Archive for August, 2009

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part 8

August 30, 2009


I am standing at my locker, there is no one there for I am late to class which is normal for me, having already accrued enough credits to graduate I spend my time shuffling to and from class at my own leisurely pace, quite certain of the fact that the educators are as excited to see me leave as I am. Ducking out of class whenever possible and failing to show up on time many mornings as there is no-one at home to rouse me out of bed.  Inside my locker there is a calendar marking the end of days, only one-hundred and twelve days left of school. The relief will be comparable to the first flight of a gosling. Jenny’s locker was next to mine, we were seniors and even though our last names were only one letter apart we never really spoke to one another, I was comfortable launching my pot shots in the back of the classroom to humor myself, and she was more than comfortable to be the center of attention. She was also in all of the college-prep courses while I fled for the safety in regular education classes where the only expectation was that you were supposed to breath. Today, she is wearing a pin-strip jumpsuit; she explains that she had a presentation for the National Honor Society. She glances at the calendar, nods towards me and states “you really hate this place don’t you.” Smiling I reply, “Yup.” Just then a box of chocolates comes crashing down out of her locker, “Shit, now I really going to be late.” I help her pick them up; she must have a boyfriend I think to myself. I arrive late to English class and offer the explanation that I’m late because of Jenny Leffel. The instructor smiles and says “I understand.”

Within a week we are dating, my car breaks down the first night of our date after I had coaxed her into the shower and dropped her off. Her father must have been suspicious because of her wet hair; he had to drive me home. I am sure he was impressed. He was skeptical of methat first day, not just because I brought his daughter home with wet hair just days before Christmas but for the fact that I was so very different from most of the other boyfriends she had brought home. I didn’t care two licks about farming, the Clark County Fair or what was on television.  I was interested in books, music and being a wise-ass, I showed little respect for people whom I had little respect for in essence I was somewhat of a punk. I had a funny name, wore big glasses and thought that I was more clever than anyone I knew.  I could drink a lot of beer though and this was the only bond her father and I ever had, we both loved beer.

I had always thought that I would attend Ohio University in Athens, where I spend the majority of my childhood, my father had taught architecture at OU early in his career. Jenny had her sights on Ohio State University in Columbus; she was going to be the first person in her family to graduate from college. She had a fantastic academic career in high school, National Honor Society, she placed and won several distinguished awards for Future Farmers of America and had scored high on her college entrance exams. She played first trumpet in the marching band since her sophomore year but drove the band director nuts because she couldn’t read music. He said that she was the most talented musician he had ever taught; he would frequently contribute trumpets to her cause many of which would be dinged and left behind in the various houses and boats she lived. She has also planned to march for the Ohio State Marching Band. By the spring of our senior year, after many showers together I had decided to switch from attending Ohio University to attending Otterbein College, located just north of Columbus. My dependence on Jenny was in full bloom in just a few short months together.

My home life was a mess my senior year, my brother joined the US Army and was living in Germany, my sister was living in Pensacola, Florida and my mother had left the Methodist minister that fall. She was living in Columbus and the minister had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for some time; I was pretty much on my own. I spent my afternoons reading and listening to music. Music was my savior, I had a cassette of R.E.M. “murmur” on one side and “recokoning” on the other.  I discovered Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground when I was fifteen and had purchased half of Lou’s entire 70’s catalog in a few days mostly in the cut-out bin at Woolworths and at School Kids records in Athens. “Street Hassle” and “Berlin” were particular favorites as well as the newly released “New Sensations.”  I could easily spend hours by myself with music. I would read and jerk-off.  That was pretty much my days. When Jenny entered my life, she was completely flabbergasted by the amount of music I had and the wide range of tastes I had developed at that early age. I suppose when you have little else you just tend to immerse yourself in what gives you release. She had never heard of Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, R.E.M., The Smiths or even that the Beatles had released a ton of albums.

We would spend our afternoons going to my house, fooling around, listening to music and laughing. We laughed like crazy, I suppose we were both heading towards the deep end already at that point in our lives. I totally regarded myself at the edge of the social scene in high school, I had a few really good friends (one of which was Chris Biester who would years later form Appalachian Death Ride) and was known as the pretty much the eccentric class clown in high school. By the end of our senior year Jenny and I were voted “best couple” and she was voted “funniest female”. Gas was only $1 a gallon.

One afternoon, shortly after we started dating she was showing me some of her photographs in her parents basement and I noticed an old organ, I asked her who played and she told me she did. She then proceeded to play several songs that she had written to help sing her young brother Tony to sleep. I was impressed. Looking back the songs were not too unlike some of the songs that Daniel Johnston wrote on his parent’s organ, the melodies were buried within the claustrophobic chords of the machine, muffled and blunted but strong nevertheless. I encouraged her to keep writing them.

We went back to her bed and she giggled, and said that she had something to show me, immediately I had the over-sexed thoughts of a seventeen year old boy as she reached under the bed. She then produced a giant burr-penis.  It was giant, made by her and her sister Rachel with about a hundred round prickly burrs found on their farmland. They had constructed a giant penis complete with balls. It measured roughly nine inches not including the nuts. I laughed, more at the brilliance of making a giant dick out of burrs then the creation itself. Rachel bounded down the stairs, laughed and said “no, you aren’t showing him the burr-dick are you?”  We all laughed and then Jenny’s mother Ginger walked in.  Ginger was as straight as straight is, a woman for whom the phrase “gosh-darn-it” was an offense. Ginger was horrified and immediately offered me an apology, saying “Bela, I’m so sorry you have to see that fifth, I told her to get rid of it.” Just then Jenny laughed and said “Oh, mom you know you always loved it!” with that she flipped the sticky burr-dick towards Ginger, where it immediately latched onto her chest.  She was horrified and as she tried in vain to flick it off, the burr-dick just seemed to become more entrenched in her blouse.  “Oh, Jenny you are horrible!” and then the absurdity of the situation hit her and Ginger had to laugh soon, “Just don’t let your dad know you still have this piece of trash.”

Jenny always had a knack for making light out of any situation, her wit was quicker than Hawkeye Pierce and because her delivery was so fast and fun loving she could get away with it. There would come a time when the wit didn’t work anymore, it seems that charm and brilliance can shrivel with age if it is not cared for, when a person’s circumstances and tragedies can engulf them and leave little trace of flash that burned so bright within them

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part seven

August 29, 2009

There is a movie theater just up the road from campus smack dab in an older residential neighborhood, the theater is one of the oldest in Columbus but during the era of multi-plexes the theater struggled. For a while it had to resort to tactics to get people to view a movie, it had a bar, offered pizza and charged only $1.50 for most second run movies during the nineteen-nineties. It would also offer late night fare such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and midnight viewings of Animal House or science fiction movies. One weekend Jerry and I double date and see a double feature of Mel Brooks’s films, “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein.” We were both too young to see them in the theater when they came out. His girlfriend Jill and my wife at the time, Robin are close friends and always seems to have the opportunity to talk about how disappointed each one of them is with Jerry and me.

