When I played in the early days of "the Mark Dufresne (Dufrane) Band" in the late 90's we were based out of Seattle WA and drove some pretty fair distances regularly between gigs in all directions, Canadian Border to Portland Oregon, the 'ol I-5 corridor, basically. One of our early jobs in the city of Bellingham, North of Seattle near the Canadian border, was in a little strip mall at a bar called "The Village Inn"......(former Zappa band-mate, Jeff Simmons used to call it, "The 'Village Idiot', but he's much more clever than me). "The Inn" was most likely built in the 50's and featured pull tabs, pool tables, a microscopic stage that faced a row of dining booths and a mysterious dance floor that was sunk at least 5 feet into the floor, and completely off to the left of the stage (no end of drunken dancers tripped and fell down the 4 stairs that led to the dance floor during our tenure). Not exactly your dream gig by a long shot, but we were trying to make ourselves a name and played pretty much anywhere.
It was the Superbowl weekend, January 26th 1997 and we had been hired to play both Fri & Sat night. The pay wasn't opulent enough to afford rooms and still make any money... so the club owners.... who were pretty nice to us....... got one room (for drummer Alan Isaacson & bass-player Kelly Leifer) at a local motel......Mark and I were invited to stay that night at their home out on the lake. Seemed innocent enough right?
Well, as they say, "you can't judge a book by it's cover". The clubs' two owners, a married couple, seemed like the perfect hard working duo. They were crazy about Mark Dufresne, who had lived and played in Bellingham years before. They graciously extended their hospitality and warmth to the rest of the band as well......always greeted us with big smiles and a free meal. Although they did their best, they rarely promoted the musicians & bands that they regularly paid to perform, hence a number of times the die hard fans we had in Bellingham had no idea we were actually playing there.
The Superbowl weekend was upon us, we all had day jobs back then, so by the time we had worked, got home, spruced up for the gig, made the nearly 3 hour drive up to Bellingham and set up our stuff at the club we were already a bit burnt. The crowd that night was better than usual, they stuck around til the end, and we had a pretty good time playing.
The band consisted of drums, bass, guitar, with Mark singing and blowing harp. We played mostly self penned songs and prided ourselves in ultra tight & dynamic arrangements. Billed as a "blues band", we played all the classic blues feels and ventured into soul, funk, rock and gospel. It was the best original band I was ever in, when we were "on" we walked a musical tight rope that was inspiring to perform, we were anything but boring. The funny thing was, no matter how tight, or how much the audience went nuts for us, Mark would always give us an ..."Ehhh..." after most performances, as if to indicate it could have been better or it didn't "do much" for him...yeesh. Can't believe I played almost 8 years with him, but such is music, friends and neighbors..... and it was a helluvah band.
Annnnnyway we get through the night just fine and even mercifully got to leave the equipment set up for the next night but we were pretty crispy for sure. The husband-owner & the staff started closing the place down, throwing the last of the bar flys, pool players and pull tabbers out, shutting off the lights, and locking the place up. His wife had left that afternoon and would open the club the next day, so they're giving each other a break and working different shifts.
It's about 2:30-3:00 am now, and we're dyin'' to lay down and look at the inside of our eyelids, Mark (perpetually hungry) has been promised food back at the house. Around this time I start to notice that the male owner, let's call him 'Mr. Village' is a tad bit on the inebriated side. I'd never seen him "creamed" before on our other visits, so I was a bit surprised, but figured, ....."hey it's late, nobody's on the road..we'll follow him home and hit the hay, what could happen?." The drive to his home on the lake took almost a half hour as we followed him weaving slowly along the country roads that circle the enormous lake. Finally we arrive at their house, a splendid affair, very nice, big and beautiful, right on the lake.
Our host, a bit wobbly, unlocks the door and beckons us inside, suddenly seeming twice as drunk as when he left the club. Mark & I are trying to be quiet, they have a young son and we know that Mrs. Village is catching up on some much needed sleep for the day ahead.
As we get inside, and climb the steps upstairs to the main floor that contains their bedrooms, the living room and the kitchen......Mr. Village yells out "Hey Margie! Wake up! Mark & Billy are here!" Mark & and I are taken aback, we really are beat and the last thing we wanted was to disturb the sleepy household. We crest the stairs and view the sleeping Mrs. Village on the couch.
WELL.....from the couch, rising like a halfback that had been gang tackled on the five yard line some hours before, Mrs. Village springs...verily leaping up to greet us, wild eyed...and judging by her breath,...... a bit on the creamed side herself........and she begins to talk......and when I say talk....I can only say I have never experienced this type of verbal onslaught in my life. She speaks like an Uzi.....She talks like the little mouse in the Warner Brothers cartoon with the barn owl & the mouse.
