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Chapter 13

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 3 months ago

Chapter 13


Al Hovden, Dave Jenneson and the latest and shortest lived fifth Burner Boy - Al Harlowe


The next day, worn down with poverty and the disappointment of losing the fifth Burner I needed to unburden myself. Not knowing where else to go I visited my neighbor, the 300 pound California ex-Hell’s Angel Gary Free. With his black spade like beard, pock marked face and unique dress he resembled Abdur Rahman, the infamous and bloodthirsty Amir from turn-of-the-century Afghanistan who was fond of wine and torturing his subjects. However he was now a loyal fan so I knew he would be docile.


“We just lost our best musician,” I slumped down. “What the hell am I going to do now?”


“I know what I’d do,” Gary Free drawled.


“I'm out of ideas”


He solemnly passed me his gallon of Calona Royal Red Medium wine. “Take a hit. Things will brighten directly.”


Although it was only early afternoon I was in such a funk I hefted the heavy jug. Wincing, I swallowed hard. It tasted like a mixture of sweet grape juice and brake fluid. It sat disagreeably on my empty stomach like a live water rat for some moments, but this passed.


“I’m also broke and have no food in the house,” I whined, still feeling sorry for myself. “And my mattress has a big cigarette hole burned in it. I hate my mattress.”


“I know what I’d do,” Gary Free advised again. He withdrew an ounce of weed from the folds of his clothing, rolled a fat joint, thrust it in my mouth and lit it. I took a sustaining toke. Gary Free was right. Things did seem a bit brighter. For the first time all day I smiled. This caused him to emit a deep, gurgling laugh like Jabba the Hut and pass me the wine again.


There is something to be said for drinking cheap red wine and smoking strong dope on an empty stomach in the early afternoon but I don’t know what it is. Every hour of drinking and smoking near noon has three times the intoxicating effect as the same amount done after dark. As the broiling afternoon sun drilled into my skull I downed the Calona Royal Red in ever larger amounts and hauled down lungfulls of Gary Free’s powerful dope whenever he felt the urge to light up, which was often.


In 1970 the practice of idling on one’s front porch was still fairly common, although nowadays it is regarded as an antiquated rural custom. We bided thus for two or three hours, watching the poor of the neighborhood plod by on the hot sidewalk below, dragging their miserable lives behind them like sacks of anvils. At some point we went inside. It was then I discovered Gary Free had house guests. In the darkened living room sat his ample wife, Joy, along with two biker couples visiting from California. To my delight and amazement both women sat topless. They were so casual about it that just being in the same room with them was wildly erotic to me. In my altered state my eyes immediately locked on to their firm tanned breasts and stayed there. This probably lasted a tad longer than it should have.


“Get a good look, asshole?” asked one of the boyfriends with some menace. Clearly he was put out with his girlfriend’s lax modesty and less happy with me lapping it up. I was about to make some ill advised remark, when Gary Free, showing surprising tact, quickly guided me by the elbow back to the front porch like a headwaiter then returned inside to smooth ruffled feathers. When he emerged he had a fresh jug of wine and a frown.


“They ain’t too happy in there,” he rumbled. “Take another couple hits of wine and this joint and then maybe you’d better git on.”


“Where should I go?” I was still miffed at my treatment inside. Returning home to my wine-less, dope-less shanty was now out of the question.


“Only one place you’re good for now,” he placed his hand on my shoulder and pointed me toward The Big O. When Gary Free released me into my own custody late in the afternoon I was a real hazard. I weaved the one block downhill, flung myself into a seat at the nearest table and waited for someone to buy me a beer. The Big O was community minded when it came to this, especially with the Burners. It was as if they expected us to be broke and supplying us with free beer was a tax on the music. I table hopped for some hours and eventually ended up with an odd looking stranger about ten years older than me. After a while a woman I knew joined us. She had taken me home the night after my trial so I was sure she would do the same tonight. I finally relaxed in the knowledge that at least I would sleep with a warm body.


“I’m so goddam hungry,” she burped drunkenly.


“Me too,” I agreed. I hadn’t eaten all day.


“Who wants to go and eat?” she put it to both of us. Suddenly it was clear she was auctioning herself off to whoever offered the best meal.


“We could go back to my place and have some Red River Cereal and beans,” I suggested hopefully, naming the only two food items in my house.


“How about a big plate of bacon and eggs?” the stranger trumped me.


That settled it. They both gulped down their beer and were gone within two minutes.


Suddenly left alone, I sat, furious. Not knowing what else to do I stalked out of the hotel in a rage and up through the parking lot to Third Street. There I encountered an unlikely object which brought me to a standstill. A large boulder sat on the sidewalk next to the plate glass window of a furniture store. Behind the window waited a brand new mattress. My own mattress had a huge hole in it from a cigarette. I wanted a new one so I had motivation. The boulder sat, beckoning so I had means. My addled mind did the math. I don’t know if anyone has successfully argued entrapment by a boulder as a defense before but I was about to provide means for the legal test.


I once read a book about the stupidest crimes ever committed. I remember sneering with laughter at one half-witted crook who robbed a bank in Sardinia then went across the street to wait for a bus. I was about to go him one better in a display of incompetence that may still be unique in the annals of criminal justice.


