Archive for October, 2013

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae “nothing in particular”

October 19, 2013

“nothing in particular” 1989–2013

The crackle of the needle would lift a sour mood into the upper regions of sesmatic joy, as the grooves of the black spinning  vinyl record would magically propel the music into the stylus, somehow by magic still to these ears I would be transported from the whatever displaced atmosphere was churling inside of me into somewhere brighter. It was the simplest escape I knew,  it didn’t involve medication, money or the awkwardness of feelings or sex. There were inherent aspects to hoarding and collecting records, some of which involved the sense of protection of security the music offered, the records subconsciously involving varying emotional states. Like a child who clutches his stuffed animals these round flattened globs of wax, provided more security than anything else I knew. Certainly more than the affection of others, who could be prone to discard my affections as if they were a Styrofoam cup.

The advantage of music and books over relationships was obvious, music didn’t hurt and there was no risk involved. During my teenage years, fraught with hours spent inside by bedroom reading Kurt Vonnegut, science fiction and heady literature, listening to R.E.M.’s “Murmur” and Lou Reed incessantly I burrowed deep into the past via my favorite companions, namely my stuff. I would daydream into the future, where I plotted my escape from oppressive small-town Ohio to the greater pastures of opportunity. Namely college, either in Athens or Columbus and maybe one, day New York. Reading Rolling Stone, Spin and music related biographies, fueled the idea that anything was possible. “for Christ-sakes,” I thought, “Lou Reed can’t sing a lick and look at him.” He had quickly become my hero, and when the Velvet Underground catalog was re-issued in the mid-eighties I gobbled them up. My senior year of high school, I traveled to Cleveland and saw Lou play the Music Hall and waited patiently with arms clutching half of his cut-out bin catalog for his signature. “Glad you’re a fan,” he mumbled as he scrawled his name across “Street Hassle” and “The Bells.”

Lou was much smaller in stature than I had thought, in my teenage mind he was taller, not only did I picture him as a taller, he had now had a larger-than life image in my mind. At that time, Lou was doing advertisements for Honda scooters and with his dark sunglasses he was the epitome of cool. He stood in front of me, shorter than me, peering over his sunglasses as beads of sweat poured down his face, and his hands slightly shook as he held my records. Looking back, he was in his mid-forties the same age as me and he was totally human. This made sense and did not diminish my attraction to him, it was the humanness of the Velvet Underground, and punk rock, in general that I found solace in. There was no fantasizing about the men and women who had provided me sanctuary, they were as real as my awkward seventeen year old feelings felt to me. Singing about everything but getting their dicks sucked and fucked as most of the bands on the radio sang about, I could relate to it.

Moving into the expansive city of Columbus, after settling in, moving around and enmeshing myself into the record store scene, the dreams of moving to New York or even attending college slipped away. The days were filled with records, and the nights were filled with live music. In between there was reading, writing, painting and long conversations about music and sometimes about music. Jerry thought politics were stupid and it didn’t take any prompting for him to offer this opinion. “It doesn’t fucking matter who is President, they are all fucking idiots. I think it’s stupid to even fucking vote.” When I offered that perhaps going to war was important as my brother was in the service, “not my fucking problem, dude.” Jerry would say and blow a long stream of smoke in my direction. “God-damnit Jerry, why do you have to be such an asshole?” I’d yell across the table at him, during the first Gulf War I had a good friend who was in one of the first battalions to have troops on the ground. Jon, called me several times from Kuwait, “shit man, I saw a bunch of burned bodies today. It was like something out of a movie, these people were just like charcoal. Some still had guns in their hands, they fucking never knew what was coming.” Jon would call me at Used Kids, and when I’d get off the phone I would pointedly look at Jerry, “that’s my buddy calling from Kuwait, he’s in the fucking war.” Jerry would look at me blankly, “not my problem dude, your buddy shouldn’t have joined the fucking Army!” and then he would turn tail and space out at the back counter.

