Monday, September 20, 2010

Fallout

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Review
NEAR RIOT AT SUMMERFEST
After years of rock bands playing at Milwaukee's Summerfest, a minor incident has slightly marred this summer's festivities, and the event's pristine track record.

The Unknown Soldiers, a Doors cover band which was a last minute addition to the roster, in an all too good emulation of the sixties classic rock band, the lead singer exhorted the drunken crowd into a reenactment of the worst elements of a Doors concert. It's unclear if the audience reacted the way they did because they thought that's what was expected from them, or if they were genuinely moved by the band and the antics of lead singer Michael Desmond. Most of the crowd was seemingly oblivious to the danger, and no one was hurt. Otherwise, a good time was had by all.

Fallout
By the time the bad reviews and fallout of the show came out, we were already back on our scheduled itinerary. Swifty forwarded the reviews to us. Despite the initial bad review of the Milwaukee paper, the 'riot', as they termed it, was nothing more than a few people near the front rushing the stage. The reviews from the outlying areas offered a bit more of a balanced look at the events and put them into perspective.

Afterwards the band became more distant. None of them said a word to me until they decided to confront me between sets of a show about a week after the Summerfest reviews came in. I was sitting in the backroom of the bar we were playing when all of a sudden all four of the boys came piling into the room.
“Are you trying to sabotage the shows?” Brian asked.
“What are you talking about?”
“Your little riot.” Johnny said, flinging the reviews at me. "We gotta talk about working some of our songs into the sets."
“I thought we did already?”
“No, you never bothered to answer us, you just mumbled something and walked off.”
"You're not ready and neither are your songs." I said, dismissively.
"What!" Brian said, genuinely incensed, "you can't even name one of our songs!"
"It doesn't matter, I can tell."
"What do you mean, you can tell?" Johnny asked. "You can't even tell us how to play your damn Doors songs and you have the nerve to tell us we aren't ready? We've been riding in that van for months now, practicing your Doors sets, then practicing our songs. Did you ever listen to the tape I gave you when we first met?"
"No." I admitted.
"And you managed to disappear with Caitlin Stewart when we played it for her."
“So?”
“Did you tell her something to discourage her from calling us?”
“Did she contact you?” I asked.
“Obviously no!” Johnny said.
“Then she won’t.”
“How do you know that?” Mitchell asked.
“Because that’s how things work. If she was interested she would have called.”
"We just played in front of the biggest audience we're probably ever going to be in front of.” Johnny said, “what good does it do us to tour if people don't hear our songs?"
"You couldn't do your songs at Summerfest because we were booked as a cover band. And cover bands don't do originals. And you're right again," I said, "I can't name one of your songs, but I've listened to your rehearsals. You've never availed yourselves of my opinions and rebuffed my offers to help. I know a lot about this business and I can help you."
"Like you've helped us so far?" Johnny said, "all you've done so far is take advantage of us. You cut yourself a better deal with Swifty while it's us that's carrying the burden of performing. You treat us like roadies. You've never moved a piece of equipment that I'm aware of and your drinking is affecting the shows."
"All the reviews Swifty sent us are all about you and your 'antics'," Brian said. "How're we going to get more gigs if word is out about you?"
"I got you this far didn't I?"
"You've lucked our way this far. You only got us that first gig because you were friends with the bar owner."
“And this tour because he was friends with Swifty.” Brian said.
"All right." I said, straining to rein my temper in. "You wanna do one of your songs?" I asked rhetorically. "At the end of this set you can do a couple of your songs." I smiled, as I walked out the door and back to the stage. I was going to use everything I'd learned to make the audience do what I wanted. An exercise of power, if you will.

When we got on stage I stood off at the far end, doing my best Morrison scowl as the band plugged in their instruments. When they were in place, I walked in front of them and said.
"When the Music's Over." They started the song. I hung back listening as the music built, until it got to the part where I was supposed to come in, but I didn’t and they had to start over and they played it louder, but this time I wasn’t missing the cue because of nerves, it was on purpose I wanted the pressure to build until no one thought they could take it anymore, they hit the cue again and sustained the crescendo, I jumped at the microphone screaming "Yeahhhhhhhh!" And did the best show I knew how. I used every trick Morrison knew to whip crowds into a frenzy. I screamed, writhed, fell to the stage, jumped, until the audience didn't want to hear anything except another Doors song. I saw the band exchanging looks between them, asking themselves what the fuck I was doing, but they knew what I was doing and it was too late. Then I went into a Morrison rap.
"We have a special treat for you tonight!" The audience cheered, "right on! All right!" It was easy to manipulate them. At the very least their reaction was predictable.
"The band wants to do a couple of their songs!" I walked off the stage and Ghost Dance was received to a thundering silence. I watched the rest from the bar. Johnny and the band played loud, hard but it was empty, an empty gesture, the audience didn't move. A sea of blank faces staring back at them.
"Light My Fire, motherfuckers!" Somebody screamed.
'That'll show them who runs this band.' I thought.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Summerfest

Swifty had rented a van from the airport to the fairgrounds, we were driven straight to the backstage area. The backstage was all skeleton scaffolding that our equipment needed to be lifted onto, but the boys and the backstage crew would see to that. As I walked onto the grounds I felt like it was my triumphal return to Summerfest, though it played only in my head. It had been a long year since Deidre and I were here together. There was a row of bikers sitting on their bikes having a couple of beers. I crossed their gauntlet to jeers and catcalls.
"Lookit here, it's Jim Morrison." One sneered.
"Faggot!"
'Uh-oh,' I said to myself, not a very auspicious beginning for my triumphal return.

As I climbed the stairs to the backstage area my fears were allayed. Summerfest was a big ticket production, there were production assistants and gofers rushing around with walkie-talkies showing the bands where to set up. After talking with the stage manager they had a PA show me where the dressing room was.
“Wait here, one of the production assistants will come and get you five minutes before you go on.“ I finally felt like I was making it to the big time.

I sat in the dressing room in a studio chair in front of a theatrical mirror, listening to all the hustle and bustle happening around me, running footfalls on the metal scaffolding, someone yelling for someone or something. But I was in the calm eye of the storm, I wasn't nervous, I couldn't even remember the last time I was nervous. I reflected on how far I'd come from being part of the milling crowd to setting myself above the crowd, but I was also aware of how far I still had to go. I wondered if Deidre was somewhere out in the crowd. There was a knock at the door.
“Yeah?” I said. A woman peeked her head in the door.
“Make-up?” She asked, “you want a little make-up it’ll make you shimmer and the people in the back will be able to see you.”
“Sure.” I said.
“OK, just sit back in the chair and close your eyes. I did as she said, and I heard her put a few things down on the table and then I felt the make-up caressing my face, and she continued to talk, “I have to kind of sell the idea of make-up to the male bands even in this day and age it’s hard to get men to put on a little base, if only they realized Elvis wore make-up.” This was part of the seduction and I knew it, the woman running her hands over my face, an intimate act, one that you could get used to very easily. There was a knock at the door.
"Ready Jim?" A woman's voice asked, as she opened the door.
"Lets go!" I said jumping out of the studio chair. The PA led me through the maze of the backstage area until we, at last, arrived in the wings of the stage. From where I was, I could see the band's equipment was already on stage. It looked woefully small on a stage out in the open, not enclosed in a club. I wondered if the amps were big enough to pump out a loud enough sound. The boys were nowhere to be seen.
"Is my band here yet?" I asked the PA. She whispered into her walkie-talkie before saying,
"They should be coming up on the other side any second now." And as I looked across the stage to the other wing I saw the boys come up the stairs.
"There a lot of people out there?" I asked, trying to make small talk.
"Uh-huh." She said, distractedly. Then I heard the stage announcer say,
"Ladies and gentleman, The Unknown Soldiers!"
The PA said, "go."
"Thanks." I said. As I walked out onto stage the band came out from the opposite wing and took their places at their instruments. I took my place at the microphone and for the first time I was able to see the whole audience. There was literally a sea of people in front of me. It was then that I truly understood what was meant by the phrases 'a sea of humanity', and 'an ocean of people.' They ceased to be several thousand individuals, they became one thing, a new creature to do with as I pleased. Suddenly, I knew what Morrison knew. You become part of a crowd, faceless, anonymous. The individual becomes lost, you lose your self in a crowd, free to do as you please, free to live your dreams, free to enact your nightmares, all bets are off, there are no limits, no laws. People do things in a group they ordinarily wouldn't do. There are no witnesses, there's truly safety in numbers. I could make them do whatever I wanted, I could make them wave, I could make them dance, I could make them riot or I could throw them away. It was the door to power, the power that despots and rock stars know. There’s always been something of the fascist about Rock 'n' Roll, that’s probably why every rock opera is about exactly that, a charismatic leader with a small band of followers to assist. The Who understood this with Tommy, Bowie and 1984, hell, even Styx understood this.

Arguably, one of the reasons Morrison may have wanted to start a rock band was to prove some of his theories. Morrison thought crowds, like individuals, could be neurotic and like individuals, they could be cured. In college he tried to enlist some friends in an experiment to see if they could make a crowd riot by placing his friends throughout the crowd and shouting slogans at appropriate moments. His friends thought he was crazy and refused to participate, so he couldn't prove his theories until he was in The Doors. Morrison saw music, theatre, poetry, film, and the neuroses of crowds as a crossroads. The crossroads is the place where magic is practiced, the crossroads is the place you can sell your soul to the devil to play the blues, the crossroads is the place where a cure can be effected. Morrison consciously provoked riots. Later rationalizing it, by saying, 'I thought we ought to have a riot. Everyone else did. So I tried to stimulate a few little riots.' But later saying, 'it got to the point where people didn't think it was a successful concert unless everybody jumped up and ran around a bit.' I decided to see if I could do it. Finish the experiment to see if it was something inherent in Morrison, or if it was the neurosis of the crowd. The crowd was the right size and temperament, and they were ready for it, maybe I could cure them, maybe I could cure myself, I discovered power.

