And the wind bites my cheek through the wing, and it's these late nights and this freeway flying, it always makes me sing
Tom Waits' timeless lyrics echo through my head as Doc, Tommy and I head down the street. Evening is coming along, and a chill sets in; a slight breeze making me shiver even under my jacket. Fall is coming along fast, and temperature drops with it. Doc is the only one that knows exactly where Sam lives, so he's leading the way with Tommy and me behind. We don't talk much, just shuffle along in silence. I'm not quite sure what to think: the introduction to Amy's father, Henry, caught me slightly off guard, and although it was by no means unpleasant, it was still rather unsettling. I was hoping that a visit to Amy would straighten my perspective a bit, but it seems that the overall effect was quite contrary to my expectations.
By now we're at the outskirts of the town, passing apartment complexes.
This is it, Doc informs us bluntly.
We step up to the door, find Sam's name among the list of tenants and call him through the intercom.
An unfamiliar voice answers; hello?
Hi, my name is Doc, is this Sam's room-mate?
Hi there, I was wondering if Sam is around.
Yeah, he's stayed in his bedroom all day. I haven't seen him really, just heard noises.
Tommy and I look at each other.
Um, ok, can we come up and talk to him? Doc asks.
Yeah, sure, the room-mate responds, but I don't know how much you'll get out of him, I think he might be in bad shape.
The door unlocks, and all three of us step inside, taking the elevator up to the third floor. We find the right number on the right door, and knock. After a few moments, the door opens, and Sam's roommate is in front of us.
You guy's must be from Sam's band, right?
Yeah, that's us, Tommy answers stiffly.
I'm Kevin, come on in.
He leads the way through the intimate yet reasonably tidy apartment, showing us a door.
That's Sam's bedroom. He keeps all his musical equipment in there as well. Just go on in.
There seems to be a rather odd atmosphere, this whole mutual acquaintance thing is never a good idea. I wouldn't say Kevin is acting cold, but certainly rather tight-lipped and sticking to the matter at hand. I guess we're about the same.
Doc opens the door slowly, revealing a dark room. The light from outside the opening door spreads slowly over one object in the room at a time: An amplifier stands in a corner, a few guitars hanging on the wall next to it. A commode with notes tacked to it. A small table, a CD case on top of it, traces of white powder on the CD case. Half a joint, an empty bottle of vodka. A stereo system, CD collection. Finally, a bed. Sam on the bed, eyes halfway open, obviously drunk or stoned or something.
We all step in, and Sam sits up slowly; hey guys, what's up?
Sam, what the f--k!? Doc barks angrily.
Sam grabs a hold of his head. Chill out Doc, what's the problem? he groans. Besides my head
Doc grabs the CD case, smashing it against the floor. What the f--k is this? Coke?
Sam doesn't say anything, just looks at us helplessly.
IS IT F--KING COKE?!
Take it easy Doc, Tommy says, as startled as the rest of us at Doc's outburst.
Shut the f--k up Tommy, you have no idea what this could mean!!
I stare at Doc. What the hell are you talking about?
Sam is standing now, and has tears in his eyes. Please don't tell them, Doc. Please don't, please...
Tell us what? Tommy demands.
Doc turns to Tommy and me, Sam sits down again with his head in his hands. This isn't the first time Sam's f--ked around with harder drugs. He got involved with all kinds of shit when he was in high school. F--ked up his head slightly, or so you might say. Sometimes he has weird emotional spasms, you might have noticed.
I look at Sam. He told us that his step-father attempted to rape him when he was a kid.
Doc sighs. Yeah, that's his cover story. Truth of the matter is, he was into it all: coke, ecstasy, amphetamines in all the colours of the rainbow... I helped him get out of it, he's been clean for a few years now... he looks bitterly at Sam, ...or so I thought.
Shit Doc, Sam sobs, you gotta understand what I'm going through here: everything's going to hell for me, my head feels like a f--king battlefield...
Maybe because you've been sending coke through it... Doc snaps.
YOU DON'T F--KING UNDERSTAND! Sam screams. It's like this all the time; I can't focus, I can't think, speak, comprehend, this whole band shit on top of it all hardly helps!
I stare at the kid sitting on the bed. There used to be an energetic musician behind those eyes, full of ideas and concepts and inspiration. Now all I see is a wreck. Maybe it's been like that all the time, I've just been to optimistic and nave to notice.
