10-4 Good Buddy! It’s a Convoy!
We had met several other traveler musicians in Key West, and as we had decided to head north to “Nawlins,” they also figured it was time to go. Heather is a singer/songwriter with a sweet voice. Kimmy, a violinist/guitarist, and her boyfriend, Matt. And “Classico,” who plays classical guitar. We called this rag-tag group of musicians “Perfect Circle.”
When we left Maryland, Davey had insisted we take an extra portable CB radio with us. We loaned it to one of the other vans and worked out signals for the other. Together the three vans of musicians traveled across Florida.
We learned there was a Grateful Dead concert about to happen in Orlando, and decided to stop there to sell some things on “Shakedown Street” for some travel money. When we arrived, the parking scene was sparse, and the sales were minimal. Someone told us the better location of a relaxed Dead camping scene and Shakedown market that had been set up just out of town. Pulling up, we parked into a prime spot not far from the edge of the dancing crowd surrounding the stage that had been erected. A band was playing Grateful Dead covers.
We quickly pulled out our tables and stands, creating our little store of Guatemalan clothes, bracelets, and other goodies. Donna arranged the nicer crystals and a small pile of small ones we would give to anyone who wanted one. After some purchases, things began to slow down, and I wandered around checking out the scene. Donna stayed behind with the table of goodies for sale.
One young man walked up to the table and looked through the free crystals. Once he found the one he liked, he asked Donna, “How much for this one?”
“It’s free! Yours to take,” she said.
“Oh, no. It’s for a magic wand. I have to give you something in exchange for it!”
“No, really, it’s free,” She said.
“Really, I must give you something in exchange for it!” He then pulled out a rainstick not quite a meter long and handed it to Donna. “How about this? Would this be okay?”
The rainstick, made of cactus, had a stub of a branch that had not been cut off. It was in balance. She gave it a little shake. It felt right.
“Oh, Wow, thanks!” She exclaimed.
He was happy with his crystal. “This is absolutely perfect for my magic wand,” he said as he walked away smiling.
I returned to our table, and Donna smiled as she recounted the young man’s story and his trade of a rainstick for a crystal. She gave the rainstick a little shake. We realized that the young man had given Donna the real magic wand!
Grateful Dead, April 4, ’94
It came time to head back to the Orlando Arena and the Grateful Dead Concert. As we neared the arena, it had become a parking nightmare. We drove around, trying to find a spot. Eventually, we found a place a few blocks away in a black neighborhood where we paid to park in someone’s yard. They assured us it was safe and secure. We walked on in and went back to the small Shakedown area. The crowd was the normal, peaceful Dead crowd that we had seen so many times. There was a large grassy area with a sizable drum circle, people dancing, and the typical line of people waiting to enter the arena. There were police on jet skis cutting donuts in the enormous pond that was part of the adjoining park. All in all, a festive atmosphere.
Then Donna noticed something strange. There was a little cart driving up and down the parking lot with the driver and a helper or two picking up all the pre-show trash, plastic, soda cans, and bottles. We had never seen a cleanup before the show. There was some activity, and Donna walked toward the arena to see what was happening. A side arena door had popped open, typical. A few dozen people managed to get in before it was secured again, as is also typical. Then, in the tiniest little voice, through an electric megaphone, at the lowest possible volume, a policeman announced, “Please clear the area. Please clear the area.”
Something is Going On!
Donna quickly returned to where we were and said, “Something is going on! We should probably get out of here.” This is when a helicopter swooped in and dropped several canisters of pepper gas right in the middle of the drum circle, which was far away from the attempted gate rush. Children and babies were among the crowd on the lawn being gassed. Police on horseback began to pepper spray the face and eyes of anyone they could find. Mayhem ensued. The air was thick with pepper gas. Our traveling companions quickly rendezvous at the established meeting place, and we all returned to the parked vans.
As we walked through the safe black neighborhood, people sitting on lawn chairs in their yards said, “Damn! I haven’t smelled this much teargas since the riots in the ’60s!” The aroma was stifling even blocks away from the arena. It was getting late, and we didn’t want to return to the Dead party encampment for fear that the police would target it. We found a quiet truck stop to sleep the night before continuing on. We had planned on taking a few days in Orlando to visit Disney World but decided we needed to get out of town as quickly as possible.
