Archive for September, 2009

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae: Part 15-Athens, Ohio; Monster Truck 005

September 29, 2009

1992-1998

I had started to take road trips to Athens, Ohio where I spent the majority of my childhood.  Even though I had found a community in Columbus, a sense of belonging there was still a part of me that felt that only a part of me was accepted (or was that accepting) of the scene I was with in Columbus. Even though I was burnished with a sense of growing confidence inside of the insular world of the underground rock scene in Columbus I still yearned for something else, I wasn’t sure if it were to be found in the form of a woman, of music or another collective community. In a sense I wanted to merge all of these together although I could not seem to blend even one of these with the other in my own life. I had been trying unsuccessfully ever since I was a teenager. My busted up and fractured relationship with Jenny Mae had taught me several things, one was that trust was something that stabs like a cactus and the more you rub the needles the more imbedded they become and that putting all of your hope in one person was not a real bright idea. In the mid-nineties I was still figuring this out.

I had always loved Athens; it was the most physical place that ever reminded me of home. A small mid-western town, with a large courthouse the rose off the top of Court Street like so many other small-town courthouses that dotted the landscape of Ohio, Athens was different from the confining invisible walls of such similar tiny towns in Ohio like Findley, Urbana and Xenia, and this difference was solely due to the Ohio University. The first land-grant University west of the Appalachians. Ohio U. is a big college with over 20,000 students but is dwarfed next to its colossus cousin to the north in Columbus, The Ohio State University. While OSU was known for football, its law school and farming, Ohio U. was known for partying and its counter-culture way of life. Jerry always referred to Athens as “that hippie town” which I thought was odd since he attended Kent State which I also considered a “hippie town.” The big difference for me was that the scene in Athens appeared tighter, more organic in a sense and the music was reflective of this.

Appalachian Death Ride was the biggest band in Athens during the nineties, led by my childhood friend Chris Biester they could be devastating live, especially in the cozy confines of the Athens club scene for which they ruled the roost. They were basically the house band of the Union, an old biker bar in the nineteen seventies that was now how to the counter-culture scene in Athens. A diverse scene made up of film-makers, artists, drop-outs and hate rock purveyors with names such as Torque and God and Texas (who moved down from Columbus around 1991.) Thing moved slower in Athens, shows didn’t start until almost eleven or later and didn’t end until three am. Even out of town bands that frequented the town appeared bothered by the late start times, I remember speaking with Chuck Cleaver from the Ass Ponys and Bob Pollard from Guided by Voices who both were frustrated by late starting times. It all worked for a relaxed scene that did not appear to have some of the competitive mannerisms of Columbus. It was not uncommon to see a crowd dancing in Athens no matter the type of music whereas in Columbus it was more common to see the more standard hands-folded-across-the-chest pose of so many self conscious independent rockers.

I loved my drives to Columbus; I would leave work at Used Kids usually a few hours early on a Saturday, and stop and get a six-pack or a few forty ounce beers for the hour and a half drive down. Even though I brimmed over with self-confidence during this time in my life, I realize in hindsight how uncomfortable I really was with myself as I reconsider my reasons for needing to drink so much by myself for these drives. By the time I would arrive in Athens, I would be half drunk, the sun would usually still be shining and I would head over to my brother’s house. My brother, Zoltan is a year older than myself and has spent a lifetime in the military, at that time he was pursuing his undergraduate degree at Ohio U. and was still active in the Army. He was a green beret and lived in a house that had a revolving cast of characters that included redneck townies, conservative college republicans and died-in-the-wool hippie bong loaders. At any given time there were at least four dogs living in the house. In the middle of this was my brother, who worked and played well with others for most of his entire life.

Next door to his dog infested home was another small cape cod with an assortment of characters, three women and Pat Humphries who was the tall bearded bass player of Monster Truck 005. Pat was a fixture of High Street, the complete opposite of his brother John who fronted the animalistic but precise hate machine known as God and Texas. Both were giant, over six-two with lanky but muscular frames, while John would not look out of place in the polished sheen of “A Few Good Men”, Pat, on the other hand looked like an extra from Jeremiah Johnson. He had times a ratted flowing beard and hidden within all that hair was a disarming smile, a grin that no doubt flowed from a well thought of concoction of intoxicants. Pat drove a truck that resembled a crossbreed of a huge Army Jeep, Hummer and an ancient semi-truck. It was quite literally a Monster Truck. Pat was reserved but goofy, he had a gentle voice but when drunk and dark he could appear spooky due to his unmannered looks.

The early nineties was a time of hair, so to speak when the sounds more echoed the ghosts of The Stooges and the demons of Altamont there appeared to be an indirect correlation to the non-fashion sense the late sixties/early seventies. We wore thrift store clothing because we were broke, and avoided combing our hair because it was a drag. Flannel was in because it was cold in Ohio, or Chicago and Seattle. In Ohio it is not uncommon for the weather to change like the moods of a drunken step father, at one point breathing warm air and the next day to be frigid and chilling. Pat was a perfect example of this. My last sight of Pat was him driving that beast of a car of his, turning wildly onto High Street, yelling my name and holding a whiskey bottle out of his window. It was noon on a weekday. That was most likely 1995.

It was not uncommon to see Pat and my brother sitting on the couch watching the Cleveland Browns or Pittsburgh Steelers with beers in their laps, a stark contrast of styles breaking bread, as it were to the great American religion of professional football. I had been seeing a woman who lived in the house that Pat dwelled in, she was like many of the women I knew, more of a comfort than a relationship. One who, if her room was not already occupied when I arrived would let me curl up next to her and feel accepted. She was nice, pretty with long black curly hair and like so many of the women I have known had her share of demons that one may never have guessed by her forgiving accepting demeanor.

Jenny Mae understood my longing for Athens, which no doubt drew for the long lost feeling of home and safety that I had as a child growing up there. In an era where people in small towns did not have to lock their doors and instead of video football we scrapped together every kid in a three block area and played football in muddy grass with stained knees and torn t-shirts, each one of us a miniature model of our own gridiron hero—Terry Bradshaw, Sammie White or Brian Sipe. She would travel down with me when we were a couple and later when she was married her and her husband would accompany me on a few trips. She wrote the song “leprechaun” off of her first album from a time she went to Athens on Halloween and took a hit of LSD. She had witnessed a custom-goer getting squished in the Court Street mob and wrote the song in her head.

Jerry too, would accompany me on several of these trips although he liked to say at times he loathed Athens, he always enjoyed the trips away from Columbus. Athens, reminded him of Kent and he also had an old girlfriend there whom he would hook up with. Although he wasn’t the biggest fan of the Athens music scene or of Appalachian Death Ride, we saw them play the Dugout on one of these trips and after they had burned through several nuclear versions of “Pale Blue Eyes” and “American Girl” he turned to me and said “they are fucking amazing.” Jerry couldn’t drive; he never had a license so it was always me who did the reckless drive to Athens. We would smoke cigarettes and drink cheap beer and talk about girls and music. It was a magical time when one could leave behind any responsibilities for twenty-four hours and not be frightened of the consequences.

