The only food I’ve had in the last two days is spoiled macaroni salad. Oh yeah, and the lime wedges in my 47 Coronas. It is a hot humid day as I sit on my New York apartment rooftop. Lucky for me I’m in my skivvies and have Hank Williams on the radio.
I watch the Manhattan women walking through the sidewalk heat waves. With my binoculars I get a bird’s eye view of the beads of sweat trickling down their cleavage. As I grab another beer from the ice bucket my cell phone rings.
"Hellloo," I drawl trying to act like I’m from Nashville, Tennessee instead of Queens.
"Brady?" Asks my manager Shannon.
"Why are you talking like that?"
"I’m practicing my southern drawl."
"Well if I’m doing this acoustic tour and all I thought I might as well brush up on my country. I will probably do a few tunes, you know, for encores. Like the White Stripes did Jolene. Shannon?"
"There will be encores, right?"
"I hope so, I mean of course there will be encores. People still love you. Brady?"
"Are you sober?’
"Yes ma’am I’m sober as a judge. I haven’t drunk anything but beer all day."
"Good, that’s good Brady. And did you get in shape, lose those thirty pounds?"
I pat my protruding belly. The soft flesh giggles from my touch. I squeeze the cellulite in my fist. I pinch well more than an inch.
"Not exactly ma’am."
"Will you cut out the country bullshit and talk like a real person."
"So how much?" Shannon asks.
I look at my sagging chest. I’m pathetic. I like girls with an ass like a ten-year-old boy. But I got tits like a twelve-year-old girl. I make myself sick. Though not sick enough to lose any weight. Not the lovesick you can get and lose twenty pounds. I just have a dull self-disgust. I drink a big gulp of the beer and try to convince myself I don’t care.
"Yes ma’am, I mean what?"
"So how much?"
"How much what?"
"How much weight did you lose?"
I think back to the last time I was on the scale. It was twenty minutes ago. Since then I had two beers. I probably haven’t lost any weight since then.
"Not too much really."
"Does that mean none?"
"Well I hope you have the stamina to play the shows. You know when Bruce Springsteen used to put on a show he lost five pounds a night."
"Yeah, well I’m not The Boss. I would never write a fucking song as shit as Born in the USA."
"Whatever, see you tomorrow."
She hangs up. Bitch. It’s just a one-man show. All I have to do is sit on a stool and strum the guitar. Hell, even David Crosby could do it.
I was lying to Shannon. I don’t really hate Springsteen. I’m planning on covering Johnny 99 from Nebraska on this acoustic tour. But that’s not the only lie either. Since the last time we met three weeks ago to finalize plans and sign the contracts I have gained five pounds. But I sure as shit wasn’t going to tell her that.
At that meeting Shannon was appalled by my appearance. And she didn’t mind letting me know exactly what she thought. As my manager Shannon has always dealt out the tough love. I respect and hate her for it. When I haven’t slept in a few days and I’m wasted I want my soul to be cuddled and I want her to tell me I’m a genius so I can justify drink and drugging myself to death. Shannon doesn’t ever do that. She is straight up with me. She thinks my death wish emulation of people like ole Hank Williams, Jim Morrison, Ian Curtis and Nick Drake is pretty silly since I’m thirty-six years old and out lived Elliot Smith.
On the other hand she has kept me financially stable through the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the tours and the rehabs. Shannon didn’t let me spend all the income from the platinum records on cocaine. She used a majority of those royalty checks and hired reputable accountants and stockbrokers to invest intelligently. I got a bit of Mircosoft if you can believe that shit. It was a joke. Hate being labeled grunge so why not invest in a Seattle computer company.
And that money she put away for a rainy day. Since the mid-nineties, and the MTV phony shit and the grunge bullshit, and the death of Kurt there have been many days that have rained, like a non-stop Seattle drizzle for seven years. But I have never had a real job.
My band the Safety Pins were lumped into the grunge hype by the media. Even though we never had that Middle of the Road sound to our tunes like those North West bands.
We were from New York City where one genre never dominates. We grew up with Lou Reed, Run DMC, the Ramones, ESG, the New York Dolls, Television and Arthur Russell. The Safety Pins were never just rock. We had the dance element before techno and the James Brown funky drummer sample ever existed. It is the reason I respect bands like Primal Scream and the Mekons. Their back catalogues have the whole spectrum of rock to funk, disco to punk, country to soul. Bands that just keep on keeping on with vision and attitude; despite not having the evil major labels support, corporate sponsorship or record sales.
Back in the day our biggest influence was a band that was already mixing up all the elements that came ready made to blast from a Boom Box. The night the Clash played Broadway I saw the future and started dancing. Not that everything turned out as expected.
