enGORGEment 2000: A (Long Strange) Trip Diary

Mam'zelle Daphne G. Canard a.k.a. Miz Ducky,
Your Traveling Correspondent

Wed. 5/31 -- I escape from my office and rush home as fast as I can manage. Soon Diane/Jackofdays/ti bon ange shows up at my door, helps me schlep belongings and supplies down to her vehicle, and we' buzz off to her place, the chosen staging ground for the Technicolor Motor Home contingent of enGORGEment 2000. We spend a relaxing evening watching a TV documentary on the Beat writers. Diane, being the Kerouac scholar that she is, throws in some wonderful color commentary on the events going down on the screen. We talk about the Beats, the Dan, various dreams and visions, and all sorts of other appropriately cool stuff. Fabulously mellow way to begin this long weekend's journey.

Thurs 6/1 -- our first Magic Bus passenger, Dr. Raoul Duke, shows up. (He'd actually arrived in Seattle Wednesday night, but overnighted with local family). Our other local fellow-traveler, the Chimp, also arrives. Diane goes to fetch two more from the airport, the other two help me fetch our bus from the rental agency. The All Too Mobile Home is a stylin' rig. Even the fact that the entire interior is faux wood and beige plastic (I would have much preferred graphite and glitter) can not detract from the grandeur of this rig.

The bus team returns to meet our remaining members, The Charmer and Moody Bastard. More groceries are fetched, plus booze. Turns out my cultural training really goes nuts here, because I wind up waaaay-overbuying, but hey, as that culture opines, it's much better to be stuck with too much at a party than, god forbid, too little.

We begin to pile our belongings in our home base for the next few days, and do some getting-to-know-you exercises, mostly involving various combinations of Dannish audio/video and chiba. From afar we sense the psychic vibe of the Portland gig going down, a vibe mellower but farther-reaching than a new bang at Mt. St. Helens or any other intervening geologically-active volcano. Eventually we crash, and sleep fitfully in anticipation of the great departure.

Friday 6/2 -- we load up and head out. The bus rolls way smooth. The tape deck and CD player are plied with many Dannish recordings old and new, official and otherwise. The Charmer starts showing how well his handle suits him by playing us a mixtape he made based on the Japan setlist, culling the appropriate songs from memorable live performances wherever possible. We all begin to groove on the fact that we are, for perhaps the first time in our lives, hanging out in realtime with a "room"-ful of people who are as bugfuck crazy about Don and Walt's fabulous creations as we are. The Dan-trivia begins to fly thick and fast, plus other fond musical remembrances.

We roll over Snoqualmie Pass; it tickles me no end to see our out-of-towners get the same kick out of the Cascades snow-and-woods-and-peaks grandeur that I've gotten ever since moving out here in '89. We stop in Roslyn for homages to Northern Exposure and beers and pool at the Brick. Then onward to Ellensburg and our rendezvous with St. Alphonso, his lovely wife Jami, and company--a wonderful rendezvous in every way except for the management of the Franchise Chain Campground from Hell.

The campground itself is okay enough, if a bit basic. The management, however, consists of the Campground Nazi, a man given to riding around his property in a golf cart as if he were Patton in his jeep, stopping to give us lectures about how we dirty hippie Gorge-goers damn well better behave or he's slinging our asses right out of here. Just to add to the mixed metaphors, I start calling this dude the Low Rider, because he keeps buzzing our campsite in his golf cart the rest of the evening and again at 6am, intent on catching us red-handed in the midst of some hippie preversion or other. Finally StAl goes and has some kind of man-to-man talk with the fellow and he lays off at least somewhat.

But even the Low Rider cannot succeed in dampening our ever-burgeoning spirits. We eat some incredible food, including this fiery southwest-fantasia soup cooked by StAl's friend Butchie, a professional cook and entertaining madman. Wonderful visitors arrive. Cigars and booze and chiba break out. We party hearty--though quietly, to spare the Camp Nazi's tender sensibilities--and crash.

Saturday 6/3 -- we clean up, load up, and roll out, cross the mighty Columbia Gorge--all those sepia stepwise cliffs!--and charge up the far side to the next rendezvous point, hitting it right on time. We hook up with more people, and roll into the Gorge property itself--slabs of meadow and former vineyard perched right on the brink of those same riverside cliffs. The campground is well on its way to becoming a Levittown of RVs and tents. We get our slice of the pie in the sky, set up camp, and grease up--the sun is already broiling, and yeah sure right it's a dry heat but it's still heat fer crissake.

