Chapter 31


Tue Aug 12, 2003 at 07:51:19 PM EST

I drove down to St. Louis over the weekend, and walked my legs off at the fair Sunday.
Ordinarily it's blistering hot this time of the year in central Illinois. My gratitude goes out to the UKians and other EUians who took it on themselves to trade weather with us so the fair would be so enjoyable.





I drove down to Dempsey's Friday night, and little was going on. Ro was tending bar, and Joe and Levi were supposed to play, but were late. As I couldn't sleep all morning Saturday, I missed the music.
Levi had been at the fair to see Hank Williams Jr. I drank a beer with him and Joe, and left before they picked up their guitars. Levi said ol' Hank is playing rock and roll these days, even covering ZZ Top. Saturday Saturday morning the alarm clock went off at 8:00. I finally rolled out of bed a half hour or so later, stumbled down the stairs and made a pot of coffee.
Illinois legislators have an annoying habit of taking a germ of a good idea, or at least what sounds like one, and implementing it in a fashion that, if anything, usually makes the problem it is supposed to solve worse. Witness, for instance, my inability to get the parasite and her God damned PT Cruiser off of my insurance.
Their Children First initiative is no exception. At least the only harm to come of it is the taxpayer loses a few bucks and a couple of hours.
The problem it was supposed to solve was that divorced couples kept showing back up in court, suing each other over custody, child support, and other nasty things that divorce causes. They decided to solve it by hiring some two bit hack to produce a series of videos about things that make the children of divorced parents lives a living hell.
You have to pay on a sliding scale. It cost me sixty one bucks.
Rather than wasting one morning and two hours, they break it into two sessions so you have to waste two mornings. Saturday was my second session.
Even though I had taken my kids to a real psychologist for family counseling (there were a lot of tears and shouting after Evil-X left us) I still had to go see the stupid videos.
And stupid they were. The actors were more amateurish than the worse skin flick's, and made William Shatner's portrayal of JT Kirk seem subtle and underplayed. The characters in the videos were psychopaths, all of whom needed strong psychiatric drugs, if not straitjackets, and none of whom would have been helped by the videos. One of the characters, for instance, had the kids spending the night at his house. The scene was in the morning, with the kids whining for breakfast and the dad drinking and snorting coke with his girlfriend in the bedroom. Another had a clinically depressed woman telling her little girl that if she chose to live with her dad and that hussy, I'll die!
In each and every one of the six videos, dad had a girlfriend while mom shared loneliness with the kids. I pointed this out to the presenter (who I presume was a psychologist, but I never saw any credentials), who told me that in nine years of showing the videos nobody had mentioned it.
I found this rather hard to believe. And if these videos were nine years old, then why were we given a satisfaction survey at the end? Perhaps it was for the satisfaction of flaming them mercilessly on paper, in order to keep us from burning the building down?
I had the ruined car battery to take down to Mike, so I tossed it in the trunk and dove down, dropping by Jeff's house in the Cahokia slum first.
I rode out to Mike's with Jeff, where we sat on his porch and drank beer and watched the clouds. Mike was already drunk when we got there, and was close to passing out when we left. I drank slowly, as I had another hundred miles to drive.
As we got back to Jeff's house, a woman friend of his showed up with a bag of pot, and rolled up a couple of big joints. It was almost dark by the time I left. Sunday I spent half of Sunday sleeping, and the afternoon doing chores. Tonight was Nazareth at the Fair. Daughter Patty was going to the fair with her friends, and wanted three bucks to get in. All I had was a twenty, so she went down to Walgreens and broke it, leaving me with seven-teen.
I was on the internet and lost track of time; Nazareth was supposed to start at 8:00, and here it was seven already, and I hadn't even showered. Shit! I scraped a razor across my face, took a shower, and started walking.
Maybe I could catch part of the show.
The fair is weird, like everything else in Springfield. It only costs $3 to get in to the fair, but parking is $7. A bus ride is only seventy five cents, and I'm a cheapass.
I'm also stupid. I'm thinking that 9th street is only two blocks away, and the bus terminal another two blocks up, but forgetting that the bus starts downtown, not at the bus terminal. So I walk the mile down to Capitol street, making a little prayer that maybe I can catch the show, or at least part of it.
As I crossed Capitol, a bus was stopping at the light. I hurried down the street to the bus stop, just as the bus got there.
The bus driver was complaining about all the overtime he was putting in and how he only had 4 hours between shifts, so only 4 hours sleep.
When visiting Springfield, beware of the buses.
I paid my three bucks to get in the fair, and as I went in I asked a state cop where the show was. He gave me directions.
Bad directions. I walked for twenty minutes, and must have passed every building there. Twice. Except the one I was looking for.
I asked another cop and was given directions to the Colosseum. There was a horse show there.
I walked around some more, and asked again for directions. The directions took me to the show - the other show, a redneck show. I asked for directions there, and for a map.
