“You better find another way, my man. You better git out!”
The flames arched skullward from the brim of his baseball cap, encircling the thick red embroidery of the “3” emblazoned on the face of the hat. His voice carried the long peculiar drawl of Appalachia in the vowels; the words seemed to fall longways out of his chapped mouth, as he earnestly continued. “They’re calling it ‘Carmageddon’!” he warned. “You couldn’t pay me to drive in LA this weekend.” We stood a few feet apart, under the grim pallor of the gas station fluorescents, the dark wall of the Grapevine looming behind us. I tried to hand him the wad of money again. “I’m telling you man, you guys picked the wrong weekend to play Los Angeles. You’re gonna be sorry if you go down there!”
I was already sorry. This exchange had started the second I walked inside the station to pay for the tank of gas, and had continued unabated, even as I desperately tried to hand him the crumpled fistful of cash and leave, so that we could drive through the Tehachapis to meet our imminent doom in the fiery Gehenna of Carmageddon. Or just lurch over the Grapevine so we could all get some sleep before the sun came all the way above the horizon, and reminded us that we should probably leave Chico for L.A. before 9pm someday. I backed slowly out the pair of glass doors, nodding in thanks for the avalanche of admonishments that continued to rain down.
“You better git out!”
I had ignored a lot of advice up to this point in my life, so I decided, as we arched the Toyota 4Runner out of the lot and up the steep incline of I-5, to keep the streak alive by ignoring the shit out of this Gas Station Doomsayer of the Grapevine Chevron. We did not git out. We got, in fact, further in.
We made it into Los Angeles with the sun fully above the horizon. The last show of that tour took place in our friend’s garage in Silver Lake. Perhaps due to the carnage caused by the Dreaded Carmageddon (the closing of the 405 freeway for bridge repair), around 200 people came to the show, including a platoon of LAPD officers, who, over-excited to be a part of the festivities, asked us brusquely to turn our amps up as loud as they could go. “WE LOVE YOUR MUSIC,” they glowered at us, “AND WE WANT IT TO BE LOUDER.” “They’re up as loud as they go!” we informed them politely. They left, somewhat chagrined that we couldn’t crank the volume knobs any farther to the right. “WE’LL BE BACK,” they shouted over their uniformed shoulders, “WE’RE JUST GOING TO GO GRAB SOME MORE OF OUR FRIENDS, SO THEY CAN ENJOY YOUR MUSIC TOO!”
Farther along in our set, they came back, indeed. This time, there were a handful more in their number, who were perhaps even more enthusiastic. “WE LOVE THIS MUSIC SO MUCH!” they bellowed. “PLEASE CONTINUE TO PLAY IT THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT.” We humbly acquiesced, but they began to fidget as they looked on.
“WE HAVE TO LEAVE AGAIN. NEED TO GET MORE OF OUR DUDES OUT. THEY CANNOT MISS THIS!” they shouted as they sped off in their multiple squad cars.
They returned one final time. They brought more of their dudes. Some of them even dressed up in full body armor, so they could rock out that much harder (I assume). They streamed through the party, knocking the other revelers out of their way as they excitedly surged toward the front of the crowd. Some of their guys even flew in to see the show; hovering 100 feet above the party in a helicopter, shining a bright white spotlight down on us and creating the coolest lighting effects we’ve ever had on stage. “PLEASE LEAVE IMMEDIATELY!”, they requested of the other attendees, from a bullhorn that emerged from the helicopter, “WE WOULD LIKE TO ENJOY THIS SHOW PRIVATELY NOW.”
We finished our set to much acclaim from our newfound friends. The Boys in Blue even went so far as to write a big yellow letter to the occupants of the house. “THANKS FOR A GREAT SHOW,” it read. “XOXO, the LAPD.”
The next day, we cruised unscathed out of Los Angeles, on the clearest freeways I’ve ever seen down there.
I puked out the window onto the trailer on the Grapevine though, so I guess that gas station guy was kind of on the right track.