I picked up the boulder with both hands, held it above my head like a cave man and hurled it at the plate glass window. There was a boom and a crash. Breaking glass clattered loudly on the sidewalk. The boulder now sat inside the window in front of the mattress, but a large shard of glass was still held the frame, waist high, preventing me from gaining entry. Naturally I grabbed it by the sharp top edge and tried to work it loose. A slash of pain shot through my left hand. I drew it away. Blood.poured down my sleeve and onto my shirt. I might add that, although it was now dark I was wearing a yellow shirt, the most visible color at night. I straightened up and looked around. Traffic sped past normally. Still, I had to admit the project was not going all that well. I decided to forego the mattress and flee. I did this by craftily walking across the street and attempting to hitch hike with my bleeding hand to the hospital. Three minutes later police cruisers swooped in. Furious cops collared me, threw me into the back of a squad car and took me to the hospital. I was thrown onto a gurney. An ER doctor examined at my hand.


“He’ll need stitches.”


“No anesthetic,” ordered the cop.


“Give me a break,” I appealed.




In 1970 cops could get away with such minor forms of torture. The doctor obeyed and stitched me up a la carte, while I twitched in pain. I was then thrown into a cell over night and left to reflect. In the morning I was brought before a judge, and still on probation from my dope bust, was charged with breaking and entering and released.


Al Hawriko/Horowitz/Harlowe - the same today as he was with the Burner Boys


That afternoon I went to practice. As I sat on a speaker cabinet I ruefully recounted the whole episode to the band, who sat like boy scouts around a camp fire listening to a horror story. I felt like a hopeless criminal who also happened to be in a band. I regarded my bandaged hand and felt like I had experienced the angst and loss of the fifth burner in a very physical and traumatic way on behalf of the entire band.


Al came up and laid a commiserating hand on my shoulder.


“If it makes you feel any better we found another guitar player.”




“I talked Horowitz into it.”


“I thought he played with the Seeds.”


“He’s only on loan to us.”


This was better news than I ever could have hoped for. If the Seeds of Tyme were the Rock ‘n Roll Lords of Vancouver, then Alan Horowitz, their sometime guitarist, was the Crown Prince. He even dressed like one. In fact, if anyone had been born to rock ‘n roll royalty it was he. I have no doubt that in his baby pictures he is wearing an infant’s gown covered in glitter and clutching a little rubber Fender Stratocaster.


Originally Alan Hawriko, he started an early North Vancouver band called Segment 41 in 1965 and never looked back. He then played for Paisley Rain and toured with them before the discord in the band became unbearable and he formed The Trees.


They played many high profile gigs. Then, lured by the success of the Seeds of Tyme, Horowitz joined them part time as well. He then fled to England for a rest, (where Long John Baldry tried to seduce him), and returned in 1974.


A wizard at reinventing himself, after the Burners breakup he changed his name again and formed The Alan Harlow Band with ex Burners Steve Renshaw, Dave Penner, Tim’s now ex-wife Gerry among others. He then went on to help form Prism which still tours, performs and records today.


He was also a songwriter. His earlier work, Zoom Zoom Up In My Room and I’m Your Submarine (I’d Like to Steam Up Your Ravine) was his effort at pioneering Porno Rock and belied his angelic demeanor. As he matured he went on to the more introspective My Great Escape. Too Many Children was something of a political statement and Nickles and Dimes had a Rod Stewart essence. His songs were memorable and had big choruses.


We were rightly in awe of Horowitz when he arrived at our first practice. He was better dressed for practice than the rest of us were on stage. He made me look like a pauper, and later went on to describe me thus: ‘Dave was not your typical rock star wannabe. He didn’t even try to affect that stance. While not of the wiry frame, layered hair and sculpted facial features of the gum-chewing rockers of the day, he had a high-energy stage presence and way of moving that worked well. The white shoes, various cuts of sports jackets, even square-dance lace ties told you he was here to testify. I always imagined if Hemingway and the Lost Generation gang had decided to rock in Paris during their stay in the 1920s, Dave would be their man. He was literate rock’.

Like some poor welfare family receiving a royal visitor we felt we had to be on our best behavior. For his part Horowitz learned our songs in one or two takes. His playing was taut, clean, and expressive with a hint of a country bite to it that gave it an edgy rock feel, without big sustain or fuzz. Al had recruited him on the strength that we’d be getting more good gigs from Sam Feldman and sure enough, within two weeks, one came through. For some reason Al felt it incumbent to approach Horowitz on an individual gig-by-gig basis.


“Witz, what do you think about playing Williams Lake?” Al inquired tentatively. This involved the liability of a long Burner road trip so I could tell I could tell Al was expecting a refusal.


“Gee, sure, yeah. Good. That would be cool,” Horowitz had a breathless enthusiasm for practically everything, and, as we were to discover, a bottomless supply of sang froid when under pressure.


I felt sure Horowitz was used to the high life of traveling in some deluxe window van with rows of seats in the back while on tour so, with an almost physical act of will I forced myself to abandon protocol and let him take the front seat in the Burner van. I felt a selfless, Buddha like sacrifice would bode well for the trip and earn us merit. The merit fizzled out 60 miles east on the main highway out of Vancouver at Clearbrook. There was a muffled thud. The van rocked like a shot HUM V. Tim wrenched it over onto the shoulder in a cloud of spraying gravel and dust. It was clear we had blown a tire


Tim looked over at Horowitz, dressed in courtly finery and sitting in the passenger seat. “Sorry about this. We ought to buy new tires.”


“No problem,” Horowitz replied brightly. We’ll just call BCAA.”


“We don’t have BCAA,” Tim coughed with some awkwardness. With his rock star status we assumed Horowitz was used to having all sorts of services at his beck and call any time he pleased.


“So screw BCAA,” Horowitz scoffed. “We’ll just throw on the spare.”


“There is no spare,” Tim switched off the van. “Dave and Al are going to have to hitch hike back to a gas station and get it patched.”


We jacked the van up and wrestled the tire off. With Horowitz watching it was embarrassing - we felt like poor Oakies trying to fix their ruined truck in a scene from the dustbowl.


