still receptive about going. As long as she could figure out something to wear! Fashion show!

Mom and the kids rolled into town, back from the cancelled trip, and I met them for lunch at Ravenelli’s while Beck got herself together and packed. Since I wasn’t going to see them until tomorrow, I wanted to take every opportunity to spend at least a little time with them. Once I returned from lunch, I decided to check into hotel room availability in the area, since I didn’t have to drive to Mattoon to watch my little slugger play. No dice. Everything was booked, save for a three bedroom suite at the Days Inn, for $165. No thanks, I’d like to actually profit some money this weekend instead of be in the hole after shelling out $4 a gallon to get down there.

The wheels were rolling about 4pm, and I was feeling guilty for starting so late. Derrick was to get down there to set up the rig, and Steve had mentioned getting down there as well to help out. Shocking, I know! I kinda took that as a gentle hint to do the same, but now I was behind. An $80 fill-up at QT at Meremac Bottoms, a case of beer and ice in the cooler, and we were Mineral Area bound.

It was a beautiful afternoon to drive, and I was feeling much, much better than the hell I felt like when I woke. Beck was starting to come around as well. Having made the trip a number of times, it really didn’t seem long before we were breezing through Bonne Terre.

“Wonder if they have any rooms,” Beck mentioned as we passed a two story, brick motel called Red Cedar Lodge.

“I dunno,” I said, looking at the scarcely populated parking lot, “I didn’t call them. I thought they were, like, a fishing lodge or something, you know? Resort kinda thing. What the hell, let’s find out.”

I swung around and pulled in to check as Beck stayed in the car. Not a terrible looking place from the front at first glance. There were a couple people in the tiny lobby that greeted me, and motioned to another behind the counter. He was a dark, Hindu Indian with an accent as thick as Apu’s from The Simpsons. Typical. Is there some Hindu scroll that directs them all to manage New World motel chains?

To my pleasant surprise, they did indeed have rooms, and at a very affordable $40! In fact, frighteningly affordable. I knew what that meant instantly. It was “the Roach Motel”. Well, it will have to do.

We pulled around back, and quickly unpacked some things. The room was on the second floor of a shoddy, worn structure that looked as though it has seen some better days. Kinda like seeing someone from far away that looks attractive, but up close, you realize they are a trainwreck! At the end of the balcony, a “resident” had blocked off access with a small piece of plywood, keeping a couple puppies at bay. Wonderful

The room was very humble, and the bed was small. Bec quickly unpacked her seven million toiletries (as though we were staying a week), and I shoved my bag of Rock N Roll clothes in the closet, with the intention of swinging back by before the show to prepare. I wasn’t going to set up gear under the warm June sun in long, black jeans and a studded leather belt!

“EEEEEEEEEK!!” Bec screamed from the bathroom. “THERE’S A BUG!” Well, that didn’t take long! I came to the rescue, and in the tub was a tiny little guy, but a monster in her eyes. She hates them. This was going to be interesting! I snuffed him with a piece of toilet paper, and disposed of it. You should see my waterbugs! This guy was nothin’.

Steve had also called during our trip, and had told us Derrick was basically behind us, having left about 4pm. Steve himself hadn’t left at all! Well, looks like I’ll get the opportunity to help load in after all!

Bec and I returned to the road, passing through Farmington proper, and out about 10 miles to the festival grounds. Simple enough to find. At the gate, I, of course was allowed in gratis, but “girlfriends” had to pay $5. Whatever. The grounds were covered with campers, and it looked as though we’d have a very, very nice crowd. I was getting excited now.

Boozie and Derrick were stage side, their trucks and trailers sprawled out along side. The stage was two flat bed trailers with a canopy constructed over it to keep the sun off us. Probably some rain too, if need be. But all things were go for a beautiful, picturesque summer evening. No rain, please! Out from the stage a couple yards were some large round wooden spools with poles running up from the center. It took me a second, but then it hit me: dancing poles! LOL!

