Wow. The Adrian Belew Power Trio is in the home stretch of their month long tour and FINALLY landing in Philadelphia tonight at World Cafe Live (doors at 6:00 p.m.; show starts at 7:30 p.m.) where I FINALLY get to see them live though living vicariously through You Tubes, like the one of "Young Lions" just posted of the trio performing Young Lions in Natick, MA on Sunday below has not been too terrible. Nope. Not too terrible at all.
ETA: Oh my god - I found a new search site which nope, I'm not sharing, but look what it just turned up re the Belew Trio at the Iron Horse last night:
"We had a great time last night. Besides the musical highlights, a comical moment occurred when Eric asked for (pardon me if I get this wrong, I'm not a musician) "more wedge in (his) lodge." AB countered that he'd not had any wedge in his lodge for some time as he's on tour; the crowd erupted into a chant of "Spitzer." You can't write this stuff, folks! BTW, looked to be a capacity crowd. Met Adrian after the show, got stuff signed. Was delighted to see Andre of Project/Object doing his "day job" of teching for the band, I had forgotten Eric played w/ P/O."
Ha! Let's sell Philadelphia out tonight, shall we? Though from what I've heard, the trio has been packing the venues all across the country throughout this tour so it should not be too much of a stretch.
I'm pretty excited about the show tonight but since he gave me permission to do so, I really want to talk about Gary's weekend in Cleveland, too. So let me put this post up for now, have some coffee, and I will come back in an edit this in an hour or two and tell you the whole sad story...which isn't sad at all...it was scary...very scary...at the time but now we are kind of laughing about it and it's a hell of a memory for our mental scrapbook though lucky Gary, once I tell the tale and post the accompanying photographs, he's going to have an actual physical record of the event for posterity.
Okay. Must. Get. Coffee.
And now the moment you have all been waiting for. Gary's road trip to Ohio.
The plan was, Gary, who could not wait until the trio played Philly the following week, decided to blow off work this past Friday and drive to Cleveland, catch their show at the Beachland Ballroom that evening, spend the night hanging with the band afterwards, and then drive back home to Philadelphia early Saturday morning while the others traveled to Buffalo for their concert there that evening.
"Hey, Gar?" I said, looking up from the computer screen as he was getting ready to leave early Friday.
"I think you may be driving into a blizzard. The headline on Yahoo news says "Major snow storm unfolding, heading towards Ohio."
"I'll be gone by then. I'm leaving early. What's the forecast for today?"
"Well, it's forty degrees, but they are saying two to four inches tonight..."
"That's nothing. And weather travels west to east (do you believe I did not know that?) so when the real storm hits on Saturday afternoon, I'll already be back in Philadelphia."
"Okay..." I am still feeling a bit anxious about this and click on weather.com which pretty much says what Yahoo said except that they had big red letters which flashed "ALERT ALERT ALERT".
I looked over at Gary, who, as usual and though he does own them, was not wearing a winter coat, gloves or boots, but was dressed in his usual daily outfit of jeans, t-shirt, and Chuck Taylors...for outerwear he throws on a zip up Beatle sweatshirt.
But he'll be in the car, right? And we have a jeep. Four wheel drive. Okay. Deep breath. No worries. He'll be fine. As usual, I am hyperventilating over nothing.
So Gary leaves and I'm like, woo hoo, I can spend the next three days on a writing marathon.
But nervous norvous that I am, I kept checking weather.com. That red "ALERT" thing had me really edgy.
Gary checked in with me on his cell phone from time to time.
"Hi! Just passed Harrisburg...on the turnpike to Ohio now..."
"How's the weather?"
"Nothing. You know me. Worrying needlessly is what I do best."
So I go back to writing and bury myself in my work. The hours pass without my even noticing and then my cell phone rings again.
"Hi..." Gary does not sound nearly as cheerful or excited as his last phone call.
"Well, I'm in Ohio..."
"It's snowing alright."
"Oh my God. Where are you in Ohio?"
