The Dust Cloud Arrives
I don’t remember much about that night. It comes in bits and pieces, fading in and out of black. Not only because it was 30-something years ago, but, because I was highly intoxicated. I remember Keith was yelling at me, as we spun out of a neighborhood on the south side of town and got on Petaluma Hill Road. I remember the smell of regurgitated Jack Daniels permeating up my neck after I puked on the shoulder.
It was still daylight when Keith picked me up at Leza’s. I hadn’t seen much of him since I took him back to Tennessee with me the previous Christmas. Now it was late September, and I was beginning to rage. The frustration concerning the band had turned into anger. When we reconnected, he told me some surprising news.
“Hey Kev, guess what … I’m moving to your homeland.”
“What? Tennessee? No way!” I said.
“Believe it, dude. I’ve been in touch with your friend Greg all year. He said I could stay with him for a while until I figure things out.”
“I gotta get out of this place, Kev. I’ve been going in circles with the traffic courts for years. California can bite me.”
Our trouble spree began the weekend before at a McDonald’s drive-thru when Keith got peppered sprayed for trying to hit the employee at the window after he refuse to serve us for spitting on the menu. When the cops came I thought for sure we’d go to jail. There were empty beer bottles on the floorboard of the car and the skunky stench of Indica buds wafted from the interior. But Keith’s burning eyes had him on his knees, and in such a dramatic frenzy that the cops let me drive him to a park nearby to rinse them in the fountain. That should’ve been enough stupidity for a while, but the wild hairs of disgruntled youth grew wilder, fast.
I was pissed off and complaining that the band was done, that no one was showing up anymore. That all the work and money I put into the horse stall studio was in vain. A sympathetic Keith decided to call Jeff on my behalf, and after a second of niceties, told him that he was “blowing it” and that “Kev’s gonna move on if you and Uwe don’t get your shit together.” Keith handed the phone to me and an angry Jeff said, “I don’t need Keith telling me what to do, fuck this bullshit.” And I said, “Exactly. Fuck this shit,” and hung up.
Just being in a car with Keith was a gamble. He had just gotten out of jail for a slew of traffic violations and was still driving illegally. But we upped the ante, and drove straight to Safeway for liquor and beer, then hit a few parties Keith had heard about. With my attitude and his delinquencies, we were rolling on a knifes edge, the perfect combo for some bad luck. I was wearing a black turtle-neck shirt, and a scowl, that, once the whiskey reached the label, there was no undoing. Keith kept telling me to cheer up and have fun. By the time we got to the last party, things had gotten real blurry, the dark gray just before a blackout. We were among the minority in a neighborhood I’d never been to. In a nutshell, and for the lack of a clear and sober recollection; they kicked us out, words were exchanged; I said some derogatory things, and at one fell swoop, went from frustrated musician, to hillbilly redneck.
I woke up in the middle of the night, nauseous, the vile toxins churning my stomach. The only light was framing the closed bathroom door as if I’d already been in there. After puking my guts out, I got in the shower, avoiding the mirror. Something was touching my butt. I reached around and grabbed a gob of hair. It kept falling out. The shower floor looked like a flooded barber shop. I began seeing flashes of the night … the punches and kicks and the guys grip on my head, holding me in place while everyone took a shot, and Keith saying, “please stop, he’s drunk, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.” I stuck my finger down my throat, heaving up the green stomach acids, trying to purge myself of whatever poison that was inside me. My body ached and my face was busted and swollen. When the sun rose, the morning’s light illuminated the blood and hair stuck on the turtle neck, on the sheets and pillow. I tossed the shirt in the garbage and borrowed one from Keith. As parts of the night came back, a shamefulness filled my chest. I thought, well no one will ever know except me and Keith. Then, through the murk of that bloodshot morning another piece came to me. A girl I knew was there, and Mike’s friend, John, who cried when I played my song in the horse stall.
