Tomorrow in the Digest: Ever Wonder What Erin Brockovitch is up to These Days?
[Silverback J, that’s all, just “J”, of the Mendocino Bonobos is one of our most popular contributors. Remember the Elvis concert? Remember the Great Beer Caper? Encourage him to contribute more to the Silverback Digest by being wildly enthusiastic in posting your comment. It’s ok to lie a little. He’ll believe you anyway. SB SM]
Fear and Loathing in Reno
Now me and slim Tim and our used motorcycles aren’t part of some kind of gang, or anything like that, but we ain’t off-duty executives in shiny leather pants parading their new show bikes down Main Street on a Sunday afternoon either. We were just two scruffy guys, in our late twenties or so as I recall, who like riding once in a while, when we can scrape together a few bucks and the spirit moves us.
This time the spirit just about moved us to ruin.
We had a beautiful start rolling around northern California: camping by a remote river, camping in a highway culvert, waking up hungover in somebody’s hayfield, waking up in a railroad boxcar, waking up in a pile of bbq ashes, you get the picture. We were having quite the storied adventure, you bet.
Complete with youthful folly and illegal substances. A dangerous alchemy, sometimes calling for interventions of Guardian Angels, such as this time.
You see, we’d been on the road with about a week’s worth of adventures under our belts, when we decided to ride across the Sierra Mountains from Shasta to Reno: “ Biggest Little City In The World” they say. Nevada’s “Sin City North”, complete with liquor and lights and bells and brothels and who knows what else. Which is what we wanted to find out, which we did.
It started out a nice day, once we shook the ashes off our sleeping bags and passed the flask around once or twice, and got kickstarted by a cup of bad coffee at a roadside diner. The backroads that day were clean and dry and empty and beckoning, and the air sweet with aromatic pines as we crossed into Nevada. A couple hours short of Reno we stopped for a snort of cocaine. Like I said, youthful folly. Quite popular in them days.
I might as well come clean with you. We’d had quite a time up there on Mount Shasta the day before, after eating those peyote buttons at around 10,000 feet and wandering around the boulder fields all afternoon. My favorite part was silently coasting our bikes down the miles-long winding road to town with our motors off and helmets stashed, laid out prone with our faces over the handlebars and the wind in our hair, gliding down, down, down. We got run out of that little town that night, for me waxing poetic and putting my napkin scrawlings on top of a lady’s drink while she whirled around the crowded dance floor at a backwoods bar. Poem went like this:
Sitting at the bar
with tarnished wedding ring
and wanting smile.
Downing mixed drinks to mask her fear.
Communicating receptively somehow
her lack of fulfillment
and restless yearning.
Laughing easily, loudly, to mask her sadness.
Partying with the local lechers
forsaking her gentle dreams
for brutal reality.
Accepting insulting companionship to mask her loneliness.
Dancing to anyone’s every request
and doing her straining best
to act impressed.
Following clumsy drunken leads to mask her faithlessness.
By skillful use of visual aids
using her beauty till it fades
and playing charades.
Smiling hopefully, longingly to mask her emptiness.
Lost in the sounds and the lights
where you gonna sleep tonight?
Displaying willing carelessness to mask your lovelessness.
Tim, upon seeing this, has the sense to pull me out of there, quick. He saved my ass like that a number of times over the years. Well, we just get our motors started when the Fading Rose and a group of her lumberjack boyfriends come storming out of the bar looking for us. Narrow escape. Should have served as a warning to us, but it didn’t.
Yessir, alcohol and pot and peyote and cocaine: the whole shameful works. And worst of all, cigarettes. But all we have left now is several hits of high quality LSD contained in a tiny glass vial — rattling around inside a black plastic film canister in my coat pocket as we rode. Loved that beat up old leather jacket.
Anyway, getting back to Reno …
It’s just before dinnertime as we roll down the main street, and we’re hungry, and thirsty. And horny, truth be told. And right there in downtown Sin City North is a huge casino on our right, with a big flashing sign out front advertising booze, buffets, and babes. And nickel slot machines. Our kind of place, we figure, nodding to each other at the stoplight.
Well, the light turns green and we drift into the huge parking lot. I have to piss like a race horse, as they say. Piss so bad my back teeth are swimming. Same with Tim. And if there’s one thing cool California motorcycle guys don’t want to do, is piss their pants in public.
So I spy rows of empty tour buses parked in the back corner of the huge parking lot, and I lead our bikes over and park next to one. Not wanting to pee openly in public, we wander to the backside of one of them tour buses, lean into the side, whip ‘em out, and begin to relieve ourselves in front of the rear tires. Ah …
Well, we’re just putting our dicks back in their holsters when suddenly appears two guys around the back of the bus, and we can tell from their scowling attitudes and black suits that they ain’t there to join us in our youthful folly. No sir.
