I found myself driving a RV from Philly to Chicago as my first vehicle of the new year. I have never driven a RV before, and found it a little bit tricky. But the nice thing is that you have a bathroom and a bed on wheels right there with you.
Still, when I found that the most direct path would take me right through Ohio, I could not resist stopping to see my old friend Smokey. I called him to say I was coming. “When you gonna get here, fucko?” he asked me on the phone.
“I’m on my way now. I have a lot of curvy mountains roads here in Pennsylvania, so it may be kind of late.”
“No problem, you know I’ll be up all night. The boys in the band are all here.” Then he turned his attention away from the phone. “Hey guys, say hello to Spanky McFucko here on the phone!” I heard a shout from the background, as the band members sent joyous greetings. “Hey, you’re not spanking while you’re driving, are you?”
“What? No, of course not.”
“Zip up your pants and drive safely, you crazy dazey drivin’ fool.” With that, Smokey hung up.
The drive through Pennsylvania was longer than I expected. I got behind some very slow trucks on uphill grades, and it pushed my arrival time way back. What made things more complicated was that I had been fighting a cold, and taking cold pills and drinking Nyquil the past few days. This was causing me to feel a bit tired and dizzy, so I pulled over five times to get a large cup of coffee. And as I drove through West Virginia, I started to find that cold medicine and lots of coffee are not a good combo. I was remembering an incident in West Virginia 2 years ago, where the car I was driving broke down and I had to use the bathroom on the side of a mountain. I ended up rolling down that mountain.
By the time I entered Ohio, I was seeing things on the road that weren’t really there. Come on Columbus!, I kept on thinking. I watched each sign that told me how many miles til I was there. 100 miles. 83 miles. 70 miles. 99 miles. What? Wait a minute, how could it be going in the wrong direction?
Finally, I arrived at Smokey’s house in Columbus. I could hear Extreme Darkness rehearsing, so I let myself into the house and went to the garage out back where they play. When I walked in, my head was spinning. Dennis, the bass guitar player, stopped and ran over to give me a big hug. “Hey Bill, welcome to Ohio. It's a great place to be, but a little bit nicer when you're here.”
“Thanks, Dennis.” I said hello to Tommy the drummer, and Hesher the guitar player. Smokey played the other guitar.
“Be right back,” said Dennis. “I got to piss like a race horse.” Dennis ran upstairs.
“Get over here, Spanky,” came the order from Smokey. I ambled over and got a huge bear hug from him. “How you been?”
“A little dizzy at the moment.”
Tommy tapped me on the shoulder. I turned, and he said, “Then you need a beer,” and he handed me a Bud. I probably should not have, but I opened it and drank.
“Give him a shot of Absinthe,” said Smokey, lighting a cigarette.
“Yeah, its this really strong drink that—“ started Smokey.
“No, I know what it is. It was very popular back in the old days. I didn’t know you could get it anymore.”
“We ordered some from overseas,” Hesher explained to me, taking a drag on his cigarette. “For a special night.”
“What’s so special about tonight?” I asked.
“It’s Thursday!” shouted Tommy.
“And we have a show this weekend in Indy.”
“Bill, you have to be very careful with Absinthe” warned Hesher. “It will really mess with your mind, make you see things, screws with your judgement. It’s the kind of drink where you can wake up in the morning with your pants around your ankles and don’t know what happened the night before.”
Dennis jumped into the room. “Tell me more!” Everyone laughed. I was feeling very goofy.
“Pour him a glass,” instructed Smokey. “Pour one for Spanky.”
“I’ll do you one better,” said Dennis. “I will pour one for everyone.” Dennis puffed on his cigarette and filled five glasses with the greenish liquid. “That your RV out front, Bill?”
“It’s the one I’m taking to Chicago,” I answered.
“Nice. Brand new?”
“Yep. Picked it up from the dealership.”
“Hasn’t somebody loaded a bowl yet?” asked Smokey.
“Load your own bowl!” yelled Tommy.