Since Jeff and I weren’t speaking, and Uwe moved to Cotati and worked 24/7, I really had no one to confide in. I stayed out of sight for a couple of weeks until my face healed up. I had been trying to get back in touch with Ols. I was sure his playing and singing could inject some new life into the band, and get us pumped again, if I could just get us all in the same room.
Larry said he saw him on the corner of 4th and Pierce Street, wearing nothing but a beach towel and shades, and that he was living with Haun. No one seemed to have Haun’s number so I kept driving up and down 4th street until I saw him myself in front of the apartment building, no doubt waiting for some chicks to drive by. Ols looked like he was born on a surfboard, straight out of a Sunkist commercial. He kept his belongings neatly arranged in a Wham-O Frisbee; several pairs of shades, necklaces, bracelets, toothbrush, a one-hit pipe and guitar picks. He had a bass, somewhere; probably at his mom’s in the valley. After we’d jammed in the horse stall (when Mike was a no show) we became fast friends and began sharing song ideas. Ols was hard to keep track of, but no matter where he was, there always seemed to be a stringed instrument nearby. He was chock full of confidence, like the leader of a gang. Although he was a year younger, I clung to him like a big brother. His friendship was no doubt taking the place of Jeff’s.
Haun didn’t care for me, so I’d usually show up after he split for work. He and Ols were selling pot and making a good deal of money. The apartment was perpetually dark, one corner illuminated by an arcade sized Asteroid video game. Haun had a guitar and amp that he was stingy about. He let Ols play it, but if I asked to play it, he’d usually say no. Sometimes he’d say yes, and then after I played a couple minutes, he’d ask for it back and sit it on its stand. I brought my acoustic over. I’d sit and play, patiently waiting until the pot deals were done so Ols and I could work on a song. Their supplier and main customer was a guy named Shadrick. He was a real life Shaggy from Scooby-Do, straight out of 1975. He’d show up wearing a bong necklace. Ols and Haun had their scales set up on a coffee table, meticulously weighing out weed by lamp light, like nerdy lab technicians while Shadrick tried to render an Allman Brothers song on my acoustic. With the pot money they bought an 8-ball of cocaine. That’s when things got crazy. It was the first time any of us had pulled a bender. We’d stay up all night, listening to music, playing darts, and Asteroids, side-tracked by long rails of blow that blitzed any attempt of song creation. Shadrick stopped by early one morning and we were still up, jaws clenched, our pupils the size of peas. When he saw the lines on the mirror he said, “Dudes, don’t fuck with the white stuff; that shit is evil.” He was right.
It was around this time that I saw Davy Vain across the crowded lobby at The Stone in San Francisco. He put his hand to his ear like a telephone to gesture that he needed to talk to me. Back in town, word got back to me that Davey wanted me try out for the lead guitar spot for his new band, Vain. Davy had already recruited my friends Tommy and John for his rhythm section. A guy I hardly knew named Danny was also playing guitar. Tommy was excited that I was involved and gave me a copy of Davey’s demo tape which was produced by Kirk Hammett. Although the songs were well written and had good hooks, I thought Davy’s voice was pitchy. I wasn’t so sure I could get past it. Tommy told me, “Yeah, but Davy’s really working hard and getting better.” And he was right. Vain had their shit together right out of the gate. A girl named Kat who promoted local shows at the River Theatre was their manager. They were making connections in LA and trying to book gigs down there. They talked up a band called Guns N’ Roses and wanted to model themselves after them. At the try-out, everyone seemed happy that I was there. I brought my Strat copy that I won in the guitar battle a couple years earlier. I’d just spray painted it black and yellow. I didn’t have a case for it and walked in wearing it on my shoulder. Davey’s Marshall half-stack was set up and ready to go. I plugged straight in without any effects pedals, not even a tuner. In fact, I wouldn’t own a guitar tuner until the turn of the next century. We went over the 5 songs on the demo. Whenever I strayed from the rhythm pattern and put in a riff, Dave would chide me and say “stick with the recorded version of the song, and don’t do all that Van Halen stuff.” I wasn’t very good at keeping it simple and people telling me how to play. I was full of myself, and slightly offended. We went over the songs a couple more times, and then drank some beer and talked about the image they wanted to project. I didn’t really know they were going for a New York Dolls thing until they started looking at my hair and saying, “oh yeah, we can do all kinds of stuff with that.” They said I would need a stage name, too, like Kevy Kev … that Abernathy wasn’t gimmicky enough. I was too uptight to play along and left shortly after. Tommy called me the next day to see what I thought, and I told him I was going to pass. Chuck, the guy I roadied for the night they opened for Exodus, ended up their lead guitar player. Davey was a good songwriter and I could’ve learned a few things from him, but even if his voice improved, I just couldn’t see myself with the big hair and make-up. A couple years later they were signed to Island Records. A year after that, I was watching their video on MTV in an apartment in Knoxville, slightly, but not overly regretful. I was excited for them.
