I have a handle on the broader strokes of this lost weekend in Dallas, Texas in the summer of 1978. The finer details however, are a tad fuzzy. But knowing myself and how I was at that time in my life, I can fill in the blanks with some safe assumptions. I was reaching the end of my ability to function soberly.
Substance abuse had an insidious hold on me. I was consuming massive amounts of cocaine and Jack Daniels. This 4th of July bender should have been the signal I paid attention to. It wasn’t. It took me landing in jail in Michigan a month and a half later on possession charges before I began to smarten up.
~~ * ~~
After finishing up a one truck tour with the Kinks at the end of June, 1978, I left Los Angeles, California and took a leisurely 3 days to make it back to SHOWCO's headquarters in Dallas.
I was feeling great. A one truck tour will do that. Multi-truck tours always had more intricate moments of drama and mania compared to the lower key rhythms of one truck tours. A one truck tour usually meant smaller venues and were closer to each other or there was more time allotted for the drive than on the bigger tours. A one truck tour often felt like a working vacation.
So I was back in Dallas with over a week to use as I wished before I headed out with Genesis to tour up in Canada and the eastern US. Needless to say, I had stocked up on pot, toot and Jack Daniels in LA before I headed to Dallas. Seven or eight days off stuck at Days Inn in Irving, Texas with no car might be tolerable if I had enough stimulation.
I backed my trailer into a loading dock at SHOWCO headquarters on Governors Row. As the trailer was unloaded, the head of transportation asked me if I would mind doing some more driving while I waited for the Genesis tour to come together. I jumped at the chance. Working beat sitting any day. He sweetened the deal by saying I could expense my week at Days Inn on the first expense sheet of the Genesis tour. Life was really looking up.
I was tasked with hauling a small amount of additional sound equipment to the Cotton Bowl for a stadium gig Willie Nelson was promoting on July 3rd.. It was his "Picnic with Willie Festival" which included acts like Kris Kristoferson, Waylon Jennings, and others.
Because my memories of that weekend are still fuzzy, I can't say for sure if it was a Waylon roadie or some other clown I met backstage who first got me into trouble out back next to the Waylon Jennings rig; a beautifully restored B-Model Mack that reminded me of the tired B-Model Mack I had driven several years earlier, hauling twenty foot overseas containers filled with raw rubber to Ohio.
Since I cannot remember his name, I will call him Slim as I have a hazy memory of a skinny dude with white powder crusted on a badass mustache. Yeah, the 3 or 4 day substance bender started with swigs of Jack Daniels Black, alternating with snorting bodacious lines of toot off a logbook on a fuel tank step.
Later that night I managed to get my truck and trailer outside the gate before I passed out. I woke up the next morning draped over the dog house and my mouth tasted like muddy footprints outside a row of porta potties.
I noticed Slim had crawled in the sleeper and was passed out. Spittle had dripped from his gaping mouth onto my brand clean sheets. The most god awful smell huffed and puffed out of his mouth with each breath. Slim’s eyes opened.
He mumbled, "What time is it?'"
I looked at the alarm clock I had duct taped to the dog house (Cabinet sized structure in a cab-over truck that covers the engine). The clock was not ticking.
"Dunno, forgot to wind that bitch."
I opened the door of the cab and jumped down. As I stood facing the drive tires and drained them of some clear water, I looked up at the Sun. Once the shock of looking right at it wore off, I noticed it seemed to be hanging higher than an early morning sun.
I shouted up at the open driver's door, "Bet it's closing in on Brunch. ..... Is there somewhere close we can eat and get some cock tails?"
Slim stuck his head out and grinned. "Well driver, do your pre-check and then let's go. There's a great Tex-Mex joint over near ABC truck rental in Irving. They know their way around Tex Mex for sure."
By the time I had circled checked my rig and climbed back in the cab, Slim had a couple of beefy lines of toot laid out on the Dog House with a 1/2 pint of Jack Daniel's Black set up between them.
"Won't do the Jack, but I will snort that line if you don't mind. I try not to drive with the demon rum poisoning my insides. Can't afford to lose my license."
Slim looked at me and said, "Yeah, that's what you told the Dallas PD last night when they checked up on us hanging out behind the Cotton Bowl. How you talked your way out of that I will never know. You could barely talk there bout midnight when they showed up."
The sloshing frothy head I had been sporting seemed to clear in seconds.
"Cops were here last night?"........ I tried to remember but couldn't. ....... "Okay. I guess I lucked out then.". ........ What did the cop say?"