Neither one of the women really wanted to spend a Saturday evening in a bar masquerading as a movie theater watching two old Mel Brooks movies with their drunk boyfriends.  We could not understand why, for us this was the perfect night out. We had both spent the majority of the day getting loaded at Used Kids, Saturday’s were the busiest day of the week for us and I worked a ten hour day. Drinking usually started around three on Saturdays, and I would go to Larry’s at five for a couple of drinks consisting of either Maker’s Mark or a few Kamikaze’s before heading back for the last few hours of work. When the music got louder and the laughter was just as intoxicating as the Black Label beer we were drinking. We usually had regulars on these nights, just like a bar, a few customers who could come down and have a few beers while perusing the racks of records and CD’s. Bystanders just enjoyed the show. Jerry and I would take turns manning the turntable, alternating between punk rock favorites or George Jones, sometimes we would put on some comedy records such as the Jerky Tapes or Robert Schimmel.  I am sure on the night of “Blazing Saddles” we listened to a great deal of the comedy stuff.

We decided we would walk to my house after we closed, “Blazing Saddles” started at nine, we would meet the girls at my house. Jerry and I never made it there, we stopped at Larry’s and slowly strolled up High Street, stopping at Dow’s on High, Dick’s Den and then finally at the Blue Danube. We had walked right past my street. I phoned Robin who said they had been waiting; her tone was not conducive to laughter.  Jerry was leaning against the bar, chatting with the bar-maid, he glowed like a lantern on Hallows Eve, his ass crack sticking up from his black grimy jeans. He never wore underwear. In fact he came to me one afternoon after a Gaunt tour and said that he had a urinary track infection.  I was stunned, “I thought only women got those?” I replied. He lowered his voice and said “My doctor said I got it cause I don’t wear underwear and I only have a few pairs of jeans.”  I looked back at him as if he were an alien.

At the Dube he spied me from the corner of his eye, he leans back, putting the ass crack to bed “lemme guess, they are pissed off.”  The air in my balloon has not been sucked out yet, laughing with familiarity “of course they are, what did you expect?”  The kinship of disappointment was something we shared; it bonded us and directed us forming a steering wheel that chose our path through our lives. We intersected in all the right and wrong places, the weight of a relationship both crippled and fueled us with a sense of joy that ended up blinding us through the self doubt that we would need a pair of Wellington’s to wade through.

Jill was the most serious relationship that I ever saw Jerry partake in, he wrestled with this particular one than any other, he would haggle with me and my pre-occupation with striving to have a legitimate (i.e. stable) relationship with a woman. I was always in a drama soaked relationship, afraid of one-night stands I would jump from a series of women as I struggled to find a balance between staying out most nights and being at home with someone who wanted more than beer breath and a staggering gait at three am. Jerry’s advice always went something like this, “stay away from her, she is just a crazy as the last one.”  He said this for most of the women I went out with. I marveled at the way he could spend the night by himself; for myself I needed a warm body close by just to prove to myself that I was still alive.  This wasn’t just about sex it was about holding onto something that I never knew, I needed something after the laughter dissipated into the faint yearning of last call to get me through the next four hours. Jerry on the other hand, was content to sleep alone, as if getting close to someone betrayed an inner promise not to let anybody through his emotional gate. He could be almost monk-like.

In terms of a double date, the evening was a disaster, by the time we hooked up with the two women who must have been energizing one another’s disgust with us; Jerry and I were quite wasted.  As we sat at the bar of the Blue Danube, we did not have any insight into our equilibrium, leaning against one another, preparing ourselves for the laughter that would ensue when the movies started we were well flushed with booze and anticipation. We egged each other on, to the chagrin of anybody within earshot. Really, there was little need for our mates at this point in the evening, it would have been best if they had bailed on us. When the two women arrived with looks of consternation on their faces, we grinned as they shook their heads at us, at first the women protested about even going to the movie. It was late, the first movie had started and besides we promised them dinner. “Just get something to eat here” we said, “oh, and by the way we aren’t hungry.”  We both knew that a meal would slow the buzz that was building into a ferris-wheel in our brains. This was an offer that was an insult, apparently we had promised a real meal, one that entailed a waiter in a uniform, a table cloth and bathrooms that didn’t have miniature cockaroaches climbing up the walls..  It would not be tonight.

We stumbled to the theater, arriving mid-way through “Blazing Saddles” which annoyed the women even more, for Jerry and I this was now the most important event of our lives, even if we had missed half the film already.  Immediately our girlfriends found us past annoying, we were laughing too hard, there was no way a movie could be as funny as we thought it was.  They left us at the theater, they would never understand us we said to each other, and no doubt this was the same conversation the women were having as they walked home alone. Jerry and I stayed through half of “Young Frankenstein” before deciding we needed to go dancing, we breathed in the autumn air and felt reinvigorated, and managed to squeeze another round of drinks at the one bar on the way home. Telling each other that it was women who just didn’t understand, that the expectations they placed upon us were too much, too unrealistic, too unreasonable and that they lacked the ability to enjoy life as we did.  By the time we arrived at my house, it was just past midnight, I would have to drive us to the disco and we had gone about twenty minutes since the last drink. I had climbed over the edge of my buzz by that point and had settled into the slow comfort of exhaustion.  I had no desire to go dancing, besides Robin was still up, I saw the television flickering in the living room.  Jerry said he was going to head for a few more drinks at Dow’s or Larry’s and go to bed. He swayed off into the streetlights, cigarette in one hand the other hand buried in his coat pocket and I went inside and tried to make amends.

When Jerry was creating “Kryptonite” and “Yeah, Me Too” we were both struggling to balance a romantic relationship with our own sense of identity which involved a belief in our life style and a romantic sense of being an artist, a bohemian if you will. This was a chasm that for both us would not be reconciled with the women we were involved with, it was one that would most likely only be bridged by life experience, of figuring out how to compromise and be totally present in a relationship. Jerry tried his best with Jill; he had this belief in the wholesomeness of romantic commitment that bordered on complete fantasy.

For instance here was a Thanksgiving dinner that my wife and I had at our house, where my family was invited. My sister, who was a double divorcee was there with her two young daughters and she introduced herself to Jerry. Her license plates read “socr mom”.  Jerry developed an instant crush on my sister, I was completely perplexed by this, and for my sister was the epitome of middle-class. Living in the suburbs, she tried to construct the all-American household that I had no use for. Two kids, cat and a dog, she wore sweaters and loved Rod Stewart, and not the early stuff, the later 80’s version. And yet, here was Jerry obsessed with my  sister and his idea of her life, I knew her struggles with divorcee and the fear of raising two young daughters alone and attending college at night. Jerry had no idea of the incredible sacrifices she had made with her life, sacrifices that I could not fathom because I was to chickenshit to even try.  Jill, on the other hand was much more sophisticated than my sister, I could see where men would be attracted to Jill, and she had a cynical tongue that carried ingredients for laughter when she spoke. She was a tiny woman, with a black bob haircut and who pushed flirtation to the border of total come-on. She once gave Robin advice on men, “just give them a blow job on the first date and they will do anything for you.”  Looking back, Jerry had always tried to meld to incompatible parts to one another, hence the friction that boiled over in every part of his being.

