His influence of kind-heartedness and optimism still plays a large role in our lives today. Honestly, we can’t seem to imagine any of us making it into our current Age of Mandom without brothers like Josh. Even now, as we write this, we are faced with a hard time; saying goodbye to one of the illest to stomp the earth’s crust. However, in this time of melancholy, all we must do is remember that shining smile—that hilarious humor that immediately cured any problems that toiled us…
…all we must do is remember Josh Almanza. Only then will sadness be replaced by nostalgic times of good, leaving only the many great memories that we were blessed enough to share with our beloved brother.
We love you, Mexi.
Rest in Stee, brother.
Fred Lanouette. Owner of Old Town Pub, wedding singer for Elvis and Priscilla, oldest Uber driver in Marysville, great human being, and kind soul. The building that now shells in the OTP, one of the oldest buildings in Silverdale has been home to a livery stable, a hay lined boxing ring, a skating rink, a brothel, and a prohibition era speakeasy with booze coming in straight from the waterfront dock. In recent years, Fred has housed 10 low income residents in the rooms and common area above the bar. It is surreal that my favorite watering hole, one that offered a picturesque view of Dyes Inlet, and held so many stories and so much history in its walls, has come to an end. Thank you Fred, grateful to have been a part of this historic piece of Kitsap County. -Austin Iles
The streets were paved in darkness. With only but a dim glimmer of light struggling from the wheezing streetlights above, popping up here and there at seldom pace, an old rust covered thing chugged through the streets. This part of Silverdale was different, and was new to the rugged travelers. Wild-eyed, smelly, and a bit drunk, this band of belligerents direly needed a rest stop, but the dark streets of Silverdale’s historic neighborhood proved bleak with such places. Until an old, dingy light caught the travelers’ eyes; one with lingering honky-tonk echoes and silhouettes of brewing bar fights. This place was perfect.
Old Town Pub WAS perfect for the eager group of troubadours. Tenants who lived upstairs were shredding Lynyrd Skynyrd covers, and side-stepping commenced. Rowdy displays exploded, but no one minded; the group of fiery travelers felt right at home. The night grew foggy, outside AND inside that great bar, and if it is recalled correctly, a barroom-brawl may have very well broken out.
The now beaten band of troubadours piled their sorry asses into their beloved, four-wheeled beast. The night had really gotten away from them, and it was time to move onto the next town. The time was late when they pulled away from the Old Town Pub. As the pirate-like crew rubbed their eyes and stroked their bruises, every eye in that vehicle focused on one thing. The very same light which drew them in, was now fading off; just as quickly as it had mysteriously appeared.
And the old rust covered thing chugged along, off into the night and back onto the long road. Inside their moving home, dirty and tattered, the travelers drank shitty beer and played dominoes; never really knowing that they had just left the last stop in the wild west. -Travis Knight
The story of Earl is one so eerily remarkable, that sometimes I find it hard to believe myself. Archaic perspectives reflected happenings of this sort, in long-ago tales of Elders visiting the jejune; emerging from a thin line that separates the obvious from the unseen, and settling into the land of lore. Maybe it is my mind that has coaxed reality to shape itself in the likeliness of wonder… no one will ever know, not even me. However, my instincts stay thick and unchangeable, like a stubborn ego. This story has followed me around like a shadow for years. It is one I have babbled of before, and will babble of again–here, perhaps for the last time; unless, that is, Earl happens to return.
The first time I met old Earl, he came in the form of a rickety cat—one that roamed the tropic alleys of South Beach, Miami. After being kicked out of his own home for pissing all over the house, Earl had decided to seek shelter in the Toeblock IN Miami; probably because he was either embraced by dirty derelicts like myself, or because he could dodge detection due to all of the blacking out that was going on.
His manners were not capricious, as the old cat would consistently settle himself at my feet, and relentlessly nag my attention with a series of dilapidated grunts, and attempted meows. I would pay my respect by running my fingers through his matted hair, soothing the old bones that his deteriorating skin sheathed.
However, the haggard cat was not so popular with other tenants of the Miami Toeblock; specifically Matt Kehoe. Earl used to immensely bother Kehoe, for the cat’s grungy demeanor clashed worlds with Kehoe’s meticulous cleanliness. Every time Kehoe fell asleep, old Earl would hobble into the small beach apartment–usually with the help of my turned eye–and immediately, like a magnet with a mind, would find where Kehoe was snoring. With a small grunt, and a few attempts, Earl would make himself a comfy bed out of Kehoe.
While Kehoe dreamed of large breasted women and his life as a rap star, the cat he so much loathed dreamed directly atop him; about fish dinners, milk, and perhaps death. Usually, this scenario would end with Kehoe waking up, only to noticed the old cat snoring away. Fuming with short-stack aggression upon finding Earl clamped to his back, Kehoe would grab Earl by his scruff, and toss him out of the house; all the while cursing my name and my judgement for allowing the matted cat into the Toeblock. Earl remained for the remaining entirety of that Toebock House. When I finally left that Southern Beach, Earl followed my heart, and the spirit of the Earl followed my feet; yearning for the respect often yearned for from an endangered soul.
The second encounter I had with Earl was less intimate. It happened 3 years later, on the opposite coast, in a much colder, foggier community. I was smoking a cigarette, attempting to distract a crouching emotional dysfunction, on a 6 x 4 porch, also a second story patio. A clicking startled my daze, and over the horizon of the porch’s top step, a haggard, beaten, yet familiar, face rose like a hesitant sun. The face belonged to a battered raccoon–the most tore-up raccoon my eyes had ever met. At first, I was frozen with trepidation, fearing that the beast would attack me at any moment. There was a stand-off between the raccoon and I, and it ended when the old beast grunted a familiar noise; it was Earl.