I stuck with my plan to write songs with Ols and get him in the band. But it proved to be even more difficult when he moved in with a guy named Bobby and started dealing cocaine. Pioneer 2000 was a new apartment complex on the west side of the freeway. It was 8 buildings on a big and flat tract of land with nothing around it but fields of fescue. By coincidence, everyone seemed to migrate over there. Jeff and his girlfriend moved in across the way from Bobby, and Lauren and Kathy, who were friends of friends, lived 2 doors down. They hosted a party about every weekend. So for several months everyone was hanging at Pioneer 2000. I followed Ols over there with my guitar and amp, but the distractions were 10 times worse than Haun’s place. Because when you do cocaine, that’s all you do, until it’s gone. The same 10 customers would come knocking 3 or 4 times a night and into the morning. When they ran out of money, they’d bring personal items to barter with. The apartment began looking like a pawn shop. There were bikes, an archery set, ghetto blasters, even a canary tweeting in a cage. We turned into vampires, tweaking until sun rise, and crashing until late afternoon. We’d be slamming beers for breakfast because sleeping is impossible when your heart’s beating like Tommy Lee.
When Keith and I started hanging out again, I lost contact with Ols. He and Mike were running together, and that made it hard to get something going musically, because although Mike was playing with Intense, technically, he was still our bass player.
But it was sometime before Keith left for Tennessee, toward the end of our hell raising, that the four of us went to the river in Healdsburg.
Unlike prior events, where the passage of time can leave the past out of focus, these pictures are magnified and vivid as the day it happened. I can still see the gray and overcast sky, an almost colorless day in an otherwise blue tinted summer. It was the usual spot where I’d spent many an afternoon with Leza and the rest of our gang, just below the Palomar dam where we’d lie on the shore, listening to tunes, and soaking up the sun. Sometimes we’d walk up to the small dam and climb down a ladder to the concrete slab. There was a sign warning against it but we all did it anyway. You could go under the 5-foot waterfall and sit and talk and drink your beer. On this particular day, the water was unusually swift and loud. The concrete felt slimy underfoot as I walked out to where the guys were on the slab. I immediately slipped and got swept over the next bigger waterfall into the river below. I’d seen people go over before and get pushed out into the shallow, like it was no big deal. But that was when the flow was normal. When I went over I got caught in the undertow of the second waterfall, which was only about 8 feet tall, but, enough. I came up for a second and saw Mike and Ols above me on the slab, then was sucked back down. I tumbled and fought under water for what seemed like forever, then came back up in the same spot, just long enough to yell for help and take another breath. They couldn’t hear me above the roar, and I was pulled under again. The movie of my life began rewinding from slow to super fast. All the major and minor events like a riffle shuffle of a deck of cards with pictures. Jeff and I were on the bus, backtracking east through LA, Phoenix, Little Rock. I was strumming my first guitar on the edge of my bed. 20 years passed before my eyes in just a few seconds, until I was safe in my mother’s arms on Daytona Beach, waves crashing against her legs, right at the point where I came into consciousness. She put me down in the water and I cried and scurried to dry sand. Then, I realized I was going all the way home. Back to the heavens. It seemed totally natural and easy to let go. So I did. The next thing I knew, I was down stream in a foot of water on all fours, coughing. I sat on the shore, in a calm daze. It felt as if I was out of body watching myself. It’s crazy, because I can still see myself sitting there. That day has always seemed like a before and after, a demarcated line drawn between two different planes of existence. Sometimes I don’t know which one is real. I just know it happened, and that I’m here. But whenever I think about that moment in the current, I feel a tinge of panic, a phobic reaction, perhaps triggered by the death of a past life, and the fear of rushing water.
