Wednesday, May 03, 2006

take one for the team

Subject: guitaristRock Bottom

Friday and Saturday, April 28th & 29th, 2006

Club 501, Wood River, IL

This weekend looked to be quite a hectic schedule for me. Two nights in Wood River, and my darling oldest daughter had a softball tournament in St. Ann, and my darling youngest daughter had a soccer game here in Granite. Hi, ho! Lots of running.

Game One of the tourney started at 7:45pm on Friday night. I was scheduled to start at 501 at 10ish. Obviously, I decided to haul my gear up early and set up, that way after rushing from the game, I could show up, tune up, and fire away.

I rolled into 501 around 4:45, with sound man “Carson” (as he likes to be known, for privacy reasons) setting up the Rock Bottom lights and PA. I was completely throwing off his rhythm, showing up way, way to early for his tastes. Now he’d have to work around me. He put up a minor fuss at my early arrival, and how it affects him, but in all, he was cordial, and chatted about small issues. I’ve worked with Carson off and on now for the better part of 20 years. It’s mostly small talk. I still don’t know much about the man.

I threw up the rig, attempting to keep things clear for him as to set up the lighting, and quickly made my exit to take the oldest to her softball game under the lights.

Now, some how, I’ve become the official scorekeeper for their select softball team. I learned to keep score at a young age, and I joke about how my ability to keep score kept me on the bench on the 7th grade ball team.

I was a third string catcher for the Coolidge Braves, and at the beginning of the first game as the starters took the field, the coach looked down the bench and asked “who knows how to keep score?” We looked at each other with blank stares, and I finally raised my hand, sheepishly. He tossed a scorebook in my lap and said “let me know every inning what part of the order they’re in”. Those were his only instructions.

From that moment, I was the official 7th grade Coolidge Braves scorekeeper, and I quickly found out why no one else volunteered. Since I allegedly was the only kid that knew how to keep score, I was too valuable a commodity to play in the field! I cemented my spot on the bench.

My daughter’s game ran long, and I kept one eye on my watch, and one eye on my strike out queen daughter. She played well in the field, but at the plate, she was the Whiff Queen. No biggie. The team steamrollered over their competition, and all that matters is W’s in the win column.

Now, the humorous thing is, I knew I was going to have to leave before game’s end, and no one else there knew how to keep score! Like the days of 7th grade, I was cemented to the bench!

I managed to get away in time, and high tail it across the river to Wood River for the show. They were all there waiting for me, but we still had a few minutes to spare. I tuned up the guitars with my new Boss tuner, and plugged in Violet into my new jack I’d had replaced. I was looking forward to not having any more shortouts killing my signal! Bliss!

The sets rolled off like clockwork, even though I was kind of blanking out about what song should come next. Like in Knucklehead, I seem to be the ringleader when it comes to crafting the setlist on the fly. Guess that comes from my time as a disc jockey at the college radio station, WSIE. Good times.

While my rig seemed to be running properly for a change since I fixed Violet, and bought a new tuner, there were a couple odd instances when the tone seemed off, just not right. I’m no expert on all the amps and technology. I jokingly refer to myself as “Unfrozen Caveman Guitarist” (I may actually look like one, come to think of it…), because I don’t keep up with any of that shit. Just give me my Les Paul and a loud amp, and let’s rock! But, I swore there was something amiss at certain points with the sound, and then it was fine. Perhaps the tubes are starting to wear. I don’t know.

My playing was less than spectacular, though. I didn’t screw anything up, per se, it’s just it wasn’t as fluid as I liked, and to my ears, much of what I was playing seemed repetitious, and uninspired. Funny how I can analyze my own playing from an outside perspective, but I have no idea why it sounds that way, or how to improve it! Short of actually practicing, that kind of stuff.

But, as I say, I didn’t really butcher anything, I just didn’t feel I had “my best stuff”, as a pitcher would say.