We held one another’s gazes for an instant, and in that speck of time, I felt all the pain of the broken traveler in front of me. I saluted old Earl with respect, all the way until he hobbled onto a neighboring house, and creaked off into the hazy night.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I were caught off guard by a large shadow swiftly sweeping by our front door. The culprit climbed up into a tree, directly on the other side our backyard’s fence. An obtrusive spotlight resides on the neighboring unit’s roof, and it rudely blasts into our backyard all night, confusing my plants, and immeasurably pissing me off. The light, also, illuminates the tree, and like a prison break gone bad, the culprit was caught in the flaring beam, hypnotized by the sheer ridiculousness of this light. It was a possum. I thought nothing about the scavenger… until a week or so later.
I was enjoying the calm that comes before any storm, and I heard this crunching noise. I wearily peeked over my fence to investigate, and saw the same possum that lives in our tree. He was large, beat-up, lost, and crunching away on only-The-Creator-knows. I noticed a huge bald spot on his back as he locked his senile eyes onto mine, and swiftly I realized: I knew those eyes. They were the eyes of the beaten and forgotten, of the rambling and wise, of the endangered spirit. I’d know that haggard glare anywhere: it was Earl.
It has been nearly a decade since the old spirit latched onto me, back in that distant time of the Toeblock IN Miami. To keep the lore pumping strong, I left some leftover potatoes at the base of the possum’s tree; a few nuggets of respect for the old tired spirit of Earl.
Paul Sewell has been putting in work on, and off, the skateboard for the last 20 years, and to those who have witnessed his talent, they know he is more than deserving of this great achievement. Tall hops in a small package, one could say, but this statement does no justice.
Paul has touched the world of skateboarding, but has more importantly touched the lives of everyone he has come across. We at The Industries would like to take this moment, and emphasize what this magnificent human being means to us.
Paul is the scholar, the big, but shorter, brother, the graduate, the voice of reason, the mediator, the therapist, the world traveler, the empathetic, yet strict, teacher, the ball of energy, the comedian, the bilingual, and the genius. However, these are but a few that come to mind when we think of our beloved short stack.
We’ve seen the feisty Latin fire rolling off his everything, with an open shirt, and wind pouring over his clean head, as he walks through the club like a boss. In the next moment, he puts his glasses on, and an eloquent professor is presented, cracking jokes, having anyone in the vicinity tightly clamped by hysteria. His moods can vary from George Costanza, to Goodwill Hunting, to Rick Moranis, to The Most Interesting Man in the World within seconds. Yes, this magnificent human being, whom we love very much, has claimed another title to add to the many shades of Paul Sewell. That’s right folks, after all the years, PAUL SEWELL HAS GONE PRO!
Paul, congratulations brother, you greatly deserve this. We sincerely, and deeply love you, and the day you stepped into our lives, was the day our lives changed for the best, forever. Short stacks…. STACK!
Your Fellow Stack,
P.S. Can I borrow some money?
From the BLOCK, April 2012.
Check out the photos and the story from Kansas City Block resident, Matt Kehoe, as well as the original edit here.
Classic Re-mix: Tom Carter
Filmed & Edited: Ben Ericson
Motion: Ben Kaplan
This years trip started, ironically, where Toebock became; The Pacific Northwest.
Bobby Dodd and Steve Perdue were reunited in Seattle, accompanied by some of the Alive and Well homies, where shredding was executed and last minute clips were gathered to finish this seven year project. As the homies dispersed back to their daily lives, and Bobby Dodd returned back to Dad life after killing it, Perdue headed to the other side of the Puget Sound where the spirit of Toebock has made it’s living since the very beginning. Kitsap County.
Kitsap County, mirroring Seattle and unknown to most that live in King County, is speckled with little, rural towns hidden by the Olympic Forests and the Puget Sound’s foggy breath. It’s where Austin Illes, a man who represents the spirit of American Folklore, has lived off the land and called home for years. He, again, would be hosting the Toebock Annual Fireside trip; a trip that brings us into the heart of enchanting forests and allows everyone to leave their problems and egos in the shimmering lights of a towering, metropolitan street lamp.
I met up with the Toebock Crew at an undisclosed location in Poulsbo, WA; an annual meeting spot to kick off the trip. We headed, in a large convoy, into the majestic rain forests that the Olympics have blessed this earth with.
We camped in, or I should say battled with, a heinous storm that night. Fighting to stay dry, but gathering around a fire nonetheless under a large tarp Austin constructed. Good times accompanied by laughter seeping through smiles kept us strong through that storm and kept our spirits dry from the rain; metaphorically speaking.
The next night was spent on Austin’s ten acres of land on the Kingston coast where our eyes were met with an astonishing dazzlement as Austin quickly and savagely built a giant TP. One that fizzled away all the drab horrors of society as it peacefully overlooked the great Puget. Whales cried in the distance as they migrated to colder waters and a feast was had that only kings could fathom.
TMG’s Ben Ericson, and the creator of Outer Limits, met up the next day for a filming mission. Bobby Dodd met up as well and as usual, killed it. A day of clocking tricks and cracking brews was had before the sun descended behind the illusion of a horizon. It was time to make the trip back down the coast to the next stop on this three month tour. So Perdue and friends, those including Toebock OG’s such as Kevin McGowan, piled into the Patriot and set off to begin the next part of our story. In route to Santa Rosa California, with stops along the gorgeous coast, where a Colorado born savage and another key player in the telling of this story awaited. Jacob Scherrer, but you can call him “Squints”.
