(Bruise Cruise was a garage rock festival that took place over three days on the Carnival Cruise ship Imagination, starting in Miami on Friday February 25th, stopping in Nassau, Bahamas for a day and a show at Senor Frog's and then back in Miami on Monday the 28th)
The otherwise uneventful flight down to Miami was punctuated with an announcement from the captain. We looked out the left side of the plane to see the space shuttle Discovery in the midst of its ascent…a glowing orange fireball with a curlicue vapor trail in its wake was one of the most amazing things I'd ever seen. After a minute or two the trail just stopped, seemingly as the shuttle had left the earth's orbit.
With my first real visit to Miami I kept thinking how much the city ruled the 80s…from Canes football, Hulk Hogan, Dan Marino and the Dolphins, cocaine smuggling, gross sports cars, Miami Vice…I'd be hard-pressed to think of any more cultural contributions the city has made to society in the past twenty years. Oh well.
The pre-party show that night was too massive for its own good. The club, Grand Central, was not used to putting on rock and roll shows and did not have favorable acoustics for making the switch. The early check-in process for Bruise Cruisers went smoothly, but the mess of bands on the bill was too much for most anyone (let alone folks who'd almost certainly flown in that day) to make it all the way through. Walked in while Turbo Fruits were playing and the place was teeming with all sorts of friends from Detroit, folks I didn't expect to see and the usual garage rock standard-bearers.
Apparently very few folks knew that the drinks at the club had gratuity included. And apparently the club owner yelled at John Dwyer of the Oh Sees for wearing a tank top. And in my fourteen-ish years of independent venue rock and rolling, I have never, EVER previously experienced a club literally running out of beer across all brands and formats. Three strikes.
Vivian Girls were the only band playing that I'd never seen before and it wasn't really my thing, but still much more powerful, more oomph-packing than I'd imagined they'd be live. The records, to me, always sounded thin. The other bands, Surfer Blood, Ty Segal, Strange Boys, Oh Sees, Quintron and Black Lips were all in the realm that I had expected with Ty and the Oh Sees being particularly strong, but by the time the Lips went on the crowd had visibly thinned and most folks were struggling to keep with it. But still, a Black Lips show of this caliber is still rewarding.
Trouble hailing a cab at the ungodly hour was only compounded by the equally vexing task of cramming two friends into the cab who 1) didn't remember the name of their hotel and 2) couldn't get ahold of the rest of their party who were staying there. One passed out in the bathroom, the other tried going through the phone book to find the name of the place. They eventually just got a room at the Hotel Clinton, where we were staying.
Independent of that, Malissa took it upon herself to finagle and haggle discounted room rates for two separate groups of friends at this late hour. The quoted rate was $220 and she was able to get them down to $150. Girl should buy used cars for a living.
After check out and before boarding Malissa and I walked to a liquor store down the street and each bought a bottle of champagne to bring on board, the maximum allowed by cruise mandate. There's a curious rhythm to folks walking down the street in Miami, solely because of the fact that 90% of the people that passed me on the street were wearing flip-flops and making that resultant sound. It's difficult to respect a town with that attribute, but it's also kinda funny to listen to.
We cabbed it to the Port of Miami and went through the decidedly smooth check-in/embarkation process. Being a returning Carnival cruise passenger my Sign and Sail card (ie, my onboard ID/credit card) was gold where all the first-timers had blue cards. The awkward Key West/Cozumel cruise with my sister and parents at age16 suddenly felt rewarding in hindsight.
In talking with some other folks like Jared from the Black Lips and Danny from the Jacuzzi Boys, we'd all realized that we'd been on Carnival cruises at roughly age 15-16 and that there really couldn't be a more unexciting time to do so. The reason being that, up through about age 13 you're still just an annoying little kid and things like the arcade, swimming pool, water slide and 24-hour ice cream bar are all that you really needed to shut up. Over age18 and you can at least smoke cigarettes, flirt with the opposite sex and probably sneak booze/gambling. Jared and I bonded not only on the fact that we'd both been essentially bored on our cruises (me writing poetry in a notebook, him not having pot) but that we had actually both been on the exact same boat we were currently on, the Carnival Imagination. Weirdsies.
