New Year's Eve 2006-2007

New Year's Eve 2006-7: Kidney Infection Merit Badge

Now what would you do if you were diagnosed with a kidney infection scant hours before you were supposed to play a New Year’s Eve show for a sold-out club? What would you do if you couldn’t eat or drink because everything that found its way down was finding its way back up, and you knew your body temperature was in the low triple digits but you had to get on stage in front of hundreds of people who expected- demanded- that you entertain them, damnit. Would you bail? Leave your band to play limpid Meters covers while you cowered in the bathroom, or better yet take the deposit money the club already gave you and just hit the road, the show be damned because there must be a kidney infection clause in that contract we signed, right?

You probably would, admit it. We probably would, most of us. But not Lara, who took some painkillers and summoned the spirit of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business in a performance that will go down in Aphrodesia history simply because no one else in the entire place- Jackson Hole's Mangy Moose- knew what the hell was going on. She led the band through ‘Get On the Good Foot’ and tore through our back catalog like a retiree with a coupon book. She feasted on the new songs from our upcoming album like a sheik at Ramadan. And all the while the crowd passed champagne, wore funny hats, tried to make out with the girl next to them and slobbered over us after we were done asking if we all sewed our own clothes. In other words, as far as anyone else was concerned, it was just another blurry New Year’s gig from a band on the rise. But not to us, who stood around toasting Lara in the dressing room afterwards, shaking our heads and dreaming up schemes for Aphrodesia Merit Badges- Started the Bus, Finished the Whiskey, etc.- all dwarfed by the queen merit badge of them all, the Kidney Infection Merit Badge.

Which is not the slight the Merit Badges we earned just getting ourselves to Jackson Hole in the first place. For example, we discovered that our beloved Jeannine is something of a wimp when it comes to cold weather. Maybe she had never been out of California before she met us, who knows. But after an eventful night with Lara, Liz, Jason and Ezra in Winnemucca at Dave and Mona's, we spend an hour trying to start her up, and end up getting reaquainted with our friends at Humboldt Diesel while they replace our fuel filter. Which eventually leads to us trying to start the bus, again, in the cold Utah morning for at least an hour before it finally roars to life and sends us on our rather uneventful way to Victor, Idaho and the Knotty Pine, where that night we stretch out for two sets for a crowd happy to be generating some body heat in the single digit-degree weather. The next morning we again try to start the bus in the cold, but this time it really won’t start, which is when we realize it wasn’t supposed to. We are supposed to sit in a freezing bus, listening to our starter take gasp after gasp as it wears itself down, our hopes of a smooth, uneventful tour dashing against the rocks of gelled-up diesel welled up in our fuel lines, so that we can call Jeremy, who we met at the Knotty Pine the night before, just when we’re entering hour three of trying to get the thing started and are wondering if there’s a yellow pages with any van rental places in it. And we’re supposed to meet him so that he can crawl around on the ice under the bus, wearing a t-shirt and slippers in air so cold it could crack a frying pan, banging on our fuel lines looking for an engine block heater, and squirting ether into our air filter and telling us to stand back in case it catches on fire (“These things sometimes do when you do this. You shouldn’t do this. I’ve been that guy with his engine on fire because he squirted ether into it before”), and then watching as Jeanine roars to life, all our pleading and promising warm weather trumped by a squirt of laughing gas into her air intake- we should have known.

Which leads to us taking the Teton Pass into Jackson, while Lara's sagging health mirrors the rising altitude and the show that night at the Mangy Moose does nothing to lift her into the land of the healthy. The next day we wonder what our options are if she can't perform, but shouldn't have bothered: trying to keep Lara from the stage that night is like trying to stop Lake Mead if the MonkeyWrench Gang ever gets their way with the Hoover Dam.

Afterwards, we eventually peel The Hardest Working Woman in Show Business off the couch and hustle her off to the condo, thinking the worst is over, she’ll get better from here, which works until at 5:30 in the morning we can’t ignore her condition anymore and hustle her into town to the hospital, where she is checked in with 104 degree fever and a case of dehydration that would make the planet Mars look like Atlantis. There she stays for the next several days, and what can we do? Leave no woman behind, so while Jason, Ezra, Liz and David stay at our new friends’ Jessie and Jeff’s house a couple blocks from the hospital, everyone else rents a van and gets home in time for real life just like planned. The next day David and Liz drive off, and it’s just Jason and Ezra, killing time in Jackson Hole bars and Lara’s hospital room, until finally she’s released and the three of us drive home, blasting the heat in the bus and bundling up in the cold, stopping in for a few hours rest at Dave and Mona in Winnemucca again, before we finally bring The Hardest Working Woman in Show Business back home.