It is a ramshackle of an evening, filled with at least three clubs in Athens and weird afterhours that is winding down. I am past stumbling and into slow motion land swimming, the afterhour has been declared over and people are hustling to grab the last few drinks and free hands that they can scrounge up. The desperation is palatable. The evening lottery from loneliness is ticking away; I clumsily open a beer with a lighter in the dark. I manage to get the cap off the imported beer but also the tip my right index finger. I laugh at the blood and drink the beer. Jenny and her ex-husband Dave laugh alongside of me; we are oblivious to pain at this point. A small blonde woman winds her way through the dissipating crowd, she is older than me, most likely in her late thirties even in the dark I can see the wrinkles forming around her eyes. She says nothing to me but grabs my right hand and sucks the blood out of my finger. Feeling alarmed, horrified and weirdly turned on I stare back at her. I can see Jenny and Dave off to the side, the whites of their eyes almost illuminating the room. Their heads are shaking.

The woman takes my finger out of her mouth and asks me if I am Bela.  Shocked that she knows me, for I have never seen her at the Union or any other club in Athens I affirm her answer. She tells me her name and says “you used to work at Case Que Pasa in the eighties with a bunch of high school guys didn’t you?”  My first job was cleaning chickens at the hippie-Mexican restaurant when I was fifteen, looking older than I was I would drink St. Pauli’s beer and listen to Lou Reed’s “New Sensations” and The Talking Heads and pull boiled chicken off of the bones. “Yes, that was my first job.” The woman then goes on to tell me that she worked there and that the women there had a bet as to which one of them could get me and my two friends in bed first. All I can think of is “I spent my fifteenth year summer trying to lose my virginity to no avail and now you tell me this.” We talk some more and I my curiosity is peaked. Eventually she offers me a ride to her house and I explain that I have Jenny and Dave with me. She offers her couch to them. We follow her home in my car, Jenny incredulous says “You can’t fuck her; she sucked your blood without even knowing who you are.” By this time, I had gathered enough information from the woman to know that I couldn’t sleep with her in a carnal manner. She had divulged to me that her divorce was finalized that week, this lead me to the conclusion that as much as I would like to believe that it was my own charisma that had reached back ten years to 1985 that had silently seduced this woman in actuality it was her own broken heart and desperation that prompted her to try to heal the bloody index finger of a drunken boob.

When we arrived at her house, Jenny eyed me and mouthed “you have to fuck her.” I shook my head; I had enough hang-ups with intimacy that I promised myself that I wouldn’t take advantage of this woman. She made a bed for Jenny and Dave and we went to her room. She approached me and we kissed but I informed her I couldn’t sleep with her. We crawled in her bed and held one another and kissed a few times. Finally she asked me if I thought she was attractive, she was in fact, quite lovely. With a small frame, slim and a bob haircut. “Of course” I replied, “but I can’t sleep with you tonight.” I looked skyward, perplexed and noticed that the bedroom door was slightly ajar. I looked past the woman and noticed Jenny and Dave crawling across the floor. After about five minutes of silence, with my back turned to the woman and my head facing the wall the woman nudged against me and offered “can I at least suck you off?”  Giggles emanated from the far side of the room. “No, but we can hold each other” I offered.  The next morning on the way back to Columbus and for the next several months Jenny and Dave would ask me “can I suck you off?” and release the giggles again. A few months later, I saw the woman eating lunch by herself in a bar in Athens; she was reading the paper and looked right past me. I thought to myself, “That is loneliness in action.”

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Jerry Wick & Jenny Mae: Vibralux and Norwich

September 25, 2009

1990-91

Jenny Mae and I moved out of the club house of a home on Summit in the summer of 1990 to an old house with a big yard located at 44 East Norwich. This was a step forward for us in a number of ways, the first was that it would be the first time in some years that we would be living with no roommates and secondly and perhaps more importantly it signaled a step deep into a world that we wanted to very much a part of and a world that appeared to welcome us.  We moved through our lives almost as disengaged participants, with fixed goals that we could not identify we operated on emotions and feelings. For us, all that mattered first and foremost was music, this was what brought us together when words wouldn’t work. Bringing a sense of purpose to lives that while not purposeless certainly remained undefined. This was by no means a stain on our beings, it was quite the opposite we were attracted to our own sensitivity and the essence of music blanketed this state of being and provided and unseen direction that helped us float in our own little worlds. What we were discovering, in spite of the emotional pain of actually being a failed couple was a whole other world that operated and cared for the same types of attractions that we had. We were sliding quite comfortably into this world with an ease that was so light that it was almost invisible.

Curt Schieber, who owned School Kids Records in Columbus, came into Used Kids one day that spring and asked if I was interested in moving into his house, he was getting married and was buying a house. His house on Norwich was epic in stature for many of us; he had for years thrown a huge summertime party that consisted of much food, music and general decadence. We had started attending these a few years beforehand when Curt’s house was lined by shelf after shelf of records, roughly 12,000 in total it was like walking into an orgasm for my young geeky ears. There were original Velvet Underground records, vintage jazz records and I feasted my eyes on records that I had only heard whispers about such as Skip Spence’s “Oar” and Big Star’s “Radio City.”

In terms of a physical place, 44 East Norwich was almost like sacred ground.  After I told him that I would be interested he left and Dan Dow turned to me and said “that’s the best place to live on campus.”

The Norwich property had a great deal of historical significance in the Campus area, an elderly crank of a woman named Puna lived on the back end of the property in a log cabin that she had been born in. She was acutely aware of the property’s respectful value in the neighborhood; she didn’t rent the front house to college kids or to single women. Curt had rented to her for many years and she regaled in his Pig-Fests, drinking and laughing with the bohemian crowd, under her crusty exterior she was an old liberal sweetheart. It was a large yard, next to a church and had a slight incline, one that would have been perfect for children; whom we all were anyway.

The front house was divided into two living units, the bottom where Curt (and later Jenny and I) lived and the upstairs which consisted of a tiny apartment. Dan Dougan who owned Staches lived upstairs. We moved in early summer and by the middle of the fall I had moved out, in a way the story of our brief stay in the house was emblemic of every shattered opportunity we never knew we had.

It was nice living below Dan, who thought Jenny was nuts from the get-go, he was somewhat skeptical of her western-Ohio cum southern drawl and her outrageous behavior. She immediately installed a horse-shoe game directly in front of the expansive porch. We would clang horseshoes and try to blare Replacement records through half blown mix and match speakers. Dan didn’t seem to mind; usually he would have a few drinks with us. Jenny had just formed the Rahvers at this time; they would practice downstairs during the day when I was at work. This did not please Puna who complained to me that she had rented the apartment to me and was not thrilled to have a woman living there again. She would say “I just don’t like women in that house, it’s unsafe.” I think something awful must have happened to a woman in that house many years ago.

