Archive for March, 2010

Jerry Wick & Jenny Mae part 28: Jerry Dies

March 20, 2010

Jerry Dies.

One morning I woke up to the alarm, NPR and Bob Edwards were talking to a room full of static sleep, I had a slight headache not too much of a hangover but enough to hit the snooze button and see how the other end of the pillow looked. Every morning the NPR station spends a few moments announcing local news and this particular morning wasn’t any different. “An unnamed bicyclist was killed early this morning by a hit and run driver near the Ohio State Campus. A body was found on the intersection of Hudson and North Fourth Street and the pedestrian was later pronounced dead at The Ohio University Hospital.” I blinked open my eyes, “wow, that is right at the end of our street. I may know that person,” I thought as I shimmied under the blankets. My wife nudged me a little, “did you hear that.” “Yeah,” I groaned. She got out of bed, left soon after and in a while I was showered, drinking my pot of coffee and reading the newspaper.

I drove to work; I had to be there at eleven a.m., so I had a leisurely morning and ambled in through the front door of Used Kids. With one look at Ron, I realized that something was amiss. He had a stern look on his face; he mouth was taunt and flat. He glanced up at me and said “Bela, I have some terrible news….Jerry Wick was killed last night. The police just left here.” I stared at him in disbelief. I groaned a little, making some weird sort of animal noise that would have no doubt caused a grin from Jerry. “Well, that can’t be I saw him last night, we hung out here.” Ron shook his head, “I guess he got hit by a car, right by your house.” So, I did know that guy from the radio. I ran to the back room, buried my head in my hands and wept for a few moments. The tears falling awkwardly out of my body as I have never been a weeper, I felt the uneasiness of myself all round my being and wanted to be anywhere but where I was. Be anybody than who I was. I picked up the phone and called my wife. She was sweet, and said she would come home. I told her not to bother, I would stay at work. I didn’t know what else to do. It was too early to start drinking.

I then picked up the phone and called Jenny, she herself made a similar sound as I did. She was now living in Miami. She couldn’t believe it. She asked me to call her back when I knew the funeral plans; I knew she could not afford to return for the funeral. I walked back into the store, got another coffee and sat at the back counter. Staring straight ahead. Soon, many of Jerry’s friends around Columbus were phoning the store and dropping in. Dan Dow came in, looking a bit shell shocked as we all slowly digested Jerry’s death. Jim from the New Bomb Turks came by with Brett Lewis and we soon headed up to BW-3 and started drinking. Soon thereafter Ron joined us, it was quite the shitty day. Cold, gray and stupid.

Details began to surface, Jerry had spent most of the previous day at Used Kids with me and Mike Rep. We had started drinking around five and he shuffled between the annex and Used Kids until a little after eight. We were in a pleasant mood, Jerry happy to be working as a cook for a semi-upscale diner in the Short North and he had started recording again. He was making extra money selling some of his records on the ever-burgeoning E-Bay market under the moniker of Monkey-Pizza. He had recently purchased a small GI Bill built house in a neighborhood just across the freeway from Clintonville. He was patching up a long strained relationship with his parents who were helping him fix up the house and spending time with him. After a few beers at Larry’s, Jerry asked me to stay and hang out but I had designed a very strict regiment to help keep my own alcohol consumption in check. I did not drink on certain days, nor did I allow myself to be taken off this schedule. It was quite testament to my will power that evening to be able to decline his offer at nine pm as there is no doubt that I had already drank five or six beers. I drove home and had a later dinner with my wife.

Jerry had spent the rest of the evening between Larry’s and BW-3, some people said they saw him at Bernie’s but in any manner he bought himself a pizza and started to bicycle home. Balancing the pizza on his handle bars, dressed entirely in black he coasted down the slight incline of 4th Avenue onto Hudson Street. There he was met by a small compact car, whose driver having his windshield smashed by Jerry’s upper body, drove off into the night leaving Jerry paralyzed by the side of the road with a broken neck. The driver would later turn himself in; explaining to Columbus Police that he thought someone threw a rock at his windshield. Needless to say, a large swath of the community doubted this explanation while the man got off with a minor violation. He later tried to sue both Jerry’s family and Used Kids for defamation, all in all a pretty stand up guy.

I was in shock for a good while, not only had I lost one of the best friend’s in my entire life, a person who helped bring me back from the brink of death several times but someone who had the same sense of cynical humor and love of music that I had. I thought of him continuously. His death brought an immediate effect on how I lived my own life, in the decisions I had made and were continuing to make. The past ten years had come too quickly and had ended in disarray, disappointment and death. Jerry was the fourth person that I had been involved with both musically and personally who had died in a sixteen month period.  His death followed the overdose of Jack Taylor from Monster Truck 005, the mysterious traffic death of Chris Wilson of Monster Truck 005 and then the suicide of Jim Shepard. Besides, Jenny had moved to Miami and had appeared to have given up on music for the lure of dive bars in Coconut Grove.  My life was veritable shit sandwhich.