“Here,” Steve quietly slipped Al and I twenty bucks. “That’s our food money, all we have left”. Al and I trudged off with the tire under my arm and stuck out our thumbs, heading east. We got to a gas station 10 miles away and waited a long hour getting it patched. I then hauled the fixed tire back across four divided lanes of highway to hitch hike back with it, heading west. The only difference now was that, filled with air, the tire was much harder to carry.


“I’m getting tired of lugging this thing,” I told Al as we stood thumbing a ride back to the van.


“So roll it.”


“You roll it”


Al rolled it until we got a ride with a pair of C&W grease balls in a Plymouth Duster who threw the tire and us into the back seat. Remarkably, they possessed a rarely seen entertainment implement between them on the front console. It was a portable 33 rmp turntable playing their favorite big vinyl Buck Owens hits and plugged into the cigarette lighter. It made them hoot with old timey glee from time to time.


“We’re playing at Williams Lake,” I shouted to them over the noise of music and roar of wind through open windows.


“No shit! That’s where we’re headed.’”


“See me at the front gate. I’ll get you in free.”


While I schmoozed our ride Al eyed the landscape along the median. A steep hill divided the highway, making it impossible to see the other side. Finally we saw Steve standing sentry on top of the hill, fixing the location of the Burner van on the other side.


“HERE!” he shouted. “STOP!”


The grease balls did a dramatic Casey and the Bandit stop onto the shoulder. We rolled the heavy, dirty tire out. We now faced a steep 60 foot steep hill in the median between us and where the Burner van was supposed to be on the other side in the eastbound lanes.


“Do you know,” I asked as I helped Al roll the tire across the westbound lanes. “That I’m worried about what Horowitz thinks of all this?”


“Horowitz is a professional,” Al advised me. “He’s stuck with it like everyone else. He has to go along.”


We pushed, rolled and maneuvered the heavy tire up the steep grade. Reaching the summit was like raising the flag on Iwo Jima. Once on top we rested for a minute. I crouched down and held onto the tire. We could both see the van far below and across two lanes of busy highway, with Tim, Steve and Horowitz scattered around it. Suddenly Al knelt down next to the tire.


“Pilot to bombardier,” he pretended to speak into a WWII bomber’s microphone.


I gave him a puzzled look.


“We are approaching target,” he continued in the same crackling radio speak.


I knelt down on the other side of the tire and looked over at him, now getting it.


“Approaching target,” I radioed back.


“Open bomb bay doors.”


“Bomb bay doors open,” I repeated.


“Ready to release bomb.”


“Ready to release,” I confirmed.


“Bombs away.”


I looked over at Al crouched on the other side of the tire. “Roger that,” I replied in my best Air Force radio voice, then released the tire.


Al let out a yelp of alarm. “You fucking idiot!”


“I thought we were playing bombers.”


“You weren’t supposed to actually let it go!”


It went straight down the other side of the steep sixty foot hill of the median aimed at the Burner van. Al watched, beside himself. It rolled slowly at first, and then picked up speed down the almost vertical slope. Soon it was shooting down the hill bouncing high over irregular grass clumps completely out of control.


Far below the remaining Burners, including Horowitz, were lazing against the side of the van facing Al and I. They were bored and idly watching the freeway jam of summer traffic roar past them. Horowitz finally looked up. His face registered horror as he saw the dangerously out of control object rolling directly down the hill at him. Someone mouthed a scream and they all scattered to the safety of the front and back of the van.


Now the first of the summer traffic noticed the wheel careening down the slope towards them. White eyeballs bulged in disbelief as whole families looked up, mouths agape, and panicked drivers started applying brakes - but it was too late. The tire was on them. Al and I closed our eyes and prayed. It somehow shot right on through the speeding cars, crossing two lanes of oncoming traffic like a thread through a needle.


But the Burner van was still in its path. If it hit that it would bounce back right into some poor vacationing families' car and cause a terrible accident. At the last second it veered off to the left and missed the van by a hair. As helpless band members watched it began to climb up the slope on the other side of the highway behind the van. The tire reached almost the top of the slope opposite and slowed to a stop. Then it paused, turned, and with a mind of its own started down again. Al and I looked down at the other band members, thinking they would intercept it on the way down but hadn't counted on them being so far out of position - their initial panic had made them flee up and down the highway, away from any potential crash site that might have resulted from the first assault.


Al looked at me and shook his head. "How could you be so fucking stupid!!


I gave a fatalistic shrug. We both looked down now expecting the worst, surely this time there would be a mile long crash of cars below. Someone must have been looking out for us because the tire again threaded through the oncoming traffic - and this time it wobbled to a stop at the bottom of the slope. We bounded down like mountaineers and grabbed the tire before anything else could happen.


Horowitz watched all this with admirable calm and was either too polite or too rattled to pass comment. Tim replaced the tire and we continued as if nothing unusual had happened. As the sun baked the Fraser Canyon like a griddle we suffered and sweated and I privately worried that Horowitz might be used to having air conditioning. We neared Williams Lake in the heart of B.C.’s Cariboo but were so hungry we stopped at a roadside restaurant outside of town. We filed in, ready to have our first real meal of the day. Steve reluctantly took Horowitz aside before we sat down.


“Here’s the thing,” said Steve. “We spent our food money on the tire so we really can’t afford to be here.”


“Really?” asked Horowitz, a little unsure of his ground.


“So we’re going to do a dine and dash.”


“Ah, I see.” I watched Horowitz weighing his options. He could either pay to feed the whole band out of his own pocket, or eat at a separate table and pay for only his own meal, which would be seen as unsporting. Or he could become an accomplice to the crime, get a free dinner and hopefully not spend a night in jail. “Okay,” he replied rather more gamely that I would have. “Count me in.”


