At The Studio in Northern Vermont, there was a phone call from almost the easternmost town in The U.S. of A... Missed by thirty miles and a tiny fishing town.
A promoter needed some music for four days of the weekend if we could drive right away. Jim Ringer and Mary McCaslin, some other folks who'd been there as well, had gone back to Saratoga.
Tom Mitchell said sure. Since I was the only one with a car, I drove. Tom took the back seat because he slept whenever not eating.Al, long hair pulled by one hand the other stroking his beard. He'd put his head, big bug-eyed eyes, out the window if it wasn't so chilly. Through Vermont, Al was the pilot telling us to notice the Grand Canyon.
"There's your white house."
This is a gentleman who ran major league music tours. He ran tours all over the world for the State Department...Any further questions about the state of foreign policy over the last thirty years?
We cross the steep Rte. 2 pass into New Hampshire.
"There's your white birch trees!"
Now validating we've gone from the Green Mountains to the White Mountains. Roger Wilco, Al.
One night in Saratoga, Al and Tom went back to the place early. Around four or so Luke and I leave the Tin & Lint Saloon. Followed by the D.A. and Public Defender, (they'd been buying). We chat outside. Luke lights a cigarette and then the trash can he was leaning on. It's been free & easy tequila earlier in the evening, then it became only cheap. We wander back to the second floor high ceiling Victorian above the Main Street. I looked back and there were our two legal friends running out of the bar with pitchers of beer to quell the conflagration. The next morning the alarm clocks were never found. Remember, free then cheap. Most of the living room furniture was upside down. We had taped the handle onto the Phone when we threw it out the front window. Little bit of neglect in opening the window first.
That was Ray, our Mayor.
Drifting back and forth in the light morning breeze, hanging about six feet above Main Street's sidewalk, our telephone is ringing.
Luke and I are standing at floor to ceiling windows without any clothing, lean out and say, "Sure Ray, pick up the phone!"
It's for Al! The United States State Department.!"
Al's on the throne. He'll call back when he finishes the paper!"
Luke is currently a Sociology Professor at Harvard.
I visited his family in Michigan and spent a wonderful time in downtown Howell. Got to know his delightful folks and saw five year old Luke looking almost exactly like me.
When Luke married dear Corrine, he gave Corrine's elderly Grandmother a very obvious, long, passionate, deep French kiss. The lady lost fifty years.
We still haven't reached Maine!
"There's your Pine Tree!"
We're in Maine.
Al called out the Pine Tree Report every half-hour or so.
Through the tens of thousands of miles we've all driven around the country, we still search for "The Phantom Diner"!
After about an hour of nothing but Pines and Al, I pull into a little Pine vertical planked saloon/diner.
"What'll it be boys?"
We'd sat at a side table. The little Juke Box selector on the wall with the swing pages. Dottie slapped the table, turned and hollered another table's order twenty feet to the cook. The cook looked like Phil from Saratoga. Phil got into late night basic food because his wife turned him over to the Kehauver Commission. He was number two to Meyer and Lucky. They got to know, trust and respect this young fella. He was smart with their money so he was treated rather well. "Phil...You will never carry a gun!...But you'll never be more than ten feet from three gentlemen with many guns with your well-being as their only responsibility." Meyer ,Lucky and Bugsy valued Phil.
He got into late night chilli and eggs over formica and stool cusine.
She was hanging up the phone as he walked into the parlor. "Phil, that was Mr. Kehauver. You're in the restaurant buisiness full-time."
Phil's wife took a four year Carribian vacation before the Mafia said, "Okay, we won't kill you."
In Maine the cook was heavy-set. His big cigar ash sometimes missing the grill. His fly swatter and spatula were interchangeable.
The guys at the pool table and counter all wore red plaid wood hunter's caps. Some with both earflaps down, some with one down, some with the other. The women had their names double-stitched above the left breast pocket. It was bowling night.There wasn't a crossroads, much less a town thirty miles west or east of this joint. Sponsor's names on back.
The "Special" was Meatloaf Sandwich, Canned Peas, Mashed Potatoes and Apple Pie.
We all turned to one another. Could just be a Phantom Diner. We just might be there.
Tom;s eyes bugged out flipping through the music choices. Late twenties, thirties Harlem swing, Forties big bands. Fifties Country.
Dottie came back with our Specials . She leaned her Shirley Booth style bosom over Al's plate.
"Anything else, Honey?"
If we weren't there we hadn't missed it by much.
We paid, tipped big. Dottie patted us all on the backs and said, "See you boys again!"
Went to the outhouses titled "Bucks" and "Does". I pulled out on the Heavy-Duty pine bordered straight two-lane. We'd all been glancing at each other. Al starts to turn around in the front seat next to me. I suggested it might not be such a good idea. I had this image of a tubby, six-foot-two hairy pillar of salt text to me in the Toyota.
I risked everything and glanced back in the mirror.
We'd found it!
It wasn't there!
Only the third paranormal experience I've enjoyed. The others while riding freight trains; one in Saratoga would take another ten pages.
We're still not at the gig, are we?
At the Hotel in Calais (by locals pronounced Callous). they didn't know who the hell we were. We called the promoter, got it figured out. This place was old and the floors and walls went every which way. None level or vertical.
Time to go to the radio station and make a commercial for the weekend.
The station was owned by Buffalo Bob Smith.
We went nuts with all the Howdy Doody memorabilia. Tom plays, I do a voice-over and Al has to be physically restrained from slipping an autographed photo of Howdy under his serape.
For a few days we go across the river into Canada to visit. Whole new Easterner Time Zone 'cross The river. More Eastern than Eastern Time Zone!. The region had been a hot smuggling area during prohibition. now dope. Ever see those big fancy estates on Rocky Maine points with their own little docks in quiet coves like George Herbert Walker Bushs' "Walker Point"?
Got to know a nice customs guard.
The club in the hotel was old-wooden and just right funky. The last night a part-time waitress was working. A touch under ninety years old. Maybe seventy pounds. She yelled all night for "Carolina Sunshine Girl!" Tom had to turn around a bunch of times to keep from breaking up. He finally sang it later in the night. She stood swooning about two feet from the stage.
About then,"Swoosh, Swoosh, Swoosh . . ." In the doorway in the back of the club, silhouetted in the lobby's chandeliers was a fella dripping wet in hip-waders. It was our friend, the customs guard finishing a patrol of the river. He took his pipe from his mouth and toasted Tom. Water dripped from him, down the angled flooring toward the stage.
The guitar was barely held from the stage as Tom fell on his back laughing.
The trip home was about the same.
Back to Freestone...