I'm no Geddy Lee
. I got me an Epiphone Viola bass and an Ibanez that I'm trying to sell and all I can do on either is pick out some walking lines and lay down a single impressive blues scale. I've got white rhythm, close fingers, and a couple pedals. This is all that matters when you're a rocker.
Clark had an acoustic guitar, broken where the neck meets the body, taped together, producing some fantastic effects (should one be able to hold it together properly). He had created a drum set out of microphone stands and sound card effects, a typewriter. He learned how to play and sing at the same time from countless attempts at reproducing In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.
We were a band without a name. We were kids and all we wanted to do was leave behind our little smudge on the great legacy of rock and roll. I met Clark while ringing him up at the Tower Records register. I asked him, "You know anything about this indie rock shit?" and he told me, "Brother, I know plenty." After that, we escaped Reno as often as possible to see bands in San Francisco.
I blame Clark.
Clark knew Bradley from Austin coffee shops. They had hooked up some tight little compositions and needed some bass. I don't know why Clark wanted me. He was in the captial of music. Austin, Texas, where muses run amok through the streets. Where they put Creativitin in the fucking water supply. He didn't need me. He didn't need Northampton or Reno or whatever I was. But he stuck by me. He took my recorded lines and fit them into his something masterfuls. And he invited me down. For SXSW. To record. To revel it up and really get something down on tape.
SXSW is a festival. They cordon off downtown and everything, let the indie kids try and cause all the havoc they can manage. What you do is you get to Austin and then you pick up the weekly and sit with your buddies and make intricate battle plans. We cut through Stubby's to fuck shit up at Emo's and then cross downtown under cover of drunkeness and end up at the beer works for this band we once heard we should hear. Yo La Tengo or Guided By Voices, both secret shows, heads or tails. Record stores are hazard zones you never once thought they could be. Never in your life have you fought so tooth and nail for a Bright Eyes/Books seven inch. You don't even fucking like Bright Eyes, but you hate the look in that sweaterboy's eyes worse.
You can't get away from concerts. You go for lunch in Hyde Park and Apples in Stereo is on your goddamn picnic blanket, boring you with his creativity. It's oversaturation, a point where fandom seems ludicrous, like baseball fantasy camp. Or Creative Anacronism.
The first single was I Killed A Hornet, nothing major, not a chartbuster, something low key we could be proud of. It was Clark's baby, a great little ghostly song about love and insects in the Front Line Assembly side projects section. He was so in love with the song that he completely overlooked my incompetence on the bass and slapped my slipshod lines down alongside his treasure. It was the enthusiasm of friendship, blessed dedication even across the impossible distance between Austin and Northampton. We had two other songs, Astroplane and Electric Coronet, pretty well down when early March rolled around, bringing SXSW, a week-old car for me, and a thousand excuses to set my ass down to Austin.
Bradley was some major player in the open mic scene that Clark had guiled into joining this psychspacefolkrock venture. He was a gunslinger, a badass at a droning rhythm guitar who shared the vision's sense of whimsy and furocity. Together they became an unstoppable songwriting force, winning audiences with these subtle strokes and a cappuccino machine on the drums. They had made this baby, I was only there to assist the delivery. I was all bass and no backbone. We were chump change on a long phone bill, strictly bottom barrel, important garage kids with enough recording equipment to be dangerous to ourselves and our dear ones.
We never much considered the danger to ourselves.
I rolled in late, placed my call at a burger joint situated in a muggy fog north of town. I got my final directions to Clark's place, a new phase of apartments just down the street from AMD headquarters. His was a moderately furnished one bedroom with a nice kitchen and a spacious bathroom. He had a coffee table and a couple couches not really near it. The computer desk was jammed in the corner of the living room, just next to the entryway onto the standard concrete patio deck. Big sliding glass door out there, and the view of the parking lot was absolutely breathtaking. He was below a couple with a newborn who hated us. Especially me, because bass carries and my philosophy was more than less.
I didn't see Clark's bedroom much, but the bathroom was mostly an extension of it, as the walk-in closet was by the toilet. I could bend a loaf while reading Anna Karenina and spit into his underwear pile if I felt it necessary.
The one piece of furniture I didn't expect when I arrived was Spence. An Oklahoma boy, bred and born, raised on pork back and meth lab fumes. All that week he was looking for a supermarket that would sell him beer, because apparently they don't do that in Texas if you're from out of state. He was big like you have sweaty nightmares over. A nice enough fellow and childhood friend of Clark's, so I didn't complain too much of his initial presence, especially since he seemed to like (or tolerate) our breed of rock.
Bradley was there, too, when I arrived, making tabouleh. It was delicious, so I trusted him. He told me the average meat eater has five pounds of undigested cow in his lower intestine when he dies. That sounds like a lot but you have to think that most folk don't get enough roughage. I imagined one big glob, sitting down there, mucking things up, but over the years I have realized that either that stuff sinks down into the folds or Bradley was full of hippie lies. When I played my saxophone that night, Bradley said I sounded like Dana Colley, but I regarded this as yet another fib from the mouth of marijuana. I'm a hack, Colley's a hero.