At the time though, the experience didn’t quite sink in. I kept on tempting fate. Driving drunk, and wrecking my car. Shirking responsibility. When I think of all the trouble that befell me in this 6-month period, it is truly startling. And the more I type, the more I remember. I literally flinch at the oncoming memories. Like the day I hooked up with my Rohnert Park pals, Dean and Hap. They were the Lenny and Squiggy of Heavy Metal. We went to the Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco to catch some bands and got properly hammered. On the way back, Hap was driving my car because I refused, as did Dean. As soon as we crossed the Golden Gate, Hap went into NASCAR mode and we were pulled over in Mill Valley. As the cop lights bared down on us, he begged me to switch seats with him because he already had a DUI. I slid over and took the wrap for Hap. On another occasion, Ols and I pulled into a dark driveway of a house party and rammed a friends’ brand new Camaro. It was so bad that I couldn’t open my drivers side door to get out. When we went inside, I acted as if everything was peachy. Even though I had insurance, I didn’t say a word to the Camaro’s owner. I didn’t want to deal with any adult kind of shit. Not long after that, I backed into another friends newly restored Chevy Nova. Then someone side swiped my car while it was parked on the street. My right front tire blew and I drove around with a highway spare for the longest time because I couldn’t afford a new one. My sporty Isuzu looked like it had been in a demolition derby. I guess you could say I was sowing and reaping my wild oats simultaneously.
When I took breaks from the Pioneer 2000 scene, I hid out at Leza’s grandmother Lee’s house, where she and I were staying. I had a spunky Border Collie named Rudy who seemed to take pleasure in impressing me. In the mornings, I’d go out the sliding door of our room onto the flat roof and call his name. He’d climb a tree or trellis or whatever he had to do to get to where I was. It’s possible that, at that time in my life, Rudy was smarter than me. He was certainly more athletic. There was always something to do at Lee’s and a week didn’t pass that she did not remind me that I was staying there for free. I’d help her rake the yard, mend a fence, and move plants. She was the first person I ever knew who recycled, and was meticulous about it. We’d strip the paper from the cans, break down all the boxes and separate everything. If we tossed an un-crushed beer or soda can into the bin, she would remove it and leave us a note. My only steady income at the time was a one day-a-week paper route Leza and I took over for her grandfather, Art, after he passed away. Ols helped me for a while and we split the 14 bucks it paid. A pittance, I know, but 7 bucks back then would get you 3 meals at McDonalds and a half a tank of gas.
