I was looking around the back room of the Stork Club, checking out the various posters from over a decade worth of shows. I was finishing my bottle of beer when Aaron came up to me and said, “The van just got broken into, I think they got Peter’s keys.” I didn’t really conceptualize what it all meant, I just followed him back out to the van which was parked a block away on 23rd and Telegraph. Walking up I could see the driver’s side door was open and walked around to the other side where Dustin and Dean were standing. I looked inside and saw the flat screen TV that Dean was transporting to Bakersfield still there but in a different position. He had been keeping it in between the two front captains chairs, usually uncovered. I looked for my backpack which had been directly behind the driver’s seat. It was not there. Neither were Peter’s or Dean’s bags. I got out and tried to re-boot my mind. There was a continual error sign that kept flashing and a voice saying, “Does not compute.” I came back to the van to do a better search. Maybe I missed it. Maybe it was just hiding under some of the other stuff. Maybe we just got totally fucked.
      The day had started off nice enough. We had leftover Motel Burritos in the morning and Chief and I did some pull-ups on the outside stairs to help keep our muscles from atrophied. After showers and coffee we were ready to make our entrance to Oakland. We drove right to venue, I guess to check it out. I had played there years before while in a previous band Precursor. The Stork Club is on Telegraph, a particularly idiosyncratic street. You could see the ugly past meeting up with the gentrified future. We found a Motel 6 off Embarcadero, right on the water. Peter, Dean and I went to the Safeway to grab lunch/dinner. Went into Trader Joe’s for free coffee and to grab Dustin a tuna wrap. He loves those things. We were waiting to take off while Dean finished his chicken enchiladas when we saw a lovely black woman in a long Hawaiian dress waiting in front of the bank. “She’s a whore, you watch,” Dean said. To our left was a rental truck with a greasy driver waiting outside. We watched her walk over to the side and approach him. They hung out for a minute, then she got in the passenger side and they left together. “See!”
      Back at the motel we ate and chilled for a couple hours. I watched the sun set behind the water and breathed in the fresh air. I felt great. It seemed like a vacation. I walked back in and found Chief taking apart his laptop. The grey screen kept flashing file folder icon. “That’s the worst one, I think it’s the hard drive,” he said. Little did we know what kind of omen it would prove to be.
We left around 7 and drove the short distance to the club. Not very good parking in front so we parked a little distance away. We unloaded and trekked everything in. We were supposed to play third so we had a couple hours to chill out. Arron went to market on the corner and grabbed a six pack. We drank it in the van, just hanging and talking about the election. We would do our usual routine of some of us coming and going randomly with Dustin trying to lay down and sleep a little in the far back. We opened a bottle of white wine and drank that. I made my way back to the club to hang out, check out the next band, get a drink. I was playing free pool by myself, checking out the graffiti, stickers, and posters when Aaron came up with wild eyes and told me the news.
      Dustin had been in the van when it went down. They probably cased it first, saw the TV and various other things. Since we had been coming and going all night, the van was left unlocked. Dustin woke up hearing a commotion in the front. As he came to he shouted, “What the fuck is going on!?” and tried to get to the front but the two of them were gone. And fast. After realizing what was taken Dean and I walked around the entire block looking in bushes and dark corners to see if they might have stashed the bags or dropped them. We looked everywhere but to no avail. I called the cops and reported the robbery and was told to wait for a squad car. This was pretty low on the list of important police matters in Oakland so I found myself waiting on the corner of the road lost in numb thoughts of sadness and anger. I didn’t give a fuck about playing the show. All I wanted to do was report what had happened in the hopes that something might turn up. I felt disrespected and violated. But it wasn’t the fact that my backpack was expensive or the two books that I lost were important to me or even my laptop. Those are replaceable with cash. The thing that hurt the worst was the White Orange art for the next album that I’ve been working on for the past 6 months was on there too. I stood around for over an hour. I called back twice asking if I could do the report over the phone or expedite the process somehow. Nope. I got word that we were going to perform anyway. I knew that I would probably miss the squad car but went in and set up anyway. I just sort of went through the motions, unattached. Dustin and Dean were drunk, well, probably everyone was drunk. And angry. After two songs the sound guy came up to us and said, “Last song.” Sort of the perfect night cap of shitty dicks. We unloaded out into the sidewalk under the Oakland night sky. We had just met Terren, a guy that came out for one of the other bands and stuck around till the end. He had rolled one of the most beautiful Haze joints we’ve seen, complete with hash and hash oil. After loading and other shenanigans we were just about to leave when a squad car came up. Under other conditions this would have risen my adrenaline levels considerably, but this was actually some luck. Officer C. Espinoza was very helpful and considerate. She took down all our information and wished us luck. We needed it out here on the battlefield.
      Chief was driving us back to the Motel when he came across a sketchy driver who was originally gonna turn off but eyed the van and trailer and came back on the road, following us on the freeway while we slowed down to 45mph and he still didn’t go around. We came to a stop and he pulled up next to us, got out of his car and pretended to look around the his back seat for something. The light turned green and we went first and he followed. By this point everyone was very well aware of what was happening and on high alert. “Is he still behind us?” asked Chief. “Yeah,” Peter replied. We came to a funny part of the freeway and we got over to the left quickly and he didn’t have time so he merged right. We found the Motel 6, parked the van, and breathed. Shit could have gotten even more real.
      In the end, Pete lost a macbook, a nice rain jacket and a wallet. Dean lost a laptop, a bunch of clothes and a sweet bag. I lost a macbook, my backup hard drive, and an expensive backpack, all among other things. The van’s roof and seat had been gouged by the TV as they were trying to take it out. All that notwithstanding, we were fine.
      So what is the lesson to be learned here? Always lock the van doors? Don’t keep flat screen TV’s visible in the front seat of the van? Always keep important bags on your person or well hidden? Don’t maintain an attachment to physical items? Is this some sort of spiritual test placed upon us by the Gods or were we victims of circumstance in a chaotic world. It’s easy to dismiss it all and say, “Fuck Oakland.” And while that sentiment might hold some weight, I think it’s all just part of this journey into the unknown where all of us as individuals and family will be tested. I’ll leave you with a quote from a book that is inspiring some of us right now…

“It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

‘Till next time!

ps. Dean found the following photo ID ten feet away from the van. We gave it to the officer in hopes that it might lead to something. I found him on Facebook and left a message. We’ll see what he says.


The mystery deepens…


- ryan | No Comments