I drain the beer and grab another from the ice bucket. I put down the phone and pick up the binoculars. I eye another girl coming my way. She is wearing a mini skirt and T-shirt that is cut into a V-neck. She isn’t wearing a bra and the light cotton fabric is sticking to her loosely bouncing breasts.
I sit down without ever loosing sight of her. I put my hand in my underwear and start playing with my limp dick. I tug on it trying to make my penis grow to a respectable length to get the pleasure started. I’m getting hard and start to pull longer and harder.
"Hey ya fuckin’ pervert get off dat roof before I call da fuckin’ cops. Asshole."
I drop the binoculars, and look around startled. Three construction workers are fixing a drainpipe on the next roof. I grab the beers and cell phone and run inside.
As I’m carrying the beer bucket and melting ice down the steps I slip my cell phone into my underwear. It settles against my still stiff cock. The cute blonde from the fourth floor passes me on the steps.
"Hi." I say. Doesn’t she work days?
Usually she says hi when we pass each other in the hall. Today she looks scared. I slosh the bucket and mostly bare-assed barely make it home.
Yikes. That takes me out of the mood. Almost. In my apartment I turn the air conditioner on and search through my records. I have over ten thousand albums on vinyl so they aren’t always in the correct alphabetical order. In the M’s I find Melanie’s Garden In The City and continue to jack off to her cover of the Stone’s Jigsaw Puzzle.
Melanie belts it out and I cum with the fantasy of Melanie, the girl from the sidewalk and the cute blonde on the fourth floor all fucking naked in Central Park. I’m going it Doggy Style in Strawberry Fields. I have sidewalk girl from behind and she is going down on the blonde who’s legs are spread open in front of us as Melanie is rubbing her big folksinger tits against my back.
I wipe the ejaculate on my towel hanging in the bathroom. I look at the scale and wonder if I masturbated any pounds away. I step on the scale and it unbelievably settles at 223. How in the fuck have I gotten so fucking fat? I don’t eat that much.
I grab a beer and take off the record. I go into my bedroom and turn on the fan. I lay there drinking the cold beer and sweating my balls off. I can’t stand this heat. It will be good to get out of the city.
There are many things I should be doing before we leave tomorrow. I haven’t packed or picked out the guitars I’m taking on the road. I haven’t said goodbye to friends or my mom. I put in a DVD and nod off to a movie I’ve seen hundreds of times.
I wake up around midnight. My head is foggy and my eyes are sore. I don’t have a hangover. I haven’t had a severe hangover in about a year. Real alcoholics who have leisure time never suffer severe hangovers past the time it takes to get a new drink down their throat. That’s me, as soon as I wake up feeling bad I have a few more drinks until it goes away. For the last 365 days I have been in a constant state of inebriation. It beats working in a factory. I grab a beer from the bucket. The ice has melted but the beers are still cold.
Time to organize. I go through my clothes. I try on a pair of suede pants I had custom made in Paris on my last world tour. These are my rock and roll pants, my security blanket I take out and put on when I’m going to play a show. Can’t leave without my leather pants. I struggle to get them over my ass. I try to button the fly but my belly gets in the way. I suck in to no avail. I punch myself in the stomach hoping to readjust all this blubber, but this only causes me to lose my breath.
I put on the waist size 36 Levi’s I’ve worn everyday for the last two months and a filthy light blue oxford shirt. None of the rock and roll clothes fit anymore. I find my Clark’s and walk out the door.
I walk the eight blocks to my Ray’s, my local bar in the East Village. I take a seat next to a few regulars. I’m on a first name bases with these guys; I know what they drink but I don’t know who they are, unless you count that what they drink is really who they are. I feel at home with the barflies. I’m sort of sad I will be leaving them.
"Hey Tom." I say.
"Not much. And you?"
"I’m going on a tour tomorrow?"
And that is the end of that. Tom goes back to his 7 & 7. It is more interesting and important then anything I have to tell him.
Nick the bartender instinctively brings me a pint of Guinness.
"How are things?" Nick asks.
"I’m going on a tour tomorrow."
"Like a day trip to Coney Island?"
"No around the States."
"I’m a musician."
"Nice." Says Nick and walks away.
I’ve been coming into Ray’s almost every day for the last two years. I mentioned playing music before. I even invited Nick to come to a few shows I played around town. I put him on the guest list but he never showed.
I finish the Guinness and leave after just one pint. There is nothing left to say now that I’ve said goodbye to my friends. I walk left out the door towards St. Mark’s place. I call my mom on my cell phone. The answering machine picks up. I disconnect the call and look at the time. It is past midnight. My mom is asleep. She has to start work early tomorrow in Astoria. I have given her some money but she insisted on staying with her job at the café. She thinks that at any moment I will be broke and move back in with her.
