I knew that something was up. It was our first practice after taking a break, and something is ALWAYS happening at these sessions. I had to take a few days off to attend Hot damn 2, which was an absolute blast. I was pretty charged up when I got to practice, and things rolled pretty well along. We quickly ran through any of the "trouble songs" from the first two sets and then settled into newly learned material for the third. All things considered, which is to say considering the fact that we're talking about a small band from western Maryland practicing in a moldy basement, things were good.

I didn't practice nearly enough during the break, so I fully expected the blood blisters that came on my fingers. It was worth the pain to feel that connection with my band mates that only happens on occasion. Perhaps in better bands this is the "groove" I've read so much about, but I've only felt it from time to time in various band incarnations. Being able to look at each other and just know where the music was going next. I’m not talking about established songs we’d written; I’m talking about jamming. About making shit up off the cuff. I’m talking about playing so tight with the other musicians that the music seems to come alive in the room. It feels like collectively we’re conjuring up some sort of creature from an ethereal plane. Something that would only exist as long as we played, a breathing and sweating entity that we could all feel. It's never a stable feeling, and it's always fleeting. Anyway, This was definitely, one of those times.

After practice we stood around Phil's truck as he loaded his guitar. Jenny and I were chainsmoking, as smoking in Matt's basement was not allowed. "So I was talking to Paul," Matt said," and he's definitely going to run that pub downtown across from the police department. He's planning on having this grand opening, and he said he was real impressed with us when he stopped down a few weeks back. He wants us to play that night. I don't know how much money, but he said if all goes well we'd get to play there one or two times a month after that."

We all smiled and nodded as he said this. We'd been cooped up in Matt's basement for about four months learning the songs and writing original music. We had managed to snag playing at a party around Memorial Day, and had played at a few open mic nights, but really hadn't been able to do much else. We first needed a PA. Now that we had that we needed a demo. A cut-rate demo was likely going to cost a few hundred, and we were all tapped. This grand opening was just what we needed.

Phil leaned back on his truck and looked at the sky, contemplating something. "What's on your mind Phil?" I asked.

"I hate to do this to you guys, but I think I'm moving to Florida." Phil squeaked so quietly that neither Matt nor Jenny actually heard him. They were engrossed in another conversation, and he just snuck it out all quiet like. He just kicked it out real quiet like when no one else was looking. Just like Phil, who, often would tell me things to then retell the rest of the band. I thought about what he said and decided that this time Phil would have to tell all of us. "What's that?" I asked, raising my voice a little. Matt and Jenny's ears perked up quite a bit. They turned to look at Phil, who was now nervously jumping from one foot to the next. He continued, “I know I you guys don’t want to hear this, but let me explain. I’ve been fighting some issues with depression lately, and seeing as how I don’t have a girl, or a good job I can’t seem to shake these dark thoughts I’ve been having.” He paused, and looked around. “ To tell you the truth, last week I started thinking seriously about suicide. You know my roommate Dennis? Well he had some sleeping pills and I took about ten of them, and chased them with some vodka I had in the freezer. That really scared me later when I came out of it. I don’t ever want to feel like that again. I was talking to my aunt about it, and she said that I need a change, and that I was welcome to move down to Florida and stay with her. I don’t know guys, I just feel like I’m spinning my wheels here. I don’t know if I’ll ever be happy.”

The hard thing to take about this news was it’s obvious news. Phil hadn’t had a girlfriend in about five years, but recently had slept with a pregnant married woman. His friends were all unmotivated potheads, and although he had training in the I.T. industry he had no experience. The ancient question solved. How do you get experience without getting a job? You don’t. You work data entry at some giant credit card mill, and grow more bitter and resentful every day. I could see it on Phil the way you see a boxer after a championship fight. He was worn out. Time to throw in the towel one way or another.

We all took turns telling Phil how important he was to us, and that although we hated the thought of losing him in the band we totally understood why he had to go. We all took turns thinking about how to keep him here by making him feel needed. I thought a lot about how I never saw Phil outside of band functions. Was he a dynamite guitarist or a good friend? Is it ok if it’s only a business casual relationship?

The band did not recover from losing Phil. Soon we all went our separate ways, and Phil slipped off to Florida in the back-door manner we’d come to expect of him.

When I drove away that night I told myself I will never do this again. I will never put my happiness in the hands of other people. I will never care as much about a garage band. I was making a step into adulthood that I wasn’t sure I liked, but I was doing it. I see very little of by former band mates anymore. I have no idea how Phil is doing. I’ve come to terms with the fact that as much as I liked Phil, he was never my friend. We were acquaintances. I have lost something special. I have lost nothing at all.

update August, 20, 2003 - Phil didn't stay in Florida very long. Apparently he met a girl on an internet chat and fell madly in love. He moved back to PA and lives two hours away from me. He was married a month or two back. I don't know for sure... I haven't spoken to him since before he left for Orlando.

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