"About twenty minutes from Cleveland. But I'm in the traffic jam from hell. I'm moving an inch at a time. But I just wanted to check in and let you know I'm okay."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. I can't exactly drive over five miles an hour and neither can anyone else so there's nothing to worry about."
"Okay. Don't drive and talk on the cell at the same time. I'm nuts enough over this as it is. Call me when you get to the venue."
"Alright. But really, Rob, don't get upset. I've been in worse weather than this. It'll be fine."
Well, you know me, I hang up the phone and this time I do not go to weather.com, I turn on the actual weather channel.
"A storm of historic proportions is obliterating Cleveland..."
My eyes bulge out of my head as I watch the reporter on the t.v. screen. He's blowing out of camera range - the winds are so intense he can't stay upright. Then they show the very highway Gary is on. A massive pile-up has occurred - a bunch of tractor trailers lost control and hit each other, blocking all but one lane of traffic. As I'm watching this, a small car spins out and is broadsided by another truck.
"Uh oh, I guess whoever driving that car must have felt that hit," the reporter says.
Um, you think? I hope whoever driving that car is still alive!
I sit down on the sofa too afraid to move.
An hour later, my cell rings. It's Gary.
"Hi! I made it! I'm at the venue now, waiting for the kids. Think they'll be surprised?"
"Yeah," I manage to say. I hope you "hid" our jeep with the big bright Frank Zappa bumper sticker so the surprise isn't ruined but I didn't say it. Besides, where do you hide a jeep in a storm in a city you don't even live in? It's probably covered with snow anyway.
I should have said something because minutes later, Julie and Eric burst into the Beachland Ballroom shouting "Dad!" because yeah, yeah, they saw his car.
Here's a photo Gary took of Julie during sound check:
Anyway, he told me not to worry about the weather; he was going to watch the band rehearse; then they were all going to have dinner together...and he just sounded so happy and excited that I didn't dare tell him what I was watching on the weather channel...that at least fifteen more inches of snow were expected to fall overnight.
Gary has taught me to live in the moment one day at a time so that is what I decided to do.
So while I sat at home working on edits to my new novel, Gary saw the show of a lifetime and here are some photos he took of Julie, Ade, and Eric on stage:
I went to bed around 10:00 p.m. on Friday and woke up at dawn on Saturday. I just had this queasy, uneasy feeling but I didn't want to call Gary and make things worse...because naturally my first act of the day was to turn on the weather channel and when I saw what was going on in Cleveland I almost had a stroke.
"Level 3 Emergency...level 2 emergency..."
I don't know which one is worse, I just know that it went from bad to terrible to horrifying in the ten minutes I watched.
"All secondary roads are under two foot drifts; the snow plows have not been able to get through, it is expected to snow throughout the day...motorists are urged to stay off the highways..."
I gulped. Okay. Gary will stay put in Cleveland. It's not a big deal. He'll just remain in the hotel an extra night and hopefully by Sunday the salt trucks will have done their job and that's all there is to it.
Gary, who did not have the benefit of the weather channel, and who has driven our jeep through all kinds of monsoons and blizzards, decided to drive home.
I got the distress call an hour or two later.
"Rob...I got big problems..."
"What do you mean?"
"I've never seen snow like this in my life. I couldn't see. I was afraid I'd be killed so I tried to exit the turnpike - the minute I did, I could not see a thing other than I could have vaulted airborne down an embankment...so I turned the wheel, missed the guard rail by inches, and now I'm stuck in like six feet of snow."
"You're stuck? Oh. My. God. Where are you?"
"I have no idea. I'm in the middle of nowhere."
So you have to picture this. He's stuck in a snow drift in a deserted city wearing sneakers and a sweatshirt -- no boots, no gloves -- with nothing in our car like salt or a shovel or a blanket...or any food. And with half a tank of gas.
It gets even better.
"I only have one bar left on my cell phone."
"Gary! What are we going to do?"
"I don't know. I am going to try and flag someone down...I saw a salt truck and a snow plow pass by...I just have to pray I find a good Samaritan."