Jenny and I were not doing well; we were drinking a lot and fighting even more. I was trying to maintain the house; she was working at the Ohio State faculty club but had by this time dropped out of college. She was a senior and just a few credits short of graduation. She had no interest in college. Jenny pursued laughter like antelopes chase fields of grass; she would chase it at all costs with little care for lions lurking nearby. The only thing that had changed was the locations where we drank. We had given up the grimy sludge of South Campus bars, where pitchers of beer costs $10 and one would receive a beautiful layer of oil on the top of the frothy beer. We had moved north, hanging out at the four horsemen of dive bars on the north end of campus: Bernie’s, Larry’s, Dick’s Den and Staches. Dick’s Den at that time had quarter beer nights, an enterprise that was so daunting to me that I only sojourned to it a few times before my disgust level had been maxed out. Jenny on the other hand, who was known to drink beer out of a person’s ass crack at Mean Mr. Mustards (she called this the Australian Butt-Chug) was quite the regular at $.25 beer night. We defiantly had fissures forming in our relationship.

The first time I had encountered the Australian Butt Chug was a few years earlier when I arrived home at around ten o’clock at our super-crappy Chittenden apartment to find it empty. I knew it was bucket beer night at Mustards and headed over there, it was just a few stumbles out the front of our house. I got a beer and headed towards the back corner of the bar, and there to my disbelief was a group of men gathered around a picnic table chanting as Jenny (my girlfriend for Christ-sakes!) drinking beer that was being poured down the backside of a greasy workmate of hers named Eric. She didn’t flinch when she saw me, bugged eyed and furious, “Hey Be, you gotta try this, it is fucking hilarious. We call it the Australian Butt-Chug.” And with that she switched places with Eric, dropped her drawers and had beer poured down her backside for Eric to drink. I didn’t know whether to be horrified, pissed or humored. I just grabbed a beer and shook my head.

So now we had migrated north, we were in our early twenties–already seasoned campus regulars, it was as if we had been born and raised there. We had a few parties on the Norwich house, an odd conglomerate of hipsters, college flunkies and some of Jenny’s straight laced work mates.  At this time I was drinking so much that I had a hard time keeping vertical most nights, we all thought this insanely humorous. My body would turn into slow motion; cemented in two seconds ago, I would grin in the frozen melting of time as the rest of the world moved by me in real-time. On some of these occassions Jenny would take the opportunity to baffle me by her quick dexterity, either ripping off my glasses and tossing them to the side or tearing the clothes off of my body. At times stripping me bare cackling all the time, I would dip-shittedly limp off to the bushes or the house with a dumb-ass drunken smirk on my face. On one of these occasions I remember being stuck in the prickly bush laughing and begging that someone get me some clothes. Dan shook his head in bewilderment “Jesus, you guys are fucking nuts.” This was everyday behavior for us, we thought nothing of it.

Around this time, Dan came downstairs and asked me if I thought he should book Nirvana with Urge Overkill at Staches, he had just done Nirvana earlier in the year and they didn’t have a big draw. I had an advance of “Nevermind” and I told him I thought it was going to be the biggest record of the year, “Dan, this thing is going to be huge. Even my brother is going to love it. It will destroy all the stupid hair metal and Guns and Roses bullshit forever.” Almost. I think he did the show for $2,000 and my musical acumen with Dan was cemented.

The end of our romance came when the trust that had already been shattered and stitched together had been hurdled to cement one too many times, I moved out and couch surfed for a brief period. I had an apartment I kept in Athens, and while Jenny and I didn’t talk for about a month she broke up the Rahvers after realizing that fucking a Ratt loving frat guy wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. She had started recording in earnest with Craig Dunson and soon this partnership would blossom into Vibralux after a short detour both musically and romantically with Jeff Regensberger called Hot Rod.

When Jenny became involved with Jeff and I was happy about this, Jeff was about as a stand-up person as I had ever met. Funny, handsome in a Steve Buscemi way complete with bulging intense eyes and thick Adam’s apple, Jeff was very courteous and respectful towards Jenny. I was disappointed when the romance didn’t last more than a few months; I believe a part of my hope with Jenny was that she would find someone or something to take care of her. I still hold onto this hope, no matter how faded and brittle it may have transformed itself into. The hope has turned into a ghost.

Vibralux was Jenny Mae and half of Pica Huss with Craig Dunson playing guitar and Mark Deane playing drums, Craig’s girlfriend Gaye Conley played bass. This was the first time Jenny had played with real musicians outside of the Ohio State Marching Band, and the initial results were promising. Craig was a student of music who had a love of Dick Dale, Les Paul, The Beatles and The Beach Boys, this wasn’t always clear with the slithering sickness of Pica Huss but he brought a respectful sophisticated sound to Jenny’s songs. One of the first songs they recorded was fragments of a poem I had written for her, one of which I tried to explain my smallness next to her colossal nature. She had somehow pulled it together around a staggering hook that allowed Craig to soar on the guitar. I was playing a rough mix of it one day at the door and Bill Eichenberger from the Columbus Dispatch stopped in his tracks and asked “wow, what is that.” I gave him the tape and a week later Vibralux had a full page color article in the Dispatch without even playing a show.

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae Part 13: Ted Hattemer

September 19, 2009

1991–2001

We all had our saviors, although we didn’t always realize it at the time. This should be clarified, I believe that both Jenny Mae and I had our saviors while Jerry searched for one, through his music, through the booze and the bars but his inability to let himself be emotionally close prevented anybody to help pull him up and out. For me and Jenny one of our mutual guardians was a mild mannered man named Ted Hattemer. Ted was active in the underground scene long before I ever met him in 1991, he was a bearded long-haired bartender at Bernie’s, slinging mugs of imported beer for barflies that would try to travel the world on a barstool without ever leaving the cozy, stinking confines of the underground bagel shop. Ted was involved all types of ridiculous sounding band names during the late eighties such as Cavejacket before finding a home in the moody lumbering Stupid Fuckin’ Hippie for which he played bass.

It was at this juncture that I began to know Ted, he was soft spoken, polite and articulate and brought a sense of seriousness to any interaction with him. Stupid Fuckin’ Hippie, in hindsight was not that terrific of a band but they did provide a respite from the more amplified churning of most High Street punk and funk bands that dotted most nightclubs. Stupid Fuckin’ Hippie sounded like Monster Magnet’s little brother without the sense of junkie-dangerousness that early Monster Magnet brought to the table, SFH did not see the necessity to explore anything harder than what most college undergraduates experiment with. For the summer of 1992 (or was it 1991), Stupid Fuckin’ Hippie was the soundtrack at Bernie’s and they appeared to be the house band. As the summer rolled on they vastly improved, with their singer Steve (who bore an uncanny resemblance to Jim Morrison) becoming more comfortable with a guttural growl they provided a pleasant backdrop to playing the Terminator pinball game and swigging Black Label beer.

Ted worked for the Ohio State University; he was basically the only person on the scene who had a real job, one that you had to wash a shirt for.  Although it should be noted that Eric’s Mother, an un-melodic psychedelic band whose singer had spooky eyes and blew fire out of his mouth had a working lawyer in the band. Ted worked on computers for the university and he lived in a large house with several men who would later form the more organic sounding Moviola. At this point, Anyway Records was generating a bit of a buzz, with all of our first five singles selling out immediately upon release. Jerry and I did not think of repressing anything, we were to hurried to think backwards so we wanted to get as much out as we could. One would never know when the proverbial other shoe would drop. We both had lifetimes of shoes dropping around us. Their clatter bearing witness to the utter bafflement of our lives.

