Jer @ SBS Presents 15/30 – 001: A Crooked Path To Destiny

 Jer @ SBS Presents 15/30 – 001: A Crooked Path To Destiny

Jer @ SBS Presents 15/30 – 001: A Crooked Path To Destiny

There are probably many people in my life that would have told you from day one I was going to end up with some kind of career within the music business.  My only genuine interest from as far back as I can think, music has always been a massive part of my life; and if time has proven anything to me so far, it’s that it will always remain that way.  Born the son of a professional musician, I can remember just about every pivotal moment that the soundtrack around me has played along the way, and I’ve let it guide me forward the entire time, regardless of whether or not I felt like I knew where that would lead.  I found my education and empathy through music – I found a way to connect to a world where I consistently felt out of place, out of step, out of time; I could speak through the songs I chose to play at any given time.  I might still be having some kind of a conversation, sure – but if you’ve ever spent a second’s worth of time around me, and I’ve decided to play some music, seemingly at complete random…that’s me saying something that my own words can’t.  From the moment that I received my first ghetto-blaster at the age of eight years old when my parents separated, music has always been my salvation & source of healing.

I can still see it in my head…all black with dark purple & teal highlights on the buttons…a little red light that proved it was actually on…a tape deck, which would become essential, and the ol’ standard radio frequencies displayed proudly on the front – this thing was fucking badass!  I don’t know the value of many things in this world when it comes to physical possessions versus how much we spend on an item – all I can tell you for certain is that no one on this planet has ever gotten more for their money than my parents did in getting me that ghetto-blaster.  I played it from the moment I got home from school to the moment I got up to go back – and on weekends, I filled that extra time with even more music.  This tiny, mechanical box was built of pure plastic & magic and capable of providing a glimpse into a million worlds outside of my own…and I needed that.  I couldn’t go to either of my parents with the advanced problems I was having as a kid that was growing up way too quickly for them to ever be comfortable with – I kept my thoughts in my head, my feelings pushed down, and my emotions on display through the music I played.  Admittedly, it was tougher to express myself through music until I had a few tapes in my collection – along with my ghetto-blaster I received the official Batman Soundtrack played by the one & only Prince, and a select mix-tape made by my dad with all kinds of stuff on it from Quincy Jones to Phil Collins, Toto, Dan Reed, Led Zeppelin…seriously varied content, and immensely satisfying for a kid that seemed to not just be interested in some of what music had to offer him, but ALL of it.  I became so familiar with tapes being WORN OUT from having played them so much in this lifetime that I cannot even begin to explain…but if you’ve been there, you know.  Those first doses of crystal clarity become wavier over time, sometimes non-existent altogether…or sometimes the hiss of the natural cassette sound would increase as you played it…or sometimes you’d have noticeable crackles in the music after your deck tried to eat your tape, but you salvaged it enough with a Bic ballpoint pen & dedicated hands working like a surgeon to keep the songs alive…the list of issues could still go on from here.  I could keep a tape going long past its prime, but those initial journeys in listening would always be the best quality, hands down.  Eventually I got a trip to the mall – and in a Zellers of all places, not a dedicated music store, but the store we happened to be in, that also sold music – I bought my first two cassettes:  Please Hammer Don’t Hurt’em by MC Hammer, and Repeat Offender by Richard Marx.  And yes, you are correct – that’d be a weird combination of two albums to buy in any situation, let alone an eight year old kid’s first purchase.  Obviously I played the living daylights out of both…and to be fair, if you’re going to listen to either Hammer or Marx, those two albums would still hold up as some of their most significant best to-date even now…I’m just sayin.’  The diversity in the two styles however, would reveal a ton about HOW I chose to listen to music from the moment I could, which was to basically listen to everything and anything I could get my grubby little hands on – but this first experience kind of said it all in a strange nutshell…I basically had an Adult Contemporary album and a Hip-Hop one, which is about as widespread as it gets when it comes to musical taste in one human.  I didn’t even think twice about going right from Richard’s “Right Here Waiting For You” into MC’s “Can’t Touch This” – who wouldn’t want this kind of variety at their fingertips?  And so of course, those two tapes became four, the four soon became a dozen, and before long at all, I had a growing collection mainly full of cheap recorded cassettes that I had dubbed from tape to tape…which meant extra hissing in the mix usually, but it was always worth it.  MORE music was ALWAYS a good thing – and that remains to be true to this very day in my life as well.  I upped my game the following year with a key trade to a good friend that supplied me with DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s He’s The DJ I’m The Rapper, and a bootleg mega-mix of The Bangles on a tape that was 180 minutes long.  As far as I remember, they didn’t even have enough songs to fill the entire space – but the sheer novelty of finding a tape of that length was monumental – 180 minutes was pretty much unheard of, and the reasons why were obvious – thinner tape = more hissing…my audible arch nemesis.

By the time I was a teenager I had a giant rack that hung on my wall, stuffed full of tapes, store-bought now…the real deal, and unrivaled by any of my friends as a young kid.  No one really seemed to be as interested in music as I was, which I always found completely perplexing.  Where else can you find something like music that can teach you about everything else in LIFE?  My obsession only continued to grow despite not really having that many people around me that would talk tunes with me.  When the moment came, I was always ready, and I had already built up an entire vault of knowledge that I still draw on now as an adult, storing all kinds of liner-note details and information into my brain as I grew up.  The eventual transition to CDs almost killed me…it had never once occurred to me, even in knowing that the history of music had already gone through 8-tracks, records, and cassettes – I never had the foresight to see so far ahead as to understand my collection was really going to be around for a limited time only.  I managed to hold onto them until I was about sixteen or seventeen, and by that point, most of the crucial tapes I had in my collection, I now had on CD…I caught up to the new audio revolution quickly enough, and obsessed over its growth, range, and scope, every bit as much.  I am completely embarrassed to admit that, the demise of my tape collection went out in a blaze of glory that only real teenage stupidity can supply.  An old friend of mine and I ended up taking the entire rack out for a ride one day while blazing down the highway, and I tossed the tapes out the window for miles and miles behind us, sometimes holding the tape from the middle and keeping them dragging alongside the car.  I had respect for the music that was on those cassettes, but as to the containers that held it all, whether it was tapes or CDs or otherwise…unless it was real ART…I probably could have cared less as long as I still had ACCESS to the songs I loved.  This would go on to be true of the digital age as well – I was around eighteen years old when I decided that the better move – the smarter move, post-Napster – was to invest heavily more inside the digital realm.  Apparently there was this thing you could do where you could download a whole bunch of music for free on your computer…and you better believe I wanted in on that.  From the hiss of tapes, to the extraordinary frequencies of a dial-up modem, I made that switch from CDs to MP3s as painfully as I did when I went from tapes to CDs, wondering just how much I’d regret not having them in the future, and banking on this whole computer-music thing really taking off.  Doing everything better in this second chance at transitioning from one kind of collection to another, this time I cashed in about six full backpack’s worth of CDs at my favorite pawnshop…the same one that had basically built my catalog up over the years before, good ol’ Apollo Music in a little city named Port Moody.  As far as I ever knew, that was WHY you went to Port Moody – outside of that, I do not know.

