I received a newsletter from Lucas on the road, and I’d like to share his adventures with you. I hope he won’t mind. (He can always file a restraining order.)
Dear Friends and Lovers,
I made it. Today I came in from Philly and and strolled the sunny streets of Manhattan. Me and my guitar, two blue suitcases and a backpack have traveled safely across thousands of miles of black asphalt, truckstops, onramps, rivers, mountains, ghettos and dusty plains and now we’re here. Safe and sound in old New York town. And there will be shows!!!
This Sunday, the 26th, at 1PM – A picnic on Governor’s Island at The Temple of Wonder at the Figment Terrace Gardens. Look it up on the net, they’ll tell you how to get there.
Again, this Sunday, the 26th at 9PM – Arlene’s Grocery at 95 Stanton St., NY,NY, 10002. Please come and shake it down with us!
And Monday, the 27th at 7PM – National Underground – 159 E. Houston St.
Also, I’d like to say that if you are an old friend of mine, wondering how come old Lucas isn’t giving a ring, well, truth be told, I left my phonebook at home so please reply with yer number so’s I kin give you a call and we kin hang out cos I’d love to see you all.
Some among you have expressed an interest in my ramblings so I’d like to fill you in on the events of the past week while still in the sweet delirium of the road. So let’s see… I guess our tale begins last Thursday in southern Ohio. I had played a lovely show the night before in Kent State, the town where hope died (or was murdered in the streets if you will). Ohio Joe, my man in Ohio dropped me off on the onramp in a rather suburban sprawlish type of town, not the ideal place to catch a ride. But I did, with a very gentle and kindhearted Congolese man who told me that I would be doing a great thing once I used my songs to spread the message of Jesus. I liked him too much to tell him that, in my opinion, I already am.
He left me on the side of the interstate in front of a toll booth. It began to rain and folks just weren’t taking too much of an interest in me. I was beginning to think I should have taken my African friend up on the bus ticket when he pulled up again. Now he was headed to Cleveland. So I jumped in and rode to Cleveland just to get out of the rain. Once there, I jumped on a bus and rode out to the city limits to start backtracking south. I was quickly scooped up by another African man named Elias pronounced “Alias” which I thought was the best name ever. Turned out to be the day of Born Again Africans and Alias brought me right back to point from which I started. From there a rather sad character still reeling from a most tragic divorce brought me another 50 miles down the road.
So, I’m at the Pilot station having spent twelve hours circling around the state of Ohio and now it really starts to rain. Torrential downpour. The parking lot is a lake with sheets of rain just flying across it. My charm is apparently lost on these southern Ohio folk so I go and spend six of my last ten dollars on a loaf of bread and some Peanut Butter and Jelly. I have no shows for a week and Ohio Joe couldn’t get me on the crew setting up a Dollar Store so, here I am, watching the rain come down and spreading that PB & J on some spongy bread with a plastic knife. Not exactly the high point of the tour.
But, then, something magic happened. For a moment it stopped raining, the clouds broke and out comes the sun for one of those beatific golden sunsets over the cornfields. The gray clouds go all pink and purple and something lovely and I just go out in the parking lot and forget about all my concerns, really just overwhelmed by the beauty of the thing. I come back and the station attendants are talking bout how the clouds are getting that green tornado look and it started pouring again but I was just too blissed out to sweat the small stuff.
I started waving down trucks again in the dark cos I knew I had to get out of there one way or another. Eventually one of the drivers took an interest in me as I was making another sandwich on top of a wastebasket. He was headed south but I persuaded him to take me 30 miles down to I-70 so I’d at least be on my way. His name was Bruce. He had a beautiful wife and a ton of grandkids. Owned his own Volvo which is like the Bentley of big rigs and when we got to 70 I opted to keep riding to stay out of the rain. Woke up in Charleston, West Virginia and again decided to keep going rather than get dropped off at midnight in some strange town with all that lightning popping off something dramatic in the sky. Bruce was saved too. Even knew some folks in LA who worked on that Christian TV channel. Had a grandson who had a tumor the size of a golfball in his left eye that he was convinced was cured by people praying around the world. Well, I’m starting to believe in that sort of thing myself, seeing as how many people must say a prayer for me from time to time these days. I was tired from running around the state of Ohio so I just dozed off again and felt my brain trying to put itself back together.
