There is Nothing More

Pretense served on half shells in summer hallways flowing with warm breeze curtains in the dusty afternoons of helplessness.

Birds startled, awake to shotgun symphony, spring from trees like paint from Jackson’s brushes, then tethering back to simple and familiar. Unquestioning.

Vampire bats and a Cleveland Cop

She was attractive enough, as far as those things go.

She and friends were loud. It was like, when they were children, no one listened to them. So they just began to talk louder and louder until, one day, one of their parents yelled, “Shut up!” And they felt strangely warm inside because they had finally been noticed. A member of the family, at last.

We were camping with our neighbors. The father was a cop that worked in the worst part of Cleveland. He had been shot a few times and liked telling us kids those stories.

He was always the first man in after the door was kicked down. Once he was shot 3 times in one incident. We went to visit him after he got out of the hospital. My mother brought him a large 3-pound rock with a hole in the middle that she ran a rope through and told him it was a good luck charm. He wore it around his neck the entire afternoon as my mother, father, the cop that got shot and his wife all drank beer and talked, on the front porch.

We were walking through the woods near the campsite and we could see a swarm of bats flying above us. One of the neighbor kids (a girl I would later buy  my pot from) pointed up and her father (the cop who was always getting shot) said they were bats and that when he was a kid, walking through these same woods, a bat flew down and started biting his friend. He said they had to pry the bat off  his friend’s chest with a crowbar.

I must have looked terrified. I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old. My father looked back over his shoulder and said, “That never happened.”

Prague 2am

It could have been anywhere for all I cared. But it was Prague. Might as well have been Mars. I hadn’t slept more than a few hours in the last week or month, it’s difficult to say. I finally arrived at the destination I set for myself 20 years ago and that old phrase “be careful what you wish for” was ringing in my ears. Mostly the left ear, which rings constantly from all the years of playing stage right. The drummer’s crash cymbal is always in that ear.

We arrived after dark, which is how we enter most towns we have a gig in. You learn to sleep a little while sitting in the van. 5 minutes maybe, 15 when you’re lucky. But you never really get rested. In Prague, they brought us to the promoter’s flat (apartment). She had a small dog with one eye. I don’t remember his name. They had a nice spread of food waiting for us. She had chips and salsa. Being a rock and roll band from LA, chips and salsa in Eastern Europe is as rare as precious stones.

We were playing some kind of festival that night. It was 10 pm and we were not scheduled to go on for  for another 2 or 3 hours. You might think that would be a great moment to catch up on a little sleep, but the longer you go without sleep the harder it gets to find any. Like the wanting and desire for sleep push it away. I try anyway.

It’s a one-bedroom flat so I wander into the bedroom – which was supposed to be completely off limits to the guys in the bands. I open the door and my drummer and bass player are in bed. Asleep! How the drummer sleeps is a mystery because the bass player snores so loud it’s like trying to sleep in the same room as a car crash. Complete with screaming victims. I go back out into the main room to sit with the one eyed dog and watch the rest of the rock and rollers party. Alcoholics have athletic endurance.

When it’s our time to go on, two handlers from the club come and get us. We walk to the club which is a couple of blocks away. It’s 2 am and cold. My achy body tightens in the cold air. My feet slip a little on the cobblestone street. I look down and think about the people who have walked on this same cobblestone street for hundreds of years. I look up along the tall buildings and see the winter sky. I can see my breath. I hug myself tight holding my jacket closed. Over my shoulder I see the singer of the Death Rock band I am playing with. He is wearing a black cape with a hood. His face is painted like a Día de los Muertos skull. I laugh a little at the ridiculousness of it all as it freezes as a moment in time.

The club is jam packed. They walk us all directly to the stage. I grab my guitar and turn on the amp. The club is warm, dark and full of moist cigarette smoke. My hands are shaking as I play a little on my guitar. It’s the lack of sleep. The shaking has been with me the entire tour. You learn to play by muscle memory and hope for the best. The drummer counts in the first song and we are on a moving train. It’s like being pulled by your belly into a storm, your head whips back.

I look out into the audience and people are looking at us. I look back and it seems connected and completely disconnected in the same moment. I notice they are all singing the words to our songs. It’s strange. What language do they speak here? We’re playing a song we wrote on the floor of my one-room apartment in LA and a room full of people in some other part of the world are singing along. I smile for a moment which is a no-no in a death rock band, but I’m a rebel. I’m not tired. The songs are nearly playing themselves. My feet hold the stage hard and I feel the rotation of the earth. The earth seems small and large in the same moment.