I was ready to put my patch on and pirate it UP, no hesitation.  The more Metallica bitched and moaned, the more proud I became as I clicked download on everything else surrounding them.  My collection grew as fast as my dial-up speed would carry it, and my internet skills started to develop in the process; I became fully aware of where the music was, how to find it, and I spent days on end hunting EVERYTHING down until I was satisfied.  Then I started branching out even further and filling the extra space with anything else I could find – why not?  No one had regulated anything – there were no rules – this was the Wild West of the internet, and the most massive education I could ever receive – and you’re telling me I could do all that, for free?  All I knew about school was enough to inform me that no matter how much school I could ever attend, I’d never be as smart as any of the rest were at any of the things those institutions would ever try to teach me – so why in the all-hell should I try and play catch up, when I’ve found my own avenue to educating myself upon the one & only subject that I actually cared about?  I clicked and I clicked until my freakin’ fingers got sore…and when I ran out of space, I simply got some more.  At first it was a total nightmare – before I had enough to go out and just buy new hard-drives, or had a computer of my own to put them on, I had to store everything as data files on CDs.  I had binders FULL of discs that had hundreds of albums on them – each!  And it just kept on growing, day after day.  When I did finally get the first computer of my own through a loan from working at a local video store, it was game on from there – now set up with a cable modem for enhanced speed, I pillaged the internet.

What a disrespectful PUNK right?  The things you don’t know about a guy until he leaks the details all over the internet unapologetically, right?  I justified my actions for years & years by making a specific choice to support the music itself, but not the machine that came along with it.  Do you understand how many times I bought a special import CD because it wasn’t normally carried at the stores I went to – for like, $39.99?  That was essentially double the price of any typical disc, and I went through that every other week for something I wanted to own – as far as I was concerned, I’d already paid my dues to the promoters and the industry.  What I really wanted was to be more involved at the grassroots level of it all somehow, but I had no clue as to how to go about any of that.  All I could do for the moment, was prove my loyalty & pledge my support to the scene by attending every single concert I could afford to go to, and buy merchandise direct from the tables at the show every time I went – surely that makes up for me not wanting to give their management a slice of the pie, doesn’t it?  I was tired of being marketed to, being sold to, being LIED to even!  How’s a guy that makes just over minimum wage at a video store supposed to afford those $39.99 import discs to begin with, never mind the fact that far more often than not, I’d feel like a set-list of twelve songs contained about three worth coming back to listen to.  No more of that – I rebelled digitally, and I still stand by what I did as being the right thing for me.  I’m not claiming what I did was RIGHT – I’m simply explaining that, without making these crucial moves and adapting throughout the years from one format to another, I’d never be doing what I now do today as a music journalist.  Everything I was doing put me in a position to succeed in my future, and I had no idea.

It’s also not at all where my story really starts, though a lot of it does technically qualify as some of the beginning.  A lil’ backstory for ya…I figured since these tales are all based on my experiences you might like a few extra details here & there along the way.  These were all important moments along the way to what became my career, but there was no possible way I could have known that then.  At the time, I was just a dumbass fuck-up of a kid that had absolutely zero idea of how to successfully navigate the road ahead of me, how to become an adult, or how to go about having a career.  I knew things about music – that’s it, that’s all – so what in the all-hell was that ever going to do for me?  How could any of this trivial knowledge become anything significant – especially when NO ONE I knew seemed to care about music even half as much as I did?  I tried not to let it get to me, but I was terrified of the future ahead of me.  I had grown up with the classic joke of:

Question:  “What’s the difference between a pizza and a musician?”

Answer:  “A pizza can feed a family of four.

My options were always going to be limited based on family finances – I wasn’t going to get that easy ride into college or university that so many of my friends did.  It wasn’t a matter of me not wanting to work hard – I’ve worked my ass off in every situation I’ve ever been in, with perhaps the exception of institutionalized learning…I was terrible in school and couldn’t apply myself even if my life depended on it.  Which theoretically, it did, and I suppose that was the problem; it was like the only options that were being offered in school had no relation at all to anything I ever wanted to do.  I considered being a teacher for a short time, but even that felt like a stretch…a way to bend what I wanted to do with music into something else that might be suitable enough to pass.  I had no interest in the theory-side of music, which meant I’d be useless as a music teacher obviously – so I concentrated on my English & literature classes and found my way to the middle of the pack with next to no effort at all – which was perfect for me.  I was passing time to the nth degree, simply waiting for the bell to ring each and every day, so that I could get back home as quickly as possible and start my REAL education by turning on my stereo system.

Thankfully, the one thing high-school did do for me was get me into my first band, and landed me my one & only time onstage as a musical artist – none of which is worth bragging about.  I had been connected with this random dude at school that my girlfriend at the time thought I would like, and sure enough we hit it off – to the point where, we’d talked more music than I’d ever talked with anyone else before, and he asked me if I’d be interested in joining his band.  Hell YES I was!  The only obstacles in front of me now were my terrible stage-fright, my total lack of an instrument, or knowing how to play it.  None of which disqualified me from joining Oblivion Street, although it definitely should have.  I showed up with my mom’s old acoustic guitar that had a busted-up neck with pegs that wouldn’t hold strings, and only two actual strings on the instrument that were functional at the time.  Whether it was the balls it took to even show up to the audition, or some kind of magical moment I had with the two available strings I do not know, but I was successful – and I was in the band from that day forward.  I got myself a guitar shortly afterwards and did my best to get serious about it all, but we were a horrible band – and I was becoming a hardcore stoner in the background, basically unbeknownst to the rest of Oblivion Street.  I wanted to tell them all, but they seemed like they were a bit square in that department, and the singer himself was very adamantly anti-drug at the time – admitting I was smoking weed every single day was something I thought would have gotten me kicked right outta the band, so I said nothing.  I was already feeling like I was on thin ice, given the fact that I was teaching myself how to play on the fly…I had a few fundamental lessons years ago in elementary school, and that was all I ever took part in – the rest I had to figure out, piece by piece.  I can vividly remember my old man teaching me how to play “Driver 8” by R.E.M. as a young kid on the one & only trip we took together with just himself and I – and a moment where he taught me the opening to “Come As You Are” by Nirvana, but other than that, I was basically on my own to figure the rest out.  To almost further the point of how far away from being the musician I thought I wanted to be that I truly was, my dad gifted me a guitar-tab book almost right away – for Dave Matthews Band’s Crash.  Like…motherfucker…I’m still trying to make a simple G-chord!

