First thing this morning one of the sound guys, known as Rooster, cracked his head on a metal pipe. He was hunched over pulling cable under the stage, and the next thing he knew, blood was oozing down his forehead. He looked to his co-worker and said, “Frank, I think I opened my head.” By the time he reached me, his hands were cupped under his chin to catch the flow of blood from the gaping wound on the top of his skull. I was busy setting up the dining room for breakfast when I heard my name called from across the arena floor. “Hey Liz, you got a towel?” Catering is frequently ground zero for emergencies. It is the first stop for the traveling crew each morning, so the dining room becomes home base. I’ve evolved into the caretaker for the 95 traveling crew and band members, supplying them with vitamins, Band-Aids, and a shoulder to cry on. I’m normally calm in emergencies, but this morning I was unprepared for the sight of this ashen man stumbling toward me with blood dripping behind him on the concrete floor. I shrilled something unintelligible and ran in circles looking for anything to triage his head. The chef, Dean, calmly handed me rubber gloves and a towel. I put on the gloves and applied pressure until the EMTs arrived.
Minutes after the ambulance pulled out of the parking lot, my cell phone rang. Michael, the head of catering, was stuck at a grocery store across town with all the supplies we needed to cook lunch. The power had gone out in the store, and he was trapped at the register with 50 carts full of food and no way to cash out. Each day presents a challenge for purchasing groceries. Our day hinges on the efficiency and intelligence of the local runner. If the local knows the city well, then Michael gets the morning shop finished quickly. He walks into the store and explains to the manager that he plans to spend $3,000 in 30 minutes. He asks that two registers with the store’s fastest checkers be dedicated to his shop. He then speeds through the aisles knocking groceries into his cart like a contestant on Supermarket Sweep. Miraculously, Michael never forgets a thing. This is no small feat. Crew and band always have special requests, not because they are trying to be difficult, rather life on the road offers few comforts. Food salves the harsh conditions that everyone must work under. They look forward to food that is familiar. For some that means spirulina protein shakes, for others it’s Vienna sausages in a can. Our job is to supply the full spectrum. This can prove difficult when the local runner is less than stellar. One time at a show in Florida our food runner was a crack addict. Michael planned filet mignon and Thai green curry for lunch but came back with Velveeta macaroni and cheese and a tube of ground beef. The store she took him to only sold ground beef by the foot.
Around 3 p.m. today Dean, who was so calm earlier in the morning during the head injury incident, was pacing the kitchen, panicked. A friend had overnighted him an ounce of marijuana. The package arrived and was signed for but was lost somewhere in the building. He and his contraband eventually found each other. After dinner I managed to sneak away for a few minutes to watch the show. The band was finishing its last song and heading offstage. The mosh pit was still in full frenzy in anticipation of an encore. Sweaty bodies surfed the crowd and poured over the barricades where security forcibly redirected them back to the pit. The band resurfaced for an encore, and the crowd went wild. To the left of me Rooster worked the soundboard. He wore a baseball hat to cover the seven stitches on his shaved head.