Tuesday, 31 January 2012

the Core

the Core

It’s all Kevin’s fault as I think I mentioned before. Those of you with siblings are likely already acquainted with that phrase and it’s myriad of applications. This time, however, it really is his fault.
Kevin grew up with a true blue love for all things fast. He loved Speed and anything that could generate it. When he skated it was with his hair on fire, a reckless abandon throwing his body forward and caution to the four winds and get the fuck out of my way as the sharp blades slit the ice. When he drove there was no second gear and those numbers on the square white signs, well those are just a suggestion, a guideline.
As like attracts like, he attracted fast women too. The highlights in their hair was like racing stripes, blonder on blond, their full red lips soft and dark like a red leather interior. He used that theorem he developed and tested on little Paula Stevens when she started to fill out, the binary ones and zeros arbitration, in which he always seemed to be number one and we all were zeros.
He honed his natural ability at ‘handling’ women, watching how they corner, knowing just when to give them a little gas to maintain control, and when to hit the brakes without skidding into a corner. Their was only two things stopping him from his natural vocation of strip club D.J.
His voice and his unyielding desire to be watching the world run past him as fast as it possibly could.
The voice wasn’t really that big a problem. He had been scamming or stealing upwards of half a pack of cigarettes a week since he was fifteen. Canadian cigarettes, American cigarettes, shit from the Indian reserve, some strange looking roll your owns, he didn’t care he smoked them all. He would smoke out behind Dad’s garage. He’d ride his bike to the park and flop it down so he could smoke as he watched the river float by far too slowly for his liking. He’d steal them from Dad, who wasn’t supposed to have any and he’d steal them from Gran. He’d scam them every where.
When Mom finally found Dad’s stash of Export A’s, Dad blamed it on Kevin. Kevin and Dad went out behind the garage at home. Dad laid into him and you could hear Kevin screaming and crying. Mom blanched, she almost ran out to stop it, it got so loud.
Kevin ran up to his room and slammed the door shut when they came in. I didn’t see him until the next day.
He didn’t tell me until I was almost twenty that he and Dad had a couple of smokes and Dad strapped the shit out of the far corner of the building and he howled as loud as he could. He was supposed to go to the grave with that little x-file.
His voice was hoarse and gravelly, just perfect for a lounge lizard D.J. reminding you to tip your waitress but don’t put your hand on her ass.
The other was a breakneck encounter with physics at its deepest darkest root.
The weird part is Kevin always secretly liked Math, the sicko, listening while pretending to be too cool for it all. He liked the solidness of it, the absolutes. Vagaries and half truths were more my speed, he wanted the ‘real deal’. He wanted an answer that was a real answer not two more questions.
Sometimes that’s the problem with the cold hard equation, no give to it. Here is the physics problem Kevin wasn’t completely able to solve.
1. If Dane and Kevin have consumed 12x 10 oz. Bottles of beer at .05 percent alcohol plus 1x 26 oz. of Rye, aged 12 years, at .40 percent alcohol and are driving in a 1989 Dodge Dart at 120 m.p.h. and meet with loose gravel, a near frictionless surface and the vehicle rotates on it’s y axis 3,600 degrees and comes into collision with an electrical pole of 40 feet height and 7 foot diameter, If all these things are true than how come Dane dies on impact and Kevin survives with scars on his legs face back and heart.
Show all work for full credit.
Dane’s funeral was on a gusty cool September afternoon, the threat of the rain clouds like knuckles of fists in the sky. The wind kicked up dirt like tires spinning on pavement. They buried him in a black suit, the only one I’d ever seen him wear. I’m sure his mother was saving it for job interviews although I had my suspicions that bail hearings were more likely in its future. Or had been, it was a rather terminal vocation it had found, partnered with a white shirt with a thin grey pinstripe and a navy tie. He looked conditionally good, considering the condition his face must’ve been found in kissing goodbye to the splinters of a hydro pole.
Kevin wore a brown suit jacket and white shirt, borrowing a grey tie from Dad. He wore track pants over broken legs, the pants covered by a brown blanket on his wheelchair. His oxygen tank was unadorned. I wore the navy suit I had gotten the year before, the sleeves already to short, long before any wear on the cuffs or elbows.
Kevin wasn’t too bad at the Dixon’s funeral home, I think a lot of it was that he couldn’t see much of anything. It was tough talking to Dane’s parents, they were hanging by a thread themselves. Dad wasn’t much help. He couldn’t stop thinking of how that could so easily have been him crying in the corner, in stead of hovering near his broken but living son.
The Reverend talked about Dane’s unfulfilled promise and how that promise now fell upon the rest of use to complete like an oath. We mumbled in prayer, prayer for Dane’s soul, secretly thanking God that Kevin was spared.
The police had found the eightball key chain that Dane would carry his Dart keys on. A little magic eightball that Kevin would flip upside down every once in a while, “answer unclear ask again later,” it would say.
I rolled him up to the edge of the coffin, he still couldn’t quite look in. At first, he went to place the keys in the coffin but his hand lingered at the rail. Then he pulled and looked at the eightball one more time, “our sources say no” and he held onto the keys.
“Are you sure Kev?” I asked.
He motioned me close and I took the oxygen mask off so he could whisper in my ear, “It’s probably what I should have done in the first place.”
Why, I wanted to ask. So we could be burying you? You were both drunk far beyond the legal limit. Do you think you’d be luckier?
He just put the mask back over his mouth and sucked down a couple of long gulps.
Now he’s married with two kids and a minivan. He drinks tea and coaches little league. He takes Heather to ballet lessons. Somewhere deep down inside behind all the middle class suburban lining I know that speed demon still lurks. Just ask his son....
Dane skates with his fathers reckless disregard, five years old and moving them fast, elbows up and chasing the puck like a greyhounds bunny.
The accident ended forever Kevin’s flirtation with fast cars. He still liked to take them apart to see where they hid all that speed but he walks with a cane and a handicap permit looks a little odd on a yellow mustang. Only fast women remained, but without his hot car and good looks marred by a switchblade sadness and the scars of a date with a pole, he capitalized on a decent voice and an above average collection of music. With a little perseverance he got a job at a run down rum joint called Seductions, the strippers as worn and in need of replacement as the carpet and the maraca sounding tweeters in the sound system, with police records as spotty as the beer glasses. No thanks, I’ll drink it straight from the bottle.
Like most places it is absolutely verboten to date heir D.J. mein slutz. Given this iron fisted rule, one of the few that seem to stick, and the fact that he treats them all like shit, all the girls are desperately in love with him.
          Or at the very least feign it, trying to by a dollars worth of leverage with the only credit they have.
He knows the score, he can read the balance sheet better than most of them. He recognizes the lie, the I’ll  love just you baby, just you and only you, just keep giving me money. Like a tarnished vending machine of love and lies, you just keep sliding the money in until the lights come on and the sign says sold out.
He loves the fact that these greedy little bitches have to give him money, because to them love is money and it is all they truly love. They know just how miserable he can make their lives. Make them money or lose them money and their only recourse is running his scams or a trip to Marvin to fix it all.
Marvin is the owner. Check that, Marvin says he’s the owner, but I’ll bet if you check that everything, right down to the change in the tip jar, belongs to his ever loving wife Rita. Her’s is the real name on the papers.
Rita, Kevin once told me, used to be a ‘feature’ back when features could make some cash without having to do table dances and other shit. I’ve met Rita a few times. I say met because she feigns forgetfulness every year at the Christmas party (well, both years), but I’m not buying the dumb blonde act she’s got on special for a dollar ninety nine with a coupon. She’s as cuddly as a slide rule or an amortization table. When it comes to cosmetic surgery she’s had pretty much the entire reader board, right down to the smiles... free. At this point I can’t really tell how old she is, somewhere between thirty five and sixty. There is only so many times you can patch a tire, Y’know what I mean? If she still has any factory parts they ain’t under warranty, and to hear Marvin whisper it, the entire drive train is pretty much shot.
I hear when she bought the place it was called ‘Uncle Sam’s’. I guess it was named after  the guy who married your mother’s sister and tries to slip his hand up your mom’s skirt when Dad’s getting another beer because drunk is the only way he can take your Aunt and the scumbag she married. He’s the kind that’s been starting to look a little too long at his niece’s nice new boobs.
The first thing she did was run all the old party girls out, the dope smokers and dick strokers that would fuck old Uncle Sam’s dog for enough money for their next line of whatever toxin they force fed their veins. Then she got rid of the old girls, the ones that didn’t know enough to hang’em up, although most of it was hanging already, the women just not willing to admit it.
To some she offered waitress jobs. That’s were Mindy comes in. She became Kevin’s thug. When he needs to tune one of the girls back into the frequency she is the one who twists the knobs. Men may be from Mars and women from Venus, but a lot of these girls are from right around Uranus (Mostly the Eastern bloc girls, they are always trouble) and they tend to lose the signal fairly easy. Mindy is a girl you just don’t fuck with and it’s been a long time since anyone wanted to. Even when she was a dancer, she wasn’t really a looker but her hard body and big tits distracted you and she had a genuine enthusiasm for her job. The tits got bigger and saggy, the nipples about to roll down under, and all those free beers finally caught up with her. She had a kid and she started to eat. She might have eaten the kid, we’re not really sure and no one wants to ask.
Mindy will give a well placed shot or two, or three if she was looking for a reason to smack the bitch and the girl will either tow the line or go running to Marvin. In either case Kevin just remembers to play some C.C.R. between sets and reminds the patrons to tip their lovely waitress. I see a bad moon rising.
Now, if they go running to Marvin it will generally involve sexual favours of one sort or another with Marvin, a tall, reedy, smell to much of Pierre Cardin kind of slime ball, or maybe one of his even seedier friends, or some combination of the above. He was probably handsome back in 1973, which is approximately the circa of his hair cut but the cut of his chin is slowly being absorbed by his absolute lack of a work ethic. Or any other kind of ethic if truth be told. Rita owns him like she owns the buffet table he often stands next to or the cold beer he drinks, so it’s really no loss to her, like putting your beer in the downstairs fridge instead of the one in the kitchen. She owns his dick too, but since she never uses it anymore she might as well let someone else use it, lest if fall into disrepair. When you shake hands with Marvin, which I personally try to avoid, you count your fingers to see if you got them all back.
Frankly, I’d rather take the bitch slap from Mindy, all things considered.
If it was a tryst with one of Marvin’s homely home boys then in will end up on a super VHS with a copy for Kevin so the next time she starts doing whatever it was that caught her the cuff in the head, Kevin can show her and make any one of a number of various threats. Sometimes he threatens to put it on the VCR and let the patrons watch, but half the time that would be like running an ad for them. Most of the time though he threatens to drop it off with the police so she can get busted for soliciting.
If she does Marvin, which there is never any video evidence of, he threatens to tell Rita. That would put a quick end to her career as a stripper unless she moves far, far away. Rita owns four of these places and she has a ‘gentleman’s arrangement’ with the other owners regarding renegade strippers. She can move on to more rewarding work as a massage parlour dick puller or corner crab carrier.
But she’ll always have the loving memory of Marvin’s greasy hands all over her, and the magic of his company.
Mindy always looked kinda of familiar and I’ve tried a few times to discretely enquire about her. You have to be careful though if she catches your scent she’s like a big old bloodhound, and not only in looks. It’s a game of fox and hounds, or hound as it where, but you have to keep in mind that when the game ends the hounds usually tear the fox to shreds. She’s also an Olympic caliber party vulture, and since she’ the one managing peoples alcohol consumption that gives her plenty of opportunities. The real trick for her is to manage to keep him drunk enough that he finds her attractive, (no mean feat) and yet not so drunk that he can’t get wood or passes out all together. She can generally gauge the later by his reaction to the peelers, who, once the money is all syphoned from him discard him like the spent husk of wallet he is. After all, they don’t want to fuck him, just fuck him over.
If he can still keep at least the semblance of a hard on and is playing grab as with her by closing time is fate is pretty muched sealed. The only thing that can possible save him is a bit of alcohol poisoning, or maybe if he starts to barf. The whole thing kinda makes me feel like puking too, and it doesn’t seem like that bad an alternative to waking up with Mary Jane Rottencrotch with her bowling ball weight brain bucket crushing your chest and her farmers mitt hand on your dick.
Where do you think you’re going from there?
My own lack of alcohol tolerance precludes me from her dark designs. I would pass out long before I drank enough beer to find her remotely attractive.
In response she has often told me “I’m more woman than you can handle.”
Ya, jumbo size.
She has dropped hints in the past about Danny and her doing the horizontal rhumba. Danny was never the most discriminating of dates. I think he was always surprised that he was going on one. To think he went into that cold sober, kinda sends a chill down my spine that might just start to churn the chili in the pit of my stomach.
Maybe she was one of those Goth girls all pasty white and black clothes. I know black is a slimming colour but I think there is a definite limit to what you can ask black to do for you. But maybe in the right light and with a bone white make up job and maybe a ring through her lip she could have been one of those chicks that hung out at the Core.
I’m certain that the old Coronation Hotel had once been a semi-respectable rummy and gin mill, with all the associated losers and hangers on you might find killing their liver on a two in the afternoon Tuesday, the haze from Rothman’s and Marlboro’s thicker than the fog on Riverside drive at five a.m. They probably had their dart team that drank too much while they played, not that it impacted on their ability. Maybe a pool team too, that took full advantage of the ever so gentle Walkerville tilt to the worn green felt, and the cushions that were deader than old Henry what’s is name, the one who sat in the corner under the picture of the queen and who would tell anyone who would listen for more than ten ounces at a swill about streets of Dieppe and the hospitality of Stalag 19. The one who sat there once in 1945 and never really got up again until the redwings won another Stanley cup after old Gordie Howe retired, the ale and the cigarette’s finally finishing the job that the German Luger started so long ago.