Four-pieces, Oblivion Street contained the traditional two guitars (myself and Ron), a bassist (Jerry), and a drummer (Steve) – and we terrorized the neighborhood by playing live in Steve’s garage about twice a week on nights after school.  All-in-all, those are my best memories from that experience…that dirty little garage had a whole bunch of raw magic in it, and a whole lot of dreams and desires as well.  Steve in particular, was about a million miles ahead of us all – the dude could put a verifiable beating on the skins, he had technique, he was taking lessons…the rest of us were doing our level best to hack it out and somehow keep up with him.  We couldn’t.  We rehearsed & we tried, and we jammed successfully many times – but deep down, we all knew the guy was shelving real talent to hang out with his friends instead.  We played the high-school talent show that year, poorly – but I did get my moment on stage in a band, and I guess that’s all that really mattered to me at that time.  Shortly afterwards, the lead-singer and I had the first of many blowout arguments, eventually leading me to decide to pack it in.  Honestly, as much as I ever wanted playing live music to be my thing, secretly I never believed it ever could be; not only did I entirely lack any instrumental proficiency, I also completely lacked the real courage it takes to get out there on stage and perform.  It is what it is, as they say – I’m at peace with it all now here in my forties looking back on it – I could barely even hold my guitar at the time I was trying to be in a band.

Full apologies to you if you’ve never read anything I’ve written up until now…I tend to ramble & ramble HARD, if you haven’t noticed yet.  I hate to say it, but right about here’s where I’d consider to be the real start of my journey & the story of becoming the independent music journalist you now know today.

When Oblivion Street disbanded, we more or less all went our separate ways, though we’d still interact from time to time at school, and quite often outside of it as well under the right circumstances.  For me, that basically meant that, as long as that asshole Ron wasn’t around, I was more than willing to hang out.  Jerry and I had been friends-of-friends through other people we knew at school prior to being in Oblivion Street together, and we’re still friends to this day.  Steve and I would go on to be the best of friends over the next two years to come…even though I knew he was bound to get me into serious trouble one day.  This dude, was like, six-foot-something-else, equally bulky but toned, and had a head on his shoulders that was nearly comically oversized at times, reducing him to simply being called “BIG HEAD” by many of the kids we went to school with.  I mean…they weren’t wrong – Steve’s got a HUGE head…were it not for his stocky frame, you’d have to wonder how his neck could support its full weight.

We also had a manager that I kept in touch with, named Greg – a great guy that never really quite fit in, and that was never, ever a problem with us.  We’d be rockin’ Alice In Chains songs at full blast and he’d wanna be listening to the Barenaked Ladies – we were worlds apart when it came to what we were into on a regular basis.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll spin a Barenaked Ladies album all day long if it’s the right one (earlier albums only, the real ones with Steven Page singing…) – but we were all getting into the harder stuff at the time.  Riding with Greg was like riding with your parents if he wasn’t stepping on the gas hard enough, simply based on what we’d be listening to…such mellow stuff for kids that were so rowdy at the time.  We’d get into all kinds of fun from late night skinny dipping and pool invasions after hours, to driving around Stanley Park in endless loops just to get away from where we lived in the suburbs of Port Coquitlam.  The best part about it all, was that Greg smoked weed and was every bit as enthusiastic about the devil’s lettuce as I was.  We started hanging out all the time, puffing up a storm.

One day Greg comes to me with an interesting proposition.  We’d smoked weed in just about every corner of our city and the surrounding cities together by that point – but what about the REST of the map?  Surely that needed some love too, didn’t it?  So he asks me what I’d think about taking some buds across the border into Seattle, down south of where we lived in British Columbia.  Only, he didn’t just ask it that plainly – he put it like a personal bucket-list item that suddenly NEEDED to be checked off.

Greg asked me – “wouldn’t the weed just taste better if we smoked it after getting it across the border?

This was sound logic.  Nobody was talking about anything that could get us into major trouble, just real minor trouble that’d be a huge pain in the ass if we got caught.  While we’re more than happy to call our friends down south exactly that, when it comes to the weed issue, our countries have wildly divergent attitudes, and even more-so in British Columbia, home to the infamous “vansterdam” aka, Vancouver.  So we’d play it smart – we were talking about like, five or six joints maximum, nothing that could put us in prison…at least we thought – I have no idea if he ever researched that, and I can tell you that I didn’t.

We did the classic shampoo bottle trick, with a Ziplock baggie buried at the bottom and our weed sealed up tight, put it in the ol’ overnight backpacks for appearance purposes, had ourselves a laugh and a fresh smoke, and decided we would have no problem at all sailing right through the US/Canada border with no patrolmen stopping two dudes that have no real purpose or reason for being away from their own country.  As we inched forward car-by-car towards the both with the mean ol’ border guard ready to grill us with questions about the whats & whys of us daring to step foot in the United States of America, we braced ourselves & tried to relax at the same time.  This was most definitely a crime, no matter how small the amount of weed we were packing with us might be, we were now only a few cars away from breaking the law officially, and long past the point of no return in being stuck in the lineup already.  I don’t profess to know everything about the way they run the border, but I suspect turning around only cars away from the crossing is probably not the best look for a person to have – we were committed.  As we rolled into the station, the border guard barely glanced up at us as he reached out with a hand to grab our identification.  He asked us what we were doing, why we were going, and how long we were going for.  Once we told him it was merely an overnight trip, he became more interested and finally looked us over, running his eyes along the length of Greg’s family station-wagon.  “Anything in the back?” he asked, and we told him just our backpacks with our clothes & toothbrushes & whatnot in it.

Then he leaned out the window and real close into Greg’s face, nearly whispering – “do you mind if I look?” in a menacing tone.  Cool as a cucumber, Greg tossed him the keys and told him to help himself, which he proceeded to do.  He loosely poked at the two bags in the trunk, seemed satisfied enough, closed the hatch and jumped back into the booth.  “You two have yourselves a good day,” he said, and waved us through.  Fucking VICTORY!  We now had our Canadian weed on the American side of the border and it was going to taste AWESOME, guaranteed to be the best we’d ever smoke in our lives.  Keeping in mind that the best place to stop to puff on a joint isn’t gonna be that first rest stop or the second off the highway, we chose the third, and liberated our greenery from the trunk once & for all.