The bone stiffening, 25 degree wind chafed my face as I ran full speed down residential streets; glancing down at my phone for directions now and then and forcibly feeling how unhealthy I was. There was no time to worry about the sharp pain in my left shoulder; I had ten minutes to make it to court and I was still 3/4 of a mile away. Out of all the places I had found trouble during this story, Georgetown was the lesser of charges; but Georgetown laws are barbarous. When I had originally been arrested, a whole other story altogether, it was for “resisting arrest” inside of a house. Sixty days would have been spent in that hell hole of a cell block if bail had not been posted. Georgetown, the small town encompassed by the ruthless Williamson County, is the third worst place to be arrested in among our proud nation. One could find themselves in jail for six months just for driving on a suspended license.
I walked out of court with a large fine, which was much better than jail time. The weather remained unbearably cold as I walked down the barren streets of Georgetown in my Marc Anthony suit; something I had acquired on clearance at Cole’s; home of some of the best deals for sure. Besides the current weather conditions, it was nice to be able to walk in leisure back to my hotel. The mile and a half, nerve racking sprint early that morning, spliced with a stabbing hang over, had nearly killed me. During my relaxing, and also freezing, stroll, I decided to follow up on all the characters who had made this Court Tour happen; Perdue, Abair and Travis Graves.
Perdue had rode the wave of fame into a bender of booze and pussy back in San Francisco. Abair was completely calm when I had called him, as if nothing had happened. He said he blacked out that disastrous night and mentally awoke on his parent’s couch in Vermont three days after his mayhem in Vegas. Travis Graves was still walking to the airport.
I thanked Perdue, T-Graves and even Abair for being a part of the directionless adventure I had brought them into. A long journey of savagery, love and weirdness that was The Court Tour. The follow up phone calls had time traveled me to the hotel where check out time waited for it’s tole to be paid.
My schedule for this trip was the following: stay with my Aunt on Lake Belton for two weeks and work on her house, then make it back to Austin to help my beautiful wife move to California–a new step for both of us, a new LIFE for both of us. The chaos that sleeps in my nature would not make this an easy task. It would be full of boxed wine, rattle snakes, getting robbed and almost an extension of this expensive tour. More trouble all around.
After checking out of my hotel, the grim fact that no buses or cabs existing in the small town of Georgetown smashed me in the face like an angry palm strike. A hotel waited for me twenty miles down the Interstate 35, south bound, and the only way I would be getting there was on foot.
It was a cold one that day, my friends. My hopes that the twenty-five degree weather would falter were answered with disappointment. I attempted to hitch hike a few times, but the speed limit in Texas is seventy miles per hour; so people drive at a idling speed of ninety.
Two miles down the Interstate, on that frosty day, a red Jeep pulled up to me. At first, I thought they were going to ask me for some kind of directions. That would have been a joke; I had no fucking idea where I was. A man, with a long white beard nestled under the glare of what may have been reading glasses, sat behind the reflection of the Jeep’s driver window. He urgently opened his door as if an apocalypse was brewing yonder.
“It’s freezing out there,” the kind man said with a strong Texan accent. “Get in, I will give you a ride.”
Henry Melton was his name. He said he had drove by me three times already and was worried about my well being. I felt my beard defrost a bit upon entering the warm vehicle; a sorry beard that has always crept around my chin like a caterpillar.
Henry was an author from south Texas. He had been writing science fiction, one of my favorite genres by far, but lately started writing novels. Mr. Melton drove ten miles past his exit to get me to my hotel. The little red Jeep blasted down the Interstate as we talked about literature and such. He was such a nice man and he re-established a pure kindness that at times felt extinct in the world. If you are reading this, Henry Melton, not only do I thank you for picking me up on that cold day, but for also shining hope and illuminating the shadows of humanity. You are a great man.
The next two weeks were spent with my aunt, Karen. Karen lived on shore of the beautiful Lake Belton with her dog, Buddy Guy. She was planning on moving to Florida so I was helping her clean house. A lot of astounding articles of all kinds would pop up during the “clean house” process. Karen and her late husband, my Uncle George, had kicked more than just a few asses in their life. They knew all kinds of interesting people, from John Lee Hooker to the Clintons. Much boxed wine would be drank as Karen would share stories from her past with me and magnificent memorabilia would pop up in dusty boxes; more history lived in that house than I have ever seen in any book. Camila would come up on the weekends and join the clearing of this house, while also taking advantage of Lake Belton’s glory.
Karen always had old blues playing in her forest green Saab as she sped around the streets of Belton and drank her boxed wine out of what she called her “sippy cup”. She would have nostalgic moments as we would drive through those old roads, weaving in and out of what had became her home in the late seventies, while deer would bombard the car like dogs with hopes for a snack. Sadness would lurk in Karen’s wise eyes momentarily now and then as we drove, but the adventuring hippy spirit from within washed away her tears and she would start happily singing along with Janis Joplin who only wanted a piece of some one’s heart. My Aunt Karen, who’s next stop would be Florida, welcomed the new chapter in her life, leaving behind all the memories that lived in that old lake house. Leaving them to float about like a crimson ghost silhouetted by a Texas sun; submerged by clouds and dancing with the many, minute, ripples that built Lake Belton–dancing restlessly to the banks of ending time.
One night, after eating some good old Texas BBQ in the small town of Belton, Karen was driving us back to her house.
“You know what, Travis,” Karen said with her thick accent as she put down her “sippy cup” and lit up a smoke. “You need to meet my neighbor. His name is Catfish George. You will like him. He catches so much damn cat fish! He’s crazy.” She paused to gather her thoughts and with her contagious laugh, she said, “You will like Catfish George.”
