by Todd Brendan Fahey
Early on, after crossing into Mississippi, Zeke was apparently coming on to the benefits of Minnesota pure blue-green algae, and was behaving something like a hungry dog in a landfill. First, he hauled out a huge kazoo, and began laying out the canon of Rodgers & Hammerstein, chronologically. Alice, by way of accompaniment, was blowing into an Oriental recorder, which, unadulterated, wd probably have been rather soothing... but the insistent nasal psilliness of the kazoo was more than the Toddmonster could bear in his Deep-Blue condition.
I suffered nobly through the highlights of Oklahoma!, and, admirably, without hurting anyone; but when he began the intro notes to The Music Man, I felt those old familiar pangs of having to regain Control.
"Hey, now, Zeke!" I say, but he is in a vibro-humming world of his very own. A bit louder: "Say, Ezekiel! Paisano! Dood!: SOMETHING ELSE NOW."
The move is none too delicate, but it accomplishes the necessary objective. Anyone who has ever been in the grip of a disassociative anaesthetic understands the singular joy that is White Noise; or, God has His own orchestra, and it is quite accomplished, and, comparatively, a kazoo is a very low thing in the harmonic food-chain. Uh-huh.
Zeke takes to sulking, then, laying down his instrument, hauls out a box of mini-comics of his own hand that had been Xeroxed in the middle of the night by someone named Renate, and who is now the recipient of Zeke's righteous invective:
"I mean, she's a really cool chick, don't get me wrong. But she sure doesn't sweat the details."
I reach over the seat and grab one of the catalogues... & observe pretty quickly the nature of Zeke's complaint. I and the krewe had thought it something of a great notion to bring along a trove of propaganda - dozens of the aforementioned posters, which now littered seven restrooms from Lafayette, LA to Mobile, AL, plus copies of mine little magazine,Far Gone, and three types of mini-comics from the pens of Zeke and Gordo.
They and thin Dave had been hard at it at the coffeeshop, for the better part of the week preceding our departure, cutting, pasting, stapling, yaddayadda. & so, when the comics finally came out of the local Kopy-Write - albeit on the house, in a clandestine way, such as probably half the 'zines produced in Amerika - with half of the mailing address cut off and missing from each issue... Well, mebbe we should hear it from Zeke's own mouth:
"I mean, like, thanks a lot, but, FUCK YOU!"
I was beginning to twist in the passenger's seat, when Gordo - who was proving a reliable, if turgid, driver, as well as being a good front-of-the-van companion, with ready wit and repartee - sensed mine chemical lament, and came up with a truly stunning selection of tunes from one of the several tape cases he and his bohorts had thought to bring along.
Recall, I am a man who only recently "outed" himself from the mouldering closet that is Klassic Rock; and mebbe it takes hanging around a group of coffeehouse grungemungers ten years one's junior for to experience a solid lick of New Music and the indie lifestyle that seems to accompany it. Whatever the case, Gordo's tape-box, for this semi-reformed Neanderthal, was like gazing into Willie Wonka's world:
Groovy song in the speakers: Yo la Tengo: "There's a big day comin', and I can hardly wait."
Indeed. Big brite blue/white bus bearing First Christian National Baptist Assembly scoots by.
"That's what we need," one among us asserts.
Gordo grunts: "Excuse us, ma'am...We're with Peerhead Industries, and we're commandeering your vehicle." "But, but -" "No `buts.' Please get out."
Hearty hhrock-hhrocks all around.
Zeke and Alice crawl back to the nether recesses of the ActionVan to do it again.
"I don't think I know anything about love," Gordo says, nodding. "But I know a lot about love gone wrong."
One of us dims the domelight. Listening to Will Oldham now. Palace Music. Couple-few fellers from parts around Louisville, KY... hard falling-in-love tunes... warbly ballads, beyond "haunting" (whatever is on the other side of nostalgic longing, after one has broken through...)
Mebbe our magic van will break down in some out-of-the-way southern hamlet - a Louisville, KY - & I'll meet a friendly face, a sweet-lovin' thing named Peggy, with yellow teeth & just past child-bearing years... & who'll let me worship her, & who'll sing for me, even if her kin are given to sayin' she's just a little silly... Yes, love is something we have not thought about for a very long time... money pressures... drug troubles... general savagery in the self-publishing biz; mebbe her Pop will have a big spread in those hinterlands, and I can set mine feet up fer a spell, take a load off, as it were - a place where shy freckled children giggle & rub my feet, & where cats run wild, little mousers... A country life.
Could I stand the pace?
...maybe. Probably it's like anything else in life: Something one just has to get used to. But more than simple repetition. One must fall in love with it... whatever It is. Or mebbe we're speaking of Determinism, an inborn thing of the psyche. Mebbe it's hard-wired, a love for the great outdoors. Who fucking knows.
Will Oldham and Palace Music are sound very pretty right now... Yes, there's something here...
O Peggy, my darling, where for bloody art thou?
Highway sign reads: Toomsuba.
"Ooo," Gordo affirms. "Toomsuba. That is the standout thus far."
Billboard reads: Affordable Dentures.
Cold shock of sudden Fear, at breaking down in Hoover, Alabama.