“Security! Hands up against the bus! Spread eagle! Now!” Which we did, from reflex, or maybe habit.
The taller, younger suit stands with his arms folded as the slick-haired pitbull guy approaches us and snarls “What are you bikers doing?”, while he starts frisking us. Oh shit! Spread Eagle Tim says, “Just taking a piss, man, Lighten up”. Which this pitbull ain’t about to do.
And sure as hell he rifles through my coat pockets and I’m shitting bricks as he pulls out the black plastic film canister and shakes it, with that little glass vial of LSD rattling around inside. “Ah, hippie dope!”, he exclaims with great excitement, and he places the canister back in my pocket for lack of a search warrant, and he commands the other guy to go call the cops. This was before the days of cell phones, you understand, and the days when interstate possession of LSD was worse to be caught with than … well, I don’t know what, something like the worst thing there was in the world to be possessing. And in Nevada in them days, they could put you away for life just for selling pot. Seriously. Crossing the state line earlier that day, we’d seen a billboard boasting that fact.
Well, I’m now an interstate trafficker. Spread eagle up against that bus I’m seeing calendar pages peeling off the walls of some solitary prison cell out in the Nevada desert, day by day, month by month, year after year, and my soul is watching my entire future swirling down the drain. And I know Tim’s feeling it too. We ain’t breathin, The end of the road, boys.
I’m resigned to this shitball of fate, but Tim’s not going down that easy. He drops his hands, stands upright and out of nowhere says, “Who the hell are you? You ain’t a cop! You don’t have a badge. You can’t hold us here.” And sure enough before Pitbull can pull together a response Tim strides around the back of the bus. And Pitbull don’t know what to do: stay with me or go after Tim. And he yells at me “Don’t move” and runs around the back of the bus after Tim, who’s headed to the motorcycles, just as I hear the police sirens screaming across the parking lot. Several of ‘em.
About 5 seconds later Pitbull comes running around the back of the bus, panting, and barks at me, “Come here boy!”
I drop my hands and walk around the back of the bus, where I see Tim and our motorcycles surrounded by a tight circle of a dozen cops, all smiling, except Tim, who is hopelessly trying to talk ‘em into just letting us move on down the road.
Well, you’d have thought they’d just cornered Butch and Sundance, or Al Capone and Baby Face Nelson, or Easy Rider and his sidekick or something. These cops are looking for trouble and figuring they just found it, and are gearing up to do some law enforcement on these two hippie-looking bikers from California. Just as the sun is staring to set.
And Pitbull goes up to the chubby Boss Cop and tells him all about his big capture. We show the Boss Cop our licenses and registrations and explain how we just had to piss and were heading into the casino to spend some of money, but would be happy to just disappear if they prefer. Top Cop is just about buffaloed now and the circle of Reno’s Finest starts easing a bit, in disappointment. And me and Tim are just about to say thanks and goodbye when Pitbull points to me and tells Top Cop, “Wait! Check that guy’s pockets”. And Tim stops breathing again.
Well, the blue circle tightens around us like a noose and their eyes are darting around at each other like a pack of dogs closing in for the kill. And Top Cop tells me, “Hands up” and reaches into my coat pockets and pulls out that black plastic film canister. And all the cops’ eyes light up and their heads lean in close and they begin to salivate.
And Top Cop shakes the canister and when it rattles they all draw their lips back into cruel smiles, and Tim is pale as a deadman, long in the face and cold to the touch. And all eyes are riveted on that canister and nobody’s breathing as Top Cop pulls off the plastic lid and dumps three nickels into his chubby palm. Lo and behold!
“For playing the slots”, I says.
Well, you could actually feel that fucking balloon pop and suddenly deflate. The cops are crestfallen and paralyzed. And Tim! Looks as shocked as if he’d stuck his finger in an electric socket. He shoots me a glance, and I give him a wink.
Top Cop looks up, puts on his tough voice and tells us to get the hell out of town, which the cops have to accept as their consolation prize. We mount our bikes, trembling like leaves in the wind, and our Guardian Angel smiles down on us and whispers, “You owe me one. Bigtime.”
Yep, I will forever owe Tim and that Angel bigtime for that magic 5 seconds that Pitbull chased Tim before racing back to retrieve me. You see, that’s the moment that my deepest survival instincts kicked in. The second that Pitbull disappeared I’d pulled the canister out of my pocket, dumped the glass vial under the bus, grabbed a few nickels out of my pants pocket and dumped them into the canister, snapped the plastic lid back on, stuck it back in my pocket and put my hands back up on the bus – a split second before that Pitbull showed back up.
We got to a motel around dark, still shook and scared speechless. And while Tim took the first shower in a week, I pulled Gideon’s Bible out of the drawer and started reading.