Dancing Before the Cataclysm


The Greyhound passed through the heart of Missouri southwest to Springfield, where we made another stop. These stops seemed to becoming more and more frequent, which started to drive me crazy. The country looked a lot like Ohio all the way to Oklahoma City, where the bus driver announced a thirty-minute layover. So We headed for the nearest safe place to puff.

There was an old section of a crumbling wall with an overgrown, weedy patch behind it that stood across the street of the bus station. It looked deserted,  so we headed over there.

We were going at the joint when we looked up and saw the bus driver walking across the street towards us. What the fuck was he doing coming over here? He looked like an old, white-haired army dude, and he was visibly angry. We put the gear away as came closer to us.

He spoke to us in a heavy Oklahoma drawl so thick, I couldn’t really understand him. “IZ ZAAT GUUD SHEET?” he demanded to know. I looked at Bill and Norman. Nobbody was saying shit. The bus driver looked at me and asked again, “IZZ ZAAT GUUD SHEET?” I still didn’t say anything, and started to walk away. Bill and Norman quickly followed, and Bill said, “Jesus, Darryl. Say something.” We were afraid that we would get kicked off the bus if Sgt. Bus Driver got really pissed. So I said, “What sheet?” Or sometthing to that effect. I wasn’t going to admit anything, recalling Emily’s sound advice. The bus driver followed us back to the goddam bus as if he was babysitting us or something. Weird. We were really pissed, because it would be a long drive without benefit of ganja, as we would say. “I bet that wuz sum guud sheeet,” the driver said as we climbed aboard the bus.

As we pulled off, Sgt. Bus Driver reached for his microphone and let everybody know that there would be no smoking of cigarettes of “marijuana” on his bus. We were like, “Goddam, shut the fuck up, already.”  We made the long drive west to Amarillo, Texas, about a four-hour drive on a road flatter than any I’ve seen in Bowling Green. And the surrounding countryside was becoming more arid.

In Amarillo, night began to fall. Now that we were Texas, we knew we were more than halfway to California, so while we were not enthusiastic about the long drive thru the Southwest’s monotonous highway, we were stoked that the end was in sight. At the next stop we received another warning about smoking tobacco and the weed on the bus. I decided to go to sleep, which was cool because the bus was nearly empty. The wheels of the bus droned on as sleep came for me.

When I woke up, I was pissed to find out we were still in Texas. It was daylight, ferchrissakes! Now, the glamour of of little adventure was beginning to wear off.  However, the landscape was beginning to take on a character that was barren and mysterious. Large rock formations began to appear in the distance. Tumbleweeds! I started to perk up. Rock formations like I’ve seen in western movies and Road Runner cartoons. Now I wasn’t so angry about being in Texas. It was still a very long drive, though.

Many hours later, the bus arrives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was a very warm day, and we got off the bus for a driver change. We looked around and saw a small outdoor market along the other side of the street. Navajo Indians were standing behind white tables laden with their wares of jewelry and decorations. We saw a tall, older dread standing nearby, so we struck up a conversation. He asked where we going. I said we were going to Santa Barbara, California to start up our reggae band again.

I asked if there was reggae going on in Albuquerque. At this, Dreadie became very excited. He began telling us of how the reggae in town was going very strong. “You could see reggae music almost every night of the week! There were some really good band. But then there was trouble with the gangs.”

“Gangs?” I was a bit distressed by this.

“Oh, yeah. There was some gangs and there was a shoot-out between these two gangs. And a little child was shot in the head and died. Kill up da scene,, man. No more reggae.” Dreadie shook his head. Bill puffed on a cigarette, lost in thought.

“Fuck, man. That’s fucking sucks,” I said to Dreadie. I hoped this wasn’t some sort of warning or evil portent. Just a sad story. We spoke with Dreadie a little while longer and then got something to eat at a small diner. We were served by a large Navajo woman. We made our plans for camping out for a night when we got to California. Norman went over the plan again. He unfolded a Califonnia map. There was a yellow highlighted mark between two blue ink spots…

2 thoughts on “Dancing Before the Cataclysm

  1. It’s the title of my memoir. “Dancing Before the Cataclysm” was a New Wave song I composed for my band, “The Helping Hands.” It was about the world going about it’s business the day before THE SHIT GOES DOWN. Which in our weenie little post-punk minds was the conjuring of my band’s version of the end of the world. Even as the 80s began, we understood clearly that we would find a way to fuck everything up in this world. We were wrong, though. We just thought it would happen a lot sooner than 2008.

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