We quickly dropped our baggage off in our stateroom and then made way to the pool deck which would effectively be ground zero for Bruise Cruisers for the duration of the trip. With ample lounge chairs, waitstaff, booze, shade, hot tub and space for congregating it was really a no-brainer. I had two Long Island ice teas and barely felt their effects. Thems the breaks when you tip the scales at 220lbs.
After the safety briefing at our muster stations (wish it was more like MUSTARD stations) Ty Segal played at the Xanadu Lounge and nailed it. His science was tight. He was immediately followed by the Oh Sees and I was ecstatic that they included "Warm Slime" in their set.
Upon its release last year I was instantly impressed with the title track on the album. Not only is it catchy as shit and stacked with an unparalleled "all you need is the summertime" breakdown, but this opening track also clocks in at over 13 minutes long. A lot of bands have long songs and even fewer bands have STRONG long songs, but I can't think of a single act that's OPENED with the long-ass jam. Stooges didn't do it with "We Will Fall" or "Funhouse", Velvets didn't do it with "Sister Ray" and the Dirtbombs certainly didn't do it with "Race to the Bottom" OR "Bug in the Bassbin." John Dwyer, in this instance, gets a million genius points from the bank of "Why Didn't Someone Else Already Think of This?" department.
We took a nap after the Oh Sees and woke up just in time to get dressed for dinner. There's a vague dress code for dinner so it meant I actually had to wear pants. I realize as I type that it seems like a given, but I mean pants in the terms of "not shorts" and NOT in the way of "something covering my nether region". They purposefully have assigned seating seemingly chosen at random with the idea that you should be a little bit out of your comfort zone and have to converse with people you might otherwise never reach out to.
Our table was great, all Bruisers and Malissa had the added bonus of sitting next to John Norris, formerly of MTV News. He was awesome.
I ordered the flat iron steak with peppercorn sauce as I'd remembered the peppercorn sauce when I was 16 on a cruise to have been absolutely amazing. I guess my palate (or the chef's mastery) had shifted sometime in the past 11 years because on this occasion it was merely passable.
Malissa started to feel a bit ill so we left in the middle of dinner and went to the aft of the boat in an effort to cool off. While a calming atmosphere, it didn't seem to help her constitution and we returned to our room where she only felt sicker. After tending to her she said she was fine (although she'd remain sick and sleepy for the rest of the night) and I ventured off to Ian Svenonius' lecture.
I arrived early and was struck up in conversation by Tom Scharpling of WFMU. He liked the new Dirtbombs album so that immediately got my attention. We hadn't "signed-up" for the limited 60-some seats in the conference room, but were able to squat our way into respectable positions.
I think I was kind of just anticipating the lecture to be off-the-cuff riffing from Ian in the style of his book "The Psychic Soviet" what we were treated to was not one but two short sketches/skits that were performed by volunteers from the audience and coupled with impressive slide shows.
The first piece focused on how rock bands would be cynically viewed by aliens as illustrated by dialogue excerpted from Metallica's documentary "Some Kind of Monster". It was well-written and witty and definitely something that would fit in both stylistically and context-wise with Svenonius' previous writings.
The second piece focused on backwards messaging in popular music and with some of the most well-known instances used as examples ("Paul is dead", "my sweet satan", "it's fun to smoke marijuana") deconstructed what the artists' original intent behind them must've been. Again, another well-assembled piece.
Each skit lost essential impact through volunteers who were purposefully sabotaging their parts, whether it was speaking in unnecessary accents, ripping up parts of their script and throwing it across the room, or just generally being jackasses. While the message still came across (and yeah, I'm sure we were all there for a "message") these two women (one from each sketch) kinda ruined something that could've been really cool.
I immediately returned to the cabin and went to bed.
Woke up early and ate breakfast on the exterior deck while the ship pulled into Nassau harbor. It was a serene, peaceful time. Malissa headed out for an onshore excursion with friends (rumor was the zoo would let you hold monkeys…but apparently not true) and I stayed behind waiting for my DJ set.