But, like a team effort, the rest of the guys were on the mark, and we put down another successful performance, no complaints. I can’t really recall much of significance at the show. Let me see…

Oh, there was this one attractive young lady. I’d notice her dance early on. White, short skirt, blonde, kind of sexy. She was obviously hammered. Later, on break, I saw her sitting at the bar next to one of the owners. Was he…? Hmm. Dunno.

At one stage, she sat up from the stool, and her skirt rose up, exposing her panties. To which, she kind of hiked those over, and exposed that she does believe in razor blades! Smooth as a baby. Hmm, not what I see everyday at Club 501! This was turning into Larry’s Hustler Club.

Later the next set, she comes out dancing, hiking up her skirt, showing off her T-bar to Steve and the rest of us on stage. Steve glances over at me with one eyebrow raised, and a goofy grin on his face. “Oh, that’s not the half of it, Steve”, I thought. Then she sashayed away to the other side of the bar.

Some random dude with a ball cap who’d been dancing along with her leans over towards Steve and mutters “you like to see those titties? I bet I can get her to show ‘em!” Steve just casually waved, saying “uh, yeah, sure! You bet, buddy!”

A couple songs later, this guy comes running towards the stage, slinging a bra over his head as a trophy. “WOO HOO!” Trailing right behind her was little miss exhibitionist, wearing nothing but her white T-bar! Ah, the wonderful decadence of our society!

He swung that bra around his head while she tried to grab it, and hilariously, it caught on a hook up in the ceiling! We damn near had to stop playing from the laughing. I thought they should leave it up there, but eventually it was retrieved, and our Lady Godiva disappeared into the night.

From out of nowhere, a girl on my side of the stage bounces up from her stool, and starts bounding towards the stage. I guess she was mocking her. But, lo and behold, her shirt came up, and she let her puppies fly! Impressive! You just didn’t see much of this at Knucklehead shows. Not that I remember. And if you did, it was probably my ex or one of her friends getting squirrelly. Eh, maybe we did. Knucklehead seems like a distant memory now, like my marriage.


Saturday was cold and dreary, and I started the day off in a wet soccer field, watching my youngest prance around and score a goal, whilst I was praying for the game to end so I could get out of the miserable, cold rain! It was miserable weather to watch any sport. The softball tourney had been cancelled, so I had the rest of the day to relax, spend time with the family, and recharge my batteries for the night’s performance.

Arriving at 501 some 20 minutes before show time, a sizeable crowd had already arrived. Boozie’s wife had promised a big crowd because they were bringing in a crew, and we also seemed to have a stronger showing on top of that. I suppose the weather brings out the crowd. Since spring has sprung, and everyone has the fever to get out, when the weather turns sour, they still go out, just go to a bar and check out a band. Great for us.

I had a beer at the bar and chatted with the lovely Lindsay (looking dynamite in a leather vest that broadcast her ample cleavage. Necessary equipment when you’re working the boys for tips!). She told me her tales of woe, losing a job. Downsized. I also wished her a happy birthday, as I knew it occurred on May 1st. Her birthday falls on the same day as my old girlfriend’s, Andrea. The first woman I ever even considered marrying. Hadn’t heard from her in a while.

We geared up the first set, and to my surprise, seated in the front row was a group of elderly ladies. What the fuck? Is it bingo night? Here grandma, enjoy some KROKUS! LOL!

As it turns out, they were related to Boozie’s wife, and one was celebrating her 80th birthday, festooned with a birthday tiara. 80. And at one of our shows. Did someone tell her what kind of band we were: 80’s rock, and she misunderstand?

As promised, they had a whole table of patrons right up front, ringside for the Rock Bottom Circus of Freaks. I hope we didn’t disappoint. She looked as though she may have been a Black Sabbath fan, I’m not sure.

It was birthday night all around, as at midnight, our sound man Carson turned, um, well Carson had another birthday, let’s put it that way. In fact, that’s when he told me he prefers to be called Carson in public, just for privacy reasons. He shared a story with me back in his singing days, and how he got the nickname. So, out of respect, I’ll continue that for him. Carson it is.