Planes Are A Problem

The next big gig we had was Milwaukee's Summerfest. Swifty must have had a lot of connections in the Milwaukee entertainment industry. He'd managed to finagle us a spot in Summerfest's lineup. I didn't know if there was a open spot until the last minute, or if we were a last minute replacement for a band that canceled. Whichever the case, the problem was that we were nowhere near Milwaukee. We didn't have the time for an overland haul across the Midwest. Everyone and everything squeezed into the van for a prolonged period. Fleeing the scenery, the only breaks long enough to fill the tank, empty our bladders, and grab a sandwich, all to arrive at the gig tired, smelly, and more pissed off at each other than the normal road irritations. It would've been the Battan Death March of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The airplane lumbered onto the runway. As we taxied, Mitchell started one of his informative travelogues.
"Did any of you guys ever see the movie Alive? Where the plane crashes in the mountains and they have to eat each other." No response. Everybody had become used to Mitchell's musings. Recitations that had pretty much had become part of the background noise. Undaunted, he went on, "I read somewhere that landings are controlled crashes."
"Shut up!" Brian snapped. "What are you? The bearer of glad tidings?" Mitchell picked up the sarcasm in the comment. It was true, the track record wasn't very good for rock bands in airplanes. Just ask Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Lynrd Skynyrd, or Ricky Nelson. Most of the big bands rely on them for touring, smaller bands use them infrequently, except for emergencies like we had. With every bump and tussle of the plane, all I could think of was Buddy Holly, and the little splatter of a footnote we'd make in the annals of Rock 'n' Roll if we crashed. Not even an answer to a trivia question. We couldn't pass up playing in front of an audience that size. The payday was a little better than we were used to, which justified all the effort. Swifty had rented a plane, and like the van, it was just big enough to fit all the equipment and us, and fulfilled a rock truism, the smaller the band, the smaller the plane. I just hoped the plane was in better condition than the van. I sat looking out the window imagining I was a real rock star on tour. Then the engines throbbed with pent up power and the plane jumped and raced like an animal that had remembered its purpose, speeding down the runway until it pulled itself into the air.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The New Beginning

The next morning, I joined the band for breakfast at the local Denny's, something I rarely did. They all stopped talking as I sat down at the table. I was overwhelmed by the clatter of silverware on plates, the smell of eggs, sausage, toast, and pancakes. The table was a collection and confusion of plates, cups of coffee, glasses of soda, and syrup.

I watched a father and his children. He was letting the kids try some of his breakfast he put a little something on his fork and reached over to put it in a child's waiting mouth. The gesture reminded me of a bird feeding its young. I remembered the warm morning at the breakfast table at the house the day after playing 'The Place'. It was the beginning and maybe this could be a new beginning for us. Out of the clinking and clanking of the dishes I said, "HEY!" A little too loudly, my actions seemed jumpy, even to me because I was trying to act normal and everything just seemed out of proportion. "I have an idea."
"About what?" Brian asked.
"Well, uh, I think I can help your band out."
"Ghost Dance you mean?" Johnny asked.
"Uh, yeah," I said. I tried to smile as nonchalantly as I could manage.
"How?"
"I was thinking my voice has gotten really good and you know I can do a good show. What I'm trying to say is I could be your lead singer. I could, well if I was the singer that would free up Johnny to play more complex and intricate leads." They all nervously looked at each other, I looked to see if I could see the communal mind at work.
"Your voice doesn't really fit the sound of the band, or the music we play." Brian said.
"You make a fine Morrison," Mitchell said, "that’s fine for the cover band stuff..."
"Well, maybe I can do something else then."
"All the positions are filled." Ian said.
“Look,” Johnny said, “you’ve done a lot for us, getting us out on the road, and we’re having a lot of fun, and we don’t even care that you cut yourself a better deal with Swifty, but you’re not letting us play our songs, we’re not getting any exposure, when this is over we’re right back where we started.”
“Yeah, why couldn’t we have played one or two of our songs last night?”
“That would’ve been major.” Brian agreed.
"What else do you have to offer us?"
"I can manage the band when we finish this tour. I can show you things you don't understand or don't have a lot of experience with. I know about the music business."
"What's this knowledge and experience you keep talking about?"
"I've read a lot of books about the music industry."
"The music industry you read about is twenty years gone dude."
"I see." I said. I went back to my room.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Orleans

Our next stop on the tour was New Orleans for the Blues and Jazz Fest, which was a pretty prestigious gig for a small club band like ours. We, of course, were a warm-up act. More like the warm-up for the warm-up act. The headliners were supposed to go on at ten, we were scheduled to go on at seven. Two or three full acts before the headliners.

I woke to the warm moist gulf air, speeding down the highway towards the French Quarter. This gig was a bit of a treat for us, we were going to stay in a real hotel room in the Quarter, as opposed to some motel off the highway. It was still early morning and as usual everyone in the van was quiet. During the drive I hadn't said much, brooding. My brother and sister were right about one thing, I could find myself standing on the side of some windswept road while the band could go on to find themselves on the threshold of a career. I busied myself watching the fleeing scenery to distract me from my thoughts. Even though Texas and New Orleans weren't that far apart, you can tell Texas is part of the southwest, dry, hard, and the vegetation is scraggly, while New Orleans is verdant. Every quarter mile was looking more and more stereotypically like my conception of Louisiana. There were the trees with moss hanging off them. From the back, Mitchell read a monologue from a guidebook.
"The moss are actually lichens with white flowers that are slowly killing the tree." We passed an ancient ruin covered with moss, its cement wall blackened and weathered. The way the window was shaped, in a cross, made me think it had once been a church, or maybe a Spanish fort replete with ghosts, guns and gold. I let all the images burn in my romantic imagination where they glowed with a pirate light. There were some mausoleums on the right, and more guidebook discourse from the back, "all the graves have to be above ground because New Orleans is six feet below sea level." The van rounded a curve as we whisked passed the Superdome, thoroughly ending my romantic visions of the past.
"The Superdome..." Mitchell read.
"Hey, let me see that guidebook." I said. Mitchell passed it forward and I leafed through it. "It looks pretty complete, chock full of information."
"Yeah, it is.." he stopped as I rolled down the window and threw the guidebook out. "And boring. You act like a tourist and you are a tourist."
"You act like a tourist and you are a tourist?" He said, mockingly, as if the words were something alien. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"We‘re explorers, not tourists."

After we checked in at the motel, the boys went to take showers and get cleaned up, I went to the bar to have a beer, it was cold and one of the best beers I‘ve ever had. We were supposed to meet 'the girlfriends' for breakfast later. 'The girlfriends' didn't travel with us to all the gigs, just the bigger ones, or when the boys got lonely, they'd never been to New Orleans before and they all were excited about seeing the city. Of course they couldn't travel with us in the van, so they were coming separately.

New Orleans was like Jim Morrison, swampy mystery and a controversial history, like the flowers slowly killing the trees. But New Orleans was a double-edged sword for Morrison. After one trip he said he enjoyed the city's sights and sounds, and visions of Victorian spaceships. But it's also where The Doors had their last concert, where Morrison pounded the microphone into the stage until it splintered and Ray Manzarek said he literally saw Jim's spirit leave his body.

I wanted to see the Mississippi before anything else. I wanted to lose myself in its mysterious waters, to stand on its shore. As I wound my way through the French Quarter it occurred to me that these were the stones of the steps that Indians and pirates had walked, where Jean Lafitte and Andrew Jackson had made war plans, the same quays where Abraham Lincoln landed and watched the riverboats load and unload cotton, and of course where the darker history of slavery was plied. I went over the top of a rise and before me lay the Mississippi. It looked like quicksilver from where I was. I watched the boats skating across the water like insects that never break the tension of the surface or they're engulfed and drown. There are certain geographical sights that impress upon you their sense of history. Iconic locations, that when you mention them they conjure concrete images in people's minds, triggering a sense of awe and adventure, which have been drawing people to them for centuries. Places like the Amazon, the Seine, the Alps, the Nile, the Rhine, and the Mississippi. It's dark, lapping waters that flow through America from top to bottom, the waters that inspired Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams. I wondered, do these places naturally inspire awe in us, or is it the history we inscribe on them?

I'd told Ian that being out on the road touring was accomplishing something. But was it true for me? I knew it had been at first with the rehearsals, then the gigs at 'The Place,' I knew I had accomplished something, but the night after night routine without anything new happening? I could see the far away end of the tour, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, but where would that leave me? In whatever city the tour ended in? Or wherever the very finite money I would have left over would take me? Or with no prospect except to return to the life I'd known before. That would be nowhere. Could I somehow become part of the band? Or would it become every man for himself? The waters of the river lapped at these murky thoughts.

I found the boys waiting for me outside the Court of Two Sisters. 'The girlfriends' had caught up with us, and they had all glommed together in the correct couplings. We walked through the wrought iron gate of The Court of Two Sisters, a large courtyard opened in front of us. There was a ceramic and iron fountain in the middle, musicians were wandering from table to table.
"It was a courtyard society." Mitchell said, reading from a new guidebook.
"Where'd you get that?" I asked.
"Store next door, a dollar and a quarter." He said, smiling broadly. I just shook my head.