That first night, Saturday, we rocked it a little but it didn't take long for the upstairs neighbors to intercede and request for the sake of their baby we stop. Let the heavy drinking commence! If we could not rock, goddammit, we could party. Joanne showed up, Richard hovering outside the door behind her. Clark wasn't visibly uncomfortable, but you could feel the air get a little thin in the room, like someone was breathing too deep.
When I moved across the country, one of my stops was at Joanne's place in Austin, because Clark had offered me a night there. They were together at the time. It seemed right. They were both pro-obscure. Joanne had refrigerator poetry in Italian. Clark told me they lived next door to Monroe Mustang and I told him I didn't know who that was. We laughed a lot and everyone was pretty cool with each other, but I guess two people realize how crazy the other person is in such a small apartment.
And now here they were, ex-girlfriend and her connection, flitting about the room like sparrows on uppers, smoking mad bowls with Clark and co. like all issues had been resolved. Spence in particular seemed to get along well. I was busy party pooping on the couch. I didn't smoke.
When it got late, Bradley needed a lift home, and I provided. He lived on the top floor of a house closer to downtown than Clark. It was one of those places with sloping vaulted ceilings that makes you fear for leaks from the roof. You could see most of the apartment through the screen, if the front door was open. I would go back the next day with Clark for a better view, but tonight I was just dropping Bradley off and getting back to Clark's for some shuteye.
If it had been that night all week, it would've been perfect.
I blame Adam.
Though her presence and actions were unintentional, if Adam had never shown up on Sunday with this girl Miranda in tow, you would all be kissing glossies of my fat rock star asshole right now. I guess they were just catalysts, Miranda doubly so. Unknowing instigators of grand drama. I guess it happens to all of us.
If you saw Spence and Adam on the street, you would know with little uncertainty they fell from the same tree. Adam was just a smaller version of Spence: stocky, stacked, but shrunken. He had this devotion to his older brother you could sense in this air of emulation he carried. It was like God split a cast of clay down the middle with an axe, gave the large side the gift of indifference, and let the other try and figure out what it'd missed.
Adam said he was coming down to see Whiskeytown or maybe someone like them, but it was pretty evident that the only reason Miranda was there was because Adam thought he could get with her. She was interested in the party aspect of the festival. Sometime in the week she got a little butterfly or lizard tattoo, her first.
We still didn't have a name for the band. On Sunday night, after Clark and I had spent the day oggling overpriced equipment at Mars, we picked up Bradley and the band gathered back at Clark's for practice and our audience was increasing. A couple of Miranda's friends dropped by with their boyfriends. The girls were unabashed gabby hocakes. By which I mean they were the skankiest meat market dropouts I'd seen since I'd left the West. Their boyfriends were your typical frat fodder. They were perfect couples.
One of the guys grabbed my bass after we had run through our repertoire and slapped some godawful funk on it. He said I was a sucker for playing like I did, plugging along lines. He said this while he was popping my strings and I could hear the thing going out of tune. I was impressed at his obvious skill, but mostly annoyed because he struck me as the sort of person who picks up an instrument to get laid. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I was just in a bad mood.
They got bored with us mercifully quick, but by then it was too late to really play anymore, so Clark plucked the slider from the bong, packed it firmly, and said, "Tedd, this is the week you are going to start smoking ganja."
"No, Clark," I replied, "It's not."
"You don't smoke?" asked Miranda incredulously. "Do you do anything? Do you drink?"
"Fiercely," I said.
"Then why don't you?" inquired Spence.
I didn't much feel like it that night. Adam was on the patio-porch, graduating from single beer shotgunning and failing at double, making a damp mess outside.
All there was left to do that night was smoke and talk. When Clark found out Miranda had grown up in the same podunk town as him, several screaming klaxons sounded in my brain. I eyed Adam, who was seemingly unaware this had been the wrong place to bring his future girlfriend to stay.
Helpful hint to all future casanovas: when wooing a would-be, make sure you have command of at least one bed wherever you stay.
That was when I started to hate Miranda. I saw her petite figure as a distraction from our ultimate goal: rocking out. I knew in my heart of hearts she was trouble, even if she didn't want to be. While Clark talked, Adam found the computer. Bradley had to work in the morning, or something, and needed a ride home. I volunteered my ride but Spence was bigger and louder.
"Aren't you a little tanked to drive?" I asked, and everyone laughed at me. I had seen him down at least twelve beers, but Spence was famously accustomed to functioning at this level. He left with Bradley and returned alive.
The apartment was probably a bad place to house five people, if even for a week. Our sleeping arrangements were like this: Adam and Spence on the couches, me beneath the dining table, and Clark and Miranda in the bedroom.
Clark told me the next day Miranda was shy about her body, but he told her a handful is plenty.
Monday was filled with the obligatory record shopping and equipment drooling. I picked up a bunch of mic stands to prepare for recording later that week, but we still needed a mixer. I was looking for something cheap and effective, but there were roughly seventy thousand other people in Austin looking for the same thing.