I walk to Kim’s video on St. Mark’s Place to buy some DVD’s for the trip. I decide on Beatty Blue, Withnail & I, Beautiful Girls, Trainspotting, The Warriors, Election, and of course, Spinal Tap. Everyone in a band who I have ever met loves that movie. I also grab some Velvet Underground, Iggy and the Stooges, New York Dolls, the Clash and Joy Division bootlegs.
Lisa who works behind the counter smiles at me. I once asked her out. We went for a lunchtime drink at McSorealy’s, the rustic old bar around the corner with sawdust on the floor. She had the Rueben and I had a Liverwurst sandwich and eight beers. Back at my place she tried to give me head but I was too self-conscious about my body to get comfortable, and so I didn’t get hard. To her great credit she still smiles at me when I come in. Though there has never been talk of seeing each other again.
"Hiya," she says.
"You getting all these?"
"But you rented Whithnail & I just last week."
"Yeah I know, but I’m going on a tour, so might as well buy them. Don’t want the late fees."
"You are touring?"
"Oh my God. Are the Safety Pins back together?"
Lisa has betrayed herself. She never mentioned my old band before, but I thought she might have been a fan. I guess she was playing it cool. I’m glad she did.
"Yep, it’s just me going it alone, like solo. Small venues and all that like in college towns."
"That should be good. When are you coming back?"
Lisa hands me the videos and I sign the credit card receipt.
"Here," she says. And she hands me a piece of paper. "It’s my cell phone number, if you know, the road gets long and you get lonely."
I put the piece of paper in my front pocket and carry out the DVD’s in the regulation yellow plastic Kim’s bag. I look at my cell phone and it is almost two in the morning. Only two hours left of bar time.
I walk down to the Lower East Side. I have some beers in a Ludlow St. bar. I pick out tunes on the jukebox. I play Talking Heads’ Big Country. I’ll soon see what all the fuss is about.
Three Lower East side cool cat girls are sitting a few barstools down from me. I try to look at them without them noticing, to see if they might be checking me out. I can’t tell. If it’s a game we play they are winning.
My cell phone rings again.
"Where are you?"
"At a bar."
"You gotta get up really early tomorrow."
"You all packed?"
"Yeah." I lie. Lying to Shannon is becoming too easy for me.
"And you are gonna get up?"
"Yeah, why sleep in and waste all that morning drinking time?"
"You are cute."
"See you tomorrow then."
Shannon hangs up. I look down the bar. The girls are gone. Time to live to fight for another day. I pay my tab and walk outside. I hail a cab home. The driver tells me that religion is the Devils work, created by Satan so good people will kill each other in the name of a deity.
"Yeah, yeah." I agree. And close my eyes and pray I survive the tour.
I wake up with a hangover. A few beers dull the head enough to function. I spend twenty minutes shitting my guts out. There is no cure for a wacky stomach. I throw the DVDs and CDs, a shirt and some picks into a backpack and grab my guitar. I’m all ready. I wonder why Shannon was so worried about me packing.
Outside I hail a cab to the Pier 17. The driver makes me put the guitar in the trunk. He asks which way I want to go and I just grunt. We drive down 2 nd Avenue. I can’t remember the last time I was outside of New York. It’s even been a year since I went back home to Queens. My mom likes to come into the city for lunch. And I like to take her to a nice Manhattan bistro. Oh shit. I take out my cell phone. I get her voice mail. She must be in the middle of a shift.
"Hey, mom. I’m leaving. I’ll call you from the road. I love you."
I only tell my mother that I love her when I get her voice mail. Never when we are actually talking. And unfortunately I never say it in person. It makes me sad. I get a pang of despair and have to clench my butt cheeks together. I don’t want to spoil my shorts.
A girlfriend once told me that I was too sensitive to live in this world. She might be right but it pays the bills. I take out a notebook and scribble a few lines about leaving messages to loved ones.
Under the FDR I see a few tour buses lined up but they are all the tourist kind that bring Canucks down from Canada to South Sea Port. Then I see Shannon leaning against a yellow school bus. It is beat up and rusted out; dwarfed by the other buses because it is one of those short ones, the kind kids with special needs ride to school in. I want to tell the cabbie to take me home.
"What the fuck is this?" I demand retrieving the guitar from the trunk. I would fly into spoiled rock star mode but I’m too out of practice.
"This is home," Shannon says. Where is your stuff?"
"What stuff?" I ask holding the guitar in one hand and the backpack in the other.
"Your equipment. Is that the only guitar you brought?"
"It’s the only one I have. Everything else is in storage."
"And you didn’t bring them?"
"That isn’t even electric."
"I thought I was doing an acoustic tour."
"It doesn’t even have a pick up."
"Just climb in."