Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hitting The Road With Keno (Part Four)

When we last left our heroes, the young man at the door to the Fillmore said something that stunned them.

"Hey", he said, "were you guys at the Warfield?"

He'd given us a pretty good once over as we stood on the sidewalk just outside the historic venue and I was wondering what the hell he was looking at. When he asked about the Warfield, Keno and I looked at each other like this guy was hosting a 3 card monty game and we were the marks.
"Uh, yeah, we were. Why?", I stammered. "And how'd you know?"
Keno added, "Yeah, how'd you do that?"
The young man smiled and pointed at our left hands. "Your hand stamps. It's kind of our sister venue. You know what? Go on in", he said as he nodded up the stairs into the ballroom.
"Are you serious?", I asked excitedly.
He laughed a little and said, "Yeah, c'mon up. You made it this far. It's cool". I offered to somehow pay for tickets that didn't exist and he waved me and Keno off. His female assistant asked him how she was to account for our presence. Should she scan the "comp" ticket left at the door or just let us in. They were both grinning at the "pay it forward" thing they were attempting. Scanning the ticket twice would throw things all out of whack with bookkeeping, he said. Keno and I paused as they tried to figure this out and when the young man noticed, he said, "Go on guys, this won't matter. Have a good time".
We shook his hand and thanked them both profusely. We lept up the stairs and I began babbling about how that never should have happened and that it was like it was a rock and roll miracle. We entered the lobby and I immediately wanted to show Keno the historic concert posters adorning the walls of the Fillmore, but we quickly took a peak out onto the main floor to see Robin Trower mugging his way through a soulful solo. Keno was smiling like a child. Back in the lobby, we marveled at photos and posters commemorating the acts that have played there. We grabbed a couple of beers and headed upstairs to an area in which you can't see the stage but can hear the music from afar. In this area, you can order surprisingly passable food, more drinks, and lounge around with the ability to carry on a conversation at a normal level. But what I like about it more than anything else is the fact that the oldest and most historically significant concert posters are displayed up there.
Posters announcing Bay Area concerts with designs ranging from the simple monochromatic rectangles with block writing that were found on telephone poles in abundance in the late '50s and early sixties to the brightly colored cartoonish posters announcing many alternative acts of the '90s. Of course, in between those eras were the psychedelic posters of the late '60s which were the dominant residents of the upstairs area. After gawking at artwork we'd only seen in magazines and rock and roll history books, we decided it was time to actually head out onto the main floor to catch the end of the show.
Keno hadn't realized the history behind the Fillmore and when he saw names like Hendrix, Zeppelin, Joplin, the Dead, and many many others, he remarked how blown away he was to be in that building. Obviously, I'd failed to explain to him before we arrived just how much I love the place. I've stood on Civil War battlefields, gazed at the Constitution, looked over Gotham from atop the Twin Towers, climbed the stairs within the Statue of Liberty, and travelled deep into the Ozarks to walk the land on which my elders worked themselves to death. And when I step onto the boards of the Fillmore's ballroom dance floor, I feel no less of a sense of history than I do anywhere else in the nation.
We stepped into the crowd and the volume from the stage washed over us, but much more gently now than before with Rollins Band at the Warfield. While the show was a sellout, there was plenty of "personal space" on the main floor. We decided to make our way up front, but only as long as we didn't infringe on anyone's little stake. We didn't want to be "those people" that see a foot of real estate and plunk themselves right in front of you just as things are heating up when you've been there all night. As we strode deeper and deeper into the stage-lit jungle, I was amazed that Keno--who was leading this expedition--was able to keep going without breaking stride. We did jag to stage right a little, then a little more, but we were still making tracks. Before a few seconds had passed, we found ourselves right up against the stage, just to the right and in front of the monitors.
We looked behind us to make sure we weren't obstructing anyone's view. Not only did we not get any dirty looks, we got smiles and nods from all those around us. Amazing, I thought. Keno shrugged and laughed as he pointed to way back in the rear from whence our journey began lo those 20 seconds ago.