Then Sid Vicious sang God save the Queen.
The run down hard luck time of the Coronation hotel and the punk sound of rancid guitar and corrosive lyric seemed almost a simile. They gutted the bulk of it, the dart board at the dump and pool table sliding all the way down to Walkerville finally, hanging out at some legion hall there. Only Henry what’s is name’s old Essex Scottish mug behind the bar and the picture of her majesty remained.
Danny, his desire to be in a punk band stuck in his head like the can of hair spray stuck to it to mold his floppy, limp hair into a spike, convinced us to join him on one of his trips to “the Core”.
He told us that he was canceling band practice that night, and we were supposed to come out to his house in “clothes we’d wear to fix cars in.” I think he had in mind dirty black jeans and black T-shirts, some running shoes or work boots. Me being the literalist I am, wore royal blue coveralls my Dad bought for me, complete down to the”Ed” nametag, red letters on white, embroidered on the left breast side above the pocket.
I thought Danny would piss himself the way he was laughing.
“Fuck it,” he said giggling as his cousin Tammy picked us up in her little Pontiac Acadian to go ‘to the movies’.
I watched Danny’s father with his head stuck beneath the hood of that old Packard. I didn’t think he was buying the whole movie thing, not with a coupon and a get one free. My Dad assumed we were working on the Packard too. I was expected to give a detailed report when I got home.
Cousin Tammy was a blonde farm girl dyed sable, with big hands like worn leather straps and forearms worthy of a Popeye anchor.
Her skin was so Maybelline pale as to be mistaken for twelve hours dead, and she smelled of hair spray and knock off Chanel.  Her black combat boots, Mark III pattern, and long black hose leading to a skirt that could have been mistaken for a belt. I think the black shirt must’ve been left over from her grade five gym class.
Things had changed an awful lot from grade five. She had the kinda chest that you had to rest on the desk every once in a while just so you could lug it around all day. There was a certain bovine aspect to her, in the largeness of her hips and the swing of her udders, she didn’t look like much but she fit like a glove into the core crowd.
The median age would have been maybe seventeen, maybe a bit more, depending on who you let do the math. Fashionably black, expressing their individuality and their rebellion against the codification of the media culture by dressing in conformity black. The black light of the bar lit every speck of lint on them into a galaxy in black cotton. Nebula of heavenly and not so heavenly bodies intermingling, expanding outward from the big bang thunder of guitar strums and visceral lyrics conveyed through vibration.
My ears rang for five solid days.
We stood on the periphery as the nebula swayed. I received a few black hole stares for my white t-shirt that glowed like a summer moon.
I went to the bar and ordered Tallboys, somehow it seemed appropriate, and rested my elbows on the scratched bar.
You can only gain an appreciation for how big a dump some place is after gaining some perspective. Maybe it’s just me but generally speaking the more regal sounding the name of a bar the bigger, fly ridden hole in the wall it is. Coronation seems to fit the bill fairly well.
That night however, our thoughts were like any teenage boys, dirtier than the shot glasses behind the bar.
When I turned away from the bar, beer cans in hand and a pair of black haired pale skinned twins stood in front of me, the Vampirella on the right playing with the loop through her lip with the tip of her tongue. She motioned me closer and I leaned in so close I could smell the sweat, herb and perfume concoction that blossomed from her pores. Her eyes were as green as a spring leaf, though the plucking of her eyebrows where like a scythe.
Thirty years ago when Danny’s mom was still pretty, Vampirella, would have been wearing a tie dye top and bell bottom jeans and she would have been just as seductive.
“Can you buy me a beer?” she said. “I’m only eighteen.”
I gave her the beer in my right hand, and replied, “Me too.”
She smiled a conspiratorial grin, a tiny rebellion we could share.
I would have liked to talk but the thunder of the bass rained through the parade of words and she stuck a long graceful hand into the lop of the arms of my coveralls that I had wrapped around my waist.
My wishful thinking boner caught me off guard, the blood all rushing away from my brain and all and suddenly without forethought I was on the dance floor, a big lumbering glow in the dark gorilla. I’ve never been much of a dancer, my feet are just to slow. With most guys it’s an inability to know where to put there hands, and I’ll confess that I’ve no real insight into that eternal quandary, but for me the real problem is slow feet.
I just tried to keep her in front of me, let her take the lead. I was probably about a foot and a bit taller than her. For the most part I got a really good overhead shot of the blond roots at the base of her night sky hair and the freckle that would occasionally peek from beneath the edge of the cup of her black lace bra.
I reached to her and pulled her chin up and tried to lock her eyes to mine.
The green of her eye a whisper of spring in a cold and wintery world. In her face I saw the warmth of spring sunshine, all living things turning towards it instinctively. In her casual smile, natural and imperfect, like the unsymmetrical blooms of flower.
I can say with some certainty that she made things grow.
I leaned in to whisper in her ear, I couldn’t resist touching the top of it with the tip of my nose.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
Through the peal of the storm of music that vibrated through us, I thought she said ‘Autumn’ and I laughed.
She was the exact opposite of autumn.
When I laughed her eyes glowed gold in the black light. The music and the movement seemed to heat me at some molecular level, as though the room spinning around us was like the inside of a microwave, boiling us from the core of our being.
I wonder what had drew her to me, a lumbering Frankenstein stomping forest fires in sun white shirt and coveralls, a flame burning in a night sky of black nebula.  Maybe it was my body,  hard as stone, long before the rock slide in my twenties after my knee.
Maybe it was that I was different.
That’s when I noticed them. The crowd of young men that were clustering behind one, a skin head bearing a clenched fist and brooding glare. Of course I didn’t know then what I know now about fighting. Especially when a crowd shows up in front of you with ill intent. I was about twice the size of any one of them and I had Kurt and Howard at my back. Where Danny had got to was anyone’s guess.
Usually in these situations it’s not the one in front of you running his yap, trying to find some courage that is the real problem. In my experience, you’ll find the true source of trouble off to the right or left, usually with his shoulder behind someone else, with a wicked smirk on his face. He’s the one pushing his drunken buddy out for a slaughter. He’s more interested in seeing a fight that he can embellish, or maybe flat out make up his part in later. When I’m faced with this situation now, I just take a quick glance with weight shifted and arms at the ready, down the second row for the guy with the smirk on his face.
When you put a finger on his chest with a “What the fuck do you find so funny?” the crowd will generally turn on itself. After all he’s interested in seeing a fight not in being in one.
Of course, I had no idea about this sort of thing then. I just put my hands up and said, “Bring it.”
Then Danny slid between us and said, “Hey, he’s with me.”
It was like the parting of the Red Sea.
Some of the ones on the periphery asked him about a band called Deadbolt, if they were getting back together. Some of them wanted him to play, but he just shook his head. He introduced as his new band and we just kept our mouths shut. By the time the crowd had melted away a few of them had brought Danny cans of Bud, which he turned over to us.
The girls name was Sharon and when I tried to introduce her and Danny she flung herself around him, much to his delight. A few cracks appeared in his cynic stoicism, he even split a smile.
“I guess you’ve already met,” I said to him.
“Oh, Yaa,” he responded, then melted back into the inky black haze.
After a few more hours of stomping with Sharon and drinking cans of bud lights turned on. 01:00 hours. I think I told Dad I’d be back around eleven, maybe eleven thirty if I had to help clean up. My only fleeting hope was that he might think I was staying over at the Nordstrom’s, working on the Packard.
No Dice. Kevin, hoping to horn in and get his hands dirty on those nice, shiny snap-on tools and rusty Packard told Dad that the shop was locked up and no one was around. But I was still clinging to fleeting hopes at that point, fatherly, female and all points in between. We seemed to have collected a few clingers of our own, a few n’er do wells and hangers on that were clustered around Danny. Sharon slipped her hand in my back pocket, which is pretty much where she had me at that point.
Danny was the only one sober drove Sharon’s car to drop us all off from our ‘field trip’. It didn’t seem to bother Danny that he was unliscenced, and with Sharon’s face stuck to mine nothing seemed to bother me at all. I was flying high but the first warning lights of the impending crash came at Kurt’s.  The lights were on and both his parent’s clad in robes awaited his untimely arrival. Other than school and football practices it was the last I’d see of Kurt for three solid weeks.
Howard’s fate was much kinder. I guess he had an older brother that had already worn this groove into his parents. At least Tim was good for something. He staggered at the lamp less back door playing pin the keyhole you jackass before all your fumbling wakes up your folks.
I didn’t see much of the trip out to Danny’s what with my face stuck to Sharon’s and all. She had decided to leave me until last.
We cuddled together in her little red chevette just beyond the edge of my driveway. When it was finally time to go, our kissing and grabbing going a little beyond standard first date decorum, she told me to turn around. On my back she wrote in deep red lipstick on white t-shirt:
682 3222
Not Sharon! What a dick I felt like stealing second base on a girl whose name I didn’t know.
Just one more tongue swirling kiss, then I was off to meet my fate.
“When are you gonna call Ed?”
“Oh, when I’m finished being grounded, probably when I’m fifty...”
I got out and watched the red lights draw into a single point then turn a corner and vanished.
I walked the short distance to my driveway and saw my father, Larry, fully clothed on the front lawn. He was dressed in a down jacket and was swinging his black Louisville slugger from side to side, like the first couple of swings in the on deck circle with the doughnut off. He said it focused him, calmed him down.
It wasn’t doing much for me.
At my age Larry Larsen’s life was sewn together with the red stitches of a baseball.
He was giving me that death stare, that in a jam three-two pitch look. If I could I would’ve called time and stepped out of the box. Get my head in the game and maybe look forlornly at the dugout hoping the hook would come.
“Edgar, you are in some deep, deep shit my son. You scared your mother half to death.”
He was still swinging the bat, no longer looking at me but looking back about twenty years to maybe a Toledo Sunday afternoon.  At his feet, about where home plate would be, was my jacket. I watched the bat twitching in his hand. Even though I was shivering, I decided not to test my luck just yet.
Another swing, flat and level; a nice solid base hit rap into the left field gap. Then he dropped the head of the bat down onto my coat.
“Edgar, I’m waking you up in three hours and fifteen minutes and you’re going to come down to the garage with me. I plan to run your ass ragged. If you puke, you’re going to clean it up and I don’t plan on backing off until I see a kidney flopping around on the floor and I’m gonna make you clean it up too. I sure hope you had a good time with Shannon yesterday ‘cause I got a feeling you’re gonna have a real bad day.”
He flipped the jacket to me on the end of the bat.
“Now get your ass to bed.”
Larry Larsen bought a garage with the money he his dream left him with when it got off the bus somewhere between Durham North Carolina and Toledo, Ohio.
His arm just went dead. The lightning bolt in his arm just ran out of juice and the light that lit the lamp to his future went black. He lied to himself, knuckle balling for a season with the Mud Hens. His moment, was early August 1965, up with the Tigers. He was pitching in relief in a runaway against the Brewers. He faced two batters, Bob Allison and Harmon Killebrew, Allison grounding out six three and Killer swinging late on a two-two change up.
Then he took his knuckle ball on the road and the strike zone eluded him. He walked himself right back to Toledo, then Jamestown, then hometown. His one major league check bought him some of a garage and my grandfather Hiram, bought the rest.
Washed up at twenty two and only fifteen thousand days to think about it. That and about a million oil changes later and here we are, two boys, two pumps a wife and a house.
Kevin and I are about an even split of Dad’s personality. Kevin got the left brain part, the lobe that will make you toy with a carburetor until it sounds just right. The pieces that made him want to reach down and make a better pitch, the chess game of hitter and batter.
I am the half with the death stare, the part running the fingers along the laces wondering just how close I can come to batter without hitting him. I’d rather hit you than walk you. I got the parts that over rev the engine, wishing I was someplace else.
Generally speaking I got the destructive parts; the parts that wanted to be anywhere in the whole wide world rather than here.
I think sometimes Dad feels the same way. One day, after some customer hung over his shoulder and kibitzed second guessing every part of his lube oil and filter, he said to me:
“Ed, I wish I’d gotten hit by the bus instead of riding it back to Toledo.” Then he smiled his jaw wrenching another notch, “Well, better go finish fuck nuts lube.”
Of course I didn’t understand it, sick as a dog like I was.
When I got home that night I must’ve looked like I got hit by that bus. I tried calling Shannon. Lipstick, Kevin told me, is difficult to get out of a bright white shirt.  A shirt made brighter and whiter by the amount of bleach Mom used trying to get the phone number out and not more than a few under her breath cuss words thrown in as a little laundry pre-soak.
Some of the numbers were still there, hell, they probably still are. Unfortunately, there were a few that might have been a three or a five or an eight and a fifty/ fifty on a seven or a one.
I tried a few combinations, lock picking her phone number as I folded laundry. Mom just sort of scowled, she didn’t think she’d like the kind of girl that would ruin a perfectly white shirt. Some how I thought Shannon wasn’t necessarily the kind of girl you brought home to meet Mom.
I got tired of talking to strangers, folded the Shannon concert jersey and put it in the bottom of the t-shirt drawer.
I got three weeks straight, weekends included of go to the garage after school or football practice. Sort of like hard labour, running around pumping gas, cleaning windshields cleaning the shitters and doing the dips. It wasn’t all bad, people need gas and you saw a few friends and talked to a few faces, some nice some not so nice. Of course, except for scheduled shifts, this was all penalty time, that is to say donated. Gratis. Volun-told.