As we looked over the menu, we were awestruck by the diversity and the quality of the food, omelets, quiches, aspic, mousses. We became instant epicureans, aficionados of food, detailing its lore and our favorite dishes. It was the first time in a long time we had eaten well. The boys loved the pate and aspic. The violinists, seeing a table of mostly couples, came over and serenaded us. It was the kind of gracious living I could get used to.

After lunch we were right back where we started, on the street in front of the restaurant. By now the quarter had awaken. The streets were crowded with people, alive and in motion. Bourbon Street was like the river itself, currents of people ebbed and flowed into sight and out. Swirls and eddies in front of the bars, strip joints, restaurants, and curious shops that lined the streets. There were mimes and shills trying to pull you into the strip clubs, while the main current pushed you farther down the street. The buildings were close together and ancient, with fancy iron railings surrounding balconies that were decorated with plants and beads. We moved down the street as a single entity with twenty eyes and arms reaching out from every direction trying to see everything, to experience everything, and absorb all the sensations at once. We followed the current down the street. Digging the sights, sounds, and smells as a group. We were a band that day.
"Let's get a beer." I said. I’d seen a few storefronts that sold twenty-ounce beers for a buck and a quarter. We each got the local favorite, Jax beer. I took a sip and almost immediately spit it out, "that's terrible." I said. I saw a homeless woman trying to cadge money for a drink from passersby "here baby," I said, handing her the beer.
"Thanks, honey." She said, her eyes lighting up at her new found bounty. She hooked her arm through mine, "want some company, sweetie?"
"No, thanks." I said, tearing away from her grip.

The good thing about the French Quarter, if you walk six feet you'll find a shop that has whatever you want, need, or desire, including Voodoo. Luckily, I saw a shop that had a hand lettered sign in the front window D-a-i-q-u-i-r-i. The lettering seemed deliberate, unsure of itself, like whoever wrote it wasn't quite sure how to spell daiquiri. Inside the shop there were about twenty soft serve ice cream machines. Each had a different flavored daiquiri stirring in it. From the relatively innocuous sounding, fuel injector to the more exotic like flaming-gorilla-tits. We quickly replenished our twenty-ounce beers with daiquiris. The boys were walking down the street, a daiquiri in one hand, their girlfriends in the other. Everybody was happy. I saw a couple of lesbians walking down the street and became enamored of young love. In the next instant I saw a group of women, each wearing a solid pastel colored dress with a silk ribbon sash slashing across their bodies, beauty contestants! I ran up to them and bowed, over exaggeratingly courteous, stepping easily into Morrison's persona.
"Hello, ladies!" I said, "where you all from?"
"All over!" They all shouted enthusiastically.
"All right!" I said. "You ladies wouldn't be going to the Blues and Jazz Fest tomorrow night, would you?"
"We are!"
"Come and see us," I said, pointing to the boys "we're a band, and we're playing there tomorrow. We're the opening act." They made some vague promises to come and see us and we continued floating down the street like flowers in a stream.

After another daiquiri, we had started running relays for more daiquiris. I found myself standing in front of the open door of a strip joint staring at a beautiful girl on stage dancing. I looked around, I was alone, people flowing around me. The band was gone, I'd become separated from the group.
"Come on in!" The shill said, "all the girls, all naked!"
"Do you like that?" A voice asked. I looked around. Alex had come out of the crowd and was standing next to me.
"Huh?" I looked around realizing I had been staring.
"I said, do you like that?"
"Sex is all I have time for" I said, smiling. She walked away shaking her head, and I went inside for a while.

When I came out it was late afternoon and I soon caught up with Ian and Alex, they too had become separated from the rest of the group.
"Should we look for them?" Ian asked.
"No, when lost in a wilderness the first rule of survival is stay where you are. Besides, it looks like this guy is going to be doing something soon." We had stopped in front of a big guy wearing a beret, a blue vest with a pack of Kools in the pocket, and a saxophone. He was messing around with his equipment, muscling some big amplifiers into position. He hooked up his amps into a ghetto blaster tape deck that had a stack of tapes in front of them. We sat on the curb to wait for the others, watching the jazz guy set up his equipment. On the sidewalk across the street a shoeshine boy seeing the growing crowd, stopped and was hustling passersby for business.

The day was starting to melt into evening. Cool breezes were blowing in off the Mississippi, as the jazz guy started blowing his sax, an electric fuzz filled the air, or was it because of the steady stream of daiquiris? The music bopped and hummed in our ears. The crowd started to grow. Ian, moved by the music, cupped his hands and started jamming on a harp with the guy. He bopped and danced, sweating, following and filling in the jazz guy's leads. We were all into it, grooving, clapping, and laughing at Ian's exaggerated movements a satire of a rock star. The jazz guy seemed to be into it. He bopped to Ian's playing and even gave him space for a solo. In the middle of it, the rest of the band appeared, apparently resupplied and re-energized with alcohol. When the song ended Ian uncupped his hands, they were empty. He didn't have a harmonica!
"Wow! You were great!" We enthused, crowding around him. Almost leaving the jazz guy out of our praise.

After the jazz guy had finished his street side concert, we all dropped a few bucks in his sax case as he was taking down his equipment. It had gotten dark and the streets had changed. People were now dressed for the night, gone were the gawking tourists. The air had become chilly we ambled along letting the current of the crowd still carry us farther down the river, until we found ourselves in a darkened end of the Quarter. We realized we were all lost and didn't know how to get to more friendly environs. We found a well-lighted oasis and stopped to rest while Mitchell consulted his guidebook. Everyone was relieved it finally came in handy and that he had it. Ian noticed some street musicians playing under a street lamp, dressed in leather jackets, and strumming acoustic guitars an open guitar case in front of them for people's 'contributions' and 'donations'. They looked harder, more street worn than the saxophone guy. Ian went over to talk with them, I leaned against a street lamp farther down the street. I was tired and hungry.
"You kind of have the Morrison swagger." Alex said, sidling up next to me.
"I'm borrowing it, since he isn't using it."

From where I was standing I could see the whole intersection. On a side street I saw a drunk approach a cop, their body language was so distinct it was like a pantomime. The story wasn't that hard to discern. The drunk stumbled towards the cop. His lips, from this distance looked like they were moving in silent movie fashion, trying to make some point to the cop. The cop faced him and pointed in the opposite direction. The drunk submissively turned back the way he had just come. Ian and his 'harmonica' were jamming with the street musicians. Alex was talking with a couple of guys in biker jackets and the rest of the band sat on the curb, too tired to move. The drunk across the street was stumbling back towards the cop. Again, the cop warned the drunk off.
"What did they want?" I asked as Alex came back by me.
"Just some local creeps." I watched as the drunk approached the cop for a third time. The silent movie playing itself out, the cop turned around and knocked out the drunk with a single punch. The night suddenly had a surrealistically violent undercurrent. The guys who Alex had been talking to were hovering nearby sizing me up trying to figure out if I was her boyfriend and if they could take me. Alex was clinging to me, trying to look like she was with me as much as possible. The musicians weren't as tolerant of Ian's faux harmonica as the jazz guy was. Something in their demeanor was malevolent. Everybody could see it, except Ian.
"You better get him out of there." I said to Alex.
"What should I tell him?"
"You're tired and want to get back to the hotel, anything." Alex went over and whispered in Ian's ear while I kept my eye on the creeps watching Alex, and making sure the musicians didn't jump on Ian before Alex got him out of there.

The night ended sitting on a picnic table at the Cafe DuMonde, sipping hot chocolates and munching on beignots. The dark shore of the Mississippi only a few hundred feet away, those mysterious waters gurgling on, a void right in front of us.

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (jymwrite@aol.com, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