That next morning we picked up a local paper with a picture of some shorthaired “deadhead” throwing a glass beer bottle at the police. Remember the cleanup? As we drove away from Orlando, we tuned in to the radio for local news. “Who would have thought that the Deadheads would be so out of control last night? They had to call the police to return the order! Fortunately, they could test the new riot gear they had just received before the World Cup came to town.” Yeah, right! We later heard stories of the concert attendees exiting after the show and being so overtaken by the residual gas still lingering hours later, making them drop to their knees and vomit.
Some links to the news reports.
Orlando Sentinel, “POLICE SAY THEY DID WHAT HAD TO BE DONE”
AP News, “Disturbance Reported Outside Grateful Dead Concert”
We continued our journey up to the Florida panhandle, where we stumbled across the world’s smallest police station in Carrabelle, Florida, and took a group photo in front of it before continuing to New Orleans.
Arrival to New Orleans and Settling In
We finally arrived in New Orleans and found it challenging to find free parking. Settling on a paid lot on the river Near Jackson Square, our first stop was Café du Monde. The Café du Monde is a landmark New Orleans tourist destination known for its café au lait and scrumptious beignets. The beignet is a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar. Served in orders of three, they are addictively delicious!
In front of the cafe was a group of very talented young black kids tap-dancing for tips. A growing pile of coins was on the sidewalk in front of them. Dancing all together in a synchronized rhythm, one would take center stage and show off his best moves. Then another would take his place. Each of the boys tried to out-tap the next, but all were phenomenal.
A Dixieland jazz band playing bouncy tunes for tourists was just up the street. A display of art around Jackson Square, each artist, was exhibiting their beautiful paintings for sale. Around a corner was a singer belting out songs while accompanying himself on guitar. People sold trinkets and jewelry on small folding tables on the sidewalk. There was music and art everywhere. We wondered where we might fit in as it seemed every space was taken!
We ran into one of the last ‘homeless’ people who lived with us at the Ashwood house as we wandered around. Dillinger, who unbeknownst to us was quite the musician playing glasses. With a table of 30 or 40 glasses of varying sizes and different amounts of water, tune them into pitches to make beautiful music. A crowd favorite was his rendition of “Stairway to Heaven.” I asked why he never mentioned he played glasses or even had them with him up in Nashville. “They are a lot to carry around.” was his response. It seems to me he had to carry them around here in New Orleans. I would have enjoyed recording him. Oh well.
Back at the parking, we moved our vans from spot to spot, volleying to get spaces near each other. We also realized that an attendant was checking vehicles that had been in the exact location for several days. There was a daily and hourly fee, but the price for a lost ticket was the same as for three days. One of our group realized that if you ‘lost’ your parking ticket and stayed a week, you would come out with a ‘discounted’ price for parking. Our other problem was where to wash up? You can only do so many “F, P, C” washings before the rest of you become unbearable for those around you.
We happened to meet a lovely lady, and during our conversation, the subject of our bathing dilemma came up. She kindly offered us to visit her house and access her shower facilities. She said, “Anytime before 2:00 pm would be fine.” The following day, but not too early, we followed her directions to her home, walked up the stairs, and knocked on her door.
As we walked in, we noticed lots of tools of her trade, a leather mask, a whip, handcuffs, etc. She told us that she was a professional dominatrix. She explained that there was no sex involved, just punishment and the demeaning of her clients. For some reason, many of them wore diapers and played the part of the ‘bad baby.’ “It’s a living,” she said. It was an excellent and much-needed shower. We talked more and eventually thanked her and left before her client arrived.
Exit, Stage Left
Donna and I did moderately well with our Guatemalan items and macramé bracelets, keychains, and glasses holders. The problem was moving from one spot to another to avoid the police. Sales permits were challenging to get, so we jumped from place to place like many salespeople. Our rag-tag group of musicians tried busking together, in smaller groups and even as individuals but the drops (tips) were barely enough to pay the parking, let alone food and drink. As a group, we did make some interesting music together, so we decided to all go to Hap’s farm in Tennessee, where we could work on a potential album.
We tightened up our vans, tacking down loose items, and began to exit the parking, but not all simultaneously, as we decided to take advantage of the ‘lost ticket’ pricing. I believe only one van ended up paying for the full fare, but she could afford it. We left “Nawlins” behind and drove to Tennessee through the Southern states.
1 thought on “(24) Origins of the Magic Rainstick”
I can’t believe I never visited The Farm in TN.
They did come to our church camp one year and stayed with us for a week.
Cooking and teaching.