We stand in silence for a long time, talk about mindf--k. Eventually Doc speaks:
I'm sorry, Sam. I'm going to help you, alright? Help you just like the last time. Sam nods miserably. First you're going to move in with us.
Tommy coughs. He is?
F--k off, Tommy! Doc snaps. Then he continues, I'm going to catch a bus back to my place and get the van. We're going to pack up your shit tonight. You're going to live with us for a while, until you get your shit straight. We're going to practice our asses off, book some gigs, and it's all going to work out.
Doc sits down next to Sam, gives him a long hug, then leaves the room, uttering the words: I'll be back shortly.
It takes forty-five minutes for Doc to get back to Sam's apartment with his van. Forty-five minutes of awkward silence. We never see Kevin again, he must be in another room. Eventually we start backing Sam's stuff, quite a deja-vu. We finally get the necessities into the back of the van and head home. By now it's late. I'm exhausted, too much emotion spinning around for my taste. I help get Sam's stuff inside, head for my designated room, and try to sleep.
It's around nine o'clock when I wake up. At first I have a feeling of that last night was just a bad dream, but the more I scrutinize the events, I realize that it's not so. Heading downstairs, I find Doc drinking coffee and scribbling on a piece of paper. The bottles are gone, things seem surprisingly clean. I pour myself a cup of coffee and sit down across from Doc.
What are you writing? I ask meekly.
He spends a few moments scribbling before answering me: A song.
Can I see?
He holds up the paper to his face, before handing it to me.
There are a few chords scribbled at the top:
Verse: A minor, D minor, F major, E major.
Chorus: A minor, E major seven, end with D minor then F major.
The lyrics are as following:
1st verse: Go on, make me a cup of tea, Meditate on the facts of life, Don't look now, but you can't be free, There will always be struggle and strife.
2nd verse: Things seem f--ked over, They won't get better anytime soon, Let's not fall apart, rather be closer, Just float away in a hot-air balloon.
Chorus: The mothers will keep on crying, The sons will keep on dying, The rich will keep on earning, The rest of us focus on learning
That's just a rough draft, I haven't even finished the other verses, Doc comments.
Sounds good, I say.
Yeah, we're not supposed to be Pulitzer prize winners when it comes to our poetry, right? It'll work.
I hear somebody coming down the stairs; Sam and Tommy talking and chuckling. What the hell is this? They come stumbling into the kitchen, giggling like idiots, stop to look at us with surprised faces, before bursting into fits again.
What's going on? Doc enquires.
Oh, um, we've been reciting Monty Python, Tommy snickers.
Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries! Sam quotes before roaring with laughter.
I sigh and smile; Monty Python, maybe that's just what we need, some comic relief. The two comedians sit down at the table, and Doc finds some bowls along with some cereal and milk. To my dismay he doesn't have fruit loops, so I settle for cornflakes. Doc presents the song to Sam and Tommy, and they seem to agree that it will certainly work.
So, Tommy asks through a mouthful of cereal, where are we going to find our next gig?
I was thinking of asking Amy if she had any ideas, I respond, she seems to have a lot of connections, and combined with the warm response from the last gig, I think we should be able to land something.
Everyone nods in agreement. Amy, all I can think about is Amy. Everything is so much more comfortable when she's around. Maybe she could move in here with the rest of us. I laugh silently at the thought. Jesus, what a frathouse this place has become; four irresponsible f--kwads living here together while playing in a band. No wonder we're so bad off. Well, at least it seems like Doc is taking some responsibility. What a guy.
We sit around eating cereal for a while longer, discussing British humour versus other forms, concluding that Monty Python beats all, but South Park is a close second. We also decide that we need to have a Monty Python marathon as soon as possible.
I look at Sam: he seems to be doing a hell of a lot better than last night. I wonder exactly how long he's been on the hard stuff, and if he can kick it. I smile at the thought of the legendary song:
Can I kick it? (Yes, you can!)
A Tribe Called Quest kicks ass.
By now the conversation has dullened, until Doc finally puts words to what we're all thinking:
F--k it: let's jam.
Robert Ippolito, November 2009
As you probably have noticed, Bar Slam Jam isn't coming out very quickly, due to work overloads on my part. Therefore BSJ is going to be taking a pause until just after the new year, when I hope to pump out some chapters in quick succession and keep a steady roll until the series is done (I'm not revealing too much when I say it won't be too much longer). So, I'll say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year now and get it out of the way, and see you again in 2010!
Cheers, Robert Ippolito