Jerry and I started to break apart somewhat at this point; there were more pressing issues with Jerry and Gaunt. Gaunt was in the midst of recording their first full-length and I was bankrolling almost all of Anyway myself with help from the bands. Jerry, who was supposed to be providing a chunk of money, simply didn’t have it. He was disappointed with my leanings towards more pop friendly choices in bands (Log, Greenhorn and Belreve) while his big project was a single by Monster Truck Five whose squalid sounds would frighten the paint off of witches’ house. I ended up paying for over half of the MT005 single including the mastering which took an afternoon to do.  The noise that MT005 on tape caused the arm of the lacquer machine to jump off the waxy plate every time the engineer tried to carve the sounds into the lacquer. John Hull and kindly old man who ran our local pressing plant turned to me after several hours and said ever-so-gently, “so, people listen to this.”  I nodded, “I suppose.”  Jerry and I were both too unskilled to resolve our annoyances at one another over the MT005 single and we simply did what we did best which was to bitch about the other person to whom would ever listen. At times, we both thought the other a complete idiot.

I was approached by Ted and Wayne Lin of SFH during this summer and asked if Anyway would be interested in doing a Stupid Fuckin’ Hippie single that they would finance. I replied “sure.” There were several reasons for this, the main being that both men worked at bartenders at one of my favorite places to drink and the other was that I thought their music was interesting and they  both understood that Anyway was more of a community enterprise at this point than anything else. Jerry was not pleased and by the end of the year he would leave Anyway to me.

This is how I came to know Ted; shortly after this Craig Dunson who was playing guitar in Jenny’s band Vibralux played me a space-echoy song called “Wrecking Ball” by a gutter punk band named the Econothugs. I was blown away, it sounded like carnival version of Galaxie 500. Craig explained that the singer from the Econothugs, Jake Housh was making a new band called Moviola and they would sound like this. Craig’s new label Eardrop, would be putting out their single.  There were many new labels sprouting up in Columbus, no doubt by the idea that if two drunk fuck-ups like Jerry and I could find success anybody could. What we may have lacked in business or planning acumen was made up in surgical passion and a giddiness for the absurd, which is what the world was like for us. Ted was going to play drums. Ted and I became good friends at this point, I trusted his judgment and I admired the fact that he was stable, with a 9-5 job and he was buying a house. Nobody I knew bought a house or a new car. Ted shortly became the defacto art-director of Anyway, laying out most of the covers for singles, CD’s and vinyl covers. He helped me find out how to procure a bar-code for the label.

In a few years Ted would save me from several embarrassing romantic castrophies. I had started seeing a woman who was living with a man in Athens, Ohio. She was a driven, beautiful and ummm driven. She wanted to leave him and I agreed she should. Why not?  We had only been seeing one another for a few weeks and she said she was going to move to Columbus where she had grown up. I thought this was a good idea, she was unhappy with him, had recently graduated from Ohio University and Columbus made sense. “Sure, move up” I told her. In a few days she arrived in front of my house with her pick-up truck filled with her belongings.  I liked my relationships to be at arm’s length emotionally and physically I preferred them to be several blocks apart. My lonely nightly darkness was too intense to share with anybody at this point in my life; it would just lead to yet another disappointment. While she waited at my front door I hurriedly phoned Ted and explained that this woman had just arrived at my house with all her shit, and not just for the weekend. There were lamps in the back of that black truck. I could see them jutting out of boxes, surrounded by paintings and toiletries. If I wasn’t so dehydrated from a night of drinking I would have pissed down my leg. Ted didn’t flinch; he said “you know Scotty just moved to Alaska for the summer, she can stay in his room.” That is friendship. Needless to say there was some animosity between the woman and myself and the relationship died an awkward deflated death on my front yard that Saturday morning but it cemented my friendship with Ted.

A few years later, after my five month “infomercial” marriage disintegrated in a heap of busted expectations, tears and broken plates Ted would remodel his attic and take me and my two obnoxious but lovable dogs into his house.

Just as I had relied on Jenny after my suicidal breakup in 1991, she would return to me over the years to help and motivate her. At times this caused an ordinate amount of grief for both of us, with me believing that I was watching a house burning around her and her believing that I was overtly critical of her life. Jenny had a knack of getting some of the most talented musicians in town to back her up, an assortment of  Columbus finest including Dan Spurgeon who fronted Greenhorn, Craig Dunson from Pica Huss, Mark Deane who played drums for Pica Huss, Mary Adam 12 and Monster Truck 005, Derrick DeCinzo a professional jack-of-all-trades jazz musician, Wil Foster of Clay and the Guinea Worms, Jovan Karcic and Ted all played and recorded with Jenny over the years.

Jenny was confounding as an artist, at times brilliant and at others a pathetic mess who would rather smash her equipment and drink beer than practice or play shows out of town. It was as if every time something was planned for her a collective breath would be held and more times than not the breath would be blown towards the floor as a small community would slowly shake their heads. Ted was always supportive of Jenny, dropping his plans to either fill in on drums or bass for her. He played out of town shows with her several times and was present whenever she needed him. At the height of Jenny’s madness she would bulldoze this relationship, and soon she would be on her own in the streets of Columbus.

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part 12: Early Gaunt

September 15, 2009

Jerry, like myself, was full of self doubt although both of us did a tremendous job and hiding in under a veneer of self-assurance that was bolstered by our vocal opinions on music, art, lifestyle, politics and just about anything else we were confronted with. We had little resources to support our own emotional well being and a headful of doubt when it came to relationships and our own talents as artists. It was quite easy for each one of us to use the resources of our profound love of music to be the face of our lives, for we had been practicing this ideal for almost as long as we had been living. From our early purchases of Kiss records to the hiding out in our respective bedrooms listening to hour after hour of music that stretched our worlds a billion different directions. Even to this day, one of the highlights of my life is climbing aboard a treadmill or writing a paper listening to music through my headphones. For us music was the shelter in our lives and we took umbrage with anybody who wasn’t as enthusiastic or respectful as we were. This may have come off as a sense of snobbishness or a case of unwarrented seriousness, it most likely was both in hindsight but it came down to a certain protection for both of us. We were in essence protecting our armor and defending the love of our lives.

There was a point in my own life, somewhere around the age of fifteen when I had a revelation of self-assurance, this also came to fruition via my passion for music which provided me a haven to explore feelings and a burgeoning wonderment of love and the grandiose aspirations of a teenage boy. In the early to mid-eighties the there was a distinct disadvantage of exploration of art and music for a young person living in rural Ohio. I received most of my education via Rolling Stone and Record magazines and the low-wattage college radio waves of WUSO, based in nearby Springfield. Springfield lacked an adequate record store that could cater to my blossoming curiosity of music. There was a Camalot record store in the mall but it was limited, I usually ended up making bulk purchases at School Kids Records in Athens or Columbus (where years later I would cement my personal identity in the same physical building.) In a record I could reassure myself of a world that was different from what I was surrounded by, which consisted of corn fields, inarticulate language and dull flatness. In non-physical manners I felt constricted by what I perceived as tight fearful conservative values, pride in being skeptical of outsiders, racism and an overabundance of male stereotypes. I was lost in a sense but I took solitude in the music and books I read.