It’s a messy process getting a folded up Ziplock bag out of a slippery shampoo-filled bottle, that I can tell ya…apologies to the maintenance crew for the endless amounts of unexplainable soap left everywhere.  Eventually we’d get it outta the bottle, and there were our sweet-sweet freedom sticks, ready to be smoked…no jail time for us – all that was left was to enjoy the moment and feel like frickin’ CHAMPIONS for pulling one over on an entire country!  For real – any cop would have likely laughed at how much we took with us in comparison to the actual legal risk & consequences that COULD come with it all, but we felt like we were on top of the world and criminal masterminds just short of becoming Pablo Escobar.  What I can confirm is that…while you never really get back that first experience of being stoned after you have it, the next best thing is smoking weed that would put ya in jail for smoking it, and not giving a single shit about it.  To us, the potential crime area was right there at the border – anything beyond that was down to Roman law…and though we’d be puffin’ right there in the rest stop part or city streets later on in our subsequent trips, as long as we didn’t get caught right there at the crossing, we knew we’d be fine.  Surely we could eat the weed faster than a cop could roll up on us if we had to anyway, right?  So puff and fucking puff we did, multiple times over the course of that summer…Greg and I became pretty good friends all-in-all for having next to nothing in common musically – those border trips were special.

Soon after, he got himself a new job that was much more involved and we kinda stopped making those ritual trips down south…but now there was an even bigger problem at hand.  Regular-ass, local-smokin’ just wasn’t gonna cut it anymore – I needed the RUSH, man – the THRILL of being just a little bit extra bad and taking my Canadian weed into American territory to get that full effect now!  I couldn’t stop; I was outta control.  If I had any actual sense I would have just sprinkled crack into my joints like a normal person would do, but no – I needed to pull one over on good ol’ Uncle Sam in order to feed my addiction now.  With Greg out of the lineup for work, I started to hang out with Steve from our old band a whole lot more, and soon those border trips with Greg seemed like a distant memory that we’d never share again, which was indeed the case.  We’ll always have Seattle Paris, as they say, I suppose.   Good times.  I miss the guy – Greg and I continued on being friends for years after the crimes I’ve allegedly confessed to, but eventually lost touch like so many people do over time.  I bet he still listens to Barenaked Ladies.

Okay…for real – I’ll start the ACTUAL story of becoming a music journalist now…no more kidding around.

So there we were, Steve and I, in the middle of his driveway, unscrewing his the dashboard of his car so that we could take even MORE weed across the border and have an even BETTER time.  You knew that was coming.  Believe it folks – not only was Steve going to be my new riding buddy for these zany US adventures, but we were going full-out for this upcoming trip – drugs AND music!  We had tickets to a double-billing of Weezer and Tenacious D in Seattle, and if we were gonna do that right, that meant we had to go LARGE this time around.  We decided to take a quarter-ounce with us – the biggest quantity we’d ever taken across the border to-date – and we were also going to take a couple of pills of some good ol’ ecstasy as well, to ensure good times had by all.  Albeit this would make the trip even MORE potentially dangerous of course, and oh-so-very-naughty…so I’m sure I spent the day with a raging half-chub in my shorts from the anticipation alone.  Understand that WORK and real preparation went into this event – Steve’s car was a legendary stoner’s palace on wheels, and no amount of human scrubbing or soap would ever fully remove the stank of dank BC greens, but we sure as hell gave it our best shot.  Initially the idea of putting weed in the dashboard started out as a joke until we discovered how easily it could be removed to put it in there, then it was game on.  We put it in a Ziplock, wrapped it in duct tape, put a fresh layer of pepper around the tape, wrapped it again and probably twice more – our ecstasy, in a tiny, nearly unnoticeable plastic wrap & duct tape combo as well.  We slid the dashboard off, we put the weed & pills inside, and we got the rest of everything we needed to pack up for what was sure to be an unforgettable night of pure fun.  The car was clean, and we were just kids goin’ to a Weezer concert.

What I didn’t anticipate, or think about nearly enough, was the difference between a Steve and a Greg.  Greg looks like the everyman, because it’s what he genuinely is – whereas Steve looked like a giant doing his best to squeeze into a clown car, practically opening the window just for extra room type-big.  With a face filled with pimples and a much, much more noticeable spark of mischief in his eyes than Greg will ever have a day in his lifetime – Steve is the guy you SHOULD pull over for a random car check at the border.  Realizing I was once again already too far in to go back now sitting in the lineup cars away from the crossing, I got that familiar feeling of panic and sense of things about to go real south, real quick.  The car in front of us pulled out of the booth, Steve slipped the clutch of his standard car out of place and we hopped forward into the station with the ever-serious border guard awaiting, looking decidedly unhappy before we were even able to park & talk to him.  “What’s your purpose?” he asked.

Like, in life?” asked Steve in return.  This wasn’t going to go well.

“Don’t get cute now – WHY are you heading to the United States today?” he asked, not looking at us.

We’re going to the Weezer and Tenacious D concert in Seattle sir,” I said from the passenger side.

Whistler and the what now?  What’s this?”  The border guard never even looked at me, but instead stared straight into Steve’s soul and asked him again what we were going down south to do, almost like he knew something was up with us…the extra heat and attention seemed to be getting more intense.

We’re going to a concert, sir.”  Steve stared straight back into his eyes…I’d seen that look before – he was challenging the border guard to make a move and ready to cause havoc if he needed to.  The kind of look you’d see from a cornered lion deciding his best bet was to go out fighting with everything he’s got.  The border guard got up out of his car, out of the booth, and came straight over the driver’s side window, still clutching our identification – all we could see was his mid-section as he stood there for what felt like forever.  He said nothing – he just stood there.  We had no idea what was going on.  Steve eventually cleared his throat slightly, and that seemed to snap the moment right back into place like we were a movie that had been put on pause.  The guard got seated back in the booth, and waved us on, telling us to have fun – but not too much fun – at the whatever-show we were going to go out and see.

Gangsters.  Kingpins.  Fools.  We were all of these things at that moment as Steve put the car back in gear and we rolled out of the border crossing, each of us mouthing “holy shit we did it” silently, just in case some kind of radar would have picked up our celebration.  With a slick low high-five as we drove on in silence, the burst of sound in claiming our victory at that reliable old third rest-stop should have been able to be heard way back at the crossing.  We laughed, we danced, we were fucking overjoyed at the sheer prospect of how great of a night we had ahead of us – we were unstoppable.  If there was a time for us to be stopped, it had long passed, and they had missed their chance to nail us at the border – it was smooth sailing from here & tough titties if America couldn’t keep us out – we were fully IN her now.

Obviously in order to bring this moment to its epic peak, a large serving of Taco Bell was required – so we hit that up on the way through before arriving to park at our beloved third rest-stop.  Screwdriver already in hand, I went to work on the dashboard, unhinging its fastenings and popping it off to get to our giant (okay, not really) weed sack and roll us up a VICTORY BLUNT!  A two-hander bomber that should require a pilot’s license as you fly it towards your face – that was the mission.  As Steve put the dashboard back into place, I rolled up the biggest joint I could within two papers and proceeded to start the puffin’ process as he put the car back into gear and we got rollin’ back onto the freeway.  Within minutes we were into B-roll Cheech & Chong territory – we could barely see each other in the car any more with all the smoke clouding in between us in the hotbox.  We fucking laughed and laughed about cruising through the border so easily, we munched our Taco Bell like the ravenous degenerates we were, and continued to puff on this extraordinary cross-country joint, determined to burn our fingers.