StAl gets his cocktail freak flag flying from the top of his RV. It works like a charm. I pull up a seat in a small sliver of shade and commence to enjoy the ever-increasing stream of Internet Danfans come to visit our compound. Our remaining member of Team Seattle Danfest 2000, Sue, shows up with her husband Dave, reporting that their Friday night home party for Danfan visitors was a great success. Some combination of the heat, a little more chiba, and accumulating lack of sleep (who can sleep with this much adrenaline charging around in one's bloodstream?) begins to play hob with my short-term memory. The question "Have you seen my set of keys to the RV?" is heard out of my mouth many more times than I care to think. Hoops shows up with his kewl little video rig, and yes, we're making movies of ourselves. Shaughnessy shows up and pays me outrageously gallant compliments, which I love. Terrific people from all over continue to check in--my already-flaking memory struggles to keep up with all the names, but the faces and the terrific vibe come through just fine.

Finally, it becomes time to head on over to the amphitheater. One last check for tickets and other assorted belongings. Friends walk me over to the stopping-place for the disabled-folx courtesy van--I am so pleased they do this ADA thing so well and cheerfully, because my joints are really beginning to whine at me about all the cavorting across meadows and clambering about motorhomes I've been doing. I enter the Gorge amphitheater itself--man, what a beautiful layout, but that terraced green ski-jump that they call a "Lawn" is one steep mofo! I score the version of the T-Shirt with the doctored New York Subway token on it, and make my way down the steep hill to the reserved seating, on the way running into someone I haven't seen since back in my ministerial days (yes, you read that right, but that's a story for another day … ).

My singleton ticket is fabulous--I'm in the tenth row, just in front of Donald's Rhodes. I scope madly, trying to imprint it all on my brain. This is a pretty durned mellow crowd--lotsa boomers like me, a sprinkling of younger folks. The snatches of conversation I overhear are pretty mellow too--and pretty smart-ass; Dandom obviously self-selects for wiseacres. My friends Charles and Jerome (to whom I sold my left-over pair of tickets) come over, and I make sure they know where to find StAl's House of Party for aftershow partaking of cheer and chiba.

Recorded reggae is demonstrating the clarity of the huge hanging banks of speakers on either side of the big we-mean-business stage. Plenty of elbow room up there for the whole band. I start scoping gear. I know shit about amps, but I'm pretty good and getting better on the instruments of choice of the Guys and their crew. Off in the wings to the left I spot one of Walter's Sadowsky Strats, that big Gibson hollowbody Jon plays, and the acoustic double-bass I'd heard Tom uses on the Mancini piece. I see that Donald's Lync, when off-duty, waits on a little keyboard stand of its own just upstage from the Rhodes. Over in the right-hand wings, I spot Roger Nichols puttering around.

And then … On With The Main Event!!!

Folks realize the canned music has stopped, wrap up conversations, head purposefully if not quickly for their seats. Without fanfare, all the bandmembers except the Main Men slip out onto the stage and take up their positions. The Girls wave and smile as they step up on their platform, getting waves and cheers back. The band strikes up the majestic riff that eventually resolves itself into "Boston Rag." A roar goes up from the crowd as Donald and Walter join the band onstage. Donald sits down at the Rhodes, tilts his head back and launches the first line into the mic. And we're off and running.

For the next timeless stretch of existence, incredible torrents of music pour off the stage and over the crowd, inundating us with sonic perfection. The band is seamlessly tight and hot, the sound system so crystal-clear I have no trouble whatsoever picking Donald's grace notes on the Lync out from the mix. Donald's in terrific voice, Walter's ripping wonderfully bluesy solos on that gorgeous quilted-maple Sadowsky, everyone up there is blowing their brains out. And they're having fun! You can see it in Donald's in-the-groove stride whenever he prowls around the stage with the Lync, in the way Walter turns to admire Ricky's drum solos, long hair a-waving as he head-bops like any audience member. The Guyz are way pleased, and when the Guyz are happy, everybody's happy

Personal highlights for me: Ari's terrific solo on West of Hollywood, blowing and blowing over those apocalyptic chord changes, until the rest of the band drops out and he's still blowing, acapella, silhouetted against the last of the sun. Walter's vocals on "Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More" and "Monkey in Your Soul" -- the former especially dropping perfectly into his growly-baritone range. Michael's eerie soul-in-hell trumpet on "Royal Scam." The whole Mancini piece, done with the Guyz offstage but with Donald's arrangement-fingerprints all over its glossy surface. Carolyn's soulful turn at the vocals for "Dirty Work," with brother Michael on keyboard (with his long hair, shades, and slender build, Michael gives me the split-second delusion that there's a twenty-something Donald doppelganger up there). Ted Baker's terrific piano solos--the striding exploration eventually leading into Josie, and the comic bravura one he drops into Hank's Pad. The mild-mannered Mr. Herington, tasty but relatively modest all night, catching fire and showing he can too burn up the wires on the two encores. Walter's ever-entertaining band-intros, especially when he flummoxes Jim Pugh by asking him if he can do "that slide-for-life thing" on his 'bone.