Sat poolside with John Syzmanski and gabbed like little girls about records, Detroit, the quaintness of pre-Internet touring/planning and how weird it is when people you know die. We shared the spray-on sunblock Malissa bought in Miami to mixed results. My mid-thigh to kneecap on both legs was lobster red as was a weird, triangle-shaped spot on the ventral side of my ankle. Otherwise, consider the sun blocked. John was fine, except for the entire front of his torso, which resembled the hue of barely cooked beef.
Rolled in to Xanadu for my DJ set around 1:15 and after a brief chat with the boys Jacuzzi I proceeded to play the following jams:
Moon Pool & Dead Band – Patsy
Alvin Cash and the Crawlers – Twine Time
Banbarra – Shack Up
The Spencer Davis Group – High Time Baby
Parliament – Flash Light
Jackie Brenston – Rocket 88
The Jimmy Castor Bunch – Troglodyte
At that point the Jacuzzi Boys began playing. With a temporary replacement on drums, the set was pretty remarkable with each of the songs vibe-ing off of the previous one. All in all, I just felt every song was solid and impactful and the fact that they're recording their new album (coming out on Sub Pop subsidiary Hardly Art) at the Key Club in Michigan only excites me even more. I then played:
Cybotron – Alleys of Your Mind
Shirley Ellis – The Clapping Song
The Equals – Black Skinned Blue Eyed Boys
Little Richard – Keep a Knockin'
Gloria Jones – Tainted Love
The Marvellettes – I'll Keep Holding On
The Gap Band – You Dropped a Bomb on Me
Gino Washington – Puppet on a String
Laid Back – White Horse
Vaughan Mason and Crew – Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll (Part 1)
Machine – There But For the Grace of God Go I
Immediately followed by Surfer Blood. Clearly the red herring in the cruise line-up, there were only about twenty people watching them when I packed up my records and left. Part of me felt bad, but I then realized this is a band that has no problem selling out its own shows, has enjoyed heaps of praise from the likes of Pitchfork and recently signed to Warner Brothers. Upon realization of that, my feelings changed to "you'll never have to play a show this small again guys, so enjoy it."
From there was more relaxed chill time poolside. There was a Motown trivia contest that Ko and I were poised to win from the get-go. Simply enough, the organizer would play a song and those participating had to name the artist and the song, with one point awarded for each correct answer.
In terms of Motown the most obscure thing they played was "Money" by Barrett Strong, which is still one of the most popular songs of the past 50 years, even if the original artist is generally forgotten. We were surprised by the fact that Motown, as a term employed by Carnival Cruise contest organizers, apparently encompasses any black music from the 60's or 70's, including stuff like Aretha Franklin (while never releasing anything on Motown, at least she's a Detroit artist), the Crystals and the Ronettes. The only one we were stumped on was who performed "Mr. Big Stuff" (Jean Knight) and our 39 points made us the clear winners, graced with a generic "gold" medal with red, white and blue ribbon to wear it around just like someone who's actually accomplished something. I bet Ko still has it.
After more general hanging out, including but not limited to witnessing how lame the waterslide was via watching friends go down it, and an in-depth convo with Ian, Tom and Terre about which bands dominated which decades, Malissa and I double-dated with Brent and Tessa on the island to get some authentic food before spending the rest of our night at Senor Frog's. Before we left Malissa told me not to bring my passport, apparently it's more trouble than it's worth and losing it is far more an issue than being without it. I obliged and we made our way into the Bahamian evening.
Immediately off boat there was a bevy of locals sizing us up. One introduced himself as "Doctor Feelgood" and I couldn't help but wonder what exactly was the extent of his knowledge of Motley Crue's discography.
We walked briefly before realizing any of the restaurants we wanted to hit were too far away and summoned a cab to take us to the Arawak Cay neighborhood. It seemed a little less touristy than the places immediately abutting the cruise ship docks so that was welcome. As soon as we exited the cab a barker from Twin Brothers approached and started selling us HARD on why we needed to eat there. The place we'd been recommended was just next door, but for some reason we appreciated the guy's effort and decided on Twin Brother's.