We were playing in Austin, and like Madison, was the state capitol, and a college town on top of that. It was like a homecoming. It had a strip of bars that mixed the nightlife, there were students and an intermingling of people in business suits trying to fit in, they were the mirror reflections of each other, the students looking ahead to see what they‘ll become and the professionals dabbling in shallow nostalgia. Looking down the strip the neon gathered above the buildings, a reddish aura that hung just above the city. Swifty's strategy was to play a night or two in a club, then another night or two at a club farther down the strip or in the outlying areas and then another couple of clubs in Austin, and so on until we had maximized our presence at the clubs, as Swifty had put it. The clubs were packed, hot and sweaty, smoke filled. We played some of our best shows, the boys were learning how to play better, before they played well, but now they were mastering the intricacies. On the third or fourth day there was a knock at the door of my motel room. I thought it may have been Tom or one of the boys seeing if I was ready to go to lunch, a movie, or something. I opened the door and there stood my brother and sister.
"Ah, the infamous committee of two. No doubt sent by Dad to straighten me out."
"No, Mike, we saw your show last night." My brother said, in the practiced kindly bedside manner of a doctor, which he is. He still looked the dashing athletic college fraternity brother I remember growing up. "It's been a long time since I've been to something like that."
"How'd you find me?" I opened the door and they walked in, “have a seat.” I said, pointing to the chairs in the room. I sat on the edge of the bed.
"When you're a member of the local chamber of commerce, you can find things out."
"I forgot I was in your home territory."
"We really enjoyed your show." My brother said.
"I wish I could do something like that." My sister said.
"You're not the adventurous type." I said. My sister was shrill, her reasonable demeanor at the moment was a mystery. She was the oldest and quite a bit older than me, she always bore a motherly authority instead of a sister. She had long stringy black hair, a thin face and a thin body despite having two children, she was almost always dressed in black, and as a child, she conformed to my every expectation of a witch.
"Boy, I remember when I found you listening to my Sgt. Peppers album," my brother said, "I didn't think anything of it until you listened to it over and over again, and then proceeded to go through the rest of my record collection. You were a hip little kid."
"But then that interest just drifted away, like it always does." My sister said. My brother shot her a look, saying 'you brought that up too early'. He was forced to adjust his tack.
“And suddenly you just quit, what was that?”
“Because I knew I couldn’t create anything as elegant or eloquent as that, it seemed everything had been done, everything had been said, better.”
“Maybe,” he said, “but you still try.” He took a breath to think and I knew a speech was coming in his well modulated, well practiced bedside manner tone of telling a patient he has cancer. "Mike," he said "maybe that's the point. Your interest has always focused on one thing until you master it, but then your interest always does falter and drift until you find the next thing. Look, when I was in medical school I realized the world doesn’t need another doctor,” he paused for dramatic effect, “you have to make them want you, I didn’t have a practice I didn’t know how I would build one but I did, and maybe the world doesn’t need another doctor or lawyer, or another Jim Morrison, but it just might need a Mike Desmond."
"Mikey," my sister said without trying to modulate her tones at all, "with your degree you can teach, get something that has a future. And if you're really interested, you could even do something in the music field."
"When are you two ever going to learn?" I said, shaking my head sadly. "You were always Joe College Cool Guy," I said to my brother. I got up and started to pace the space between the bed and where my brother and sister were sitting, "and you two were always the favorites, tittering little secrets between you. I looked up to you, and it was always thrown in my face how different I was from you two, and how I should strive to be better. So I read and read until I became the smartest kid in class. And whatever I took up as a hobby, I worked at it until I perfected the skill. Most people get good at only one or two things in their lives. I'm good at everything I do."
"Mike, everyone knows all the hard work you've put in. We're just worried because someone as intelligent and gifted as you are can have so much more in life."
"You've never approved of anything I've ever done." I said.
"Michael, look, I had my wild and rebellious days, I just didn't rub it in Mother and Father's faces." My brother said, "and if you truly believe in what you're doing, what do you need any of our approval for?"
"At least get a trade," my sister said, "this can't last forever. I mean how much demand is there for a Jim Morrison impersonator?"
"I know it won't last, but by then I'll have used it as a stepping stone."
"To where?"
"I'm working on it!" I yelled and scared myself at the sudden defensiveness. "I don't know yet, I've made some connections. I just don't know how it's going to pan out yet."
"Do you and that band have any original songs?" My brother asked.
"They do, the band does."
They both looked at me, "are they any good? Do they have a future?" I shrugged my shoulders. "Do you have any originals?"
"No."
"You can't record an album of Doors songs."
"I don't want to be a singer." I said petulantly.
"Then what do you want to do?"
"I don't know. When this is over I'll probably go to L.A. and see what opportunities come up."
"That's it?" My sister said incredulously, "you're going to L.A. to see what comes up?"
"I met Ray Manzarek. Who knows, maybe he'll come see me and I can go on tour with them as Jim." By the look on my sister's face it was clear she didn't know who Ray Manzarek was. My brother, looked skeptical at this obvious fantasy trying to be the voice of reason, he decided to employ his world famous technique of Socratic questioning to prove his point, "what are you trying to create here, Mikey?"
"An experience." They looked at each other.
"An experience?"
"Something where everybody can say I was there, I saw that."
"And while you're creating an experience," my sister said, cutting quotation marks in the air with her fingers, "they're creating a career and building a life for themselves."
"It's my band, they'll do whatever I want." I said.
"At least until they get what they want, or get fed up with you."
"It seems to me they're using you more than you're using them." My brother said sadly.
"Michael," my sister added, "you could disappear from music tomorrow and it wouldn't be missed. There's no market to support you." As soon as she said it I could see she regretted it, but still, she had said it. I tried not to show my hurt.
"Sure, I could disappear tomorrow and no one would miss me, as you put it, but the world would never know what it missed."
"Mikey, if you don't protect yourself, they're going to end up with a career and you'll be left out in the cold."

I paced the room more frantically. I looked at them and looked away. My feelings were running wild within me until they burst out, "I never felt like I was part of your family."
"Mikey, that's not true!" My sister said, "we treated you better than a sibling. We treated you like a child of our own. We've helped you, given you advice, nursed you along. We probably did more than we should have."
"It probably isn't true," I admitted, "but it's how I felt. I didn't fit in the mold of the rest of you. I felt like I was someone different and that I'd been placed there by mistake."
"A mistake?"
"You know, like something outside of us all placed me there to be raised by Mom and Dad, but not of them."
"Mikey, that's ridiculous. It's almost crazy."
"I was an accident. Mom and Dad never paid that much attention to me. And you two were off at school, I'm more a product of the books I read and TV. This band will change me. It'll get me what I want." I looked at the both of them, they still didn't understand, "sometimes I did things because that's what I thought was expected at that moment in time, I guess like an actor, I don‘t want to act any more, I want to be, it‘s like from lead to gold. I don't expect you to understand. Morrison had the same thing with his parents and family."

My sister looked aghast, "let me get this straight Mikey, you're nursing some resentment against Mom and Dad because Jim Morrison did? Is that what you're saying?"
"Oh, Mikey," my brother said, "who knows what the real situation was with Morrison and his parents. Maybe even his family didn't know what the problem was, no one may ever know for sure. Maybe it was nothing more than a misunderstanding of youth, as I get older I understand why parents have to do some things that children don't understand. I realized that a while ago and I've made my peace with Mom and Dad."
"You've forgiven them?" I asked.
"Maybe forgiven isn't the right word, but understanding that led me to making my peace with it."

Suddenly they both looked sad. They realized they'd done their best, but nothing would be accomplished. There was nothing else they could say except what would be regretted by everyone concerned.
"This mess is your doing and it will be your undoing." My sister said.

The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (jymwrite@aol.com, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

One afternoon I was sleeping when someone started pounding on the motel room door.
“Go away!” I yelled as I rolled over, the room was dusky, I had pulled the drapes tight to keep the light out. Someone pounded on the door again. I got up. I padded over the matted brown carpet, and opened the door, Tom was standing there without a shirt on. The light assaulted my sensibilities, it took me a minute to comprehend why it should be light out while I was sleeping, there really is something vampiric about the lifestyle of being in a band, if you see daylight you either shun it or you know it‘s been a late night.
"Yeah." I said, sleepily.
"You gotta come to the other room, we have an emergency."
"What kind of an emergency?" I asked.
"I don't know man. Ian says he's quitting the band and going back home."
"Shit." I said, "does anybody know why?"
"No. He's been babbling, but not making any sense. Just something about the price being too high." I threw on a shirt, and ran hot footed across the cold concrete sidewalk to one of the boy’s rooms. All of them were sitting around Ian who was sitting on the bed sobbing while the TV blared in the background.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"He broke up with his girlfriend."
"Or she broke up with him."
"That's all?" I asked, sitting next to him. He was pale, his face was all washed out from his tears, "c'mon buddy you can't let something like this knock you down." No reaction.
"We've been telling him that for like two hours now." Johnny said.
“Ian, can you tell us what happened?” I knew if I kept asking questions that as soon as I broke through and got an answer the rest of the story would come flooding out.
"I, I can't live without her!" He sobbed. I could see he was making an effort to contain himself.
"Of course you can. You were able to exist before her, right?"
"Uh-huh."
"OK, now listen carefully and do everything I tell you, OK?" He looked up and shook his head 'yes', "I learned this a long time ago, cry." I said. A couple of tears ran down his cheeks, "C'mon cry!" I yelled. "Didn't you love her?"
"Hey, c'mon, man." Brian said, "don't be so cruel he's had a rough time of it already."
"You gotta get her out of your system." I said to Ian, and for the benefit of them all. "OK, now think of everything you did with her," I looked at him, he was trying to fall back into self-pity, "you thinking about her?" He shook a weepy yes, "think about every place you saw together, every candlelit dinner you had, the jokes you shared, the kisses you stole, the plans you made. Cry them out until there's nothing left."
He started sobbing loudly. "Why? Why? Why, doesn't she love me?" It was the heartbreak of the unanswerable question we all have one time or another. I knew that pain in the past, but steeled myself against it, in the present.
"Let the band be your armor against the loneliness of those feelings. Do you wanna be a rock star or not? Is it just a dream, or your destiny? You're out here on the road accomplishing something. Most people aren't doing that in their lives, you can't let such things alter your journey." Tears were streaming down his cheeks.
"I'm tired now," he mumbled, "I jus' wanna go to sleep." He laid on the bed in the fetal position, subdued.
“How long until the show tonight?” I asked, suddenly sleepy again.
“About four hours.”
"He'll be OK. Maybe a little vulnerable and raw for a while, but he'll be OK." That night we had one of our best shows because Ian had a little more emotional intensity in his drumming. A few weeks later the hole in the girlfriend troupe was soon filled with a new member, Cassandra, of all things.

