Once in a while, a greaser has to travel. The resulting enjoyment of going somewhere else is often punctuated by grueling traveling conditions. Many hard working touring bands know all too well about the vagaries of being on the open road and being cooped up in a van with three other cats for hours on end.
They have a destination, however; their next gig. The surrealistic odyssey of seeing the back roads of America or Canada is an experience that non-musicians can only dream of. The long miles between cities make it worth it. The long drive culminating in gigs to small, but devoted, groups of fans is satisfying when all is said and done.
In one of my previous posts, I had described a 34 hour Greyhound bus ride to Nevada to attend Viva Las Vegas, the world's biggest rockabilly festival. My traveling buddy's '35 Plymouth coupe had broke down in Seattle so we bussed it down to Vegas.
It just seemed to lend an air of authenticity to to the whole experience. It just added to the "rockabilly-ness" of it all. We were hailed as greasy heroes, hard core to the bone, willing to make the holiest of pilgrimages on the most un-holy forms of conveyance. We had endured the confines of the bus, with its myriad of stops in towns too small to register on a map, beers in Boise, Idaho and the pie-eyed greetings from convenience store employees in Utah. We had made it to Viva, haggard, but unscathed.
Tougher still, was our determination to get right back on a bus after four days of partying and debauchery to do it all over again. This is the stuff from which greasy legends arise.
Sadly though, I am speaking about a more mundane form of travel; flying. Worse yet, flying on the cheap.
I found myself having to fly east bound. I managed to find a good deal on what is essentially a flying loser-cruiser.
As I awoke at an uncivilized hour to make my way the airport, I was filled with a sense of foreboding. "This is gonna suck", I succinctly told myself.
There must be a devious master plan that was contrived to design airports, as they are the same the world over. I can only speculate that this what cattle feel like when they are led to the slaughter.
The absolute dehumanizing factor and slightly fascist behavior of airport employees is enough to break the spirit of the strongest among us.
Just getting to an airport is chaotic enough, but upon one's arrival the chaos is magnified ten-fold. The bureaucratic mindset of airline employees and their shallow, insincere greetings is grating enough, but being greasy in an airport is an experience unlike any other.
The overtly aggressive and challenging stares form the underpaid security staff are disconcerting enough, but their deluded belief that they have any kind of legal authority was beginning to make me angry. My usual disdain of idiots trying tell me what to do usually culminates with me asking them scornfully. " Whut'you, a cop?', but asserting your individuality in an airport will only land you in a waist-high deep pile of shit.
Therein lies the crux of my observations: being greasy in an airport will attract undue attention. As I sauntered aimlessly in search of a cup of coffee, I was the object of many scowls, stares and nervous behavior from said rent-a-cops. They were eying my every move.
I was wearing a Jimmy Shine t-shirt with a skeleton riding a motorcycle, engineer boots, cuffed jeans and the ubiquitous pomp. That seemed to alarm the ersatz cops, but the hairy eyeball is as far as it went.
Then came the definitive moment in the airport experience: the security check. This was only a domestic flight, but the security was in place.
As I was assigned a row number, I was given a large plastic basket. I had to remove all ironmongery, including Levis jacket, belt buckle, wallet chain, key chain and even my engineer boots.
I felt foolish standing there in my stocking feet with belt hanging down for lack of a belt buckle, but amused as the security guard was trying to make heads or tails of all the metal in the basket on the x-ray machine.
As I got my disheveled self back together, I made my way into the inner sanctum of the airport. Having two hours to kill, I made my way to the only bar and reluctantly ordered some 9 dollar beers.
You see the strangest people in airports, One wonders what freakin' rock they may crawled from, because you never see them in town. Not like the freaks that I see in my day to day forays into the heart of the city, but more like a time warp to the 80's. Ultra skanky women with bad taste and dudes with mullets seem to be the order of the day. All I can hope is that none of those people will be seated next to me.
Once you make your way to your seat, you come to terms with the fact that this is where you will be for the next six hours and your ass will indeed be hurting.
The plane being almost as uncomfortable as a Greyhound bus, the only respite that you may have is going to the minuscule bathroom. Going to the can on a bus is an adventure in terror and olfactory assaults. The blue juice swilling around as you try to pee in a rolling and rollicking moving vehicle is a challenge. Going to the can on a plane is much stranger. You realize that you are taking a whiz 40,000 feet above ground, and the eerie sound of the vacuum flush makes it all that more frightening.
As you return to your uncomfortable seat, you are accosted by the empty-headed demonic smiles of the crew. They will offer you stale sandwiches in exchange for your credit card and offer looks of derision should you refuse.
They seemed slightly frightened by my greasy demeanor, the motorcycle on my t-shirt disconcerts them as they try to appease me with complimentary snacks comprising of five molecules of Bits 'n' Bites and an ounce of shitty coffee.
As we land, I press my head to the window, leaving a very large greasy spot. The indoctrinated attendants don't know what to make of it, but are sure that they will require windex when I leave.
As the plane finally lands and I am released from its claustrophobic embrace, I am still the object of suspicion as I make my way to retrieve my sparsely packed bag.
Thankfully, there is a liquor store right next to the baggage carousel. I purchase some beers under the watchful eye of the cops.
I made my way out of the airport and eventually home. I cracked them beers, relieved to be back on solid ground.