(I you don't know that cartoon please read the following as fast as possible the create the effect).... "Sohowwasthe tripupfromSeattle?Dijjah runintoanytraffic jeez myfriend Suziewaitednearly2hourstheotherday anditwassomeguywithabrokenaxle great tohaveyouguys comeandstaywithus hopethecrowdappreciatedyoufellahs attheclub wasdinnerok? Yahkow I was thinkingtheotherday howniceit'dbeifweallhadChristmastogethernextyear....etc etc etc......." (Get the idea?)
The woman NEVER stopped talking for the remainder of the night, I was astonished, she could talk the bark offah elm tree. I wanted to hit the hay, but Mark, with the promise of food,was into "visiting" a spell. Trying to get along I propped my eyes open a bit longer.
We moved into the open floor plan kitchen where Mr.Village had plopped down and fixed himself up a homemade supercharger out of an empty Coke can with holes he'd punched in it, and proceeded to customize his buzz by smoking what can only be described as the most noxious substance that resembled pot I've ever smelt. He graciously offered the ghastly smelling & dangerously smoking hot can around the table...we "passed" I think even Mrs. Village "passed". The conversation was absolutely dominated by Mrs. Village (remember kids she never shuts up, going a million miles an hour like a verbal freight train) Mark and I are able to insert a few grunts and nods, but that's all we could squeeze in. Mr. Village ceases to speak all together, and although there is great rummaging though cupboards and refrigerators by Mrs. Village, as she speed talks on......... no actual food is produced. It seems that promises of eggs and toast were premature,....the frig is pretty bare..... eventually cereal (to Marks' horror) is consumed while we listen on.
Suddenly, after a brief lull, (as if she weren't animated enough) Mrs. Village jumps up and sez .."Oh you haven't met the dog! You have to meet the dog! You'll just love her! Suzie! Suzie!" Mark and I are looking up in ernest at the now shouting Mrs. Village making every gesture we can think of, accompanied by feeble protesting, believe me for all we're worth. We state repeatedly that tomorrow will give us plenty of time to meet the pooch, we're ready for bed, but we are roundly ignored. Mrs. Village disappears into the house still chatting over her shoulder and calling the dog in her wake.
Mark and I now make a direct appeal to Mr. Village,....... that it's late and we need to get some sleep...... however; at this point Mr. Village is merely sitting there imitating a conscious person,... we get nowhere. ......Then Mrs. Village returns half dragging a still drowsy large brown boxer......'Susie', presumably......into the kitchen, the talking (mercifully stymied by the architecture for the past 3 minutes while she roused the dog) as started up in ernest again..... the history of the dog ....dog anticdotes.....dog adventures.....dog foibles.......and suddenly.....as if accomplished by hidden government agents...the kitchen is filled with the most overwhelming, warm, seemly alive, with a mind of it's own ....STENCH I have even encountered in my then 50 years of walking this earth.
"Whoa!" Mark exclaims as he and I leap up from the table & sprint from the kitchen like it was on fire! The stink was so enormous,..... so all pervading, .......so intense.....it scorched the hair in your nose,...made your eyes water......made you forget your social security number..... I can still smell it now, ........oh the horror!! (I burned my cloths later the next day in a trash barrel in downtown Bellingham,.......... not really, but you get the idea).
"Oh I forgot to mention Susie's DYING!" Mrs. Village exclaims "Susie (the dog) has colon cancer and just lets off these big ol' farts,....heh, heh, heh.... we figure she has a couple of weeks left to live,...... Jeff & I let her sleep on our bed because we know she's on the way out." At which point (as if on que) another massive dog fart fills the air.
We cough and run gagging for the nearest exit, a sliding door out to the deck and mercifully gulp down some non polluted air. "Get that @#$%*& dog out of here Margie!" Mr. Village roars, he has finally been roused from his stupor (presumably from the all natural animal smelling salts). Whereby Mrs. Village drags the mephitic animal back to THEIR BEDROOM (can you imagine?) and beds him back down. Mark & I are left gasping for breath outside on the deck (probably 20 degrees outside in January at night) and finally, by ourselves, agree that the nights' late shift entertainment has lost it's charm for us, and we needed to beg off. We were prepared to drive away, find a Motel..... hell...... even sleep in the same bed if we haftah at this point,...... it's just too much.
Mrs. Village returns from the bedroom as Mark and I reenter the house, she informs us that there are 2 extra bedrooms mercifully downstairs and we won't be anywhere near the gaseous animal, relieved we abandon plans to leave (it's about 3:30 now) and start begging off to go to bed.
But...before we can make a clean get away..... Mrs. Village exclaims "Oh, do you want to meet the dogs mother???" To say we were puzzled by the question was putting it mildly. We did however immediately sense that no good could possibly come from any further doggy business, so we begin to protest in ernest.