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (jymwrite@aol.com, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Saga of Jimmy Stark PT 2

Merri was standing in an office, there was a desk, and the walls were covered over with fake plywood. With Merri was an older looking gentleman wearing a golf shirt and sansabelt pants in some bad pastel color. He looked like he'd just come in from the golf course, or the clubhouse, I imagined that just off camera smoldered a cigar one end chewed, I could almost smell the tobacco on his breath. At the bottom of the screen it read, Max Springfield, "we're here with Jimmy Stark's agent of thirty years," Merri said, "Max Springfield. Max, you're the one who discovered Jimmy Stark, and have stuck with him through the years."
"Well," he said, with a bit of wet lisp, "that's because of Jimmy himself, he's a very special person. I remember when his mother first brought him into my office I think she had him dressed like one of The Beatle's in a Sgt. Peppers era costume. I wasn't that interested, but as I was talking with him I saw something. I convinced his mother to stop dressing him in costumes, which was a lot harder than it should have been and we sent him out to auditions. And the rest you know, as they say, is history."
“How did Jimmy get the role on Family Muse?”
“That’s almost as legendary as Lana Turner being discovered at Schwabs Drugstore. One of the producers saw him on a commercial, and at the time I was one of the two or three biggest agents, and I was the first call he made.”
"After Family Muse Jimmy's career hit a snag."
"Jimmy hit the wall most child actors do when suddenly they have to have a talent other than looking cute. If he were coming to us today, there's so much more we could do with him, but in those days we were pretty much limited to the cute kid or the precocious kid roles. Luckily, Jimmy could play both."
"Jimmy developed a reputation as a party animal early in his career."
"He loved to play!" Max exclaimed, "he thought acting was playing, that’s why he was so good, he was just playing. So when he discovered what he took to be adult playing, he was a natural at it."
"It seemed at one point Jimmy was deliberately trying to sabotage his career?"
"That was later, in his twenties. Nevertheless, I got him some very good roles, roles that still hold up. Tender Fury comes to mind, of course, for which he got a best actor nomination."
"We've been trying to track Jimmy down to let his fans know how he is. Have you been in contact with him?" Merri asked.
"Of course, hardly a month goes by that I don't hear from him."
“Could you put us in touch with him?”
“Well, I haven’t heard from him in a while, but when I do, I’ll be in touch.”
"Thank you Max, for setting the record straight." He nodded his head, and then they cut back to Roger Hudson in the studio, I turned the TV off.

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (jymwrite@aol.com, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wanda

Then things started getting weird, at the gigs I was meeting people who knew Morrison, or at least claimed to have known him. There was the woman from Oregon who said she met Morrison in a bar on Christmas Eve and they talked about the meaning of life, but the story sounded too metaphorical. Then there were those who claimed to be Morrison, by reincarnation. Those who claimed Morrison was communicating with them either by letter, possession, or from the spirit level. And finally, those who claimed to be Morrison in the flesh.

The first group, the reincarnates, those who thought they were Jim Morrison reincarnated, that was an easy one to solve. I just asked them how old they were, over twenty and it was "sorry, Morrison was still alive when you were born." That usually stumped them and sent them back to the drawing board, except for the hardier, more obsessed soul.
"No, dude, it was a transmigration of the soul. He knew he was dying a long time before he died, so his spirit left." For those people there really was no answer.

Then there were the possessions. Those who claimed Jim was possessing them either full time or only on occasion, and Jim was dictating a new book of poems to them, or was collaborating with them on a book for the purpose of clearing up the misconceptions of his life. And, lastly there were the guys who said they were Jim in the flesh and were just waiting for the right time to reemerge.

One night there was a conversion or collision of the types that presented what I thought was a unique opportunity. Between sets a guy came up to me and told me he was Morrison, this guy had long wild hair, a beard, wearing a plaid workingman's shirt, and jeans he'd been living in a little too long. His face was ruggedly lined like he'd been living outside. I thought he looked more like John The Baptist, maybe he was Morrison after all.
"Where you been man?" I asked.
"Living out in the wilderness where nobody can find me."
"What're you doing here?"
"Making sure you don't sully my memory."
"Sully?" I said, dropping my jaw, "I haven’t sullied in years."
"Don't tell anyone I'm here."
"No problem, man." Not two minutes after this encounter, a woman came up to me and told me Morrison possessed her every now and again and that he was glad I helping keep his memory alive. I saw that an opportunity like this wouldn't present itself again so I decided to have some fun with it when I went back on stage.
"Ladies and gentlemen we have a special guest tonight." The band looked at each other, then looked at me, perplexed. The audience murmured. "We have a confluence tonight, as it were, a strange alignment of stars!" I had the hook baited, "we have Jim Morrison in the audience tonight!" There was a hush. The crowd didn't know what to make of this pronouncement, "we have a gentleman here with us who says he is Jim Morrison," at this point the guy claiming to be Morrison got up and scurried towards the door, "and a young lady who says Jim's spirit visits her nightly!" The audience cheered, the woman actually stood up to take a bow.

Then there was Wanda. That's when it started to get seriously weird. The thing was, she was for real.
"I'm Wanda the Witch."
"You're kidding, right?"
"No, I knew Ray and Jim at UCLA." She looked to be about the right age, "I was a theatre student and I wanted to be an actress. I was in Ray's movie and I've been into Wicca forever. I may have been the first person to get Jimmy interested in witchcraft." She looked at me with such a look of desire, "I could tell you a lot about Jimmy," she said. She seemed pretty drunk, slurring every word she uttered, but I was morbidly interested.
"What'd you talk to Jimmy about?" I asked.
"We talked about a lot of things, like poe-ahhh-tree and Artraud."
"Artraud?" I said, taunting her about her pronunciation.
"Yeah, Antonin Artraud, the French theater guy or something." She said, waving it off.
"Tell me something else about Jimmy."
"Jimmy was a tabula rasa. He could be an altar boy, or a murderer. He was a mirror, get it!? You got what you looked for, he was amazing at reading people."
"What did you see?" I asked.
"A lover." She said, eyeing me lasciviously, "wanna go to my car?" She was in her early to mid-forties, gaudily dressed in tight jeans, denim jacket with fake fur at the collar and cuffs, a low cut blouse with more than a hint of multicolored bra sticking out. Her face was lined, and portions looked like they were about to drop, her make-up was applied thickly. She was working hard to look sexy. She was right at my break-off point, but her sleeping with Jim Morrison added another dimension and tipped the balance. It was still worth a plunge into the pool. I mean how many chances in life do you get to make it with a woman who made it with Jim Morrison?

We were in her car making out and suddenly I was roaring drunk. I was seeing things in swirling disconnected images. But how had I drunk too much? I had a couple extra drinks to make it easier to make it with her, but I had drunk more than this before, without such a dire turn of sensation. Maybe it was the synergy of the beer I drank and the whiskey on her breath. I opened the car door for some fresh air. As soon as it hit me, I felt a rush from my stomach. I threw myself out of the car onto the gravel parking lot and started throwing up. As I lay on the ground I heard Wanda get out of the car and walk around to the side of the car I was on. I looked up and saw her leaning against the side of the car smoking a cigarette, hovering over me like an animal protecting its kill. I heard the crunch of gravel as someone approached.
"Is that our mini-Morrison?" A voice I recognized as one of the boys, appeared in my mind as an island out of the mists, but I couldn't tell who it was. I reached up towards the voice saying "ha, he, hel..." I was trying to say help, but in my state, couldn't.
"I'm going to make out with him some more when he stops puking." I heard Wanda say.
"Yeeeeech, gruesome." A female voice said.
"Live the lifestyle Mikey," the boy's voice said. "You can have him lady, just make sure he's back to the motel by eleven AM tomorrow, or we leave without him." And they laughed.
Wanda pulled her car into the parking lot of her rooming house. I was laying in the backseat, tattered vinyl and used wrappers floating with me in virtual zero gravity. She pulled me out of the car, dragging me towards the house, my boots pushing on the gravel, the best mime of walking I could muster, one arm draped across her shoulders, it was a minor crucifixion. The landscape was bleak the wind howled around me, everything washed out to the color of bone, the moon. It was a tundra of a parking lot. I managed to pull the house into focus, it was larger and somehow harder looking than the surrounding family homes. Maybe it was because the house, as well as the people that inhabited it weren't as well taken care of as the people in the family homes.

Once inside, I bounced off the walls of the communal kitchen. Wanda guided me up the hallway stairs, passed padlocked doors. It reminded me of a prison. We came to the last door down the hall, she opened the padlock and we fell into her room. I stood in the middle of the room, swaying, trying to comprehend. I saw all the possessions of a lifetime that were stuffed into this ten by twenty room. There was her girly dressing table covered with combs, a skirt of ancient chiffon ran around the outside of it. Sticking out of the frame of the mirror, a photograph. I plucked it out and tried to focus on it. It was a picture of her with Morrison. The colors separated, turned yellow with age. It was ancient sepia now. It must have been taken early in The Doors career, or maybe they were still at UCLA, they both looked achingly young, Morrison was still in his cruel handsome youngboy looks. I matched the face of the girl in the picture and Wanda. It was her all right, without the wrinkles, and without the feral look in her eyes. Their clothes were almost antique looking even to my sensibilities, even though I remember people dressing like that. I remembered dressing like that. It wasn't like the other photographs of Morrison I was used to seeing, Morrison, in his natural state, relaxed and in the moment, he’d always looked like a modern among the primitives to me. When I was a kid, I thought all the adults were in their fifties, they all had short hair, black rimmed glasses, and because the clothes they wore were dull and lifeless they, and appeared to be in black, white. Morrison looked more like me, and the people I hung out with, alive and in color. The picture of Wanda and Morrison was a typical posed photograph. The body language of both spoke volumes. She was trying to be close to Morrison, and he was standing rigidly, waiting for the moment to be over so he could pull away. I dropped the picture down on the table.
"Where's the bed?" I asked turning around. Tucked away in the corner of the room was her bed. I fell straight down on it and for a minute everything swirled around me, then I passed out. During the night I remember her waking me up for sex. I responded out of some sense of duty, either to legend or my own ego. I noticed the longer I was with her the older she looked. All I remember was a flash of tit and genital as I escaped back down the darkened swirl. It didn't matter I was unconscious anyway.
Some time after that I woke up, it was still dark out, it seemed like the night was lasting forever. At least I felt like I was sobering up. I looked at the other side of the bed. Wanda was awake, watching me.
"Do you have a girlfriend?" She asked, running her hands over the skin of my chest.
"No, why?" I asked.
"I can be your girlfriend, and follow you to all your gigs. I can be your lover and tell you everything I know about Jimmy."
"What makes you think I'm that into Morrison?"
"Look at you. Dressed like him, you act like him, and you even fucked me because of him."
"No. We don't need any more camp followers." I said.
"Camp followers!" She bellowed. "Well, that's the difference between you and Jimmy. He was an original performer he brought life to the stage. All you bring is a ghost and that's why you'll never be anything but a cheap imitation!" She rolled over and went to sleep.

