Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Heavy Metal Drummer

Today is an anniversary of sorts. It's a clear, cold, quiet day and I just spent my last fistful of cash on a pack of smokes and a bottomless cup of coffee. Another amusing little piece I wrote for TNB posted yesterday, and its companion is in the queue so should pop up in the next few days. I'm working on a longer, less humorous essay that I expect to submit sometime early next week. Much is good as I slide into this week of friends old and relatively new returning to town for the holiday. And yet this week resonates with the drumbeat of its counterpart from a year ago, a beat that followed a thirty-hour solo that tore up the skins, then settled into an unflinching rhythmic bass kick that would ostensibly culminate in one loud terminal cymbal crack that, as it happens, never came.

{This is a time-lapse break.}

It's now about five in the evening. I ran into my buddy Mike while I was typing earlier today, he offered to buy me a beer, and because it's a special occasion, I thought, "Why not." I set the writing aside and moved down the street. At the bar we sat with my pals Eric and Andrea, and proceeded to have a lighthearted, laugh-filled afternoon. It was the ideal way to spend a dubious anniversary.

Memory is peculiar. There are stretches of that night a year ago I recall with stark clarity, and stretches I remember not at all, as though they never happened. Last night I managed to recreate an entire weekend in my mind, two full days I hadn't associated with this event at all, not at any point in the last twelve months. But they were a part of it. I packed a bag with someone else's things, I sent that person an email saying, "Come get your stuff or I will throw it in the trash," then I went away for two days, and when I returned, the bag was gone. I'd forgotten all about that. When I came home and found nothing but an empty hallway, I made a solemn face and nodded my head, and then I went to the store to buy beer and cigarettes, and I settled in for the very early stages of what turned out to be a thirty-hour blow. When I opened my eyes the next morning, my first thought was that I should face the day like it was any other: walk downtown with my laptop and sit at the coffee shop, tapping away at the very bad book I was writing. By ten-thirty it was clear I was still too drunk and forlorn to get anything done, so I hatched a new plan: wander up the street to the Unicorn and drink something for lunch. And shortly after eleven, that's just what I did. Until late afternoon, I'd say, at which point I packed up and moved to Mainely to drink my dessert. That's where Peaches found me. Well, not me, exactly. He found the devolved version of me that had become unrecognizable to anyone who knew me -- unrecognizable even to myself. At some point he said he was getting tired of watching me do that to myself, and because I had no patience for editorializing at that juncture, I packed up my belongings, paid my tab, and left without a word. I went to the store, bought more beer and cigarettes, as well as a bag of Munchos and a pound of M&Ms, and I sat in my once upon a time living room, drinking beer after beer, lighting smoke after smoke, listening to Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" over and over and over. Until, sometime that evening, two silhouettes appeared in the doorway to take me away.

The night after I came home, I found myself back at Mainely's -- there because all my friends were there, because Hank's band was playing. It was their first gig, and it was a packed house. I'd watched them practice for months, knew their set like it was my own, and part of me reveled at the response they were getting. Another part of me closed my eyes and tried to pretend I was far from that room full of people. It was just this side of unbearable, that press of drunken, enthusiastic crowd. I was almost fine, right up to the point when a woman with whom I'd had a very brief fling nearly knocked me on my ass -- not because she'd shoved me so hard, but because I had absolutely no resistance to offer. After that, I spent the evening beside the pool table, somewhat behind the band, and locked my eyes on the drumsticks in Hank's hands. I stood against the pool table and watched Hank mark time until the night was over. The kid can throw those sticks around, and he does so with a buccaneer's reckless joy and a teamster's conscience. Under any circumstances, it's wondrous to watch him. That night it might have been the only thing that kept me moored to the earth, and as hard as he struck those cymbals, nothing, as it turns out, was terminal.

Thanks, all.

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