Woke up again and we’re stopped in a gas station and Bruce was just staring at me and kinda rubbing his inner thighs. I got a jolt cos I know “the look” when I see it, having scared off no small number of lovely ladies with it myself. I says “Bruce, where are we?” He says “Virginia.” And just keeps giving me the look. It doesn’t make it any easier that in the truck nextdoor, they’re all cavorting, whistling and laughing and carrying on. “How ya doin, Bruce,” I says. “I’m tired,” says he. “Gotta get some rest… You could take the top bunk…” But, fatigued as I am, I grab my guitar and politely excuse myself, sayin, “Naw, you rest up for a few and I’ll catch up with you in the morning,” and hop out of that truck.
So, there I am, 2 in the morning in some gas station on the Virginia state line. Florescent lights and disinfectant. Passin the hours smoking with the gas station attendant who’s daughter is also a songwriter, playing along with Hit Parade they’ve got playing on the speakers. The regulars come in and out gettin coffee and smokes. Some pill poppin ex stripper takes an interest in me but her and her crew just look like trouble. I try exploring the nature path that goes into a dark hole in the forest but all them bugs are just screaming and I get that feeling like when you’re watching a slasher flick and yelling “No, Don’t do IT!!” at the screen. Come back and my friend working the register says good thing I didn’t cos there’s bears in them hills. Now he tells me. Around 5:30, Bruce wakes up, looking a little the worse for wear, buys me a biscuit and we’re on our way. Things get back to normal on the road and soon we’re chatting away again. I even get to feeling bad for being suspicious of him for a second. But I know a man gets lonesome on the road and funny things happen late at night. And, besides, I know “the look” when I see it.
He drops me off at a Shell station on I-81 in Tennesee. Even gives me a twenty which I accept only cos I need it. So, there I am, getting some coffee, awfully tired, and this nice looking hippyish lady says “I know you’re going to the Rhythm and Roots festival in Bristol.” I says “No, actually, I’m headed up to Maryland” but she tells me she’ll be back at nine to pick me up. Then I’m sitting on the curb and this guy driving a Bud Lite truck says “I know you’re going to Rhythm and Roots!” and I get to thinking, well, maybe I am. So I look it up online and it turns out my old friend Katy Cox’s band Shotgun Party is playing there all weekend. And so I’m like, okay then, I’m going. I go to use the bathroom and by the time I get out, there’s Michelle waiting to load my stuff into her van.
We get to the festival and there’s a really nice fellow named Randy running the volunteer operation. He says he’s got enough volunteers but maybe he can get me a slot for a show and I can always just come in and play guitar on the street if I want. They’ve got the whole of Main Street turned out, every bar, restaurant and coffeeshop has stages plus five big stages outside. So, I’m just wandering down the street, watching folks setting up, everyone smiling and warmhearted, and I hear someone holler at me. I turn around and it’s this bearded old man in a wheelchair. He rolls up and points at the guitar and says “Yes…” Well, turns out he’s a stroke victim and half his body is paralyzed. With some effort he can form sentences but his fallback word is “Yes”. So I play him a song and we go and get a bagel and and have a lovely conversation that consists of a lot of laughing and yes but I gather that he’s a former musician from Johnson City named Catfish. His only interest is music. That is his true love. He even offers me a place to stay, takes me around and shows me what bar I should try to play at. I thank him kindly and go crash out on the lawn for the rest of the afternoon.
Sleeping in the shade, I periodically wake up and there’s just this old gardener trimming the hedges. People pass by but they just seem happy to see me sleeping on my guitar case like that. Eventually I wake up and start practicing this new song. The gardener walks up to me and I think, oh here we go, but he just sits down, smiles, and listens to me. When I’m done, he wants to know if I want to jam. Turns out he’s from Romania and a drummer. So I say sure and we’re going next door, into this huge old building. They’ve got a bunch of old machinery and a liberty bell in there. We go up four or five flights of stairs to this massive empty floor and in a little sideroom with wood paneling he’s got his drumset all set up. He starts playing all this big band jazz stuff so I pull out my guitar and we run a few of my songs. We both got so high playing with each other that we didn’t wanna leave but he had to get back to work.