I woke up early the next morning. Light was finally starting to pry its way through the lone window in the room. Wanda was snoring next to me. I pulled on my pants and shirt. Next to her bed was a scrapbook, one of those huge old-fashioned kind where you can keep adding more pages. I sat on her dressing table chair and looked through it. It started with typical childhood photos, proud mother and father holding the baby, growing up modeling different chiffon dresses and Wanda smiling broad toothless smiles, first communion. Then there was a newspaper clipping of a little girl, Wanda in a tutu, a production of Swan Lake. The caption gave the little girl's name as Stephanie Mulgrew, but it was Wanda. I could still see the little girl in her face. I turned the pages, there were more pictures and reviews; from high school plays, the perennial production of Our Town, followed by pictures of her in college at UCLA, the plays now Ibsen and Beckett. Then some reviews and programs from small L.A. playhouses, this was her rise to stardom! I noticed a few early Doors reviews interwoven. There was an early connection. Then a movie ad, I read it over carefully, her name wasn't anywhere on it. But she must have had a part in it, or else why would it be in her scrapbook? Then it became a scrapbook about Jim and The Doors, culminating, of course, in Paris. Then there were a couple of blank pages. They were yellowed and brittle like the pages before them. When it resumed the pages were newer, cream colored. It became a diary and there was a ferocity in the entries until towards the end they became manic. I realized I had been wrong it wasn't a scrapbook chronicling her rise to stardom. It was a scrapbook chronicling the death of her dreams. How many years did the blank pages represent? Where had Wanda come from? A character she carved out of, perhaps, her conversations with Morrison, like Alice Cooper in Morrison's conversations with a young Vincent Furnier. When did she go from being Stephanie to Wanda? When Stephanie became powerless in life and Wanda offered her that power and control again? In the clarity of the morning light, and my clearing head I realized the look of want I had seen on her face the night before wasn't for me. What I had mistaken as desire for me was really a desire for what I represented and the desire to try and rewrite history. A desire to change this leaden reality of her life and restore the golden dreams of her fantasies. Maybe she and I weren’t that far apart. She looked deep inside for the simmering essences of truth; she had found madness. She moved a little in the bed, even asleep she didn't look at rest. I pushed a lock of sweat matted hair off her forehead, I could see the hurt child with dreams that was in her, that had made her this madwoman.
"Peace, Stephanie, peace." I said, softly.

I stumbled out into the cold morning air I pulled my leather jacket tight around me against the cold. The wind still tore through me, the word mourning bouncing around my hung over head. I looked around trying to get my bearings. I seemed not to be too far from the bar and motel. I started the cold trek back in the direction I thought I should go. By the time I was at the end of the gravel parking lot, Wanda was out the back door yelling at me.
"Just like Morrison, asshole!"

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (jymwrite@aol.com, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Close Cover Before Striking

On one of our ever increasingly rare nights off, Tom and I were just hanging out in his room having a few beers, watching TV. He went to get a couple of beers for us out of the sink we had iced down. I saw his sketchbook lying on the bed I absently started flipping through it, it was filled with drawings of Iron Maiden album covers. When he came back into the room he stopped dead when he saw me looking through it. "This is what you've been drawing?" I asked.
"Are they bad?" He asked.
"No, they're great," I said. "But Iron Maiden? You hang out with a Doors cover band for a few months and all you can draw is Iron Maiden album covers? Aren't there any other bands with cool album covers?" Tom just shrugged his shoulders. "I expected caricatures of us, landscapes, or even sketches of truckstops. I haven't even seen you with any Iron Maiden albums, or play any Iron Maiden tapes." Then I realized, "you've been drawing these from memory?"
"Yeah, I just like the covers, so I draw them." Tom said.
"WOW!" I said, genuinely awed, "you ought to do something with that."
"Yeah, I know." Tom said, hanging his head down. I glimpsed some hurt of the past in the look. "I've been thinking about entering this contest." He threw me a matchbook. I opened it, there was a picture of a pirate and it said, 'draw and send in for a free evaluation.'
"And in about six weeks you'll get a letter back saying 'congratulations! You're a budding Picasso. And with some refinement of your technique you can make a living as an artist and we can offer you courses to help you attain your dream, for as low as..." I said, "the thing is no one fails. They prey on your dreams, charging you, promising fame and fortune, but all you end up doing is giving them your money. You have to consider what do your dreams cost?"

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (jymwrite@aol.com, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Caitlin

During the first set of the night in Nashville I looked out across the smoke hazened bar. We were playing a real roadhouse, we were in the land of belt buckles and cowboy hats there were spittoons that I don't think were decorative. It was a large room with tables and chairs that filled the center, and lining the perimeter, on the walls were booths. People were coming and going out of one of the booths, like bees from a hive, including 'the girlfriends'. I wondered whose booth it was. A record industry executive’s? A local bigshot? Or maybe a country western star? All I could see through the spotlight and the people gathered around were flashes of a beautiful red headed woman. In between sets, everyone backstage and at the bar was talking about this woman. All the interest was starting to piss me off, so I asked Alex about her.
"That's Caitlin Stewart, she's the daughter of Jerry Osprey." Alex said.
"Jerry Osprey?" I said, "The Jerry Osprey? The guitar player?"
"I knew that would impress you. Yeah, him."

I sauntered up to the booth, putting on my best Morrison pout. She had burnt red hair. Nothing of the carrot there but of the flame, it was the color of a dark fire, hot enough to burn. She was dressed the same as every other woman in the club that night, in jeans and a blouse but she had a sense of style that was far and above the taste of every other woman there, including the sequined 'girlfriends'. Her breasts were as nearly perfectly rounded as could be and were pulling the fabric of her blouse in interesting directions, her jeans seemed melted to her skin. She looked like the type of woman I was looking for. And if she really was Jerry Osprey's daughter, maybe she could help me. I just couldn't figure out why a girl like her would come to a place like this.
"I'm Michael Desmond." I said, extending my hand, "are you really Jerry Osprey's daughter?"
"Really." She said. I examined her features, she smiled nervously under the scrutiny and a light entered her eyes as her face rounded to the familiar shape of her father's.
"Can I buy you a drink?" I asked. Before she could answer I saw the band milling around the darkened stage, "Oh sorry, it's time to do the next set." I sauntered back to the stage, making sure she got a good look at me.

After the last set, I walked back out into the club, into the glare of the house lights. A thin layer of cigarette smoke still hung in the atmosphere, and the sound of the band still rung in my ears and echoed off the walls. I could see the devastation of the closed club, cocktail napkins and cigarettes on the freshly beer stained floor. The waitresses silently milled about from table to table cleaning up the half filled glasses and overflowing ashtrays, and trying not to look interested in anything except what they were doing. The band and 'the girlfriends' stood in a circle around Caitlin and a guy who I hadn’t noticed before that seemed to be with her. The bouncers stood around the edges in a looser circle trying to look cooler than the band. They weren't succeeding. I joined the inner circle.
"We're just doing this to get a little exposure," Johnny was saying to Caitlin, "and do our own songs."
"You have originals?"
"Yeah. We even have a demo tape." The other band members stood around shaking their heads in agreement.
"Really?" She said, "so what do you have to say for yourself Mr. Morrison?"
I smiled politely, "Michael, please." From the back the owner of the bar came up to our group, he was a good looking young guy in a silk shirt, with slicked back blond hair, constantly fidgeting with it, running his hand over the sides of his hair, or adjusting his sleeves. I wondered what he was doing, speed or coke.
"Time to go now. That includes you, Caitlin." I could tell there once had been something between them, and that he hadn’t been the one who ended it, he kept glaring at the guy with Caitlin.
"I'd love to hear your tape," she said to Johnny, "why doesn't everyone come to our house for a little party and we can listen to it?"

Caitlin and I walked up the path to her house, it was a huge modern tri-level with windows that ran its length, it was surrounded by a copse of trees hidden by and meant to be part of the environment. Everyone else was lagging behind us.
"What kind of music do you like?" I asked.
"All kinds."
"Everybody says that."
"But I really do like all kinds of music!"
"Everybody says that too."
"I can prove it." She said as we walked up to the front door of her house. A warm light shone out into the night. We walked into the living room, everybody fanned out of the vestibule behind us, we were all taken aback by the sight that greeted us. The decoration, like Caitlin, showed a simple but eloquent taste. Lining the walls of the living room were record albums, wrapped in plastic, and neatly arranged on shelves that spilled over into the other rooms I could see.
"Wow." Was all I could say, breaking the awed silence.
"Start here." She said, pointing to the closest shelve in the room. I pulled out the album closest to me.
"Abba." I said.
"They're arranged alphabetically." I pulled out the next album.
"Abba, Waterloo."
"And in order of release," she smiled.
“How far to AC/DC?”
“Farther down.”
"Impressive." I said, "how many are there?"
"Eight hundred." I ran my hand over the albums and walked about two feet before pulling out another album. It was Black Sabbath.
"You ever hear of CD's?" I asked.
"It's too late," she said, "I'm invested. I've been listening to albums since I was about ten, starting with my father’s."