I had started to doubt my own drinking, it wasn’t getting the results it once had and over the course of several years it had become a glaring issue between my wife and I. I hesitated every time I ordered a drink and was unsure of myself. I had also started partaking in other sorts of unsavory and dangerous activities that were by no means helpful to my mental well being. I felt like the Phil Ochs song “The Scorpion Departs but Never Returns” with an ongoing chorus of “tell me I’m not drinking, tell me I’m not drinking” kept on loop in my mind. There was a line crossed somewhere, it was unknown and invisible but there was a space where one world had ended and another had begun. There was no known equation to determine when this happened but it was somewhere along the meandering path that we all took collectively together. Music was our map, with alcohol and sex our compass we drifted in and out of one another’s lives like the thoughts that raced in our minds. Sometimes overwhelming ourselves as we tasted one epic night after another but soon the redundancy of the chase left us tired, spent and vacant of the promise that once fueled our lives. The cyncism was setting in, shaking away the confidence that was the feature of our very beings as we beamed from barstools and from the front of cramped wooden stages that provided up the platform for us to broadcast the inventions of our thoughts. I had become as clouded as the dark beer and whiskey that powered my life, and yet I was barely past thirty and my friends were dead or dying.

There were certainties in my life, aspects that were as dependable as a new car starting up, these consisted of the love of my wife, music, alcohol and friendship. In a few short years these would all be tossed into the meat grinder of experience and I would at times come to question not only the power of these dimensions of my life but also my own ability to interact with them. There was a thread that connected all of them, I knew this to be alcohol, this and music were the constant. Although, I had by now ended such musical endeavors as promoting shows and putting out music, for the most part I was only seeing a handful of shows that I used to attend. A great many times I would lurch towards High Street with the purpose of seeing live music either at Little Brothers or Bernie’s but I usually only made it as far as Larry’s. There the allure of the bottom of the bottle was too great for me to push myself away from the barstool into a night filled with the dramatic crescendo’s of 4/4 drum beats and ringing guitars. My life had come to a slow but definitive change and my friend was dead. I was breaking by degrees.

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part 27: Drinking

March 10, 2010

1999-2002 Drinking

It was a sunny afternoon day, listening to Lucinda William’s “Car Wheels on Gravel Road” at the record store and Jerry popped in. It was one of those afternoons that tasted like perfection, with enough breeze to take the bite out of the sunshine and keep the sweat off the back of one’s ankles. I was nursing a Black Label that was stashed under the counter and drinking a black coffee. I always referred to this as my poor man’s speedball, which was so much like me to make a reference to something I had never done (cocaine or heroin). Business was lagging behind the few clouds in the sky, drifting across the afternoon, marking an invisible chalk outline around the deadened time between lunch and the busy early evening hours.

Jerry lived just a few footfalls from the store, he was still living above Larry’s and his job at Used Kids was tenuous at that juncture. He was pursuing Gaunt full-time but the money the band was making wasn’t enough to support him quitting. Although Gaunt had a briefcase full of positive press clippings, toured Europe, done multiple cross country US tours and had four full-length records out; none of these managed to put any money in anybody’s pocket. Jerry loved the store, it was the nails that held our collective clubhouse together, while the music was the glue and store put a physical place to meet, share and feel a part of something more tangible than just the sound of three chords and Rolling Rock.

Jerry had somewhat of a contentious relationship with Ron House at this time, while both Jerry and I had tremendous respect for Ron as an artist and an intellectual we both sometimes bristled over Ron’s management style. This is not entirely fair to Ron, as we all had such strong personalities we tended to bristle under the sheer force of our own personalities. Ron loved the store, even more so than Jerry and I and he wanted it to do well, as it was the one stable entity in our collective lives. Jerry being in a touring rock band was not the easiest antecedent for this. His hours were cut.

Jerry came down that afternoon and asked me to take a walk with him, finishing my beer I asked Lamont “Bim” Thomas to man the fort for half an hour. I told him to call Larry’s if I was needed. Jerry and I walked down the street and got another coffee and then turned heel and walked past the record store, carrying our two black coffee’s we entered Larry’s and ordered a couple of beers. It was three pm or so. Along the way Jerry told me of some of the friction in Gaunt, there were a few personality issues with one of the members and rumors of infidelity of his girlfriend. As we carried the coffee, Jerry’s lower lip fluttered and he wept for a few moments. Flabbergasted, I turned to him with some concern as he only cried when he was very drunk. When this happened it was not unusual for a small funk to hover over the area of the bar he was nestled in, his personality so strong that he could change the air pressure. His energy was that epic in scope.