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part six

August 27, 2009

Year: 2001

I am living in Gainesville Florida where my wife has taken a position teaching at the University of Florida; it is a dream job for her.  In Gainesville, I find myself drowning in sorrow intermingled with a smidgen of hope wondering how I managed to slip on my future while being paralyzed by my past.  Jenny is living in Miami with her then husband David and working as a bartender in an exclusive rich-mans dive bar, situated amongst the docks of Coconut Grove.  My short marriage has fallen apart and I am going insane.  I call Jenny and she suggests I drive down and visit her for a long weekend, since I don’t have a job I decide it’s a good idea.  The drive is only about four hours long and I make it without having to stop and get a drink, I smoke and listen to music.  My attention is solely focused on the doom that is my life.

I call ahead and Jenny tells me to park next to the Dade County Courthouse which is nestled between the piers and the city of Coconut Grove.  I get out of my car wondering what I am doing in Miami.  It is January and the wind is brisk, I think to myself that I should have brought a coat.  Within a few minutes I spy Jenny and David walking towards me along the side of the road that borders land and ocean.  Jenny gives me a hug and asks me how bad it is, I am near tears and reply “bad”. I shake David’s hand and he says we’ll go get a drink. First we need to drop my bag off.  I look around for their car but I am reminded that they don’t live in a house any longer. We walk to one of the endless piers and climb down into a small dingy.  We climb in what must be a dingy version of a Pinto, it is amazing the few pieces of board even floats.

Jenny and David moved out of their house about and year and a half ago.  They decided that they could live in house boat and not pay any more rent.  They have two dogs, and a pet bird.  They somehow came to the conclusion that two dogs and a bird would also enjoy living on a boat.  We climb into the dingy, three people and two Labrador retrievers, named Maggie and Chicken respectively.  The boat they bought for nearly two thousand dollars is nearly forty years old and at one time it must have been gorgeous.  It has a finished wood interior, a small kitchen, and a living area complete with a stove and refrigerator.  Jenny tells me the bathroom doesn’t work and shows me a bucket if I have to take a shit.  I raise my eyebrows and she tells me “oh, don’t worry about it we do it all the time.  Either that or you can try to lean over and take a shit off the side of the boat or wait till we get on land.”  She says this matter-of-factly as if this is just a normal thing for a person to do.

We drop my bag off, I am shown the bed where I spent New Years Eve the previous year. It is made up of two water proof pillows laid out near the rear of the boat; I am not exposed to the elements with a small alcove made of a large overhanging window and a small door just above my head and bent knees.  We go back ashore and Jenny says we are going to first go to the Tattletale; a dive bar in the truest sense of the word.  I spent the previous New Years at the Tigertail and it struck me then as bordering the precipice of utter madness and absurdity.  I don’t feel like going to the Tigertail I suggest to  Jenny maybe we could go somewhere else.  She shakes her head and says she wants me to talk to her friend Albert, who is a non-drinking millionaire that spends most of his days in the Tigertail fending off an unpleasant marriage by watching people slowly destroy themselves.  I have no desire to speak to neither Albert nor anyone else, I want to dive into a deep sleep and wake up to have my life miraculously changed and I know the Tigertail cannot help with this.  As my New Years Eve memory came flooding back, all I can think of is that the Tigertail is a spooky place where people drink cans of beer and snort lines of coke off the bar. Nobody smiles and everybody is jumpy and suspicious. Not a real big pick-me-up of a place.

The Tigertail is owned by a former light heavyweight contender named Bobby Dykes who once fought Sugar Ray Robinson and who also lost a title fight with Kid Galivan in the early 1950’s.  When we enter Jenny says hello to him and he says hello back, he is medium built with white hair.  Jenny introduces us and he looks past me as he shakes my hand with a handshake that is as soft as tissue paper.  We sit at the bar and the bartender is a woman named “Noelle” but when she turns her back Jenny mouths “Snowelle” and holds her index finger up to her nose and sniffs.  Sensing my discomfort Jenny tells me that we won’t stay long and I lean over and tell her that I do not want a repeat of my previous visit to Miami.  She assures me that this won’t happen but I feel that I can’t trust her.  Sure enough, we meet her hook up in the Tiger Tail while Bobby Dykes who appears to be more punch drunk or just plain wasted hovers in the background.  I spend the rest of the evening driving around Miami while Jenny and Dave try in vain to hide a cocaine addiction that has so far only cost them their house and van.  Everywhere we stop to get a drink one of them runs into the rest room, we end up back at the Tiger Tail Lounge on three separate occasions during the evening.  I am wasted and even more disgusted.

The next day I realize that there is nothing Jenny and Dave can do to help my cause; they could not provide the salve for my emotional wound. In fact, I am thoroughly annoyed that I had thought they could help. I climb back in my car and Jenny asks me where I am going, I tell her I think I need to drive back to Gainesville. She asks me to drive her downtown to which I reluctantly agree to do. As I stop at a gas station, we argue, she insists that I am too serious and that was always my problem and divorce is looming in my future. Years of frustration boil over onto the baked parking lot of the Esso station, “fuck this” I stammer.  I get in the car and drive off, leaving her alone and cursing my rear view mirror. We don’t talk for months. As I drive back to Gainesville, with pent up frustration with her, my wife, and most especially myself I feel utterly hopeless. At one point I get stuck in an insane traffic jam and piss my pants because I am in front of a police car, I think it really can’t get any more pathetic than this.

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part Five

August 22, 2009

My own relationship with booze had taken a breather after I left Jenny, I tried to quit cold turkey but the comfort of it was too inviting.  I was in a quandary with it because after a few drinks thoughts of suicide would creep in around my mind and I felt helpless to these thoughts.  I managed to be almost completely dry during my relationship with Sharon, I had found her company mostly left me satisfied and the coldness I gathered from her only came periodically, I should add that I was quite used to emotional coldness, in fact Jenny had repeatedly accused me of being distant. Like a cloud.  I didn’t need the booze.  I went out to a lot of shows but managed to be able to sip a whisky or a non-alcoholic beer.  This went on for most of the relationship.  The morning after the aspirin dinner, I decided that I was not going to drink again.  My roommates encouraged me to take this action.  So did Jerry.  Jerry came by that night and took me to the Dube where we drank vast amount of coffee and he introduced me to the wet fries.  Over the progression of the following months this was an almost nightly affair.  We spent the evenings bouncing between the Dube and Staches which were catty-corner from one another.  Jerry would occasionally have a beer at Staches while we watched Scrawl, the Afghan Whigs or Tar and I would drink more coffee.  Jerry nursed me through this time, he encouraged me, he laughed at my stories and we developed a best friends’ rapport.  Soon we were ending each others sentences, laughing at our own in-side jokes.  He gave me advice on women; mostly to stay away. He could see that I was still a fragile man.  I was approaching utter desperate loneliness but Jerry kept me from it.  We played records, and went dancing.  Mostly to the gay bars downtown where the music on off nights leaned to bouncy Anglophile fare such as the Pet Shop Boys, the Cure, New Order and The Smiths with the token Madonna track thrown in to keep the boys happy. There were some underground rumors that Jerry and I had become gay lovers, that we only were happy to fuel by publically kissing each other at Larry’s or Staches.  But this was just for show; we only got a kick out of other peoples assumptions.  We were about as punk as I thought anyone could be.  We marveled over Billy Childish and the newest singles on Sub-Pop.

