Going To See The Wailers, Fear & Loathing Style!

there are a couple of places in Mexico where I can go to totally relax, but the two main ones for me are one on the Caribbean beach near Tulum and another in the Mayan jungle near Palenque. these are both places where you can string up a hammock for only 2-3 dollar per night and sleep outside (sometimes under a roof, but no walls), listening to the sounds around you. but let me first take you to the jungle now.

there is a “campsite” near Palenque where a person can pitch a tent, sleep in a cabin or his own hammock on his way travelling through Mexico. but it is also infamous for the strange people that hibernate there. I guess you could call them hippies, although not all of them look like one. one of the hippies that I have met there is a German guy called Hans, about whom I need to tell you more some other time, but for the purpose of this story I will first tell you about Bill.

Bill is one of those hippies that looks the part: his hair looks unwashed and his beard seems big enough to be housing a family of sparrows, and I swear I once saw a hummingbird fly out of his beard too. well ok, I won’t swear on it because it is a lie, but it makes for a great story. Bill is skinny and extremely tanned. he spends all day lying in his hammock, drinking beer. sometimes he’s got a bit of a bad drink, but he is usually quite harmless.

I say usually because there was this one time where he came home to his hammock on one of those rare days that he actually did leave it to do some shopping, only to find that the space where his hammock (and that of a friend) was hanging, had been invaded by a bunch of tourists from the south of Europe. they had, without asking, rehung his hammock and put 5 more hammocks in so they could stay together. this means that there were now 7 hammocks hanging where there is only place for 4, unless you like to spoon a stranger in a different hammock. needless to say that Bill, slightly inebriated at the time, was rather upset. the Europeans though didn’t really care and were mocking him from their own hammock, teasing Bill to a boil.

this being the straw that broke the camel’s back (or if you’d rather hear: the drop that overflowed the bucket) made Bill grab behind the pole of this palapa revealing his machete. and as a bearded madman he stormed at the guy in the hammock and with two big movements chopped his hammock down. floored the poor (also drunk) European. anyway, longer story a bit shorter, Bill got expelled from the site, but he is not a bad guy at heart, just a little bit loopy.

Bill had recently moved back to Kentucky, where his father was in bad health, and his father eventually past away this spring. he is now the owner or caretaker of his house in Louisville, wants to really do it up (he is a carpenter by trade), but can’t put himself to it. this is where we come in. being somewhat en-route from Pittsburgh to Denver we decided to visit Bill (he had already visited Jonathan twice in Amsterdam), and when we finally got there at 1am he came running into the street waving his little blue led light around, dancing and grinning. he was really happy to see us and would almost not let go from the hug he was giving us. eventually we could escape his embrace and carry our stuff into the house.

the house was in kind of a weird state. coming in it didn’t really look like anybody was living there, there were boxes and stuff everywhere. the furniture looked like it was out of place and the whole thing didn’t look all too clean. we got taken upstairs where we rolled out our sleeping bags on the wooden floor, got supplied with a sleeping mat and finally got to see the part of the house where he lived. in the back of the attic he opened up a big sliding door, slowly revealing a dark tiny room, only lit with a red light and a lava lamp. the walls were covered by multicoloured cloths and tie-dye sheets. his stereo was pumping loud with the bass turned up even more. there was one couch and a whole lot of pillows on the floor. yes. it was a little hippie den indeed. that night he told us about his plans that he had for the house and also the van that he just bought. the biggest problem, according to him, was getting the big dressers out of the downstairs to be stored on the attic too, so they’d be worth more in ten years time. the stories were getting longer and longer, like this story, so we decided to go to sleep and talk more in the morning.

the next morning we got up to see the state of the house in daylight (it looked better at night), but we were too tired to do anything about it so we went into town, looked around a bit, ate, did some shopping , walked in the park and basically wasted the time away a little bit and caught up with all of Bill’s stories. in the evening another friend of Bill arrived who was going to stay at the house, his name is Jim, and if possible, he’s more of a character than Jonathan and Bill combined, but more about that later. the day was coming to an end and we were going to sleep. the next morning we got up and decided that we should really help the poor guy. Jonathan went into the kitchen, where you couldn’t do anything because the sink was covered with all kinds of shite, so he decided to start there while I wanted to give a hand with the furniture. where I found dust everywhere, Jonathan started to meet Bill’s uninvited guests (we had already seen some cockroaches scatter in the basement where the improvised toilet and shower were) the maggots. now we have seen some dirty kitchens in our time, but never were there maggots. at this point I am getting more and more happy that I taking care of the dressers and not the sink and we started to make room for these giants of wood.  with joined forces Bill, Jim and I were starting. Bill was about to know half of the staircase out to be able to get everything upstairs, but I was just in time to stop him because I had measured that it should just fit through. using some ropes in the same way you use them to heave a piano (they had never seen this way of lifting things up stairs before) it was quite an easy task to get everything upstairs. we cleaned out more of the house and sat down on the porch at 5pm to enjoy the work we had done.