The map was almost as bad as the directions. I couldn't find the building that the show was supposed to be in anywhere on the map.
So I walked around aimlessly some more. It was dark, and I doubted that the show was even still on. I started looking for a beer tent.
As I was searching for the magical golden liquid, I saw a booth for one of the local radio stations, and asked them for directions. They gave me directions, and I walked... around in a big circle. So I whipped out the map and asked the guy to show me. He drew in the missing concert building, and put an X where his booth was.
Another fifteen minutes and I was at the show; or at least at a long walkway toward the show, where they were selling and taking tickets. Ladies, this is why men won't ask for directions!
I asked if the show was over.
No, it hasn't started. They had some sort of technical difficulties and there may not even be a show!
I gambled my five bucks and got a ticket, and gave it to the lady at the gate two steps over, who tore it in half and gave me half.
I could hear a recording of Led Zeppelin as I walked up. I stopped at the concession stand, where they sold beer, beer, beer, and something from England that resembled beer, only dark and sweet. I got a beer: three bucks. I forgot that I had put the change for the five I gave them to get in the fair in my shirt pocket, so as I looked in my wallet it looked like I was only going to be drinking two beers. I made a mental note to drink slowly.
I sat down, and not two minutes went by before the Zepplin stopped abruptly and a new sound started in its place. People started cheering wildly. Four figures emerged from a big Winnebago, and the crowd cheered even louder, and Bics lit up all around. I don't know when I last saw lighters at a concert, probably back when Nazareth was still making records, before most of the people with the lighters were even born.
Here's a clue for you younger hippie wannabes: the lighters are supposed to come out after the band plays, demanding an encore. Although in this case, since the band was (luckily for me) so tardy, it was probably fitting. The meaning behind the lighters is, after all, I'm fucking stoned and if you don't play (insert smash hit here) we're gonna burn this God damned place to the ground!
The band reached the stage, the lead-in sound reached a crescendo, and the lights came up as the music simultaneously exploded.
It's been so long since I had that Nazareth tape out I forgot how good they rocked. After the first tune, the lead singer apologized profusely for the hassle and delay. Again, the crowd cheered wildly.
Several songs later, my plastic Budweiser bottle was empty, so I ambled back to the concession area and bought another one.
Folks were coming and going, and there were a lot of plastic beer bottles vended. I went back to my seat and started drinking... slowly.
Someone stepped up behind me and stuck a beer bottle in my face. I took it, and looked at the goateed fellow for a second... Tommie!
Tom is my former stepbrother; my dad was married to his mom a few years after my mom divorced him. I used to drink with Tom all the time, but I hadn't seen him in at least ten years. He was at the concert with his brother, and had recognized me despite my short hair and lack of spectacles, and in the dark. I don't know how.
I walked down and sat with him and his brother, who didn't recognize me at all. I used to be your stepbrother, I told him. He looked puzzled. When?
The lighters weren't the only thing the young folks were trying to bring back. Thick, sweet smoke drifted up from the people in front of us. I wish I had some of that, Tom said.
I replied, back in the day they would have passed that around.
Those days are long gone, my friend, Tom said. I'll buy if you fly, he added, handing me an empty bottle and a twenty.
By the time the concert ended, I was stumbling drunk. It was probably the first time I ever kept up drinking with Tom.
The band left the stage, and the lighters came back. Including, this time, mine. I have a blister on my thumb now...
They came back on and encored with a couple of songs as fireworks went off across the fair behind them.
My brothers gave me a ride home. The only thing I didn't like about the concert was that Nazareth was selling CDs, and they wanted twenty bucks each for them. I'll just have to sample the tape and make my own CD. Monday I got to the fair in plenty of time, with plenty of money, and two beers under my belt. I wanted a head start on the beer, as they want three bucks for a bottle at the fair. I guess the folks who run the fair can't tell the difference between Budweiser and Heineken. At any rate, I don't even like paying bar prices, but bar price plus half again is robbery.
Nazareth had been five bucks, Sweaty Teddy was twenty. Nazareth had been in the Multipurpose Arena, Nugent was at the Grandstand.
The five dollar show was better.
A lady from work was checking tickets for proper seating. Moonlighting? I asked. She just grinned.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds didn't play very long at all, unlike a couple of years ago when they opened for George Thorogood. This time they only played perhaps a side and a half of a vinyl album's worth. Disappointing.
Nugent fans must be moronic cows. There were two beer tables, one at either side of the not very large concession area. The one on one end had lines ten people deep, while the other had ladies standing around yelling cold beer here! as if they were hawkers at a baseball game.
I like going to concerts with morons. I don't have to wait in line!
Nugent was good, played a lot of his best songs, and unlike the T-birds, played for a long time. It got too late for me, and I stumbled back to the bus and home.
I was late to work this morning.


Chapter 30
Chapter 32

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