I got my first credit card shortly before Jerry picked me off from my emotional hangover, Sharon was a woman with certain needs and I thought a credit card would help with these needs.  One day talking to Jerry about Gaunt’s upcoming single I mentioned that I could help with the next one.  I had already contributed $50 to the first Gaunt/New Bomb Turks split single and was starting to do some of the ordering at Used Kids so it only seemed natural to me.  Jerry pounced on the idea; I suggested that he form a partnership with me.  We would call it “anyway” after a word I seemed to use with frequency.  He loved it; he spoke grand, with a plan to have the label supporting itself within a year.  He was frantic when he spoke as if he were plugged into an electrical outlet. Pure animation fueled by chemicals and a passion to burn as brightly as he could until pure exhaustion would shut him up.  I was the more pragmatic one, knowing that I barely made $12,000 a year at Used Kids and Jerry made less between filling in part-time at Used Kids and working his shifts at the pizza joint.  I just wanted to get the first one out.

“Jim Motherfucker/Spine” was the first single we put out together; funding was half by me and half by Gaunt.  I called the distributors that Used Kids ordered from: Scat, Twin Cities, Matador, Revolver, Caroline, Get Hip, Comm 4 and K.  The single sold out within the first week.  It was a ferocious piece of music with an almost marching hypnotic bear punctuated by Jerry snarling “Jim! Jim! Jim!” with newly added guitarist Jim Weber from the Turks shouting “Motherfucker!” between each “Jim!”  Both musicians were frightened that their mothers’ would hear it.  The covers were made with Xeroxed colored paper from Kinko’s.  Hand stuffed with the labels being hand stamped with a rubber stamp that said “Anyway Stuff” and a-side and b-side. We already had plans for a series of singles.

Jerry had an outlook on life that was epic in scale; this was with everything that he did, whether it had to do with Anyway, friendships, or especially Gaunt. For him, it appeared the thought of not making a mark in the world was a foreign idea.  Although it should be explained that Jerry, myself and a large swath of the community in which we hung out with took great pains not to be overly ambitious, in the sense that we did not really care for bands or artists who put themselves out there. For Jerry, having Ron House or Tom Lax listen to his music and giving approval was enough. We were geeks, hung up on our own perspectives of the world, a world the was outside of the mainstream a world that we could construct ourselves and move with impunity within its confines. There was looseness within this community that allowed a freedom we had not encountered in the lifestyles of our adolescence.

For Jerry, his adolescence was prohibited by the religious fanaticism of his family, who were blue-collar born again Christians and did not understand their boys’ fascination with punk rock and Kiss. When Jerry was caught masturbating by his mother she threw him in the shower, hollering “I know something that will cool you off.” When I met him he was completely estranged from his family.  He had a younger brother but spoke little of him, he said “he is just like my parents.” For me the confines of living in a very rural small town during my high school years was excruciating at times, where heavy metal and Hank Williams Jr. were the only types of music most kids listened to. I was the only student I knew in high school who listened to The Replacements, R.E.M., The Clash or even the Ramones or The Rolling Stones. I was small, wore glasses and had a terrific wit that earned me a great deal of hassle from larger kids. I would say both Jerry and I were somewhat loners in high school although on appearances I did get along with most of my peers, I just didn’t socialize that much. Both Jerry and I yearned for a way out of the boredom of provincial living. Ideas fueled by this yearning shot through him like a geyser.

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part 4

August 18, 2009

I had just gone through an excruciating break-up that left me with an empty bottle of aspirin and a heart clutching at nothingness, being ripped from an idea of romance fashioned by little boy dream and adolescent thoughts.  I felt shell-shocked by my own emotional instability; a grown man teetering on the precipice of mortality by the sheer luck of my fear of the unknown.  A morning spent rubbing a battered throat, filled with the remnants of charcoal, aspirin and bile; a body replenished with shame and the destruction of a myth.  I felt alone; about as alone as a person could at the age of twenty-two (or was it twenty-one). I left the hospital with my ego between my legs an unknown future and an infected sense of self.  My girlfriend for the past year and a half had dumped me unceremoniously the night before, for another man-her boss at Ameriflora of all things.  His job hurt almost as much the break-up.  I pictured him to be a dark-haired man with a polyester-cotton dress shirt and a mustache.  Ameriflora was an international flower show that Columbus threw to attract international visitors, from a visitors standpoint it was a disaster; losing millions of dollars.  From a middle-management employer who managed to shag a gorgeous young twenty-three year old all the while breaking the heart of a lonesome sometimes charming record store clerk, Ameriflora was a boon.  I went back to the half double I shared with two young feminists, one recovering from a debilitating heroin addiction and one recovering from alcoholism.  They tried to nurse be back to humor but all I wanted to do was crawl back in my bed and cry.

I only had a handful of friends or so I believed.  I had left Jenny Mae nearly twenty months before-our drinking had gotten out of hand even by my own low standards.  There were nights where she didn’t come home and my own drinking had been leaving me queasy.  She had formed a band called the Rhavers, named after some hillbilly gibberish spoken in “Blazing Saddles”.  The band was an odd-lot, one blind drummer named Kenny who had an unhealthy passion for the Beatles and classic rock-he was at least fifteen years older than us.  A goofy-tall bass player whose pranced like a Muppet peacock when he played bass and a young frat-boy guitarist who wore a ball-cap backwards and tied his sweater around his waist while filling in Jenny’s innocent songs of love with phony eighties guitar-licks.  The final straw was when I suspected her of sleeping with the guitarist.  That fact that I also found myself asleep in the pricked bushes that lined the front of our house with my pants around my ankles.  Some things are not quite as funny as they appear.

After I left Jenny I found myself, to my own disbelief and questioning having the ability to be found attractive by the fairer sex. The years spent with Jenny had pummeled me into believing that I was really unattractive had performed their toll, I inherently believed that I would never have another partner either emotionally or sexually.  In fact when I left her last words to me were “you have no friends, they are all mine” followed by “you’ll never get laid again.” I surfed some couches and had a small apartment in Athens, Ohio, living below childhood family friends in my brother’s old apartment.  A few days later after leaving Jenny with the encouragement of Jerry Wick, I asked out Nora the blonde woman from Ron’s band.  We hit it off extremely well.  I wrote her poetry and she cried in my arms. We took walks and discussed art, music and writers. She wanted to be a film maker.  She wrestled with being a feminist, her lust for me and her longing for being strong independent woman appeared to confuse her as much as it impressed me.  I was scared shitless by her.  Her care was genuine and being the weak-kneed man with an enough emotional baggage that I needed my own carousel when traveling and ended the relationship before it could start.  I still pined for Jenny.