Just when I was getting little desperate for money, Uwe called and asked if I could help him deliver wine for a couple weeks. I had worked with him before and enjoyed it, because it was always an adventure to new and interesting places. The downside was driving to his house at 4 in the morning. We’d leave hours before dawn in order to beat the rush hour commute to the city. Still, by the time we got close to the Golden Gate it was a sea of tail-lights, and angry car horns. The wine warehouse was under the bustling Bay Bridge. We’d go across the street to pier number 30 and get coffee at a Red’s diner. It’d be packed with old-hand workers in levies and suspenders hunched over bacon and eggs, cigarette smoke curling around their beanies. It reminded me of scenes from police dramas like Kojak and Baretta. If a couple of long haired pretty boys had entered a place like this in the south or mid-west, the proverbial needle would’ve scratched across the record. But this was San Francisco; no one so much as batted an eye. Red’s also served burgers on a sour dough roll. We’d eat those outside while the seagulls scampered for crumbs and the bay water lapped against massive naval ships. At the warehouse, Uwe would pull the orders with a fork lift and we’d load the cases of wine into the big box truck, or a Dodge Maxi van. Each day was a new and scenic tour of famous winery’s like Buena Vista and Sebastiani. We delivered to 5 star restaurants in the quaint little towns along the coast. In a day we’d go all over the Bay Area; Berkley, Danville, Walnut Creek, San Jose, Calistoga and Napa. While winding through the stunning vistas of wine country, I talked Uwe’s ear off about the band and music. I went on about songs and video ideas, of how we need to practice more and record a new demo. I tried to convince him that Ols was the new bassist we needed, and how we needed to tap back into our rock and roll magic again. One day, we were headed west on highway 37 towards the freeway. We had one more delivery before heading home, when the van over-heated. It was a busted hose or something. All the water leaked out and there weren’t any service stations for several miles. After about a half-hour, Uwe opened a case of of Champagne and took out a bottle. “I guess we should celebrate this little inconvenience.” He announced. He popped the cork and it flew into the ditch line. I walked down and picked it up, because, no one littered in California. Ever. We sat in the side door of the van and drank, watching the Petaluma River flow towards San Pablo Bay. I continued on about the band, reminding Uwe of the barn days at Nick’s; how prolific and driven we were, and the nicknames we gave ourselves and the sound bites we used to chant.
“We can’t give up, man. For we are the dynamic duo of rock. The driving force. You are Uwe, the Barbarian.” I toasted.
“Yes, yes … and you are the Secret Weapon from Tanisia.” He said, chuckling.
“We must take the world by storm.” I said.
“We’ve got an angle, we do.” he said, doing his best Liverpudlian accent.
An hour went by, and Uwe reached into a box and pulled out another bottle. This time a Glen Ellen red. There was a corkscrew on his keychain. He was standing on the roads shoulder in his leather flight jacket, the wind whipping his long blonde hair across his face as he twisted the screw in the cork.
“Ah, ya know, Kev.” He said. You are the most loyal person I’ve ever met.”
“I guess that’s a good thing.” I said.
I knew by loyal he meant that the rest of the band wasn’t as driven and dedicated. I knew he meant that there are other things in life like a steady income, a home, and a car. It was at that moment, I knew that he and Jeff were never going to sacrifice the comfort of a warm bed and a girlfriend for music. That they would never consider moving to LA, or anywhere. But, I knew that I wasn’t giving up on them. That we were too good.
All the sudden, a horn blew past us and Uwe threw up his arm.
“Who was that?”
“It’s my brother, Klaus.”
Klaus turned around and we piled in to the cab of his pick-up and headed towards Cotati.
Somehow, in the snow blind blizzard of cocaine, we managed to play some music. Jeff began hanging out more with me and Ols, and we showed him the songs we had written. Their voices melded beautifully, just as I imagined, and we now had the 3-part vocal harmonies that Jeff and I always wanted. After several days of prodding, Uwe finally agreed to practicing at his place, which was a spacious old Victorian house just around the corner from Nick’s parents and the barn where we started 4 years earlier. We set up in the kitchen, worked out some new tunes and put together an hours long set. It was good to be playing again, but with the bad habits still at our finger tips, and Uwe’s heavy work schedule, things were inconsistent. We never got tight. Plus, that magic and joyous feeling we once had just wasn’t there. At one of those practices, someone played the new David Lee Roth. Hearing Steve Vai on that record was like getting slapped in the face. I’d heard a lot of shredders, like Vinnie Moore and Yngwie Malmsteen, but they were just an extension of players like Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth. Not only could Vai shred, he had artistry and craft. Everything he played supported the song. He took Pop Metal to the next level, and I was still on the first. It should’ve made me feel good, and inspired, but my fragile ego couldn’t take it. It bummed me out. Because it was everything I wanted to be, the reason I moved to California. And all I was doing was spinning my wheels.