Once this was settled we ate like emporers. Since money was no object I ordered a steak and a hamburger, just for the experience. Then I ordered three desserts and I don’t even like dessert. Others did likewise and soon the table was lavish with steaks and ice cream and pie. I watched Horowitz and he was having such a good time I worried he had forgotten what must surely come next.


“What happens now?” he asked when it was clear no one could eat any more. “Do we all just kind of get up and run out?”


“No,” I said. “We draw straws. Then we all leave quietly one by one. Short straw leaves last.”


We did this with blue cocktail straws from our numerous half finished drinks. Tension mounted as Steve presented the straws to each member in turn. Incredibly, Horowitz drew the short straw last. He stared at it numbly for a moment, and then accepted his fate with the bright composure that was becoming characteristic of him. Tim left first to get the truck ready. Then Steve. Then Al slipped out. I made a pretense of asking the waitress where the washroom was but she was so overwhelmed with the enormity of our bill she was still adding it up so she only waved an arm vaguely. As I left I looked back at Horowitz. As last man in a dine and dash he sat in the loneliest spot in the universe. Dressed in his stage finery, his solitary form at the vast table laden with food made him look like a somewhat disappointed prince suddenly abandoned by his courtiers in mid feast.


I walked rapidly up the highway like a stick figure on speeded up film with shoulders hunched, head down and staring at the ground, the bearing I usually adopt when trying to look like I am not there. At the same time I sensed this is exactly the posture that attracts law enforcement. Finally I crawled up a large earthen berm to the right of the highway. I lay on the other side, peered over the crest like a partisan watching for the enemy. The orange Burner van swished by. Ten minutes later it passed again, going the other way. I could see what they were doing. Sweeping for survivors. When it came by on a third pass I shot up and windmilled my arms. The van swerved in. I pelted down the hill and jumped in, relieved to see that everyone had been rescued except Horowitz. We drove up and down while watching for the law. Finally Tim spotted him – a white, finely dressed figure atop a weedy mound of dirt and gravel, waving enthusiastically,wanting to be rescued and apparently ready for his next session of Burner therapy. That he escaped the restaurant at all showed a promising talent for dine and dash work.


“Don’t worry,” Steve reassured Horowitz when he scrambled back into the van. “The hotel is booked and everything is set up from here on in.”


Williams Lake is cattle country – the land of the purple sagebrush – and in 1970 it still showed traces of a wild west cowtown. Our hotel was certainly the genuine article. As we drove out to the rough edge of town near the railroad tracks I hoped Horowitz wasn’t expecting the Holiday Inn. Instead of horses on hitching posts there was a row of Harley Davidson’s out front. We climbed out of the van and stretched our legs, in no rush to go inside.


“Hey you!” shouted a voice from above.


We all looked up. A Native Indian hooker leaned out a window.


“Come up to room 204!”


“Shut up, yasshole!” another shouted at her, poking her head from a different window. “Come up and shee me in room 210”


It was the kind of thing that might have occurred in 1870’s Dodge City at the Long Branch Saloon before Marshall Matt Dillon cleaned up the town in Gunsmoke. Nevertheless it was reassuring to see Williams Lake had preserved second story hookers as a part of the frontier tradition. Who knew? Possibly it was Town Heritage Week and the hookers had been hired by the Chamber of Commerce to enhance the historical experience. Walking down the hallway was like traveling back to a distant time. The old fashioned patterned carpets even had authentic turn-of-the-century urine stains. Our rooms overlooked a flat tar and gravel roof. The remains of thousands of broken bottles hurled down by generations of drunks from the adjacent hotel glittered in the blazing late afternoon sun. Room amenities were unique. They offered only scalding hot water. Spending any time in this place was out of the question so we trudged back downstairs to drive out and search for the venue.


“Hold on a minute,” came a voice from behind the desk. It wasn’t the desk clerk, but the manager. We walked over. Fat, bald, and with a thick grey moustache, he looked like a retired Southern sheriff. Flies buzzed in the still, hot air.


“You fellas in a band, are ya?”


“Yeah, The Burner Boys,” Tim replied evenly.


“Well don’t fuck with them hogs outside. Two days ago some arsehole tipped one over and the whole bunch went down. The bikers nearly tore him in half plus half the block.”


“No problem,” replied Horowitz quickly, ever the diplomat. “We’re just here to play a dance.”


“The hotel will be locked after two in the morning.”


“No way,” I protested. “We might be later.”


“It’s Stampede Week.”


“What’s that?”


“There’s a rodeo in town. Every drunk yahoo in the province will be on the streets looking for trouble. I’m guessin’ you’re from Vancouver?”


We all nodded.


“Shit,” he spat a hair from his bushy moustache. “Some people don’t know nuthin.”


Thus admonished we drove off and searched for the dance hall. Sure enough, as the manager had promised there were hundreds of men walking the streets in deluxe cowboy trim – rough house ranch hands fresh off the range, duded up and ready for a wild time. Intermingled with these were native Indians moving through the streets in large groups also looking for trouble. After a complicated journey we finally found the dance hall in the middle of the rodeo grounds. It was a singular structure. Town fathers had decided to build a public dance hall but ran out of funds before the building was finished. Their solution was to leave the roof off. Squatting in the middle of the barren rodeo grounds the square, one story roofless structure looked like Fort Apache. Locals had named it Squaw Hall.


We unloaded our equipment in the heat. I got a cold beer from the van and drained it in one swallow. Then I got another and went out to mix with the cowboy and Indian crowd already gathering outside the front doors. I wanted to get a sense of how dangerous they might become later when night fell and the booze took hold. I drifted through them as they milled about smoking, swearing and spitting in the dust. Without a beer in their hand they seemed restive and unhappy. Then I heard a voice.