And throughout the entire concert, the amazing Mr. Fagen, inward-turning but outward-sensing, simultaneously aware of every single note jumping on that stage, singing like a Soul Man, keeping rhythm right in the pocket on the Rhodes, dropping perfectly timed and beautifully bent chords into the mix with the Lync, and just generally being the unassuming but essential core of the Dan of Steel. "In a couple of minutes it's gonna get really good," he deadpans. If it gets any better, I'm gonna drop in my tracks from the excitement.

During intermission I see Pete Fogel sitting in the third row with a pack of other long-time keepers of the flame. I wander down, get a lovely welcome from him (and eventually from his significant other The Lovely Shari, who'd been detained in some line somewhere). Pete invites me to hang out in a nearby long-abandoned seat for as long as it stays abandoned. Its owners do eventually return, but until they do I get to sit nearly at Donald's feet. I'm pretty well transfixed with ecstasy.

Like all good things, it's over way too soon. Donald raises his arm in a salute to the audience, says "See you next year--" and they're gone. I partway wish it were next year already--or at least July 15th, when I'll be seeing the show again in Mansfield. But in the meantime, there's celebration to be had. I limp my way back through the happily satiated throng to the ADA van pickup, making cheerful conversation with total strangers as we're borne back to the campground for the next chapter.

Back at enGORGEment 2000 Headquarters, the joint is jumping. Hoops is capturing it all on camera, StAl is distributing by random drawing a whole passel of Dannish t-shirts and mousepads (a gift from Walter to the Loyal Fandom), people and more people are coming by, and a very polite security guard asks us to take the Cocktail Freak Flag down! Seems last week the crowd that camped after the Red Hot Chili Peppers show got a bit rambunctious and decided to set fire to a few Portapotties, and so the management is being a bit jumpy about large gatherings in the campground. We all make responsible-sounding noises at the guy, and he smiles and departs, wishing us a happy party. Which we have, until who knows what hour in the morning.

Sunday, 6/4 -- we drag our exhausted bodies out of RVs and tents to partake of St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast. Actually, it's spicy potatoes that StAl cooks up; our own Diane is responsible for the actual flapjacks, plus scrambled eggs. Where she found the energy for all that cooking after the stream of visitors to her tent the past few nights, I'll never know, but maybe that's why her pancakes come out so fluffy. Anyway, we sit around happily shell-shocked, taking in coffee and carbos, and are entertained by hysterical jokes from the deceptively deadpan Moody Bastard.

Finally the height of the sun in the sky lets us know that we must be moving on. Many heartfelt farewells are said, and we fold our tents and point the Magic Bus homeward.

The trip home is uneventful, though enlivened by a brief buzz through North Bend, past the Mar-T Café of Twin Peaks fame to scope Snoqualmie Falls. We make it back to Seattle and Diane's place, where we take a half-hearted but ineffectual stab at getting the squashed bugs, cookie crumbs, and unidentified herbal matter cleaned off the RV. Somewhere in the midst of this exercise, a certain over-exhausted member of our party who shall remain nameless (except that her initials are Miz Ducky) suffers a major attack of Penko Power brainlock like unto the hapless staff member of the '96 Steely Dan tour. Fortunately, no harm is done outside of a bruised eardrum or two. The attack does, however, convince the rest of our noble team that it's time to crash--and crash we do, having partied away every last remaining calorie of bodily energy.

Monday 6/5 -- we awake bright and early, scrape the remaining crud off the motorhome, and say our final goodbyes to our companions of the past few days. Actually, we promise each other, these are not final goodbyes at all; after all, didn't Donald say they'd see us next year? And so, promising each other that we will indeed do it again, we head off to our own places near or far.

All thanks and all praise to the many and numerous Internet Danfans I got to meet and party with during this amazing weekend; to StAl and Hoops for that all-important initial organization and inspiration, to Suedave for gamely holding down the home front while we were already on the road. And deepest love and thanks to my traveling companions: The Charmer, The Chimp, The Moody Bastard, Raoul Duke … and last but not least, the Funk Queen of the Western World and Reigning Champeen of the Six Degrees of Separation Sweepstakes, the inimitable and unsinkable Jackofdays. Yer all fabulous. Keep on shining.

And of course, ultimate thanks and wishes for continued inspiration to our Guiding Lights, Messrs Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. Travel well and rock on, guys. Y'all mean the world to us.

This Travels with Steely Dan site owned by Mam'zelle Daphne G. Canard.
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