Falling Down in D Minor
While the turning of my favorite millennium was taking place, I was making sandwiches in a classy hoagie shop called Erbert and Gerbert's, located in the heart of Dinkytown, Minneapolis. I celebrated the dawn of a new era by slapping various cold-cuts and condiments into sliced bread for U of M students to jam down their necks between classes, far too frantic to embrace the adorable names their food had been christened with like "Boney Billy," "The Pudder," and "The Bornk," to name a few.
I wormed my way out of a weekend work schedule, and found myself packed into a beastly luxury pearl-white station wagon with the three other members of my rap group (Stephen, Noel, and Jesse) and a couple of their buddies who were looking to escape Minneapolis for a day or two. We were headed up north to Duluth. For those who don't know, Duluth is the birth place of rap music and iron ore, so it made perfect sense for us to be performing there.
That winter was frozen six miles into the earth; All gray and lifeless with a lair of ice that stood fast for months longer than most years, and easily became the last place you'd want to be driving through. With blinding snow storms, a few inches of ice under our tires and Stephen at the wheel, the four-hour drive was anything but dull.
We were booked to play some local hole-in-the-wall bar, which apparently was Duluth's crown jewel of holes-in-the-wall, since all thirty members of the population under 63 were there to get plastered and forget about their lives for a few hours.
The show began and ended as it always has: "Put your hands, put your hands down, say "ho," tip your bartender, peace, we got CDs in the back..."
My business associates and I were quickly exceeding our alcohol limits, since we were mainly paid in beer. The rest of the money went towards gasoline, motel rooms and limousines. That's right, the promoter got us a couple limousines to bring us from the motel to the venue and back to the motel. You know, I never truly knew the meaning of the word "glamour," until I was driven seven miles through Duluth in the middle of a blizzard, after dark, to a shitty night club.
The drinking jamboree was interrupted when the bartender announced "last call for alcohol," which meant you either run to the bar or crawl to the door. It was time to go. Piles of confused, intoxicated faces made their way to the glowing red exit sign, searching for cab rides, people who were a little less drunk to double as a cab ride, or limousines. The drunk were assisting the drunk and many moments went by before anybody knew what the hell was going on. People were missing or making out in the DJ booth, getting high in the bathroom or puking behind the smoke machine. These were moments that none of these people would be telling their parents, children, or parole officers about.
A final trip was made inside the bar where Jesse was discovered standing alone in the middle of a checkered dance floor- strobe lights flashing, Ace of Base pumping, fueling his own private party off in some distant disco orgy.
Miraculously, the stray cattle were rounded up and herded into our limousines like some dysfunctional prom. The other groups made the drive back to the Cities, while the six who rode with us collapsed into a cramped motel room not knowing what hit us.
I was the first one awake Sunday morning, curled in the fetal position next to the radiator, with a headache and an urge to leave Duluth. I walked out to the lobby wearing the same clothes and smells that I crash-landed in the night before; The bath towel I had used for a pillow was imprinted in the side of my face. I could tell by the taste of complimentary O.J. and blueberry muffins that the motel staff wanted us to leave. I glanced outside to see the same dead gray winter I saw on the way up, and made my way back to the room. Gradually, everyone awoke from the comas: bruised, poisoned and confused.
Jesse had a black eye and his cell phone and wallet were gone. We all agreed it was time to leave. The six of us piled into the frozen station wagon, rubbing hands together, toes together, trying to generate heat inside an icebox. Steve turned the key in the ignition...nothing. No lights, no struggling engine, just quiet. We sat still in disbelief as our foggy breath froze to the car windows. Swear words were said, gas pedals were stomped, and steering wheels were hit, before we gave up and went back into the motel. The only auto shop Duluth had to offer was not open on Sunday. I'm assuming that was out of respect to the 13th commandment: Thou salt not get home in a timely fashion on the Sabbath."
I couldn't tell you how that day was spent inside the motel room, but I can guess. We were all trying to find our "happy place" while simultaneously counting down the minutes until the car shop opened Monday morning. It's never pretty when forced to marinate in the sum of a nameless night of excessive drinking.
The cleaning lady's knocks were beginning to sound more like a prison guard banging our cell with her knight stick.
"No...no moleste, por favor...we don't need any more shampoo."
No where to go, little money and two channels to choose from, the thought of murdering everyone in the room with a spork definitely crossed my mind more than once.
At some ungodly hour, Stephen woke us with news that the car was running. No auto-repairman, no jumper cables, no nothing. Just felt like starting up. Okay. I guess the car was sick of Duluth, too. Without hesitation we all dove into the vehicle like we'd just robbed the motel, when in fact the motel had all of our money.
We cruised down 35W as the pale pink sun peeked over our dashboard; All crooked, spent and wanting our mommies. I was happier to be in a moving vehicle than a dog that can lick his own crotch for hours on end.
We were making good time. At some point about 90 miles outside the Twin Cities, we lost control. While tail-gating a semi truck, I tuned in the Beach Boys on Kool 108- "the best of the 60's, 70's and Today!"
Stephen and I sang along half crazy and trying to stay awake. As we sung "Little Old Lady From Pasadena," we must have hit a patch of ice or a baby moose, doing about 75 or 80. Our monstrous car began fish-tailing, pointing in all directions like some possessed compass.
While the car was deciding where to crash, I began doing the "roller coaster" scream over the classic oldies' station, grabbing the door, Stephen's arm and stomping down on my imaginary brakes. We spun left, right, left and shot off into the median ditch, driving deep into the unplowed snow which completely swallowed the car. We saw nothing but white. We must have died. A feeble hand reached out and killed the radio. We all looked at each other in disbelief. I started laughing hysterically, which seemed to be the most appropriate thing to do at the moment. No one joined me. We got out of the car.
Fortunately we crashed about 100 yards from an exit ramp which held a gas station. We all trudged through the deep unmarked snow like some lost, defeated hiking expedition.
Phone calls were made and a tow truck pulled our lifeless wagon out of the snow bank. A highway patrolman was at the car by the time we returned, making sure that no one was hurt and that no one left without a lecture. Within an hour of the disaster, we were back on the road and would be home soon.
I got inside my apartment, took a shower, put on my fancy Erbert and Gerbert's maroon work shirt and matching visor, and prepared for Monday.