Cat Fish George’s lawn was riddled with boats, huge iron smokers, trucks and a couple of dogs. David Allen Coe’s, If That Ain’t Country, overwhelmed my head as Catfish George emerged from his garage. “The old man was covered in tattoos and scars, he got some in prison and others in bars. Others he got working on old junk cars, in the day time.” His beard was grey and scraggly and he was covered in what may have been oil. One of the dogs was trying to escape the confinements of the garage and he grabbed the small dog by the collar and gently placed the little barker back into the garage. He muttered something under his breath with a thick Texan accent, took a sip from his beer and welcomed Karen and I into his garage. He had tattered jeans on, a Jeff Foxworthey shirt that said something about rednecks hunting Mexicans and a warm smile.
After insisting that I grab him a fresh, Busch Light for not only him, but for myself as well, Catfish George immediately started cracking jokes. Karen had told him, with pride glaring in her smiling, box wine glazed eyes, that I had just gotten married.
“Oh really,” said Catfish George, “I’m sorry I missed the wedding. I will make sure to be at your funeral, though.” He started laughing and drank his beer. “Which, won’t be long from now.” It took me a minute to get his clever joke, then it came down from above my head and seeped into my scalp. He continued, “Let me ask you somethin’. Do ya mind?”
“No, not at all,” I replied.
“Good, cause I’m gonna ask ya anyways. Does your wife have small hands?” I was afraid to answer this one.
“Um…” I halted uncomfortably, “yeah, I guess so.” He started chuckling like an old engine trying to start. “Why?” Pondered I. A look of seriousness froze his face.
“Well, cause small hands makes your pecker look bigger!” An uproar of laughter came following his joke and I couldn’t help but join his hysteria. Again, he told me to grab him another beer out of the fridge and began with another joke; except this one, I’d soon figure out, was not a joke.
“Hey, Travis,” Catfish George summoned, “you wanna see my snake.” I was convinced that this was surely another penis joke, but his eyes widened like a child’s on Christmas morning; just waiting for my response.
“I’m not sure if I want to answer that,” I said with a flare in my cheeks.
“Welp, Ima show you anyway.” Once again, I thought a wiener would be joining the party, but instead he turned around to walk to his truck. He stopped and turned around towards me, stern as hell. “There is a .44 in my truck. If this goes bad, you have to promise me you’ll shoot me in the head.” I laughed, thinking it was a joke. His face stared deep into mine, unchanged. He was not joking.
Catfish George pulled a wooden box out of his white pick up truck. He told me to stand back and opened it with a long pole with a clamp on the end of it; a snake stick. “This fucker’s huge,” he said. Catfish George began to talk to whatever was in the box, trying to woo it out of it’s hiding. It didn’t work. “Stubborn bastard, huh? Stand back, this is gonna piss him off.”
A three and half foot Texas rattle snake came plopping out of the box. It’s tail end was shaking like a maraca and Catfish George was right, the snake was pissed. It came quickly sliding towards me with escape on it’s angry mind. I didn’t know what to do. Between fear and marvel, I became still. It was just feet away from my trembling feet, ready to strike, before it was lifted up into the air by Catfish George’s snake stick. He laughed and danced around with it for a while, then put the snake away. As Karen and I walked back to her house, she said, “See, I told you Catfish George was crazy! Only in Texas, huh?” I agreed.
Valentine’s Day came, and it was time for me to bid farewell to my Aunt Karen. Camila and I left Lake Belton and started the three hour drive to Enchanted Rock, located in central Texas.
Camila had been ranting to me about Enchanted Rock for the better part of us knowing each other, and the excitement that lit up her eyes as we approached the national treasure filled me with happiness. When we drove into the parking lot, it was a frenzy of tourists. It took an hour just to find parking. We had to move quicker because the sunset, our whole purpose of going there, was moving faster than us. People scattered up the giant, pinkish, plutonic batholith that loomed ahead of us like starving insects, all there for the same purpose Camila and I had ventured for. The sunsets there were unbelievable.
The sunset was beautiful. Being on top of that massive stone, that once was molding magnum beneath the earth’s skin, as the sun made it’s daily departure was beyond astounding. The stone was rounded and carried similar characteristics as a half sun on the horizon. At one point, it felt as if we were standing on a sunset from a different dimension. We asked a couple to take a photo of us, and the wife became extremely overwhelmed with excitement. She whispered something to here husband and then burst out, “You are him! You are Ethan Hawke!” Without a sliver of hesitation, and before I could tell her this was not true, she took a photo of us with Camila’s phone and then her own. Once breaking it to her that I was not Ethan Hawke, she spit on me with her eyes and walked away, looking disgusted the whole time with her chin pointing to the sky, hovering away from the peasant who was not Ethan Hawke. The husband, on the other hand, did not give a shit and sneakily sent me a smile behind his wife’s arrogance.
Three more days were spent in Austin. During this time, one last shit show occurred.
Camila had attempted to drop me off at my Uncle’s house after we went pout for a night of drinks, but the time was too late. He had left an envelope for us, congratulating our marriage with a wad of cash. The night was SO beautiful that I decided I would do a little camping that night. Camila disagreed, but I assured her that it would be alright. Once again, I learned the hard way that I should not take my wife’s judgement for granted.
The weather was horrendous. A once pleasant night transformed into an unforgiving freezing, monsoon. I awoke, still a bit drunk, in a bush that I thought was a good place to touch down that night. Wrong. I was soaking wet, and all of my belongings were gone. A trickle of water crept near me. Maybe a small river. I could not tell in the pitch black of the night. I stumbled to a near by 7-11 and got into an argument about God knows what with the clerk. I needed to be careful, for I was on the county line, where the forgiving Travis County met the zero tolerant Williamson County. This Court Tour was over and, although it was a nice trip, I wanted it to be over. It just could not continue.