And then, fate intervened.

We were going the same speed as everyone else on the road, not pushing our luck – but we were in fact, speeding all the same.  With our Canadian plates, and still being so close to the border behind us now, we stood out like a sore thumb to the James Earl Jones-sized policeman sitting huge on his motorcycle, waiting for his moment to catch someone outta line.  As it turned out, he was interested – and while I maintain the fact that we were cruising at the same speed as the rest, he singled us out and demanded we pull over, bellowing from his bike now beside us.  Confused and instantly scared as fuck, Steve KIND OF pulled over, but not really all that well, resulting in the officer asking us to actually pull over for real, on the actual shoulder of the road.  Fair enough – but it quickly threw us off whatever was left in our game – we were not in Kansas anymore…we were not in Seattle either…and we were definitely not in Canada at that moment – I felt like I was a million miles away from home and far, far, beyond any help.

With precious less than few minutes to think & react, I held my position steady and my gaze on the cop behind us from the sideview mirror, making sure he didn’t see me move an inch.  Thankfully we had rolled the windows down as we struggled to pull over, which let out the enormous cloud of smoke we had riding with us, but unfortunately pretty much straight into the face of the open-air bike cop we were now about to deal with.  For a brief minute, he just seemed like he was sitting there on his motorcycle, on pause, much the same as the border guard allowing us into America had seemed like an hour or two earlier.  This was the only small stretch of time we were going to have alone before whatever came next.

Steve looked at me, with sparks flying through his eyes and his mind racing and said, “dude – you HAVE to grab that sack” – meaning the weed, and not my cojones, though the latter would likely be needed as well.  My mind raced with a million possibilities in that moment.  I had shoved it under the seat once we saw the policeman turn his lights on – but how far?  Could I even reach it?  And hey, wait a minute – isn’t possession like, nine-tenths of the law or something like that?  I seemed to remember someone saying that.  The other option now seemed like jail time as the cop on the bike turned his motor off and began to jot things down on his notepad, picked up his radio and called us in.  No going back now I thought…unless his mom phoned him at a really strange time, we were about to be officially busted.  For a second or two I was nearly on pause myself as I sat and contemplated what I could, frantically – it was like I overloaded for a moment and had nearly shut down or passed out altogether.  Then Steve’s voice snapped me back into place again – “BRO – you’ve gotta get that sack man.”  Right.  He was right.

With my eyes locked firmly on James Earl the cop and the stealth of a veteran thief stealing the crown jewels, I slid my hand under the seat as far as I could and barely grazed a piece of the Ziplock bag.  I was going to have to move, and staring right back at me in the side-view mirror, our hero the cop, never broke his sightline on me.  I shifted by millimeters at most, just enough so that with my next reach under the seat I’d be able to grab the bag of buds – but then what?  There weren’t going to be many options.

Under the seat my hand and arm disappeared once again, desperate to find a corner of plastic I could pull on – and there it was!  Right between my fingertips, I had a piece of it…enough to pull it forward and…wait a second – what the fuck is going on?  The Ziplock must have caught a snag on some piece of the car seat underneath poking out – it was stuck, and felt permanently rooted in cement suddenly.  No chance of getting it without ripping it.  I looked at Steve and told him the reality – this was game over.  It was at that moment where I felt like I saw a glimpse of the man that I had never really known at all – we were friends, yes – but this was a genuine backs-against-the-wall, maybe even me-or-you type situation – and all the friendliness dropped right out of his face along with its color.  “You do not understand,” he said as serious as I’d ever seen him, or anyone in my life for that matter – “if you don’t get that sack out of this car somehow, we are definitely going to jail.”  I couldn’t logic his reasoning any otherwise – yep.

Third and final attempt – I had to be bold, forceful, and not stupid for one tiny moment in time, that’s all.  I just had to reach under the seat, grab the weed, not rip the Ziplock bag somehow in the process, and then DO something with it, if I even got that far.  A police car slowed down from the highway and made its way to parking behind the bike cop – like we really needed any more excitement than we had already found.  My fingers found the corner of the bag once again, pulled with a bit more intensity than the previous attempt, make us or break us, and gloriously, it sprang free from whatever was holding onto it, with the whole thing intact.  Now the trickiest part – to stash the sack…somewhere?  It just WAS stashed somewhere, I thought to myself – what the fuck am I doing right now?  Situation well out of our control, I stared bug-eyed into the side-view mirror and kept my eyes locked on James Earl, with his own eyes every bit as locked onto mine.  I took the Ziplock in my hands, rolled it into as tight of a line as I could, put it into my sock, bunched the top of the sock down around my ankle with it, and did the same with the other foot quickly enough to pull it off.  I turned to Steve, and nodded my head – at the very least, he was probably in the clear if the worst case scenario came up – but me…probably not so much.

It was likely rolling towards four o’clock – concert-wise, we still needed just about every minute we had to make it to Weezer & Tenacious D in Seattle, but that was once again potentially on the table.  James Earl finally started to make a move towards our car – you could visibly SEE the relief of the tires on his motorcycle as the whole body sprang up about a foot after he got off.  He made Steve look SMALL – and considering he was gigantic compared to me, I felt like the tiniest mammal on earth.  The cop’s next move both terrified me, and taught me a major difference between Canada and the United States that they’d never teach you about in school.  On the highways down south, to stay safe, this cop was going over to the passenger side to settle things with us – back home in Canada, this would have been Steve’s battle on the driver’s side.  I had no idea this was even a thing, so I naturally assumed that good ol’ James Earl had been watching me in the side-view mirror and saw everything I thought I had been so sneaky about.  This was going to be bad.  Real bad.  As his heavy boots clanked the pavement towards the passenger window, I could see in the distance behind him, another two police cars pull over to the side of the road.  The fucking cavalry?  For two punk-ass Canadian kids?  Really?  I was in the fucking Twilight Zone…none of this could be real, but shutting my eyes wasn’t going to make this all go away.

As the giant cop approached the window and leaned his head straight into the car, he took a whiff of evidence straight into the massive nostrils of his nose, and this speeding violation instantly became about something else entirely now.  “Who’s been smoking the weed?” he said in booming bass-tones.  I might not know everything about the way the world works, but I know a few things – if Steve admits he’s been smoking weed and driving, our proverbial goose would be cooked to a scorching crisp, 100%.

I looked at James Earl and claimed responsibility.  “It was me,” I said, fearing whatever came next.

Mmm hmm,” said the cop, with his big head still in the frame of the window, taking up the majority of it.  He wasn’t grinning, but you could tell he was actually happy about this moment – and that was scary.  “So listen,” he says, “you’re from Canada – so how did you get the weed across the border & where is it now?”  He was so big he was blocking out the sun behind him, and I slowly slipped into the shadows, into some kind of self-preservation, automatic factory setting on my machine…and my instincts kicked in – lie.  Lie, and lie like your life depends on it, because who in the fuck knows, it just might right now – take no chances.  Commit to the moment, and give this the best performance I can possibly give it.