“Hey you!”


I spun around expecting to see a cowboy wanting to beat up a hippie. Instead I saw a pencil necked cop. I pointed at myself. “Me?”


“Yeah you. Get over here.”


I walked over.


“What’s that in your hand?”


“Last time I looked it was a beer.”


“Oh yeah smartass? Pour it out and come with me.”


“What’s the problem?”


“You’re under arrest.”


“What for?”


“Drinking in a public place.”


“It’s just one beer.”


“No drinking on the stampede grounds. Strictly enforced during stampede week,” he opened the back door of the squad car. “Get in.”


He locked me in the back seat. Inside the black, sealed sedan it was like a dry sauna. I sat and sweated and fumed, but I could see what they were doing. It was similar to the Old West when constables would clean the streets of undesirables prior to a cattle drive coming through town. After about twenty minutes he’d stuffed the car with others of my kind and drove us to the police station. In the lobby was a line of rowdy drunks waiting to be processed while cops stood against the wall wanting to kick ass. I waited interminably. The line didn’t seem to be moving. Looking at my watch I saw it was eight o’clock. We had to go on stage at eight. I pushed my way up to the front desk and butted in.


“Look here, I’ve got to talk to someone.”


“Back in line.”


“You’ve got to release me.”


“Shut up!”


“I’m the lead singer for the Burner Boys. We’re playing at Squaw Hall. We're supposed to be on stage right now.”


“That’s your problem.”


“So that’s how it is, huh?”


“Get back in line.”


“Fine,” I crossed my arms. “But if you don’t let me go there will be no dance tonight. Think of it. The big ball in cowtown will be cancelled at the last minute. That should stir up the rabble. You like that? You want that?


The desk sergeant’s brows knit. “Stay there,” he went off and consulted a superior, then returned. “Beat it. But I don’t want to see you again.”


Thus liberated I retraced the route back to Squaw Hall on the hop. As I got near I could hear the band playing yet strangely the building was still surrounded by a crowd of people. Then I realized what had happened. The hall was full. These were the ones who had been denied entrance. They’d camped outside and were drinking aggressively. There were so many of them the cops had abandoned all pretense of enforcing the drinking ban. I squirmed through the crowd and kicked and hammered on the front doors. Finally a worried looking young woman peeped out of the ticket window.


“Let me in,” I demanded. “I’m with the band.”


She looked unsure of what to say next. “Got any I.D.?”




“Oh. Really?” she brightened. “Cool.” She dashed around and let me in. Inside it was like the Roman Coliseum on the eve of a Christian sacrifice. The covered bleachers surrounding three sides of the building were standing room only. Packed in like cordwood people drank, fought, made out, yelled, wrestled and occasionally hurled debris down onto the dance floor. The asphalt dance floor was a roiling mass of bodies, most with a drink in their hand. The air was thick with dope smoke. At the far end of Squaw Hall the leaderless Burners were doing their best to keep the crowd from erupting into spontaneous riot. Horowitz was gamely doing double duty, playing lead guitar and fronting the band in his self-possessed macho bluesy Brit-pop patter, which I could see was too sophisticated for this rabble. He’d make some clever, double edged remark freighted with sexual innuendo and the crowd would simply stare back like Barbary Apes who have been fed alcohol.


I climbed on stage at the end of the first set and stepped up to the mike. “Yeeee HAAAH!” I roared.


This they comprehended. They howled back. My intent was to let them know this was a party and not an opportunity to suddenly turn on your neighbor and break a bottle over his head. We started rock chopping our through our hottest dance songs and wild jug rock in an effort to wear them out but they were stronger than us. The best we could do was keep them occupied and hope for the best. It seemed to work. Then, in the third set, things changed. Al was singing when he looked up and saw an empty booze bottle spinning lazily through the sky coming from outside the hall. It seemed to be moving in slow motion as it arced into the hall and smashed on the floor. He later said it felt like an out of body experience as he watched it slowly approach until it was so close he could read the Black Velvet Canadian whisky label. An answering bottle flew back over the wall to hit the mob that surrounded the hall outside. Then there were two more, then five, then the air was full of flying bottles. One struck the base of Al’s mike stand and shattered. Yet to stop playing was unthinkable. Then the crowd inside the hall would turn on us too. We could only hang on for the ride and duck.


We finished the third set while the slow motion bottle war continued, then retired with no major wounds. We were greatly relieved. A local band went on. I had been chain-drinking beer on stage to relieve the stress of having bottles hurled at me. Now we flung ourselves into seats backstage and guzzled. I slipped out to the van to change and when I returned a local who admired our music took me aside and gave me two fat lines of coke.


This jolted me awake and drastically enhanced my drinking capacity. For the next hour I slung back beer and had my buzz cranked up by more and more lines. At some point my supplier and I drifted onto the dance floor and were swallowed by the crowd. Now feeling indestructible I spent the rest of the night amid crashing bottles drinking, dancing, smoking dope, doing coke and trying to get laid. As so often happens when cocaine is on the menu the next three hours went by in a blur. Suddenly, like the dropping of a curtain, the night was over. I went back and looked for the band. They were long gone. I found myself staggering across the deserted dance floor in sandals, broken glass crunching underfoot, vaguely thinking how remarkable it was my feet weren’t being cut to ribbons. Finding the van gone I had no idea how to get back to the hotel, and by now was not articulate enough to coherently ask directions. With a sinking heart I weaved my way back to the only place in town I was familiar with – the police station. It was also the only place in town I’d been expressly forbidden to go. I was incapable of walking the streets all night and at least a jail cell would be warm. When I entered it was deserted. The same desk sergeant was on duty.


