On a few occasions during our touring days we were lucky enough to travel by bus. There were really only 3 things you had to remember when traveling by bus; 1) Always sleep with your feet pointed towards the front; 2) Always make sure you knew what time bus call was because the bus would, in fact, leave without you; and 3) Never EVER take a shit in the bus toilet. Of course, these rules were occasionally broken, but overall bus tours were great. We never worried about where to sleep. We drank as much as we wanted and never worried about driving. We always had plenty of room to store extra beer, and we had more than our fair share of obligatory “back lounge” parties.
For as much freedom as a bus tour allowed however, it also took some liberties away. Showering was infrequent since we would often go a week or more without getting a hotel room. Late night stops for food were rare since we couldn’t simply pull through a drive-thru when we were hungry. And probably worst of all, finding our way around town on days off almost always proved to be a hassle. Cabs were too expensive and there usually wasn’t anything exciting within a reasonable walking distance. There was one off day in Odessa, TX however, that turned out to be anything but boring.
Odessa is, quite simply, a shit town in an even shittier state. We were only there because the drive from Phoenix to Dallas is too long for the bus driver to do in one shot. He needed a break and Odessa just so happened to fall somewhere near the midpoint of the drive. After riding all night on the bus, we pulled into our hotel around 10am. The hotel was on a main road about 2 miles outside of what would be considered “downtown” Odessa. The general area wasn’t overly developed, but it wasn’t barren either. It certainly seemed like we’d be able to find something to do. So I showered, changed my clothes, and immediately went to work trying to figure out how to spend the day.
We soon discovered that there was a shopping mall and movie theater within walking distance of the hotel. The desk clerk pointed us towards the back exit and explained that there was a shortcut to the mall. We followed his directions and found ourselves outside on an asphalt path, winding our way through a large community park. A small pond shimmered peacefully in the middle and we saw numerous couples holding hands and enjoying the beautiful late summer weather. It just so happened to be the first anniversary of September 11th and, to honor the victims, the city had covered a large portion of the park with hundreds of six foot high American flags. They were literally everywhere. It took us about 20 minutes to weave through the park and the flags before we reached the mall on the other side.
We spent the next few hours wandering the mall and sitting in the theater, stuffing our faces with popcorn and candy. As we were leaving the theater, I happened to notice an advertisement for a small karaoke bar located in a corner of the mall. We happily made our way to the bar for a few drinks.
Around 1am, the bar closed down and we were forced to stagger our way back to the hotel. I had secretly stashed an unfinished beer into my jacket so I would have something to drink for the walk home. We crossed the mall parking lot and found ourselves back in the flag-littered community park. It was dark and desolate. Our drummer and sound guy had managed to keep themselves under control at the bar but I, on the other hand, had not. I was thoroughly intoxicated, as was Magoo, our guitar tech, and we were having a difficult time keeping pace with the other two. We lagged a good 50 yards behind them, whooping and hollering and drinking our beers. One of us (I still don’t remember who it was) thought it would be a good idea to pull one of the American flags up out of the ground and wave it back and forth while drunkenly singing the National Anthem. It was a hilarious sight I’m sure, and I had just stuck the flag back into the ground when I heard someone yell, “FREEZE! Get down on the ground, NOW!”
I turned around to find four cops about 20 yards away, their guns drawn and aimed directly at us. All of them were yelling for us to get on the ground. I was thoroughly confused. Was this really happening? Were there really guns pointed at my face? What the fuck? I wasn’t even doing anything wrong…
I threw my hands up and laid face down on the asphalt. I was immediately surrounded while a cop shoved his knee into my back. My arms were yanked and twisted behind me, the handcuffs clinched so tight they nearly cut off the circulation to my fingers. Magoo got the same treatment. I heard the fading clatter of running footsteps as two of the cops ran up the path towards our friends. I was hauled up by the jacket and dragged over to a group of police cars idling in a parking lot on one side of the park. Magoo and I were thrown into the backseat.
The entire situation suddenly became so funny that we could not stop laughing. The cops, on the other hand, did not think it was so funny. Apparently they didn’t see the humor (or harmlessness) in a couple of out-of-town punk rockers drunkenly walking through a park at 1:30am. Admittedly, Magoo and I did not help our cause. We had a few choice words for the cops which probably only got us into more trouble. They eventually tracked down our drummer and sound guy (who were literally about 20 feet from the hotel when they were cuffed) and transported all of us down to the Odessa jail. We were initially tossed into a holding cell to sober up and await our fate. It smelled like a mixture of feces, urine, booze, and sweat. In one corner sat two homeless looking men, quite clearly going through substance withdrawal. We shared smuggled cigarettes with them and took turns pissing into the drain in the center of the floor.
Eventually we were moved to the actual jail, but not before we had been made to strip and shower, all in the presence of a watchful officer. We were given a pillow and blue jumpsuits and locked up in jail for the next 8 hours. It wasn’t so bad, really. There were about 12 other guys in there with us but everyone mostly just kept to themselves, awaiting release.
Finally, around 10am the next morning, we were released. Our guitar player came with a wad of cash to bail us all out. My charges read like this: Public Intoxication, Consumption of Alcohol in a Public Setting, and Disregarding Community Curfew (being in a park after hours); and came to a whopping $1200! That’s a pretty fucking heavy fine for essentially just trying to walk home drunk. As we were at the desk paying the bill, the overweight, overly cheerful cashier put everything in perspective for us. “You poor boys…don’t you know what the Odessa motto is?” she said. “No, what?” we asked. She looked at us with a shit-eating grin and said, “Odessa, TX, where you arrive on vacation but leave on probation.”
So August Premier has been nice enough to allow to me to attempt 30 minutes of acoustic entertainment at their record release show on March 24th at The Township. It should be a great time. It’s an early show (doors @ 6pm) which means the drinking will commence early and will most likely continue well into the night. Advance tickets are only $6 and you can get them here, otherwise they’re $8 at the door. Come and hang out, share some drinks, share some laughs, and be sure to bring extra cash to buy August Premier’s new record, Happy Miserable.