I smoked it on the other side of the border sir.  The Canadian side.”  As if that would make a difference.

What it did, was piss off the cop even more, and open up bigger holes in our story.  “You smoked that on the other side of the border and they LET you through?” he asked quizzically, knowing full-well there was no way on earth that was possible with how fresh the smoke still was, hovering in corners of the car & wisping around our heads through the window as we tried to plead our case and negotiate our fate.  The cop bent down real slow, revealing the blinding sun behind him beaming through the window behind his shoulders.  Steve sat completely still, completely quiet.  James Earl looked right into my face and said the words I really didn’t want to hear at all right at that moment – “You know son, I don’t believe you.

I tried not to flinch, though I’m sure that I did.  It started to dawn on me that there might not be a concert happening for us tonight.  James Earl told us he’d be back in a moment as he took our information and began to run it all through the database behind our vehicle with his motorcycle and the other three cop cars waiting idly by.  Picking up his radio once again before he strolled back towards us, I watched in the side-view mirror once again, as another two police cars pulled over to join the growing lineup of them now trailing behind us.  What the fuck – and perhaps even more importantly, WHY the fuck?  All this for a quarter ounce & a couple of pills?  How were we becoming the bust of the century?

The officer bent his massive frame into the window once again and stared at me.  “How do you feel about us searching the car?  It’s not really a question – that’s what we’re gonna do.  Why don’t you step on out son?  Both of you actually.  Come stand over here by the side of the road, let’s get this going.”  The wasn’t any time to respond, and it certainly wasn’t a question or even a polite request – I know a demand when I see one in front of me, so it appeared our time for judgment was finally on the horizon.  Up to this point, I had about three or four speeding tickets in my life, maybe a couple of parking violations here & there – and absolutely zero interactions with the police on behalf of my own behavior.  If I truly agreed with Roman Law, which I did then and still do now – I was about to be buggered supremely by this gang of cops now formed and watching James Earl lead the way in solving the crime of the ages.  I couldn’t figure out what was worse – if they found something in the car…a car that I’ve already told ya was impossible to ever scrub completely clean…then we were toast.  But what if they didn’t find anything & there were five cop cars and a motorcycle that had all wasted their day entirely?  Could the embarrassment of that scenario somehow end up putting us in an even worse position for our freedom?  My mind raced faster than it ever had as I pulled on the door handle, the high of my weed fiesta was far off in the distance and long forgotten now, traded for the hard sobering realities ahead.

I got out and stood beside the vehicle, and Steve came around to do the same.  James Earl made a move towards the car, and then came to a complete stop on his heels, turning back around and hustling straight over to me, leaning over to go practically nose to nose.  “Actually,” he said – “I’m gonna search YOU first.”  This action seemed less like official protocol, and came out of oblivion – or at least it seemed like it did to me as a result of the state of shock I was in.  I thought about the side-view mirror of the car and how fucking SLICK I thought I was in putting the weed into my sock – I thought I had gotten away with every movement I needed to pull it off, but his attitude in this moment suggested he knew EVERYTHING that I had done, and I was a surefire goner.  Through gritted teeth, he stood tall in front of me and looked down, asking, “is there ANYTHING else you want to tell me before I start this up son?” – this was as clear of a final warning as I’d ever seen up close…a last chance for me to come clean…

…and yep, I took it.  I could no longer reason my way out of this situation, and I felt drained.  I buckled and folded under the pressure and caved right the fuck in, not that it was going to do me any good or somehow save my hide from being tanned by Uncle Sam.  I could practically hear the grinding of the officer’s teeth as he demanded to know what I had on me at that very moment in time, and I felt like if I didn’t own up to this, this whole entire scene was only going to get worse.  So I came clean – and I gotta admit, for a brief second or two, that pang of relief was better than any high I’ve ever experienced.  “I have my keys…my wallet…and…a quarter on me sir,” I shamefully admitted.  Roman Law y’all – I was caught red-handed, and it was time for me to take my lumps no matter how hard the beating would be – I had accepted that now.  I started to bend over so that I could pull the weed sack out of my sock, when an arm from the giant cop shot out straight across my chest and put a halt to any further action.

I’LL DO IT,” he yelled.

Ok?” I said, as confused as I was bewildered.  I’m Canadian I thought at first…maybe he’s used to people down here packin’ heat in their ankle-high socks?  I wasn’t sure what his problem actually was.  As he proceeded to pat me down – from the top to the bottom – it occurred to me that maybe he hadn’t heard what I said – or maybe the fact that I only said I had a quarter on me, and not a quarter-OUNCE had him thinking I was talking about some change for a pay phone in the middle of nowhere?  He inched down my leg with confident power & precision, closer towards the sock where my weed sack was currently hiding out…and soon enough, that’s where his hand landed.  Pat…pat…pat.  Without removing anything, he stood up, turned to both Steve and I, and informed us that he would now search our car.  He didn’t even search Steve!  What in the fuck just happened, and what the fuck was happening NEXT?  Asking us to kindly wait inside one of the five cop cars alongside the road while he performed his search, we obliged willingly, knowing there wasn’t really any other kind of viable option.

And so there I was, sitting in the back of a cop car with marijuana right on my person, waiting to find out whatever our fate would be, wondering what James Earl might find inside the car.  Then it occurred to me that the ecstasy was DEFINITELY still in there somewhere, and I had no idea how easy or hard that would be for them to discover.  As far as I understood anything in that moment, though we hadn’t been officially arrested, we were officially in the process of being fucked, and this whole thing was far from over.  They hauled out Steve to test his sobriety as the motorbike cop continued to savage the inside of the car with his searching.  Asking Steve to recite the alphabet backwards, not only could he do it, he did it with style and in some kind of crazy musical timing sequence (drummers lol) to prove how sober he was, both passing their test with flying colors and actually being praised by the officers surrounding him for how impressive his performance was.  In the meantime, I was still sitting in the car, just waiting, alone with a single officer in the driver’s seat directly ahead of me – there had to be something I could do.  Soon enough after Steve was placed back into the cop car and there was a bit of extra noise in the air, I got right to work – there was no way on earth I was going to get caught with this weed on me now.