Shortly after my break-up with Nora I started seeing Sharon, the one who dumped me for Ameriflora.  She was a friend of Ron and Trina’s (Ron’s patience wife).  She went to school in New York and had lived with J Mascis who had managed to transform my life into the sound of his guitar.  That Sharon happened to be beautiful and exotic was the icing on the cake.  She also happened to be even more emotionally unavailable than I was (at least from my perspective) and our relationship was an example of bait and switch.            One night when Sharon and I were out we stopped at Staches to grab a beer, an industrial band called the Head of David were performing.  There were about twenty-eight people there.  The band was dreadful.  Sharon grabbed my arm and asked if a woman sitting up front was Jenny, I leaned over and looked.  No, this woman looked almost oriental with black smooth hair.  Then she turned and it was Jenny, wearing a wig.  She scowled at me.  We left.  From then on Sharon begged me to end all correspondence with Jenny, her fear of my leaving her must have been real for Jenny dominated my conversation.  Her music, her laughter and her way of life.  I missed her terribly but I did not want to have a romantic relationship with her I only wanted to be in her life.  Several days prior to the Ameriflora revelation, Jenny had asked me to come back to her, that she would change and even slow down her drinking.  I told her that I wanted to be involved with her life but that I was committed to Sharon.  “That bitch,” she said “if you keep seeing her you can not be my friend” was her reply.  “You don’t even know her” I said, “besides she knows J Mascis.” I left that night for all intended purposes without a friend.  In Sharon’s bed, she asked me what happened and I told her, Sharon smiled and told me how happy she was and while we made love we heard Ron vomiting in the next room.  Less than two weeks later she dropped the Ameriflora bomb on me.

Back home in my bed after the aspirin milkshake, nursing what was left of my pride I slowly picked up the phone.  I called Jenny and Jerry.  Jenny was disappointed, said she would come by but was hesitant and added “I told you so.  But you are my friend and I’ll help you.” She came by a few hours later but would only wave to me outside my window; she wasn’t ready to see me yet.  We could talk on the phone.  I was filled with shame.  I was small.  I called Jerry, he said he would pick my up later.  He was only starting to drink a little bit at this time.  Taking his time over the past year to reproach his alliance with alcohol.  He bought be French fries covered with chicken gravy from the Blue Danube, he made me life and that made a big difference in my life.

Jerry Wick & Jenny Mae part III

August 15, 2009

Jerry is setting up the stage; his new band is getting ready to play.  He is so excited that he drinks a few beers.  This is a real club they are playing, with a stage, a hired soundman, a “professional” doorman and a drink tab.  Gaunt doesn’t really need a drink tab, two of the members don’t drink and at this point in his life, Jerry barely did.  They are playing on a Monday night with the New Bomb Turks who are also psyched about playing the club.  This is the same club where Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Scrawl and The Replacements have played.  The stage is small, but big enough to house incredible egos quite comfortably.  The television is showing the Simpsons and the five regulars who come daily will not leave until the Simpsons have ended. They get here for the first episode for the Simpsons at five pm and leave after the last one at 7:30 unless there actually happens to be a band they enjoy. They are very funny men in fact and over the years I will get to know them pretty well as we laugh over the absurdities of our own the lives of various bands.  The soundman, shaking his head is asking Jerry what he is doing.

Jerry has taken a bar seat from the bar and is hanging a sheet across the back of the stage.  He has spray painted the sign of an asshole across the front of the sheet.  It is very large and looks like this: “*”.  There is the official start of the “Jerry’s an Asshole” phase of his life, and he wears it proudly.  I don’t want to tell him that it is obvious that he lifted the asshole from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions” that I had already read almost ten years prior in high school. Jerry tells the soundman to mind his own business which I believe the soundman is doing.  Jerry seems to miss the point that the soundman’s business happens to also be Jerry’s business this evening. Jerry goes to the bar and gets another beer.  This has been a fairly new thing for him, the drinking of multiple beers.  I believe the tag of “Jerry’s as Asshole” has also been borne out of his new thirst for beer.  One begat the other. Gaunt plays first followed by the New Bomb Turks.

They played a hurried set, full of nervous angst while Jerry interrupts their set to read from “Breakfast of Champions.” He makes no sense when reading.  Several of his friends, including me cringe when he does this. We all act like neither one of us is there for a few minutes. Soon enough he picks up his guitar, jumping nearly four feet in the air, hair bouncing wildly as he screams into the microphone “punks don’t wear no silly watches…arrghhhhh”.  From this point onward they are incredibly awesome.  His two-band mates don’t say anything except for the drummer Jeff, who is tall, polite and quite handsome in a Steve Buscimi/Don Knotts sort of way. Jeff smiles towards Jerry and says “alright” as if recognizing this is the reason why Gaunt exists. Jeff has a kid, which floors me.  His son is six or seven.  He draws dinosaurs and loves his dad.  I can’t believe his dad doesn’t drink.  “Maybe it’s the kid” I think as to why he wouldn’t want to drink.  Jeff has only been playing the drums for a year or so.  He sounds great.

The Turks play next and they somehow have taken the energy that flew off of Gaunt, mixed it in their drinks, chased it with about five pots of black coffee and regurgitated it. The sound like a semi-truck with bicycle wheels.  One big roar and one big smile from the ten people who have come to the show.  Their songs are more punk than Gaunt’s, and are laced with irony and almost as wordy as an Elvis Costello song.  Unlike Jerry, these guys didn’t drop out of their English studies majors.

After the show the crowd of girlfriends and record store employees (that was all that was there) mill around and congratulate each other.  I am lit, Jenny is lit and so is most of the club except for Jeff and Eric (the bassist) for Gaunt.  We stumble around, in a protracted electric hum left over from the buzzing amps still plugged in on the stage.  Jenny and I are in the midst of our final break up.  I spy a blond haired woman at the edge of the bar with a bob-hair cut and think how beautiful she is.  Jenny grabs my shoulder, calls me “Laz” and says we need to go.  On the way home she asks me who I was looking at.  I say “I dunno, I think she is in Ron’s band, her name is Nora.” Jenny sniffs, “well quit looking.  I don’t like you around blondes.” This is in reference to a woman I had seen briefly on the sly, named Monica.  Blonde, arty and big tits.  I was smitten till I came home one night smelling like patchouli and Jenny sniffed me and yelled “Monica!!” When she yelled this, it cut through me more than the scent of Monica who would tell me after a few brief encounters that she had fallen in love with me.  When Jenny yelled Monica every speck of guilt I had ever accumulated bubbled forth and sat in me like stagnant sewage water.  I thought of every mistake I had ever made, every mistake my mother had made and every mistake that Jenny had made.  Then I thought of Monica’s tits.  This had all happened in front of my friend Rory who was tutoring me in math, a course that scared me almost as much as my new found fear of patchouli.  Rory looks as me bug-eyed and mouths, “I need to leave now”, I grab his wrist and eyes pleading mouth back “please, please don’t leave.” Rory, obviously brighter than me (and not just book wise) shakes his head and says “sorry, you’re on your own.” In the other room, Jenny is making a tornado of herself.

Monica just sort of fell into my lap.  Jenny and I had not been getting along for a few years, basically since we came to college.   I went looking for someone else after Jenny had tossed me out of the house for questioning her faithfulness.  What a strange world we made for ourselves. One of the charms of Jenny was that she knew no boundaries, which made for a great time at a party (depending) but fueled suspicion and broken hearts in a relationship.  She was one to follow a thought, no matter how inane or dangerous down the rabbit hole.  As a survivor she had a deft knowledge and skill to be able to pull herself out of every rabbit hole she had managed to craw down, this left me full of self-doubt and with a heavy chest.  It also reinforced my own belief in my inner set of boundaries that I would never cross (one being my fling with Monica) which comparatively appeared much more structured than Jenny’s did but it is sort of like comparing the records on a 1-10 football team to a team that is 5-6; they are both losers.