We watched as Robin Trower led his band into a couple more tunes. The great Davey Pattison was on vocals this night. Aside from the dearly departed original bassist and singer James Dewar, Pattison is my favorite Trower vocalist and he was in fine form this night. When he asked, I told Keno that these guys were all in their fifties and maybe pushing 60. He was shocked, but duly impressed. "They look like guys that might get together and play in their garage", he said, noting the lack of flashy stage clothing or physical histrionics. I nodded and said, "That's what rock and roll used to be. Just guys playing music without worrying about their hair or makeup or wrinkles".
A couple of women our age were rocking out beside me and one was well under 5 feet tall. I felt sorry for her because a pretty tall guy was in front of her, but she was grooving all the same. The big guy turned around and offered to move, but she declined. What a champ. I bent towards her and told her that she could stand in front of me because I had a clean view of the stage and she wouldn't block it. She said thanks and told me that I could put my beer on her head if I needed to put it down to applaud. Priceless.
The set ended a little sooner than I'd estimated. All in all, we'd been able to catch about 35 minutes of Trower's show, but it was free so we couldn't possibly complain. We joined the cattle drive out of the narrow stairwell and I stretched my neck to see if our friend was still manning the door when I spied another employee licking her thumb like she was turning pages of a newspaper. I moved my head to see through the crowd and was thrilled to see that she was passing out.........wait for it........Fillmore concert posters!
A tradition of the Fillmore is to hand out replicas of the concert poster commissioned for the night's performance, given that the artist has sold enough tickets to warrant a poster and therefore deem it an "event" worthy of such a commemoration. I guess Robin Trower was just such a night and I gave Keno the rundown as we shuffled down the steps, accepted our cardboard prize, and exited into the shockingly mild San Francisco night. Since we had taxied over from the Warfield, we were free for the evening and I suggested that we head over to The Boom Boom Room, catty-cornered from the Fillmore, to see a blues guy who called himself Chicken Man. Who could resist a name like that? And after the rock and roll karma we'd had so far, it had to be good.
We rolled up our posters and started to cross the street. On the way, we saw a beautiful woman with a cool looking dog. We casually asked what kind of dog it was and she replied with a breed I can't recall at this time, but it was a great looking dog. Keno patted the dog's head and I looked to see if there was a crowd over at The Boom Boom Room.
"Did you guys see the show?", the woman asked.
I assumed that she was from the neighborhood and was used to people roaming around at this hour. "Yeah, we saw the last part of it", I replied.
She smiled and said, "Wasn't it great?"
Keno and I both looked at each other, then at the dog, then at the woman. "You were there too?", asked Keno.
"Uh-huh. God, Trower's so killer on guitar", she said. "Have you seen him before?"
I hesitated for a second and glanced at the dog again. "Uh, yeah, a bunch of times back in Fresno. So, wait a minute....."
Keno was on my heels. "......if you were at the show...."
".......what did you do with the dog?", I finished.
She smiled and swung her body around a little. "I live just right over there and I went over and got him. I like to watch people come out of the place to see their reaction."
"Thank God", I blurted, "I thought you'd left him in the car or tied up somewhere all this time".
She went on to explain that she goes to shows at the Fillmore all the time and named a few of the recent ones. Poor Keno had no knowledge of some of the bands when I told her that I'd seen the listings for those shows or that I'd seen some of the bands way back when. As she spoke to Keno, I noticed that she was a little older than I'd first suspected. She had long, naturally greying hair pulled back from her face and a nice petite figure. I wondered how a woman like this could have been at the show alone and now stood on Geary Street without a companion other than her dog.
As much as I was enjoying talking to this woman, I was getting antsy to get into the Boom Boom Room to complete the rock and roll trifecta. When she asked what we were up to next, I motioned towards the tiny venue and explained how we'd been to two shows already. She really enjoyed the tale of our travels so far and said that we'd have a good time at the Boom Boom Room. We spoke for a few more minutes and I mentioned to Keno that we should head on over. We shook hands with the woman and introduced ourselves as we said goodbye.