Caitlin got out a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau and we sat around the living room listening to the boys’ tape, and it kind of reminded me of the party at the apartment except on a much more prosperous level. I watched the interactions around me, the waitresses and bouncers from the club loitered around the room outside the hub of, me, the band, and Caitlin. Caitlin was sitting next to her boyfriend Jake, Jack, Jess. I don't really remember which it was, and sure enough the manager of the club took a seat across from Caitlin and displayed a certain amount of familiarity as he fidgeted from whatever stimulant he had taken, while she looked amused by him. I smiled at her and looked at her intently, trying to communicate.
"Michael, would you like a tour of the house?" She asked me.
"Sure," I said, glad for the chance to be alone with her. We walked through a couple of the rooms. She pointed out some delicate facet about a piece of furniture, or of the room before asking, "do you sing the band's original songs?"
"No, The Unknown Soldiers and Ghost Dance are two different things.”
“You don’t write the songs or anything?”
“I don’t do anything creative, I’m the idea man.” I said, as we strolled to another room, moving farther away from prying eyes of the group. “What do you do?”
"I'm a publicist for a small record company, low wage, menial, I don’t know anything else except music, and love being around it."
"This house doesn't look like you're too low wage."
"Oh," she said, waving a hand, "my father has a lot of guilt and a lot of royalties.”
“What about the guy?”
“Judd? He’s my boyfriend."
“The nightclub owner doesn’t seem to think so.”
“Lance?”
"He's a loser." I said, cornering her against a wall. I could feel the heat pouring off her body.
"How do you know?" She said, softly.
"Because he's not me."
"Sure of yourself, aren't you?"
"I am the Lizard King." I said, grandiosely.
“You take that seriously?”
“It’s my job.”
“So, are you making a pass at me because you’re attracted to me? Or because you think Morrison would act this way? Or because you think I’m vulnerable?”
“Does it matter?”
"I met him once you know." She said, pushing me away from her as she moved on to the next room.
"Morrison?"
"Yeah, my dad's band opened for The Doors once."
"Really?"
"Yeah, it was during one of the times when my mother felt like my father should be spending more time with me, so..."
"How were they?" I asked.
"OK, I guess. I really don't have a good reference point. When Dad opened for The Doors, I was backstage for a few shows. Usually just long enough to see him play and then back to the motel. I really didn't get to see that much."
"What was he like?" I asked.
"Morrison? I don't know. Cool, I guess. I was only about nine or ten, we were backstage and I scratched his head and did a little curtsy, it was filmed, I’m sure you’ve seen the film. It was all pretty innocuous." We walked a few steps more, "so, let's talk about you. It must be pretty interesting to be in a band, what else have you done?"
"A lot of things. I'm just tryin' this music thing out to see if it leads anywhere." I said, staring at her intensely.
"Be careful, you just may get what you want. Just ask my father," she smiled, "just ask me."
"What's it like growing up with a father who's a legend?" I asked.
“I don’t look back much.”
“I guess that’s easy when you’re successful, and have what you want.”
"OK. Do you want the full length version, or the cheery, everything is roses version I use for magazine writers and fans of my father's?"
"Whichever is true."
"Basically, I paid for my father's Rock 'n' Roll dreams. I was conceived on tour, I was born on tour, and I think my parents even managed to stay together through that tour. Whenever my mother thought I needed a father figure she'd ship me off to be with him. I guess I did need a father figure, I ran away with a boyfriend who was nineteen."
"Nineteen?"
"When you're sixteen, nineteen seems a lot older. They seem, uh, cool, together, like an adult. He had this vague idea to go to L.A., we'd get jobs in a restaurant, and be discovered. I was this romantic sixteen year old, so we ran away. I thought we'd be together and be a famous couple. I thought someone would recognize me or find out I was Jerry Osprey's daughter and wouldn't allow me to live on the streets, but my father's career was well past its height, and no one cared if Jerry Osprey's daughter lived on the street." She smiled, it looked more nostalgic than wistful. "I got a lot of living done, waitressing, moving from city to city. We were living on Hollywood Boulevard, and..."
"You lived on Hollywood Boulevard?"
"I mean ON IT. Sleeping in the doorways of closed shops when we couldn't scrape together enough money for a crappy motel room. I finally realized he was more confused and screwed up than I was, so I called my mother and went home. My friends tell me I should write a book or an album, but..." She stopped and looked into my eyes. "I don't know why I'm telling you all this."
"People tell me all kinds of things. You'd be surprised." I said. "But what about now?”
“Now?”
“You get along well with him now, right?" She looked at me quizzically, "your father, I mean."
"Yeah, OK. He usually calls whenever he's in town." She looked at me out of the corner of her eye and smiled a little, "I don't understand why people would think my life is more interesting to them than theirs. Is that all you're interested in, my father?"
"No, uhhh…" I stammered.
"Don’t worry about it, I’m used to it. One of the reasons I fell in love with that nineteen year old, he was the first guy I met that was interested in me and not my Dad. He told me I was beautiful, and for as big a screw up as he was, he only wanted me. Some of the guys I've meet, I've felt like I'm a collectible to them."
"A collectible?"
"Yeah, just another thing to add to their Jerry Osprey collection, like the authorized guitar, the special edition album, The daughter, wrapped in plastic and put on the shelf, the ultimate collectible.” She looked uncomfortable and paused, “why don't you tell me about your dark history with your parents."
"What makes you think I have a dark history with them?"
"I don't know," she said, "you just look it."
"I don't know." I said, trying to decide if I could trust her.
"OK then, why're you so into Morrison?"
"I just always identified with him I guess."
"How?"
"Well, my father was military too, like Morrison's. We traveled around a lot until I was in high school."
"Well, that's you and several million other people." Then she paused. "Could it be you don’t want to tell me because you just think Jimmy was a really cool guy? Conqueror of women, befriender of men and animal, the mystical shaman?"
"I guess Morrison fit my mood when I read about him. He showed me a way to get what I wanted."
"What do you want?"
“I just want, well,” I struggled to put it into words, “I want to know what he knew. He seemed like he understood a lot of things, a lot of the mysteries of life. I'm just trying to find out what that was."
"The meaning of life?"
"I never looked at it that way, but, yeah, I guess you could say that."
"All you may ever figure out is the meaning of his life," she paused, "what if it means nothing to you?"
"Then I've discovered something."
"Is that why you started the band?"
"Let's just say I heard the voices of the gods calling me." Which I thought was one of my better lines. She was unfazed.
"So, what it comes down to is, you find me interesting not because I'm Jerry Osprey's daughter, but because I once met Jim Morrison. God! That's a new one!" She laughed. "Hmmm, what can I tell you about Morrison?" She said, "nothing really. I met the man for perhaps ten or fifteen minutes which is forever imprisoned in time, captured on film. I never knew the man, but it seems to me he had a lot of problems, and delving into him might invoke those demons, or awaken your own."
"How do you know it hasn't, I'm dangerous." I said, leaning in for a kiss.
"Why do all men like to think they're dark and dangerous?" She asked, "what can I do for you, Michael?"
"What can you do for me...no one's ever asked me that before."
"You made such a production out of letting me know you wanted to be alone with me." I looked like I didn't know what she was talking about. "Maybe we should go listen to your band's demo tape?"
"It's not my tape." I said.
"You realize I'm not going to sleep with you, don't you?"
"That's all I have time for, sex, nothing else." She didn't look amused.
"Yeah, right." She said, laughing as she pushed me away, again. "If you tried to see Morrison as a whole person instead of a hero, well, it doesn’t matter, what you reflect of him probably reveals some aspect of you, more than of him." She looked into my eyes one last time, "are you sure there's still a you in there?"

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (jymwrite@aol.com, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Saga of Jimmy Stark Pt 1

Merri Caldwell, the Hollywood Today! reporter, was sitting across from Sandra Wright the actress who had played Jimmy Stark's mother on Family Muse. They were in a living room of what looked like a mansion. In the background was a huge window with sunlight diffusing through the curtains, both sitting in highly polished expensive looking wood chairs, perhaps cherry or mahogany. Merri and Sandra were across from each other in the classic interviewer/interviewee pose. Sandra still looked attractive in her mid to late fifties.
"Good to see you again." Merri said.
"Good to see you, Merri."
"What was it like working with Jimmy Stark?"
"Well, I only worked with Jimmy for the run of the series, he was eight when it started and thirteen when it ended. He was very bright and had a great instinct for acting for such a young person." Sandra Wright spoke in the clipped tones, and formal enunciation regarded as a sign of erudition and breeding by the elocution coaches of the old studio system.
"What kind of instinct?" Merri asked.
"Even when he was young he just knew how to act, how to make a scene work."
"He did?"
"He was a very observant young man. I sometimes watched him watching everybody else. If he saw an emotion he could replicate it again and again, and I don't mean he was merely imitating people. I don't know how he did it, but there was more depth to it than that."
"How did the success of the show affect you?"
"Me? Well," she paused dramatically for the effect, "I got more money...eventually." She forced a laugh, "it really changed more for Jimmy, than me. The producers really didn't foresee how Jimmy would click with the public, but when they did, they worked that poor boy to a frazzle."
"There have been rumors you dated Jimmy while the show was on the air."
"That's really a popular myth. First, he was very young when the show aired. Secondly, his mother was always there during filming. I did date Jimmy about five years after the show ended, when he was eighteen and I was in my late thirties."
"How did it go?"
"We discovered our relationship was more of a mother-child relationship than either of us was willing to admit."
"Do you know what Jimmy's doing these days?" Merri asked.
"I heard he was living on the streets, but there's a lot of rumors that surround Jimmy. I've read he's a cop, he was killed in the Navy, that he became a Buddhist monk. I guess anything is possible with Jimmy."