"No, no, please, not tonight" Mark sez, hands waving her off. "Nope! we turning in." I exclaimed. "Maybe tomorrow." Mark sez with a big animated yawn and a stretch. "That's enough dog for me for one night.." I say trying to get away.... (wait for it)... "No, no, no she's not ALIVE.." Mrs. Village explains, .............creeping us out even further,.........are they keeping dead dog somewhere?......... Is she gonnah pull it out of the freezer?
"She's right here!" Mrs. Village sez. (oh God let it end)
Now at this point in the program kids, you have to imagine the scene. Mark and I are standing just outside of the unwalled open kitchen, which is right off the living room..... ( a faint cloud of yellow gas hovers over the kitchen area).....Mr. Village is still seated at the kitchen table glassy eyed. (can I have a drum roll please)
"She's right here!".... Mrs. Village exclaims, and proceeds to rush to the refrigerator (I knew it was in the refrigerator!)....... she gracefully reaches up on tip toe and grabs a box that has set unnoticed on top the frig, and in one quick smooth spinning movement, sortah like a ballet dancers' pirouette........"She died last year and we had her cremated"....... the pirouette continues with the box over her head and she spins towards us......"I just can't bear to bury her, or disperse her ashes!"......she somehow feels she needs to share this with us........ then the "dancers twirl" goes horribly wrong and she tangles in her own feet and falls full length.....face planting on the kitchen floor......arms still extended over her head as she goes down...........the box with dog ashes charooms off the floor.....splintering the box into a thousand pieces and spills it's burnt-ashy-doggy-contents.... fanning out.... across the off-white kitchen floor! KABLAMO!!
(OK! Now Let's start this party!!)
What is this? the Red Skelton show? Sienfeld on steroids? Man, we have our mouths open almost to the dog-ash-strewn floor. If we had indulged in any or all the baloney these guys were consuming we may still be laughing...but mustering King Kong size self control & composure........
"Woudjah look at the time!" I crow, thumping my watch (and biting myself to keep from laughing) "See you folks in the morning!" Mark sez as the two of us beat a hasty retreat downstairs, cowards that we were, leaving Mr. & Mrs. Village to sweep the dog up, and presumably tuck her into some Tupperware.
We were never quite sure what exactly we were supposed to do when presented with the dog box that night..... but fortunately that social faux-pa was avoided. You'd think that nothing much else would be capable of happening in that house, it's comedy quota seemingly used up for decades to come, but the morning did bring a few surprises.
We awoke to, what we would discover was, their son throwing an assortment of toys down the front staircase accompanied with his 6 year old sound effects "eeeerrrrraahhh...crash! Yah ooo weee...KaBOOM! etc....." As there is truly no rest for the wicked, Mark and I made our way upstairs after a much needed shower, it's not tooooo early, but I couldah used a few more winks, speaking for myself. We had resolved between the two of us, that we would make a break for it and go get some freakin breakfast.
Mr. Village sits again at the kitchen table (he couldah been there all night for all we know) sipping coffee with what must have been the Mt. Kilimanjaro of hangovers...the kid is hurling action figures at anything that moves and running and screaming thought out the house. We explain our plans to leave...but before we can escape...we are informed that Mrs. Village has prepared breakfast (ratz) for us before she left. (All traces of dog have been removed from the floor) With that.........the kid yells "Yay!!" grabs an oven mitt and pulls a little instant blueberry pan cake from the still warm oven. "Everybody sit down!!" The kid shouts.
"Ethan, take it easy.....just try and be a little quiet." His dad sez, rubbing his forehead and speaking between the throbs of his headache.
The kid responds to dad by running out of the room like a wildebeest and grabbing a fairly formidable couch pillow from the living room, racing back into the kitchen like a little ninja and clobbering his dad from behind.....pow! right in the head in mid-hot-coffee-sip...glasses....coffee go flying......dad does nothing .... Fabulous, really.
The pillow is tossed aside, the rocket powered kid yells "Let's eat!!" and thrusts his bare hands into the pan cake and dumps handfuls (of what had been fairly appetizing seconds before) still steaming cake unto plates set in front of us!
I'm not sure if we actually ate any of it, the trauma was starting to set in. We had been expected to stay for the Superbowl, but we begged off, enough as they say is enough. I certainly don't mean to say these folks were doing anything other than trying to be hospitable to Mark & I, but you have to admit, it was a bit on the wacky side. I had been forbidden to write about this for years as they were friends of Marks', but since Mark hasn't spoken to me in 7 years,..... what the hell? Hope you had a giggle, kids. For me "Would you like to meet the dogs' mother?" will remain as one of the more absurd questions I have been asked in my life, and there yah have it.
The Mark Dufresne Band at The Village Inn
"Halloween" Kelly as the Scarecrow, Allen the convict, me as Father William
& Mark, "the devil with the blue dress on" in better times.
Would You Like to Meet the Dog's Mother?
© 2007 Billy Stapleton. All rights reserved.
"Keep pickin’ ... "
- Billy Stapleton