(side note: one of his selling points was the restaurant being "featured" on CBS television and I was kinda hoping that it was just clever marketing…something like a news report saying "four American tourists were robbed today at Twin Brothers restaurant in Nassau." I mean, it's not false advertising, they were featured on CBS, amirite?)
I ordered a Long Island ice tea and it wasn't as tasty as those made on the boat. I'm not normally a drinker and the mere scent of alcohol is enough to make me gag, but the cruise was a special occasion, the first real vacation Malissa and I had ever taken, so I drank a little without much to show for it except receipts.
Our food was impressive…the conch fritters were a shared appetizer and absolutely to-die-for. All four of us were very pleased with them. I ordered cracked conch as my main dish and it was more of the same deliciousness. I don't like sea food that smells like it's sea food and both these dishes were almost scentless (in the best possible way) and the plantains were magnificent. All seemed pleased with their meals and Twin Brothers comes highly recommended.
From there we took a cab to Senor Frog's and found out that our cabbie was the DJ there when the club originally opened (he would show up there later in the night and say "Hi"). We arrived just as the Strange Boys started playing and for the first time I finally "got" the band. Maybe I'd sworn them off before as Black Lips imitators or (more likely) just never paid them their due attention. Maybe it was the minimal amount of booze pumping through me, but it was clear to me that the Strange Boys occupy a very important place in the musical landscape right now and I felt privileged to witness it.
On a side note, Senor Frog's is the overall atmosphere I imagine date rape to have been invented in. Oh my god the place is unreal…the music is loud and throbbing, it smells vaguely of vomit, the place is over-packed with sweaty bodies and the MC has liquor in a squirt bottle that he can indiscriminately spray into peoples' mouths. Needless to say, the setting kept me from wanting to drink anything more than water and even then I was slightly wary.
The Vivian Girls bookended their set with renditions of "My Heart Will Go On" and I was reminded of the shuttle ride to the port of Miami on my teenaged cruise many moons ago. Celine Dion's version came on the radio right as we pulled up to the ship, eliciting lighthearted laughter from the passengers. I was listening to Sonic Youth or the Velvet Underground on headphones and had to ask my mom what happened. I hadn't (and still havent') seen TITANIC so it didn't seem that funny to me.
In hindsight, that experience pretty accurately mirrors how I feel about the Vivian Girls. So I guess the cover was apropos.
Just before the Black Lips went on I saw Ty Segal and his girlfriend Denee headed back to the boat, they were going to relax in the hot tub and invited Malissa and I to join them. As great as it sounded, I'd already promised to judge the Soul Clap dance off after the Lips' set. I should've shirked the responsibility and enjoyed that hot tub.
The Black Lips were spirited, but by this point I was exhausted and didn't have the energy to enjoy their set beyond the most general of appreciations. At the conclusion of their set a table and chairs were set up on stage and Ian Svenonius introduced and questioned each of the handful of dance judges.
When asked which corporation I represented, I responded "the city of Detroit" to mild cheers.
The contest itself was confusing. There were five rounds and ten people in each round. They had numbers on their backs so they could be easily identified. The winners of each of those 5 rounds met in the final round. At one point in between rounds there was an announcement made from the stage about a missing 4-year-old girl. It seemed out of nowhere, but I made a mental note to myself to try and find out what exactly it was all about.
I basically just agreed with one of the judges on either side of me. DJ Jonathan Toubin coolly played only James Brown songs. The girl who won the first round ended up winning the whole thing. I guess she danced ok. The whole thing left me feeling vaguely awkward. I just wanted to leave.
At the conclusion of the contest I found Malissa and we made our way out of the club. I'm immediately greeted by a man resembling Gary Busey only shorter and stouter, yelling at me "You fucking punched me in the head thirty times! You assaulted my wife! You coward!" along with some other psychotic rambling. There was a woman standing next to him, holding a child, crying and yelling something at me as well…the general message was along the same lines as those of the man I will heretofore refer to as GB (Gary Busey) while his wife will be CW (for "crying wife")
My immediate thought was "These folks are REALLY drunk" and I said "I don't know what you're talking about" and continued on to the ship.