Most of Boozie’s drums were up, but none of the PA. There was a set of speakers onstage blaring 80’s tunes, but they weren’t ours. They belonged to some local who’d helped the band out the night before. Derrick made him move some stuff from the center area, and before long had the lighting truss set up behind Boozie’s kit, stringing that all up. I set up my rig with a quickness, but noticed I didn’t really have any power handy.
We weren’t using Carson for lights and sound, as Derrick has a great rig, but Carson always had a powerstrip run for me. Now, I had to fend for myself to locate an extension chord, powerstrip, and power source, for that matter! I decided just to get my amp plugged in and let it warm, and deal with the other power later. I could run into Farmington and get a powerstrip at Wal-Mart if I had to.

A burly, gray haired biker approached on stage, and began to bark out orders.

“Git me a mic I can use, and turn that shit off so I can say something,” he bellored. Uh, well, ok. The local guy had a wireless mic, and they shoved it in his hand as he stepped out onto the stage area.

“Alrightnow,” he announced out to the grounds, “we’re gittin’ ready for the anvil shoot if y’all wanna come down here by the creek and watch. You probably aint gunna see it back there behind dem trees.”

Anvil shoot?

He went on to give a brief, and actually interesting history of “shooting anvils”, and declared they themselves were World Champion Anvil Shooters. I didn’t know there was even a competition! He was the featured anvil shooter in the Reese Witherspoon movie “Sweet Home Alabama”, no less. Didn’t see it, but, that is saying something.

They planned to shoot these 101 lb anvils 900 feet into the air. Really? Now that I just might like to see! Why the hell would anyone want to do that? Well, in fact, he explained, and it made perfect sense. It’s a tradition that goes back a century where cannon balls were scarce, and to signal a warning shot to alert a community about an impending attack, say the Confederate or Union army, or even to scare gathering Indians, the blacksmiths would get their anvils, and they’d shoot them off.

So, true to his word, they blasted these frickin’ anvils sky high! Upon hearing the deafening blast, I’d gaze up over the treetops that lined the Holler, and a spinning black anvil would rise up into the sky about 800 or 900 feet, then fall to the earth, plunging into the ground about 5 or 6 feet, I was told. You don’t see THAT everyday!

Bec and Mrs. Boozie sat in the cab of Boozie’s truck socializing whist we set about bringing this whole thing together. I hadn’t roadied like this in quite some time. Didn’t miss it, either! A couple strong arms from the campers helped Boozie and I out getting the heavy stuff out of Derrick’s trailer while Derrick directed traffic. We loaded the cabs up onto the stage, and rolled the poweramps along side on the ground. Now what?

“Here, you guys can plug these in,” Derrick said, handing us lighting cables. Ran those. “Here, plug in the monitor cables.” Ran those. “Wanna run the speaker cables?” Ran that too. Boozie ran his mikes from his drums. Derrick reluctantly pulled off the face of the circuit breaker box, and went to work tapping into the power. Visions of Carson’s ill fated attempt in Bonne Terre in’88 filled my mind. Does Derrick know what the hell he’s doing? I stayed close, in case something happened while Derrick attached cables to the power source.

About that time, without any warning, they fired off the Civil War replica cannon on loan from the South’s Gunna Do It Again, Biker Style friends. Everyone helps everybody out at these things! I mentioned to Derrick “boy, wouldn’t you have loved to have had that go off about 3 minutes ago while you were tapping into that live circuit box??”

Wonder if they’ll shoot anvils this Labor Day in Poplar Bluff??

Took a while, but it was starting to look like Boozie and I had done all we could. And the clock was ticking. The sun was fading fast behind the Holler. I hadn’t anticipated spending this much time on the whole thing. We weren’t starting our show at 9pm, I could tell you that. But, I didn’t want to start at 11pm, either!

My plan was to head back into Farmington, get something to eat at a local Mexican restaurant that has a sister restaurant here in Granite, and get cleaned up at the Roach Motel, changing into my rock n roll clothes. Maybe even hit Wal-Mart and get a powerstrip and extension cord.

Not likely to happen. I was becoming flustered, and Bec tried to console me, telling me just to go get ready, make ‘em wait. But, I would have none of it. It was dark by the time we decided to head into Farmington, and all of us were very, very hungry. Derrick stayed behind to get the rest done as Steve showed up, thinking we were starting at 9pm. Guess again, Steve!