"Well he knew right off you were shit faced when you fell out of the truck. He also believed you that you had not moved your rig any further than outside the fence, especially when you could not find your truck keys. He did grab both our licenses and called them in. No warrants, so with a final warning not to drive drunk, he climbed back in his cop car and drove away."
I sat behind the wheel taking this all in and rubbing my temples. I started the truck and began a search in the vicinity for my sunglasses. It was definitely going to be a sunglasses day. Once we got rolling I settled down and in a short while we were at the ABC Truck Rental facility.
I dropped my trailer and parked the tractor in front of one of the garage doors. I began emptying the cab of whatever I figured I might need for the next 4 or 5 days. I dropped the keys in the drop box and began strolling around looking for Slim. He had disappeared when I dropped the trailer.
It was an hour before Slim showed up again. But show up he did; in a beat Pontiac Fire Bird belching black smoke through at least one blown muffler.
"Where you been?"
"I called a cab, went home got my car and here I am now. Throw your gear in the back and let's get us some Tex-Mex and Bloody Marys. ……. And then I’ll fill you in on the plan for the 4th. We’re camping out tonight under the stars and howling at the moon. Al has some fireworks and a portable grill. Come on guy, It’ll be a blast. ( 1128 )
~~ * ~~
I remember eating a Tex-Mex breakfast and drinking Bloody Marys. By early afternoon, I had faded out again until I woke up, face up in some tall grass, around sunset. The sky above me was a layered series of pinks and reds. I tried to sit up and banged my noggin on what I discovered was the front bumper of Slim’s Fire Bird. I was next to a lake surrounded by brown grass. Not a tree worth mentioning as far as my eye could see. In front of the Fire Bird was a group of good ole boys sitting in lawn chairs and spitting into a campfire that was way bigger than it needed to be.
I shuffled over to the fire. Someone tossed me a Lone Star long neck and then an opener. Damn, that beer tasted and felt great as it washed the dust pit in my mouth clean.
“Hey look boys, the dead do come back to life. …. Slim, where did you find this light weight anyway?”
“ Oh he’s alright Jack, he drives a truck for Willie, you know, the show at the Cotton Bowl yesterday? Besides, he’s got Blow.”
I decided it was time to speak up. I smiled.
“Hey fellas, wasup? We gonna party or what?”
Jack stood up and stepped into my space.
“Well friend, that depends.”
I stepped back, out of Jack’s space.
“Depends on what Cowboy?”
We stared each other down a minute or so without another word passing between us. I eventually reached in my jeans pocket and pulled out a mangled and tired looking joint.
“Got a light?”
Jack smiled and pointed at the huge cooler.
“We got no more chairs, so grab that cooler and drag it over to the fire. We’ll just smoke that joint of yours and get to know you.”
We were camping in a local park that surrounded a narrow bay on a manmade lake. There were campsites all along the shore full of families getting their fill of July 4th libations. We were just another family of sorts playing the same game.
Al pulled out his fireworks around nine I guess. I remember a fleeting thought that with all the dead grass everywhere, was it a good idea to set off fireworks? Since it was a fleeting thought, I soon found another fleeting thought to ignore.
The fireworks were fun I guess. I did not partake. I sat on my cooler, drank Jack Black and snorted toot with a shit eating clueless smile on my face while the boys hooted and hollered after each glorious explosion over the lake. Between explosions, I’d raise the bottle and shout:
“ Yer damn right!”
Suddenly, our night of frivolity and celebration turned ugly. Al fired off a rocket that, instead of going up, flew across the narrow inlet and into a campsite located in the wrong spot at the wrong time across from our group of drunk and disorderly cowboy truck drivers on vacation.
It was a direct hit. Sparks flew, scaring the shit out of the family who was camped there. At least that is what the boys thought happened at its worst. We saw flames growing and heard a female voice screech. Shortly, what we figured was the golf cart that had been parked at the park entrance made its way toward the fire. From across the inlet we watched people scurrying and hurrying until the fire was doused. I found out later no one was hurt but several campsites took it hard.
It was at this point the boys decided their welcome here was worn out. Jack and his buds gathered up all the gear, piled in his van and booted. Slim poured me into his Firebird and away we went. He dropped me off at the Days Inn near SHOWCO. I spent the rest of my five day layoff reacquainting myself with sobriety. ( @ 1900 )
, by The Grateful Dead
is the logical choice for the musical entertainment of the this post.
So be it.