Tom Scharpling caught up to me and I asked him to stay with me, as I almost anticipated these folks to follow me and try and start a fight. He said he didn't think I had anything to worry about, but walked with me regardless while Terre T (his wife) and Malissa trailed not far behind us.
About halfway back to the ship the head of Bruise Cruise security, Justiz, catches up to me and says that I need to come back to the club, that a man was making accusations about me and that I had to address them. I told Malissa and Tessa to head back to the boat and that I'd met back up with them as soon as I'd cleared everything up.
I'd figured, since I was wearing my favorite/standard navy blue and white-striped shirt that there was probably some other person there wearing a similar styled top and that it was moreso a case of someone biting my stripey style. More than anything, I was pissed that it was seemingly hip to wear striped shirts as I've been rocking that shit since I was a teenager and not only do I have to deal with Urban Outfitters and American Apparel hawking that shit, but I also have to answer for any dumbass at Senor Frog's wearing 'em too.
On my walk back to Senor Frog's an unmarked car pulled over and out came GB, CW and a police officer in some imperial reject uniform. GB says "That's the guy" and CW agrees. The officer asks me to tell my side of the story and I say that I don't know what he's talking about, that there is no story and I have no idea what it's all in reference to.
The officer then asks who saw the altercation and could verify my side of the story. I was told there were four witnesses who saw what I did as well as surveillance tape footage. I said I didn't do anything so I didn't really have a "side" to the story and then said there were to people with me the whole time who could verify I did nothing, Tessa and Malissa, who were both back on the boat by this time. Justiz went to work trying to get ahold of those two and became fairly occupied doing so.
Around this time the officer confirmed with GB that he wanted to press charges and then asked me to place my hands behind my back so that he could handcuff me.
For me to type "I couldn't believe it" would really belittle the amount and pace of thoughts going through my head at this point. I thought about Amanda Knox, about not having my passport on me, about all the episodes of "COPS" I'd ever watched, about being hauled into lock-up and spending the night in Bahamian jail, about the boat leaving without me, about how in the hell I would get back to civilization, about where in the hell the US embassy might be, about what in the hell actually happened that I was falsely being accused of anyway.
My overwhelming thought was to remain calm and not lose my temper or overreact. That was the one thing "COPS" had taught me. If you're innocent, act innocent. Don't get enraged. Don't raise your voice. Remain polite. Stand still. I did all of these things and the police, at this point two officers, were still bumbling in a Caribbean, Keystone cops sorta way that was almost endearing. They told me I should just admit to it and then say I was sorry and that it could all be dealt with from there. Separated from any of my friends or acquaintances I couldn't help but consider doing just that. I also questioned myself "Man, maybe I DID punch this guy?"
Another member of the Bruise Cruise security, Nick, had appeared at this point and seemingly flustered, pulled me aside and asked me to just tell him what happened. I calmly told him I didn't know what they were talking about, that I hadn't done anything and that I'd never seen these people before in my life.
The look on his face was priceless. I don't think he believed me. Talking to him later, he explained it as so (paraphrasing): "When you said that, I just thought you were truly a sociopath, that you were cold-hearted and were just straight-up lying to my face. When you see and hear someone yelling at the top of their lungs that they were punched in the face and attacked, I guess you just instantly believe them."
In addition to that, Jonas, one of the cruise organizers, described his thoughts on seeing me in handcuffs somewhat like this: "It just didn't visually look right, seeing you in handcuffs. But I knew you had kinda been drinking on the cruise when you don't really drink at all otherwise. I thought maybe you had a dark side."
By this point folks had begun to filter out of Senor Frog's more steadily and cross my path. My biggest support came from a manager of Senor Frog's who was also onstage judging the dance contest with me. She was the first to say "You've got the wrong guy" and immediately, assuredly said "He was onstage judging the dance contest. 200 people saw him. He has nothing to do with this."
