Best of times, worst of times

I’ve been thinking about the weddings I’ve been at or involved in lately. It got me thinking back to one of my favorite weddings that I’ve been part of — which, unfortunately, led to more problems than I ever wanted to have to deal with.

I’ve been thinking about the weddings I’ve been at or involved in lately — [James and Stacey’s][1] last month, Casey’s tomorrow, and possibly two scheduled for next summer. It got me thinking back to one of my favorite weddings that I’ve been part of — which, unfortunately, led to more problems than I ever wanted to have to deal with.

[1]: “Eclecticism: I’m back! Really! I’m here!”

It was all about Travis and Lana…

This all happened quite a few years ago. Let’s see…I was DJ’ing at the Lost Abbey, and living in a condo behind East High School in Anchorage that I’d rented with my girlfriend Becca (though she had left me to live with someone she’d had an affair with at this point), which would put it around ’95 or so. I’d known both Travis and Lana for quite a while, Travis from the clubs and around town, and Lana — well, Lana I first met when she was dating my little brother. While I wouldn’t have put either of them in my ‘close friend’ category, I thought I knew them fairly well, and that we were decent friends. Little did I know….

Anyway, Travis and Lana met, dated, and after a while, decided to get married. Being a couple of club kids, though, they were determined to make their marriage something (ahem) ‘special’. That they did — and, even given the problems that followed, I still have very fond memories of that particular wedding.

The wedding was held at the Lost Abby, on a Saturday night, right at midnight. This was back before the Abby started on its self-destructive spiral downwards, so we were getting a lot of people in there every weekend — and midnight on a Saturday night was _not_ exactly a sparse hour for the club. I think part of the motivation was to get as many people there as possible, whether or not they knew them — but I think they also knew that when dealing with a lot of kids ranging from 14 to their mid-20’s, many of which were carless, this was the best possible way for them to have all their friends at their wedding.

Their ceremony was a thing of beauty — in a twisted, dark, pesudo-gothic sort of way. They got their friend Ben to perform the vows, and just before midnight, I finished the song that was playing and asked everyone on the dance floor to open up a space in the middle, and then explained to them what I’d been told the ceremony was going to be. Travis, Lana, and Ben took their spots in a triangle in the cleared space in the middle of the dance floor, and when they were ready I started playing Ministry’s “[Jesus Built My Hotrod][2]”, an eight minute-long high-speed industrial noisefest. As they recited their vows, the entire assembled masses moshed in a circle around them for the length of the song. Once the song and their vows were over, they’d given me free reign to follow up with a song of my choosing — so, given both my sense of humor and the spirit of the event, I chose “[Love American Style][3]” by X-Calibur, featuring the lyrics, “Being in love really sucks / being in love really sucks / a kiss and a hug and a couple of fucks / being in love really sucks / babies cost a lot of money / please don’t make me fuck you honey.” What can I say? They loved it!

[2]: “ Ministry: Jesus Built My Hotrod”
[3]: “ X-Calibur: Love American Style”

So that was the wedding — one that I’m not likely to forget anytime soon. One of the most bizarre I’ve ever been around, but a lot of fun, and greatly enjoyed by all involved, even those that showed up at the club with no prior knowledge of a wedding that night! Cool stuff.

But, of course, all good things must come to an end.

Not too long after the wedding, Travis and Lana came knocking at the door to my condo. They were struggling a bit, and needed a place to stay for a week or so while they found their own place. Sure, no problem — I’m always willing to do what I can to help out my friends, and have a tendency to be trusting (sometimes possibly to the point of being naïve, something dad and I have talked about in the past as being a trait we share), so the two of them moved into my living room for a week or so.

A few weeks after that, they were still looking. I’d gotten a bit tired of having them in the living room, so I let Travis and Lana set up shop in the second bedroom. Things were fine that way for a while. Then…well, you never seem to see things heading downhill when you first start treading that slippery slope, do you? As I said, I like helping people out when I can…and suddenly, there were all these people that Travis knew, or met at the club, who needed a place to crash for a night here, a night there, a couple days every so often. The first wasn’t a problem…the second wasn’t a problem…but they just kept coming. The road to hell being paved with good intentions, it all seemed okay at the time.

Even I can only pull the wool over my own eyes for so long. After a while, it was a little too obvious that in addition to the number of people going through my house, there were a lot of other things working their way through. What amazes me today is that it took me so long to hit my breaking point. The drug trafficking I could cope with most of the time — usually, it was restricted to what at the time were the ‘big three’ drugs of the Alaska counterculture scene: pot, acid, and ‘shrooms. I did find it necessary to mention to Travis that I was less than thrilled when I caught word of a little cocaine having passed through at one point, though to my knowledge, that was a one-time thing. Turning a blind eye to the car stereos that would occasionally appear and disappear was probably not the best thing for me to do, though those are so easy to move that there most likely wasn’t much I could do about them.

