Thursday, April 14, 2011

Murphy's Law Pt.4 - Journey to D.C./Baltimore

After I was done college, I went through a period where I was focused on playing music and having fun. Like most recent college graduates, I didn't have very much money and mostly just cared about playing and going to concerts. I tried to get bands I was in on to the bill at concerts I wanted to go to or hope I knew the promoters, so I wouldn't have to pay. I also ran a weekly concert series, so I tried to get the bands I liked on there too.

During this period of being completely broke, I found out that one of my favourite bands at the time, pg.99, was breaking up. They were to play their final shows over a weekend in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. in May 2003. The final show was to take place on the 24th, which I thought would be a great birthday present.

Then came the realization: I didn't have any money. I was working a little bit part time, but I spent it as it came in, mostly, and certainly didn't have the funds to finance a trip like this. However, I was determined to go and started figuring out how I might be able to make it work. First step was to find a place to stay in the area. I contacted a guy I had met up in Toronto that lived in the area and checked with him. He said that it was fine, but he was going to be on the west coast until the night of the first show. 'Perfect, I will meet you there', said I.

The following week, my cousin Russ asked me if I was interested in going down to watch the Preakness, which if you haven't heard of it, is like a horse race and Mardi Gras mixed into one. It sounded like a good time and most of all, it was in Baltimore the weekend before I wanted to be there, so I had magically figured out my way there for free! Except one thing - I didn't have anywhere to stay during the interim week.

I was so close to figuring it out that I completely refused to believe it couldn't happen. So, on a long shot, I went over to a concert of a band called Darkest Hour, who were from the D.C. area. After they were done playing, I struck up a conversation with the dudes and explained my predicament. The singer told me it would be no problem to stay with him for a few days, but that the latter half they were on tour, ending with playing the second of the three pg99 shows. They said it was cool with them if I came along on their tour bus (van).

So now I was getting excited, as I had figured out a way there and places to stay, all I needed was a way home. I thought I could probably take a bus home and suck up the money it cost to do that.

So when the time came, off we ventured to Baltimore. We had planned to drive overnight and get there in the morning, taking shifts driving. I was trying to nap in the back seat to rest up for the later driving shift when we hit the border. The guard asked all the usual questions and then said 'any of you folks on drugs?' We all answered no, and then he proceeded to flash his flashlight in my eyes and say 'what about you?' I guess in my sleepy state, I looked hopped up on something. We made it down and had a great time at the Preakness and hanging out with Russ' friend who lived in the area. Then the time came for me to head off to D.C. to meet up with Darkest Hour.

I had no idea what I was doing, for the most part, and hopped on some train that lead to D.C. area, though I didn't know how close it was to the venue I was going to. I ended up being fairly close by and was able to drag my luggage there with very little problem. The venue hadn't opened yet, so I was left outside for an hour or two until someone arrived. I was able to put my bags in the back of the venue (The Black Cat) and grab some food at the restaurant beneath it.

My travels with the band were a lot of fun until I got overtired and sick. Too much travel and some drinking will do that I guess. I popped a couple of DayQuil and fell asleep in the back of the tour van until we hit Richmond, VA. I awoke feeling much better and ready for the remainder of the trip.

After Richmond, they were heading off to another city on the other side of Washington, so they dropped me at a bus that would take me to the University where the radio show performance was going to happen. It took a long time to figure out where I was supposed to go. I couldn't find anyone who knew where it was happening and eventually ended up dragging my luggage all the way across a rather large campus to find the building that had the radio station in it. My friend wasn't there yet, so I tucked my luggage into the most convenient place I could and just sat on top of it until he showed up.

The shows were awesome. I hadn't much experienced the American 'scene' at that point and it had a really good vibe to it. I met all the bands I had been listening to at that time and even got to be pretty good friends with some of them. I even ran into an old friend of mine from the northern states and they said they'd be happy to drive me as far as Buffalo at the end of the weekend.

I couldn't believe it, I had miraculously made it down here, connected up with all the people I needed to at each point and to top it all off I had a ride most of the way home! I enjoyed the rest of my time in Baltimore and D.C., checking out tourist spots and good restaurants and record stores.

The time came to leave and we started north-bound. The trip is a long one, but the roads are fairly nice and we made decent time. And then the bad news. When we got to the Greyhound station, I realized I had lost my bank card somewhere in Baltimore. I had to call my dad in Toronto and beg him to come pick me up. He agreed to meet me in Saint Catherines the next day if I could make it that far across. My friend said it was fine to drive me across, thankfully.

I stayed overnight and caught a ride over to meet my dad in the morning, travel-worn, tired and very thankful to be on my way back home.

A lot of people helped make that trip happen and I and to this day very thankful for all of their help. One missed connection could have left me reeeeeally screwed, but luckily the stars aligned - barely.

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