so thus far I have talked about four people: Jonathan, Bill, Jim and myself, but the title of the story reveals that there must be a fifth person to make this story complete. so finally we get to the point where I introduce him and get to the reason I started to write this, to tell about the night we were about to start only a little bit later.

in town, almost right around the corner of where Bill lives, there is a tiny little shop with all kinds of hippie and grateful dead stuff. all the tie-dye shirt you would never want and don’t need, posters, bumper stickers, glass pipes, well, you know what kind of stuff. and in this shop works a guy called Dingo. the fifth stooge. this guy spends his days hanging out in the back of the shop having girls, or elves, as he calls them, walk over his back (ok, he does have a couple of herniated discs, but I doubt if it is really helpful, I think he just likes the attention). he is a friendly guy with dreads, but a lot shorter than Jonathan’s.  so let’s back to the house. the phone rings and it is Dingo. the Wailers, Bob Marley’s old backing band, are playing that night and apparently we all want to go (I’m not really a big reggae fan myself). we try to find out where and when and by the time we do, we find out that the program had already started an hour ago, but the Wailers probably won’t be on stage for another 3 hours. we wait for Dingo to arrive and get into Jim’s car to drive there. both Bill and Dingo are locals, but by the way they give driving directions you wouldn’t say so. sitting in the backseat (because that is the best place if you are giving directions, right?) they are trying to tell Jim where to go, the only problem being that they don’t really know themselves. on the radio is an oldies station and even though he is driving and is relying on the two local fools with contradicting directions, he keeps on cranking the radio up as loud as it will go. not paying attention to the oncoming traffic he is leaning backwards to be able to hear what our co-pilots are saying, although they are more arguing about it that giving real directions. so they just decided to shut up and let Jim drive. so far I haven’t really described Jim to you, so this might be the right time.

Jim is a big guy with long dark hair. really long hair. he has one of these big goaties and he has a certain way of looking that reminds you of a wizard trying to put you under a spell. that “crazy stare” with eyes wide open. he has constant jaw movement like he is on coke and his general way of talking, moving and driving is like he is on drugs, but apparently that is just his natural state. so this giant of a guy is now driving way too fast through Louisville in a driving style that reminds me of “fear and loathing in las vegas”, and come to think of it, that is also the way how he moves and talks!!! so you see what I mean when I say it looks like he is on drugs? any way, he is racing through town in some general direction and yells to the back that somebody should just tell him when to take a turn of that street, and right away Dingo yells “RIGHT! yeah, maybe go right here”. it being a little bit a last second call, Jim now tugs at the steering-wheel with all his might, propelling us into the side of the car, and we turn right. grinding his jaws like a mad man he is now bent over the steering-wheel trying to look for signs of anybody going to a reggae show. in the mean time Dingo is “pretty sure” it is around here somewhere and we pull into a parking lot next to the river. it turns out that Dingo is actually right, because standing on the river bank we can hear some live music in the distance. we follow the sound to around the corner and find the venue.

now it’s only fair to mention that even though it is Jim’s natural state to look like he just stepped out of “fear and loathing”, he could have stepped out of it in so many ways too. the first night he broke out a big bottle of moonshine that they all got wasted on, and he’s been talking about walking around on festival saying “dose me” to random people until he did get dosed. after 3 hours he then decided that the full acid hit wasn’t enough because he really likes to trip hard, so he went looking for more and ended up taking three doses. on this trip he didn’t have any acid though, but he did have a reservoir of pills. some of them legal because he is a haemophiliac with all kinds of muscle problems (he often walks around with a huge staff to support him, supporting the wizard look even more) and was told as a small child that he might not make it past the age of eleven. he did make it past eleven, but because of the constant blood transfers he got HIV in the eighties, giving him yet another deadline on life. he’s beaten those odds too, since I saw him walking around in 2009 with my own eyes. the man is full of stories about his crazy life as an uneducated airplane engineer in Europe and while telling his many stories he keeps switching from english to ameri-german to make him feel closer to us, completely ignoring that by definition the Dutch don’t want anything to do with Germans out of resentment for the second world war, but we don’t care.  on this trip he’s got in his assortment of multi-coloured pills all kinds of uppers, downers, painkillers, synthetic morphine and even some rufalin. and before we went in the car to see the Wailers play, I am sure I have seen him sake a couple of swigs from the moonshine and pop at least a handful of pills. Bill has been drinking a bit, Dingo is pretty much stoned and Jonathan, who is usually sparse on the alcohol but thrives on acid trips, has been drinking moonshine and might have joined in on some of the pills. so here we are, at the waterfront, and while Dingo and Jim roll a couple of stoneys in the car I am slowly starting to realise that I am so the only sober one in this crowd and am starting to see the fun in it.