Jenny was an expert at switching; a defense mechanism that allowed her to move the topic of conversation to someone else meaning that what ever flaw of hers was being inspected was now onto someone else.  This had most likely proven to be an essential and healthy in her childhood when her father was in an angry and brutal mood.  He was known to come after his children with teeth bared and hands stretched to their maximum for full effect.  Most likely to she learned the skill from her old man, whom was known to disappear until late in the night and who had made an extra career of dancing in shadows protecting another life he held dear to his heart.  So when Jenny confronted me on Monica all I could muster was “what about Bob, and Barry, and Juan, and Salvador, Randy and who knows who else.” Jenny said “what about them, you have no proof”(which I didn’t) “and anyways I NEVER FUCKED THEM!!!” How could I argue with this?  She tossed me out of the house which really meant, I had to sleep in the other room for a while.  She announced to everyone we met the next three months that I cheated on her.  The greetings would be like this.  Someone would say “Jenny, Bela this is so and so.” And Jenny would lean over shake their hand and say “Hey, glad to meet you I’m Jenny Mae and this is Bela who just cheated on me.” So and so had know idea what to say, wondering if Jenny was serious or not.  I would smile almost as hesitantly as so-and-so and say “hey, how are you doing.” Jenny always keen on picking up someone’s nervousness would pick up on it and say “it’s ok now, we’re over it. I’m just still punishing him.” I would step back behind her, a beaten man, quiet and smiling in my public humiliation.  I had believed this was normal part of the penitence I had to perform for holding those huge tits of Monica’s.

We stumble towards home, feeling more alive than ever before. Jenny remarking how mesmerizing Jerry was live. She said “fuck, if he keeps that up he may even get laid one day.” Gaunt had just started recording their first single, a split with the New Bomb Turks that would be out later that year. Jerry was doing the recording on his Tascam 4-track, he called it Cornhole Studios.

Part two of Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae…

August 13, 2009

Jenny grew up in western Ohio, the daughter of a semi-successful real estate agent who would go through cycles of making a small fortune and then losing it for a variety of reasons.  She lived in primarily in two small towns with three traffic lights between them.  Neither one had curbs nor anyone with a skin tone darker than a paper plate.  Her mother was homecoming queen who married her father just out of high school; her dad was a self described “hood” in high school who barely graduated.  When I met her I had just moved to Catawba because my mother had married a newly ordained Methodist minister and this was his first church. Catawba was tiny, just a burp of a town and much different from Athens, Ohio were I spent the majority of my childhood. Consisting mostly of lower-middle class farmers, and blue collar worker, the overall mood that the inhabitants of Catawba was one mixed with suspicion and a wariness of outsiders.  Needless to say my name and my brother’s name (Zoltan) did not especially endear us to the locals. I had a much tougher time assimilating to Catawba as I have been one who has had an ingrained mood of suspicion and wariness towards insiders, than my brother who could befriend a pitbull because of his type A personality.

On my first day of school Jenny Mae told her boyfriend that she thought the new kid in school had the coolest jello-green eyes she had ever seen.  He was a senior, son of the principal and from that point on he hated me.  I didn’t even know him.  Jenny spent most of her younger years in Catawba living next to her “Mammaw” and “Pappaw” with her siblings.  She had a straight arrow older sister, two younger sisters and a brother who was twelve years younger than her.  Three of her siblings would later suffer from mental illness.

The scene is the Middle East nightclub in Boston, twelve years after meeting Jenny.  The club is sold out, it is packed.  We get there mid afternoon.  The night before Jenny played in New York with Neko Case and Amy Rigby in a small club that was overstuffed from front to back.  Jenny was featured in Time-Out New York and The Paper- both carrying color photos of her and highlighting the show..  While we sipped our drinks in the front bar at the Middle East waiting for her sound-check she told me that “Neko Case is fabulous kisser.  Man, she is hot” she said, staring straight ahead as she nursed her Dewar’s.  Tonight was a big gig.  She was playing with hometown hero Cat Power.  This was Cat Power’s first show back in Boston in nearly three years.  There are only the two bands that night; the Boston Phoenix has a preview of the show and writes extensively of Jenny’s new album while the review of the record is the first mediocre review I have read of the album, but it doesn’t dampen the mood.  Jenny and her band are pumped.

I am away from my wife and get pretty hammered at the front bar before the show even starts.  A black haired waitress states that my five glasses of wine and two Maker’s Mark are a bit much for a meal and cuts me off before the main doors even open.  I am incredulous, which doesn’t seem to help my cause.  I go inside where there is another bar and I don’t appear to be as wasted to this bartender and grab another drink with every intention of pacing myself.  A short man approaches me and introduces himself, his name is Joe and he is writer for The Boston Phoenix.  I know him from my mailing list although he doesn’t look like I pictured him when I sat in my house packing padded brown envelopes with CD’s and press releases.  He has a mustache.  “Who has mustache?” I think to myself. “Especially in indie-rock” I continue to think while Joe is telling me about himself.  I don’t hear him.  “Let’s see the drummer from Husker Due, lots of bands have goatees. Um, maybe one of the guys from Railroad Jerk.” I can’t think of anyone with a regular mustache.  “Well there is Tom, the indie-rock customer at Used Kids” I think.  Joe keeps talking but I am too baffled by his mustache to hear him.  Finally I get his having a mustache out of my mind; I just assume he is gay.  He tells me how much he loves Jenny’s first record and how her new one is different and how important he thinks her music is.  I spy her in the background stumbling over her keyboard as she tries to set it up. I think “she is a lit as I am.” I ask Joe what he does for a living and he says he just writes.  I think he has to do more than write for a weekly arts paper.  I ask again and he smiles “oh, you know I’m kinda self-employed also.” I don’t get it.  I ask again asking “self employed, you mean like a carpenter?” I must appear to be a total idiot.  “No, you know um self-employed. I sell things.” The heaven’s open.  “Oh, you sell things.  Right.” I smile at my intelligence.  Joe and I drink some more booze together.

Jenny plays a very good set, which is almost suprising because usually she is either really good or she is a train wreck.  Cat Power is the train wreck that night. Chan is nervous and she is playing mostly solo.  She forgets the words to her songs.  A friend joins her and tries to help her sing her own songs.  It appears that she cries for a moment and then laughs. Jenny approaches me mid-set and says “oh, fuck, man I feel bad for her. I know what that shit feels like.” Mark from a band called Kudgel appears after the show.  He is with his girlfriend and they congratulate Jenny.  Jenny offers to buy him a drink but he says he doesn’t drink.  This floors Jenny.  “Wow, that’s kinda cool” she says.  We start our drive back to Columbus and I eat a large pizza in the back seat of the van.  Jenny never plays Boston again.

