Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Road Repartee

One of the nice things about Geezerhood(perhaps one of its few saving graces)is that you have a lot to look back on. At this point, your Book of Life has some heft to it. There are already more than a few chapters, twists and turns, joys and sorrows- the concatenation of events which somehow got your ass here

One such chapter for me was the 16 months-from December of 1984 to March of 1986- when I was on the road. Gina, Dean and Scoundrel was the band. This was from a gig on Halloween in Ogden Utah, sometime in 1985. All the guys were there when I first started, but we had a different female vocalist on my first day of school.

She was with us for maybe eight months into my tenure, before moving on to her own career. Give my regards to Broadway.  I think we had one interim vocalist after that(Dallas?), and then came Raggedy Ann. In the picture, I'm the beer-wielding Mr T. The Sheik was our bandleader, and he and The Green Lantern to the extreme right were the people in the band with whom I felt the most kinship. 

16 months is not a terribly long time for a musician to be on the road. (They made Apocalypse Now in a year and four months.) Still, I got a taste. Some musicians spend their entire careers in this kind of perambulation. I guess it gets in your blood. Can't help but think of the line from A Streetcar Named Desire: trying to recapture in motion what's lost in space. Our bandleader had a little of that in him as I remember. He was most comfortable when we were moving. 

One thing I do know about being on the road is that it intensifies whatever was(or would've been)already there in terms of your relations with the other folks on the road with you. The Sheik and The Green Lantern were people I would've liked wherever and however I'd met them. So much the better. You're going to have your differences with anyone with whom you're in such close proximity, but a basic affinity still holds things together(the ligament in human relations). And we still keep in touch, 29 years later.

On the other side of the coin, you can have a toxic(or at least problematic)individual who in these close quarters ends up being the worse for wear,  more contemptuous-by-familiarity. You're not going to solve the problem and neither are they.  So you just try and get along while in a band with them, and wish them well in their new endeavors at the end. But just like Bill Murray and Lucy Liu in Charlie's Angels, that's the last movie you're going to make together. Get somebody else to play Bosley...

Traveling all the way across the country to work with complete strangers was something you only do when you're young enough and foolish enough. At 30 I was perhaps not young by some standards but certainly still had the fool in me. I met the Sheik and the Guerilla(also a very nice sort)at the Boston Airport. They had to bum money from me for the tolls. I should've known then that something was up. 

Actually I got a very nice(and unabashedly sentimental)card when the band broke up in March of 1986 with two quarters attached! The quarters eventually found their way back in the economy but I still have the card. 

It was an adjustment being with these strangers all the way across the country, and me with a brand new job to learn(I even had to learn to duck-walk!). Everything was new and a little scary. Plus I was used to having my own place, and had to adjust to having a roommate. And being one. 

At very first, I roomed with the Sheik. I must admit, my diet wasn't the greatest. In addition to whatever starchyass, sodium-laden stuff I was wolfing down, there was much beer consumption. And junk food- with a predilection for cheese-flavored snacks. The Sheik referred to these as Cheez-Plugs, this of course a reference to the obstructive potentials on the path of digestion. Yep, got us a traffic jam here in the Transverse Colon- there's a cheez plug in the road!

Boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. This meme has been used to describe the military experience and prison life, and could also give you a picture of life on the road. Only I don't know if I'd call it terror necessarily. Confusion, exhilaration, irritation, hilarity- and sometimes all those things at once. 

But a lot of down time. For one thing, you've gotta get there, which accounts for much of it. So many hours in transit. And in all this time, you get to know your fellow travelers. Some commonalities emerge(if there are any). As it turned out, The Sheik and The Green Lantern  and I all liked a good joke- in particular, a good witticism. Sometimes, as the Sheik pointed out, we were laughin' to keep from cryin', but jocularity is still jocularity. Still helps to lower blood pressure. Maintain homeostasis within the band. "Happy band", as the Sheik used to say.

The Sheik's manner of comedic expression was either sharp bordering on caustic(he loved Carson), or sardonic. The latter usually kicked in while he was driving, where we'd get some disgusted commentary on whatever was in front of us. I used to refer to this as his having his foot on the disdain pedal. 

On one occasion it was a Wet n' Wild kinda funplace in El Paso TX('Oh God, I can already smell my state!'--somehow the kitsch element reminded him of similar stuff in southern California, where we were headed); on another a club/restaurant  in Houston where we were due to play, called Peppers.

Peppers. Well it is a name with that sort of jive-y aftertaste. Tickles the palate just a bit. 

I consider myself very fortunate to still hear from a few of these people, 29 years later. Since our traveling days, I've been back out to LA to see the Sheik get married, along with most of the old group. And I recorded one of his songs on a CD of mine. Just heard from him a few days ago, which unearthed a few memories which turned into this blog. 

And I've been to the other side of the country to visit The Green Lantern and his lovely wife(not pictured- as I said, she was Raggedy Ann's predecessor)on several occasions. When I was going through a divorce in '93, he said "Gee, that's a shame. Now you're going to have to learn how to order food!"(He finds this comment a little cold now, but I still think it's funny). 

Of the other two in the picture, I've heard from one- and of course wish both of them well. We had a few personnel changes in my time with the band(seems like for awhile in there we went through singers like a junkie through socks), but the above picture was the lineup when I joined. 

 I remember this as a mostly fun period. Certainly a necessary move at the time, getting out into the world a bit. Springfield was starting to close in on me, and getting some fresh air was the best thing I could've done.  It wasn't all fun and games, all happy happy joy joy. But I still wouldn't trade it. For one thing, it somehow got me here.



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