“Oh hi. It’s just me,” I said casually, as if I were expected.


“You? I told you I didn’t want to see you again tonight.”


“Yes, well I’ve been thinking. You were right. I’ve been out and drinking in a public place so I want to confess.”


“Beat it.”


“No really, I admit it. So I guess you’d better put me in jail.”


“I said beat it!”


“You can’t kick me out. I’m guilty as sin. I’m admitting everything. I deserve to be locked up.”


“Forget it. The cells have been full for hours.”


“Oh.” Coming from Vancouver the idea of a packed jail house was a new concept. In all my scrapes with the police I’d spent a lifetime trying to talk my way out of jail. I had no experience trying to talk my way in. Now, diabolically, I couldn’t do it. It was a rooty problem.


“It’s too bad you didn’t get here a bit earlier,” the cop added. “We just filled a boxcar with drunks and shipped them twenty miles out of town. They oughta get back on foot sometime tomorrow afternoon.”


“I played at the dance tonight and did my best to keep people under control. That should count for something.”


“I told you there’s no room.”


I looked around. Sitting in the middle of the lobby was an old fashioned, wooden office chair. “How about if I sleep on that?” I pointed.


The sergeant looked over. “Okay. But you puke, you clean it up.”


I approached the chair. It was a mean looking thing, armless and severe, designed to make anyone sitting in it feel unhappy. I sat down on its hard seat and soon drifted off. My head flopped over onto my shoulder. Half an hour later I was awakened by a pain in my neck and a long stream of drool hanging from my mouth. So it continued miserably at half hour intervals through the night. At around eight I became aware of movement and footsteps. I opened my eyes. The police were conducting Saturday morning business as usual around me while I sat unconscious in the middle of the lobby like a potted plant, steaming with alcohol, an icon to excess. They could have sent through school tours and used me as a professional bad example – this is what happens if you don’t stay in school.


Around nine it became too noisy. I stood and walked stiffly out into the blazing morning sunlight. There was a physical pain when the sun hit me, like I’d been struck a blow. With all I’d consumed the night before, probably several grams of coke and twenty beer, I was less than half human. Penniless, I still had no idea where the hotel was. I knew the band figured I’d got lucky and was tucked away asleep in a strange woman’s bed so they wouldn’t look for me. As I wandered toward the center of town I knew I had one option. Bum. I started panhandling money for a bus ticket. This took three hours. Then, pale and sweating, I caught the two o’clock Greyhound back to Vancouver. It took seven hours. During this time I felt too sick to sleep, smoke, eat or speak. I sat like a dog that has been hit by a car and stunned. At nine at night the bus pulled into the Vancouver depot. Spent, I slouched out onto Granville Street and started hitch hiking. Two hours later I got back to my welfare slum. I threw myself on the mattress and lay doggo.


As I fell into a troubled sleep I worried about one thing: how much of this can Horowitz take?


But the now the Burners were a machine moving forward. There were solid dates to fill. After Williams Lake, Horowitz remarkably agreed to play at the Big O while we searched for a fifth Burner. Within only a few weeks, his innocent good looks, talent, stage presence and flamboyant manner attracted a following of some of the most striking young women on the North Shore. There was the beautiful, elegant and thin nosed Odette. Then came a Marilyn Monroe look-alike named Donna. But most wildly erotic were a woman named Linda and her Daisy Mae sidekick Debbie. They glowed with sexuality and sat at a front table. There they writhed, blew kisses and gave him dirty winks while he played. Yet they weren’t satisfied with just him. If they took a fancy to someone else on a particular night they were not averse to offering themselves as a duo.


Meanwhile the rest of us starved like crows watching a man eating lunch on a park bench. There was no jealousy, professional or otherwise. Horowitz was no fun hog. He was doing us a big favor by playing with us and entitled to everything he got from the personal magic he created. The Burners looked on in wonder, like cave men watching someone who has discovered the secret of fire. For my part, seeing what was possible and not being able to get it at the Club 140 I went looking in the low rent pub. Too often it ended in nothing. One night, feeling used up, alone and older than my years I left the bar and walked home through the empty streets seeking a spiritual answer for the blues dogging me. Perhaps, for once, I found it in writing Old Angel Midnight. A few days later Al finished the melody, turning into the most evocative country blues ballad we’d ever written.








Old Angel Midnight


I went out to look for a lover

That sweet someone waiting for me

And she seemed just as far

As the end of the bar

Then I saw just how wrong I could be

Standing inside my rejection

In the streetlight I saw a reflection

Old Angel Midnight

Over me

Old Angel Midnight

Over me


I started to say I was sorry

For the story my life seemed to tell

Just an old lonesome Jack

I’ll be down in the back

With a bottle of cheap Muscatel

Though she knows every unhappy ending

She smiles with the love she is sending

Old Angel Midnight

Over me

Old Angel Midnight

Over me


One more night of walking home lonely

One more night that will never end

But in the dark sky

The tears that she cries

Wash away all my trouble and sin

Your broken heart she will remember

Compassionate smile sweet and tender.

Old Angel Midnight

Over me

Old Angel Midnight

Over me.




'Rish Illingworth, our Rasputin-like, sometime road manager stoned and apparently trying to pic nits from Dave's hair in Zebellos.



The hunt for a permanent fifth Burner was not going well. The good musicians were already working and anyone else we thought might remotely qualify wasn’t psychologically fit. If we could have afforded to run an ad it would have read: Wanted – guitarist or keyboardist of exceptional ability to play for local band. Low pay, long road trips, some physical danger. Band has minimal chances of success.