Meanwhile, Keith was having a blast living in Tennessee. It was hard for me to picture; the opinionated and hyperactive Californian hanging out with those mild mannered country boys. I figured he might get his ass kicked just for being different. When I talked to him, he acted like my home town was some kind of magical place. It was as if he and I had reversed geographical and cultural roles. A few months after he moved, cassettes started coming in the mail. He was quite a good singer and was making music with my old friends. My sister’s – now ex-husband – Scott, was playing guitar, and of course, Keith was blown away. “Damn Kev, are all the guitar players from this town killer, or what?” It was a competition of sorts. I would send my songs to them and couple weeks later they would send theirs. Listening to those cassettes, I thought about all the musicians back there who taught and mentored me. Keith was right; there was a hell of a lot of talent in East Tennessee. And for the first time in 4 years I started feeling little twinges of homesickness. It was here that I felt another sea-change coming. My obsession with flashy guitar, and what we could call the “Van Halen effect” was beginning to wear off. It’d be another 7 years before I arrived, but my sights were set on Nashville. I wanted to learn to sing and write songs, without Uwe, or a band. I didn’t know what finding your “voice” meant, and it’d be a long time before I found mine. It’d be even longer before I realized that I might have a story to tell. I was a late bloomer.
Eventually, everyone’s excessive partying and drug use went back to normal partying and drug use. Ols and Bobby (with a little help from their friends) kept smoking and snorting up their profit, to the point they couldn’t pay the rent. A 30-day eviction notice was hung on the door. Bobby skedaddled, but Ols stayed holed up pretending like nothing would happen. On day 31, the sheriff’s deputies came knocking. They gave him 20 minutes to move everything out while they watched. By the time I drove up, he was standing there in shorts, flip-flops and shades, as if he was headed to the pool. The archery set, stereo, 2 ten-speed bikes, the canary in a cage, and the rest of the things he’d accumulated, were strewn down the sidewalk.
Later that night, we ended up going to Kathy and Lauren’s for Kathy’s birthday. It was the last party I went to at Pioneer 2000. Bon Jovi’s new record Slippery When Wet was blaring through the stereo, and there must’ve been 25 people packed in the den and kitchen. Kathy and Lauren were Vain fans. They always had one of their show flyers hanging on the fridge. That night, they were trying to round up people to go see them at The Stone the following weekend. It was then that there was an exchange of words that hit me right in the gut! Just as the Bon Jovi cassette ended, and a hush fell over the room, Ols said to Kathy, “Whatever, come see us. We rock way harder than Vain.” And Kathy shot back with, “I would, but you guys never play. Is ONE even a thing anymore?” It hurt because it was true.
Our last show was our first show with Ols at Uncle Charlie’s in Mill Valley. It was a 21 and up bar that hosted a lot of blues, singer-songwriters, and … well, just about anything but hard rock. We’d played there once before and got kicked off the stage for being too loud. 2 years later they were giving us a second chance. I remember practicing our harmonies in the green-room with the door open, which was right beside the stage and everyone could hear. An older guy at the bar peaked his head in and said, “well, if you guys sound as good as your harmonies do, I’ll probably enjoy it.” After the first song, the bar manager yelled, “You’re way too loud. Turn down.” Then after song number two, he said, “If you can’t turn it down, turn it off.” During song number three, Uwe fell off his drum throne, backwards, and kicked over his snare drum and hi-hat stand. I don’t recall song 4 or beyond. I do remember feeling embarrassed and unrehearsed. But I don’t think we made it through an entire set. It’s difficult to write of memories when it’s not all that memorable. What I remember most about Uncle Charlie’s is that the Eric Martin Band played there a week or two later. His guitar player, Danny, was a friend of mine. We liked the same girl for a while which left us with bitter sweet feelings for one another. (It was the same girl who hung out with Kirk Hammett and got us a gig at a studio he was part owner of in Glen Ellen. It was a birthday party and Kirk laughed at my silver painted Flanger. Later that night, Uwe spilt beer and puked on the carpet. Kirk didn’t laugh at that). But that’s a whole other story and I feel like I’m name dropping just for the hell of it, so I’ll move on. Leza went to the Eric Martin show (I think Danny snuck her in), and met Eddie Van Halen. I was so damned jealous! Apparently, he was hanging out with Neal Schon of Journey and they both sat-in with Eric. So, at least I can say that I played on the same stage as Eddie and Neal. And I’m sure their night was much more memorable than ours. Okay … now I’m finished name dropping.