I also consumed books and magazines, I read nearly every Vonnegut book, Mark Twain, historical and crappy musical biographies such as “Up and Down with The Rolling Stones” and the ridiculous “No One Gets Out Of Here Alive” about Jim Morrison. Even at the age of sixteen I found that “No One Gets Out of Here Alive” was a sub-standard exercise in the mis-glorification of a drug addled rock star whose sexuality made up for poor poetry. I mistrusted rock stars even at that young age. I envisioned my rock stars to be approachable and the sort of people whom I could have a conversation with. My meeting R.E.M. at the age of fifteen bolstered this as Peter Buck and Micheal Stipe both asked me to go drinking with them after the Wittenberg concert (I appeared physically older at that age).

I believe both Jerry and I mistrusted some of the excesses of rock stardom, although Jerry in his own way aspired to be a star. This latter point had to more with being immortal than holding riches or beautiful models on his arm; he was too sensitive to hold women in that regard. The picture of music for many of us during that time, was bleak, most radio stations played either the vapid non-dangerous music of Phil Collins, Lionel Richie or Michael Jackson or the mind-numbing music of anthem rock such as Def Leppard, Motley Crue and Journey. There was little room for anything else unless you dug for it, which we both did. Jerry had the luxury of living in Parma, Ohio a large working class suburb of Cleveland. He was just down the road from Cleveland and had its vast resources of music to bathe in. He was exposed to the emotional dangerousness of The Dead Boys, Death Of Samantha and Pere Ubu at an early age, while I would comb through the stacks at WUSO during my summers and play anything that had an interesting cover from the rootsy rock of The Beat Farmers and Jason and The Scorchers to more standard college rock fare as The Replacements and Camper Van Beethoven. I was at a disadvantage musically because I did not have a chance to experience live music until moving to Columbus and having resources of such small clubs as Staches, Apollo’s and Bernies.

While Jerry and I took solace in music we both channeled this passion in divergent ways, Jerry picked up the guitar while I never had the discipline nor the inclination to be a musician. I desired to sub-consciously make my mark as a fan.  I envisioned myself as a writer, one who would document the events around myself both externally and internally for nobody in particular but myself. Jerry on the other hand made music, music that derived from his vast record collection and sense of  the musical history that swayed and evolved around him. Jerry craved attention, but at the same time he held it at bay, he insisted that it be on his terms hence his dilemma when it came to his music and his personal life.

Gaunt was a powder-keg live, at once brilliant and in another moment a disheveled angry machine if a guitar string popped or the atmosphere wasn’t right. When Jerry formed Gaunt he had an ace-in-the-hole fellow musician in Eric Barth. Eric had played in several excellent Columbus bands, most notably Two-Hour Trip which was comprised of the Spurgeon brothers (Dan Spurgeon was once Jerry’s roommate.) Eric was a deft and melodious bass player, Jeff Regensberger however was new to the drums but what he may have lacked in drum rolls he brought in an easy-going enthusiasm to the seriousness of Jerry’s songs. Jeff was more than capable of banging out a basic even quick punk rock beat to the music of Jerry and he smiled throughout their live sets, he was lantern of good-will on stage.

The first Gaunt single was a split with the New Bomb Turks, released on Craig Regala’s Datapanik label. The funds were cobbled together from as assortment of Columbus underground music-fanatics such as the band members, Ron House, Craig and myself. It was an immediate collector’s item, it was furious and fast one part Saints, Husker Du, Pagans and all Mid-Western. The Turks side got the most attention, and while Gaunt could be breathtaking at times, the Turks were a combine compared to the diesel engine of early Gaunt. All of the Turks were more than average musicians, with the only hesitancy (hard to believe now) coming from the vocal mannerisms of singer Eric Davidson who, fully confident stage wise pranced around like a cross between an obnoxious eleven year old and Mick Jagger. From the strength of their split with Gaunt, their next single and fans such as Johan Kugelberg who worked at Matador, the Turks quickly got a deal with Crypt Records, who at the time was the quintessential garage label in the world. Jerry felt left behind for a moment. He confided in me before “Jim Motherfucker” came out that he had the blessing and the curse of sharing a record with The New Bomb Turks, shortly before the single was released he asked Jim Weber from the Turks to play second guitar in Gaunt.

Jim wasn’t in Gaunt very long, just a hic-cup really but his being in Gaunt gave Jerry the realization that Gaunt would benefit from another guitar player. Shortly thereafter he asked Jovan Karcic to be in the band. Jovan was a perfect foil for Jerry’s manic energy he was a little taller than Jerry with a bushel of handsome hair and a reserved demeanor he constrasted brilliantly with Jerry.  Even Jovan’s guitar playing was filled with smart humorous licks that would balance perfectly with Jerry’s almost psychotic playing.

Jerry and I were almost inseparable at this time, I was still nursing my break-up but had started coming out of my shell.  I had started dating again, a bit hesitantly at first and I was staying off the booze for the most part. At some point I came to the realization that alcohol would help with my renewed interest in dating. All the while, Jerry would keep an eye on me, no doubt guarding my heart and my life with his concern. I had started “dating” a stripper who was impressed that I didn’t drink too much and hated drugs. I say “dating” because we only got as far as kissing and eighth grader-ish petting. She would not French kiss because she hated anything being in her body. We went to movies and out to eat, she liked the idea that I didn’t really want sex, I was much too scared of that at this point in my life. She had been molested as a child and told me stories about this, I believe her father was a sheriff somewhere in small town Ohio and took advantage of his little girl. I was horrified by her stories and spent a lot of time listening to her. Around this time I attempted my first substantial short story based on her life and the life of my new dog. Jerry would ask me if I had slept with her, not so much out of curiosity but out of concern. After making out with her one day on my porch, we decided to move inside, suddenly my dog Istvan who had escaped earlier in the day came bounding up the porch steps and jumped on the couch.  “Who’s this” she asked as she scratched his ears, just then Istvan puked next to her.  It was surreal, he had found some Dinty More Beef Stew or something that resembled it out of some garbage can and vomited all over the couch. Too make matters worse the vomit was covered in what appeared to be hundreds of tiny maggots. She got up and left, I never saw her again. I suppose I wasn’t really ready to go upstairs with her. God works in mysterious ways.V

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part 11: first songs and a come-on

September 11, 2009

1984/1991+

I started writing poetry and short stories in high school although I had never taken a poetry class or a decent writing class while in high school.  Needless to say that rural high schools in Western Ohio, whose student population were encouraged to apply for jobs at the local International Harvester/Navistar factory  upon graduation displayed little credence to the arts. This caught me off guard upon moving to the tiny burg of Catawba Ohio from what (in comparison) appeared to be the cultural giant of Athens, Ohio. As an eighth grader in Athens besides wanting to work in a record store I dreamed of being an artist or an art teacher (which most artists have to be anyway to pay the bills). When we visited Springfield Northeastern just prior to enrollment in the summer of 1982, I was shut out of the four art courses they offered and had to settle for Industrial Arts.  Back then the boys took Industrial Arts and the girls took Home Economics, I was encouraged to take Industrial Arts over Home Economics my freshmen year for I was told I would be the only male in Home Ec.  I followed the guidance counselor’s advice even though I have always had a deep seated fear of any sort of tool, especially one that has volts of electricity running through it. I barely passed Industrial Arts and to this day I would rather wash dishes, cook dinner and scrub a toilet than hold a screwdriver or even open a tool box.