To this day, I cannot explain most of this whole scenario without stifling a laugh or two, and I definitely can’t explain what happened next – but I will try.  James Earl had chugged a slight run back to the police car, seemingly excited over some kind of discovery.  In hushed tones, I heard him ask the officer in the driver’s seat if he could get a “houdalaufin” to the scene.  I am positive that word is spelled incorrectly, but I’ve left it there – because I don’t know if I actually believe it’s a word that even exists anymore.  Nonetheless – it triggered a memory in my brain, to the point where I swear I could SEE what a “houdalaufin” was in my mind, on these animal cards from National Geographic that my parents used to order for me as a young kid.  And that’s when it hit me – a “houdalaufin” was a breed of dog.  They were bringing a dog down to this crime of the century to find what the humans couldn’t – the weed man!  The same weed that was on me, in my sock, ready to send me to jail the moment that sucker got a sniff of it.  I can find no evidence of a “houdalaufin” online now, even to this day – so how that all happened, I truly do not know – but the message was crystal fucking clear to me now – I had to get this weed off of me.  I had no idea how police dogs do their work, I just assumed he’d step out of the patrol car he would be brought in, and head right on over to sit beside me to expose the culprit hiding the greenery.  So yep, once again, I panicked a bit…and I laughed to myself at the plight of a guy with a weed sack in his sock in the back of a cop car, trying to figure out a place to ‘put it’ that they weren’t somehow going to see.  My eyes canvassed the entire interior of the car as I made friendly small talk with Steve and the officer in the front, who actually seemed like a genuinely sympathetic guy, feeling sorry for two kids caught in a truly stupid situation.  I looked around…there was nowhere that I was going to be able to pass off this sack without it just basically lying right there on the ground beside us…but I thought even that might be enough to prove some kind of reasonable doubt if it was going to come to that.  We hadn’t technically been arrested, so we hadn’t been officially handcuffed either – and I nearly laughed out loud to myself in thinking for a second that a cop car might have that crack in the seating where the backing meets the cushion you sit on, because how the hell could they have that, right?  Everyone and anyone would stash things under there if it existed, especially in my situation…so when I slid my hand to the back of the seat, believe me when I tell ya, that crack was the last thing I actually expected to find…yet…there…it…was!  I looked over at Steve and got a conversation going, with my eyes telling him that he needed to KEEP it going, which he did.  As quietly as possible, with the precision of a surgeon, I removed the weed sack from my bunched up sock, placed it behind my back, between the crack of the seat, and proceeded to SHOVE that fuckin’ thing as far as it would go until I was pretty much touching the back of my knees.

And the moment it was done, I felt like everything was going to finally be okay somehow.  I know – I’m still not a music journalist yet…I swear, we’re getting to that somewhere in this story here…hang tight.

James Earl got his wish, and here came two more cars, one carrying the dog he’d requested.  Asking us if it was cool if the dog went & had a look through our vehicle, and with the weed now off our bodies, resting safely in their own government cars – we not only allowed it, we downright ENCOURAGED it.  It was time to go on offense now – they weren’t going to find anything, and if they did, it was in their OWN car – so BRING IT ON we said, have at’er hoss.  No second invitation needed, they got straight to it, and boy howdy did this dog have himself a damn good time.  From our view in the cop car parked behind Steve’s car, we could see the thing jumping from the front to the back, just non-stop energy, like he’d found some speed instead of weed, took himself a snort and was doing laps inside the car’s interior.  I’ve never seen anything like it – it was like there was a dog lottery, and this hound just found out he’d won.  Was it the ecstasy perhaps?  Something else we never cleaned from out under the seats in the car prior to making the trip?  Whatever was in there, this dog was tracking it down like he’d get a medal for his service by the end of it, and was somehow aware of the honor that could potentially be awaiting him.  So he dug around, and he dug around some more…and he kept on digging, jumping, and digging…

Eventually, James Earl popped back into the cop car window – only this time, he was looking significantly flustered – and that meant we were actually somehow winning this war.  It was well past five o’clock at this point, so we started yelling about how we were going to miss our concert, and for what?  The bike cop wanted to search the trunk now, and once again came by to ask our permission, which we granted, and started laughing about out loud.  When he came back again to ask if they could search under the hood of the car, we knew it was game over completely – they were clutching at straws and desperately hoping to find ANYTHING now.  There were EIGHT cop cars lined up on the street in total by the end, along with one motorcycle, a police dog, several officers outside, and two scared kids trying to act brave from the back of a police vehicle they couldn’t even get out of if they wanted to.  Was there an end to this?  We had no idea, and still no real control over the situation…so we watched the dog, and waited.

When the cop version of James Earl Jones reappeared in the patrol car window the next time, his face had turned into a fierce & frightening scowl.  He opened the door and told us to get out of the car.  He looked at me and told me to “get the fuck back to the vehicle and sit down in the passenger seat” and just wait.  Their attention turned to Steve as I walked towards the car, grilling him and giving him the business as they wrote him out a ticket – A TICKET – for some kind of speeding infraction; that was all.  I opened the door and went to sit down, and saw there was a pack of rolling papers, a rusty old paper clip we used for dripping hash oil onto the end of cigarettes from about a year before, and a couple of burned out roaches no one would ever think of smoking after having been in the dirt of that car for who knows how long.  Amazing!  They didn’t even take this worthless crap – talk about a total victory for US!  A ticket to split financially, and a concert we’d probably never make it to – but we were OKAY – and most importantly, we were still FREE TO GO.  When Steve was basically pushed towards the car and told to get going, no one needed to tell us twice…we knew exactly how lucky we’d just gotten, what we’d gotten away with, and it was impossible not to feel like we’d just pulled off the crime of the century after all they’d put us through in thinking that we DID.  Pedal to the metal and hours behind now, we watched our speed closely enough, but our concerns were all with our weed, riding around in the back of a cop car now…miles & miles behind us as we re-established our route, and made our way to Seattle.

I showed Steve the collection of misfit toys the police had left us in our car.  “Where’s the ecstasy?” he asked me, as if I had any idea.  “I don’t see it in there – did they find it?”  Wait a second here – find what?

What do you mean did they FIND it?” I laughed.  “Do you think they wouldn’t take that if they did, and that we’d be in a whole different situation if that had happened right now?  We wouldn’t be free bro.

Well I mean, I put it down the emergency brake hole…I figured it’d be the toughest place for a dog to find it,” he said.  Steve – you bloody GENIUS and beautiful man you!  These pills would SAVE this night!  We pulled over once again after we knew we were a safe distance away from all the police that would have been behind us from the incident earlier, and went straight to the hole.  In the time before a handy i-phone would have a flashlight at your fingertips folks, we had the rest of daylight fading fast around us, and that would be the only light we’d have…and that’s one hole tighter than your wildest Friday night.  Prying and clawing, poking it with sticks and moving whatever we could see back & forth, cursing ourselves for using the black duct tape instead of the silver – we eventually found the tiny stash of two pills, successfully managed to pull it out of the hole, and popped’em on into our mouths about an hour out from Seattle.  By the time we got to the city, we had just enough time to park the car before we were supremely cooked from the inside out, lost in a sea of vibrations and energy floating throughout the city we liked to consider our second home.  Born in 1980, I grew up in the Grunge era of the 90s – Seattle was, and always will be, the music mecca and symbol of what’s REALLY real to me in this life.  Our moods quickly shifted from NEEDING to rush so that we could get to the show, to walking around in the open air, realizing it was actually the city itself we wanted to connect with now, not get stuck indoors.  So while we DID technically arrive still in time for the show, our priorities had now changed completely…and roaming the streets seemed so much more appealing than being stuck inside a venue.  We spent the next several minutes, high as a kite, asking anyone & everyone if they wanted two tickets to see Weezer and Tenacious D live, right fucking now – but scalping tickets is illegal too, and if people weren’t already scared of us by the crazy looks in our eye, they didn’t want any piece of any trouble from the cops either.  We understood that part completely.  Eventually we did sell the tickets, probably in the range of about thirty bucks below face value because it was after the show had started at that point, but it was still enough to buy a few more beers wherever we might end up next in our home away from home.  Maybe even some weed, if we could just find the right person on our travels somewhere.