The cops, in their only moment of crime-solving logic, countered with "No one's arguing whether or not he judged the dance contest. These people are still saying he assaulted them."
Next to happen upon me was Ian "Smash the State" Svenonius. With his expertise in world cultures I thought he'd just snap his fingers, rattle off some claptrap about the proletariat and communism and I would instantly be freed of my shackles and we'd be laughing it off like old comrades.
As he got closer, someone came up to him and said something to the effect of "DO NOT say anything or get involved here you will only make things worse" and after a brief pause, he continued on his way back to the ship.
From there, the Black Lips had finally filtered out of the club and saw me. Jared was the first and most adamant about the situation, damn near screaming "You've got the wrong guy, he doesn't even drink! This is wrong!" The incredulity in his voice was clear.
The cop responded, in a manner clearly meant to shut him up, with "Would you be willing to go to court and testify on his behalf?"
Jared countered with "I would be GLAD to testify in court! I will not get back on that boat until Ben is let go! YOU'VE GOT THE WRONG GUY! HE DOESN'T EVEN DRINK!"
(at this point I'd felt a little guilty having had ONE drink that night, almost thinking that if the cops tested me and alcohol showed up that for some reason I would be imprisoned for that)
Joe Bradley of the Lips got in the face of GB, stared him down and pointed his finger at him saying "You have no soul!"
As I look back on the nine or so years I've known the Black Lips, from buying 5 copies each of their first two 7"s at their Lager House show in 2002, to a truly terrible show at Maxwell's in 2003, to stealing food from a house party in Detroit, or bringing 'em along on tour in 2006 and letting them crash on our hotel room floors, seeing them sign to Vice and hone their stage show into an entertaining rock and roll juggernaut and touring the far reaches of the globe…this show of solidarity was truly the best feeling I could ever imagine from them or any band. When I first thought back on it, I got teary-eyed. THAT'S what music is really about…being part of a brotherhood.
(the only photo I've seen of myself in custody, with Jared and Justiz. Photo: Jackie Roman/the Hell Gate)
Joe had said that the cops at Senor Frog's had another guy in custody and that HE was the person they were looking for. We all walked the100 or so yards back to the club only to find that the guy they had in custody was GB, who'd somehow managed to end up back there without me noticing.
It was at this point a woman I'd never seen before looked at me and then looked at the police and said "This is not the man you're looking for…he wasn't involved in this at all. He's innocent. You're looking for my husband."
"Where is your husband?" the police responded.
"He's inside. I didn't want him to have to come out here and deal with all of this. We just called our lawyer," she said.
"Well, can you bring him out here?" the cops coolly asked.
I then looked at GB and very calmly said "Can you please just be a decent human being and look at this guy when he comes out and see if maybe HE'S the guy who punched you?"
For the first time since I'd first seen him, GB was relaxed and responded "I can do that."
Out comes a guy, relatively the same height as me, blond hair a little bit shorter than mine, wearing one of those Cuban-style, button-down, barber shirts. No damned hipster stripes.
"Yeah, that's him" GB admitted.
I didn't have enough time for the weight to lift off my shoulders before the police said, "Everyone is going to the police station."
This was not cool. I patiently tried to get the attention of the officer "Excuse me sir, he JUST said I didn't punch him. Excuse me. Please!"
The authorities were patently ignoring me and it was scary. Their minds were made up and there was no convincing them otherwise.
As I turned around and was lead to the cop car I was confused to see a proper film camera, complete with blinding floodlight attached.
"When the fuck did TMZ get here?" was my reaction.
There was a tight crowd of somewhere between 15-30 people consisting of Black Lips, random Bruise Cruisers, Senor Frog's employees, other bar partrons, and people with cameras. The situation was loud and seemed like it could erupt at any second.
The cops (or someone) started yelling at whomever to stop filming and taking pictures. Others (the Black Lips immediately come to mind) were adamant that the crew continue filming and shooting pics. I was put in the backseat of an unmarked police car right and was soon joined by GB, the man who not 5 minutes ago was still convinced I'd punched him in the head thirty times.