I started writing my poetry my sophomore year, the same year that I discovered masturbation. Imagine that. At times I would transcribe some of this truly sophomoric poetry to the rudimentary song arrangements of my friends Jon Baird and Chris Biester.  Chris is one of the people who can play anything, from any stringed instrument to any found object. He can coax a melody or a beat out of thin air. Chris would later form Appalachian Death Ride, one of the most under-rated bands to come from Ohio.  He, like Jenny Mae, Jerry Wick and I would wrestle with the same monsters as we did. I didn’t have anyone to show my writings to until I met Jenny Mae.

One afternoon as Jenny and I finished up with what was no doubt clumsy, probing awkward teenage sex, she looked in the cubby at the top of my bed and found a stack of notebooks.  These contained the writings of a young man who was trying to make sense out of sex, government, love and abandonment, pretty much what I still struggle with today.  She read them and was amazed, looking back it probably had more to do with the fact that she actually met a boy who wrote alone in his room, among books by Vonnegut and Salinger and records by Lou Reed and the Kinks. A great deal of the poetry was about her, I’m sure I wrote in the stunted language of clichés, trying to make some sort of sense of the avalanche of feelings I had.  Shortly thereafter I wrote my first short story for her little brother Tony; it was about a boy who could see back into the time of the dinosaurs through the ingredients in a candy bar wrapper.  It is long forgotten to the trash bag of candy bar wrappers.

I would continue to write, mostly in fits and starts depending on my mood the next several years. The creative juices usually flowed depending on my emotional state, if things were rough with Jenny then I tended to write more, when they were easy, we laughed most days and nights and this took the place of putting my heart on paper.

In 1989 we were living in a duplex on Summit Street in Columbus, we lived with a man named Dan Miller who was a buddy of my brother and took great pride in his occupation as a carpenter.  Dan was beautiful in his simplicity, at times hilariously so. He worked hard, harder than I ever had and he enjoyed coming home caked in mud and pride and would drink a six pack and laugh along with the laugh-track of the television. He would open a can of Campbell’s Beef Soup with his key ring and eat the soup cold. Then he would pass out. He was never the cleanliest man and it wasn’t uncommon for him to wear part of the mountain of clothing I had at the corner of my room after his clothes had become too immobile from grim.  One time he came home from work, my eyes grew wide when I eyed his shirt. I glanced toward Jenny, “Look what Dan’s wearing.”  Her  mouth dropped and she excused herself from the living room.  I quickly followed her into the bed room where we both slowly dived into a mass on the floor. We were laughing so hard we weren’t making any noise, kinda like when a baby falls, opens her mouth to cry but nothing comes out but you know the howl is brewing. “Oh fuck, we have to tell him” she said. “O.k. you do it,” I stammered.  Just then Dan appeared at the doorway.  “Tell me what?”  Jenny pointed at me, “Bela has something to tell you about that shirt you’re wearing.”  Dan, looking apologetic said “hey, you said I could wear your clothes if I needed.”  I took a deep breath, “Dan, hate to break this to you but you’re wearing our cum rag.” Dan’s face twisted into a slow motion earthquake, his eyes literally filled with tears, “Oh fuck!!!???” he yelled, this too was also oddly in slow motion. It came out as “O-o-o-o-h-h-h-h-r-a-a-a-g-g-g-g-h-h-h f-f-u-u-a-u-g-h-h-k-k-k-k!!!?” As a question. His disbelief at the realization that he had been wearing this article of spent love for an entire day was too much for him. He attacked the shirt from every angle, wanting to tear it off but not wanting to touch it at all, it was if he were smothered in centipedes. Frustration was flying off of him as if he were a living algebra problem. We laughed harder, there was nothing we could do. Finally he wrenched the shirt free, making animalistic noises by this time. “You guys are assholes” he stammered and stalked out of the room. “What could we do?” we asked ourselves. We laughed for a good two weeks on that one, Dan gave us the silent treatment for at least that long.

The Summit house was pretty insane at times, I was the house dad, and we had a number of revolving roommates, each one with a distinctive odd trait about them. One got drunk a pooped in the heating vent, even we thought that was a bit much by our lengthy standards. Another one, a woman’s whose name I can’t remember was a compulsive liar, who has probably now been diagnosed as a border-line personality disorder. She once asked me to have a threesome with her and Monica, I literally ran from the house.

Summit was where we were living when we met Jerry Wick, with his and Jon Stickly’s (who would form Boy Scout Love Triangle, a midwestern’s take on the U.K. Paperclip record label) encouragement I bought a small Casio for Jenny to write her songs on. Soon she was taking bits of my poetry and adding some of them to her incredibly catchy melodies.  The first time she played me one I didn’t even recognize my words, she had used words from several different poems.

I always thought that some of Jenny’s best songs were the ones where she wrote the words and I think she used my words somewhat because she was lazy with lyrics. I also think that as I grew older I made a concerted effort to shed the clichés of my earliest writing. This provided Jenny with an opportunity to avoid the standard love-struck simplistic pop song, which was her forte and come up with something a bit different but the same. When I left Jenny she had a nice storehouse of excellent songs, most of which would appear on her first record “There’s a Bar around the Corner” and some would never appear on record. She would write songs in the same manner as I would construct my poetry and stories, in brief manic efforts. She may write ten songs in three days and then not anything for several months.

Jerry was very supportive of her songs; soon she caught the ear of Craig Dunson who was the guitarist for one of Columbus’s most popular live bands, Pica Huss. Craig was an interesting guy, an ex-marine who wore Roy Orbison styled glasses and who had a great knack for melody and whose guitar playing was always sophisticated but not showy. One may miss the carefulness of his playing during a Pica Huss show which was usually one part Butthole Surfers, one part heroin or cocaine and one part orgy.  They were the freak central. Craig took a direct shining to Jenny’s songs, and soon he started recording her on his portable studio which was a step above sonic-wise, to Jerry’s self described Cornhole studios. Jerry was a bit miffed when this happened. I think Jerry wanted Jenny to be his discovery, but she had a knack for attracting some of the most gifted musicians to help her despite her living demons.

Jenny took no mind to whom I wrote my poetry about, she would stop by my apartment sometimes and take one of my little notebooks.  At one point she wrote a song with a poem I had written for Nora from the Slave Apartments, what was meant as declaration of immediate love was transfigured into a dark paranoid paean to love that she called “Blazing Saddles.” I always hoped Nora would never hear it because it had never been my intention for it to wind up like that.

