Today I'm going to regale you with an old story, but one that I was recently reminded of by caren, of SSW's Poetry Corner fame. This is the story of the time Longer Shank and I, Rifleman, fooled the waiter at IHOP into thinking we were members of Dallas' own Old 97s. Like to hear it? Here it goes...
Actually, before I get started, I want to mention that I was once also a member of Uncle Tupelo. And, strangely enough, this story also involves the Old 97s. A couple of years ago, Minotaur, Holly, Linz and I went to see the Old 97s at Trees in Deep Ellum. We were on the upper level, drinking drinks and sweating like Arabs at Gitmo. I noticed that above the couch that we'd commandeered was a large, autographed poster of Uncle Tupelo. Grabbing the Sharpie from Holly's cool camo purse that she never carries anymore, I--in a drunken stupor--autographed the poster. So, there next to future Wilco members' names was--in large, Hancockian script--"Rifleman". I like to think that to this day, Uncle Tupelo fans visiting Trees look up at that poster and wonder "Who the holy fuck is Rifleman?"
But that's not what this story is about. This story is about Longer Shank. And Rifleman. And Rhett Miller. And Cara. And Tyler Morning Telegraph
ace reporter Mark Collette. And his hot girlfriend.
June, 2004. Or maybe it was July. Actually, I'm pretty sure it was July. The 24th. Or something like that. Holly, Cara and Mark had come to Dallas to celebrate Cara's birthday. I think. I'm pretty sure it was her birthday, at least. Certain it wasn't her Bat Mitzvah or coming out as a debutante. We--that is Longer Shank and I--joined them in Deep Ellum for the Old 97s concert.
Wherein we proceeded to drink. A lot. And by "a lot", I mean enough to satisfy Liza Minelli before breakfast. We were fast becoming what professional drunkards refer to as "stumbly-mumbly", wherein you can't feel your feet or your face and you lose your ability to form coherent, understandable sentences, instead sounding like post-stroke Kirk Douglas on painkillers. At some point, Shank and I decided it would be a good idea (well, why not?) to imitate the self-proclaimed King of Crunk, Lil' Jon. Or at least imitate Dave Chappelle imitating self-proclaimed King of Crunk, Lil' Jon.
So we started yelling "Whhhaatttt?" and "Yeeaaaahhhhh!!!" and "Oookkkaaay!!!" over and over, unable to control ourselves, slaves to the gloriousness of alcohol and our own stupidity. Apparently, however, this started to get on some people's nerves. And by "some people", I mean Cara. And, in retrospect, I can't really blame her. Had I been forced to spend my birthday or Bat Mitzvah or whatever with a couple of drunken assholes, I'd probably be a bit pissed too. So she started slapping us. And not those fun, playful, vaguely sexual slaps, but more of the kind of slaps that Joan Crawford visited upon her daughter in Mommie Dearest
, minus the coat hangers, of course. Because who brings coat hangers to a concert? Unless it's some kind of Melissa Etheridge/Indigo Girls/other empowered women bands celebration of the yoni and abortion rights and the right to have David "I Am The Walrus" Crosby impregnate you kind of concert.
And Cara, to reiterate, slaps hard. The kind of hard that makes you wish you were an inmate at Abu Ghraib. The kind of hard that initiates a miniature sonic boom right next to your face. Our faces stung, red with handprints. We looked like we were suffering from a bout of rosacea. So we drank more. Tequila. Budweiser. Shiner.
Eventually, we decided, in the middle of the concert, that we were ready to leave. Immediately. So Shank and I bid our farewells and wandered the crowded Deep Ellum streets back to Shank's Blazer and started our long drive back to Valley Ranch, home of the Dallas Cowboys and more Asian people than you can shake the proverbial stick at.
Along the way, we made the same decision made by thousands of semi-drunk people every night--let's go to the International House of Pancakes. Which, incidentally, is a total misnomer--they only have locations in the United States and Canada. While this may meet the technical requirements for "international", when I personally think "international", I think of places other than Canada. I've been to Canada--a lot. For the most part, it's a cleaner, friendlier, more socialist version of the States, with funny accents. And pictures of the Queen on their money.
At IHOP, we were seated in Steve's section. Steve seemed to be your typical down-on-his-luck, Seventies-porn-star-looking, loser IHOP waiter. And, I remind you, the reader, that "loser IHOP waiter" is in no way mutually-exclusive. We soon learned how much of a loser he was. Steve, it seems, lived in a shady motel on the Airport Freeway in south Irving, where, let's face it, all the motels are shady. This area is ghetto Irving, miles and monetarily removed from the glistening office towers of Las Colinas or the middle class comfort of Valley Ranch. This is the Irving a mere stone's throw from West Dallas--home of some of the South's worst housing projects and industrial pollution.
Steve started talking to us. Telling us of jamming with various bands during the Seventies and Eighties. Shank, in his drunkeness, for some reason or the other, said that we were in a band. And said band was the Old 97s. Steve had never heard of the Old 97s, giving us the go-ahead to bullshit him even more. We laid it on thick. I was the drummer and lead singer, a la Phil Collins in Genesis. Shank was the bassist. Or cellist. Or something like that.
Steve wanted to jam with us. We said sure, anytime. He gave us his number. Or at least the number of the payphone down by the ice machine at the Airport Inn. We said we'd call. We lied. We're men--we always lie. Out of the kindness of our heart, we gave him a ticket to our next show. Which means Shank gave him the stub to the show that we'd been to that night. Steve never looked at the date, instead promising us that he'd come see us. We told him we'd get him backstage passes. Steve, in his innocent stupidity, was elated. He showed off his "ticket" to coworkers and other customers. None either noticed or had the heart to tell him that he was about five hours too late. And being cruel, sarcastic assholes with huge superiority complexes, we had no problem with this.
We paid for our pancakes and omelettes and whatnot and left, wondering if Steve ever figured out we were fucking with him. I like to think that he didn't. Steve's not working at that IHOP anymore. But I like to think that he's a waiter somewhere. And wherever that may be, I like to think that he sometimes tells the story to some of his poor customers about the time he met the Old 97s.