Josh had a show in Omaha that night. Some kind of restaurant gig. But he said he'd be back with his guitar player to do an opening set at The Zoo Bar. He asked if I wanted to play some slide guitar with them. I always want to play some slide guitar.
So I showed up a bit before nine. Found a parking spot around the corner from the club. Cozied the van up to a snow bank. Brought my stuff inside... a couple of guitars and stands. The club had a p.a. and a sound man. I was relieved to find, in the course of conversation, that even the locals thought it was an exceptionally cold winter. Made me feel like less of a wuss, I guess.
Josh Hoyer plays piano with a real rootsy flair, has a soulful voice and is an accomplished songwriter. It's always a pleasure to jam with someone like that.
After his set, I accidentally drop the shot glass I play slide with on the concrete floor. It breaks into several pieces. I don't know whether to take that as an omen or not.
I pick up the base of the shot glass, which now resembles a jagged weapon. I hold it to see if I can use it without slashing my hand. That particular shot glass has a real heavy bottom, with a lot of mass to it, and I like the tone it gets. So I decide to try it.
Josh asks if I want something to drink. I ask for Jack Daniel's on the rocks. That's when I really recognize the place from the dream.
The room is about half full, but I don't mind. There's nothing like a friendly pub on a cold night. I finish the first a song, and the audience erupts with applause and shouts. And so it goes. It's all a dream within a dream.
Afterward people line up to buy CD's. Mostly college students. One girl buys 3. She's got tattoos and multiple piercings and looks kinda like if Angelina Jolie grew up on a farm and then went to the dark side. I'm thinking she's maybe a call girl, because she's got that 'fuck you' strut when she walks. She's been sitting by herself and drinking straight whiskey.
She pays cash. Tells me to keep the change.
When I was twenty I lived in the houseboat community north of Sausalito, California. It was basically a subcultural mish-mash of ne'er-do-wells, artists and leftover leftists.
The young call girls were part of the fabric of that community. My friends and I weren't their customers. We could barely afford to eat. But sometimes they'd party with us. They'd stop by the boat, bring wine and such. We were more or less their age,. Their customers were older guys who worked in the city and commuted to the fancy homes of Marin County. As reviled by society as the practitioners of the world's oldest profession have historically been, I've found them to be exponentially more courageous than their detractors.
I arrived at the houseboats after rambling up the California coast with my friend Wes, who was AWOL from the Navy. I met Wes in Washington state as I was coming down the coast from Alaska. We'd gone on to Los Angeles, camping on beaches and such. Then over to Tempe, Arizona. We hung around there awhile, and decided to head back to the coast.
We ran into the Harvest Festival in Big Sur, long before it was a commercialized event. A bunch of hippie types gathered in the woods overlooking the Pacific. We were riding with a cat from Oklahoma, who had a step van. It's funny, because he refused to go in the ocean, for fear it would somehow capture his soul. I didn't fear it, and went in. I ended up living in California. And I suppose he went back to Oklahoma.
We went up through Berkeley and into San Francisco. Those were freewheeling days. Jerry Garcia and Hot Tuna giving free concerts in Golden Gate Park. Stuff like that. Anyway, after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and looking down, we spied Sausalito hugging the bay. Decided it looked like a nice place to hang out. Not knowing, of course, that it was one of the most expensive places in California to live. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
We met a guy who looked kind of scraggly... like us. He had a roadrunner tattoo on his arm. Told him we were maybe looking for a place to stay for awhile. He suggested the houseboats. We checked 'em out. Met another guy who owned a funky old flat bottomed boat tied to the pier. He'd just gotten out of San Quentin, and needed some money. Said he'd rent us the boat. Wes and I had a little cash between us. So we rented it.
Wes got a job as a maintenance man at a hotel. I worked for a while doing phone soliciting for the local volunteer fire department, and playing open mic events in North Beach.
Later on I bought my own boat... a forty foot steel lifeboat hull with a tiny rudimentary cabin on it, anchored in the bay. It cost five hundred bucks total. Came with a skiff, which I rowed back and forth to shore. You had to pay attention to the tide tables, because when the tide was out, the boat just sat in the smelly muck, leaning to the side, and you couldn't go anywhere until the tide came back in.
Eventually, Wes turned himself back into the Navy. And I wandered down to Mexico.
I took the train from Nogales to Guaymas. Slept by the ferry terminal. Next morning I took the boat across the Gulf of California to the Baja Peninsula. Met a couple of kids hitch hiking south to La Paz. They talked the caretaker of the baseball stadium into letting us sleep in the stadium at night.
Eventually we drifted south, to a little fishing village reached by a one land dirt road through some cane fields. We stayed with their relatives, in a tiny shack made of wired together sticks. Dirt floors with chickens walking in and out. A little cooking shack that was separate, and a community water supply and toilet. Sometimes at night they listened to polka music on the radio in their old pickup truck, turned up so loud it distorted.
There was a little tienda up on the hill, and if you walked past that, there were miles and miles of beach totally devoid of any sign of humanity. Pure white sand, and the ocean teeming with life.
The local diet consisted of tortillas, rice, beans and coffee. After a while, I decided to try to supplement that with some protein. So I walked way down this beach, and caught a hermit crab. I rigged a fishing line using some twine, a spark plug and a fish hook. The twine was wrapped around a stick, and you swung the end of the twine with the spark plug over your head like a lasso, and flung the hook out into the ocean. The crab served as bait.
Lo and behold, after a few tries, I caught a fish.
I walked triumphantly back to the shack. The lady of the house was ecstatic. You would've thought I'd landed a tuna or something... it was just a smallish flounder looking thing. But a fish none the less.
She went into the cooking shack. Seemed like she was in there for hours. At last, she called everyone in. The dining table was a rough hewn plank, with other rough hewn planks serving as benches. She served up the meal she had made... a watery soup with a few vegetables in it, and the fish, bones and all, floating around. With, of course, rice, beans and tortillas. And coffee.
Since I was the honored guest, I was served the fish head, with the eyeballs half popped out and staring at me. Or maybe because I was the gringo and they wanted to see what I'd do.
It was actually pretty good.
After my stay there, I took the ferry to the Mexican mainland and had many a good adventure. Turned twenty one years old. Went to cock fights, dances and such. Was almost arrested a couple of times. After several months of this I finally ran out of money whilst coming back from the Yucatan Peninsula, and rode freight trains north to the border.
Meanwhile, back in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the end of the night the owner says to me look, I'll pick up the motel tab for both nights. I'll pay you the guarantee, plus a little extra. With one condition. You come back and perform here again.
I agree to those terms.
I go out and get some Mexican food. It's cold outside... well, you know the drill by now. So cold it hurts. There's a cop parked on the street. I'm thinkin' he's probably gonna see my expired tags.... but it's gonna be too cold for him to bother to write a ticket.