Jenny would climb aboard whatever make believe spacecraft she had hovering in her head, usually fueled by abstract ideas that had a modicum of truth in them she would click out and disappear. “Hey Laz, check it out” and she would lead upstairs to a place that used to be our bedroom and was now either a green house or a recording studio. “Where the fuck is our bed?” I’d stammer. “Oh it’s in the closet, don’t you like my garden. I think I can grow some tomatoes up here. I bought some grow plants, we can grow weed as well, but I know you don’t care for it. I think you have to hang it out to dry or something,” she would mention, her voice trailing off.

“How the hell did you buy them? With what money?”

“I got paid, dumbass.”

“We have to pay fucking rent, what the hell are you thinking?”

“Relax, you get paid this week so we can use that.”

“What about food, utilities and car insurance, are you out of your fucking mind?” I would blurt out, “God-damnit Jenny, what fucking planet are you on?”

“You know, this is why you will never get fucking laid when I leave you Bela,       you are so fucking serious, a fucking drag. It’s always money this, politics this, bullshit. You are no fucking fun, here I thought you would love to have a garden          in the house and you just bitch.”

“This garden is in the mother-fucking attic! Who the fuck grows tomatoes in their fucking attic, in fucking March?! and doesn’t pay their rent?!”

“Fuck you Bela, I’m going to go have fun and YOU are not invited!”

With that she would go to my wallet, grab whatever cash I had and leave. Later, after listening to records and having a few drinks I would mosey down to Larry’s and meet up with her. She would be surrounded by men, and as I scooted in next to her, glaring at whatever philosophy student was trying to get in her pants, all was forgiven. “Thank God, you got here, that guy wouldn’t leave me alone” she would say. This was shoveled into me and was swallowed whole, only to ferment for years on end.

The world was small and we all felt big, which is much different from how the days tumble and run roughshod over one another now, as they jockey for leverage every compact twenty-four hours elbow out everything else so that even finding car keys becomes a shouting match. Ideas flashed across the thick chunks of wood that made up the booths of Larry’s, all were brilliant until the gushed from dense alcohol breath and then they would splatter against the force of laughter or blown up into plans if they managed to catch aflame. At times, I felt like Zelig, the Woody Allen character who somehow appeared magically in every substantial event in the early and mid 20th Century except I was a Zelig to the people who crafted my record collection or shaped my books.

Most people never get to share a dinner with those who are the soundtrack to their lives and the community I felt fostered this, everything was approachable and in some way probably help lay the groundwork for the ability to communicate through the internet. Based on the fact that those who hide beneath the surface need the reassurance of their peers, whether it is the solace in listening to Skip Spence or reading The Offense, Conflict, Wind-Up or Chickfactor, the knowing of familiarity bought you your entrance into a better and kinder world than what was outside of your record collection, comics and paperbacks.

Madness abounds in all areas, what was viewed as the eccentricities of youth are now viewed the clinical expertise of years of social work practice and a $100,000 education. Examining the past through the perspective of craggy years spent on multiple bar stools, at the foot of wooden stages only inches from the ground and the muttering absent minded father that I’ve evolved in, is dangerous and laughable at times. The toll of mental illness has been staggering in my personal life, from my own sullen bouts of depression and need for absolute and constant affirmation (usually given through laughter, formerly offered through sex—as only the touch and freedom of bodies could relieve the doubt in a man who traversed the thin path of mortality on a daily basis), to those of my closest friends and comrades. Jenny’s consistent upheaval is obvious, as her passage through life has lead into something akin to a Hieronymus Bosch painting with a soundtrack by Brian Wilson, to the dark despair of Jerry whom I can recall vividly clutching a Black Label while sitting at a barstool at Larry’s one night, globs of bulbous tears pouring down his face while he shook and said, “I can’t quit fucking drinking.” I see the wreckage it has hammered to some of my closest friends even today who, it appears flock to me because of my profession. I witness it daily in my line of work, as I process the staggering rates of childhood sexual abuse to dropping out of school and then untreated mental illness and addiction into criminal behavior.

At the end of nearly every day I climb aboard an exercise machine, put my headphones on, and run it all away. I’m still running.



this is amazing:

new favorite, thanks to Matt Sweeney