Jerry Wick & Jenny Mae: Vibralux and Norwich


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.

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One Response to “Jerry Wick & Jenny Mae: Vibralux and Norwich”

  1. Junebug Says:

    Hi Bela. Long time, no? A long time ago. I hope all us well! I just read Z’s Xmas letter to Tony’s.

    – luvbug

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