My old friend Jack Cooper always cuts an impressive figure. A born adventurer from the Australian colonies, Jack makes his living by smuggling rare plants out of savage countries. He claims, every time he gets drunk, that he was the one who brought heritage coffee plants from Ethiopia to British Imperial territories in Turkey.
|Jack on the job|
“Strapped ‘em under me armpits I did. When I sweated, that coffee would get right under me skin. I swear I could run across the Red Sea. I was a one man Exodus.”
One this day he was quite sober. Framed in the doorway, his broad hat brim shading his eyes, he cast a dark glance at Sir Kent.
“Bit soft in here today, aye? Didn’t know it was a royal crown kind of room. Shall we curtsy when we enter?”
“Easy there Colonist. Your type will have your country by year’s end.” Sir Kent sat up in his seat, resuming an aristocratic posture.
Jack ignored Sir Kent’s retort. “Rud, give us a cuppa won’t you. Could use a little dram too.”
As I fetched his order I asked. “What’s the news? What brings you past here?”
“Chinese poppies. I just came down through the pass.” He pointed at his coat to indicate the hidden plant. “Had a hell of a time keeping the damn thing from freezing.”
“You didn’t come through the pass alone?” Sir Kent blustered with disbelief.
Jack’s eyes narrowed, and a wry smile pulled faintly at the corner of his mouth. “Aye, done it dozens of times.”
I put Jack’s cup down in front of him spoke up to cut the tension in the air. “Sir Kent here was just telling me of a new pair of travelers on the path.”
“You’re not talking of The Galt Line are ya!” Jack said excitedly.
“You’ve heard of them?” Kent said with a raised eyebrow.
“I’ve heard that they just crossed the plains, razing two towns on their way.”
Both Sir Kent and I just stared.
“Alright,” said Jack, “here’s what happened.”
We woke half way to Dekalb. I wrote in the passenger seat while Blythe drove. Once in town we slipped into to The House Café while CMKT4 was setting up to back up Gary Mullis, an idiosyncratic country songwriter. During their set, we ate a delicious tuna sandwich and a beer while writing up the last blog entry. After their set, we printed up some posters for some later shows and sent them out. All work all day. We rewarded ourselves with some tacos and margaritas before heading out to Rockford for our show.
We drove around town, peering out the windows at the deserted streets. Not much going on. When the time came, we searched out TheDisastr House, a DIY venue set in the basement of a tall old house. On entering we saw CMKT4 setting up. Young punky types were milling around, chatting over tall boys and waiting for the music. With a blast of feedback, CMKT4 laid into their set. The crowd danced and moved. It was good.
|Disastr House Basement|
When they were done, the basement emptied out. We loaded in while chatting to some of the house’s denizens. Just after midnight, in our first moments in 2012, we launched into our set. The basement packed in, and we got one of those sweaty rock shows that we love. The crowd was very receptive. Afterwards we talked with people and handed out CD’s. It took a good hour to get out. While we were at the van, with a little group of people getting CDs, automatic gunfire crackled in the air. Apparently it’s a popular activity in Rockford.
Soon we were on the dark highway, headed toward Austin’s house. When we pulled into the drive, a light snow flurry had started. We sat up with Austin and chatted about music until the wee hours, then passed out.
The morning came quickly. Before we knew it, we were back at the House Café. We shook hands and greeted some familiar faces before settling in the watch Firmish Skirmish, who did experimental music akin to late cartoon soundtracks or John Carpenter movies. We went up next and played an easy set to a small but attentive crowd. CMKT4 followed with some tight rock tunes, restraining some of their usual psychedelic madness. Soon after the set we loaded out while the House set up for some movie screenings.
Back at Austin’s we set into celebrating. The drinks flowed and the music played as we hung out with Austin, Sue, and Zack. We crashed in bed at about 4:30 in the morning.
“These Galt Line types are really on the war path eh?” said Sir Kent while he sipped another drink.
“Well, three shows is hardly the warpath.” I countered.
“I don’t know,” said Jack, ”the way it was told to me, they don’t plan to stop until they march to the sea.”
A dark voice boomed from the shadowy doorway. “I heard they ride the back of a great, brown Yeti.”
… Next episode – Minneapolis, The Mall of America, Peter and 1 Twin.
|Yoda the cat|