"Hey man, I don't really know exactly what happened, it was all pretty crazy, I hope you can understand how weird this all is for me" he said as we sat with our hands behind our backs.
"Yeah, no worries. BUT I HOPE YOU CAN UNDERSTAND HOW WEIRD THIS IS FOR ME!"
I would find out GB is a bail bondsmen from Connecticut. He said it was weird to have the cuffs on him for once, although I doubted this was his first time. I asked what he thought of all the "Dog the Bounty Hunter" reality shows and he said they were bullshit.
His wife is from Brazil. She was having trouble becoming a US citizen, but apparently if you buy a house for more than $500k in the Bahamas, they will automatically make you a citizen. So they were in Nassau looking for houses to get her citizenship and ideally make it easier for her to become a US citizen in the future.
I would later find the altercation stemmed from GB and CW bringing their 4-year-old daughter into Senor Frog's at 1am. Apparently GB went up to someone (probably the guy that looked vaguely like me) and said "Can you please not smoke in front of my daughter?" to which he replied "Maybe you shouldn't bring a kid into a bar at one in the morning" and then the fists began to fly. This was also the source of the "kidnapped 4-year-old" comment from the stage and I guess someone had (wisely) grabbed the daughter in the middle of the melee just to protect her and SOMEHOW that got misconstrued as kidnapping. Yeah, I know.
We arrived at a police station only to be told that we need to go to "Central" so we hopped back in the car, drove another 5 miles and ended up at another seemingly bland building. In my memory there was a prostitute just walking out. We were buzzed into a back room with fake wood paneling and bad overhead lighting where the arresting officer relayed the story to his superior something like this…
"There was an altercation at Senor Frog's this evening. This man (pointing at me) was falsely identified as having assaulted…"
"So what is he doing here?" the commanding officer interrupted, "Get him out of here"
My handcuffs were quickly removed and without as much as an apology. I had to ask if someone could drive me back to the boat as I had absolutely no idea where I was. Weirdly enough, after what seemed like ten minutes of driving to get to the police station I was still only about two blocks from the ship.
As I was dropped off and walked alone through the night towards the glowing ship ahead of me my stomach began to feel nauseous. Only once I'd gone through it all did I realize how bad it actually was. In spite of the nausea I still felt like the soldier returning from battle…like I'd somehow conquered something and was stronger because of it. And I had what felt like the biggest smile of my life beaming from my face.
As I re-boarded the ship a woman signaled to me and showed me a picture she'd taken of me handcuffed. She said she was glad I was ok and although I didn't know her, it was comforting to hear. She also took this photo:
(the biggest smile of my life, just before re-boarding the ship. photo courtesy of Jackie Roman/The Hell Gate)
As I headed toward our cabin I ran into the Jacuzzi Boys who were overjoyed to see me. They could barely put into words how BAD they felt when they saw me in cuffs and conversely, how much better they felt knowing that everything was now ok. For the rest of the trip, from close friends to random strangers, this sentiment would be echoed time and time again and just like describing how the words and actions of the Black Lips had an impact on me, every time someone commented their concern/relief it was a refreshing reminder of someone previously unforeseen brotherhood.
Malissa had left a note in our cabin saying she was at the pool and that she was scared. I didn't know what she knew about any of this…but the entire incident would've been visible to anyone standing on the port side deck of the boat.
Apparently some mix-up had Justiz looking for someone named "Michelle" and when that didn't work they tracked down Tessa and asked if she knew where Michelle was. Confused and scared, she started calling Malissa Michelle, not sure what was going on.
Both Tessa and Malissa were told that they'd need to go to the police station to give statements on my behalf. Malissa later said she didn't feel good leaving me to deal with the situation by myself, but had she been there and seen me get handcuffed she would've lost her shit and the situation would've only become more difficult. I'm glad she didn't have to witness that and I hope in the future she never has to.