I always remember his birthday, because it’s the day before my old girlfriend’s birthday, and we played a show back in ’88 where we celebrated both birthdays, and had a great time. The Beach, in South County. Horrible gig, but we still had fun. There’s pictures of me and her on my lap from that gig on the Knucklehead website. The bar was on “stilts” as it was in the flood plain of the Meremac River, so it had to rest some 15 feet above the ground. Imagine that, a whole bar 15 feet in the air! Load in was a bitch, with all our cabinets lifted up on a Mickey Mouse elevator nearly one at a time. I can remember Andrea dropping popcorn down to me from the side door, and catching them with my mouth, one of my secret talents. Don’t see much of her anymore. She lives in Farmington, Mo, divorced, one kid.

The crowd was raucous, and we were having a good time. Boozie was proceeding to get seriously hammered, as the whole party thing going on with his in-laws. I met his father and mother-in-law, whom are probably around my age…

I wasn’t feeling too bad either. I had a couple jagerbombs, and Steve and I kept the bucket of beer in front of the drum riser full. My playing didn’t improve much from the night before, but, again, I failed to seriously train wreck anything, not that I can recall. Another day in paradise.

A grizzled older woman was chatting with me towards the end of the night. She wasn’t much to look at, but her body was decent, I suppose.

“What I like,” she told me, her raspy voice reeking of alcohol, “is just some guy to take me home and have sex, then not call me in the morning.” Hmm, sounds good. I could probably be that guy. I don’t really even care what her name is. That’s what rubbers are for.

So, for whatever reason, I felt like taking this tired looking broad home and introducing her to the “Dick Of Death”. (Good God, I just realized, I have a nickname for my package…) I packed up my gear quickly, and prepared for departure. Chuck kind of took me aside and said “hey man, be careful.” No sweat, Chuck, I’ll wear two… “Watch your wallet,” he said. Hmm. Well, I don’t have any money, so that’s not really an issue, either. “I’m just telling you, be careful.” He made some comment about her doing crack, and I’m thinking, “dude, I’m not about to start using drugs. I’ve avoided that for 40 years”. Still, I was becoming less and less anxious about our little “after party”. Maybe this wasn’t as good an idea as it first sounded?

She rambled on about stopping by her sisters, and this and that. I don’t care, woman! I’m just in this for the cheap, meaningless sex! Remember? Cheap sex, and I don’t call you or ask your name. Now there’s suddenly conditions to this. Go here, go there. Fuck!

I grabbed my guitars and packed my gear. I picked up my cell phone just to see. Two text messages. One from Peaches. “Have a shot for me! :p” it read.

The other was from - Andrea.

“Hey, whazzup? I want to party. Pops?

Ok, then.

After a year of not hearing from her, it was time to party for her birthday. How do I dump this broad?

I gave her the “suddenly sick kid” excuse, and she didn’t even blink an eye. She was halfway in Carson’s van, probably ready to spark one up. Perfect. Have fun, guys!

Chuck winked at me, and I sped off to Pop’s for a little reunion with my old, old girlfriend.

Along the way, I kind of thought about the strangeness of all this. It felt odd meeting up with her at 3AM. What were her motives? Reunion sex? Hang out? What was I getting into? I guess it doesn’t really matter. Just go along for the ride, and enjoy the journey!

Pop’s was packed, but I found a close parking spot. I basically hate Pop’s, because I never have any business being there. Who does? But, here I am. 3:30 AM. Sunday morning. Meeting my ex from 16 years ago.

The doorman nodded like he knew me, and let me in no charge. I ran into Jess and a crew from Eddie’s coming in after hours for a beer, and he filled me in on Saturday Night Fights at Eddie’s.

The nightclub was packed with the living dead, and I surveyed the crowd, looking for Andrea.