A flamboyant man kicked man in the stomach and told me to get the fuck out of where ever I was. The light was blinding and the floor was cold, but no where near as cold as the night was. A bathroom I was in, in some kind of hospital.
“I’m calling the police,” said the man, “you really need to leave. Like now.” I assured him that I meant no harm and briefly explained my line of unfortunate events. His understanding smothered his fear and anger, and he did not call the police. Kindly, he let me leave with no quarries.
Finally, after it being a month of constant rambling, Camila and I were in a hotel where we would be leaving early the next morning back to California. The trip was impacting in so many ways, and having gone on many long journeys in my life, this one would definitely top the others. However, I was burnt, financially broken, and ready to go home.
Camila and I were running late for our flight. We had six large bags to haul as well, and by the time we got to the airport, we had twenty minutes before our flight was to depart. Luckily, there was no line for security, so a brief hope shined. A hope that would be smothered by one more shit show. Never a dull moment.
A police officer yanked a twelve inch, butcher knife out of Camila’s bag. It was one we had purchased during the first part of this story. He was going to take her to jail. I could not fucking believe it. Did God not want us to get back to California? After a battle with truth as our weapon, a truth of accidental origin when it came to the three dollar, Walmart bought knife, the officer let us go. The whole time, all I could think was that this Court Tour would never end. What have I created? Some kind of spinning entity that would never let us escape the abyss of constant court dates?
Camila’s lovely hair touched my shoulder as our plane lifted off the Austin run way. What a long trip it had been, and now it was coming to an end. A trip that spanned over four months, with chaos mostly here more than there. All shenanigans aside, this story met it’s ending happily. My wife and I, with our love more persevering than a desert cactus, were on our way to our first stop in life. Irrevocably and finally, home was within our grasp.
I’ve heard many mouths mutter the saying that “home is where the heart is.” Never before in my life had this been so relevant. Although Camila and I had a particular somewhere to go that day it remained that no matter where we ended up, even if it was nowhere, anywhere would be home. For my heart was eternally with her.
And hers with mine.
Egyptian Mountains in Georgetown
Our honeymoon was quick and simple. After we got married, Camila and I got a slice of pizza and a bottle of cheap sparkling wine at a neighboring liquor store. Instead of going out on the town and getting wild, we went back to our hotel and held each other until the night lulled us to sleep. After all that time, we were finally united. Together for the long haul, and in it to win it.
Camila missed her flight by three minutes the following day; Super Bowl Sunday. We sat at the airport for seven hours trying to get her on a flight. Trial and error crop dusted us over and over, laughing the whole time like a shit head kid, but eventually we were able to get her on the last flight to Austin that night.
Even though I would be seeing her two days from then in Texas–where one more court date awaited in a little town called Georgetown and the final Court Tour stop with Mt. Egypt would take place–I already missed Camila. Nostalgic tears battered my cheeks like hammering rainfalls as I passed the little chapel we had welded our souls together; less than twenty four hours prior.
Court was a failure. Charges still had not been filed. The lab, at which my blood awaited processing, was backed up worse than a grease bombarded septic tank. Las Vegas has the highest rate of DUI fatalities in America, which I would assume means the entire planet. It was no surprise that their blood labs were swamped.
Adam had booked me a room at The Hotel Riviera and Casino for that night. All I had to do was cover the deposit they would require. That would not be a problem. My deposit from the Motel 8 would be returned to me within a mere couple of hours.
Aimlessly, I wandered in and out of casinos on Fremont Street with one lumpy, unforgiving suit case from the eighties and a computer bag that was dissolving at the seams. I played penny slots to digest the minutes before check-in time called at The Riviera–which was around 1:00 p.m. Once past the toiling waiting game, everything from there on out would be as smooth as an early morning lake. The desert was ruthless that day.
My brain was simmering as I walked down The Strip. The deposit from Super 8 had not been returned as quickly as I had anticipated, leaving my pockets empty and causing even a bus fare to be out of my budget. Las Vegas was such a different place during the day. One could see the scum crawling down the sidewalks and up onto the casinos. It was like turning the lights on in a Brobdingnagian night club in Miami.
Disappointment patiently waited for me with a smug smirk and it’s foot tapping, four miles down The Strip at The Riviera. My deposit from The Super 8 had not been returned, which meant I could not pay the deposit at The Riviera. The busy hotel clerk told me I would not be getting a room, and before I could argue, a fat man in a plaid shirt shoved me out of the way and was granted my room. The prostitute he was with growled at me and I decided to let it go.
Most people in Vegas leave their slot machine when there is not enough money to make a bet. They don’t bother printing a ticket of 17 cents. My flight wouldn’t leave for another 27 hours, so time was something I could spare. Inconspicuously, while baby sitting a boiling beer in my sweaty palm, I wandered from slot machine to slot machine gathering these aborted tickets. 8 cents here, another 12 cents there. After gathering about two hundred of these tickets, I went to a slot machine and cashed out, gaining a whopping three dollars or so. How do you like that Casino? Looks like I win, you fucks. Pure desperateness had long sheathed any kind of reason because obviously I was the one truly losing.
Las Vegas faces flew around me. The families straight out of National Lampoon’s Vacation brought my thoughts to, Who would bring there kids to this place? Weathered, cigarette drenched women who had been chewed up and spit out years and years before. Bro’s who were there because they wanted to yell “Vegas” and somehow fill the never ending void within their insecurities. Young chicks with breast implants, yearning for some kind of purpose whose next stop in life was the “weathered, cigarette drenched woman.” All hopeful. All desperate. All mangled. My reflection dashed by a golden elevator, and a discerning horror washed over my mind. Which of these people am I? Sadly and inexplicably, the elevator told me that I was all of them. Every one of there tired expressions glistened in my face. A jolting cringe swam through my body and I left that damned casino. It was time to start the four mile tedious trek all the way to McCarren International Airport.