We savaged the streets harder than ever that night, roaming with a sense of freedom we’d never had before, knowing that it could have so easily been taken away were it not for a couple of key factors that had occurred in that experience with the police.  We walked into ends of about four different local concerts to check out what the city was up to, and when it was after hours for any shows, we hit up every bar that would still let us in through the door.  There’s something so special and ALIVE about Seattle…we walked for miles and miles throughout the city, all around the EMP building like we were the only ones even there, and I’m sure at points, that was indeed the case with the later it became.

In one of the bars, there was a promo CD that was left out on a table as far as I could see.  At first I was shy about it…because I thought someone might have left it behind…I didn’t want to outright steal MUSIC from someone – not unless their first name was Lars.  Then as I looked around, I saw that they were was a copy on just about every table, fully intended to be given away.  It was a promo disc for the album Drukqs by Aphex Twin – I had never heard of whomever this artist was before that night.  When we had finally had enough of the bars and were sober & clear-headed enough to get back to the car and drive into Canada (the Canadian border side is WAY easier and much more friendly, FYI…) in the wee hours of the morning – Steve and I put that five-song sampler on for the entire ride home, and had our minds blown out more than the drugs were able to provide.  What kind of astonishing GENIUS was this Aphex Twin guy?  How many were there?  Two?  Made sense – twins right?  I had no idea – all I’ve ever known is what sounds good to me, and this was that – whatever it was that I was listening to, well beyond description and words I possess, was so revelatory that it would change the entire course of my existence in the aftermath of this story.

When I finally did get back to my place that afternoon, I started up the Google machine and tracked down everything I could about Aphex Twin – which was next to nothing beyond the music at the time.  There was a tiny little interview on a website called Kludge Magazine, where this guy Aphex Twin (aka Richard D. James), had responded to half of the questions entirely in consonants ONLY – no vowels, and sometimes numbers.  WHO DOES THAT?  This online magazine seemed to be my best shot at getting some answers, and so I sent their editor a heartfelt message asking them how on earth they got to talk to this guy to begin with when no one else seemed to be able to – and how-oh-how does a guy like me become people like THEM?  As in – PLEASE let me work for your magazine – I will literally do ANYTHING.  It turned out that the editor of Kludge, Arturo, was one heck of a guy who fully understood what music meant to a guy like me – and there you have it folks…just like that, simple & plain, I asked if I could join in on the fun, and Arturo was quick & kind enough to accept me right away.  Admittedly, it’s a lot more of a boring story without all the details that got me there to begin with, so I figured I’d share.  Cheers!

You’ll notice that I didn’t say ‘the moment I got home’ – or ‘the moment I was back in Canada’ though – because our story truly wasn’t finished that night.  When we got back into British Columbia after crossing the border, it was basically time for a brand-new day and it was just another typical one in the lower mainland, with people driving around everywhere you could look.  Steve called up his weed guy on the way in, we scored a bag, and with what little energy we had left in us, we decided to go and wander the mall for some strange reason…probably still drunk off of celebrating our precious freedom.  We sat in Steve’s car in the parking lot, rolling up another two-paper bomber that you could have happily flown first-class on with plenty of room to stretch your legs out even – and proceeded to puff up a storm as we sat outside Coquitlam Center mall.  The space beside us was completely open, and soon enough, right as we approached the middle of our GOODYEAR BLUNT, someone came along to claim that spot.  Only, it wasn’t so easy for them…in fact, to this day I think I can only recall of one driver that I’ve ever seen struggle more to park their vehicle…in & out, in & out, in & out, over and over and over – we were DYING laughing in Steve’s car, and I was right in the window, smoking this massive chonger, hysterically cracking up at this lady’s inability to park correctly, quickly, or even efficiently – she was THE WORST…the kind of driver that backs out and backs in without making a move with the wheel, expecting a different result to happen somehow.  We practically had our two faces squished against the glass by the time she settled it into the space – she’d become the animal in our zoo for the moment, and we were freakin’ fascinated by her every move.  Until she got out of the car…then it was very apparent she was mad as fuck, and we were about to get a real piece of her mind for all our insulting gestures & laughing.  She sprang out of her side of the vehicle right next to the passenger door where I was sitting, removed her wallet from her coat, and SLAMMED her badge down on the window, stopping just short of cracking it with the force she applied.  “GET OUT of the car NOW,” she demanded.

All I can remember thinking is HOW?  HOW have I gone from NO interactions with the police, to now every single person is a cop and ready to throw me in jail?  Instant dread washed over both Steve and I’s faces…realizing that we might have just gotten away with all that we did in the US to throw it all away with carelessness in our own backyard.  Reluctantly, we got out of the vehicles and braced for whatever was about to come at us next – and boy oh boy, that lady was capable of YELLIN’ y’all, let me tell ya.  She immediately ripped into us – “this is my day OFF,” said the plain clothes civilian in front of us – “but I CAN put this badge on ANY time I feel like it and become a cop whenever I need to play that role.  Do I NEED to play that role, right now, on my DAY OFF guys – or are you just gonna get the fuck out of here, please & thank you?”  THAT is how it’s done in Canada y’all.

You didn’t have to tell us twice that morning, we fucking bolted outta the parking lot and drove ourselves far, far away from the remote possibility of anymore interactions with the law.  I remember thinking to myself as we drove away…no eight cop cars, no motorcycle super-cops that look like James Earl Jones trying to break their name in the department by busting two random Canadian idiots…no dogs sniffing us out…no panic at all really, just a reasonable conversation – one of which I give the policewoman credit for having with us; we certainly didn’t deserve it in the moment we met her.  Steve drove me back to my place and dropped me off – I’d never been so thankful to be back HOME, safe and sound, with no real evidence of what happened that day other than our memories of it all.  And with this bizarre soundtrack of an even more random dude calling himself Aphex Twin, I had a blueprint towards my future, leading me to break my way into music journalism.  The rest, as they say, is history.


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