I found her over by the south bar, with a big smile on her face, and she greeted me with a warm hug. She looked very nice, as she’s gotten very fit in the last few years, working as a correctional officer at the Potosi facility. The prettiest thing about her though is her emerald green cat eyes. She’ll never lose those, and I’ll never grow tired of them.

She then introduced me to “her friend”. Nice. A strapping young lad with a scruffy face and a ball cap. So glad you brought along a date… Guess I know where it was all leading now.

We chatted, and had a beer. She was pretty toasted, and I wasn’t nearly as drunk as I wanted to be to sit through this. Eventually, I found myself sitting on a stool next to them as they pawed at each other, and watched the latest lame lounge band that Pop’s had to offer. Fun.

I did run into Kene Turcott. His band played Farmington that night. Small world.

When Andrea’s “boy toy” took a powder, I leaned over to her and asked “so, is that your boyfriend?”

“Naw,” she said. “We just meet a while ago. Turns out we have so much in common! We love the same things: white water rafting, sky diving…”

Yeah, bomb defusing, terrorist negotiations…

She named off a list of Extreme Sports she’s into now. Wow, great. Hard to compete with Mr. X Games.

Still, Andy and I had a nice time, I didn’t let her cockblocker get in my way of enjoying the early morning with her. And he seemed like a likable chap. I certainly couldn’t blame her. Just wondered why she bothered to call me.

We reminisced about the “good old days”, and pondered what shot to drink. They wouldn’t make a Dr. Pepper Shooter for us because it’s a flaming drink. So, we told her to make us a Kamikaze like they made at Stages. The bartender obliged, and it was quite good.

Mr. X Games wandered off again for a bit, and Andy turned to me, bubbly and highly inebriated. She stared at me for a moment; her eyes seemed to sparkle in a dizzy kind of way, and she smiled brightly. That was “my bear”, I thought to myself. My ditzy, dizzy bear.

“Aww,” she said, as she reached for my face, stroking my cheek. Then she leaned forward and held me, resting her head on my shoulder.

“You know I love you, right?” she asked.

Where the hell did that come from? Jesus, my life!

“Yeah?” I said. “I love you like always.”

I wasn’t really sure how to respond. I didn’t want to be crass when she was being so affectionate and say some smart ass thing, which is my nature. I just took it as a sign of friendship, and good will, and enjoyed it for the moment.

Nice to still be loved, I suppose. After all, we didn’t really break up, she just kind of wandered away after 3 years of a solid relationship, and found herself someone else. No fights, no tears, no name calling. After that ran its course, she looked me up, but we just didn’t seem to rekindle that flame. Some other “swinging dick cockblocker” got in the way, and I didn’t mind. I was on a collision course with my destiny back then too, having met my future wife and having to decide “old crazy broad, or new crazy broad?” I went with the road “less traveled”.

She pulled away and I kind of sat back in my stool, taking it all in as Mr. X Games reappeared from the crowd. So, she says she still “loves me”. Loves me, while fawning over a new beau! I guess I’ll never quite figure women out. They puzzle me more than poker does.

Seems to me like a great deal of women that I’ve been in relationships with in my life have a much more fluid meaning of “love” than I do. I know they say “you’ll find someone someday,” and all that patronizing bullshit. Fact is, you may not, either. A safe might fall on your head.

Times like these, I sometimes wonder if the one woman that really did truly love me unconditionally didn’t die in a car wreck 20 years ago. After I turned her away. Because she was young, and I was young, too. Poor Vicki. Poor me! “She’ll find someone someday,” I thought, after I broke up with her. No, she didn’t. Maybe that someone was me all along. Heads you win, tails, you lose. That’s the way life goes, sometimes.

Jesus, I think I just quoted a Poison song!

Somewhere near 4:30, they decided it was time to make the long march back to Farmington, and I agreed. I was more than ready to return home to my pup, and put this all behind me. With one more stiff hug and another “I love you” into my ear, she was gone.

I thought about a lot of things on the ride home.

Mostly questions.

I had no answers.