"The Ned Beatty Experience," I say, apropos of nothing.
"Eeeee!" Gordo says, hunching forward in the driver's seat.
"For the name of the band!" I laugh.
"Whoa," sez Gordo. "That would be a heavy moniker to be saddled with."
Suddenly, and with bloodshot eyes from roadburn, we both look at each other and find ourselves saying, in unison: "You got a real purty mouth, there, boy," and explode into volleys of misanthropyc laughter.
Sabbath a.m., Decatur, Georgia
Late-to-rise, but filled w/ the Holy Spirit. A heavy shot of Robitussin to usher in the Host...
Richard is the first band member to rouse himself from the brief, unquiet slumber that took us off the road at or about 4:30 a.m. He raises up on one elbow, from a sleeping bag on the floor of this faceless motor lodge, then blows half a tanker of road dust into a kleenex. He is extremely pale, and sports a facial shadow which gives him the appearance of a young Gerry Cooney. "I feel like we're in for a lot of pain today. Anyone for a Tylenol #3?"
"That's the spirit!," I say, clapping my palms together.
The rest of them are awake now. We all look like victims of dengue fever, but red-top David is looking particularly meager. He massages the nodes of his throat with a thumb and forefinger.
"I'm afraid I'm gonna have to exercise some executive authority, here, my man," I tell him. "A) I surely don't want to fall ill; and, B) I ain't driving you back if you do. So..."
I root through my duffelbag, and come up with a high-concentration B-complex, a Vitamin C so huge I have to pulverize it with an ashtray and float it together in a glass of Alka-Seltzer Cold, just so he can get it down; a tab of Siberian ginseng; half a tab of niacin, for the illusory sunburn value; and then I spray the back of his throat with Chloraseptic until he begins to grin stupidly.
"Now, now, David," I say, wagging a finger. "We mustn't be greedy."
Following showers, we hit the parking lot again. It is 10:30 in the before noon.
Suddenly, Richard is begging me to look at a flock of white-robed women who are walking from the adjacent parking lot to a small, ornate Temple.
"You've never seen Muslims before, Richard?"
"Well, yeah," he returns, "...but not WHITE chicks. Look at 'em!"
I put a hand over my specs, to block out the evil-violet rays overhead, and I think I do see that these cloaked youngish women are, indeed, caucasian. "Someone must've laid into them with a heavy rap - you know, probably when they were tripping really, really hard."
I chuckled. "...just swept 'em up."
"Uh-huh. Like the Jesus people."
"While they're weak, and in the throes of some life-crisis." We were both getting off: "And then Ben Kinchlow hits 'em with with Perfect Pitch - concentrated camera angles... a soaring soundtrack, like, Peter Gabriel's Passion."
We both yukk it up.
But then the pain returns, for which Richard felt we must prepare, and which is localized in my back pocket. We are all hungry, and it suddenly dawns on me - for real this time - that I am like Big Sugar Daddy and that these five humans I cart cross-country are bonafide dependents. I press Zeke & Alice and Gordo about playing music, soon, to keep up their end of this atrocious load.
Gordo is clearly game: "Whenever," he says.
But Zeke and his softer half begin to whimper. "Y'know," Zeke says, in his perpetually protracted way, "we really need some practice." Alice chimes in in agreement.
I joggle me skull on its axis. "Jeez... I don't know where to begin." I am stymied; and were I less surprised, I would probably be enraged. Finally, upon recovering and suppressing the gorge, I say simply: "And practice you shall get. Where to? Gordo."
My driver looks back at his friends in the rear-view mirror, and I see him giving the facial equivalent of a shoulder-shrug. "My guess would be Little Five Points. It's bohemian enough. We should do okay there."
But before we get to Atlanta's Little Five Points, we become lost and entangled in the 'burbs of Decatur, a robustly multicultural town, if mine preliminary survey holds valid. In a three-block radius, amongst long-sloping green-grass lawns, I spot a Hindu Temple, a Muslim Temple, something called an Antiochean Church, and an Episcopal Church of the Epiphany (Joycean?).
"Where the fuck are we going?" Zeke says, impatiently, from the rear of the Wisdom's Maw Express.
And he is right. All the streets are looking the same. We are surrounded by big trees and long large lawns - not a bad place to be, for being lost, but we are lost nonetheless. We pull into the circular driveway of a mansion that appears to be abandoned.
"We're here," I announce.
"What?" says Alice.
"Yes, we have arrived. Good job, Gordo; you are a good confidante. You will be well-rewarded."
Gordo slides me a good-comrade handshake.
Zeke and Alice stare with fear in their eyes.
"We're claiming squatter's rights!" I yell out the window to Dave and Richard, whose vehicle is idling alongside our own. "Richard, as your benefactor, I advise you to discover the nearest pawnshop and pick up an armload of AK-47s, SKSs...whatever's on-sale. We will hold a news conference at 5:00 tonight..."
Richard grins intensely, like the elf he purports to have eaten before leaving Lafayette. "That's right: `We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore!'"
I nod. "Yes. I will want to speak with Jimmy Carter. Where is Mr. Carter when the really important shit's goin' down? I trust only Jimmy Carter to mediate this, mine beef with the Mainstream."
(To be continued...)