My solution was to go have dinner, and then just go back and play in my roadie clothes. Who gives a shit if I’m wearing black jeans, a Harley shirt, and a studded belt? Well, Bec says she does, but, I think it’s more important that we get on stage as soon as we can. I had an old powerstrip that will do for this show, and scared up a long enough extension cord to get everything running on my side.

So, the Boozie’s followed us back into town to the Mexican joint. It looked a bit different than ours in Granite City, and Bec remarked on how much she liked it. As long as they had the same fajitas, and cold Corona’s, I was cool with it!

To our surprise, we saw Hector, who managed the Granite location, standing at the checkout register at the front door. He told us, in is Antonio Banderas accent, he used to work at this one, and he was in town visiting, I guess. He wasn’t working. He’d also had some margaritas, it appeared. Possibly cervezas! We chatted for a bit, and were seated.

Dinner was warm and delicious with the Boozies, and we relaxed. I love that part. I kept an eye on the time as I sucked down some Corona’s, and knew it was a 15 minute ride back to the gig. I was comfortable now, just knowing I’d get back and go on like this instead of “Bar Star”. The nice thing about this choice was how fast they bring the food. “Yeah,” and Boozie said, “they’ll mow your lawn and plant your flowers while you wait!” True! They bust ass.

At dinner’s conclusion, the friendly waiter (who also worked for a time at the Granite location) handed the Boozie’s their check, and I tried to grab it to pay it. I’m such a nice guy! But, they wouldn’t let me.

“That’s THEIR check,” the waiter said. He had a coy smile on his face, which I couldn’t place why. I mean, I know my girlfriend is smokin’ hot, but I’m not sure that was the reason.

When we got up towards the register, I was trying to figure out the total of the bill so I could pay our share, and I noticed it was ridiculously cheap! In fact, our order wasn’t even on the check! What?

“Hector took care of you,” the smiling Latino informed me.

“Wow! Gracias!” I said. What a guy! Never in a million years did I expect that! Free dinner! You know, it’s always nice to be around and support good people. I’ve had lots of good friends, and made good connections with people, and it’s little things like this that just make the world go ‘round. Hector is quite a man.

We arrived back at the show, and Derrick was frantically working to get everything up. He was stressin’. We tried to get a sound check in, and we noticed only one side was working on the main system. Derrick fiddled around, fucked with this, adjusted that, and then threw up his hands.

“Fuck!” he exclaimed in a heat, “I lost half my fucking board!” Ruh ro. That’s not good.

“I’ll have to figure out a way to rewire the system,” he muttered, and set off to do just that. I glanced at the time on my cell phone. After 10pm. Maybe we were going on at 11pm?

Some of the more drunken patrons were getting a tad surly, with some woman bitching about us not playing. Brutal. Definitely starts to bring the mood down. I tested my amp, and warmed up a bit. It sounded fine, but outdoor gigs dry up my fretboard, and my playing feels choppy, and broken. Tonight looked like no exception. I sprayed down my fretboard with some Fast Fret, trying desperately in vane to smooth out my phrasing, but it just wasn’t happening.

We got the show off, and Derrick sent out instructions to our ladies to let us know right away what the sound is like, and try to adjust it from there. The unanimous answer was Steve wasn’t loud enough. Derrick tweaked that, and in all, by a few songs, the mix seemed pretty good out front. I mean, considering without a sound man out front, it could have been a complete train wreck, especially since Derrick had to run the system mono, different than what he’s used to. We started to find a groove, and connected with the crowd quickly.

We played about an hour, and I went ahead and ended the set, letting them bring on the Miss Gobble Holler contest. The two gents that run the affair, along with a posse of friends, hauled up a huge trophy for the occasion, and promised $500 in prize money. I snuck off the stage after grabbing a beer from my cooler located Stage Left, and met up with my honey. I wanted to relax. The contest would do just fine without me!

They didn’t have all that much problem recruiting contestants, and Steve’s girl, the reigning South’s Gunna Do It Again, Biker Style wet tee shirt champion, made her way up there. That meant we were kindly asked to cheer for her, which I didn’t mind, although I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be needed. She was a lock to win. Guess I’m going to have to watch this after all?