Monday, 30 January 2012


If you ever get the chance go see Dave Bidini and the Bidiniband. First of all, the guy is a class act and in my not so humble opinion well on his way to Canadian Rock Icon status. He always puts on a great show. I always look forward to seeing him. If you can't wait go buy some of his thoughtful prose like Baseballisimo, or Tropic of Hockey, or the CBC Reads Heavy weight, On a cold road. Truly some great reads.

Oh and did I mention the drummer, Mr. Don Kerr.
That guy can play. I've never really banged the drum. I may have tooted my own horn once in a while, but I've never seen anyone do what that guy can do with drums, or maraca handles, or tamborine thingies.

I remember watching, and I was sober because I was working the door, booze and money don't mix for me, Don on the drums. At first I thought it was some kind of schtick. The cymbal pops off and he catches it before it falls to the floor. He drums with his left hand. He puts the cymbal back on the stand and drums with his left hand. He reaches down into his box of tricks, pulls out some silver duct tape, the all canadian fix it and tears off a piece with his mouth and drums with his left hand. He repairs the cymbal while drumming with his left hand!
I've seen a lot of drummers. I've seen Neil Peart. I've seen Dennis Elliot. I've seen Gil Moore.
I've never seen anyone like Don Kerr.
Give that guy two sticks and a rock and he'll bang out a rock opera.

Go to http://davebidini.ca/ to find out. But just go.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

next bit

This is kind of why I was concerned about this.
It's a bit depressing when no one is reading it...