Here’s the thing. If I’d been a better boyfriend, yeah, I probably would’ve met my hero that night. But I’m so grateful I wasn’t and I didn’t. Because, if one day, or one hour had been different; if I had joined Vain, if I had been less of a selfish asshole, if we had refocused and gotten our shit together, there’s no doubt I would be living a much different life. I wouldn’t have met my lovely wife. I wouldn’t have 3 amazing daughters. I wouldn’t have written the songs I’ve written and have the friends I have. Jeff wouldn’t have gone on to become a successful and respected Bay Area singer, and Uwe and I wouldn’t be playing music today. If I had not gone back to Tennessee and traveled to another city, there’s no telling where I would be, and how many other lives that that decision would’ve altered. It’s funny. Right now I imagined a scenario. Let’s say I did go to the City of Angels. Let’s say I got there July 5th of ’87. As soon as I stepped off the bus, I bought a newspaper. The headline was, “Dodgers take Pirates 6 to 1 at Three Rivers Stadium.” The city was buzzing, had a celebratory vibe. I answered a roommate wanted ad that read: looking for artist-type/responsible/day person/smokers ok. It was a guy named Brad. He was an aspiring actor from Missouri. He had been an extra in a couple of films, and had a bit part on a soap opera. When we met he was reading a script entitled Thelma and Louise and was excited about the screen test and audition coming up. The night before his big day, I talked him into going to the Rainbow Bar and Grill for a preemptive celebration. We get there, and see none other than Lemmy from Motorhead sitting in the corner alone. Brad said, “I gotta meet him,” and struck up a conversation. Lemmy was intimidating, but cool, and we ended up hanging out with him the entire night, drinking round after round of jacks and cokes and Budweiser. I told Lemmy I played guitar and had moved down from the Bay Area. He said, “Ah, bloody hell, nothing but a bunch of wankers up there.” He wrote his number on a matchbook and said call him Tuesday. At 4 in the morning, Brad and I stumbled back to the apartment, laughing and high fiving. Brad was so wasted he puked in the shrubs of a Kinkos on Sunset Boulevard. His screen test and audition was at 10am, but he slept right through his alarm and missed them both. Brad was bummed and pissed. I felt bad for him. Things were awkward, and he gave me the cold shoulder for few days. He was even more pissed when Johnny Depp got the Thelma and Louise gig. The following year, Brad landed the part of Dauber on the sitcom Coach. 3 months later, I was playing in Motorhead and on a plane to England to begin the first leg of a tour. And the rest is not history.
So, yeah, Brad Pitt never was a movie star, and I did one tour with Lemmy. See? Who would want to be responsible for that little twist of fate?
Over the years, I have traveled back in time, and gotten caught up in so many daydreams and alternative realities. I’ve reshaped those days to play out in so many different ways. I’ve reversed circumstances, inserted opportunities, taken out the embarrassing and unforgivable parts, until the story is some kind of rock and roll fairy tale. A story that isn’t mine. Perhaps the embellished one belongs to the “older self”, who chimed in throughout this writing to advise the “younger self” in all his italicized wisdom to rethink my path. Hopefully that guy has learned to live with those unchangeable and consequential memories, and to just let it be.
I’ve often thought of that day in the river and sometimes believe I didn’t make it out alive. It’s possible that on my hands and knees in the shallow was the spirit self, while the physical self was at the dam tossing under water. That I crawled to shore and waited in the afterglow for the rest of me to catch up, but he never came. Maybe from there it’s all been a dream.