Between the Super Bowl crowd and some storm of the century in Chicago, flights were at a stand still. I stayed in that damned airport for 26 hours before I finally got on a flight. Sleeping in the airport was the last thing I wanted to do again–between the 11 mile hike from Fremont Street, and unforgiving ground of the McCarren Airport, by body was tattered. I was so happy to get on that plane, forgetting that I had no where to sleep, and no money for a hotel, in Austin. only to quickly stop in Houston and sleep in another airport: The Austin airport.
When I finally left the airport at nine the next morning, one could mistake this Court Tour to be an Airport Tour. Forty-two hours had been spent in airports and as I saw the Bus 100 coming to take me to downtown Austin, my fatigued brain mistook it for a mirage. This can’t be real, I thought.
The tour was coming to an end. Part of me couldn’t believe I had made it this far. Travis Graves, also known as Mt. Egypt, would playing a show at Hard Tails Bar and Grill in Georgetown that night. It was his first show in ten years and Travis, as well as everyone else who was incorporated on this tour, was also a wild card. Austin is known as “The Music Capital” of the world, so why we booked a show in Georgetown alluded me.
“It’s gonna be a very intimate show, Travis,” Adam said after I shared my concerns.
Adam paused for a moment to chew his food; probably a Whole Foods sandwich, “which, by the way, that fool is fired!” Adam then ranted for an hour about the disaster at the Mirage and how San Jose was a horrible place to live. Even after the door sales, it had cost The INdustries three times what was supposed to be profit due to damages in the venue.
Camila picked me up at a little market that had one dollar Lone Stars across the street from a laundry mat; a laundry mat that I had searched out to find for four hours, adding another ten miles to my walking resume on this trip. It was time to get to the venue… or whatever it was.
Travis Graves was outside the empty bar with an acoustic guitar on his shoulder, a half burned cigarette dangling in his mouth and a pea green scarf. I had no idea how he got there. Georgetown doesn’t have a bus route. Cabs don’t even drive out to the secluded, church going town. It is truly a no man’s land and the isolation existing there makes Bremerton, Washington look like New York City in comparison.
Travis was super stoked to see me and meet my gorgeous wife. It had been three years since the planets arranged a meeting between us. Travis Graves is truly a cosmic being and one will never meet him through any kind of cell phone call or email summoning. The heavens govern his mysticism, and quite frankly it was hard to believe he was even there.
“So,” Travis said with wild eyes scaling the setting skyline, “I have decided not to perform.” Before I could even muster the thought pertaining to why he would even come this far to not play, he started speaking a mile a minute about being grounded, early 1990’s Nikes, gangster rap and the green scarf around his neck from Tibet that Kenny Reed had given to him. Then he hugged me, kissed Camila on the cheek and said, “You guys are beautiful.” There was a battle raging deep within his eyes. Music was a chapter in his life that he had closed long ago, and opening that chapter again would cause devastation for him. Just by looking at his expression I could feel his mental war.
“Well, at least have a beer with us, man. You came this far and who knows when we will see each other again.” Travis smiled with mischief on one side of his lips and love on the other.
Softly, he said, “Ok Travis. Let’s do it.”
There were three people in the bar. An old drunk with a beard that most likely grew in that dive bar and a senior couple. They had probably been married for at least forty years. I looked over at my wife and smiled. She looked back at me with that overwhelmingly cute look of confusion. It was beautiful.
Travis ordered all of us Coors Lights and before I could wrap my hand around the perspiring glass, he sucked his down. That look of mental anguish washed over his face and under his breath, he muttered something like, “Fuck it.”
There was a little clearing in the bar where tables had been set aside and a lonely Court Tour poster lurked. Travis walked over to the space, took out his guitar, plugged it into the amp and started playing.
Firstly, Travis played, “Song For My Mother.” The power from his soul lit up that clandestine, Georgetown bar. The suffering inside my strange, dear friend filled the surrounding emptiness and my air tube clogged with enlightenment. The old couple got up and started dancing slowly, so Camila and joined them. Now Adam’s vision had became apparent. Now I knew what he meant by “intimate.”
Travis played “Pirate Song,” Zuma Beach,” “NYC,” and finished with “Battening the Hatches.” Each lyric and note was expelled from him with an immense pain, but eloquently as a Puget Sound breeze. As he came to the end of “NYC”, people started loading into the bar. Young hip types with beards, flannels and Italian boots. Their chatter among themselves crept into my ease dropping ears. Apparently, word traveled through Austin that Mt. Egypt would be playing in Georgetown for the first time in ten years; but no one could find the bar. Adam had not made it very clear, as the online promotion just said, “Georgetown Bar.” As the last note settled in “Battening the Hatches,” Travis thanked everyone for coming out. He stared off into the crowd’s vast face and with a sigh, walked to a nearby back door and left the bar. Leaving his guitar behind.
The packed bar exploded with applause and started to demand an encore. Travis came back into the bar and unplugged his guitar. I knew deep down he would not play an encore and it was understood by me that he had just forgot his guitar. Then he plugged his phone into the speaker and I knew trouble was brewing. The wild card had emerged.
Riff Raff’s “Tip Toeing in my Jordans” quaked the entire bar and Travis Graves ripped his shirt off. He unraveled the Tibetan scarf from his neck and wrapped it around his face; proceeding to dance like a mad man all around the bar.
Weaving in and out of confused glances, Travis returned to the little stage area and bellowed a mad scientist laughed. Then he grabbed his phone, his guitar and left the bar.