I lumber on over to the V.I.P. room area, it’s nothing more than cubicles a corporation would be embarrassed to put even the most menial of flunkies in, the clop thud of my black boots suddenly hushed by crushed, worn grey carpet and the rhythm of the Violent Femmes crackling through the speakers.
I hate having to bust them but it’s part of my job. Some of the girls are bitching that girls are turning trick back here, which is bad for business for some of them but worse yet they won’t clean up after themselves. Generally they are fairly good and policing each other, but the standards have fallen ditch low, so you never really know who is doing what to who. When I first started coming to these places if you touched the girls you’d lose an arm, now it’s fairly common practice. You have to blame it on the lap dances. Back before the plummet of moral standards there was a minimum safe distance, now they’re all grinding to the oldies. Usually on the oldies, so to speak. It must be hard to go back to $5 table dances after they put a few $20's in your pocket, or where ever you store your cash. Once that minimum distance is breeched it’s hard to go back. Next thing you know it’s like... well, if he’s wearing a condom technically he ain’t even touching her.
I take a glance into the first booth as the band ponders the musical question “Why can’t I get just one fuck?” and it doesn’t appear that the client has quite come up with the solution either. He’s getting the standard fake tit nipple lick and combo ass rub. Throw in an order of fries and it would be practically the blue plate special around here, though it would be more aptly named the blue ball special. Tia, whose real name is Tina, is shooting me the evil ‘mind your own business’ glance off the mirrors.
I just shrug her off.
Danny force fed us the Femmes for weeks. We were still struggling with the fact that none of us could sing.
Kurt was the first to give it a shot, it was all violence and speed shouting really, Motorhead and Violent femmes mixed and flattened slightly. He was trying too hard, eyes bulging and head sweating, we’d get about a third of the way through and he’d forget the words and pull up dead stop. We kept hoping that he could get a grip on it but the words would jumble and crossword in his head. We even tried it without the music, just say the words, then sing it.
Plug in the amp and unplug his brain. Thirty bars in... dead stop.
Danny wasn’t much help either. He’d try and sing and the pitch and volume would be okay and then his teeth would start to slip and it sounded like he was singing with a bag of marbles in his mouth. Occasionally when we experimented with Danny singing he would turn and look at me and watching his gums flat and his totally messed up teeth loosen and swim around in his yap, well, frankly, it was just sort of gross.
We started looking at Howard who said as though he had broken out with a bizarre case of the mumbles that he’d give it a try.
Not particularly encouraging.
They knew better it seemed then to even bother asking me. I thought I had all I could handle trying to keep my feet and hands moving at different rates and with some modicum of independence. I think they knew it too.
So we got about two thirds of the way through Howard mumbling “Head Like a hole” when the garage door opens and a blast of light shines through God were hunting cock roaches. The heavy metal clamour fades to a stop.
It was my older brother Kevin, shorter than me for about the last year and still carrying the chip on his shoulder like Jesus dragged around the cross. It has only been since Mom passed away that he has really stopped being such a prick about everything. He was the one who dragged me into my first strip bar, the shove that sent my little red wagon down the slippery slope.
As we blink at each other the final vibrations starting to be soaked up by the plywood planks Keith makes an announcement, in the most eloquent means at his disposal.
“Hey, Ed. You and your geek friends have to fuck off. I gotter fix my new wheels.”
I thought about questioning it, perhaps involving Dad. You know, the bottom card in every ‘little’ brothers deck. Kind of the third and ten of the baby brother play book, left sweep to Dad on two... break. I don’t think Dad loved Kevin more than me, though I thought so at the time. They just had an easier relationship, a mutuality of pistons and gears wrapped in axle grease, that I could never muster much interest in.
When Dad fixed stuff Kevin helped out. I just held the tools.
I go to pack things up when Kurt chimes in, “Hey, why don’t we jam at your place Danny?”
It didn’t seem unreasonable, though a blue cloud descended over Danny, bluer than the cigarette rings.
“Hey, it be less shit for you to lug is all,” Kurt said.
Danny shrugged and answered, “Sure, what the fuck...”
“Do you need to call your folks?” Howard asked.
“Naw,” he said as a sort of spit between a gap of wires and bent teeth.
You could see it in Howard’s eyes, as though some error message was flashing. Does not compute/ Doesn’t have to call parents/ Does not compute. Howard’s parent would make him call from between classes if they could. He couldn’t listen to the tape of Nine Inch Nails that Danny had given him, inside his house. It would be like throwing himself off the roof. So he waited to get new head phones. Even though his parent’s had been married in the age of Aquarius I don’t there musical tastes strayed very far beyond 1972.
Kevin rolled the Chevelle into the garage, where it stayed until after my first year at Albany. The great white elephant, Kevin hoped to ride around in it that summer. I don’t think it moved under it’s own power from the garage, although I do recall it leaving marks on the ceiling from when it blew it’s pistons.
The problem really was that Kevin knows about fifty percent of what he says and about twenty five percent of what he thinks he knows. All in all as blow hard jack asses go, he ain’t all bad.
He even helped us pack up Dad’s van for the drive out to the Nordstrom’s. A big white chevy Econo-line built for neither speed or comfort, usually filled with sundry tools and parts that Dad would alternately curse for having lost or blame us for taking, never quite explaining why I might want whatever obscure tool he had lost.
It was a fairly long trip from somber autumn streets with fading white lines and black tar patches onto winding country lanes chocked with summers bronze offerings to the god of winter. Danny provided all the requested rights and lefts until we found ourselves on a long straight lane lined by white wooden fence and a flickering glance at the green fields beyond.
“Hey Danny,” Howard asked, “If you live way out here how come you go to Collegiate instead of MacGregor?”
“You’ll see.”
White washed fence gave way to tall iron wrought poles, spear points with a cross work of metal between them. Fleur de Lis scraping a silver grey sky. The last left came beneath a gate of iron grill work. We left behind the crushed gravel road that kicked up the dust and stones that clicked at the side of the van drove onto a driveway that was a smooth ribbon of unblemished midnight beneath the dancing shade of oaks that wait in parade ground attention, right dressing to the large field stone home at the end. We follow the drive to the right, to a long flat metal covered shop about twice the size of my home. Danny hopped out and disappeared for a moment then the garage door rose portcullis, the clamour of metal chains revealing an old car without hood headlights or grill. Kevin squinted at it, trying to imagine the remainder of the pieces of the puzzle.
“I think that’s an old 56 Packard,” Keith said with a little uncertainty about his automotive pathology.
Danny grabbed the toms and led us around the corner into an old storage room that had been converted to a lounge of sorts. Although 10w30 still hung in the air, like the smell of cheap perfume stale beer and cigarettes does at a bar, It was cosy in it’s way. Brown fake wood chipboard paneling like the kind you’d find in any basement and indoor/outdoor green worn thin near the baseboard gave it a dark aspect but it had more than one outlet and was definitely a step up from Dad’s garage.
Kevin hustled down with the high hat and then hustled right backup to get a closer look at the rusted skeleton from fifties Detroit. I guess he wanted to continue his pathology with a little examination.
“Hey Danny,” Kevin said, with a little more respect than before, “is that a 56 Packard up on the hoist?”
Danny just shrugged. “Could be, It’s more of my Dad’s thing. Cars are just about getting from point A to point B, but my Dad gets pretty wrapped up in them.”
Heretic. Kevin tries to burn Danny at the stake with the glare from his squint.
“Maybe some time he’ll let you see the steamer.”
“The what?”
“It’s a steam driven car, an old Stanley Steamer. It’s kinda neat,” although Danny blanches at the word neat, he continues. “It takes about twenty minutes to start and tops out at about twenty miles an hour, but still, no pollution and no noise. Like I said maybe he’ll let you see it.”
“Hey Kev, isn’t Dad expecting the van back?”
Alright I couldn’t resist sticking it to him. I could tell that he was dying to take look around the shop, his jaw hanging open just slightly at the old wreck on the hoist and the parts and tools on the wall. Kevin is a dyed in the wool, genetic motor head, all he can think about is carburetors and crankshafts. A lot of guys see wheels as a means to chicks but for Kevin wheels were an end unto themselves.
“Maybe you should get home with it.” His response was a screw you little brother look that every little brother has grown quite accustomed to, but in the end I’d take the small victory. Even if I wasn’t little anymore.
It didn’t take long for Danny’s mother to appear, poke her head in unheard over the riffs and racket. As I age I find I look at women differently, at the time it was June Cleaver curiosity about her boy and his little friends. Working in this place I can imagine in my third eye the way they’ll look in twenty years. Extrapolate the damage from tanning beds and smoke filled rooms, lack of rest and too much partying and they don’t look half as good as Mrs. Nordstrom. Danny’s mom, plump, round and greying must’ve looked pretty good twenty years ago.
She didn’t stay long, Danny turned his back and let his hair hang in his eyes, feigning not seeing her, throwing an extra loud Coda and twenty bars into the song.
She just smiled and asked us if we’d like anything to drink, “perhaps a snack ?”
To a bunch of teenage boys weighing in at over two hundred pounds a snack is easily a forgone conclusion. Just bring the food on, we collectively thought with a polite “Yes, please,” response by me and an evil glare from Danny. She returned in about ten minutes with a pitcher of lemonade and a plate of cookies.
We broke for a bit, munching ginger snaps and guzzling lemonade, except for Danny. He seemed to want to push us a little harder after the cookies and while he and Kurt were working on some fumble fingered chord changes I volunteered to take the pitcher back to the kitchen.
I don’t think Danny was really listening.
Just in case you should ever invite me over to your house I should warn you that I’m an incorrigible snoop, unrepentant and unreformed. No knows this and but when I was fourteen I B & E’d some homes, mostly basement apartments or offices. It was before the great pituitary dash my body made the year later. It’s pretty hard to sneak through windows when you are over 6 feet tall.  I never stole anything, never moved anything, in truth I only E’d, never had the desire to B. I didn’t want anything I just was curious, just wanted to look around. Even though some people were home once I never got caught.
It would be fair to say that I took a somewhat circuitous route that evening. I strolled down long light yellow hallways with oak trimmed baseboards beneath white plaster ceilings that I knew didn’t lead anywhere near the kitchen.
The house was a bit too warm, as though they hadn’t somehow calculated the last few rays of the fall sunshine through the windows. As I look back on it, I think that I have only seen one home that was as conspicuously wealthy as the Nordstrom’s and that is the home of Marvin and Rita, the couple who own the bar and two more just like it in other communities that would just as soon not have them.
The difference seemed to be, and I’m just guessing here, that the Nordstrom’s somehow just seemed more matter of factly about the relative opulence of their environment. Rita wanted you to see the cut of the curtains or the marble on the floor. She would have ‘Minnie Pearled’ the whole house, leaving price tags on things if it wouldn’t somehow seemed just too much like one of those trendy boutiques that are just two weeks from going broke. It would grate against even Rita’s remarkable sense for tacky, which she had a fairly large capacity for.
The Nordstom’s didn’t buy things for the label or the price, they just sort of wondered why would you buy anything else? They bought it because of the inherent quality. It wasn’t about having it seen, it wasn’t even about having it. It seemed that they had these beautiful things because of the unique nature of their quality.
I walked into some sort of parlour and became self conscious that I was still wearing my shoes. The carpet was so soft and blue I almost reached down to touch it, wondering if it would crest like a wave beneath my hand. There was a large, glass door fire place, field stone and brick topped by a mantle with wood so dark it seemed to be soaked in blood. Above it hung a family portrait, in a solid, ungilded ebony frame.
Danny looked to be about four years younger with a full set of teeth, wearing a peach shirt, sable tie and blazer the same colour as his fathers. His Mother sat in front, with a fair bit less grey in her long hair, bound by a lemon ribbon. On her shoulder was a young woman’s hand, thin and bony a light blue birth stone ring set above a prominent knuckle. The girl was about sixteen or so, it was hard to tell the stage of puberty from the frailness of her frame. Her reddish hair hung to her shoulders the tips of it brushing her collar bone. She forced a quorum of a smile onto pale, frosted lips, it looked as thought the debate of her mood was still undecided. Her eyes were blue like tears.
She was beautiful in a delicate haunting way, like an iris waiting to bend under the weight of the bloom.
Behind her wearing the same navy blazer was a broad, hard looking man. His hair was already greying and his eyes were the same tear blue, although on him they seemed to have more of an ice quality to them.
Thought he room seemed stuffy and uncomfortable, like someone holding their breath, there was no real warmth in it to speak of. The carpet was her accomplice, the same that I had mercilessly trampled beneath my cloddish hooves, softened her footsteps until she spoke.
“That doesn’t belong in here,” she pointed at the pitcher, but I had the sense that it could have meant me as well.
“Sorry Mrs. Nordstrom. I just got turned around,” I lied. Pushing my luck a little further I asked, “Danny’s sister, is she at college?”
“No, she got sick and died about two years ago. Two years last April.”
“Sorry. Uh... would you like me to take these to the kitchen for you?”
“No, I’ll take it from here. .. Ed? Right?”
“Yes Ma’am, Ed. Well...” I stutter, handing her the platter, “thanks for the cookies and everything.”
“The garage is down the hall back that way,” she said turning away towards the kitchen.
They were packing it in by the time I got back to the garage.
“So, what’s the scoop Danny? Are we practicing out here now or do we move everything back to my place?”
“I had Kurt and Howard leave everything pretty much set up. Where’d you go?”
“I went into the house to take back the platter.”
Three bars of rest then an F sharp.
“I saw the picture of you and your sister over the mantle. Sorry man, I didn’t know.” I suddenly felt a lot closer to Kevin.
“Ya, she committed suicide,” he shrugged, looking down at the fret board and plucking D seventh. “I asked Kurt and Howard if they wanted to go to this place I know where some bands play. Y’know, just to check things out. If you wanna come that’d be cool.”
“Thanks man.”
A distorted C sharp, F and a quick drop to D minor was Danny’s only response.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