In the meantime Sneak Snider, our sometime booking agent from the Sunshine Coast came through with two well paying gigs on Vancouver Island. This caused a crisis. After Williams Lake we worried Horowitz would walk if faced with another road trip. Eventually Al found the nerve to ask him. To everyone’s relief he agreed, a testament to his generosity.


The Friday night gig was in Zebalos, which Sneek had told us was near Courtenay on Vancouver Island’s east coast. We got started late and had to pick up an extra body. Rish, the garbage man whose family we had driven out of Burner Mansion had got fed up with his job and quit. Now, like others before him, he dreamed of a career in rock n’ roll and wanted to try his hand at being a road manager. When we told him we didn’t need one he appealed, saying he just wanted the experience so we couldn’t refuse. We were made even later when we swung by Al’s mother’s house to pick him up. We sat outside in the idling van for five minutes honking with no sign of life. The lawn outside the small bungalow was parched brown. We were in another heat wave. Steve was sent in. Soon he reappeared at the front door.


“He slept in,” Steve called.


“Get him out here,” Tim shouted back from the driver’s seat.


Steve went back inside and re-emerged. “He says he hasn’t had a shower yet.”


“Fuck the shower. We’re late!”


Al hurried out, threw himself in the back of the van and we sped off for the ferry. Uncomfortably packed in with an extra body, we tore up the Island Highway with no stops.


“I really appreciate this opportunity,” Rish shouted at me over the road and engine noise.


I looked at him sweating and suffering stuffed in behind a speaker column. He would have been better off in a cattle car. Calling this an opportunity showed, if nothing else, his fortunes had declined some since his garbage man days. We made such good time and hit Courtenay almost two hours early. The van pulled into a hotel on the outside of town. It sat in a hollow next to a river surrounded by big shade trees, beckoning. We got out to stretch our legs.


“Look at that place,” I said dreamily. “It’s like the Pearly Gates inviting us in.”


“Forget it,” said Steve. “We can’t afford it.”


“We could go and have a coffee,” Horowitz tried diplomatically.


“It’s too hot for coffee,” I protested. The thought of coffee on a hot summer afternoon was hateful to me. If I sit around a table drinking coffee for two hours I get bullshitter’s cramps in my legs. Yet for some reason I can sit around a table drinking beer for ten hours and suffer no pain.


“Let’s go for a beer” agreed Rish. “Don’t worry, it’s on me.”


“Are you sure?” Steve asked him.


“I appreciate you taking me along as road manager. I’m just doing my part.”


If Rish thought paying for the band’s beer was all part of the road managing job that was enough. We went in to the funky old hotel. It had the old time ambience which can draw one into easily spending the afternoon. It was also gloriously air conditioned. An Alaskan King Crab the size of a Volkswagen hung on the wall. Below it was a wall clock which no one paid much attention to. Two hours and more passed quickly. Finally I ambled over to a neighboring table to get directions.


“We’re going to a place called Zebalos,” I said. “I think it’s about an hour out of town. I was wondering if you could tell me the way?”


“Zebalos? That’s on the west coast of the Island. Its four or five hours by logging road.”


“Four or five hours?”


“If you’re lucky. But you’ve got to watch for logging trucks.”


I ran back to the table and broke the news that Sneak had mislead us about the location of Zebalos. It was at least four hours away. We had to be on stage in four hours. We almost ran out of the bar but not before Rish had paid the substantial bill. Inside the van was like a furnace. As we started up for some reason Al decided to change his shirt. He pulled his old one off and instantly everyone regretted not letting him shower before we left. There was a sudden powerful odor. Soon there was almost no oxygen left in the van. Horowtiz dove for his toiletries case like a Hazmat worker and Al sprayed himself down, but as we drove on the smell hung in the van.


“It’s really hanging,” I said to Steve.


“It must,” he observed, “have a long molecule chain.”


No sooner had the air cleared then Rish spoke up. “Pull over for a second.”


From the driver’s seat Tim shot him a dirty look for wasting valuable time but did so. Rish dashed out and relieved himself. Five minutes later he asked again.


“Tim, pull over. Just for a second.”


“No. You just went.”


“Just once more.”


Tim angrily pulled over and let Rish out. A few minutes later his voice piped up.


“Tim?”he bleated.




I now remembered that Rish had a problem. His bladder was the size of a walnut. It was like a birth defect. When we’d been in high school together he often had to jump off busses miles from his stop to have an emergency leak then walk home. Tim didn’t know this, but it would not have made a difference.


“Pleeeaaase,” Rish begged in agony.


“Use this,” Tim threw him a plastic litter bag.


Rish scrambled into the front seat and braced himself, crablike, over the front seat. He soaked down the litter bag inside and out. Then he attempted to throw it out the window but Tim rounded a sharp curve in the logging road just as he did so. He lost his balance and whirled the bag around in the van while we all dodged drops of flying urine. This continued at short intervals over the next hour as he deposited ever diminishing amounts into a series of plastic bags and hurled them out the window while everyone ducked spraying drops and cursed loudly. In the meantime the road worsened. Its washboard surface and huge potholes beat hell out of the van as Tim drove at top speed. A huge logging truck veered around a corner at us like a runaway freight, horn wailing. That’s when we blew the first tire. Tim swerved off. Luckily Steve had now purchased a spare and that was put on, but it made us even more late. The logging road seemed to go on forever through steep hills and deep forest, getting more remote. Inside the van there was rising anxiety as it neared eight o’clock, our time to go on stage. There was a telltale sag as the van blew another tire. Now there was no alternative. Steve and Al volunteered to hike and roll the tire back to the nearest settlement.