The time came and Michelle got off volunteer duty and came and picked me up. She decided to just give me her volunteer bracelet so I could get in. So I went in and there were people everywhere. I set up my show on the corner and people started crowding round. Was going really good for a few hours there till this rapper joined the band and we were just going OFF until the Tennessee and Virginia cops were shutting us down for vulgarity. By the next day, I was a favorite among the toddlers and teenagers and just raking it in. I crashed with the Shotgun Party at the Holiday Inn, got a talking to for eating the complimentary band food, bowled with the festival’s founders and even signed the commemorative guitar at the end of the thing. All in all, I performed about 16 hours over the three days, got tight with every bad kid in Bristol, ignored more than a few advances that would have landed me in prison, and made enough money to feel comfy again. Even wrote a hit song with the teenagers about growing weed.
On Monday, I was sitting back on the onramp, sweating in the sun. No love in Virginia but finally I was picked up by a really nice kid named Alex who, as fate would have it, was headed back to Ohio. We immediately hit it off and had a good old time riding up through the mountains of West Virginia, singing along to Creedence and eating Taco Bell. He was heading up that way to pick up some LSD which was fine with me since I wouldn’t be riding back. I took over the wheel and got caught at a speed trap. The cop was awful curious as to how we came to be travelling together but I explained to him that I was a hitchhiking musician so he just ran our IDs and was even a little apologetic issuing the ticket.
But once we got to Columbus, things started to get a little hairy. Turned out Alex was gonna hook up some LSD after he scored some heroine for his “back pain”. We met up with his friend who was this fresh faced chubby young girl who had just been kicked out of her sister’s apartment and found herself living in Crackville, USA. She and her car had been taken hostage by this evil tranvestitish lady who had all the charm of the walking dead. Alex left me in the car while he went off to do his thing and I started planning my exit strategy. Outside, white dudes were walking around all tatted up with doo rags and people just wandering in the street with shopping bags. Distant screams and someone hitting a a newstand with something hard and loud arguing and the ensuing brawl. I couldn’t decide whether I was safer in or out of the car so, on a whim, I called my new friend Patrick who I’d just met down in Tennessee just to pass the time. In another twist of fate, it turned out that Columbus is Patrick’s hometown and so he gets off the phone and starts calling his old friends. By this time we’re doing dope deals galore, driving from one dollar store parking lot to another, exchanging money through car windows in the streetlight, stopping at the CVS for aluminum foil and then buying ten packs of cigarrettes to exchange for the brown. The female tranny zombie is just hustling the hell out of my friend Alex and it seems like forever till he decides he’s acquired enough dope and starts smoking it in the car. All the while, the poor innocent girl is crying in the back seat, mumbling incoherently about how some homeless dude gave her a Subway card that was supposed to have five dollars on it but didn’t. We drive across town, Alex scolding the girl for lighting up a roach while stopping at various fast food places in search of a bathroom to smoke the rest of his dope in. Finally they get me to a bar and I say thank you and good bye. Patrick had lined up a place for me to stay.
The next day I caught a ride to West Virginia where I had been headed the first time I was shipping out of Ohio. I went and visited my old friend Tyler Fyre and his lovely wife Jill a sword-swallowing, fire-breathing, boa-constrictor-deep-throating couple of carnies who operate out of Daredevil Ranch, their Peewee’s Playhouse of sin. After a lovely breakfast of warm buttery biscuits and jam, Tyler decided it would be fun to come perform with me up in Philly and I have to say that the condom routine really was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen and truly livened up the show. This morning we took the extended tour of the ghettos of Philly before locating the Chinatown bus that took me here.
It’s great to be back in the city again. I would probably be feeling like some frightened wild animal were it not all so familiar here in my old stomping grounds. It is a bit jarring to be surrounded by such opulence after everywhere I’ve been and everything I’ve seen and I could see how all these beautiful people and things could have a way of lulling you to sleep, but I assure you, it will be a long and restful one.
I look forward to seeing you all.