I did throw a minor fit, however, when one day I sat down on the couch and felt something hard poking me. I reached down between the cushions, figuring there was probably a remote or something shoved down there — and pulled out a rifle, holding it by its muzzle. Even better — the fool thing was loaded. Had that trigger caught on anything…well, seeing as how I’d just sat on the ‘business’ end of the rifle, I don’t want to think about exactly what portions of my anatomy had just been endangered. Even then, however, that wasn’t enough for me to put my foot down…saying ‘no’ is something I’ve since worked on, but at the time, didn’t happen nearly enough.

The last straw, when it finally happened, was a doozy, though. It happened on a Sunday morning — I’d spun at the Abby that Saturday night, and we had the usual (at that point) post-club bodies littering the condo. I don’t know what time it was — probably not as early as it felt, but I’ve never functioned very well in the mornings, and when you’re up ’til 4am DJ’ing, “morning” is a very relative term. In any case, I was woken up by the sound of repeated pounding on the front door. It went on long enough to convince me that it was probably something important, so I worked my way out of bed and made my way downstairs. As I scanned the living room, I realized that I could probably only come up with names for about 5 of the 10 or so people scattered across the floor.

As I opened the front door, it became all too apparent just why the pounding hadn’t stopped, as I was greeted by the none-too-friendly faces of two Anchorage Police Department officers flanking Mike — a friend of Travis’s that had had a falling out with Travis a week or two earlier. They asked if they could come in and as I didn’t know of anything illegal on the premises (at that particular point in time), I said sure. They were somewhat surprised by the number of people gathered in the living room, and had me go through and wake up those that hadn’t already been awakened by this point so that they could do an ID check of everyone on the premises. I still wasn’t too sure what all this was about, but Mike cleared that up rather quickly when he went to the back sliding door, opened it and took the officers to the carport stall where Travis had parked a VW Minibus earlier that weekend.

As it turns out, that Minibus was actually Mike’s. Travis claimed that he had bought it for Mike, but that as Mike had not repayed Travis the money for the van (a staggering $50, if I remember correctly), he had taken it upon himself to ‘repossess’ the vehicle. In essence, I found myself in the unenviable position of harboring a stolen vehicle in my carport — and as the sole leaseholder on the condo, it was my legal responsibility. I, of course, wanted nothing to do with it — I had my own car already, and had no need for a stolen VW Minibus (that, incidentally, Travis had apparently spent much of the previous day attempting to disguise by spray-painting the bus a different color — a fact not lost on either Mike or the police officers, which didn’t do much to bolster Travis’s claim that the van was actually his). I turned the van over to Mike, and the officers discovered that in addition to the current brouhaha, there was an outstanding warrant for Travis’s arrest for unpaid traffic tickets.

I decided at this point that I’d had more than I could take, and while Travis was sitting next to me, handcuffed and waiting for the officers to take him downtown after they finished the ID checks on the rest of the assembled riffraff, I called my landlords and gave them my one month notice of intent to leave.

The next month turned into a very interesting one. Travis ended up being bailed out the next day, and within the next week came through the house while I was at work and cleaned out all of his and Lana’s possessions — along with a fair amount of mine, some of which I discovered immediately, some that I didn’t realize I was missing until long afterward, almost none of which was ever recovered. Once I went in to clean out the room that Travis and Lana had been inhabiting, I found that they had done a fair amount of damage, from (apparently forcibly) removing the blinds from the windows to staining the walls with soot from cheap candles and incense. There were knife marks in the banister from where Travis had decided to practice his knife throwing, and down in the kitchen, much of the molding had been broken off of the counter top when Travis had climbed up onto the counters to place things on top of the kitchen cabinets. All in all, far more damage than my security deposit was going to cover.

So, I did what I could to clean up, salvaged everything I could, and left. It was definitely a learning experience — and was a major motivating force in my finally learning that no matter how much I like to help people out, there does come a time when I have to think of myself and my welfare first and say “no” to a request for help. I’m also much better at determining when a given situation is starting to progress beyond the bonds of where I’m comfortable, and actually saying something about it, rather than just continuing to plod along, hoping that things will change. It’s a shame that it took this severe of a kick in the ass to get me to realize that, but, at the same time — I could have learned this particular lesson much later, or never at all.

A silver lining to every cloud, eh?

In any case, that’s the long and sordid tale of myself, Travis, and Lana — one of the coolest weddings I’ve ever witnessed, and one of the most bizarre (and, looking back on it, quite possibly dangerous) instances of my trust being abused that I’ve ever gone through. I’ve not heard much of either Travis or Lana over the years since then — the occasional random rumor floats through the rumor mill, but not much more than that. I’m fairly sure that they ended up getting divorced a couple years after all this happened, and I’ve heard various rumors connected with Travis. What the truth is, I’ll probably never know — and, to be quite honest, I think I’m happier that way.

Ah, well — ya live, ya learn, so it goes, c’est la vie, que sera sera, and innumerable other cliches.

I’m still here, and in my world — that’s what counts.