"Okay. Let me try and help you from here. Do you have any idea at all where you are so I can call the State Police?"
"No. And I really have to hang up. My cell is going to lose power any minute."
"Oh god. Okay. Please, please, please do not try anything stupid. Just stay in the car and try and keep warm and hopefully someone will come by...don't worry about the damn car...leave it...as soon as you can tell me where it is, I will find a towing service in Cleveland..."
And then he hangs up.
So you do not want to know all of the images running through my head but you can imagine. I was a complete basket case.
I get the brilliant idea to call Andre, the trio's tour manager, praying that since he's been a touring musician the past twenty years and knows this country inside out, maybe he's still nearby or at least can point me in the direction of someone who can help.
Well, he tried, but the weather was just so bad and without me being able to tell him exactly where Gary was...
Anyway, finally, an hour or so later Gary calls. After trying four different times to flag down passing plow operators, one guy stopped his truck and told Gary to get in. Gary had no idea where he was even going.
Gary begged him to try and push his jeep out with the plow but the guy wouldn't do it - he knew he'd damage our car and there was no convincing him that WE DID NOT CARE.
So Gary abandoned the car and was driven here:
Erm...he had to walk through two feet of snow just to get to the front door of this, um, mom and pop establishment...and for $40.00 a night, the room was his. Here. Let me take you on a guided tour.
Here is the heater in the room - do you believe this? Gary removed his soaking wet socks and sneakers and tried to dry them off without setting the room on fire.
Gary tried to pass the time by watching television, but as you can see, it's even got a dial...and there were only two working channels.
Here's where he had to allegedly sleep while wondering how the hell he was ever going to get safely back to Philadelphia:
There are even more photos - the bathroom is not to be believed -- and even worse, there were no phones in the room so I still had no way of staying in constant touch with Gary. But the good news was, the two women who owned the hotel knocked on his door and took pity on him - they brought him a McDonald's burger and a Coke and I had the number to their front desk so at least, assuming I could find a tow truck driver, I could get word to Gary.
And Gary also found out from the man who took him to the hotel where his car was abandoned. So now at least I had something to work with.
I started with the Ohio State Police. After being left on hold for a half hour (don't forget, it was a Saturday, it was a blizzard, etc. etc.), getting disconnected twice, and almost having a coronary, they finally got on the line...only to tell me it wasn't their jurisdiction and I had to call the local police for that area.
"Well, what would that be?" I asked.
"We don't know," said the clerk, hanging up.
So I start comparing Cleveland to Philadelphia. We have like 100 precincts here for every section of the city. If someone was stranded in Center City, I'd call the 6th precinct, not the 35th, who would handle it if we were twenty miles in another direction.
I had no fucking idea who to call.
So I tried calling the hotel's front desk, figuring they'd know, but that must have been when they went out to get Gary his burger because I got an answering machine.
All I could think was, if this were Philadelphia, our car would be towed if abandoned in a storm, and we would not be able to get it until business hours on Monday.
This could not happen. And unlike Philadelphia, I had absolutely no idea where they'd tow it.
I pulled up Cleveland Police on Google and started dialing different precincts like a madwoman. FINALLY I got the Richfield Police, who were in fact the right parties, and who laughed when I told them our predicament.
"Oh yeah, we know where he is stuck. Black Jeep Liberty, right? Yeah, he's there with a red Mazda, a green Subaru..." said the female officer.
What the fuck do I care? Just tell me how to get our car...
"Well, you'd better get your car," she tells me.
"That's why I'm calling! How do I get it?"
"You just can't leave it on the ramp. The roads are closed."
"I know that! What do I do?"
"I don't know what to tell you but you cannot leave it on the ramp. When it gets dark, someone is going to hit your car."
"I thought the roads were closed! Who is going to hit it?" Oh yeah, the salt trucks.
The officer laughs again. Yeah, yeah, this is really funny. Fucking hilarious.
Okay, deep breaths. At least Gary is warm and safe in his hotel.