Thankfully, they decided against making it a wet tee shirt affair, which meant we didn’t need to worry about soaking any monitors and other equipment. They figured they’d just all strip down and get “nekked” right there for our pleasure, which is exactly what they all did. And, they were a very friendly bunch! They all seemed to “get along” very, very well! Days of Caligula, on display in the Mineral Area.

One disturbing episode was when they discussed openly what type of music to, well, get “nekked” to. Hip Hop, or Rock? The eternal Red Neck question. Although it wasn’t refered to as “Hip Hop”, but a far more derogatory, racial term, albeit amusing. I’ll not repeat it in deference to my good friends of “color” that I enjoy strong relationships with, in fear of making offense.

Then, on stage, one of the “posse” grabbed the mic, a very large, burly, imposing character, and belted out “You know how I feel about *#& tunes! Fuck ‘em! White Power! White Power!” He thrust his fist in the air. The mood was very mixed. Yeah, a hoot or a holler from a redneck or two, but I think most people just wanted to crawl away. I know I did. I didn’t want to be at a Klan meetin’!

Well, that settled the music choice, and off they went, dancing and disrobing. I’ll tell you, there’s some women that have a whole lot of self esteem, I guess, because I wouldn’t have shown my naked ass up there! Maybe it was the alcohol? I dunno. The area out in front of the stage was packed; you couldn’t get anyone else in there! It was a hit, to be sure.

Needless to say, Theresa won hands down, although the second place finisher wasn’t too bad, I guess. Of course, I was with the sexiest of them all, but she was going to get naked for me, not Gobble Holler! Hee hee!

I shuttled my way back on stage at the conclusion of the contest to set out the monitors, mikestands, and my pedal board that we’d cleared to make way for the contest. Theresa stood holding her trophy, and basically nothing else. Just a smile. I did my best not to give my buddy and lead singer’s girlfriend the “once over”. Just be polite, say congrats, and focus on the monitors, Deron! Not her naked body! I overheard them say she won $300, which seemed light. I, as well as Theresa, thought it was $500 to win. But, we were corrected. $300 for first, $200 for second. Fair enough. Theresa didn’t seem to mind sharing. She just wanted to get dressed and get off stage, I think!

We quickly repositioned the monitors out front, and I ran my pedal board and microphone to its original location. Quick signal chain check told me I was live and ready to rock. Everyone else seemed in place, and I was anxious to fire up our second set with everyone’s attention. But, sadly, following the contest, the large throng began to trickle away from the front stage area, and by a couple songs in, I could tell it was thinning out. Damn!

Those that stayed were very loud, and we had a great time. Seems like everything went over pretty well. My playing was still choppy, and phases were forced out, but, I knew that 98% of the people listening didn’t know that, or were too drunk to care. Or too tired. We played into the late, late hours.

We attempted to end with a nice bang, and were even called up for a couple encores by the rowdy remaining revelers, including the party’s host, who seemed to really enjoy us and the evening. Hey, that’s almost what really matters.

When someone organizes a huge undertaking like this, and all that goes into it, and they, in the end, have a great time and say warm, encouraging things, well, that’s about all we can ask for. Bar owners are there to make money. I want them to book us back, but I don’t really care if they like the show, because that’s not why we’re there. But, in a private party/festival like this, making the host happy is a higher priority, I feel. Glad he was impressed.

Steve kinda walked off before the second encore. He was done. Derrick and I scrambled to play “one more!” to appease the crowd and the host. Derrick shouted to me “Fire Woman, I’ll sing it!” Right on! And off we went. Didn’t sound bad at all. And fun to play again. But, overall, not the way I wanted to wrap up the show. Oh well.

I found out later that Steve had managed to get very, very fucked up, and basically had to get off stage and sit down before he tossed his cookies! Yeah, we were having some fun. Theresa’s mammoth bottle of Jager she was passing around didn’t help things either! Guess Steve tapped into that a wee bit too much! Trying to keep up with Derrick? That’s suicide!

I wound down after the show with my uber sexy woman, and talked with those that stayed up late, and still wanted to hang out. Much more than the Poplar Bluff shows, where once we quit, it seems like everyone peters out. I sat and talked after the show with a bunch of people, it seemed. The host brought up a case of beer, and placed it on the stage for anyone to grab, but, actually, not too many took advantage of it. It was time to wind down.