I told you that I was going to try and finish some of the stuff I've already got half written and try and edit some of the stuff that needs to be revized.

To that end I intend to flop some of the stuff from the first draft on to my blog so you can peruse it.
Take out your red pen, circle the errors. Circle the wagons.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

This is from LOT


“The truth shall set you free”
Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose”

Truth is the knife we slit our wrists with as we watch ourselves die one breath at a time.
Give me the quilted, downy softness of a comfortable lie anytime.
I can wrap myself in it and keep out the cold hard truth from blowing down my back.  A lie is like eyeshadow on a transvestite. No matter how much there is, or how many plucked eyebrow hairs, or hormone injections, or real tits or fake tits, it all doesn’t matter because he can still feel his balls knocking against his thighs and that, my friend, is the truth.
Deep down on the scars at the bottom of your heart, and mine, we all know the truth. The smoke they keep blowing up our asses sure keeps us warm and cozy though, doesn’t it.
The truth is ugly.
The lie is beautiful, it has to be, hand crafted by silk tongues or your money back, guaranteed. As old tom once said, the large print giveth and the small print taketh away.
Cold ugly truth number one: I am ugly.
I’ve known it all my life, though a full head of hair and a few less scars helped to hide it just a little. I’ve always known, down in the scars at the bottom of my heart. Not quite pork chop around my neck so the dog will play with me, but flawed somehow.
For me the mirror shines like a knife blade.
Is truth consensus? If I can get enough people to tell me I’m handsome will it change the ugly truth? Is truth a function of it’s benefactor? When a known, good for nothing lying bastard fesses up the truth, dredged from the deepest mire of a cement cold heart, is it less truth the off hand comment of a saint?
I have sought the lie with every fraction of my six foot five inch frame. I have watched myself in that knife blade mirror getting older and slower. They say the universe is expanding, not quite as fast as the belly beneath my shirt. But my personal horizon and opportunity is declining, faster than a junkies master card.
I sit near the door, the throb of the bass like a pain as it rattles the infection in my molar. The pain of it twists my face into an approximation of my station. I scowl at the pimply faced kid trying to pass off his older brothers I.D. as his own.
Sometimes I think the sign that flashes out front attracts them, flies to
what they think is honey but is really horse shit, though I suppose they’d be drawn to it all the same.
‘Adult entertainment’ that must be considered a function of the fact that most children would find it drop dead boring, and from the sounds of the patrons they might agree. There is more excitement in seven hundred and twenty by four hundred and eighty six pixels flashing past at thirty frames a second than could be gleaned in the dim black neon and smoke filled couches. They are still learning the truth, they don’t need to hear the lie.
Well, not just yet.
“Beat it kid. That goes for your posse too. Make sure Hank gets his I.D. back before he heads off  to school.”
“Bullshit, man. I’m Hank. This is my I.D. now let me in.”
I shift my weight. My ass has fallen asleep on this black stool with a split across the cheap vinyl seat.
“Okay, what’s you phone number Hank. Bet if I call home right now Hank’ll be there. Whatcha say, pizza face? Double or nothing. If I call the Wheelhouser residence and ol’ Hank ain’t home you all get in and I wave the cover. If Hank’s home, you leave the cover and fuck off.”
I could see the calculations going on in his mind. Is Hank home or over banging his girlfriend. Is mom home? Will this prick say where he’s calling from? Does the other, skankier strip bar charge a cover? Is Hank boning his girlfriend at our house?
Decisions, Decisions.
I pulled out the phone just to see if I force him to make a decision. Maybe I just did it too see the beads of perspiration break out on his forehead, flashing in the neon and strobe.
I wasn’t always this big a prick, but this has become the closest thing I have to interaction with people whose perspective isn’t totally bent by a lack of vitamin D and the processing of cigarette smoke.
“That was Wheelhouser on Westwood Drive, wasn’t it?”
He takes the idea and turns his back to the carnival of pinwheeling strippers around each pole on the stage. The sudden burst of oxygen and night air as he opens the door are like a salve to the scabs on my lungs.
“Say hi to Hank for me. See you in about... three years,” but the kid had that look in his eye like I might see him in three hours. He and a handful of his jerk off high school friends. They’ll go score some weed and try the same shit down at “Spanky’s”. Maybe I should give them a call. Then they’ll show up here and stand around waiting for one of the other ones to do something.
I blame it on video games. They make kids bold. Once he’s had a few thousand pixel bullets thump him on the video game chest he figures he doesn’t have to worry about what some fat old fuck like me will do. I’ve seen them all, Karate kids that overdose on street fighter and think they are Ryhu and that by pushing a few buttons really, really fast they can knock me down. First person shooter kids who give me that death stare, wishing they had a gun in their hand.
Man, it used to be all I had to do was stand up and maybe glare, if I felt like stretching myself. Now I find that I have to kick some of these little candy asses in the pants. About three times a month on average. I must be getting too old for this shit. Fact is, I knew I was getting too old before. However, there aren’t a lot of jobs you can get with no other real credentials than big and ugly.
It’s funny though. I’ve had people tell me I’m good looking. They make me nervous, like a company that has the name “sunshine and happiness chemical company”. I mean you know those guys are making anthrax. Mostly I just look at them and try to figure their angle. What kind of bounce they’re looking for off the rail. Which balls they’re trying to line up. Or who’s. My response is usually something like,” Don’t shit a shitter, brother,” or “Hey, I don’t know why you’re sucking up to me, I can’t help you any.”
I watch Hank’s little brother and his friends through the glare of the neon light on the mirrored doors. They pile into a large silver Buick with a handicap permit on the visor.
Mom’s car or Dad’s?
When the interior light flashes on I can see the small box of tissues on the dashboard and the rosary and Saint Christopher hanging from the mirror.
Mom’s I figure.
Rich boys can be dangerous. Rich people aren’t used to taking shit. That’s why they rich. Short guys, I mean real short, under five foot five, they’re dangerous too. They’ve had to fight their whole lives. They are sneaky and a little to close to my balls and my fucked up knee.
Those weak ass knee’s cost me my full scholarship.
Hank’s brother is handsome enough and it made me think back to high school and the look on the faces of those five foot seven inch boys. They had more talent, more heart but that wouldn’t make the cut. They knew it when they walked on the grass. They could feel it in their heart of hearts that I would make the team, my only skill an over active pituitary gland. They would glare with the same hate filled, fuck-you prick, and they would throw their bodies with a focused insanity, a recklessness born knowing that this was the only day for them. They had no need to conserve themselves, and when their energy was spent they looked at me and threw a log of hatred for me and my closeness to the sky, and that stoked the embers for enough strength for one more whistle. They became hard, those small boys who would be small men, the weight of expectations and their fathers hopes compressing them until they were diamond hard, but their value unnoticed.
After all, you can’t coach size.
Every year I hoped to touch the ball but when the depth chart was posted their I was at the end of the line. Left end, to be exact. L.O.T., left offensive tackle, watching the quarterback’s back. Watching his back walk away, left hand tucked in the ass cheek pocket of Shona, the most beautiful girl in school. She was the one they dreamed of every six seconds. She was the question you missed in math class or the extra time you spent in the hallway, hovering near her locker, hoping for another scent of her perfume. The warmth of her smile worth the late slip, the thought of it sustaining you through detention.
It was the hierarchy of dating. My size brought me to within proximity to her, closer to her than those five foot seven inch boys spurned to the outer edges of the system. Perhaps it was this proximity that facilitated the lie, but I’m certain that those other boys harboured the same distortion, though perhaps their machinations be a little more complex.
Sometimes a fabrication requires a little rigging.
Shona was the sun that all the other girls revolved about, heavenly bodies all. The boys were simply moons, hard rocks in orbit around a life sustaining planet.
Few of us had the nerve to fly close to the sun, hearts smacking, wax melting plummeting to earth.
I guess grade ten was when this series of hop-scotching through girlfriends began to occur. I was like a comet, somewhat small and insignificant in the cosmic world of high school, but drawn to her gravitational pull. I would get so close, only to be cast out into the outer reaches of the solar system.
It may have been just an illusion but it seemed the only person who wanted my body was the parade of coaches from season to season placing different objects in my hand, (basketballs, hockey sticks). Their whistles would echo in my head like the ringing of a bell tower. I knew what time it was by how many whistles and how many hundreds of times I had been called on with my hands of stone to attempt. A lug, that’s what my basketball coach called me.
“Just stick your friggin hands up and stand near the basket,” he would stammer, his frustration getting the better of him.
Until I found this vocation my hands were never an asset. Short and lumpy, fat digits with dirty fingernails and boney knuckles, they were too short to play guitar.
We decided, one drunken evening, offensive linemen didn’t have a big chance of becoming superstar athletes. Quick, name five offensive linemen, NFL, CFL, any era. No? Stuck? If I had to name a few favourites I’d go with John “Hoggy” Hannah. Okay, so he was a guard not a tackle, but he was amazing to watch. Alex Karras, more famous as a two bit actor and pitchman and another Detroit Lion, Monty Clark who I thought never really got a fair shake as a head coach in Detroit, or should I say Pontiac, when they did crappy they were the Pontiac Lions, were another two favourites. The black and silver Raider bookends from the seventies, Art Shell and Gene Upshaw, with John Madden frothing on the sideline and Al Davis laughing behind those same cheap ass sunglasses (he must have a thousand pair of those cheap sunglasses, like some sort of hyena/ Roy Orbison genetic screw up), they made Raider football fun. Mike Webster the anchor on the Steelers line, Lomas Brown ( I’m still pissed at you for leaving Detroit), Larry Allen (though I hate the Cowboys), Big Cat Williams, Blake Brockmeyer, Tony Boselli, Should I go on? These guys were my heroes. To me they were stars, that’s who I wanted to be. I’d move mountains in three rep sets just to try and be like them.
No one else knew who their names.
Just like me.
So if even the greatest L.O.T. couldn’t be a superstar. We decided over several Old Vienna’s snuck from the back of my Dad’s beer fridge up to my room, that we were going to be rock and roll stars instead.
Just like that.
We were trying to come up with a decent sounding name. We had already decided (We being me, Kurt the right guard (insert your favourite deodorant joke here), and Howard the center) that we were going to be a power trio, like “Rush” only without the ability.
“Fuzzbug” was discarded (much to Kurt’s chagrin) and “Dagwood” (too country), and Lynch (I can’t remember why). After a few more beers (Black Label this time, gotta move around in Dad’s fridge if you don’t want to get caught) Howard had a brainstorm. He rarely got beyond the level of brain shower, or even brain drizzle so it just didn’t seem right to waste it.