But there's a big part of me that is worried he's going to get so frustrated he's going to leave the hotel on foot and try to dig out the car. Because I know Gary. What I did not know was that Gary's car really was stuck in the middle of nowhere; the hotel he was in was more like five miles away, and he could not even get out the front door of his room.
"Can you at least give me the name and telephone number of a tow truck company?"
Oh. I forgot to include another lovely part of this story. First, I started calling towing companies. I went from A to L...which meant I called about 200 companies. Every single one of them told me where our car was is "not their area" or "we are backed up for seven/eight hours...we'll never get to you today..."
That's why I started calling the police. Because I was calling tow truck drivers in Ohio and I didn't even know what "township" in Ohio our car was in.
Anyway, after spending the entire morning and afternoon on the phone hyperventilating, the police officer gave me the name and phone number of someone who "might" be able to tow our car.
I call them. They laughed, too. Yeah, this is really a fucking riot. But, success! They told me they could tow the car -- we had a jeep - that meant they needed a flatbed truck to do it -- and also needed our car to be in "neutral" or all four tires would go flat. Hopefully Gary left the keys in the car?
What, are you out of your mind? Why would Gary leave his keys in the car?
But oh fuck, now what?
I had to sweet talk the tow truck driver into swinging by the hotel and picking Gary up with the keys.
At this point I'm thinking we're several hundred dollars in the hole...maybe even a thousand.
He tells me it'll be like eight or nine that evening. Okay, fine.
Except Gary has his cell phone off to conserve power and no one is picking up the hotel phone.
I fucking freaked out for six hours. Pacing back and forth, worrying that Gary tried to get the car himself, worried that the tow truck driver would go to the hotel and then not be able to find Gary because guess what, I forgot to ask him what his room number was.
Then I watched the weather channel a little more.
"All roads closed. The plows will not even be out any more tonight until the snow stops."
Well, that ended that. Gary was stuck there; our car was stuck god knows where, and I may as well go to bed.
But something told me not to. And despite drinking half a bottle of brandy to calm down, I was stone cold sober and wide awake.
And sure enough, right around midnight, my phone rang. It was the tow truck driver.
"Hey! I'm outside the hotel but I can't get in -- too much snow. Tell your husband to get out here!"
FUCK! I tried calling Gary; his cell was off; he was probably sound asleep. I called the hotel...YAY...they were not only there, they were wide awake and saw the truck's flashing lights.
"Oh yeah, that's Elmo! We know him. We'll go get your husband now."
I had visions of Gary sound asleep and them having to break into his room...arghh....
And that was the last I heard until...
Two hours later, around 1:30-2:00 a.m., my phone rings. It was the tow truck driver.
"Well, we got your husband out finally. Don't know if he made it back to the hotel, though. It's really rough out here."
And then he hung up on me.
So now I don't know if Gary is stuck again, back at the hotel, or what. A part of me dared to hope he was on his way home, but then I remembered the roads were closed. I didn't want to risk calling him on his cell, knowing how little power he had left.
I didn't sleep at all. I couldn't.
Now there's a whole story connected to the tow truck driver but I will have to go into that another time and I really do not know if it will translate well here...Gary does an imitation that is killer and I should really save the rest of the story for him to tell in person. But um...let's just say he was a bit of a character and leave it at that.
Finally, Sunday morning the phone rings.
"Hi! I'm on my way home!"
"What?" Yeah, that's all I could manage.
"Rob, I have such a story for you...but anyway, I made it back to the hotel; caught a few hours sleep - our car is fine and right outside - I should be home for dinner. Okay, let me hang up before the phone dies and I'll see you soon. Love you!"
I spent the rest of the day pacing and going nuts, but luckily he had enough power in his phone to call me from Harrisburg, two hours away, to tell me he was doing great, he got through it, and there was luckily no more bad weather anywhere.
Trust me, that was the abridged version of our weekend. You'll just have to imagine the rest or catch up with Gary and/or me in the real world.