The host informed us that he was having a birthday celebration down here again in middle August, and begged us to play that as well. We had to break it to him that we were already booked. Jesus, I think we’re almost booked through ‘til 2009! I’m pretty positive we’ll be back next June, and I’m looking forward to that. It was a great time. Lotta fun to play these outdoor things. So many more people, and they, the biker crowd, really love the stuff we do. Good people, too.

I broke down my gear feeling tired and worn from the show. With the bigger stage and atmosphere, I was playing in a more “Arena” role, over exaggerating my moves and such. That takes a toll on this aging body, I can tell you! I loaded out, and met with my woman, who told me the Boozie’s were going to follow us back to the Roach Motel and see if there were any rooms left, as Boozie was too tired and too drunk to throw the tent up in the dark. Derrick stayed at the stage, camping out in Boozie’s “mini-tent”.

Naturally, there were no rooms left at the Red Cedar, so, we invited the Boozie’s to crash on the floor. They had a nice, quality air mattress given to them by the parents, and Mrs. Boozie set to inflate it as Boozie crashed in a chair, eyes half mast, looking exhausted from the gig.

“They didn’t give me a pump,” Mrs. Boozie said, flipping the uninflated, creased vinyl mattress over and under. There was no way to manually inflate it, it was huge. Guess its sleep on the floor, then!

“You can sleep here with Bec,” I told her. There was no way I could let a pregnant woman sleep on a hard floor. Boys should do that.

“Naw, that’s ok, I’m fine,” she said, and spread the airless mattress out, tossed some pillows and a cover, and the two of them snuggled on the floor despite my protests. Hell, I tried! Can’t force her! I respected her wishes, and rolled over to snuggle with my girl. It was about 5am.

Within moments, Boozie started sawing logs! He was cutting down Redwood Forests. Becca laughed it off, and Mrs. Boozie acknowledged he does tend to snore. We all managed to sleep fine, though. Even Bec, who constantly complains about MY snoring! Hey! What gives??

The bright sunlight shone through in the late AM as I stirred from my sleep. Boozie was still sawing down National Forests, but the ladies had awoken. Boozie sputtered awake, and announced “I think I swallowed a roach!” That was Bec’s favorite line of the weekend. The staff knocked at the front door, announcing “housekeeping!” It was barely 10AM, for God’s sake! We shouted at them to go away, and I began to wonder when checkout time was.

Bec informed us all there were tiny pinholes of sunlight coming in from the ceiling in the shower. Her naked shower session will probably end up on the Internet somewhere. A huge mosquito hunter bounced in one corner of the room, and Bec begged me to kill it, but I refused. I love those guys! They eat mosquitoes, for Christ’s sake! Mrs. Boozie didn’t like it one bit, either.

We packed up our things, and made ourselves ready for the day. Upon folding their airless air mattress, Boozie took a look at the bulky side attachement to it, finding a power plug. Soon, it became obvious that the pump was built into the mattress, and all they had to do was plug it in to start airing it up. They slept on the floor for nothing.

“AWWWW! You’ve got to be kidding me!” Boozie said, glaring an evil, wide eyed look that could kill someone a hundred times over. She sheepishly apologized, and I tried not to laugh. In all, Boozie took it very well. Now they know!

Breakfast was in order, and we all agreed to head down towards Farmington to find somewhere to dine. I could have sworn I saw a Huddle House or something, and it took a couple exits, but there indeed was such an establishment. They are owned by the same group that does Waffle House, but I came to find they’re much more elaborate. We drug our tired, sore, hungover carcasses in to meet Farmington’s Sunday breakfast crowd, and tried to “fit in”.

Much like dinner before at the Mexican joint, conversation was light hearted and the food was good, really hitting the spot. Can’t really remember what was said, as my mind was still pretty cloudy and fatigued from the night before. Had to pay for our own this time, as there was no one to pick up my tab like before. That’s ok, I got that kinda cash!

We saw the Boozie’s off, as they headed back to the “Holler” to load drums, and Bec and I set off East on the busy highway leading away from the Mineral Area. I was anxious to get home, get some much needed rest. Maybe play a poker game or two. Or just spend it cuddling with the woman. That would suit me fine. Anything but another night in a Roach Motel!