The beer companies had introduced an oversized can of beer, which I personally didn’t like since by the time I got to the bottom it was warm and sludgy, but my own personal preferences aside, “Tall boy” was born. Since I didn’t have the fingers, or the musical acumen, or the financial wherewithal for that matter to come up with a guitar, it was decided that I should play drums. Decided I should add by Howard and Kurt, who felt that the fluid independence and co-ordination of the drums wasn’t too far beyond my bubble gum and walking nervous system.
Howard, only marginally more talented than me, would play bass. He had semi inherited it from his older brother Tim, who’s own band, Eyeflower, was as they say, on hiatus. I always like the sound of that, hiatus, it made it sound like you were vacationing in Tahiti, instead of banging your skull on the desktop in your college dorm, hoping the algebra equation, which looked vaguely like a bowl of alphabet soup, would sort itself out from the sheer vibrations of the desk and somehow become more palatable.
Eyeflower dispersed after a single engagement. An omen, perhaps, that maybe the guitar was cursed as well as out of tune.
Kurt, who had taken six months of guitar lessons in grade eight would front the band, being the most naturally gifted of us, though it was very much our playing Larry and Curly to his Moe.
Looking back on my self delusion, convincing myself that we could actually pull it off, I had forgotten the real purpose of the exercise. To make music? No. To prance around on stage like a bunch of jack offs? No, not really.
Think about it. The summit of all high school male endeavours. To impress chicks. Any chicks. Shona was beyond the scope of my dreams, though she lived on in my fantasies. Yet, I had allowed myself to be relegated to back behind the skins. Though it wasn’t quite as menial as L.O.T. ,that would be somewhat roadie-ish, it was still relatively far from the spot light, but given my extraordinary lack of any real talent, maybe that would work in my favour.
A few more beer over successive nights (this time at Kurt’s, I was beginning to worry that old Larry was gonna catch on) failed to reveal exactly where we would get drums from. We had two guitars and a hodge-podge of mikes and amps with which to Frankenstein a sound from but no drums. The thought of asking my Mom and Dad for drums was tantamount to requesting to be sent to military school. I can almost hear Larry now, “Well ,Margie,” he would say “it’ll be a bit more expensive, but a hell of a lot more quiet!”
For the next few weeks we moped around after practice. Kurt and I would go to the weight room and we’d try to name “Tall boy” albums between sets.
I loved  lifting weights. No skill. No dexterity. Clear your mind, right down to hearing your heart beat and lungs slap around air. Focus on the steel.
Hate the steel.
Hate it.
Hate it more than that! Fuck! you call that Hate? I mean HATE! That  steel.
Hate, not just detest, not a wussy little abhorrence, but a real, from the base of your spine malignance.
Then short, sharp breaths, like the kind you take in a fight but don’t really notice. Not too many, you start robbing the muscles of oxygen. Pump that blood like your heart wood if you were mad, force the adrenaline into your arms. Focus it all like the point of a dagger then push it all thorough you, cleansing yourself of it all.
Slowly. Up. Away build that fire in your arms amino acids breaking down in the muscle tissue in your chest and arms.
Kurt’s yelling at me, telling me to squeeze one more back breaking agonizing rep out. He’s calling me a pussy. He’s calling me a wimp.
“Suck it up, crybaby,” he yells. He is the voice of the steel.
Then the fire engine endorphin come to put out the four alarm amino fire in my arms and chest. No score, no numbers, no team, just me and the steel trying to kill each other.
Fuck you, steel.
“Move me bitch” I hear it whisper back through the banging of the bars , the clatter of the pile of steel like laughter.
So we are walking back to the change room, the echo of our canvas Nikes squeaking through empty halls. We file past the rows of old chipped green lockers and the scrubbed smooth floors but as we pass the music room doors I see them.
They are old and worn, mismatched and brown beaten but serviceable. The bass drum has tarnished rims and a pillow muffler with a fleur de lis pattern on it. The top hat is jaunty loose hanging dangerously over the tom.
It’ll do.
“Hey Kurt, Check it out,” I say as a shit eating grin creeps across my sweaty face. “How are you going to talk Mr. Bilinski into lending us the set?”
Kurt smiles his most evil of grins saved for only the most aberrant of occurrences. “Didn’t you date Anne Bilinski last summer?”
I had taken Anne with me on a few occasions, lying to Mr.Bilinski, saying we were going to a movie then walking out after twenty minutes to join our friends at some bush party, affectionately known as a Dillon for the side road that most took place on. It felt kind of mean spirited taking advantage of Mr. B in that way, though looking back I don’t know that he was really fooled, his short round figure waiting patiently for us to return. He had the patience of a saint, which I think is part of the curriculum at teachers college for high school music teachers. Imagine if you can having enough passion and ability to handle, if not master, enough instruments to teach a full class. Then imagine day after day listening to hapless, unenthusiastic children butcher your passion and torture your acumen as they bumble from bar to bar. I doubt for most of us the pay cheque would even cover the tylenol.
He had always been pretty cool with me, even when Anne didn’t have the sense to loose her hiccups and giggles before we got home. Anne was short and round with a cherub face framed by blonde hair and glasses. She also , more importantly at the time, had the largest rack I had seen before working in this place. Rack is an odd term for it, a word borrowed from the hunters vocabulary, though in a sense not entirely out of context. I can see now that she was built for expansion, especially the way she packed away the beer and schnapps. That untouchable set was pointing due south and resting on the table edge before she blew out the candles of her thirty fifth birthday her butt hanging off the sides of the chair. Galactically huge with major moons around Uranus.
She was such a prude though. It frustrated me to no end watching those great physical gifts simply waste away because of her inability to use them. I remember once catching my reflection in the glare of the television set after having my hand pulled away from second base, kind of picked off, caught leaning so to speak. That look of frustration reminded me of Mr.Clarke (with an e) and the look he’d give me after I messed up the same shooting drill for the ninety eighth straight time.
All that physical talent going to waste.
The terminal gunshot wound to our relationship occurred during dinner with Mr. Bilinski, (call me Jerry, please) and Mrs. Bilinski, er...Helen. I’ll confess right now, that it was all my fault, though I have to admit that I the time I was totally without clue. I was polite, quiet and thoughtful. I said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the appropriate places in the conversation. I ate with the table manners my father occasionally enforced when Kevin and I were eating in a particularly piggish fashion. Utensil on plate, at five o’clock, if you imagine your plate being a time piece, except when moving food to mouth. Hands in lap. Chew twenty times. Minimum. Drink less than 1 eighth of glass at a sip. If you think you’ve drank to much you probably have. You shouldn’t be able to count past three with the glass to your lips. Failure to do so will force Dad, after all it is your decision to eat like swine to remove you from the table and have you eat facing the wall in the kitchen, right where he can see you.
I complimented Mrs... Helen on the dinner. I called Mr. Bilinski, sir... except after he asked me to call him Jerry. Even then the first time after he admonished me I called him sir. I took my plate to the kitchen and helped Helen clear the table.
They loved me.
She dumped me the next morning during spare. It was the parental seal of approval that had soured our relationship, like I had pissed in the glass.
Maybe if I had done that I would have salvaged things.
Though Anne tried. Her little brother Mark told me how she bad mouthed me after we broke up, telling Jerry how I was trying to force her to have sex. Which I was, of course, in a high school boy passive aggressive way, but not the more aggressive spin she put on it. For such a prude she had a pretty good imagination and a fair idea of what went where and how.
Enough to convince dear, sweet, Helen and my man Jerry that I was more Neanderthal than the Cro magnon I had portrayed myself as.
He at least pretended to like me, well enough, but I think he was pleased in the end that some mangy mountain of white trash had less chance of becoming family.
It only took a phone call and the drums were mine.
I called when I knew Anne wasn’t home. She had just got a job at the Dairy Queen which, I believe was the beginning of the end for her waistline, all those dilly bars going to waist and hips instead of waste and loss.
The call, to the best of my recollection, while not under oath and without attorney present went something like this:
“Hey Mr. Bilinski, is Anne home?”
“No. Sorry.”
“It’s me, sir. Eddie Larsen.”
“Oh, hi Ed. Do you want to leave a message? (That I’ll promptly throw out you sex crazed sack of hormones...)
“Well, it seems like I’m going to have more time on my hands, since the band broke up.”
“Ya, Kurt, Howard and me, we were going to start up a band but we couldn’t come up with any drums and I already booked the time off from the gas station and now they won’t give me the hours back. I thought maybe Anne and I could get back together, now that I have more time to spend with her. I won’t be able to take her out much but we’ll find something to do I guess...”
Pregnant pause, from parent.
“So drums, eh Ed?...”
He even brought them over to the house. Wasn’t that sweet of him?
We set the drums up in the garage on a cool October afternoon, the kind of day we should have been outside dropping the football or maybe chasing a tennis ball around hacking at it with slivers of worn out sticks. It was the kind of day that told you winter was coming, the snap of it in it’s breeze the promise of a crisp new blank sheet of white. In stead we sucked up the carbon monoxide and plugged the amps into the outlet near the old drill in the pegboard, the criss cross of wires like a Red Wing playoff gift, a frenetic tangle of tentacles the wild cheering of a home town crowd was in our heads. It was lying there dead just waiting for us to jolt some noise through it.
Kurt brought an old, cheap acoustic with razor wire strings and white glue holding the bridge in place. It wouldn’t hold tune very long, maybe one song before the stress of the strings warped the bridge out of place, b flattening before our very ears.
Howard’s bass a thunderous large tube relic from his brother’s closet, roared and hummed, distortion rattling the windows as he four finger strummed through riffs.
I set up the tape recorder, a long skinny two tone green cassette eater and the remote mike. I had been so smug about getting the drums I had forgotten completely to get any blank cassettes, the last of them scooped up by Kevin and recordings from CRUZ radio. The only cassette I could find was an old Anthony Robbins motivational tape, brain washed, dried and fluffed in sixty minutes. I scotch taped the holes and prepared it for the capturing of our triumphant arrival.
We played off and on for two hours, enough for the last rays of sunshine to be soaked into big biscuit clouds and the October breeze to turn from a nibble to a bite. Kurt had brought some sheet music and after a fair bit of head scratching we baby stepped our way through it, Kurt taking a pusillanimous lead.
With great anticipation we listened to the recording we had made, visions of Cobo Hall bookings dancing in our heads. We listened to Howard’s bass thump drowning out Kurt’s guitar, his voice sharpening and flattening from note to note. We drew the only conclusion that we possibly could:

We sucked.

Actually we were an embarrassment to vacuum cleaners, drains and other things that suck. We were an affront, an abomination to the entire sucking profession.
It may have died there, our small 2/4 beat driven little day dream, our back beat hallucination, except for Kurt.
“I know someone who could fix this. But I don’t know if you want to invite him. I think it’s the only way we could make this work.”
We all agreed, hoping to nurture our little, music bud in to a heavy metal petal in full black and bronze bloom. When he said the name we almost took it back.
“Danny Nordstrom.”
Long, skinny, graceful fingers, strobe light blur across guitar neck stroking every sixteenth note’s worth out of it. He moved so fast because music was his life, his heart beat in 2/4 time. His veins hummed in b flat. He lived it, ate it, breathed it and excremented it. He let the music do his talking.
We were simply dilettantes, dabblers.
We asked Kurt to ask him to come out and play. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Kurt until football practice. We stood in lines, running in place sweat gushing out of us, like an adolescent oil rig. Between whistle blasts and coach bellows I asked if we got him.
He just smiled back, half grimace extra chomp on his mouth guard, then grunted something like,”No prob” except with a mouth full of plastic. Then dove into the blocking sled.
I knew we were in trouble right then.
I just didn’t know how much.
By the time we got to laps I figured I’d better get the whole story and between huffs and puffs as we plodded along behind the rest of the team I got somewhere close to an answer.
“So, How do you know Danny?”
“Remember when my Mom was all psyched about me taking some sort of music lessons?”
“Well, she wanted me to take violin or maybe piano. I talked my Dad into guitar.” A plea bargain of sorts. Kurt’s Dad was a lawyer, he could understand that, just misdemeanor music lessons your honour.
“Danny was taking lessons too. I guess his folks already had him playing piano and violin, since he was like four or something, and he wanted to learn guitar. He may be like a major league freak and all but he can rock that guitar.”
Most people avoid Danny cause he is a major league freak. I’m not talking triple A farmhand throwing a few innings cause it’s mid July and we’re twenty games out of first. I mean like starting rotation New York Yankees kinda major league freak show.
Avoided like the plague, the black death is what it was called and in a pinch that kinda describes Danny. Bottom up Black shoes with yellow laces around here it still Nike high tops or Adidas trainers, brown cougar brand boots. Not black good will army surplus broken down combat boots, standard issue black Cadillacs with all the hump nearly run out of them. In the few times I saw socks, courtesy of the hole he was tearing in the side of his boot they were black or sometimes navy sometimes both matched by some thickness or texture quotient that I was unable to recognize. Frankly, I didn’t ask. Black jeans that reeked of cigarette smoke and perhaps the airy fragrance of the herb. There was one pair in particular with a broken belt loop that he wore for thirteen straight days at a record breaking stretch in the winter. He also wore a series of black and white T shirts with bands I’d never heard of, James Bondage, Crankshaft, Black Utopia, Jude the Obscure. Long stringy black hair that hung in his eyes ,with christmassy sprinklings of dandruff. A cigarette, either full or partial behind his left ear. His skin was a pallid , marbleish  white, pale as a three week old dead mans, but worst of all was his smile.
His diet, for lack of a more accurate term, consisted of nicotine and coca-cola, so much so that you thought it might still be a derivative of cocaine. At five foot three and maybe a hundred pounds he probably couldn’t process the amount of caffeine jolting through his scrawny bag of bones, a metabolism like a Chihuahua on speed.
The phosphoric acid in the cola also chainsawed their way through his teeth, bacterial lumberjacks clear cutting a dwindling enamel forest. His lack of any dental hygiene seemed like a poor grit policy. He literally rotted the teeth out of his head. So his parents bought him false teeth, and not a tooth brush we assumed, because he was currently in the process of rotting out the fake teeth too.
His breath was the only thing you could smell over his clothes and it sure wasn’t daisies. In fact, he could probably eat a meadow of daisies, bucolic and peaceful consumed by his great bacterial maw, and his breath would still smell like manure.
You tended not to tell a lot of jokes when Danny was around, just to avoid looking at the rotting wires and vinyl teeth turned this way and that as the wires became engulfed in acid.
About two years later when our little town discovered grunge and heard of Seattle some of Danny became fashionable. He was pre-grunge. He was just.... filth.
But fuck could he play.
I had big old Clydesdale hands, fit for pulling a cart or making glue, his fingertips were thoroughbred Arabian all the way.
He could play anything. If you put a couple of rocks in his leathery calloused fingers he could bang out a symphony. He had played violin and piano at six. He had played quasi professionally at eight. His first rock and roll band was when he was twelve, a band called “Death Pact’, a punk/metal power trio that fused three chord acid metal with impending deafness. They split up when the lead singer committed suicide, a lawn dart leap from the balcony of his ex girlfriends apartment. Despite the name no one else made the jump.
Oh to be young again and feel the torturous voltage of teen angst flowing through my veins, the petulant storm in  the spring time of my adulthood.
I’m not really sure what his problem with his parents were. Frankly, I think he scared the shit out of them, everyday they would hope the ‘phase’ would end, like looking at the expiry date of the milk, hoping it hasn’t already gone bad. It was a Doctor Frankenstein dinner table, with Danny providing the grunts and his parents wondering what this creature they made had become.
“How was your day, dear?”
“Grr,” he’d grunt in response, like the monster in the old black and white movies.
“Like some more corn?”
You get the picture.
He scared me kinda too. Not in a physical sense, I don’t think he could really hurt me. He just couldn’t generate the force to do enough damage, even if he cracked me in the ‘nads.
I remember catching a foot there once from Paula Stevens, a girl in the neighbour hood that because of an inability to say the letter ‘R’ was tormented to no end by the other kids and I’m ashamed to say, by me. She was a scrawny little mop of blond curls, that would pork out once puberty took hold.  She wasn’t the brightest bulb on the marquee. I remember asking her what kind of insect Jiminy Cricket was. Her answer:
A grasshopper.
But Paula knew when she was being picked on, which was fairly frequently, and although her r less speech would be quite unnoticed in New England, she became Paula Walla Doodle all the Day, just like the song. One day, in front of the corner store, I recall calling out to her “hey Paula Walla doo...” and hoof, nuts around my neck like a voodoo charm. That’s pretty much page one in the fairly thin book on how to hurt a boy that all girls read about that age. I think it’s printed on the inside wrapper for feminine hygiene products. It bent me over but didn’t knock me down, which I have to admit surprised me as much as it must’ve surprised Paula. She looked at me, mouth agape, trying to remember page two of that thin pamphlet and as I straightened up and clenched my fist it suddenly came to her, in seventy two point Times New Roman print:
Run as fast as your spazzy ‘girly run can take you.