I paced up and down the roadside kicking the gravel in frustration, realizing now we would forfeit some or all of the lucrative gig purse. I worried how we would pay Horowitz. Huge logging trucks continued to roar by and rattle the van as we sat ruefully waiting. Yet, just half an hour later a pick up truck rolled to a halt beside us and disgorged Al and Steve with the fixed tire. They had been picked up and delivered by locals both ways so we still had a chance. Just fifteen minutes later, completely unexpected, we pulled into Zebalos.


It was a one street town hard by the edge of the North Pacific. In the setting sun it looked idyllic – a hotel, a few stores and mostly residential houses lining the main street. We drove up and down frantically until we found the community hall, a white clapboard building on a weedy lot looking more like a church. I dashed up the stairs and inside. It was dark. I blinked, and as my eyes got used to the darkness I realized that the whole town was here, sitting on bingo chairs watching Steve McQueen in The Getaway. At the far end of the hall a large, makeshift screen hung from the ceiling. Near to me was someone running an old 16mm projector. I walked over to him.


“What’s this?” I asked. “What’s going on?”


“The Friday night movie.”


“I’m with a band called the Burner Boys. We were supposed to play here half an hour ago.”


The projectionist, a reedy little man, gave me a puzzled look.


“Yeah. The Burner Boys. Haven’t you heard we were coming?”


“Not me.”


“Obviously there’s been a miscommunication. You weren’t told. Who else would know? The head of the community center?”


“We don’t have that.”


“The mayor?”


“Don’t have that either. I run the community hall. I’m it.”


“Do you recognize the name Sneek Snider? He must have called you.”


“Snider. Yes. He booked a band in here for next weekend.”


“That’s us. He sent us now.”


“You’re joking.”


“It’s no joke. We came the way from Vancouver”


“Christ, how could someone do that?”


“Unfortunately we’re broke,” I confessed. “We were going to use the gig money for a hotel.”


“Meet me at the hotel after the movie.”


The enormity of the situation sank in. Feeling ill I walked back to the van. As I stuck my head in the van it was like announcing the death of a close family member. “There’s no gig.”


Everyone sat stupefied.


“Sneek sent us a week early.”


A black silence fell inside the van.


“We’re supposed to meet the guy who booked us at the hotel. You go ahead. I’ll walk. I need to let off some steam.”


The hotel was only two blocks away but halfway there I stopped in the middle of the main intersection of Zebalos, spread my arms, looked at the sky and roared, “SNEEK, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!” I hoped the negative energy would transmit the three hundred miles due east to the Sunshine Coast where he was undoubtedly sitting down to dinner with his wife and family. For years afterward, long after the Burners had broken up whenever I saw Sneek at a party or public gathering I would walk up behind him and hiss, “Zebalosssss,” in his ear. This never failed to make him squirm uncomfortably and suck his teeth but no rational explanation was ever offered. He should have been shot for it.


The band sat at a table in the Zebalos hotel bar, still not believing what had happened. Soon it became clear we were going to have to sleep in the van with the equipment. I glanced at Horowitz but he had a shattered look, as if not believing to what depths the Burners had fallen. Finally the man from the town hall arrived.


“I can put you up at my house. It’s just me and my sister there. I phoned her. She gave the okay.”


We drove to the man’s house and trudged inside, hangdog. His sister was a fat, frowsy forty year old who seemed overly delighted for the company. She made us sandwiches and then brought out her best record, the soundtrack of Hair, and played it over and over while we sat in the tiny living room. Then she brought out a few blankets which we’d have to share sleeping on the living room floor. Soon after she cornered me in a hallway.


“It’s going to be awful crowded on that floor,” she said in a husky voice. “If you want you can sleep with me.” She opened her bedroom door a crack. Then she winked.


The prospect of this made me want to bawl like a child who has recieved a bad scare. “It wouldn’t be fair,” I replied quickly. “That’s favoritism. The band would be upset.”


With that we spent a miserable night on the floor amid the snoring, coughing and farting that only six males in close quarters can produce. It seemed a crime for Horowitz to flake out on a ratty carpet in his fine clothes. The next morning the fat woman made us breakfast. After lapping up their free food and hospitality Steve had one more odious task to perform. Just as we filing out the back door he approached her.


“Excuse me,” he cleared his throat, “but I don’t suppose you could see your way clear to lending us ten bucks for gas? I’ll get your address and I promise you we’ll send you a check.”


The poor woman fell for this one last piece of panhandling. Through a flaw in Burner finance the money was sadly never returned. Subdued, we drove all the next day to the Saturday night gig in Port Alice, eighty miles away over bad logging roads. Luckily they were expecting us. We played in a high school gym to a wild and enthusiastic crowd. The promoter was a local fisheries officer named Pan. He was a big, robust hippy who frequently wore a set of horns in his long curls. Afterward he took us back to a huge house packed with happy fans where they fed us vast steaming slabs of barbecued venison. Rish, however, was now so starved he couldn't wait and ate it raw.


Yet it wasn’t enough. The writing was on the wall. It was obvious to everyone that if Horowitz remained a Burner Boy he would degenerate from rock star to bum. That couldn’t be allowed to happen. He was needed to represent - to show that Vancouver was capable of producing born and bred rockers who walked on stage in high style and gave a kick ass show worthy of the finest venues anywhere. I winced as I thought of the ordeal we had put him through in just three weeks - missed gigs, fleeing from resteraunts, flying bags of urine - it was all too much. Steve, who had played with Horowitz in a previous band took him aside and offered him an honorable out, saying we didn’t expect him to take this abuse any longer. To everyone’s great relief, he accepted, as the Seeds of Tyme needed him again anyway.


Thus we drove back down the Island Highway minus a fifth Burner. With no prospect of finding another and worn down with life it was getting harder to hack it at all.

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