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (jymwrite@aol.com, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter 31: Caitlin

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The View From The Stage

As the tour progressed and we got more gigs under our belts, I felt the band and I hit our stride musically. The boys were into it, I could tell by the way they played and their expressions. They were having a lot of fun. I became more confident in my delivery of the shows. I was hitting all my cues to come into the songs and I had some fun with the audience. I became more spontaneous, leaving behind the stiff choreographies I had worked up in rehearsals, I discovered freedom, I could do anything, say anything I wanted up there, there were no limits, no laws, it was my canvas, it was my blank page. I learned how to control the elements of the environment, like colors of a palette, the stage became MY stage. If somebody heckled me, I stuck the microphone under his nose and invited him, and it was almost always a guy, to, "say your thing man." Whatever came out was usually enough to embarrass him. The couple of hours on stage a night made up for all the travel and screwed up hours of going to sleep when it's light, waking up when it's evening, and fast food instead of real food. I was able to relax and take a look at things from my perspective. I became proficient at reading all the different "types" in the clubs. For instance, the clubs themselves all started to blur in my mind, they all started to look alike. Only the shapes became discernible, round, square, cavernous, cramped, oblong, elongated. The names of the clubs broke down into two categories, those named after someone, Otto's, Charlie's, Rick's, etcetera. God knows if these people really existed or the owners just thought it was a good name for a bar. And the cleverly named bars like The Dew Drop Inn, or Who's In There, Stop Rite Inn.

Next were the customers. There was the high school quarterback who couldn't get into college, his high school girlfriend, still at his side, who hadn't lost faith in him, yet. The barroom savant who no matter how long he'd been drinking could answer questions on Jeopardy faster than the contestants, and the bartenders demonstrating examples of barroom physics. I noticed there was usually a visible gap in the ages of the waitresses, they ran from the young and hopeful for whom the job was only temporary until they got through school. They did their jobs bouncing from table to table. And the older waitresses, those that hadn't gone to school or had just plain missed their chance and knew they were there to stay. They conserved their energy, taking a puff or two off a cigarette at the bar before going to check their next table, each day sliding blissfully into memory.

Then there were the growing signs of our success. We had gathered a following. I started seeing some of the same faces at gigs that were close to one another. Another was the gigs themselves started to blur in my memory. One night's Backdoor Man seemed the same as the previous nights Riders On The Storm, or Hello, I Love You. It was also around this time people started giving me things, phone numbers, rings, necklaces, keys, poetry and artwork. I don't know if they thought I could get them published or "discovered," or they just wanted an audience, someone who might understand, some of it was pretty good. As word about us got out, Swifty was able to fill in more and more of the empty dates in the tour.

If we weren't traveling, or at a gig, there was a lot of down time. It was downright boring. The days we played were filled with drama and excitement of the gig, the bustle of loading and unloading equipment was completely counter balanced by ripping boredom. No wonder Morrison found ways to amuse himself by hanging out windows, ledge walking, and later drinking. Because Tom was closer in age to me than the band, on off nights or when I was bored I'd visit his room and we'd smoke a joint, or drink some beer. He'd tell me his road stories, having lived pretty much of his life on the road, never settling anywhere, no family of his own. In between bands he lived as well as he could, depending on how much money he had saved from the road. He'd partied with rock stars and drank with winos, but he never showed me what he'd drawn.

One night when I got on stage, in the front row was a table of four truly beautiful girls. All decked out in their finest wares, dripping with sequins and pearl necklaces. They looked uncomfortable and awkward in the clothes, like kids playing grown up, still tripping on their mother's high heels. I knew the boys had girlfriends, which is how I came to think of their little troupe, as 'the girlfriends'. Thinking back, it was a gradual process. It started with one girl at a table close to the stage, then two, until the night I walked on-stage and was confronted with their glittering entourage. These weren't your average Rock ‘n’ Roll chicks, these were your exotic type. They were amateur groupies trying to move up the food chain. Not the type of girl the boys were used to, nor would have been able to attract had they not been in a band. Which just goes to show you, no matter how unattractive you are, if you're in a band you can always get a beautiful girlfriend. They were the boys’ own group of sirens, each with charms and songs of their own.

Kaja, was tall and dark, and had a mysterious look to her. She was of Eastern European descent of some sort and had lean supermodel angles to her body. I've never been able to figure out how so many Eastern European women are beautiful when young, but when you see pictures of them as old women they're all fat, sprouting mustaches and wearing babushkas.

Sofia, wisdom, the irony was she was the one truly troubled soul of the group. She wore lace and her mother's pearls. The band called her the suicide queen. If you tried to break up with her she threatened to kill herself. If that didn't work, she would call the guy leaving her to inform him a much more major departure was imminent.

Michelle, she was always dressed in black. From the concert T-shirts she wore to the stylish combat boots, and in between diaphanous skirts. She was one of those people who tried never to say an uninteresting thing, or do anything remotely mundane in their lives, never. She always had a story to top yours, no matter how bizarre. I tested her by telling her the most fantastic stories I could think of. She was never at a loss for a story to trump mine. She had either done a lot of living, or was a gifted liar.

And finally, Alex, she was the one truly dangerous one, capable of breaking up the band if her influence became too much, she was smart and the problem was her whisperings in Johnny‘s ear. I would guess her name was probably Alexandra or Alexia, no one ever told me, and I never asked. She was my type. Or would have been in the past, but I was beyond them now. She wore leather pants, assemblages of torn T-shirts, handcuffs and chains, and every time I saw her she had different colored hair. And she was smart. One night between sets I talked her up a little.
"Why are you so into Morrison?" She asked.
"I bought the book An Hour of Magic when it came out, and when I opened it, it just had this incredible picture of Morrison, a shiver just shot through me."
"A little latent homoerotic reaction?" She asked.
"I'm not gay."
"Are you sure?" So much for showing my vulnerabilities.

We also started getting invitations from our 'fans' for after show parties, which sometimes added an element of danger and adventure. One night, there was a table almost directly in front of the stage with two couples on a date. One of the girls was truly beautiful. Each show I tried to find someone in the audience to sing to, the seduction was easy, just sing a song and look into their eyes as if you were looking into their soul. Playing Morrison made me feel like I could move the world, picking up whatever girl at a gig was easy, sex became a liquid to me and unlike the boys I didn‘t have a girlfriend, there were plenty of women who wanted to be with “Jim Morrison.” The next song was, Hello, I Love You. In between sets one of the guys from the table came up to me.
"Hey, man, you trying to move in on my girlfriend?"
"No, I'm not trying to steal your girlfriend." I said, smiling broadly, drawing him into my confidence, "I just wanna fuck her and then I'm leaving town." He laughed.
"Man, you're all right!" He said, slapping me on my back, "I'll buy you a beer."
"Cool, man."
"We're havin' a little party after the show, do you and your band want to come over?" You can get away with murder when you're in tune with the universe.

We went to their crash pad of an apartment, probably the first apartment of whomever's it was. There all ready seemed to be a party in progress when we got there. There were a few people sitting around a big round table in the middle of the room with a bong on it, surrounded by an old chair and sofa. Within leaning distance of the chair a top of the line stereo, with an equalizer, a professional turntable, while the rest of the furniture looked second hand. It was clear this was the center of the apartment.

After a couple of bong hits I noticed a girl standing against the wall watching every move I made. She looked more interesting than the others, she was wearing black-rimmed librarian glasses and had long dishwater blond hair that hung over her face like she was trying to hide, at least that's the impression she wanted you to have. At first glance you would think she's plain looking, but the more I watched her, the more I could see the beauty behind the glasses. She was pretty, but it was a forced perspective, the angular features of her face met to form a jigsaw of beauty, she could've been a librarian or a model depending on how she cleaned up. I watched her watching me, I could see stories in her face, like she was trying to explain everything that's happened to her, the histories and mysteries of her life. Then she would drop her head a little and seek temporary refuge, I knew once you befriended her she would show you the wilder fires that burned within.
"I'm gonna' get a beer." I went to the kitchen, she followed me, pinned me up against a wall, and started kissing me, my hand shot up her shirt like a snake after its prey. I stepped back and looked into her deep blue eyes. All I could do was stare into them and think of how I wanted to get lost in her eyes and other poetic clich├ęs.
"What's wrong?" She asked.
"This feels too familiar. I could let myself be drawn into you so easily." I said, "but I can't!" I pushed her away. It would've been like getting back together with Deidre, "but you don't know me, and what I'm really like. I can’t help you, I’m Sorry," I said. No more compromises.

I went back into the living room where everyone was sitting in a circle on the floor very zoned out listening to Led Zeppelin, a whole When The Levee Broke feeling. The bong still sitting in the middle of the table surrounded by some very stoned knights of a round table. The night diffused into a hazy golden color. That's how I remember it, all of us sitting in a circle in that living room. Each of the boys smiling like he was in a golden halo, or maybe a spotlight in the surrounding darkness.

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (jymwrite@aol.com, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter 30: The Saga of Jimmy Stark Pt 1