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El Paso, TX
What the Fuuuuuuuhhhhh… I mean, Wow – what an awesome trip this one was! Now before I even get into details, don’t misunderstand me, the show in El Paso was great fun, the El Paso-ites were the best of-the-best people this side of Juarez and beyond! The story must be told from the beginning and with as much pleasantly worded tact as I can muster.
(Cut to Sci-Fi special effects – a blinding flash of iridescent light combined with an explosive high pitched roar cross-fading into a past moment in time where the clock radio at my bedside transmits Tom Petty’s familiar “Don’t Come Around Here No More”. The date is June 24th, the time… time to get up of course). I have just spent a whirlwind week-plus of spending time with my parents and younger brother who are visiting from Ohio, Mom and Dad are heralding their 50th wedding anniversary and we’re all proud of and impressed with their accomplishment. My Warrant schedule is beginning to pick up as more shows are booked and the summer is fast approaching. This particular morning I am ready to navigate my 1997 Toyota Tacoma (Ex-Cab and air conditioning are just a few of the star features of this trusty vehicle of mine) to LAX for our scheduled departure to Denver, CO and onward to Des Moines, IA where we are set to play the early slot at the Water Works Park annual Rock fest. The early slot was the key to this whole weekend playing out as planned for after the scheduled set wrap-up time of 1PM we were then to be off to the airport for a 10:30 PM show in El Paso. Some might say we were ambitious, crazy, and maybe even just a little bit optimistic – why not, we’ve done two shows in one day before, maybe not 3 states away from one another, but it’s been done nonetheless.
After having a bite to eat and final packing details are tended to, I am loaded (not “Loaded” loaded – I’ll save that kind of behavior for other “Rock Stars”… you know who you are!) and ready to hit the road for what promises to be a fun and lucrative weekend. I am literally 100 yards from the parking lot at LAX where we always convene for a road trip and my trusty ghetto sled… er, I mean Tacoma begins to shimmy and shake (not in a good way, as in put a quarter in the cheap motel vibrating bed control and lie back and enjoy…?). The light I’m at changes to green and I pull into the parking lot with just a little bit of worry about what my little truck might be trying to tell me. Not being a car guy, or a truck guy for that matter – I do what most people like me would do and choose to ignore and forget about this little warning sign, until further notice of course. (Flash forward past the 2-minute shuttle ride to the United Terminal and then again further past the tedious security checkpoint harassment and following trek to the gate). Our United Airlines flight is on time and promises to get us into Denver with time to spare before connecting onward to Des Moines (the last flight available I might add), still, no worries we are on time and on the plane and flying at a rather nice clip, thanks to the tail wind off the pacific coast (sometimes a little air up your tail is a good thing). United airlines have these nifty little LCD screens in the headrests in front of each seat so that you can conveniently monitor your flight progress, including, but not limited to, outside temperature in both Celsius and Fahrenheit, speed of that tail wind I just spoke of, even ground speed which at this point was in excess of 500 MPH!!! There is also a GPS map of the flight pattern as well so you can make sure you’ve not been hi-jacked off course or something. We are about 2 hours or so into the flight to Denver when I notice the little airplane on my GPS map is circling right about the same time the captain comes on the intercom to say “Some of you may have noticed we have been circling”… uh, some of you? How about the entire plane is beginning to get dizzy from all the circling (not really). The captain (let’s just call him “Captain Connection” as in Mr. Connection as in further… MISSED YER CONNECTION) then informs us that Denver is now closed due to extreme wind shears across the runway and that no flights are going in or coming out until further notice. So we’re circling and circling to the point that Capt. Connection then comes on the intercom to say we are low on fuel and have been diverted to Colorado Springs for refueling along with at least 6 other flights. Colorado Springs, as we were soon to be informed, is a small airport not properly equipped to handle all these “big planes” all of which “apparently” needed refueling also (Hmmm, coincidence?). Just imagine a row of hungry elephants standing in line for food, which is then being delivered by a troop of short-staffed field mice, each of which can only carry a crouton on their backs before returning a country mile to the crouton store for another load to feed the hungry row of elephants. (It’s really a word problem meant to provide a comparison to our hopeless situation… there really were no elephants involved in our trip, or crouton bearing mice for that matter, although there was an eco-loving bird flipper… I’ll get to that later). 30 minutes quickly became an hour, which in turn quickly become 2 and then 3. After sitting for about 3 hours on the runway with zero movement or croutons to our elephant, Capt. Connection announces that to his “best estimate” we may be moving in about 15 minutes to “sit down and buckle up”… yeah right! Those 15 minutes quadrupled in no time. I then began to notice the crew shift customer service modes from, “can I get you some water” to, “I shall refuse to look you in the eye, even if your pants were aflame and your head was spinning around on your shoulders screaming for peanuts” (not meant to be an elephant reference but I guess it could work). The faceless voice on the loud speaker, our “Charlie” if you will, Captain Connection makes his final announcement “Uh, yeah, this is your Captain speaking (I’m gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Saturday to finish up those PTS reports) due to FAA regulations we are into illegal overtime, anything after 4 hours (sitting on the runway) requires the plane be evacuated, de-boarded, disembarked, emptied out, get the “F” off!