Now, I'm normally pretty good with names. She said her name and I repeated it back to her, telling her that it was nice talking to her and I said my name; a nice little trick to help you remember names is to repeat what you hear back to the person. Keno is not good with names. Of anyone or anything. In fact, he tends to make up names for things and people. It takes some getting used to and when you spend enough time around him, you scare yourself because you begin to understand him perfectly. I've become fairly fluent in Kenoese.
Another problem with understanding Kenoese is that it becomes ingrained in your psyche and you begin to use Kenoisms in your everyday speech. The phrase, "ever since" becomes "every since". You don't go "all the way" down the street, you go "all the ways". It's so bad for me now that when I use proper English, it sounds funny. But aside from personal usage of Kenoese, there's also the overwhelming usage from Keno himself that can actually alter your memory so that what he names something becomes the proper name for that thing. Or, in this case, a person.
As we rambled across the street, it occurred to both of us at the same time that we should have invited this woman to the blues show. She could have taken the dog home and joined us for more good conversation and some good tunes. I turned around and she'd left. It was too late and I shrugged. We paid our way in and headed to the bar. Chicken-Man was in between sets, so we were able to get a drink and take a look around. The place was about half full, which is easy to accomplish at the small, narrow club.
"Man, that Angelica sure was a cool person", said Keno, rolling up his poster and securing it with the rubber band given to him by the bartender.
I looked at him as I fixed mine. "Who?"
"Angelica", he said. "You know, the woman we were just talking to".
I laughed and told him her name wasn't even close to Angelica and I asked where he pulled that name from. He didn't know as he is unable to explain the nuances of Kenoese and its power to change reality, however recent. I corrected him on her name numerous times in the next few months when we'd reminence about the trip. By relentlessly referring to her as Angelica and due to the influence of Kenoese, I cannot now remember her proper name and she is forever remembered as Angelica to both of us. I remember her name as not being exotic, but not commonplace either. But it is wiped from my memory and has been supplanted with Angelica permanently. Such is the power of Kenoese.
Standing inside The Boom Boom Room, we surveyed the clientele. We noticed a few people from the Fillmore crowd, including the lady that offered her head as a table, her attractive friend, and more than a few oafish drunken middle aged guys. Chicken Man was taking the stage for what I assumed was his second set of the night. He reminded me a bit of Bo Diddley and played what looked like a guitar made out of a hubcap and a shoe box. He had an all white, all female band, which I found strange for no good reason. They played fairly standard blues with a shuffle beat and Chicken Man sang with a soulful, gruffy voice. And like most live blues acts, it had people bobbing their heads to the infectous beat.
We found a couple of seats along the wall and watched the show. A few moments later, two African American ladies sat down near us and we exchanged pleasantries. I'd had enough liquid courage to venture onto the dance floor so I asked the one I thought was the more attractive of the two if she'd like to dance. She smiled and said sure. I smirked at Keno as I stood. I'd left him sitting there with a woman that looked like Aunt Esther from Sanford and Son.
We danced a little and made some small talk. She complemented me on my dancing and I asked her the prescription on her glasses had suddenly run out. She laughed. We kept dancing for a few minutes and as the song kept on and on, I glanced at the stage. Chicken Man was in a long, extended solo with his band hammering out a hypnotic beat. I was sure we had passed the seven minute mark and both of us were getting a little tired. We agreed to bail out and sit back down.
Keno was half grinning at me and half glaring. I'd left him in an awkward position by going out to dance. He had three options; ask her to dance, at least make stilted conversation with her, or just sit there silently. He had taken the third option and I laughed out loud. He was cussing me out in his head, but smiling all the same. A few songs later, I did it to him again as I escorted my partner out onto the floor. Once again, a bouncy little number degenerated into a redundant dirge and we nodded to each other that it was okay to quit this dance as well. I think we'd made it ten minutes that time. At least I got my cardio in for the day.
The show ended not too much later and we spilled out onto the street to look for a cab. Just as before, we landed one almost instantly and were whisked back across town to our hotel near the Warfield. On the way, I was telling Keno about the best microwave burritos in the world that Mary and I had found in a little bodega near The Hotel Metropolis. It was after a Gov't Mule show and we were starving. The area closes up like Beruit after midnight, but the bodega was open, mostly catering to late night liquor runs from the homeless using the handfuls of change they've garnered. We'd gone in with the initial thought that some crackers or danish would hold us over until morning, but when we spied the giant burritos in the case, the decision was made. It has been a tradition for us ever since.
