We've started calling the locals the locusts. Each morning I put a platter of doughnuts on the load-in dock for the union workers. As soon as the food hits the table they swarm, propelling doughnut shrapnel and stirring a cloud of powdered sugar. Within seconds the platter is wiped clean. There is always one poor guy who wasn't quite fast enough. He stares sadly at the empty plate, rubbing his expansive belly. "I have a few more in the back," I say.
"Naw," he replies, "I could stand to lose a few pounds."
"A few pounds?" one of his cronies spits out through a mouthful of pastry. "That's like the Queen Mary losing a few deck chairs. Who the hell would notice?"
Tonight the crew and the bands are in a good mood. We have a day off after a long stretch, and everyone is ready to let loose. The band and the crew have a great rapport on this tour, so nights off can get rowdy. Living in such close proximity to everyone, I learn more than I care to about the sexual escapades of my co-workers. One morning our bus driver, Donny, boarded our bus and found a crew member passed out with his pants down and two naked women making coffee at our tiny kitchenette (he said it was the best cup of coffee he ever had). A party at a strip club the night before had spilled over onto the bus. I later learned that the crew guy paid the owner of the club $50 to take the dancers home with him. He thought he got a good deal. I pointed out that he failed to figure in the expense of the clinic bills and the lifetime supply of penicillin. I begged him not to tell me the gory details of his evening. If I have to live on this bus, I want to know as little as possible about when and where sexual acts take place. He ignored my request, and I will never go in the back lounge again. I've also learned never to touch socks. There is something called the bus sock. Men use them. I'll leave it at that.
In Arkansas, the band received an unsolicited visit from Little Rock Connie, the groupie immortalized by the band Grand Funk Railroad. Connie's been around for decades. One of the guys on the crew remembers seeing her back in the '70s during a Who tour, where she gave all but three of the crew and band members blow jobs—including the truck and bus drivers. These days Connie is semi-retired. She has a few groupies-in-training who follow her around and do the dirty work. She offered a truck driver one of her girls for a cold beer. Offering fellatio is not the most reputable of hobbies, but it seems even seedier when it is in exchange for a Coors Light.
Tonight we cooked outside near the parking lot, and a group of girls lined up to solicit after-show passes. They lifted their shirts, threw bras, and screamed at anyone who would listen. Their uniform is the same in every city—skintight fake leather pants, high-heeled boots, and strappy haltertops. This is an outfit flattering to 1 percent of the American population. Most of these girls look like 10 pounds of cottage cheese stuffed into a 5-pound bag, and yet many of them make it to the buses and backstage. Several of the crew lined up to watch the show in the parking lot, while the other show went on inside. One guy commented that he was tired of trying to get laid in a two-hour window. Another said, "I just look at what's out there and tell myself over and over, 'None of these girls are attractive.' I try to remember that at 1 a.m. when I've had too much to drink."
A veteran roadie scoffed. "You are all amateurs. You advance your arrangements." Just as we pre-shop our breakfast food the night before, this man pre-shops his hos. He calls ahead to dispatch ladies in the next city. They are ready and waiting when he arrives.
The night is winding down, or just winding up, I should say. I just looked out the door and saw Dean hunched over a 10-gallon trash can, rifling through the contents like a raccoon in a Dumpster. The venue security confiscated anything "questionable" from the concert-goers and threw it away. He is digging through the contraband. It's time now to take a shower before boarding the bus for a 10-hour drive. Most of these places have locker-room showers with no doors, so I usually have to hunt down a friendly security guard to keep an eye out for me. Tonight I'm lucky—we rented a mobile home to wash our dishes because the venue has no hot running water. I'm going to shower in the same tub where the dishes were washed. The drain is clogged with rice, but at least I get a locked door. One more month and I'll be home …