we make it over to the venue which turns out to be some kind of amphitheatre behind the parking lot, surrounded by hills. since they only put 3 small gates at the “entrance”, there are security guards placed everywhere on the hills to prevent people from sneaking in to this 25 dollar concert. we decide to walk around the hills to the other side because Dingo suddenly seems to remember being here before and he swears that on the other side there is a liquor store with a table in the back where you can sit and drink while watching the gig from the side. climbing up and down the hills we get to the other side where there is a building, but it’s not a liquor store but a bus station that’s out of use. there is a liquor store on the other side of the road that we decide to hit to get some more beer before we go in. I am starting to enjoy all of this and instead of running down the hill like the inebriated hippies are now doing, I am still high on realizing how funny this whole situation is and decide to roll down the side of the hill yelling out “WHOOOOOOEEEEEEEE!!!!”. although it really was fun, I am now covered in bits of grass that keep stinging me through my shirt and while the other go into the liquor store I now have to get half naked in the parking lot to try and rid of that itchy shirt. I am plucking away like a chicken plucker and manage to get the shirt quite clean and follow the guys into the store. I buy a bottle of water while the rest can’t really decide which brand to take, but eventually decide upon “magic hat nr9”, a strong beer that has some fortune cookie wisdoms written on the inside op the bottle tops. my favourite one is “be a traveller, not a tourist” and I decide to make that my life motto. or at least for that night. we are starting to mosey on over to the closest side of the venue where there are even less gates. I almost wonder in by mistake, but then, by mistake, turn around to meet up with the loitering friends. by mistake because only seconds later I realise that I could have been inside without paying!!! so I’m hanging around, talking with Jonathan about some of the gigs we’ve seen so far and some other stuff when we slowly start to realise we are missing the rest of the gang. we are starting to look around and find huey, louey and dewey standing on the inside grinning like cheshire cats trying to wave us over. Jonathan first makes his way in, trying to look like he is looking for something on the ground and I am starting to fear that I might now well be the only one that needs to pay, because I already had my chance to get in for free. I decide to just walk over there and if I get caught, to take it like a man and run. there is no need for running because we all get in, no problem.

so there we are, five hippies high on the thought that we just saved 125 dollars, looking around the venue where some guy is on stage doing a solo show that has nothing to do with reggae (so much for a crowd warmer), when we realise that everybody, apart from the big guys with security t-shirts, is wearing a bright green wristband. being the motley crew that we are, we already stick out like a sore thumb, but it is quite obvious that there are no bright green wristbands sporting our wrists. I put my hands deep in my pockets and walk on over to the main grounds. I get there and turn around to see that Jonathan was doing the same trick. the other three bears are just walking around like nothing is wrong, drinking the beers from their polystyrene cups, that they now had no problem with smuggling in because of the lack of security at the gate.

I am starting to feel my pockets for something I can use to make a wristband out of, but don’t really have anything there. for a moment I consider using the leaves of trees to braid a wristband, but can’t really see that happening, so I just relax and try to place my one wrist under my hat that I have taken off for the occasion. when I turn around to look at our friends I now see Jim and Bill grinning like a mother-fucker showing off the “wristbands” they had just made out of the label of a bottle of gatorade. sure the colour wasn’t quite right, and although Jim’s was mainly green, Bills already had a lot of orange in it and by now most of the label was gone. they tore off the last bit of the label and shared it with Dingo and me. Dingo pushed the tiny bit of green plastic under his silver bracelet and I got a peace that wouldn’t even stretch around my whole wrist, but cover barely more than half of it. to top it off it still had more orange that green in it and the colour green was really nothing like the official wrist band. Jonathan had to do without but came up with his own plan. he had a reggae coloured sweatband in his pocket that he was now wrapping around his wrist with the green turned to the outside, at least having something there too.