Which is exactly what she proceeded to do.
We had already created a monster, a bitch.  At thirteen she became the Tiger Williams of Lansdowne Ave. and many a younger brother would feel her wrath. It backfired on some of us too, after she put some meat on those scrawny little chicken bones and grew into her face a bit. She did not turn into, as her mother would  loudly suggest, through the thin side windows at high volume after returning home under the peeking eye of a new dawn, patches of semen hardening on the clothes she wore and the more intimate others in her purse, a slut. Mrs. Stevens was wrong. She was not a slut, at least to us, if you use the theorem, the definition of slut.
“A slut sleeps with everyone, a bitch sleeps with everyone except you.”
The real difference is that I don’t know if Danny would run. I mean, I’ve had bigger craps than Danny Nordstrom but I don’t think he would care. I can imagine the fight now, kneeling over him, hands like raw chicken, heart speed bagging against the walls of my chest. Lungs bailing air into screaming veins as fast it could as though the body were somehow sinking. Sweat white watering over the brink of my brow, careening into my stinging eyes.
Then Danny, battered and bruised, work boot teeth a little more broken and bent, sleeping like a baby, the long grass his pillow. He finished laughing, for now, but when he wakes from Elysium, his magic slumber he will search me out and laugh some more. “You hit like a girl... Is that all you got? A pretty tiny can of whoop ass you can open. Shit, I ain’t scared of you, Paula Stevens could do worse.”
In her time I’m sure she did.  Self preservation has never been among his top priorities. Whether from a case of complete self loathing or something darker than that, I’m not sure.
That scares me.
I tried to pry more from Kurt about Danny, but it just wasn’t coming, at least not yet.
Initially I thought the problem with ‘Tallboy’ was our complete lack of any particular musical focus. To be honest, I’ve always been a bit of a musical spaz. I’m drawn to the uniqueness of a band that individuality of sound is often it’s downfall. I have the first and only albums of a lot of bands. You know, the kind you listen to alone in your basement, old “J.Geils Band”, a little “Right Said Fred”, “Marshal Crenshaw”, “Thomas Dolby”, “Wham” ( a fact I hid from my friends and vehemently denied. They took one look at George Michael and their collective Fag-o-meter went banging through the roof, big red lights flashing).
Generally speaking we had no leadership, no idea of what our sound should be or how to achieve it.
But other than that we were all over it.
I still remember the first time Danny came to the house to ‘jam’. It was pretty early in the school year, sun being soaked up by the black on black, black spurred boots digging divots in the moistening black patch of our driveway. Instead of having him pique interest around the house I invited him up to my room. My room faced the backyard, windows to the east so we were shielded from the piercing knife point sunshine, though the dulling edge of autumn diced the first ungreen leaves from the limbs.
The last time my room had been papered was 1984, I remember Mom nagging Dad to paper it while he tried to shush and shoo her away so he could listen to the Tigers on the radio. The room had been a covered in balloons and teddy bears. I had already begun my protestations about the childish quality of the room, like all children I dived headlong into adulthood. The room was repapered, a task begun during spring training and completed well after the all star game. To my father’s chagrin I chose a pattern depicting my first true love, football. Strung in narrow linear patterns were football players. At the top was a linebacker, number 58, in blue, tackling what looked like a fullback, number 44, in red. There were an extra pair of hands around the fullback’s knees, so I guess there was some unnamed defensive lineman, a tackle I’m guessing behind the fullbacks legs. Beneath that vignette was another. I puzzled over this small picture repeated endlessly down vertical stripes of my wall for hours. Now, it looked simply enough and there in lies the deceptiveness of it, a tight end carrying the ball. The helmet, a full cage, would indicate a lineman of some sort, backs don’t wear a full cage, it’s hard enough to see the ball without extra bars to tunnel your vision. Full cage is like blinders for the plow horse all he needs to see is what’s right in front of him. Beneath his eyes are dark lines, used by players to reduce the glare off your cheekbones, not something a lineman is generally concerned with. The most troubling thing was the players number.
That’s definitely an O-line number, like # 63, Howard’s and #65, Kurt’s, #68, Nathan Brown’s the right tackle and # 66, Brian Hall, the left guards number. My number? Any guesses?
Wrong. #61. Sixty was retired and of course 69, though often requested was banned. Requesting #69 sounded very similar to the phrase “give me laps until I barf”, a mistake Mr. Clarke made every year but we didn’t make twice.
So, who is this guy then? A tight end with the wrong number on his chest? I mean he isn’t wearing fore arm pads after all. Maybe he is a lineman actually carrying the ball.
Hope springs eternal.
Danny visibly chafes at all the jock stuff, somewhat bewildered by the posters of hulking behemoths on my wall. The room is bright and relatively clean, depending on how fussy your relatives might be. He refuses the Labatt’s 50 I’ve pinched from Dad’s beer fridge for him. Flat out refused. No thanks. A wave of his hand and a shake of his dandruffy hair.
Now who’s uncomfortable.
Just to make myself feel better I drink the beer and we return to dingy confines of the garage. It is dark, damp and cool, with the taint of 10w 30 and last weeks garbage that got turned into a little racoon buffet. Danny looks a hundred percent more comfortable.
He asks me if he can smoke and I tell him sure, since my Dad smokes out here all the time even though he’s officially trying to quit, or at least officially trying to get mom off his back over it. Make sure not to leave butts lying around though. Just in case Mom thinks they’re Dad’s.
He snorts the cigarette smoke through his nose, like a bull in a bugs bunny cartoon. I think he’s trying to figure out what to tell the rest of us.
After leeching about as much enjoyment as he possibly can from his butt, something that I personally cannot fathom, he starts to tinker with the amp and soundboard that Howard pilfered from Tim’s stuff. Amplified sound is a very intricate thing, the movement of current and sound through wire and steel like alchemy or computer science, more magic than anything. Sometimes you don’t ask “why doesn’t this work,” because in truth it’s a wonder that any of it works at all. Its like if you held a CD and a cup in front of some primitive and asked him which could hold more he’d pick the cup. I mean a CD looks more like some thing you eat off of than something you could store a libraries worth of books in.
I start banging on the drums and he shoots me a glare. “You play like you’re whacking off. It’s not about trying to beat it to death. Try and get a little control.”
Just then Kurt and Howard arrived bobsy twin style red and black concert jerseys so freshly screened you could almost still smell the ink. On the front a Mammoth red‘T’ will ‘allboy’ in black carved running down the center. On the back was a list of places that Kurt, Howard and Howard’s evil uncle must’ve thought it would be cool to play. His evil uncle wasn’t so evil, really, I mean he hadn’t gone to evil Doctor school or even been an evil honours student. He owned a head shop of sorts but it didn’t sell drug paraphernalia, it sold books. Role playing game books, dungeon and dragons, evil Satanist type books. They were books that should have had warning labels, “caution: corrosive ideas” and “danger: subversive thoughts”. He had coffee and jolt cola and you could get t shirts made from a friend of his. He was a corruptor of youth with dice in one hand and doritos in the other. Howard’s Mom and Dad where technically his brother in-law, so none of the evil uncles blood coursed through young innocent Howard’s veins. Truth be told, they didn’t like Uncle Francis much the first time they were born and as much as they were told they should love thy neighbour the block never quite extended to Uncle Francis’ house.
But the t shirt looked cool and they threw me one. I looked at the back and at the very top of the first column, Cobo Hall, Detroit  MI.
I could see Danny was ready his patience wearing as thin as his socks.
          “Play me a set of whatever you want and I’ll tell you what I think after.”
We cranked out the closest approximation to sound garden (more like sound window box) that we could muster, and I admit fully that it was all pretty raw. Kurt roughed out a lyric or two, then Howard gave it a shot. Midway through that Danny put his hands up, like someone trying to surrender in one of those war movies where he knows he’s gonna be shot anyway.
“Frankly, you guys sound like shit. I don’t think you have the raw talent to play anything too complicated. If you could speed it up a notch or two you might be able to pull off grunge or maybe soften it right out and make it pop. I guess you gotta start somewhere. Either way it’s gonna be a lot of work.”
We considered a moment as the sweat spread into our new Tallboy  t-shirts. Finally Howard asked the question that was on our mind.
“What are grunge chicks like?”