A few years ago, roughly about four years after Jerry died I woke up on a cold and wet morning.  The rain felt like it had been frozen and had just begun to thaw as it fell to the earth.  It was as miserable as any mood I had ever had.  I put my jacket on, made a feeble attempt to find my wife’s umbrella and went out to my car.  I was pretty much soaked on my eight steps into our Volkswagen Gulf.  It was pretty early in the morning about seven thirty or so, an hour that seems to divide the day workers with the night crawlers. I pulled out, flicked the wipers on and drove the quarter mile to the Tim Horton’s just up the street from my house.  I bought a dozen doughnuts and four large coffees’s (two with cream and two black) through the drive-in window and pulled the car into the Goodwill parking lot.  I scanned under the awning and spied a group of people lying in a huddle with a brilliant assortment of multi-colored blankets that one would think that Dolly Parton’s mother had stitched them together.  I pulled up and rolled down the passenger-side window.  An unshaven man who was somehow still wearing a battered Red Sox hat peered out from the global village bedding and asked “who’s that?.” He was a familiar one, a homeless man who wandered the streets with his twin brother.  “Is that you Kevin or is it Paul?” I ask.  “It’s me” he replied, not answering the question.  I rolled my eyes to myself.  “Which one, Kevin or Paul?” “Oh, Kevin.  Pauls at the other end.” With that a man who looked just like Kevin peered out from the other end of the nine-foot patchwork of blankets and asked “Who’s there?” Kevin, had wiped some of the groggy out of his eyes and spoke “Oh, hey Bela.  She ain’t here.  She slept in the camp.”  He did a half nod, motioning towards the rear of the Goodwill Store.

I said I had some doughnuts for them if they wanted.  Kevin replied “no, thanks.  We already got some.  They dropped some off about an hour ago.” With that he pulled a box of a dozen doughnuts out from under his blankets.  I rolled up the window and pulled the car up to the back of the Goodwill store.

The store is housed in a small strip mall that has been a variety of stores since I arrived in town nearly twenty years ago a: Drug World, CVS, abandoned, Dollar Store and now a Goodwill.  The back of the store leads into a scenic ravine that has no trails but if you follow the creek eastward it will lead you through an slightly upscale University housing district that holds the type of intellectual liberals that anyone finds in a large college town, then the ravine opens up into a small park complete with cliff and two picnic tables.  A perfect setting for young co-eds to steal off into the night and fuck under a covering of stars and trees in a large city.  The back of the store is at the top of the ravine and it is nearly a half mile until one reaches the park and expensive wood and stone houses.  The store side of the ravine is blanketed with woods and in the summer these woods are covered in weeds, brambles and vines.  If one inspects the brambles one will find empty liquor bottles, fast food bags, tin cans, tiny plastic bags that used to hold crack cocaine and if one is careful enough they may find a person sleeping in these bushes.   There is a hill with a sewer tunnel that separates the Goodwill side of the ravine with the park side.  Wrong side of town indeed.  When the air started to chill the roughly twenty or so people that lived in the bushes and trees along the ravine ambled out of the woods and constructed a camp just to the rear of the Goodwill store, separated only by tall chain link fence and weeds.

The camp resembled something one would find out of a Hollywood movie albeit that this one bore the reality of desperation, poverty and insanity.  There were several burning torched trashcans in the middle of the camp, and someone had fashioned a sort of wood burning stove at one end of the camp.  There were about five different “tents” made, forming a half-moon around the two fires.  These were made of wooden pallets obtained from the grocery store across the street, no doubt stolen in the darkest part of the night and hurried across the street with all the energy a broken drunk man can muster.  No doubt the carrying of the pallets was made even more difficult in the darkness of night by the poor shape of the shoes that no doubt carried them. The people who lived in the camp all had terrible shoes, shoes that were duck-taped together, with soles flapping like a duck-bill these were not shoes to keep warm with. The top and sides of most of the tents were covered in blue plastic tarp and cardboard boxes.  There was a several piles of 40 oz beer bottles, one pile was nearly five feet in height near the entrance of the camp.  I walked to the edge and noticed a few men middling around one of the trash cans stoking the fire.  One of them turned and said “Oh, hey there Bela.  Good morning.  Hold on, I’ll get her.” He walked over to the largest tent and brushed the blue tarp.  “Hey Jenny! Jenny, Bela’s here.”  He looked at me, rain bouncing off his grimy face “she’ll be up in a second.” I breathed in; the smell of burning wood took me back to camping at Lake Hope when I was a boy with my father.  I smelled the heap of empty 40 ounce bottles, and the stale beer brought me back to happy hour the campus bar where I worked when I was eighteen and poured buckets of beer for young partiers just down the street from this encampment.  When the smell of disifinfectant and spilled Pabst Blue Ribbon was a welcoming as a turkey dinner.  I brushed some of the cigarette butts from my boots.  “It’s raining pretty hard” I thought to myself as the rain either ricocheted off my coat or penetrated it like water in bread.

The tent rustled.  Out came a familiar face. It was Jenny.  She smiled and said “Hold on.  I’ll be out in a minute.” Out popped an umbrella, one side with three of its metal arms poking skyward, bent like tree branches the other side in perfect working condition.  She walked out, stooped but dry.  “Hey, I was wondering if you were coming out.  It’s kinda early huh?” I told her it was around 7:30.  “Yeah, you get up early now don’t you? Probably already had your coffee huh.” “Yup, I got you guys some plus some doughnuts.” Jenny looked down and said “I can’t drink coffee with my stomach but maybe I’ll try to eat a doughnut.  I’m sure William with have some coffee.” Just then from the bowels of her tent I heard “Hey, Bela. Thanks.” This was William.

William is Jenny’s boyfriend.  He appears to be forty-five or so with boyish features that are uncommon for a man who has been homeless for the last five years of his life.  William is a light skinned African-American who suffers from bi-polar disorder and most likely has a major depressive disorder, he also owns a set of eyes that are of different shades of blue, the left one is almost translucent. He has been in and out of prison and mental institutions for most of his life. He is gentle when he isn’t smoking crack and since he has been with Jenny he has only smoked crack once.  She won’t tolerate it.  William told her that he killed a man once when he was a teenager because the man molested him but Jenny doubts it, the killing not the molestation.  She met William about five months prior after it was discovered that she had been living in The Ohio State School of Music building where she passed most of her days shuttling between, the carry-out, Bernie’s Bagels and Used Kids.  All her needs were met within a two block area.  She would get her booze at the carryout and Bernies and get her social needs at Used Kids.  Then she would play the piano for hours in the practice rooms at the school of music. After being tossed out she took to the streets sleeping with a few different men to find comfort and care until finding William and the small group of homeless men and women he kept with.  They provided safety and affinity to try to stay off the cocaine and only use the alcohol that provided the bond that kept them together.  William has the innocence of an adolescence boy and he seems amazed by such simple things in life as the smile of my young daughter as she does his.

“Hey, William. Good morning.  Do you want some coffee?” I ask to the blue tarp.  “Oh yeah, that sounds good” speaks the tarp.  I am reminded of the singing bush from the Steve Martin movie “The Three Amigos.” The tarp shakes and leans, almost toppling over; William is a tall man, about six-two.  I should ask him if he played ball in high school but am reminded that he may not have graduated and it may embarrass him.  William steps out and says “Oh, boy it’s raining out” to no one in particular.  Jenny, seemingly reading my thoughts says “Oh, you wouldn’t believe how warm it is inside these tents.  These fellows know what their doing.” I go back to the car and get the coffee and doughnuts.  It has let up for a moment.  I hand them to Jenny and say “I need to get back to the house and take Saskia to day-care and drive Merijn to work. Maybe I’ll stop by after work or school.” Jenny thanks me and says “We won’t be here this afternoon; we have to meet some of the church people.  They dropped off a bunch of food last night so we feel obligated to go listen to them preach.  I hate that.  Preaching.  They should just drop it off and not try to make us feel guilty.  It is so boring, all the Jesus stuff and holy this and holy that.  They mean well though. Don’t make it out that we don’t appreciate it but that church and singing they do is so boring.  Before that we need to get to Bev’s because she’ll feed most of us after her lunch rush.” Bev is a woman who owns a diner up the street.  I look into Jenny’s eyes, they are awake but dark around the edges, and I can see the hangover lining her features.  Cheap beer and vodka.  Her pores reek of booze.  I climb back in my car and drive the quarter mile to home where I have another cup of coffee with my wife and watch her feed our baby girl.

