The Best Anniversary Ever
On August 27th, 2005, my husband Elijah, my brother Loren and our friend Jeremiah and I embarked on a short tour of BC and Alberta playing the music of our Ween cover band Japanese Cowboy. We were all in our twenties and thirties and my first son was over two years away from making his arrival. Elijah and I had been married for six years, together for nearly nine, so it should have been a halcyon, carefree time but owing to family circumstances beyond our control, it was not. Elijah and I were tired and we desperately needed a distraction. Why not organize a short tour of genre bending rock? So we got our Nissan Pathfinder road worthy-ish, rented a trailer, lovingly packed our instruments and amps inside, brought our friend Marc along for the ride and we set off for Golden, Calgary and Jasper.
It was the first time that we had towed a trailer on the Coquihalla Highway. If you have driven the Coquihalla, you’ll know that it is a long, slow, interminable grind up through the Coast Mountains. While our Pathfinder was a pretty good SUV, it was also a twelve-year old vehicle at the time and we foolishly ran the air conditioning while driving up the infernal hill of hell.
Eventually we got to the top of the hill and made it to Kamloops by 3 pm. We spent too long there and Elijah realized that time was getting far too tight. It takes at least four hours to drive from Kamloops to Golden and owing to many trips to Saskatchewan in his childhood, he knew the distance better than we did. We got back on the highway, continued to Salmon Arm and that’s when the adventure really began.
We were just outside of Salmon Arm when the radiator needle shot way up. Elijah quickly pulled over and after a tow to the nearest mechanic – in this case Canadian Tire, we learned that likely due to hauling a trailer over a hill of hell and running the AC at same time, the fan belt had broken and due to the time of day, it would not be repaired until the following day. We accepted the fact that we were officially stranded in Salmon Arm for the night and, despondent, we made our way to a roadside motel.
Elijah called the venue and broke the news to them. The venue manager whose name I’ve forgotten cried, “Noooo!!! You have to get here! Everyone in town is coming tonight. They’re already coming in now! Do whatever you can to get here! Shake your booties on the highway if you have to!”
She must have been pretty persuasive because we immediately began to ask around – the tow truck driver, the front desk clerk, anyone we could find. After about thirty minutes, the front desk clerk said that she might know a guy who could tow our trailer and haul us for a price. Elijah had negotiated a $450 guarantee from the venue in Golden as well as rooms for the night. We quickly realized that we were about to lose our entire guarantee but we figured that we would come out ahead in the end since we would have a free place to sleep later if we did the gig. We decided that it was worth it. Soon, some old Salmon Arm redneck showed up with a massive truck. We hitched our U-Haul trailer to his truck, the five of us squeezed into his cab and he drove us through the mountains for the next three hours.
The Roadhouse Tavern in Golden lived up to its name. It was truly a dive bar and although we didn’t know this at the time, was a peeler bar during the week. I guess that they were trying to make it a classier joint on the weekends but that was not possible. When we finally arrived at around 11 pm, the bar was already packed with people lined up to get drinks. We set up in less than thirty minutes – easily one of our fastest set ups ever – and this included putting a drum kit together as well as hooking up all the synthesizers in a weird daisy chain that only I seem to comprehend. We hadn’t eaten a bit since Kamloops so Marc lined up to get beer for us so that we could at least have some energy to play. We played a rocking three hour show and then gratefully paid our guarantee to the Salmon Arm Redneck who had stuck around until 2 am so that he could get paid. All of Golden was out in full force, dancing and drinking until closing. One woman even showed her breasts. They were very nice breasts too.
By 3 a.m., Elijah and I were completely exhausted so we left most our gear in the venue and collapsed into one of the rooms upstairs. The bed was one the most uncomfortable beds in which I’ve ever had the displeasure of sleeping. The springs bowed in the middle and every time I moved, my lower back would go into spasms. I was so tired that I still managed to get about four hours of sleep. We later learned that the weekday strippers in the Roadhouse Tavern would make a little extra money on the side by turning tricks in these rooms. The chambermaid even asked the guys the next morning, “Did you actually sleep here?”
Elijah and I staggered out of bed at around 7:00 am that morning, went to a local café for breakfast and got a ride back to Salmon Arm from the venue manager. She dropped us off at the Canadian Tire where we picked up our Pathfinder, all nice and roadworthy again. We thanked her, said our goodbyes and she went on her way to do a few errands. Before Elijah and I drove back to Golden, we stopped at the Dairy Queen in Salmon Arm and we each got large chocolate dipped cones, wished each other a happy anniversary and kissed. It was better than any romantic dinner.
Our wedding anniversary is on August 28th. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about our wedding because August 28th, 1999 was not a good day. I don’t regret the marriage but owing to various wholly unnecessary dramas, that day itself was one of the most stressful days of my life. But hey, the worse the wedding, the better the marriage, right? If the wedding day is bad, things can only get better from there. Get all the crap out of the way at once or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself for years. But this anniversary was the most like us, our relationship. It was sweet and truly represented who we were and still are. We had managed to fix a lousy situation and turn it into something good, much like our wedding day.
What happened to the guys? After the show, Marc, Jeremiah and Loren got invited over to a woman’s trailer – as in a trailer park trailer not a movie trailer. Loren and Jeremiah were single at the time so they were hoping for a booty call. The woman read them her really bad poetry and then her boyfriend showed up. He was not happy to have three inebriated dudes in his girlfriend’s trailer. The guys took the hint and staggered back to their rooms, which had also been previously frequented by strippers/prostitutes. They woke up bleary eyed sometime the next morning and drank their vodka in one of the glacial streams that feed the Kicking Horse River. I’m not sure if that sobered them up, cured their hangovers or just kept them a little buzzed. Mercifully for them, they still managed to load the gear back into the trailer before Elijah and I returned. We found the guys at the venue, with Jeremiah demonstrating a pole dance. The pole had been taken down for our show but I guess the Roadhouse was back to being a peeler bar for the week.
We hitched up the U-Haul trailer to the Pathfinder and began the now afternoon trek through the Rockies to Calgary. It was my first time driving through the Rockies and I found the experience truly humbling. It’s shocking how quickly the landscape changes from the sheer blue-grey cliffs of this magnificent mountain range to the forested foothills to the rolling brown grasslands near Calgary all within the space of a two-hour drive. We have driven the No. 1 a few times since then and I always find the geography so shocking and remarkable.
We arrived in Calgary at the Broken City Club by dinnertime. We set up, sound checked, ate a great meal and played one the best shows of our existence as a band – before or since. I don’t know if it was the venue, the very enthusiastic crowd in Cow Town, the lack of sleep, sleeping in broken stripper beds the night before or the fact that we had actually made it this far but it was damn fine show.
We set off the next morning for Jasper for our final gig of the tour. We took the highway up through Banff, saw the shrinking Columbia Ice Fields and nearly went over the edge of a cliff when the trailer began to fishtail and take us with it. Fortunately, Elijah was at the wheel and straightened us out. All I know is that Elijah is the best person to take on a road trip if you have some tricky travelling to do.
I think that why I remember this anniversary so fondly is because there is a story behind it – a funny, loving story of friendship, music and laughter. We tell each other stories as a means of connection and remembering the feelings associated with the details. In the end, we have our stories. This day was truly us with no pretence, no false declarations of feelings over an overpriced meal, no romantic cruise. While that stuff is great for plenty of folks, it has never really been our way. We had figured out the best way to continue to play music with our beloved friends and make memories. August 28th, 2005 was truly the best wedding anniversary ever.