With Music, Come Stories Part V

RockadelicRockadelic Out Digging 13,993 Posts
edited February 2014 in Strut Central
Even before I was addicted to vinyl or part of the music business, records seemed to play a role in some of my greatest life experiences. In this case like some haunting omen of things to come. I was seventeen and old enough to be adventurous but still dumb enough to not recognize stupidity. So one winter morning my buddy Quick and I decided to take a three hour drive to visit our friend Keith who had moved to upstate New York to work at a State Hospital. Growing up Keith had earned the nickname Frankenberry and now he was working in a place that seemed to be right out of Shelley???s novel.

Keith had been regaling us with stories of horror and intrigue about the unfortunate patients he was charged with caring for. He described an entire ward of people suffering from microcephaly, the disease we had come to know through the grotesque but cheerful pinheads in the Todd Browning 1932 film Freaks. He told us the story of the insane murderer who had to be lured out of bed every single day with the promise that his mother and sisters were coming to visit. The same mother and sisters he had killed some 30 years earlier. These were stories that fascinated my juvenile mind and I wanted to go see these abominations first hand. So early Saturday morning Quick and I jumped in his old Volkswagon bug and headed upstate.

About 45 minutes into our trip we drove onto an entrance ramp of the Cross Bronx Expressway and came to a complete halt. There had been a horrendous wreck on the Expressway and the carnage was within our view. An 18 wheeler was overturned and some 3-4 cars had been wiped out. The trailer of the truck had split open and dumped it???s contents across the highway in what appeared to be a sea of green. Upon closer inspection the green mass was made up of LP???s, specifically one LP, John Denvers Greatest Hits. There must have been 10 pallets full of this album sprawled across the road and it was obvious that no one was going anywhere for a very long time.

Just in front of us was a white van. One of those non-descript plain white cargo vans favored by dudes trying to sell you a set of speakers while you???re stopped at a traffic light. We had only been on the entrance ramp a minute or two when the van started to back up and slammed into the front of Quick???s car. We got out of the car to survey the damage and the driver of the van did the same. He was a heavy set scruffy looking guy with only one arm. As he got closer we could see he also had a club foot. He immediately began to apologize and reached for his wallet to pay for the damage. Truth was the Volkswagon was a piece of shit and if the van had caused any damage we sure couldn???t see it. Quick assured the driver that there was no damage done and refused payment. We got back into our vehicles surveying the situation as to how we could get out of this traffic mess and the van driver walked back over to the drivers side of our car. Quick rolled down the window and van dude said ???Here, at least let me give you guys this??? and handed Quick a big bag of pot. Quick put the bag in the little mesh pocket on his door panel and we began to follow the folks behind us backing up and found an alternative route.

About a half hour later we were back on track and about 2 hours from our destination when we saw an attractive young woman hitch-hiking on the side of the Interstate. It was cold and she didn???t have a jacket so we decided to pick her up.(Did I mention she was attractive?). She asked us where we were going and said she was headed in the same general direction. Then she asked us if we could get off at the next exit and go to her Mothers house so she could pick up her kid. We did as she asked, she went into her Moms house, and we looked at each other and said ???Let???s get the hell out of here???. At the time I felt a little guilty for this but little did she know that was the best thing that was going to happen to her all day.

As we drove up into the mountains there was more snow on the side of the roads as we meandered up and down a two lane highway. At some point we wound up behind three cars that were going way below the speed limit. The first two cars were being driven by elderly folks who must have been afraid to drive any faster on what could be considered treacherous roads. Treacherous mainly because on one side there was a steep drop-off that advertised certain death. Well, the vehicle directly in front of us decided to pass the two cars ahead and Quick followed. The car ahead of us made it in front of the oldsters but now we were boxed out???..going up a hill??????and about to meet a large sedan head on at 60 mph. Quick really had no way out. To one side was a cliff and on the other was Gramps clutching the wheel and moving at a snail???s pace. We were fucked and Q didn???t really even have time to hit the breaks.

The first thing I remember was the horn. It was stuck and blaring loud. Then I looked over and saw my buddy through the windshield up to his chest. And there was screaming, female screaming, and I was certain we had killed some innocent folks. I watched Quick pull himself free of the windshield and exit the car. Because it was a two lane road lots of people had stopped and got out to help. One older guy was consoling Quick and I heard him say ???It???s OK son, you???re not nearly as bad as your buddy in the car???. WTF. I was conscious and not really feeling much pain so how could I be worse off than the bloody Quick? I looked down and saw the rear view mirror on the floorboard and picked it up. I looked in the mirror and saw that my head was cut???bad. I reached up and peeled my scalp back about 3 inches off my head. I later found out that my forehead had hit the little handle that is on the passenger side dashboard of a VW and then on the recoil had hit the car door, knocking the hinge right off.