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part ten: Guided by Voices

September 8, 2009

1989

One afternoon as I was perusing the middle island at Used Kids, which was filled with hundreds of $1 LP’s, I found a bright yellow record with blunted Times New Roman type-face and what appeared to be a smudge of  a thumb print. It looked fairly interesting enough, well enough for me to pick it up and flip it over. It was pressed in Dayton and had been just been released although the sparse cover art and the thickness of the cardboard sleeve made an impression that it was actually pressed in the late 70’s or early 80’s.  At that point in time, pre-blog, pre-online anything, pre-instant satisfaction and instant opinion one had to be a bit more curious about records.  Anything you bought may have an unknown quality to it, on one hand it could possibly change your life (like the first time I heard “Touch Me I’m Sick” by Mudhoney) or it may prove that you wasted anywhere from $1 to $9 depending on the errant purchase, such as a vast majority of the dollar records.  At this time I relied heavily on Ron House and Dan Dow, who ran and owned Used Kids and who to this day have the most impeccable tastes and judgment in music that I have ever met. The name of the record was “Self Inflicted Arial Nostalgia” and it was by Guided by Voices.

Used Kids was started by Dan and Ron, as they shedded the shackles of Moles records and started their own store underneath the newly opened School Kids Records run by Curt Schieber. Kurt owned School Kids and his shop had once dwelled in the subterranean basement. Anyway, in 1989 I was still working at Discount Records, wearing a poly-cotton blend pant that chaffed my legs as I yearned to be free to not sell New Kids on the Block or the newly invented cas-single. I usually headed to Used Kids on my lunch break or if it were later in the day, I would stop in there as I headed to Larry’s to get a drink to tied me over the last few hours at Discount.  I was at that age, more knowledgeable in music than any sane twenty year old should be, where I could tell you how mastered every Elvis Costello or Randy Newman record but could barely handle long division. I had been living and breathing records for as long as I could recall.  I remember in 1977, pleading with my father in Kroger’s that I would be happy to eat eggs and cereal all week if he just spent the grocery money on three records.  Mostly likely Kiss or Stevie Wonder records.  When I was going to middle school in Athens I spent my afternoons behind the counter of a hole-in-the wall shop called “Side One Records”, I wasn’t allowed to work but the two guys who ran it let me hang out.  I can still remember them playing the hell out of a Herman Brood and His Wild Romance record. It was basically all I ever wanted to do besides maybe be a college professor. I never became a college professor but I did marry one. So one and a half of my dreams have been realized, anyway it’s probably funner to fuck a college professor than to actually be one.

After a short while, the two men at Used Kids gleaned that I knew my stuff musically, especially when it came to classical and most rock. I was soon doing short afternoon stints when I got off at Discount. Even though I was the manager of Discount, I felt a kinship and admired Ron and Dan a great deal.  I felt immediately invited into a small community that I had somehow already been born into. All I had to do was find it. I think the fact that Dan had noticed me at two very sparsely attended shows a Bogart’s in Cincinnati helped seal the deal (they were respectively the Proclaimers and Lucinda Williams circa 1988).

I suppose Jerry felt the same way, there was something about finding a community when you are in young adulthood, for most of us who were/are part of this small but vital scene in Columbus this meant a realization that for many of us only existed through the music and the books we listened to in high school. By submerging myself in the music I listened to growing up I was awakened to the possibility that there was a world that existed outside of Springfield, Ohio. We didn’t necessarily believe in the myth of rock and roll per se, in fact I believe we embraced the everyday possibilities that the type of music we listened to promised.  There was something bloated, sickening and skeptical about most of the force fed music of the late 70’s and 80’s.  Our idea of escape did not exist through a can of hair spray and the glorification of hookers but of the grimy world of the Velvet Underground, the subliminal humor of the Ramones, the geeky romance of Elvis Costello, the anger of the clash and the mumbling beauty of R.E.M.. Plus we wanted to dance, to feel the abandonment that punk rock promised and we wanted to be able to touch it and for most of us we wanted to help create that avenue of deliverance. For Jerry and I that meant having heroes, for both of us our heroes were not so much the kinds propagated on MTV or through Hollywood movies but the kind of people who you could sit down and have a beer with.  Ron, Dan and others along High Street had made music that was not just manufactured by companies out of town but were in fact very, very good. It meant the idea that the fellow selling you a quart of beer or serving you food could also be the one writing songs about your loneliness or the crush you had on that barmaid down the street. He may be actually be writing his songs about her.

We were not the kind to be blessed with beauty, we were not the captains of the football team or the cheerleaders but the ones who made wise-ass remarks and knew that high school wasn’t the best time of our lives, nor was it the worst, it was simply a time in our lives that had to exist. We had our defects whether they be physical, emotional or financial, we didn’t hide from them in fact we would grow to accent some of these whether it would be wearing outsized cheap glasses or writing songs with our hearts on our sleeves. Jerry would flat out say that he wouldn’t take his shirt off because his chest was concave, it was like “well big deal now that you told us just take the fucker off.”  We drank cheap beer because we had to, and we wore thrift store clothing not because it was fashionable but because we were broke, from shitty paying jobs and life choices that made our worlds a little less complicated and funnier than it really appeared to be.

I admired a man named Craig Regala who worked alongside his longtime girlfriend at Magnolia Thuderpussy records, I had an undying crush on her but with her being with him and at least twenty-six years old was way out of my league. When the north location of Magnolia’s closed, I hired Craig at Discount where we laughed at the insanity of a corporate record store. We would sometimes crouch below the counter as the other one rang up a pain-in-the-ass customer and pull our penises out and wiggle them around, just out of eye shot of the customer. Craig had about seventy-seven ear piercings in his ears and tattoos that didn’t consist of roses or naked ladies on his arms, he was funny as hell and insightful. He turned me onto Galaxie 500 and the fact that Mo Tucker of the Velvet Underground was playing Staches up the street. Craig would later start Datapanik, the direct inspiration for Anyway. He served as a bridge to the other side, when I was young and living with Jenny. He took interest in the classic country music I had been listening to for several years.  He didn’t laugh when I tried in vain to grow a well sculpted mutton chops like George Jones, in early 1988. I was living with Jenny and much of the life we knew consisted of drinking twelve packs, and prank phone calling pizza joints and eating at the Wendy’s salad bar was a night out.  We were introduced to a world where everybody made an impact, where the genius really did live next door. It opened up the world as if we were toddlers discovering the magnificence of the back yard.

When I asked Ron about the yellow $1 record I was holding in my hand, he said it was decent and that a customer from Dayton sold it.  The customer was the singer in the band. I took the record home and was impressed, not blown away, it lacked the sonic wonderment of their next few records but it was especially catchy, especially “Navigating Flood Regions”. In a few years Bob Pollard would make a bi-weekly journey to Used Kids to work with Mike “Rep” Hummel on his next couple of records and I would get to know him pretty well. He was like the rest of us, with a bit of the manic frenzy Jerry had but with a slight hint of some sort of autistic brilliance about him, he was funny, gentle and extremely eager. Gaunt would be the first band I knew to realize the talent of GBV when they recorded an excellent cover of “Quality of Armor” for a label called Bag of Hammers. Jerry and I loved it when Bob and some of the other Guided by Voices crew came up; they were always polite and deferential to us about music. We drank with them and Kevin Fennell didn’t drink, I was blown away by this because the others ones drank like we did, which meant a vast amount. The drinking didn’t appear to impair their lives as nurses, teachers and artists as it didn’t appear to adversely affect our lives as record-store dudes.