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae

August 12, 2009

I sat in the corner booth, with a brown haired girl with muddy blonde streaks and when she laughed the whole world stopped for a moment.  Beer shot out of my nose and down the front of my t-shirt.  The t-shirt had a picture of a monkey riding a bike and said “R.E.M.” on the back.  She, the girl that is was telling a story about work.  Apparently she worked in a private dining club with a Chinese woman who once played for the Chinese National Basketball team; she was tall especially for a Chinese woman.  The woman spoke very little English, and my friend named Jenny had used her lack of English for a practical joke that went a bit wrong.  An older gentleman had asked the former basketball player what desserts were they serving today, the basketball player stuck her head in the kitchen and asked “Ah, Yinny, what is desert today?”  Jenny, whose wit was quicker than her mind replied, “We have pecan pie, chocolate pie and hair pie.”  The ball player turned around and answered “We have ah pecan pie, ah chocolate pie and ah haar pie.”  Jenny quickly ran to the cooler and hid for the next ten minutes while the manager looked all over the kitchen and dining room for the culprit who played the poor immigrant.  Jenny said as soon as the manager went on break she clocked out and was thankful she had the next few days off.  It was a Wednesday and we were celebrating the late afternoon in the best way we knew how, with an evening of cheap bottleneck beer and keeping one another company.

In the table just off our booth a man with a weathered thin US Army backpack laughed along with me, he turned and smiling with crooked teeth said “God-damn, that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in forever.”  He had hair just past his shoulder and smelled of pizza sauce and patchouli, not the most pleasant smell in the world.  He was drinking coffee.  I always managed to check what a person was drinking back then (I still do this today) as a way of measuring them up. I noticed him; I’d seen him in the record store I worked at part-time.  I worked in several stores at that point, I worked as a manager of a mostly classical and jazz store that catered to the University professors and grad students and on a few days a week I had the opportunity to settle behind the splinter giving worn counter of the used record store just down the block and under the sidewalk from the classical store.  I could drink beer and listen to the glories of underground and brit-rock in the safe confines of the used store. Here as I guzzled beer and coffee I would secretly plan my escape from the classical store where I wore a tie and uncomfortable poly-cotton Dockers that did not dispel any pretense that I worked as a manager in a chain record store.

I also remembered this man from some of the independent rock and punk shows I had started attending with my friend Jenny over the past six months.  I had seen him with his coffee cup at the basement bar down the street where we would watch local music for free and piss tip-toed as a way not to let the overflowing toilets flood our tennis shoes. He had a notebook in front of him with a page filled with scribbles and a small doodle of a skinny man screaming into a ball of larger scribble.  He had on a black tee-shirt.  The tee-shirt said “Mudhoney” above four half naked men, it was a take-off of a Slits album cover.  I was impressed.  He pulled his chair over just as I was rising to go get a few more drinks.  I asked him if he wanted one. He asked if I could get him some more coffee.  He was still laughing from Jenny’s story.  As he handed me his cup his slightly bent shoulders shook with laughter and I noticed his thin hands and arms; he was as skinny as a flagpole and his long hair draped over his bony shoulders like spaghetti over a mop handle.  His entire being was like caffeine come to life.  “Really, if you want a beer I’ll get you one” I offered.  “No thanks, I don’t drink.”  I was shocked and somewhat suspicious.  I didn’t know anyone who didn’t drink.  Jenny said “really, are you sick?”  “No, I just don’t drink.”

I had an immediate kinship with Jerry.  From the moment we spoke to one another my entire world opened up ten-fold.  Prior to that point much of my world revolved around Jenny and I getting drunk, playing practical jokes on strangers and pretending we were people who we obviously weren’t.  My circle would go from two people (me being one) to several hundred in a matter of months in part of my new friend.  Jerry told us he worked at the chain pizza place down the street and had moved to Columbus recently from Kent Ohio.  He claimed that Kent “grew stale, it’s a small college hippie-town filled by pretentious rich kids who wore tie-died clothes to hide from their mommies and daddies.”  I made no mention of his patchouli scent to him.  When he spoke of the things he didn’t like, his voice rose and his intensity was surgical.  I could absolutely relate to this aspect of him.  We bonded over our distaste over college kids, our hate of shitty music and our ability to laugh over the telling of events that were at most two years old but in the haze of Jenny’s and my own drunkenness and Jerry’s caffeinated hyperness appeared to be at least a decade in passing.

Jerry lived just two blocks from us on Indiana, in a three bedroom house where he happened to be an outsider.  For his distaste for hippies and all manner of pretentious rock and roll music he chose an odd place to live.  His roommates were a band that played every Tuesday evening in the basement bathroom overflowing bar, their sets were filled with ten minutes plus songs-“jams” complete with fog machine and noodly keyboard solos and they wore enough hair to get part-time jobs at a petting zoo.  A roommate of mine and Jenny’s went to go see them every week and she had managed to drag us to see them on a few occasions.  I had a complete revulsion for anything considered “art” and rock and roll which meant I wrote off a large swath of music that emanated from the late 1960’s and the 1970’s from the laborious epic song cycles of Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer to the shrill hard rock of later day Rush.  Anything with a concept and keyboard was cause for utter derision.  This was yet another belief that we bonded over, Jerry told us he couldn’t stand his roommates and fled the house whenever they practiced.  He was shocked and pleased when we mentioned that Jenny wrote short little songs on a small Casio keyboard she had borrowed from one of our other roommates.  He told us he would love to hear them and when we said that we didn’t have any recordings he offered to record her on his tiny tascam portable recorder which was just a fancy cassette recorder.  We ended up back at his house; his room was just a mattress with a bookshelf crammed next to it.  The bookshelf was crammed with whatever remaining clothes were not scattered on the floor, cassettes and a paperback books by Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut and music related tales such as “Please Kill Me.”  He pulled out a shoebox a played us what sounded like the solo from “Down by the River” speeded up and muffled under a pillow.  I was amazed.  There were no vocals.  He said it was him playing a one-string guitar and that he was still working on it.  He told us he was in a band called Black JuJu.  Like the candy.

It was late and I had to work in the morning.  Jenny supposedly had school but unbeknownst to me she had already dropped out at this point and had been keeping up the charade of a full-time college student for a while now, she would continue to do this for at least six more months.  We wobbled home on liquid legs and twisted grins.  When we got in the house I boiled a couple of hot dogs and drank three glasses of water to help stave off the headache that may or not arrive. We went to sleep in the closet that Jenny had managed to convert to a bed.  She had a fear of people out to get her, a paranoia that seemed innocent in those early twenties days but would later manifest itself in far more dire behaviors.

Hello world!

August 7, 2009

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