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A Christmas Tale

'We wish you a Merry Christmas and a gutful of beer!'

All Rights Reserved © 1994 Duncan R Fry


Roses are red, violets are bluish, if it wasn't for Christmas, we'd all be Jewish!

Christmas comes but once a year, and most people would quite correctly say: "Thank Christ!" Indeed, who else would you thank? Wasn't it the man himself who said "And there shall come a great profit throughout the land." Or was that prophet? Truly it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a two man road crew to carry a concert PA system up 4 flights of stairs!(Enough with the Biblical references, already. Get on with it.Ed)

I did a Christmas Eve gig once at the old Greyhound Hotel in Richmond (an inner Melbourne suburb). This was before they called it Benson's, painted it the trendy colour of the month and put blinds made of Crunchie wrappers over the windows!

Originally I didn't have a gig that night, and was planning on spending the evening watching TV, but Colin from Park Audio (we're talking pre-ARX days here), who had the gig originally, dangled the carrot of easy money in front of me.

"All you have to do is a walk-in mix for the band," he said. "It'll be money for nothing. I'll set everything up in the afternoon; all you'll have to do is mic up the band and let it rip."

"Who's the band?" I asked.

Col consulted his work diary.

"It's Dicky Moron and the Rude Boys!" he said (No kidding - that was their name. I still have a souvenir poster to prove it!). "They play ska, funk and reggae. You'll love it."

Actually I loved the thought of the easy money better, but since I only lived in the next suburb, a couple of kilometers down the road from the gig, and like the warm hearted, believing fool that I am, I said OK.

The gig was due to start at 9.30pm Christmas Eve, so I decided to get there about 8.30 just to be on the safe side. As I drove down the road I could hear the noise from about a kilometre away. Pulling up in the truck (I had no car) I could see that the place was jammed and people were spilling out into the street. At least there's a good crowd, I thought.

I squeezed through the door and made my way inside. It was chaos, and what's more, as far as I could see, it was chaos without a PA system!

Pushing and shoving through the well oiled crowd to the stage, I found the PA stacked up in the far corner of the room, still packed in its road cases. What made it worse was that the band had set themselves up on stage already.

As anyone who has done PA work will agree, there's nothing worse than trying to put the system together with the band on the stage. Everything possible is in the way. There's guitar pedals, amps, drums, all set up where you least want them, and all the players tuning up and loosening up. What we in the trade would call a real shitfight, in fact. The sort of thing that you may get away with it on a large stage, without the audience, but this was a tiny club stage totally filled with a seven or eight piece band, and a sea of expectant faces jammed up to the stage waiting for the band to start.

Well, I had to leave the boxes where they were, since there was no where else to put them, plugged them up, and set up the rest of the system like a man possessed. Bitter experience had taught me that audiences, especially extremely drunk ones,can get pretty snakey if nothing comes out of the PA when the band starts!

Amazingly everything was put together in time. No EQing, very basic monitors, but at least everything that was supposed to have a microphone in front of it had one. When the band started, the place went wild and any thoughts of fine tuning the sound went out the window. I just kept it as loud as I could and left it at that.

The gig turned out well. The band was happy, the crowd was happier, the pub was happiest because everyone was totally pissed rotten. When Col came to pick up the system at the end of the night, I was having such a good time (tired and emotional? Ed) that I forgot to berate him for the PA not being set up. I rarely drank at gigs, but there was so much alcohol and the earthy aroma of giggle cigarettes that had I been breath tested on the way home I would have pleaded 'passive drinking' as the cause!

Another Christmas Eve I was driving home in the truck from the factory, where we had been having some Christmas drinks. As I got halfway through the trendy Glenferrie Road, Malvern, shopping centre, all of a sudden I was seized with anuncontrollable urge to have a leak. It must have been Montezuma's Revenge, since I had been drinking Coronas back at work. Whatever it was, it was very urgent!

I was desperate. My bladder felt as though it had swollen to the size of a basketball, and I thought I was going to wet my pants right there and then. What could I do? I pulled over to the side of the road and stopped the truck, since I was so desperate I couldn't concentrate on driving. But I couldn't just jump out of the truck and use the gutter, because it was still daylight and the place was full of happy shoppers buying last minute presents.

Feverishly looking around inside the truck's cab, I found an empty 4 litre container of oil. Great, that'll do, I thought. The old Toyota F series truck, with its 20 inch wheels, was so high off the ground that it was well above eye level from the street. The passers-by wouldn't be able to see what was going on in the truck, and I could leak in peace.

So, I grabbed the oil container, wrenched off the cap, and blissfully started to fill it up. Aaaah - the feeling was like paradise. Breathing a sigh of relief as my bladder slowly regained its normal dimensions, I leant back in the seat and relaxed.

All of a sudden a sixth sense made me look over my shoulder out the window. Uh oh. I was looking at a tram (streetcar in USA) full of Christmas shoppers! Equally as high off the ground as the truck, if not more. It had silently pulled up next to me, and the passengers were all craning their necks and staring in the window at me, the oil container, and Rudolf the Red Nosed trouser snake! A Christmas display with a difference! God knows what they thought was going on (and he ain't telling!).

Well, cut me off at the knees and call me tripod! What else could I do except smile, wind down the window, wave the oil container at them, and wish them all a "Merry Christmas!"

Unfortunately, though, that wasn't the end of the matter. I screwed the top back on the oil container, drove home and promptly forgot all about it. A few days afterwards, my two helpers Jim and Chris, noticing that the oil light was flashing, thoughtfully topped the engine up with the contents of the container!

A couple of days later the engine bearings wrecked themselves on the way back from Geelong!


This story first appeared in Connections magazine

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