So here we are in Colorado Springs, NOT Denver on our way to Des Moines as planned – in fact we long ago had missed our connecting flight - the next being not until later the next morning, too late to even make it to Des Moines to play our matinee show at Water Works Park. There was much ado in the terminal with all the displaced passengers full of questions like, who wants to sign a petition to file a class action suit? The airline assured us all that busses would be coming to shuttle everyone to Denver… NEVER HAPPENED! Mr. Dixon, our “General Patton”, immediately made arrangements for us to be picked up and taken to a hotel, as the 300-some other passengers on our ill-fated flight NOT to Denver were quickly ravaging accommodations and ground transportation. We had explored all options in an attempt to still make it to Des Moines some how, no airline schedule would suffice, we were considering driving the 10 plus hours through the night but that was risky at best. Resigned to spend the night in Colorado Springs, I braved walking down the side of the interstate to 7 Eleven for a 12’er to share with any takers back at the hotel.
Flash forward to the next morning where Robert Mason had just spent the night in Des Moines having arrived safely from his home port of Phoenix, obviously because his was NOT piloted by Captain Connection, OR his brother, Captain Connection (what?... they’re brothers, of course they have the same last name!?). Okay, maybe not his brother but his unmarried sister-in-law who also happens to be a captain, Capt. Direction (give it a second you’ll figure it out). So Robert goes to the show site in Des Moines to report that there had been rain the night before which meant there was some clean up to do the next morning as this was to be an out door show. After all was said and done the show was running late any how and it wouldn’t have mattered if we’d actually made it to Des Moines in time, the show was running late which meant we would have had to miss our time slot to catch the plane to El Paso (also the only flight out that day). Now rewind, but fast forward just a little through the night in Colorado Springs where the rest of the band, sans Robert are readying for our flight to El Paso which STILL takes us through Denver for a connection. All is seemingly well, we make it to Denver with nearly a 3 hour lay-over, with food, drink, some cigarettes are smoked, some World Cup Soccer is watched, I happened to eat a Quizno’s Sub at one point. Our flight to El Paso is out of one of the higher numbered gates, after some observation I believe the higher the gate-number the smaller the plane? Anyhow, we are in place and ready for the boarding call when they announce the flight is delayed by an hour. We are already cutting it close as the flight lands in El Paso with only about an hour and a half to spare before our scheduled show time. A half an hour passes and they then announce from our departing gate that the flight is then delayed another hour on top of the first one (for those of you counting that’s 2 hours later). At this point I think it is safe to say we were all thinking that we’ve just spend a boat load of money to fly to Colorado Springs, Denver then back to Los Angeles, for some airport food, drink, extra wear and tear on the old skeleton (a Quizno’s sub) and over priced Starbuck’s. Just when all hope seemed to be lost, there is a gate change announcement made for the flight to El Paso… could it be? Could this really be happening, an act of God, a gift from the heavens… you mean we are actually going to get to play a show this weekend??? YEP, no more Captain Connection – but Captain Kangaroo (It’s my road report, I can name my characters anything I want to, besides Captain Kangaroo rocked the 60’s and 70’s – plus, Captain Kangaroo makes it sound like we are just a hop away from our destination… okay maybe that was a bit much, sorry). The little plane that could got us from our big gate number to El Paso with only an hour to spare – it was to the hotel to suit up and 2 minutes later back on the shuttle to the gig where the stage lay waiting. “Speaking Rock” rocked… (Flash forward to after the show… we are asked if there is anything we need… cigarettes, cartons of cigarettes, more food, more drink, I think the accommodating nature of the tribesmen of Speaking Rock more than made up for the shortcomings of our Captain Connection and United Airlines – maybe I’m sugar coating the seething-disgust and hateful-loathing we felt at the time we sat like elephants on the runway waiting for croutons that never came only to be kicked out of the circus and left to fend for ourselves, wayward pachyderms without a big-top to perform. Maybe I’m not… we made it through the weekend perhaps a bit more forgiving of the powers of mother nature, perhaps more thankful for more important things in life, like being able to land without being sheared by wind and walk away body and souls intact.
After deplaning in record time, receiving all of our checked luggage in record time AND boarding the shuttle back to our cars/trucks in record time as well we say our goodbyes until next week, or show date. I see my faithful Pick-up waiting to chariot me home, the engine starts (eureka!) and I motor my way down the boulevard toward the freeway – only to get 2 blocks before the engine is in total seizure mode and white smoke begins to ceaselessly billow from the exhaust pipe. At this point I am stopped at a traffic light where before me is a Prius Hybrid (It doesn’t necessarily mean the person driving it is pro human, just pro earth) the woman in the driver’s seat turns around what seemed like a full 180 degrees (Linda Blair/Exorcist style) and flips me the bird. Now, I’m really not the kind of guy who resorts to hand gestures, or even honking the horn to express my distaste for what other drivers may or may not be doing with their vehicles or driving skills – but this to me was the icing on an already stale and moldy cake. Sooo… I effortlessly pulled out my 45 Gloc and shot through her back windshield piercing the frontal lobe of her brain splattering eco-conscience biohazard material all over the interior of her Prius! Quentin Tarrentino wishes he had seen the beautiful carnage I had wreaked so he could include it in his screenplay to Pulp Fiction Part 2! (Rewind that thought in slow motion) That’s what I wanted to do, instead I was forced to turn down a side street and call the Automobile club for a tow all the way back to the valley where I live. A $126 tow job plus another $2,280.00 in repair expenses later and I am happy to report I am going to trade my truck in for an elephant!
Thanks for reading, catch you all later on down the road, just look for the elephant with white smoke billowing out of its ass!