Jonathan was the first one to test the wrist band, because he had to go from the dimmed, shady place we were sitting towards the open area where the brightly lit toilets were to go and take a leek. realising it looked nothing like the wristband, afraid that he might get kicked out, but his body telling him that he really had to go to the toilet, he went to the toilet dancing, waving his arms like a monkey to blur anybody’s clear view of his wrists. five minutes later he came back smiling. both from the relieve of having peed, but more so because it had worked and he was still inside!! but we weren’t home free yet. the Wailers didn’t play yet and it was still kind of light out. and wouldn’t you know it, ten minutes before the Wailers were on, the security guards are starting their rounds to check the wrist bands… when they get to us Jim happily waves his gatorade arm in the air, showing off the “good” job he did making it. I make sure that only the green part is showing, resting my hand on my leg or else the half band might fall off, and Jonathan lies down half on his hands. the security guards pass us with such ease that we now think that they didn’t even look, but two rows up the same guard actually asks a girl to show him her wrist band, so we are now realise that he did check and we are now free to dance around with glee.

the Wailers’ gig wasn’t really special and hardly any of the original Wailers were still in it, so that kind of passes by like a blur. towards the end of the gig Dingo, who had been running around the park chatting up girls, comes up to us telling us about this band that plays not far from there; just at the end of the road left and the some other corner. it sounds like it’s a walkable distance, and most of us aren’t ready to go home yet so we all decide to go. Jim gets behind the wheel pulling off some even more maniacal driving than before and we are on our way to find that right turn.

well, as it turns out, that turn wasn’t that simple and that bar wasn’t that close, sending us onto another wild car-ride, searching for the right road. gas-station attendants and by-passers have no clue what street we are trying to find, so we are pretty much up shit creek when Jim remembers he actually does have a paddle: he reaches in the door-pocket and takes out his GPS unit. Dingo types in the address and attaches the GPS unit to the windshield so now we should be able to get there no problem. the only problem seems to be the fact that nobody is paying attention to it but me, and I am sitting all the way in the back, two rows away. everybody is just doing all kinds of things, Bill is trying to intrepid the unit (but doesn’t get it) and Jim is trying to talk with everybody while cranking up the radio, when he really should be looking at the road in front of him, which he’s not. he is more leaning backwards to tell yet another story so I’m keeping a straight eye on both the road and the GPS trying to give directions: “left and then right here… right… RIGHT!! RIGHT HERE!!!” needless to say that we just missed another turn. we do a U-y and get back on the road. the good thing is that after driving for half an hour to what should be a five minute drive, we are now actually really getting close. just one more street and we’re there. there. we are safely parked.

We all jump out the car and get to the bar. Dingo is eager to introduce his new Amsterdam friends to everybody, so he runs around going: “hey, this is Eric. he’s from Amsterdam!!” he really wants to introduce Jonathan too, because he’s got the look, but Jonathan is trailing way behind to make a phone call. Dingo runs into the bar and leaves me outside realising that I’ll be the one introducing Jonathan now. as Jonathan approaches I ask him who was on the phone to. it was Helen, a girl we met two years ago at a festival in Ohio. she has dreads and brought her own toilet to the festival. of course Jonathan told her too late that we were going to be in town, so it doesn’t look like she’ll be able to join us after all, so we get going with the introductions.

