Sunday, November 22, 2009

Goodtime's Big Adventure

Okay so today I would like to recall some of our rock and roll exploits in a far-away land, in this case the land they call "Winnipeg Manidosa, Canada." This is a place so close to the North Pole that it is cold and snowy even in July, so you have to plug in your car to heat up the engine block. This is true. Every vehicle has the business end of an extension cord dangling out of the grill like a limp electrical johnson. And the parking meters all have plugs, so you just park and plug your car's man-part into the waiting receptacle and head off to Tim Horton's for a donair. Your car will make it with the parking meter and generate enough heat to keep your engine from freezing up like a beer you put in the freezer and forgot about... Oh crap -- hold on a minute...

Okee! Back and ready to begin. The mighty New Duncan Imperials, of which I am one, has been coming to this frigid port of call for up on thirty-six years. We generally play at a rock palace called The Royal Albert Arms. This is a massive old hotel in the bad part of Winnipeg with a rock club on the first floor and rooms up above. I have to say, and here I am being as sincere as I can be, that this place will be in our hearts until the day we die by electrocution or some other means. This is a special place, folks. It is LOUD and beat-up and dark, and the people rock hard, and it has an enjoyable air of desperation and violence.

When we started coming here you could still smoke in bars, and usually it was so thick in there you'd think there was a tire fire smoldering in a back room. People started in on their Extra Old Stock bottles at about 10AM, so by the late afternoon the atmosphere was like a zombie party in Satan's cave. The best part was that we usually played two nights or more, and we stayed in the rooms upstairs, where our neighbors were recovering heroin addicts and aging post-traumatic servicemen (this is why we sometimes called it the "The Royal Amputee Arms"). It was not unusual to find needles on the floor in the halls, and someone was always pounding on a door in the middle of the night looking for a dude named Randy. Awesome.

The best part was that we each always got our own room, with a sproingy mattress and no phone or TV or light bulbs or curtains. For a young rock band accustomed to fitting five people into a Motel 6 single, this was our idea of heaven. There were old dressers and tables in the rooms, and if you opened the drawers you would find forgotten belongings like half-empty tins of pomade and crumpled-up legal notices and old belts. The smell was nothing a couple scented candles from Shoppers Drug Mart couldn't cover up, kind of. We really felt at home. We blazed through our shows, then rode the elevator up to our rooms for rest and relaxation. No tear-down, no load out, no muss, no fuss.

Being so comfy and on top of each other like that really made the creative juices flow, and we did some of our best prank work at the Albert. One night we moved all of the furniture from our rooms onto the stage. It took awhile due to the elevator being not big enough for more than one dresser at a time, but by the time we went on, the stage looked like someone's living room, complete with plugged-in lamps.

Another hilarious stunt involved Kernel, our road manager. This was during the phase in our career when we would occasionally wear these nice dresses that we got at a lady store, and Kernel had one also. We hadn't put them on in several weeks. One night right before show time we all put on our attractive dresses and we told Kernel, "Okay! Tonight is a dress-up night! Get your smock on!" Kernel was a funny nice dude built like a short bull, and his dress fit him like a pantyhose fits a beer barrel. He sighed and squeezed into his outfit and went down to start the show, where he would be stationed by the side of the stage, in full view of the crowd.

As soon as he was gone we immediately changed back into our awesome he-man matching tux coats with white pants and shoes. When we hit the stage Kernel was of course the only man in the bar wearing a tight skimpy dress, and he kept us well-amused during the set with his attempts to conceal his feminine wares behind a monitor wedge.

Good times, Kernel!

But I am really here to tell you of a death-defying stunt that nearly went fatally awry. Since we were always knocking on each others' doors to go out to Salisbury House or down to the Cowboy Lounge (a dance club), somehow a joke developed where the person knocking would not be there when you answered the door, or it would be someone entirely different from who you expected. It worked both ways -- once when I had some dudes from the opening band hanging out, and GT came to get me for an expotition, those boys got together and yanked the door open and screamed. That almost killed Goodtime.

It wasn't that funny at first, but then it started to mutate. Soon you would open your door to find an empty pair of shoes or a puff of cigarette smoke hanging in the air. Then it evolved into more ambitious items, like a stray dog, or the Coke machine from the lobby. We were at the point where you could open Skipper's door and find an elaborately made dummy with "I am Skipper" pinned to its chest hanging from the pipes, when Goodtime raised the stakes of the whole game, and also almost died.

It came to pass that at about four-thirty in the morning, after a Friday night rock set that could only be described as "schmuuhhh," when I had just excused myself from Skipper's swinging post-gig party to go to my room to do some serious passing out, it happened that GT got it in into his head to execute the Knocking Joke, only from the outside of my window. The band rooms were all on the third floor, and GT was not a skilled rock climber, or even slightly prepared mentally for this endeavor. But he was not listening to advice.

So he opened the window of his room, which was right next to mine. A blast of wind cold enough to shrink a tetherball hit him but did not smack any sense into him, so one leg went over the sill, then the other, and then the rest of Goodtime followed, giggling. He said later that he had figured out that the restaurant awning was underneath him, and that if he fell it would save him.

Skipper and assorted party guests had followed GT to the room and were trying to keep him from killing himself, but also trying to keep him from attracting the police, who were actually mounties, since this was Canada and as far as I know still ride their mounts to crime scenes, although technically this was not yet a crime scene.

GT hauled his wobbly, sharply dressed self out on the skimpy ledge. His green and tan golf shoes were not designed for adventure sports, but he was a strong man and he clung to the sheer rock face of the Royal Albert with determination. The wind, which had traveled from the north for 1600 miles unhindered by any geographical features of any kind and was therefore going close to the speed of sound, ripped at his spangly tux jacket. He pressed his face to the Royal Albert and inched on, giggling at this ultimate version of a joke that we, his bandmates, honestly thought had played itself out.

Closer...closer... Then one snazzy foot slipped off the ledge and GT had a sick moment of dizziness! But he was more than used to those and got his foot back on the ledge and continued on. On, into the frigid Canadian night. Finally, and I do mean finally, he was within knocking reach of the window. He balled up his furry fist. He knocked!

No one answered!

He knocked again!

No one answered again!

Nearly in tears, which would have frozen on his face, Goodtime knocked yet again. Where was Pigtail? Why didn't he answer? Didn't he know how close to destruction Goodtime truly was? After he knocked the forth time, the curtains stirred. And parted. And Goodtime peered into the grinning face of...

Kernel! The last person he expected! Kernel was wearing his slinky lady dress and dancing seductively in the window, beckoning to wide-eyed Goodtime. There was a colored light from the stage set up behind him, and it played on every curve and crinkle as he wriggled and pranced. Kernel had come to my door to wake me up and we had quickly set up GT for this ultimate version of the prank. Goodtime was so horrifiyingly amused that he let go of the Royal Albert and plummeted like a stone through the restaurant awning, which, as it turned out, did indeed save him. He sprained both thumbs and wrecked his straw hat, but overall he was fine.

The next night he rocked twice as hard as any of us.

Kernel, if you're reading this, let me tell you again that that was a red-hot idea. You may not remember the events just this way, but trust me, this is what happened. You are and always will be a funny man. Give us a call because I think we are headed back up to the Albert pretty soon.

BOY are my thumbs sprained. Typing is hard and takes FOREVER. Hope you liked this Pig-tale. There will be more.

1 comment:

  1. This is a damnfine story, well told, and, oh yes, funnier than pantyhose on a beer barrel.


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