VI

VII

I awaken from my nap to the sound of The Godfathers on the PA, and the smell of Marlboros in the air. Olfactory hallucination? I look up and see that someone has just lit a Marlboro Light. I don't need the smoke wafting toward me as a reminder: I want a cigarette! I'm feeling woozy again. People are filing in; one of the bartenders relays the message that I'm off the hook as regards handling the opening band's soundcheck, so I'm free of outside obligations for the night.

I head over to the convenience store to get a Jolt and only a Jolt. The Jolt and I move to the alley where it's nice and quiet. I'm still trying to shake the cobwebs and wooze from my head. I open the backpack and try one of the Primatenes.

This is not my turf. In my teens, I vowed to stick only to the "hippie drugs", though, in practice, I do have the occasional beer or brandy as well. Trying an asthma medicine just for the hell of it is not my style. I see Dewey's van pass by, with him, Ogg, Rico, Fingers ("your humble and obedient manager, roadie, toadie, and soundman", as he puts on his notes to us), and our equipment, so it's time to set up.

We do an early, expanded soundcheck, turning it into a miniature practice session, since we've had the long layoff. But there's no sign of layoff - all goes smoothly, except I'm not feeling well. I'm feeling like shit. I want a cigarette! And the Primatene is no big deal - I conclude, not for the first time, that JR is easily amused. Hippie drugs are better. We move our gear to make room for the opening band.

I head back to the convenience store and buy a pack of Pall Malls, then head back again to get a pack of matches. Back in the alley, I open up the smokes, savor the smell of the tobacco, grab a cigarette, and light it, without yet bringing it to my lips. Then I stop and stare at it. The first, tiny trail of smoke smells wonderful - Pall Malls are the one American brand that doesn't suck. I go ahead and start smoking the cigarette.

Almost immediately, my head feels much clearer, and the prospect of an hour on stage seems less of a terror - I'm back to my normal stage-fright jitters, without the added nicotine monkey fucking things up beyond normal fuckedness.

But I've fucked up here, haven't I?

Yes I have.

"Fuck!"

VIII

What my grandmother used to say when I misbehaved. Not only would I be burdoned with the task of cutting a switch from a tree, but I would also have to make sure it was of high quality. She insisted on old world craftsmanship in her switches. If the one I brought back was found lacking, she would go outside and get her own off the tree, and the whupping I would get would be twice as bad as what I would have gotten had I done it right the first time. The worst part was that the tree she would sometimes use would be a weeping willow, which has very pliant branches and really hurts when thrashed repeatedly against the butt of a 9 year old.

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