By the time the band got off the stage it was around 2:30 a.m. Last call was long gone and the booze backstage was running out. Carlos was summoned and he offered two more bottles of booze but then was closing the place down. Two bottles of booze might sound like a lot, but there were about 20 people drinking from those two bottles and they just rotated around a circle with each person taking a swig and then passing it to the next person. No ice, no mixers, just booze. No one complained and no one asked for anything else. Men, women, young and old, people just kept the stories flowing as fast as the booze. The two guys who had been up on stage singing decided they needed to commemorate this special night. Ideas were discussed and discarded. Finally they agreed on a tattoo. Not just any tattoo though. This was something special. They decided together that only one person could do the tattoo. Unfortunately that person was in Mexico. Just across the border they said.
They were not exactly sure which street but they were sure that once they got there they could find it. Nothing like wandering around a Mexican border town half-drunk in the middle of the night asking around for a tattoo guy that was only known by a nickname. Surprisingly, almost everyone in the room agreed to go. The next thing you know the group of twenty had been installed in PK’s tour bus.
The driver was passed out so PK did the driving. Yeah, looking back, perhaps it was not the best idea but he said he could drive it. It was only after the first policeman pulled him over after 30 miles that he figured out how to turn the headlights on. Everyone was still buzzed and flying on the trip down. There was no one sleeping and I don’t even remember anyone passed out. I do remember that during the entire trip down there was a porn movie playing on a loop on the television.
When conversation would lag enough all of a sudden you would hear some loud moaning and realize the porn was still playing.
JL and I hung out towards the back with two of her friends, one of whom she was repeatedly trying to set me up with and another who was JL’s business partner in a venture that had nothing to do with music. This was before you needed a passport to cross the border by land. We thought that at the border, the Mexican border guards would at least want to have a look inside the bus or have everyone step out. Nope. In the middle of the night, the guard just waved the bus through and PK barely had to slow down.
During the drive, RH was trying to draw the design that they both wanted on their bodies and they had a big back and forth that at one point had me look up and see that PK was taking a turn drawing and doing so while not even looking at the road. When I think about who could have died that night, it would have been a much bigger deal than the night Buddy Holly and Richie Valens died.
Through the streets we went. PK’s tour bus skills were ok for open highway, but in tiny roads with parked cars on either side and lighting that was dim, he was having a tough time making his way through the streets. I don’t remember him hitting any cars but I do remember him taking a nice sized chunk out of a house that was especially close to a corner and he didn’t even bother to stop. No one knew exactly where they were going. All they could remember was that the tattoo artist was located next to a combination nightclub/brothel and that he worked and lived in the place next to it. Several cubs were investigated and at each club a couple of people would get off and ask around but fewer people were getting back on the bus.
What had seemed like a lot of fun a few hours earlier was wearing thin and cheap drinks and partying until the dawn sounded like more fun. By the time PK and RH found the right place the sun was starting to rise and they spent 30 minutes banging on the door before the guy stumbled down the stairs to see who was there. Once he saw who it was he got pretty excited. When he was shown the drawings of the body art he said it would take a few hours total so the four or five of us that were left from the bus went to the bar/brothel next door to hang out. There were no customers at the bar or even a bartender.
There was one table in the corner that was occupied by what looked like the women who probably worked upstairs in the brothel. To this day I wish I had taken a photo of the inside of that bar. I’m not sure that I have ever seen a scene which would have told itself so perfectly with a photo. JL was depressed looking at it and had grown tired of the whole experience. She was ready to go. The suburban part of her was returning and the adventure was gone.
I agreed to go too but I wanted some assistance for what I was sure was going to be a very long morning so I grabbed a bottle of tequila from behind the bar and left $40 and walked out with JL and one of her friends. The other two people stayed behind to wait out the tattoos. So, there we were. Three people who had no idea where we were exactly, in a very sketchy neighborhood with no other people in sight walking the street and passing a bottle of tequila back and forth as we tried to find a busy street that we could catch a cab and get to an airport. We walked and walked. After about 30 minutes of no cabs and no place to even call a cab from I remember passing a bus stop that had about ten people waiting in line to get on the bus.
Surely riding a bus would be better than walking. It had been a long night. So, we got in line. When the bus arrived and we tried to get on, we had no pesos and panicked for a brief instant but the driver was more than happy to take $10 to let us on and we took about three more steps on the bus and were stopped. No more seats. We were standing. Better than not walking, but not by much. We still passed the tequila bottle back and forth and then I heard a whisper and saw a nudge. It was kind of the same feeling you get when you are popping popcorn in the microwave. At first it is just a pop and then a few seconds and another pop.
Then it becomes full on popping. I knew what was happening because I could hear the name in the whispers. Someone had recognized JL and now it was spreading through the bus. She was huge there. Monster huge. During our walk that morning there were posters of her new record on bus stops . People on the bus were getting excited and pressing a little closer.
JL knew what was happening. Because she lived it, she could sense it happening sooner than I could but this was a situation where she had no experience. Being trapped on a bus after a long night surrounded by fans could go in a lot of different directions. Looking back now at the situation, what happened should have been expected but when you are in the middle of it and half drunk and tired, you just aren’t as confident and a little paranoia seeps in. People started switching places so they could say hello to her or touch her.
I don’t remember anyone asking for an autograph. A couple of photos were taken but mostly people just wanted to say hello or say how much they enjoyed her music. People who had been in the back made their way to the front and it was a very organized procession as each person took five or ten seconds to speak to her. After about ten or fifteen minutes everyone had been met and the people who had squeezed on the bus in the three or four stops since we had boarded had also taken their turn. The bus driver had been told we were looking for a cab because we wanted to go to the airport.
When he saw a cab that was empty he basically cut off the cab so it couldn’t move until the three of us made our way off the bus into the cab. The taxi driver went from really ticked off to really happy when he saw who he was driving. He was even more excited to show off the fact he had every single tape of JL’s music and played it full blast the entire way to the airport. By the time we made it to the airport the tequila was gone. I was exhausted. This was 24 hours straight of being awake. The day was going to get longer. No planes were available for four hours. The thing I have always found amazing is that even though JL had been up even longer than me, she never stopped smiling the entire four hours when it seemed like she met a thousand people and took hundreds of photos. She signed autographs and chatted and never stopped being gracious and it is the reason she was so popular.
People could feel the love she had for her fans. Just as we were getting ready to board the plane, PK and RH showed up. They had decided the bus driver could drive the bus back and they wanted to get back much more quickly. We wanted to see the tattoos. They were both bandaged but each of them removed it to show tattoos which were definitely worth what everyone had gone through. To this day they are both really proud of those tattoos. The guy who did them was a genius. He died a year later in a drive by shooting.
He was sitting on his couch upstairs above the shop and he was killed. That made them even more grateful for the art work and I know that RH got his darkened last year because it had started to fade. It was a great night. One of those nights that don’t come along very often and that make you feel like you have lived. People need to have an adventure or two in their minds to help them get through the days that are usually so boring.
JL: Aimée Mann
PK: Anthony Kiedis “Red Hot Chili Peppers” OR Kurt Cobain “Nirvana”
RP: Michael Stipe “R.E.M.”
JL: Gwen Stefani
PK: Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails
RP: Billie Joe Armstrong