The cab pulled up along the curb outside the Hotel Metropolis. We paid the driver and stepped out, being immediately converged upon by a panhandler. Keno had his rolled up poster in his hand and whacked the guy's outsretched hand, then quickly giving him a shot to the forehead, all the while telling him "no!" like you would a dog that had jumped up on you. The hollow "thunk" sound that the poster made on the poor guy's skull made me gasp, but we never broke stride towards the bodega. "You just hit that guy on the head", I said.
Keno barely looked over his shoulder at me. "Yeah?"
"You can't do that. I can't believe you did that", I scolded him. The homeless guy just stood frozen. He also couldn't believe that Keno just popped him.
We walked up to the bodega to see the guys that run the place looking back at us through the security gate. They had just closed and we made the same "awww" sound just like outside the Fillmore earlier. There was a 7-11 just over on Market and it was there that we found our early morning feast.
By now, we were buzzing pretty heavy and anything sounded good to eat. Keno chose some sort of burrito and I picked out a carnitas wrap. We blasted them in the microwave, paid, and scampered back to the hotel. In the room, we watched some late news while scarfing down the delicious burritos. A bag of chips and some good old San Francisco tap finished off the meal.
My next memory is waking up later that morning to the sounds of the city coming to life down on Market Street, muffled through our balcony door. I stirred and looked around the room. Taking a personal inventory, I discoverd that, with the absence of my shoes, I was still fully clothed and had slept on top of the covers of the still made-up bed. I could only assume that I'd finished my food and decided, much like a dog, that where I sat looked like a good place to sleep.
Keno and I rehashed the evening's events and pieced together the whirlwind night. Our rememberance took us all the way up to the burritos and Keno wanted to know what it was he ate because it was so damn good. I couldn't remember, so we looked for the wrapper. Mine was on the floor near the trash can so it looked like I'd at least made an effort to throw it away. We looked everywhere for his until we came to agree that he must have mistaken his burrito for rice candy and ate the wrapper.
We collected ourselves and decided to hit the road. But first, we needed to eat and concluded that the corner sports bar and grill would do us some good. The burgers were good and it was close enough to walk to so we wouldn't have to pay to park. Stretching our legs felt good and the brisk late Saturday morning air felt good in our lungs. We walked into the restaurant and our waitress from the previous night smiled when she saw us. She came over and took our order.
I told her that I'd have the same thing from last night and she remembered my order. Keno decided to back off of the double cheeseburger and just do a single. He looked up at the waitress sheepishly and said, "I don't think I could eat another one of those this morning. That was a pretty big burger".
She hardly looked up from her order pad and replied, "Uh, yeah, that was a pound of beef you had there".
She spun to turn in our orders and Keno just sat there stunned. "Jesus", he muttered. "A pound of meat?" He said it over and over until I told him to knock it off.
A few minutes later, she returned with our burgers and they were as good as I remembered. A few bites in, Keno put his down with disgust. "What's the matter?", I asked.
"This thing's big enough as it is", he said. "How did I eat the one last night? Did I just flat our make a pig of myself?"
He seemed genuinely concerned, looking at me, then at his current burger with disbelief. I reassured him that while I was entertained watching him attack last night's mountain of beef, no one else even noticed. Except for our waitress, that is, who came back to check on us.
"A little more managable there?", she laughed.
A couple of days later, I'd read online that at the end of the tour with X, Rollins Band would return home to Los Angeles for a stand alone show at the Key Club in Hollywood. I desperately wanted to go and see a full set from the band and I had a feeling that it would most likely be the last opportunity to do so. I let Keno know about it and he was on board as well. I'll write about that adventure later on this site. While it may not have been as whirlwind as the San Francisco trip, it did include some Walk of Fame moments, a few more beers, and some hobnobbing at the infamous Rainbow. Check back for more installments of Hitting The Road With Keno.