As an independent singer-songwriter I often rely on the kindness of strangers. People offer to put me up for the evening and many times I accept these invitations. Musicians have been doing this for a long, long time, it comes with the territory.
I’ve met many good friends doing this and stayed in many different homes with people from all walks of life.
It’s almost always works out for the best.
Except one time.....
My pedal steel player, Dylan, and I had played a really nice show in a B.C. It felt like the entire town showed up and it was one of those nights when everything worked. People were buying what we were selling and we had the audience in the palm of our hands. Not every show goes that way and we have done this long enough to know to appreciate those moments when they come.
This particular gig didn’t provide accommodations. We knew we could either pay out of pocket for a hotel room, sleep in the car, or try to find a place to stay. Each option comes with it’s own pros and cons.
We began talking with a nice group of people and one of the guys offered us accommodations at his house. He said that he had just been divorced and had a large, empty house. His friends were really nice and it seemed normal enough. We decided to accept the offer.
We followed the man to his house, in our car. He was driving strangely, going noticeably slow at times and swerving all over the road. We hadn’t noticed him drinking and started to question our decision.
It was around midnight when we arrived. We parked in a very dark alley behind the house. We weren’t familiar with the town and had no idea where we were.
There were koi ponds in the front yard and the house was a very old, two story home on a large property. He opened the door and we were greeted by a one-eyed cat named Jack.
He brought us up the stairs and as we moved up the creaky, old, staircase, it seemed to shrink and become disproportionate. It made you feel like you were moving into a different dimension when you walked up the stairs.
There were two rooms upstairs. The first room belonged to the man’s estranged ex-wife. It was her sewing room, and it was outfitted with a bookshelf of dated Japanese books, trinkets, and a beautiful old sewing machine. The room seemed to be covered in dust and things looked as if they hadn’t been touched or moved since she left. It felt like “Great Expectations”, things were preserved in an unhealthy way.
The other room had a large bear rug on the floor. “That’s where one of you can sleep, he said.” We both scanned his face to see if he was joking, but he couldn’t have been more sincere.
He told us that the house was built on the side of a hill and was actually three stories on one side of the house. “Look out the window he said,” as he hung half his body out the window while hanging on with one hand. He encouraged us to do the same thing. I hesitantly stuck my head out and peered down the three stories. It was frightening. He encouraged me to hang my head out further. I had a strange feeling that he was going to push me the entire time.
Next, he brought us back down the stairs and showed us the other guest room. It was a small room with a single bed in it. It was painted white with nothing on the walls. There were three turtle tanks in the room. Two were empty, while the third had a large turtle with nothing but water and a single block of wood for the turtle to sit on. The turtle snapped anytime you put your hand close to the glass, and I felt immensely sad for the creature.
I weighed the odds in my head. My sleeping choices were sleeping on the floor on a bear rug, or sleeping in the turtle room. Neither seemed like good options. Actually, both were the worst options. I would much rather sleep in the car at this point.
The rest of the house was filthy and had a very strange presence to it. He assured us that the house was haunted.
The man then began to tell us a story about sport fisherman who he had caught poaching without a license. He explained how the fisherman would just rip the hooks out of the fishes mouths and violently chuck them back into the ocean.
While he was telling us this story he became animated and violent. He looked at Dylan as if he was one of the fisherman. He seemed to be blurring the lines of reality and directing the entire story at Dylan. His voice became louder and louder. Fear and anxiety started to fill my stomach. I didn’t feel right about the situation.
Veins in his forehead began to pop and he began to appear taller and taller. His presence grew and he felt like a giant, screaming and ranting about nothing. He was filled with anger and I began to plan an emergency course of action.
I carefully calculated that I was going to punch him as hard as I could directly in the throat as soon as he crossed the threshold. I determined that I wasn’t going to second guess myself and was going to hit him with everything I had and ask questions later. I was starting to think in survival mode. He was huge and had the crazy factor working in his favour.
Before I could throw a punch, I had another idea. I interrupted his story and told him that we had left our guitars in the car (which was true) and that we needed to grab them at once, as we never left them unattended.
We put on our shoes and opened the door. As were were walking out he asked, “do you want some Delicio pizza?”
We got to the car and realized we were parked in the smallest alley, directly in front of his house. I had to do a 9-point turn to get the car in the opposite direction and I frantically pictured the man smashing our windows open with an axe when he realized we were trying to escape.
When we finally got the car turned around, we blew out onto the darkened, nameless street.
We ended up sleeping in the car in a casino parking lot. I kept on waking up, expecting the man to be smashing in the window. I had dreams of turtles and Japanese trinkets and falling out of a window that night.
That was the last we saw of the strange man. I hope he enjoyed the pizza.