Chet Week continues with the fulfillment of a Chettish request, i.e. posting photos from a long-ago incident wherein my car nearly plunged into a sinkhole. Chet was there (that's him kneeling on the right, barely visible between two standing band dudes), along with several others, not to mention my favorite band at the time, the Sugar La Las. Yours truly is the topmost of the two heads leaning out over the kneeling girl. Click on the pics for larger versions. To recap:
Back in the days of yore known as 1992, I was but an innocent lad made of sticklike limbs and frizzed hair, and I had some of the worst musical taste imaginable. I was only just beginning to emerge from a unilateral diet of (also frizzed) hair metal. One of the first local bands I ever had a group crush on was the Sugar La Las, an art-pop assemblage fronted by a large Eurofreak named Mats Roden, and a pixieish temptress named Carole Griffin. Plus a drummer and percussionist and bassist/keyboardist whose names escape me now. They were a fun, wacky band, and they had the good fortune of being generally good musicians. Roden wrote most of their songs, and he was a medium genius at coming up with great pop guitar hooks and catchy lyrics. Plus, they did face-melting covers of "Shook Me All Night Long" and "Delta Dawn" among others.
Anyway. The Sugar La Las, though nominally based in my ole home town of Birmingham, would occasionally come southwest to Tuscaloosa for shows. They did so one Sunday night at a dive called the Ivory Tusk, off the University of Alabama's now largely dead Strip. Great show, much fun, etc., with several of my local pals in attendance, La La converts all. Since it was a Sunday night, the bar had to close a little early, and there were fewer people than normal. Which meant I got to skeeze on the band a bit, which no doubt led to some awkward "I love you guys" booze talk. Can't really recall those details ...
What I can recall is that another associate, who we'll call Magoo, wanted to buy a T-shirt but was out of cash. I agreed to drive him to an ATM to re-fund himself. We staggered out of the bar to a campus parking lot across the street, now empty except for my gleaming 1988 Chevy Cavalier. We piled inside, I reversed out of the parking space, and then the car made a crashy-hitty-impacty sound.
Not good! Perhaps I was a little tipsy, officer, but I was pretty sure there were no cars or foreign objects nearby. But I gingerly put the car back into drive and eased forward. The car did not move, though it shuddered a bit. WTF, I thought, years before that acronym became popular I might add. Did I get hung up on a parking barrier or something? Magoo exited the vehicle to check, then frantically beckoned for me to join him.
Outside, we saw this. The pavement had collapsed beneath one of my front tires. It doesn't look like much in this photo, but this opening was only the top entry to a large, bulbous chamber, about fifteen feet deep and thirty feet across. My car was essentially perched on nothing but a thin crust of asphalt.
We scampered back to the bar to summon help. Calls were made. The Sugar La Las at first refused to believe us, but they and the few remaining barflies came out to spectate. Cops appeared with truncheons akimbo, disappointed that this was an actual geovehicular emergency that required them to help rather than harm us. They sprang into action by distributing orange plastic cones around the perimeter, which had the desired calming effect.
Band chick Griffin was overcome by the scene and was barely restrained from hurling herself into the depths of Hades. Eventually a sort of Gobot tow-truck was called, and it managed to extricate my car from the brink for about a hundred bucks. Later it was revealed that the sinkhole was actually an ancient, long-disused, unmapped water main from bygone times that had finally collapsed. This became a key detail, since the University blamed the city of Tuscaloosa since it was their old water main, while the city of Tuscaloosa said it was a University parking lot. End result: Chris pays for his Gobot truck assistance. The hole was excavated, filled with dirt and gravel, and paved over within a week. Had my car actually fallen in, I and Magoo would likely be down there still.
As to the Sugar La Las, they were a classic case of bittersweet almost-making-it. Always on the brink of a record deal, artistic principles and band infighting finally split them up. Last time I saw Mats Roden, he was a waiter at a Thai restaurant. I heard that he later died of an aneurysm or embolism or something. Carole Griffin went on to become a successful baker and restaurateur. I drove the Chevy Cavalier to Spokane, Washington, and then back to Alabama two years later, but that return trip finally killed the poor beast, and I sold it for a few hundred bucks. The end. Excelsior!