An awkward silence lingered in the bar, much like a morning fog creeps over the Santa Cruz Mountains and into the Bay. Horrible flashbacks of the DJ Abair catastrophe came drilling into my mind. I was waiting for a blow out to erupt at any moment, but something entirely different occurred. Something unbelievable.
The crowd went wild and excitement that one would find at the end of a Rolling Stones concert frolicked throughout the watering hole. I told Camila I would be right back and rushed out of the bar after Travis.
Travis was walking down an empty street about a block away or so.
“Travis, wait!” I yelled. He turned around with that mischievous, magical grin. “Where are you going?” I asked
“To the airport,” he said.
“Um…” I halted my speech to gather my thoughts, “how?”
“Well, Travis, I am going to follow the stars.”
“You mean you’re going to walk? I’m pretty sure it’s like thirty miles from here.” Travis looked up at the clear, star freckled Texas sky.
“Yeah,” he said, “something like that.” A loud noise caught my attention from behind me. Nestled within the distant, muffled chatter rattling the foundation of the bar, a raccoon had knocked over a trash can across the street. When I turned around, Travis was gone. He had vanished like a shooting star on a crystal night, leaving a huge imprint on my life, yet again.
Travis unwillingly had touched the eighty or so people that sought out Mt. Egypt that night, with his spiritual sounds and encore of insanity. For all of us, it was a timeless moment that we would carry in our lives until the very end. A moment entwined by vines from an eternal tree that would one day sing our last breaths to sleep. Magic resonated in that tucked away sliver of time as it passed altogether, and settled in the barren, candle lit bar.
As the night grew older, and colder, the crowd slowly dissipated out of the bar and back into their lives; lives that were now most definitely changed forever. The Court Tour was officially over. Although the strange tour, that weeks before birthed from a silly comment on Instagram, met it’s end on that chili night in Georgetown, Texas.
After Hours with DJ Abair
Barely had I made my flight out of Long Beach. On my knees I begged, with sporadic desperateness dramatically choking my plea, to board that flight. All the passengers scowled at me heavily as I awkwardly walked down the isle; heightening the scowls when my computer bag would slightly scathe someone’s shoulder. The “technical difficulty” was me that day, and the inpatient fiends who boiled in their seats of comfort wanted to see blood. My blood. On every angry face, murder was drooling from their eyes and down their fire red cheeks. This will be a relaxing flight, I sarcastically thought to myself as I squeezed my way through an obese couple to my assigned window seat. Embarrassingly, I sat down, feeling their contemptible glaring beams slice into the side of my skull. Being the last one to board a flight AND sitting in the window seat is like rear ending someone then getting rear ended yourself. A pile up that is more humiliating than any accident I have ever witnessed. Or caused.
A day was spent in San Jose for a little R and R. Well, but it was far from resting and relaxing. The day was spent radically rushing around to gather my things, working, and coordinating the rest of this trip. The One Man Demo with Stephen Perdue was a success, but there were two more events, and without constant dedication, they could expire in a dancing eye lid like unattended milk. The next event was at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas with DJ Abair, a man who has proven to be a wild card time and time again.
Among all of this, I had decided in my mind to ask Camila to marry me. Madre graced me with her Mother’s diamond ring and told me to follow my heart. She had always said that when that right person came along, the Leo fire in my chest would explode and burn up any doubts. This had long happened and any doubts were charred to a thin crisp the moment Camila’s smile initially graced my pupils.
Early, on noon’s horizon, I landed in Las Vegas. Adam had sent me the address to the hotel he had booked for me. It was a slimy Motel 8 somewhere off of North Las Vegas Blvd. It was apparent that he went way over his budget for this trip already, so I would be tasting the shit on the end of the stick.
“That’s what you get,” he said as I complained upon entering the rickety room. “How do you think I feel? I barely can pay my rent after this trip…” Adam paused momentarily, “your trip.” This confused me greatly, for Adam was living in his van, The Patriot, somewhere off the coast of California.
As far as I was concerned, his land lord was the mighty Pacific Ocean. Now I was toiled by a new reality. One I never knew existed: What does the Pacific charge for rent?
A panic attack was pummeling my chest like the drummer from Helio Sequence.
Abair better fucking be there,
I thought to myself as uneasiness rattled my tired bones
and my new pair of Pig Wheels glided down Las Vegas Boulevard. It was Super Bowl weekend and I could hardly even skate down the street without running into someone, or something–the Wookies were out fore sure. Who knew how this was going to turn out.
The palpating in my heart sky rocketed as I walked up to the Mirage Hotel and Casino.
Broadcasted for all to see on the Mirage’s towering marquee, dwarfing The Beatles Love Circus Du Soleil which lay beneath it, was a massive Court Tour billboard that said, “After Hours With Dj Abair.” Wow, I thought to myself, Adam went all out on this one.
Abair was sucking down a cheap bottle of Taaka Vodka behind the DJ booth that overlooked a crowd of three hundred.
“You know, Abair,” I informed, “the bar is open for you and I.” Abair looked at me shiftily with sweat pouring down his face.
“Travis, this so fucking gnarly. I can’t do this. Look at all these people.” Then his demeanor switched off like a bedside lamp. “You are amazing, Travis. We are twins. I’m gonna get your name tattooed on my chest after this.”
The first song Abair played was, “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. The crowd, all of them drunker than Hank Williams Senior, responded to this horrid song with shouts of joy. Every kook in the crowd started fist bumping and dancing, each egocentrically shining in their very own Universe. Abair was mic’d up and a thundering, “YEEEEAH!” blasted over the speakers. I tried to sew an expression on my face that hid the fact that this whole situation was completely fucked, uncomfortable and pretty hard to watch. Fuck it, I thought to myself, people are enjoying themselves. This is going well. Really well actually.