I still wasn???t in pain, probably because of the cold and being overcome by shock. Quite frankly I was more concerned with the female screams and got out to see what that was all about. The car we hit was driven by a middle aged woman and her daughter who was in the passenger seat. It turned out they were the ones screaming, in horror of what Quick and I looked like. They were certain they had killed us. This was before cell phones and honestly I don???t know how the ambulance was notified to come out and get us. The nearest hospital was in Sharon, Connecticut some 25 miles away. Quick and I were put in the same ambulance and neither of us thought things were that bad. As a matter of fact we were singing all the way to the hospital and in hindsight the song we sang is kind of spooky, Led Zeppelin???s ???In The Light???.

We arrived at the hospital and were brought into separate rooms. The doctors cleaned me up and began to stitch up my wounds. My head was the only place I was injured which seemed miraculous given what the car looked like. About 30 minutes into being sewn up a State Police officer walked into my room. ???You boys are going to the Barracks, we found the drugs???. Holy shit, who the hell was going to believe this story of a one armed man. I felt like I had died and was appearing in some afterlife presentation of The Fugitive. Then he produced a prescription bottle that had no label on it. I immediately recognized it as the bottle that Quick kept aspirin in. ???What kind of pills are these boy??? the officer asked. Relieved I said aspirin, pineapple flavored aspirin. He gave me a look of disbelief and went and got a doctor. Now the cop and the doctor were back in the room with a pharmaceutical handbook trying to identify the pills. ???I think it???s this one right here??? said the cop, ???You boys are going away for a long time???. I looked at the doctor and said ???Sir, they are pineapple flavored aspirin, smell them and you???ll see???. He smelled them and told the cop he thought I might be right. Then I said ???I can even tell you what store they were bought at, you can call them and see for yourself???.

The doctor left the room and the unconvinced cop stayed behind. ???So what drugs do you boys in NYC do these days???.cocaine????. I was honestly waiting for the other shoe to drop and for him to produce the bag of pot, but it never happened. The doctor came in and confirmed that the pills were aspirin. The cop looking defeated turned to me and said ???You boys got lucky this time??? then he said ???It???s a good thing nobody was in the back seat, they would surely be dead???. By this point the whole thing was surreal. The doctor finished up putting my head back together and even did so in a way that my hair would cover most of the stitches. I called my folks and told them what happened and that I was still waiting for them to get done working on Quick. As I sat in the waiting area more than one person came in and commented on the wreck scene they had passed on the highway with one of them saying ???Those folks must be dead???.

I sat there and waited for Quick to emerge from his room. I kept asking nurses about his condition and all I got back was ???They???re still working on him??? As a few hours went by I thought for sure he must be worse off than I thought, maybe even dead. Then the door opened and out walked Quick with a smile on his face. I asked what the hell was going on for so long in there and he said that he refused to give them permission to shave his beard and they were picking glass out of his face all that time. He didn???t even get a single stitch. The hospital said we were free to go and Quick called his parents who were going to drive up and bring us home. When no one was around I told Quick about the cop and the pills and asked what the hell had happened to the bag of pot. He said that???s why he jumped out of the car right after the wreck, he grabbed the bag and threw it off the side of the road down a cliff. His quick thinking was probably the single most life altering thing to ever happen to us.

We got home and our friends and neighbors stopped by to see the freak show. I had a wound in the center of my forehead that resembled something the Manson Family might be proud of. When I went back to school the Drivers Ed teacher saw me as a great opportunity to teach his students a lesson and I was asked to get up in front of class and describe the moronic driving maneuver that had resulted in my injuries. Luckily there were no long term effects from that day, well one I guess, I hate fucking John Denver.


  • Love this shit. Thanks.

  • The almost-pot bust reminded me of this for some reason - probably the don't-shave-me bit:

    After recording The Haight Riot Mime, a mesmerising combination of Angus playing bongos and scat vocalising by Daniel Moore, the newly wed couple returned to New York with a friend, Loudon Wainwright III, behind the wheel.

    During the trip they got busted for possession of cannabis and were transferred to the Oklahoma City jail. Wainwright's family bailed him out immediately, Hetty and Angus stayed behind. It took some time for their friends to gather the money needed for their release and as soon as they arrived in New York a benefit mixed media production was arranged to cover the costs.


    Wainwright later wrote a song about it, sort of:

  • This is great reading, thanks Rock

  • Fred_GarvinFred_Garvin The land of wind and ghosts 337 Posts
    Not only is that an incredible story, but I'm oddly left wondering how someone earns the nickname Frankenberry..

  • that was awesome...i wish i was there, lol

  • JimsterJimster The Cruffiton liveth. 6,554 Posts
    Lucky escape, Rock. Glad you made it. Did you go over the edge or stay on the road?

    I recall a similar sensation of invulnerability when I was a younger driver and learned my lesson in painful fashion.
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