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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Down and Out in Butte, Montana

I hate to be a pessimist, but I think my stint as a street performer in Butte, Montana may finally be over. I’ve traveled all throughout this wonderful nation, as well as the wonderful nation to the North, and have always managed to make at least enough money to feed myself and my merry band of misfit cats, fellow musicians, and assorted followers. Butte, Montana is the place I finally hit the wall.

Maybe I should have seen the warning signs two months ago when I awoke in that fateful gutter on Green Tree Street behind what I can only assume was a social club of some variety. It wasn’t as if I awoke on my own, either. It seems a very large man dressed in black leather pants and a thick red flannel shirt was poking me with a stick. As my eyes focused a bit I noticed the man looked quite familiar.

“Tito?” I asked.

The man turned out not to be Tito.

“I am not Tito!” He mumbled assertively. My eyes focused a bit more until everything was crystal clear like Ho-John’s Famous Belgian Vodka. Clearly it was not Tito. Tito had his name tattooed across his forehead due to an unfortunate drunken night on the town with my old oboe player. What my blurry eyes assumed to be an Old English font tattooed “Tito” was actually a disturbingly misshapen eyebrow, which coincidentally spelled out “Tito”, but in Arial font.

The man I misidentified as Tito said nothing more. He let his actions spell out his emotions by beating me with his stick. He hit me all throughout my torso and on my arms and legs. As I had been asleep for a long time, my arms and legs were unable to function properly and I couldn’t move to save my life, which I’ve subsequently been told isn’t the least bit ironic.

All I could do was to crawl into the fetal position and scream in as high a frequency as I could muster. As I screamed, I attempted to use a secret Ohlone pain-blocking technique I learned as a boy growing up in an irrigation ditch northeast of Santa Cruz, California. I used the power of the Ohlones to focus on the odd looking stick the man was beating me with. Then it struck me. The man wasn’t beating me with a stick at all. In all the confusion I missed a very important detail involving the man who had awoken me that fateful night in that fateful gutter on Green Tree Street.

The man wasn’t beating me with a stick, but with his own leg. I looked to where his leg should have been and noticed a gaping blood-stained hole liberally covered with what had been my shirt and pants. At least the mystery as to why I was naked was solved.

I implored the man to please stop. He said nothing, but for the first time I noticed that the furious rhythm of his beating was slowing down substantially. Soon he toppled over and fell to the ground.

“We don’t like strangers in Butte” were his final words.

Soon the police came. They arrested me for violating the Patriot Act. It turns out that Arnold Rampkin, the man who attempted to beat me to death with his own leg, was a newly minted member of the Department of Homeland Security Freedom Force 2000. The officers that arrived on the scene assumed I was a part of some miscellaneous Islamic sect hell-bent on destroying America. Their proof lay before them in a bloody clump.

I was held without bail for 144 hours at the local jail. During my unfortunate incarceration I was forced to watch hours and hours of the television show “Full House” commercial-free. It was strangely refreshing. I think there is a lot of misunderstood wisdom in that show, particularly from Dave Coulier’s stirring portrayal of Joey Gladstone. The interaction between Coulier’s Gladstone and Bob Saget’s Danny Tanner is particularly brilliant. They’re like a modern day Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. I don’t want to sound blasphemous, but I would one day like to remake “The Passion of the Christ” as a comedy starring Dave Coulier (as Jesus) and Bob Saget (as his loyal sidekick, Sandy Koufax).

On the 145th hour, I was released. Juan the tambourine player saves the day again. It turns out Juan was lurking behind a dumpster just down the alley filming the entire thing on his beta-max video recorder. Juan followed me down to the police station on his Honda scooter. He pantomimed his story to the authorities. Two hours later they successfully deciphered Juan’s story (Montana folk don’t understand pantomime too well) and procured the beta-max tape. 141 hours later, the state’s only beta-max VCR arrived from Miles City and the police saw the truth.

Apparently, Arnold Rampkin exited the social club, saw me lying on the ground and began ordering me to get up in the name of the United States Department of Homeland Security. For twenty minutes he yelled. On the 21st minute, Arnold Rampkin became so angry he reached into his breast pocket, pulled out a Swiss-Army knife, and began slashing away at his left leg. 11 minutes later he had finally detached his leg. He knelt down on his remaining leg and a cut off my clothes with his now dull knife. He covered his wound, hopped up and began poking me with his leg.

An auspicious beginning to my time in Butte, to say the least. Despite my full exoneration, the local press continued to blame me for Rampkin’s death and dismemberment. Every time I found a spot to perform, scores of protestors would show up. It was worse than when I toured England in support of my 1998 concept album “Lady Di Killed Jesus”.

So I must leave Butte forever. Maybe I’ll check out Helena.


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