Carly Rae Jepsen shrieked her final “call me maybe” over the speakers and the crowd exploded in applause. All I could think was, I would never call her. Not even maybe. Still, I forced my lips to smile and dragged my hands to a clap. The wild cards started flaring in Abair’s eyes and he yelled some incoherent nonsense about Adam Crew and a Yellow Brand Tour. Then an acoustic guitar started picking over the huge speakers surrounding the venue.
Tracy Chapman’s “You’ve Got a Fast Car” started playing. The crowd looked around at each other as if a squirrel had crawled behind the walls weeks prior and died. How embarrassing this is, I thought. There is always a time and place for every thing, and this was neither. I mean come on! We weren’t in a garage at three in the morning doing cocaine and having deep conversations about the Holographic Universe! People exceeded irritation and began to boo Dj Abair.
My forehead rose from my hand as Abair turned off the music and started ranting. “Fuck this! Fuck all of you! You are all losers,” he choked for a moment and with a prepubescent voice continued, “ALL OF YOU!” Tears started pouring down his face and he wiped them away with the remaining bottle of rip gut vodka. “Fuck you Adam Crew!” Abair yelled at the ceiling, then he threw the empty bottle into the livid crowd.
A riot broke out in that dark venue. Everyone wanted Abair’s head on a stick, but he was no where to be found. Rooster haircuts, cocaine crazed models, bouncers and even bar tenders started beating the shit out of each other. With a profile below sea level, and like a snake in a meadow, I slithered behind the bar, stole a bottle of Makers Mark and got the hell out of there. Unlike the “One Man Demo with Stephen Perdue”, “After Hours with Dj Abair” was not only a failure, but a disaster.
A ruthless pounding in my head joined hands with a cold bathroom floor and slapped me awake. I was back in my hotel. Whiskey crept through my breath and the diamond ring I planned on presenting to Camila was on my left pinky finger. With my hand trying to contain the ferocious teeth that were clamping my brain, I walked into my room and saw the time. It was already six p.m. and Camila would be landing at nine p.m. sharp. After briefly brushing the remaining Maker’s Mark from my breath, I put on a nice shirt, rushed to The Stratosphere and caught the 108 to McCarren Airport.
Camila’s back was frowning at me as I awoke and tried to kiss her. She was a little upset due to multiple layovers she had withstood the day before, and a mix up of terminals causing me to pick her up an hour late. In my pocket, the diamond ring taunted me. Now is the time, Travis, I thought. It’s now or never. Camila would be leaving the next morning. If I didn’t propose at that moment, it would be the last time I would see her for years, perhaps forever. Fathoming a life without her choked any kind of future for love–for life. A life without her was no life. I wanted to share everything with Camila. Every sun and every moon to come. Every smile and every sadness to curl our lips. Every old demon to poison our past and every young angel to come and heal it. My fidgety heart had always been a hard one to hold, but she had it pinned down.
Her eye lids slowly arose, and her big beautiful, dark eyes sleepily looked into my fear stricken, nervous-as-all-hell stare as I knelt by the bed. The mid-afternoon desert sun was massaging my shoulders. Without seeing the ring and still trying to conceive the new day around her, Camila said with a cute chuckle, “Travis, what are you doing?” This was it.
“Camila, will you be my wife?” Her reaction completely surprised me. A smile stretched from cheek to cheek and her eyes gently closed.
“Yes, Travis.” Even now, and most likely for the rest of myself, I will never be able to describe the happiness that burst within my chest. On the dirty mattress, inside that seedy Motel 8, Camila and I prayed to God for His approval; something I had never done in my life. God and I both had enormous egos, ones in which always exploded like a dinner conversation about politics when met face to face… or religion.
“The Ballad of John and Yoko” blared into an all too real setting as Camila and I walked out of the Clark County Court with our marriage license. We were bombarded by pastor after pastor to get married in their chapel. It seemed like they were trying to crucify me. At one point, two almost got into a fight over who would marry us. Any pan handler in the Tenderloin of San Francisco had nothing on these guys. They were ruthless.
Earlier in this story, during Camila and my first trip to Vegas, which ended horribly, we had tried to go to a strip club off of North Las Vegas Boulevard. Ironically, directly across the street from the strip club, was the little chapel that we decided to get married in. Who would have thought?
A flamboyant woman, cloaked in green with bright purple lipstick to match and a pair of ten inch high heels married us on that magical Las Vegas night. A night when simultaneously someone was hitting the big jack pot while someone else was getting arrested. Off somewhere in that shit show of a city, someone was vomiting in a Casino bathroom; but Camila and I were getting married. A single tear rolled down my cheek. I was hypnotized by the beauty of my soon to be wife, she was beyond stunning. Every second of my past led up to that moment as the strange pastor united us once and for all. All the many regrets, bad decisions, experiences fell into place while Camila and I joined hands and got lost in each other’s stares.
Many times in my turbulent past, fueled usually by drugs and self destruction, I have met suicide in multiple settings. On the sharp edge of a knife, in the reflection on a porcelain draped bath tub, or over the railing of a golden bridge. Every time a little shining light would pull me out from the lake of despair I seemed to always find myself drowning in. A light at the end of the tunnel, one could say. I never knew what it was going to be, or what it would look like, but I knew it was out there, somewhere, waiting. Holding my joyous tears back, and as I said, “I do,” I was not just looking at my best friend, lover or new wife. I was gazing deep into that light. The light which promised it would shine on one far away day. All those years the light that had always been hazy and dim, blinded my eyes for the very first time. Softly, it resided back into the glistening ivory of Camila’s white dress and finally, for the first time in my twenty five years, life had made sense.