Williamsburg, VA – “Hurricane Floyd” – JM Randall’s – September 16, 1999

Chris Soucy got in the van trying to avoid the hurricane and clipped his heel on the door in the process. He slid into the front bench with a sigh, his Cuba book crooked under his right arm. The Cuba book arrived at the hotel one day. It came in the mail from New York all dog-eared and underlined– a gift from the girl he’d “entertained” in NYC and had subsequently invited him to join her for a romantic Cuban getaway. He’s grown rather fond of holding the book up for us, pointing to the cover and, with amplified diction, saying “KUBAH,” the way he imagined locals might pronounce it. Then, after a pregnant pause, after our laughter has died down, he follows it up with, “Are we there yet?”

In his left hand, Soucy had a white, plastic bag tied in a tight knot at the top, and was, like him, rather drenched in weather. “I’ve got presents for you guys,” he said in a particularly high-pitched sing-songy voice. Excitedly we turned to him as he wrangled the knot made from the plastic handles. “Sally…” he handed me a slick Johnny Taylor CD Titled “Stop half loving these women!” I insisted we listen to it first, before the James Brown that Soucy gifted Delucchi, before the Morris Day he gave Kenny, and before Brian’s Funkadelic. It proved a great CD (not my dad, for anyone who read the Detroit entree, but a great CD).

I was nervous because the day outside was tumultuous, to put it mildly. Trees heaved and thrusted and shed their limbs like Bacchus’s Maenads. They warned of Hurricane Floyd’s impending arrival. Delucchi, who grew up in San Francisco and consequently, had never been in a hurricane in his life, was trying to persuade me to calm down.

“You’re overacting Sal,” he tisked as he drove us headlong into what the Weather Channel was calling a “tornado path.” As we were leaving the hotel, the TV showed our exact route as the one not to travel. But Delucch was adamant about making the show and disregarded newly fallen branches in our lane. Nervously I knit, determined not to look out the window. The black, heavy wool I used to make a new hat, became symbolic of the weather outside. I’m sure that it’s not smart to drive in a hurricane.

As we neared Richmond, I begged Delucchi to pull off on the exit to check Floyd’s status before we got any closer to Virginia’s shoreline. The streets were desolate downtown and most windows were boarded. Streetlights hung at 45-degree angles in the wind and almost all the shops were shut. We stopped at a pizza place for a slice and watched Floyd eat cars and homes on the TV over the kitchen. My stomach churned.

Despite my whining, Delucchi was unwilling to call the venue to cancel our imminent show. But he agreed to let the storm die down for an hour before we got back on the road. Brian suggested we ride it out in a drum shop that appeared to have its lights on. “Ghana,” turned out to be less of a drum shop than a religious, African voodoo market offering incense, perfume, jewelry, voodoo dolls (complete with pins) and, candles blessed by a witch doctor. Under every shelf, a sign read, “Touch =’s Buy.” I bought a little bottle of a scent called “Love Drops” and some unblessed candles in long cylindrical glass jars. One was called “run devil run,” another “the fast money blessing.”

When we arrived at the venue, it was in a strip mall. There was no electricity and the vibe was eerie. Despite the hurricane, people were lined up, waiting for us, with cameras in hand. They asked if they could get a picture with me, and I knew then, how the show had been promoted: “The Famous Daughter Of…” I stood pleasantly in front of their flashes, feeling like the bearded lady, the circus freak, the novelty item on sale for $3.99 in the tourist store, as people took my picture having never heard me sing a single note.

I was really dehydrated. I sat in a booth with my rainbow socks on, knitting in the dark, humming and drinking water which tasted really funky. 3 glasses in, a waiter approached and told me not to drink the water on account of it being contaminated due to flooding.

The show was sold out and it went down pretty smoothly considering it started without electricity on a generator. We just made fun of ourselves and played our hearts out and drank sewer water and danced as people called up requests: “You got a Friend” and “You’re so Vain.” “I don’t know how to play those,” I said.

Most of the people we met were really nice. They bought CDs and hung out, offering their advice and homes and alternative ways to get to North Carolina tomorrow. Of course, we had more GLOMS than usual that hung around too long and too late and stuck like gum to the bottom of our shoes.

After driving through the storm to get to the gig, the venue, at the end of the night, refused to pay us the $150 they’d booked us for (time to look for a new booking agent). we left with a bad taste in our mouths. But the storm cleared and the electricity came back on by the time we checked into our hotel. In the room, I proudly held up my finished “storm hat” for the boys to admire. I think I’ll give this one to Delucchi.

Sleep was delicious. It sank into my bones and melted the lines across my forehead into the smoothness of chilled milk.