Dennis passed the glasses around to his bandmates. When he offered me one, I declined. “Oh, come on!”
“Come on!” urged all the others. Peer pressure. So I took the glass and toasted with them. They all took a generous gulp. I took a tiny sip. Cigarette smoke filled the room. And that is the last thing I remember.
When I woke up, I was lying face down on Smokey’s living room floor. I looked at the window and saw daylight. What time had I arrived? 9pm? 10pm the night before? I dragged myself into the kitchen and went to the sink to splash cold water in my face. I found the coffee machine on with half a pot, and poured myself a cup. I looked up at the clock and saw it said noon. What the hell? That couldn’t be right. I never ever sleep that late. Then I went to the front window to see what the weather looked like. That's when I saw that the RV was gone.
All of the other band member’s cars were there, just like the night before. I knew that they often drank til they passed out, then crashed at Smokey’s. I rushed to Smokey’s bedroom to tell him the RV had been stolen, but his bed was empty and had not been slept in. So I ran out to the garage, only to find it empty. I looked in every room of the house, and was baffled about where they could be. Only then did it dawn on me that the band had taken off in the RV.
But where did they go? I ran around the house like a chicken with its head cut off. I was absolutely frantic. I grabbed my cell phone and called Smokey’s cell. It went right to voicemail. I did not have the numbers of the other guys, so had no way to reach out to them. If there was going to be any clues as to where they went, I knew I’d find them out in the garage. So I went and looked around there. First I noticed that their instruments were missing. Before too long, I saw the poster for their show on Saturday night. Extreme Darkness, playing one night only in Indianapolis.
I found Smokey’s car keys and climbed into his Ford 350 cargo van. I drove as fast as that old rust bucket would carry me, wondering how much of a head start they had on me. And how in the world I would find them once I reached Indy. I drove across I-70, frustrated that there was no radio or CD player in the car. While my mind was focused on getting there, it was still 170 miles with no tunes, and that can get boring very fast.
Just under 3 hours after I left Smokey’s house, I pulled into Indianapolis. I had decided that my best bet would be going downtown, because the boys loved to party in downtown bars. More character, more fun. I drove down one street and then the next, combing the area and looking out for a big RV. After an hour of searching, I saw it parked in an alley. I drove up next to it, and saw the back entrance to a little Pub. I went inside, and sure enough there was the band, drinking beers and playing games. Hesher and Tommy were playing a game of pool, and Smokey and Dennis were at the pinball machine.
Smokey saw me when I walked in. “Spanky! What the hell are you doing here? Join us!”
Dennis walked over and gave me a big hug. He pulled me back away from him, then looked deep into my eyes. His were very red. “Hey man, I love you.”
“Love you, too. But you guys should not have taken my RV.”
“Is it yours? Do you ackshelly own it?” asked a drunken Tommy.
“Shut up,” said Hesher as he lined up a shot.
Smokey walked over and put his hand on my shoulder. “Hey, that’s on me. My bad, my responspubitity.”
Dennis hugged me again. “Did you know I love you, bro? Seriously. I mean I’m not in love with you, sorry, I like women. But I do love you.”
“I love you, too,” said Smokey.
“I love you guys, too.”
“No, no, I mean it,” said Smokey.
“You think maybe I don’t mean it?” asked Dennis. Then he leaned over and whispered in my ear. “This Absinthe is some sherious shit. I don’t remember us getting here.” He looked around. “Where are we exactly?”
Smokey looked confused. “I’m not too sure.”
“Ohio!” shouted Tommy.
“We left Ohio hours ago,” said Hesher, as he sunk the 8 ball.
“Welcome to Indianapolis, Extreme Darkness,” I proclaimed. They all cheered and shouted.
I delivered the RV early the next day in Chicago. I left the guys to their own devices, with Smokey’s van to get them home after their gig. Some people would call what happened grand larceny. But for Extreme Darkness, it was just good old-fashioned rock & roll mischief.