Peeling the label off my beer as I was accustomed to do, forming a small minor art project with the dark bottle and the gluey underside of the bottle’s logo I waited to listen to what else Jerry had to say. We had grown apart the past few years, the cord of our friendship had grown tattered and faded as we both pursued women, art and a lifestyle that had at one time brought us so close together but had almost at this point left it completely asunder. I knew this was serious as he hadn’t confided with me in some time, he thought my closeness to my future wife was a betrayal to my safety. He must have envisioned me as a life-long bachelor. Jerry looked at me after taking a pull of his beer, “I can’t quit drinking” was all he said. I was shocked, “what do mean.” I held a belief that stated “why would anyone want to stop.” Jerry was serious though, I felt it in his speech and his look. He looked straight ahead and said “now, that I’ve had this one I’ll be here, BW-3 and in my room all night.” He went further explaining that he had gotten hooked on five o-clock trivia at BW-3; the hot wings franchise served enormous glasses of beer at happy hour and few in an hour was comparable to a six-pack. He said this combined with living above Larry’s and High Street had him out all the time. He was scared. I had no idea what to say.

My own drinking had actually settled down, after some contentious arguments with my girlfriend, I had basically given up doing any sort of shots. I usually settled on one type of drink during the course of the night (Maker’s Mark, beer or vodka-cranberry). I had also stopped promoting as many rock and roll shows so I was only drinking about three nights a week. On off nights, I usually wouldn’t drink at all. I asked Jerry if he tried this and he said he had but something had always come up, someone was in town or someone asked him to go for a happy hour drink. This I could relate to, as being known as a drinker it was easy to be found out by some other lonely soul looking for someone to share an hour with as the sun hid from the stars. I was fortunate to live with my girlfriend a mile from campus. Jerry did not have this luxury.

After our drinks, I left him there at the bar, walked back to the store and continued my own thirsty travel into the night. I am sure Jerry walked his own soaked road that night.

In late August of 2001, I got a call from my friend Jim. My wife and I were separated, she was teaching at a large state University in Florida. I was busy completely deconstructing my life, one drink at a time. I had left the store travelled to Larry’s and Dick’s Den and made it home by midnight. The minute I walked in the door, the phone rang. “Dude, Jim Stone is having a hot-tub party behind his house.” Jim Stone was a campus figure, manning the bar at Bernie’s and Dow’s on High, Jim’s girth was superseded by his easy going nature; a permanent grin on his face. “I’m there” I slurred into the phone.

The hot-tub sat behind the North Campus Taco Bell on the edge of a sordid alley, I arrived and quickly peeled off my clothes. Somehow the hot tub wasn’t just as bubbly as it should have been. Apparently the party was on its fourth day as the hot tub was rented for the Friday night. It was a cool evening, almost frigid in fact and I quickly ignored the thin layer of human grease and grim that shrouded the surface of the muddied water.

As I slipped into the tub I took a gander at my bath mates, Jim Stone was next to me; naked with the exception of a cowboy hat, next to him were a few female bartenders who had defiantly seen the better part of the extended weekend. To my right was a nice enough fellow who was the lead singer for an operatic-inspired rock band. I had never seen him without a hat, he had a startling resemblance to Riff-Raff from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” as his long hair drooped past his shoulders and his completely bald head acted like a shimmering dance floor for the moonbeams that sauntered around it. There was another, younger man whom I didn’t know. I felt completely pathetic.

After a few beers, the water was feeling cooler and the shame within me rose higher. I contemplated my wife waiting for me in the suffocating sun of Gainesville and the fact that here I was naked in an alley behind Taco Bell. I left the tub, shaking the water off of me, got in my car and drove home. “What the fuck am I doing” I thought as I drove home, the shame was deep enough to peel my skin. I resigned to do something different. As I put the key in my front door I looked down to notice that I was only wearing a white tee-shirt. Just a poof of pubic hair jutting out from the edges of shirt as the August temperature dipped into the forties. “Fuck,” I thought. I climbed back into the car and drove back to the party to retrieve my clothes. Failing to run inside and put some shorts or pants on. Life was a complete mess. Arriving back, I listened to the cat-calls from the tub “Bela, you idiot, you forgot to put your clothes on.” Shaking my head, “I know I muttered to the ground. I know.”  It would be another few months before I would end this sort of behavior