As if enough weird shit hasn’t already happened to me in port-o-potties.
Last night at the Vegoose Music Festival in Las Vegas I had to pee after watching Ben Folds’ set. I was in a backstage area where there were four vacant blue port-o-johns whose interiors had mostly been spared a weekend’s worth of festival crowd crap based on their private and somewhat remote placement. I chose the one on the end, and when the door closed behind me it became pitch black in my chamber. There was maybe a hint of moonlight seeping in through the ventilation slats on the wall. It’s a weird thing, to close yourself into a dark closet full of other people’s waste, take out your ding, and pee in what you hope is the correct corner. When you can’t-see-a-fucken-thing I guess you realize just how sharp some of your other senses are. And I’m not even talking about my sense of smell (-ing poop piled on top of poop). I mean listening to make sure what you’re hearing is the sweet sound of pee hitting the back of a plastic urinal and flowing appropriately down a drain pipe, and not the awful awful sound of pee hitting anything else.
Maybe it was because I was a little flustered by the darkness when I first walked in. Maybe it’s because I was focusing on the sound of my pee just a little too much. Or maybe I’d let my guard down because all four port-o-potties were available when I got there, but here’s what happened: I forgot to lock the door. I forgot rule number one on page one of the port-o-potty user’s guide. Lock the door. It’s bad enough without someone walking in on you.
So you can maybe see where this is headed. No, I didn’t piss all over the inside of the port-o-potty. Odds are someone did that before me. I hit my target. But after I’d confirmed that my stream was merrily floating along, and not spraying the wall, some 250 pound stage tech guy opened the door on me. I know what you’re thinking. What’s the big deal? So he walked in on you, get over it… It’s worse than that. He actually walked in on me. Because it was pitch black, and because his hearing is probably shot from years of high end feedback, he only knew I was in there after he actually physically knocked into me, stepped on my ankle, and freaked out, reeling back like there was a ghost in the machine. I saw it in his face, the sort of shocked heebie-jeebie spasm that only comes from having the dickens scared out of you. He jumped out of the port-o-potty, one of us might have screamed, he got angry because he was frightened, and he grabbed the door and slammed it as hard as he could while I was still in there peeing.
Mind you, I realize that this whole thing came about because I forgot to lock the door. I could have avoided the situation, and in a sense that means I created it. But there was a part of me that didn’t like how he had to slam the door like that (maybe it was the part of me that now had pee all over it) (my ankle), and I hopped out of my podule to start some shit. And by “start some shit” I mean “try to rationally explain to him that he overreacted because he was confused and upset, and that while it was my mistake to forget to lock the door, he should control his aggression whenever possible to avoid a conflict escalation.” Still probably a little amped up from his dick-ens moment, or maybe just not a fan of my self-righteousness, he conceded nothing, and the conversation ended with him insisting he didn’t slam the door, but instead “tripped on this divet in the ground here.” I put my hand across my forehead as if to shield my eyes from the sun, furrowed my brow, looked at the smooth flat ground where his foot was pointed, and walked away. The soft western moon continued to shine ever so slightly through the vent in the port-o-potty.
After an incident like that you’d think I wouldn’t want to go out and see more music, or you’d think maybe the road journal, which was already pretty long and tedious, might be over. But you’re wrong on both counts. First of all, this road journal is just getting started. And second of all, I came to Vegoose for one reason and one reason only. To see a bunch of old guys play “Fire on the Mountain” for a full half hour.
Not really. But I wanted to check out the headliners on each stage (The Roots, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Widespread Panic), so I tried to get a warmer shirt to wear since the sun had gone down on the portable toilets of Las Vegas a couple hours earlier and the temperature had dropped to about 55 degrees. My suitcase was back at the hotel, however, and all I had to wear was the short sleeve shirt I had on. So I did what any self-respecting band member would do in the situation, and I got Allyson, our merchandise retail coordinator, to give me one of our long sleeve maroon Guster t-shirts from the merch pile. I wore it underneath my other shirt like so:
Joe and I watched about one minute of the Roots (too loud), ten minutes of Jim James (drowned out by the Roots), and five minutes of Widespread Panic (gulp). We were standing there during Panic’s set, nodding our heads up and down (but mostly from side to side), when Joe noticed that the girl standing on the blanket right next to me was wearing the exact same maroon Guster t-shirt that I was. What’s a fairly civilian-looking conguero with his own band’s t-shirt on underneath his other shirt to do?
I did what came naturally. I danced around in a little circle and swung my arms over my head like she was doing. I bumped into her, pretended I noticed her shirt for the first time, and said “No way! Hey look!” — then I lifted up my blue outer shirt to reveal the Guster logo on my undershirt, let out a “woo hoo” and followed it up with an offer for a high five. I was sure she wouldn’t recognize me, and here is why:
a) She was high on life. And drugs.
b) Why would the Thundergod be watching Widespread Panic… with his own band’s t-shirt on?
c) It was dark. We’ve already established that no one can see me in the dark.
Back to our story. I was so excited to finally be experiencing the famous bonding that goes on when two Guster fans discover each other because they’re wearing the same shirt. I felt sneaky. For a minute I thought she might launch into some Special “Not For Band Members” Guster Fan Encounter Ritual Dance that takes place in these situations and I was going to have my cover blown. But she didn’t. She answered my “woo hoo,” returned the high five, and added a “I got two of them today!”
Which, of course, makes me wonder if she even knows of our band. I think it’s more likely she was wearing the shirt for the same reason I was. Because it was cold out, and it was a long sleeve shirt. There was no “they rocked today”s and no “I like them but I miss the bongos”s… she may as well have said “Woo hoo! These shirts are so warm!” or “I got two of them today — two of the warm cotton long sleeve maroon t-shirts they have for sale here!”
Granted, this is all part of our larger merchandising plan. As an experienced merch person, Allyson checks the weather forecast, knows that festivals only let you display one shirt in the merchandise tent, and breaks out the long sleeves in these situations to entice the under-attired. It maximizes sales, and keeps us afloat in times of cholera… and pneumonia. For the same reason, I will be returning the barely-used long sleeve shirt I wore tonight to the top of the merchandise pile tomorrow. Unless there’s snot on the sleeve. And there is. Nevermind. This will be another one for my archives.