We're only a couple of miles from our flight home, but right now, we're not going anywhere. After a ....... mile midnight dash from the Rothbury festival in Michigan, we're gridlocked on the Brooklyn bridge. Our flight back to London is in an hour and we've got a shitload of gear to check in. It's so tight that Walshie's seriously considering freighting our equipment back without us; it would cost less than re-booking the entire retinue.

Finally the traffic starts moving, but its still looking sketchy. Walshie phones ahead to B.A. to warn them that fifteen walking hangovers are about to descend on them with a truck load of stuff.

At the terminal we hit the ground running and pile into an elevator: 8 band members, 3 crew, plus guitars, amps, keyboards and sundry paraphernalia. We're going to make it.

Between the first and second floors the lift jams. Naturally, we start laughing. 20 minutes later, we've stopped.

Walshie presses the emergency button, which puts us through to a calm and efficient sounding lady somewhere in the airport. She calmly and efficiently tells us that the situation will be addressed immediately, although she doesn’t say exactly how. 10 minutes go by. Looking around, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of ventilation. We're trapped in a small metal box. And it's getting warm.

It's interesting in these situations to see who unravels first; It's not always who you might expect. True to convention, Zoë, being the youngest and a girl, starts to cry. .  But it's Walshie, our putatively stoic and responsible tour manager, who cracks next. He seems to be hyperventilating, and he's sweating like a rapist.

' I fink we're ranning aht of ayer ' he says in a matter-of-fact tone that betrays his nascent terror. He grabs the edges of the doors, yanking them apart just enough to expose a 5 cm gap. He hits the intercom again.

 'Allo...look, we've got 11 people in 'ere and we're ranning aht of oxygen. Sam ov us av got medical conditions [He's not wrong]...can you tell us wots 'appenin?'

Fear is Infectious. I hope he's overplaying it so we can catch our flight; but his eyes are bulging. It's like the start of a bad disaster movie - the kind that can't afford Bruce Willis, and has to get David Schwimmer instead. D.Wayne is next to crack.
His fear takes the form of fury:

'Some cunts gonnae pay fae this...feckin two boab operation.'

He's got a point. We’ve been here for half an hour, and nobody's made any attempt to communicate with us. On the control panel there’s a little button with a fireman's helmet on it. We've pressed it several times, but Mr. Fireman has failed to appear. After the tradge-tastic events of 7-11 we heard a lot about the heroic dedication of the New York Fire Department. Where the fuck are they know? Having tea with Elton john?

And you'd think in a massive international airport like this there might be a little bloke on hand maybe, I dunno, some kind of lift engineer or something for situations like this. But the intercom lady's puzzled tone suggests that nobody in the airport up to this point had even considered the possibility that something might go wrong with the lifts.

I'm worried about Eddie, who I know is so claustrophobic that he has to sleep on a separate bunk on the bus, but he appears strangely serene. I think he's had this feeling so many times he's found some fearless Zen-type space where nothing can touch him...Larry, of course, is loving this. Any situation where his fellow band mate’s well being, or even his own, are endangered excites him. He titters gleefully in the corner.

(Actually, I'm with Larry on this one. The nice thing about doing this blog is the more horrendous and fucked up things get with the band, the more material I've got to work with. If Somebody O'D's, and everyone's going 'OH GOD! OH God TURN HIM OVER! HE"S TURNING BLUE!' I'm Thinking 'Hmmm… Bet I can get a few smack-related giggles from this one...' Vita Brevis, Ars Longa.)

When something disastrous happens in the movies, some rough-hewn middle aged man appears, probably Harrison Ford, who says in fatherly tones 'Don't worry folks, we've got our best people on this and by God I swear we're gonna get you out of this!' Well, Harrison Ford must be on holiday, cos nobody's making any attempt to communicate with us whatsoever.

Above the doors, the red L.E.D's flicker. Something is happening. The numbers change randomly...Someone, somewhere is attempting to persuade the lift to move. But the lift won't have it. 10 minutes go by. Then, agonizingly slowly, the lift is winched up to the third floor, where through the glass doors, the lobby is full of NYPD's finest. They are running about like the Keystone Cops.

Being British, and lacking the taste for melodrama, most of the band are bearing up with the stoicism of shopkeepers during the Blitz. But the New York fuzz are on the verge of hysteria. one of the officers tries to force the doors open with his bare hands, cursing prodigously. Another cop fiddles quizzically with a small 'Hey Sarge...does this one make it drop?'

Oh dear.

Finally they decide to winch us back down so one of them can abseil down the lift shaft and pull us out through the trapdoor on the roof. That's more like it! That’s what Bruce Willis would do! Unless Bruce happened to notice that there is no trapdoor on the roof of the lift. These guys have been watching too many bad action films. That's why they're policemen.

Painfully, the lift is winched back up to the third floor, where a cop is standing with a massive and terrifying implement. The last time I saw an object like that it was being pointed at Judge Dredd. It's called 'The Jaws of life', they tell us. I hope they picked up the right box.

'Turn your face away from the glass, people!'

I like Americans, for so many reasons. They're so friendly. They're also a bunch of Drama Queens. Like many Shermans*, these boys are like confused actors who went to the wrong room and got enrolled by accident.

The Elevator doors burst open, and the Alabama 3 spill out, coughing and spluttering. There's the cast of E.R. waiting for us, looking nervous.

'Water! Give me Water!' gasps Devlin.

'...Oh, gee...um, do we have water, Marv?'  Says the Head Paramedic. Marv looks embarrassed. He's got an expensive looking stretcher, a defibulator, and a machine that goes 'ping!' But no water.

' Um, I think there's a vending machine down the hall...'

At this point, a polite and unflappable British Airways representative with a reassuring Yorkshire accent appears, who calmly explains to us that, owing to the inefficiency of the airport infrastructure, we are to be fast tracked through airport security, and the flight is to be held until we're all safely on board. Hurrah!!! And God Save the Queen! It's enough to make you join the BNP.

Actually, It's no skin off my nose. I'm not even getting on the plane. I'm getting into a BMW and driving to Brooklyn to stay with my friends Paula and Cameron, who have kindly agreed to put me up for three days and help me spunk my wages.

When we get to the apartment Cameron, a native New Yorker, explains to me the mystery of the Missing Firemen.

'This is the thing with the NYFD. They don’t give a fuck. The Big Boys at Kennedy, They're all worried about the insurance. So they call the cops, who don't know what they're doing. The Firemen would have trashed those elevators and got you out in 5 minutes. They don't give a fuck. Bottom line, lives are in danger. Watchoo Gonna doo?'
New York is all about Ascension. When things break down, folk get Vertigo. Do Strange Things. It's a long way down, people.... I'll see you on the 13th floor.                                                                

*  Shermans - Sherman Tanks - Yanks. (© D.Wayne Love)

© Orlando Harrison 2009