the band of jolly people is about to get back “on stage” for their second set, but are not really able to pull the crowd back inside. I blame the air-conditioning because although the band is not bad, it is really freezing inside, so I go back out where it’s warmer. as I walk down the street I get my phone out to see if you might have messaged me in the meantime, Jim comes walking up to me, all wide-eyed and wizard like. “you know, I’ve got insurance.” he says. just as I am about to wonder why he decided to share this bit of information with me, he continues: “and you know how to drive, right? I mean: are you allowed to drive in the United States? because I think it might be better if I would let you drive later.” in my head I tell him that I already thought that it might have been better to let me drive earlier too, but instead I assure him that I can, I would and that  I’d love to drive us back home later. relieved he immediately gives me the car keys, just in case he might change his mind later. and happily he goes back into the bar. we are now mostly standing outside where pitchers of beer come and go when there is a girl that we don’t know comes down the street and starts hugging Jonathan first and then me. it turns out to be Helen who doesn’t have dreads any more, but shoulder length bleached hair. when she goes to greet all the others that are there, it looks like they don’t recognise her either. she hadn’t seen them since she had bleached her hair. Jonathan and I look at each other and ask why she looks so different. Jonathan seems a bit disappointed, because he kind of fancied her before, but is not too sure anymore now she looks so different. but tuned in to the intoxicants he turns out of the conversation leaving me to entertain her. we talk about her change in appearance, her personal toilet, her boyfriend and how they are looking for a house together. the boyfriend is at work, working for a delivery service, but is dying to meet the dutchmen. mostly because he seems quite jealous that his girl is running off to meet to strange guys he’s never heard about.
outside the party is starting, people break out some glow sticks to play with and Bill jumps in like a madman to have a first go at them. with no specific pattern he swings the glow-sticks in circles, trying to make them catch each other in the centre (or is that: trying NOT to make them catch in the centre?). Dingo is up next, making sure that the girls see him spinning. Helen is trying to push me to do it too, but I don’t feel like giving a show, but I give in by showing Dingo a couple of tips of how to get things more fluent on a moment that not a lot of people are watching anymore. a bunch of people have now gone inside to listen to the band play and Jim is running around like a headless chicken at this point. he is trying to find a memory card that fits in his camera because he wants to record the band because it is the most awesomest thing he has ever seen. still outside people are getting more drunk so they start lighting up cigarettes. Helen is not pleased and invites me to come inside where there is no smoke. I decide that she is right, and will rather be in the cold than the smoke by now. Jim has found a memory card for his phone and is now filming the band, yelling out how awesome it is!

a couple of minutes later Helen’s boyfriend comes in. he is happy that he could make it and starts shaking my and Dingo’s hands, saying he is happy to meet us. We try to explain that Dingo is not Jonathan, but he doesn’t seem to hear us, so we decide to let it slide for the moment. So now I’m chatting away with this guy whose name I already forgot and the only thing I can think is how she went from a dreaded hippie chick to a mundane housewife because I can hardly believe how “normal” this guy is. I always thought that she was more into freaky guys like Jonathan. around three in the morning I decide that it is about time to return home. I find all the guys and even get the chance to let Helen’s boyfriend meet Jonathan. when we are really ready to leave, suddenly Dingo is on the phone to some girl so now we have to stay until he meets her. when she finally gets there it’s clear that he is leaving with her so I walk to the car to get it ready. I start the engine, check the system and turn around towards the club.

this seems like a good ending for this evening and this story, but I am afraid there there still is a little more, because if you know what mood these guys were in on the way to the first concert, you can only imagine what they are like six hours and a lot of booze and other stuff later. so here I am, trying to drive home, with Bill shouting directions in my ear because Jim has again turned up the radio too loud. way too loud! I now seriously can’t hear a thing and it is futile to try and tell him this, so I just rely on my homing sense and Bill’s hand gestures. while everything in the car is now going hard, loud and fast, I surprisingly manage to keep the car going within the speed-limit and soon I start recognising landmarks that are telling me we are actually getting closer. in my right ear I hear Jonathan yelling for food. it is not uncommon that this happens on the road, and since we usually manage to find a Taco Bell, we now have no problem to find yet another Taco Bell, one that is actually still open at 3:30 a.m. I queue up for the drive through and Jonathan and Bill slide the side doors of the car open. the radio is finally turned down enough so we can understand each other and I kind of convince everybody to just get a seven layer burrito, and they agree.  pulling up to the speaker post as I’m ready to give my order, Jim suddenly decides to jump out of the car and runs to the menu board. before I get a chance to give the order, Jim starts asking all kinds of questions about food that clearly have no place at Taco Bell, while dancing around the menu board, running back and forth to the speaker post to yell into the microphone. in between these bursts of Jim I manage to give the order for the four burritos and Jim manages to order some kind of cheese stick. the voice in the speaker is about to give us the amount we should pay, when Jim decides he wants a milkshake too. he now hangs upside down over the speaker post trying to convince the poor girl on the other side that she should really try to get him a milkshake even though Taco Bell really doesn’t have any. in the end we manage to calm Jim down and while he climbs into the car I apologise for my passengers to the girl in the post and just as we start driving to the window, Jim start shouting that he wants a water. I wisely ignore him, or else we’d be there even longer.

five minutes later we are home, munching on our burritos. I crawl up the stairs to where my sleeping bag is, and as I look back I see Jim and Bill reaching for the left over moonshine. I just sigh, continue up the stairs, snuggle up on the hard wooden floor and think of you and how I’m ever going to be able to tell you all about this night I just had.

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