I loved driving around Austin in the bright March sun. Hyde Park. We had lunch at Fuddruckers: Clark, Miranda, Adam, Spence, and I. You walk into Fuddruckers and the first thing you see is a display case with stacks upon stacks of hamburger patties. Bradley refused to partake.
At lunch, after Clark explained how the hookers at Mustang Ranch apply condoms orally, he expressed a concern over Beth.
Who's Beth, Clark?
"Yoko," was his one word reply. He elaborated.
Clark looked at Beth like I looked at Miranda. Bradley's sometime girlfriend, who was enamored with his musical ability, but frustrated at his lack of application. She felt his time with Clark was ostensibly wasted, and he could go much further as a solo operative. So it was a stressed point of conflict, moreso than the meat eating thing.
So I shouldn't have been all too surprised when, that night, Bradley never showed. Clark and I played a little but it seemed pretty fruitless. He packed a bowl, but his grip slipped while lighting it and the bong crashed and died on the coffee table. It was the first time I had smelled bongwater. What a disgusting smell; pungent and used, like septic water without the shit. The night was bust. We were despondent, dejected, and decided to kick it outside on the patio for a while. Someone handed me a bottle of Canadian Club and I upended it, pulling for a good five seconds. Everyone cheered. It must've been like watching a virgin masturbate to them. I was beginning to look forward to Wednesday, when the music portion of the festival would start, and we could all go to concerts and it would be just like old times. My abandonment issues were working themselves up.
It was rolling around to about ten and no word from our third when I said to Clark, "Maybe we should call the band 'Waiting For Bradley.' What do you think?"
Clark gave a bemused grunt, but any ire perceived on my part was interrupted by Spence strolling out. He was fumbling for his keys because he desperately needed to head over to Richard's. To pick up a package.
"You are too fucking drunk to go anywhere, let alone to get drugs," I told him. He did not feel like being lectured by me, and wasn't stopping. He was ready to hurdle the damn porch railing. I struck a deal. I would drive him wherever he wanted to go, provided he didn't want to take the wheel and kill us both.
"Okay," he agreed, "but not in your car." What was wrong with my car? "It's too new. Smells like awful."
Clark wanted us to take Adam, presumably so he and Miranda could punch the clock. He was a little reluctant to move. He had been situated in front of Clark's computer ever since it dawned on him his woman had been lost to a friend. Still, time with his brother was time better spent, he must've figured. We piled into Spence's Oldsmobile and took a tour a couple blocks away to the lot of townhouses where Richard was waiting.
Spence told us to stay inside the car, but it wasn't like either of us had any interest in watching the deal. I was sketched out waiting in the dark, though. I wasn't sure what Spence was after, but it wasn't weed. Speed didn't seem his style. I was pretty naive in the matter of drugs, mostly by choice.
I would've chain smoked, had I the habit. Adam eventually asked if I'd ever been betrayed by a friend.
"Twice," I said. "Both times over a girl."
Adam coughed a snigger.
"Listen, there are worse things to have happen. Women come and go. You have your fun or you don't, and everyone gets hurt in the end. You're actually probably lucky to lose her now before you get stuck waist deep in shit."
He didn't say anything and he didn't believe me. I wouldn't either, but I wasn't trying to make him feel better. I wanted to pass out.
Spence thundered back in the car and I guided us home. I felt sick in the back of my skull.
Joanne and Richard dropped by Tuesday afternoon, popping their fists on the sliding glass patio door. Clark and I met them outside and they told us they were going to Mexico to visit a dentist. There was a wiry girl with them I had never met before. I think her name was Jennifer.
You may have another definition for script kiddies, but Spence's odyssey down the block last night was clear to me, suddenly. They were after whatever they could get their hands on that would initiate a slowdown, namely Xanax and Percocet, and they were taking orders. Money was gathered and general quantities were specified. Then they were off.
Clark and I found an offbrand 12 channel mixer for pretty cheap at some tucked away music store the other indie piranhas hadn't discovered. The guy was too eager to sell it to us, we were too eager to buy. We were so excited that we went over to Bradley's right afterward to let him know we were officially in business.
We climbed the stairs to his apartment and shouted our salutations. We were all set to wander in through the screen door when Bradley appeared and slammed the door firmly in our faces. Before he did, I caught a glance from a willowy dark haired girl standing behind him.
"Yoko," Clark said.
"Trouble," I said.
We were too aghast to be enraged. We drove back to Clark's in total defeat, but still had the mixer to play with back home. We were officially in denial that this was the end of Waiting For Bradley.
Another night of uneventful drinking passed. Adam was remote, plugged right into the computer. Spence was an island on the couch, awash in his recent procurement. Clark and Miranda retired but I was playing House of the Dead when Joanne knocked on the door at three in the morning.
"I know I can trust you because you won't take these," she said. At least I was good for something. She filled my hands with pill bottles, told me whose was whose. Xanax and Percocet, sure enough.
After she left, I debated tossing them in the toilet. I slept on them instead, uneasily.
(related reading: Cop Shoot Cop; it's a sign!)
Addendum: I finally sold the Ibanez to Don Red. Price tag: one couch.