Turned out that Malissa and Tessa were on their way to greet me at the entrance to the boat and had apparently just missed me. I got a call in the cabin and they came and met me and I gave her a much-needed hug before going down to the security office to fill out some paperwork just so Carnival had internal documentation of the incident. That was pretty painless.
Back on the deck I happened to run into the guy who looked like me who was actually in the fight. He said he broke his hand punching the other guy and (eventually) that he was sorry and I forgave him. From there, I gave my rundown to Jonas and Michelle (the head honchos of the Bruise Cruise) and while doing so, thought of the follwing…
Not to try and sound like a martyr, but I'm glad this all happened to me. I wasn't drunk and don't have a temper or problems with authority. The entire time I was calm and polite and just generally quiet. Had one of the Black Lips been accused in a case of mistaken identity, they would've been screaming their head off, spitting in people's faces and generally turning the entire thing into an international incident. So really, all in all, I was probably the best person the whole thing could've happened to. And I'm fine with that.
But it's also fucking scary as shit. The cops essentially LIED to me and said there were witnesses and a surveillance tape…NONE of which was true. I was so blindsided by the entire thing that I didn't even think to challenge them on this…I'd almost just taken it as fact. I also didn't think to show my knuckles with absolutely no signs of having thrown punches and because I didn't know exactly when the whole thing went down I wasn't even comfortable using the "I was onstage judging the dance contest" defense for myself. Not to mention they tried to sucker me into admitting to it anyway (at that point a very legitimate approach seeing as I was getting nowhere) under the guise that if I just apologized we could work towards sorting everything out.
The bigger lesson learned is not a nice one. Simply put, if someone accuses you of shit you didn't do, you have to sit there and deal with it. You need to answer to their accusations and in some unfortunate situations, be handcuffed and detained. EVEN WHEN YOU DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG. And this is dealing with seemingly HONEST cops. If there's the least bit of shadiness, graft or crookedness…man, you've just got to be fucked.
I managed to find out that there was an incident outside SF's last year and it seemed like the cops were trying to avoid a repeat of that, hence why I was brought into the police station. They had to diffuse the situation and save face in regards to cuffing me.
I also found out that the "Bahamian" way is to get the relevant parties to apologize to each other and let them go without any paperwork or reports or news showing up in the papers. They're only source of income is essentially tourism and they will do whatever they must to ensure that revenue is not jeopardized. Hence why the guy who actually was throwing punches was back on the boat not twenty minutes after I was.
The rest of the night would be enjoyable…watching the sunrise with Joe Bradley as he explained the financial bailout of Middle Eastern nations was equally surreal and serene.
The next day would be enjoyable, but even the free drinks and finger foods at happy hour while the Oh Sees and Quintron played were more relaxing than anything. Good, long, in-depth conversations with Ty and Tom were probably the highlights of my day, along with overserving myself at the 24-hour pizza and ice cream stations.
I turned $1 in the penny slots into $12 and struggled to hear Joe Bradley play piano at the VIP reception. Disembarking was easy and painless…the bar tab between Malissa and I over three days was only $100 which I was quite surprised by, especially considering we had friends who'd easily topped $500 in that same period of time. The happy hour, two bottles of champagne and two complimentary bottles of wine all consumed on Sunday helped keep costs down.
The cruise was insanely fun and I doubt anyone who partook did not have an absolute blast. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone even remotely thinking of going. Plus, you heard it here first, the Dirtbombs are confirmed to play in 2012.
Day off in Miami was tour-guided by Danny from the Jacuzzi Boys and was an absolute treat. Having never really seen Miami before I'd always considered it a cultural wasteland, but with Danny's guidance we got to really experience the flavor of the city…from Cuban coffee to South Beach to old man nautical bars.
The highlight for me was the Wynwood Arts District, my first-hand proof that Miami is far from a vapid, cultural wasteland. The area was expansive and breathtaking. Every available space was covered in massive, colorful street art and the neighborhood was practically littered with galleries. In all my travels I've never seen such a concentrated and well-executed example of public arts. Words or photos would only fail to do it justice. It's best left to be discovered and explored in person. Just like the rest of life.