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part nine w/ photos

September 3, 2009

1991/92

Jerry loved to dance; he was in fact quite a good dancer, one who would let his emotions empty out of his body. I can see him today with his pointy teeth sticking below a grin cast towards the heavens, beer in one hand and the other hand raised high above his head.  I loved to dance to, every since I was fifteen and saw Michael Stipe doing the crooked-shimmy in a trench coat at Wittenberg University, I was directly in front of the stage and was mesmerized.  Michael Stipe was one of the first men besides my crazy Latin-American raised Uncles, who let himself go dancing. I figured if he can do it so can I. I am someone with very few inhibitions, to the chagrin of some and dancing always seemed natural.

Jerry and I bonded over our love of dancing, and we would go to Crazy Mama’s on the weekends and the Garage (Columbus’ biggest gay bar) during the week. So many of our friends in the underground rock scene were too self conscious to dance, and we both fused over the fact that we loved to shake our skinny almost transparent asses. Music was the escape for us, a way to close out the world and tie our emotions to something tangible yet ethereal a passage to our innerselves yet encapsulating the whole world. When we combined the music with movement, it heightened the moment, for both of us we would be in front of the stage for any show that was more important. The opportunity to be transported was too important to be standing in the back, hands in pockets, we never had sense for that sort of hesitancy if the music performed was that vital. Dancing was the same but not as intense as seeing a live band, but it provided us with the escape we so much coveted.

Crazy Mama’s at that point had seen its better days, this was early 1991 or so, and the club’s heyday had been in the mid-eighties. We had come upon its glamour only by the retelling of what seemed almost fantasized stories of the club from our local heroes Ron House, Dan Dow and Don Howland. They had held our attention with stories of playing and doing drugs with Paul Westerberg at Mr. Browns and then heading for some dancing and drug use at Crazy Mama’s.  To Jerry and me and its fair to add most members of the New Bomb Turks we held an almost godlike respect for the Columbus scene of the 80’s.  Jerry had paid tribute to that Columbus scene with the cover of the first Gaunt single, the cover was shot at Used Kids; Eric was a Great Plains t-shirt and Jerry was doing a Ron House pose. When we arrived at the Crazy Mama scene the bar was trying to stay alive, genuinely torn between new-wave gothic-ism and the more bass heavy twitterings of techno.  One never knew what one might hear when you stumbled up its steep staircase.

At times there would only be a few old (looking back now, I would guess they were mid to late 30’s) patrons, with slashing eighties haircuts and the weighted down or skinny (depending if the person chose alcohol, cocaine or heroin) jowls, eyes quickly scanning the stairwell, praying that 1986 would enter the room.  The glamour of Crazy Mama’s had faded like a bloated Elvis, but once in a while the club would be packed again and the sounds of Jesus and Mary Chain and The Cramps would rattle the rafters, like an old pitcher who suddenly is in the midst of tossing a no-hitter. On Thursday evenings the bar closed with the epically wonderfully gorgeous Felt song “Primitive Painters.” I imagine that “Primitive Painters” was written to capture the special feeling that only two a.m. can provide, when one is soaked with sweat, plastered with cigarette smoke and being filled with only the absolute freedom that alcohol once provided for so many of us.  Jerry adored Felt, as did I coming into their beauty via Jerry and Dan Dow. We would swirl across the sticky dance floor under the glow of a disgruntled aging disco ball and the world would be alright for five minutes, then the lights would come on, shattering the moment like an alarm clock at six a.m. or a phone call in the middle of sex.

One night Jerry and I were hanging out at Bernie’s and decided to head to Crazy Mama’s.  Matt Reber whom I just casually knew joined us, as we strolled through the waves of frat boys and sorority girls through the south campus jungle made up of bars such as Mother Fletcher’s, The Oar House, Papa Joes and other meat markets we laughed at our own seriousness and the silliness of the college students whom we perceived were so different than us. We arrived at Crazy Mamas already wasted, full of cheap Bernie’s draft beer and cigarettes. Making a bee-line towards an unfathomably great pinball game called Carnival we hunkered around it while drinking up the fortitude to hit the dance floor. Tonight Crazy Mama’s was packed.

Jerry was an energetic pinball player who practically dry-humped the machine when playing it, thrusting his hips into the game as if pinball was an erotic exercise. As we played Jerry and I started to talk about some of the songs he had been recording with Jenny, whom I had broken up with the previous year. He was amazed by her songs and I think he had a slight crush on her because he mentioned that he couldn’t go out with her because of our past history together. It was amazing that at that time we had a sense of chivalry towards one another because as time went by we no doubt slept with several of the same women. Matt finally chimed in and asked if we were talking about “Crazy Jenny?”  Jerry said “Yeah, that’s her.”  I had no idea whom they were referring to, but I knew Jenny was about as on the edge as anyone I had known. Matt went on, “Man, that chick is nuts. We knew her from the dorms, we see her at Larry’s sometimes. She writes songs?”  Jerry, eyeing the multi-ball, “yup, I recording some of them now.” “Christ,” I thought “Jenny has a reputation for being crazy.”

We made our way to the dance floor although the place was packed; the music was fairly shitty by our esteemed taste. Techno was starting its mini-revolution full of full on beats and the stuttering of synthesizers left us feeling annoyed and empty. Suddenly a moment of ridiculousness arrived, a gothic (as in mid-evil) song blared out of the speakers and the dance floor was filled with more black clothing than a funeral. It was called “O Fortuna”, a remixed techno version of a Carl Orff composition, it was as if The Omen downed a smart drink and took a hit of ecstasy. We were baffled by the overtly enthusiastic reception the song had, soon I started pacing the length of the dance floor, posed like Bela Lugosi with an imaginary cape draped over my face.  Soon, Jerry and Matt joined me; we were jostled and scowled at, which just made us laugh harder. We could sense no joy in the other dancers which just propagated more laughter; we were eventually told to leave the dance floor. In hindsight it was probably the only time that ever happened at Crazy Mama’s. Matt went back a week later and half the crowd was doing the vampire dance.

We took great pleasure in thumbing our noses at others whom we didn’t see eye to eye with, Jerry more so than myself. For him it was an art form, even if it meant mocking an entire dance floor of vampire worshipers. If you had a balloon Jerry would be obliged to pop it, sometimes with hilarious results and at other times it would go over like a shriveled penis.

Photo’s Jerry Wick & Jenny Mae

September 2, 2009
Jenny Mae & Jeff Regensburger (jeff was also in Gaunt, photo Jay Brown)

Jenny Mae & Jeff Regensburger (jeff was also in Gaunt, photo Jay Brown)

September 2, 2009
Jerry Wick & Bela Koe-Krompecher (Jay Brown photo)

Jerry Wick & Bela Koe-Krompecher (Jay Brown photo)