STEINKOPF Ain’t Just A State Of Mind
I love signs. You might even say I’m obsessed with them. When I see a unique or silly or ironic sign, I just have to take a picture of it. I also love my friends. LOVE them. Without them, what is life, really? So when I see a sign that references a friend’s name, I snap a pic. Usually it takes a few seconds to take the pic, and a few more to fire it off in a text. No problem. Sometimes it’s a little bit more complex…
Let’s back up a little bit… to Botswana. Amy has been working for the Peace Corps in Botswana for 7 months. Part of her agreement with them was that for the first 6 months she would stay in her tiny village of Sese. And she mostly did. But even if she were to escape the confines of her village, she was strictly forbidden from leaving the country. It’s a transgression that is punishable by banishment back to the first world. In fact, the legend of a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana who snuck off to South Africa for a World Cup game a few years back and was seen on TV by the Peace Corps boss-man boss and was deported back to the States had made the rounds at training, and served to sever the striving of some volunteers to go AWOL for a weekend. But even if one was to traverse the entire country, the biggest body of water you would come across would be the Okavango Delta, which is really just a muddy and reed-filled expanse the blankets the northern wilds of the country. Botswana isn’t just landlocked, it’s SANDlocked. Smack dab in the middle of one of the deadliest deserts in the world, the Kalahari.
Amy is a woman of water. Since she was a child, she hasn’t lived more than a stone’s throw from the ocean, save for a year in Syracuse, and even then she was sidled up next to Onondaga Lake, which covers 5 square miles up there in the boonies. So not even having seen an expanse of water bigger than a flooded front yard after a typhoon-like-rainstorm for six months was beginning to wear on her. At daybreak on March 1, the first day she was technically allowed to leave SeSe we commenced a mad 1,500 mile drive to Cape Town, South Africa. She wanted to head right for the water, to see the coast, to bathe in the ocean, to be only one degree of water droplet separation across the Atlantic from New York City.
We hit the road and drove hard and fast and figured that if we didn’t take the pedal off the metal, we would be able to make it down into South Africa, and across to the coast on our 2nd day of driving. We pointed our darling Honda HRV that we christened Jolene in the general direction of Antarctica and made a break for it. About 500 miles later, we stopped in the dusty little hamlet of Upington, South Africa. The only thing that separates Upington from the barren expanse between our starting point and it, was a couple of traffic lights, the fact that it had not one but TWO gas stations, and its line of industrial supply warehouses that cater to the vineyard operators in the Northern Cape region of South Africa. At the fancy pants gas station (by fancy pants I mean the toilet had not only electricity, but also a working lightbulb!!) we bought ourselves an Atlas so we could plan the fastest route to the ocean.
Since the paved roads in Southern Africa are literally few and far between, we quickly picked out the one road that headed west towards the coast, and we got on it. 300 miles away was the cute little tourist town of Springbok – they had a tea shop AND a pharmacy – so incredibly EXOTIC for Southern Africa!! After fueling up our Sexy Beast Jolene and our bellies, we soldiered on, determined to convene with the sea before sundown. But then Amy made the mistake of letting me look at the map. All it took was one glance, and the word might as well have jumped off the page and grabbed the steering wheel and jerked it out of my hand. That word was STEINKOPF.
That may not mean anything to you, but to me it’s a last name I’ve only heard one time. Attached to the man, the myth, the legend, The Pete. Pistol Pete Steinkopf. Pete is my friend, and my musical hero. He’s the guitar player for one of my favorite bands in the universe, the Bouncing Souls. More than being one of my favorite bands, they were the benchmark I set for myself when I started Rocks Off. Before Rocks Off, when I was booking the Wetlands, the Bouncing Souls were my great white buffalo, the one band who I could never get to play the club. They had played it plenty of times in the past, but had outgrown it since I had taken over. I couldn’t even get them to play when I faxed their agent Marge-A-Riffic a formal offer of $10,000 (which was a ridiculous amount of money for a punk band in 1999) with the caveat that the play “Appetite for Destruction” in it’s entirety. If they weren’t going to play, I was at least going to make my attempts weirder and wackier just to make sure I was getting their attention, for good or ill. So when I started Rocks Off, my stated goal was to grow the company into a position to be big enough to put on a Souls show. That seemed like such a far out goal, that I was crazy enough to believe that it could actually happen. And happen it did. Once, and then again, and again, and again. We’ve now put on over forty Bouncing Souls concerts. After we booked them for 6 nights in a row at the Knitting Factory to commemorate the release of their excellent album “The Gold Record” I got my first band tattoo which was their Anchor Heart logo. All that was well and good. But not nearly as good as becoming friends with the guys.
More than friends. We became motorcycle riding buddies, tattoo gang mates, and even shared stages. I once sang backing vocals with them on the cover of Cock Sparrer’s anthem “We’re Coming Back” at BB King’s in Times Square and their side project “The Love Cats” opened for Tragedy – my heavy metal Bee Gees tribute band – a few times. Anyone who knows me knows that I would do ANYTHING for my friends. And the Pete is no ordinary friend. He’s a brother!
So really there was no way I could find myself 9,000 miles away from home and not take a detour of 50 miles to pop into the town of Steinkopf and get a pic with what I hoped would be a “Welcome to Steinkopf” sign, right? What’s 50 miles I thought, when we were already driving 1,500 miles. I brought up the idea with the slightest bit of trepidation, and tried to sell it to Amy. She wasn’t having it. She was quick to point out that 50 miles was actually going to be 100 miles, because we had to head off in the opposite direction of the coast. She told me I was crazy. I couldn’t argue. But I could try and convince. Slowly, and steadily. Until she caved. I mean she willingly entered into a relationship with me. And there’s no way for someone like me to hide my, ahem, idiosyncrasies. I think when she stopped to consider it for just a minute, she knew that I knew that it was a ridiculous idea, but that I would end up regretting NOT doing it and would remember for the rest of my life how ridiculous it was that I didn’t push to make it happen. But rather than cajole and guilt trip her into agreeing to go, I just dropped it and decided that her happiness and getting to see the ocean as fast as possible was more important than trekking 100 miles out of our way for me to get a pic, and I told her so. At that moment she told me we were going to Steinkopf. I told her it wasn’t that big of a deal, but she INSISTED. She wouldn’t take no for an answer, even after I pulled the car over and told her it was crazy and that we should just head for the shark infested waters. She wasn’t having it and DEMANDED we go to Steinkopf! So go we did! Oh what wouldn’t two crazy kids in love do to make each other happy? It was a regular old little “Gift of the Magi” type of moment. It’s moments like that that make me really realize how much I love Amy. And how much I love my friends. And really, how much I LOVE LIFE!
Only 30 Kilometers to go. “I can cover that in less than 8 minutes,” I fibbed…
Amy had a really hard time containing her excitement for our detour!!
Obviously it’s everything you would hope for when visiting an out of the way tiny desert town!
“I’ve Got the Whole World In My Hands!”
“I’m pretty sure The Pete’s ancestors dragged each one of those rocks up into the hills by hand. Or, ya know, forced some villagers to do it in exchange for half a bowl of maize.
Two thumbs up for two welcoming languages!
Oh Steinkopf, We’ll never forget being inside of you…