The Duke. Chapter 6 - Angry yet indifferent men, chain-smoking, sexual liberation, grapefruit, and the return of Mikel Perez
Someone once said, "Let me be forgiven for the sins I will commit, for I am human and therefore a beast." That's all people are. We're all just beasts, caged within the walls of a cubicle, chained by the tightening of a tie. But I refuse, I refuse to resign to what so many others have given into as their "destined fate." I am above such things and with that benevolence I find myself with a responsibility to take this world's rules, standards, expectations, and wipe my ass with them. God created man in his image, wrathful, powerful, intelligent, all-knowing and what has become of us? We have regressed I tell you, back to when man first found fire, when he learned to speak, when love was but an animalistic rage of flailing limbs and beastly passion. That is not what separates us from the others but what connects us to the ungodly spirits of the very animals we imprison. Lions stare back with vengeful, bitter eyes of despair and jealousy from behind the bars of their public prison and they dream of freedom they may have once had. What we have here is an absurdly large lack of communication! Man once wrote beautiful things, he sang songs that ignited the very fire and spirit within our breasts, the same fire that pushed us to revolution, to change, to humanity, and he has taken that fire and curb stomped it, naked in the street. It's a sad thing to watch, but like trying to quit smoking or a Tijuana donkey show, you just can't find the willpower to stop or look away. I find myself screaming, "Holy Jesus! Mother of God! Where am I?" and the culmination of my life experiences begins to take shape into what appears to be an unholy matrimony between the civilized gentleman within me that was, and the mad, raving lunatic that is. They both fight, struggle, and kill to be in control but in the end they both give in to madness. They both cease to feel the pain of being a man and give in to desire and instinct. What a treat to see.
"Jake! Drumline please!"
The crowd rumbled and groaned, an orgy of anxiousness and excitement, and pounded their fists against the concrete floors of the stadium. Flames shot from the stage, synchronized with every immense beat this maniacally intoxicated drummer could muster. Waves of sound, walls of sound, shot from the stage and pressed down against the chests of every last soul in that room and people were silenced by the weight of a musical elephant crushing down upon their chests.
"Hate, is the most beautiful thing there is. Show me, what do you people hate?"
People screamed out everything about their lives that made them despondent. I remember feeling like when they screamed it all out, I was taking it all in. I was stealing their woes so that Uncle John could go home and not have to have a drink, so little Billy could do well in school, so Mindy could say no to her boyfriend, so Roberta could find strength in admitting she was wrong. I am these people, and all that they hate. And this is why they love me.
"As much as I hate to say it, this will be our last song tonight. I hope you recognize it."
All it takes is the strum of a chord, a single chord, and they are unleashed.
We stepped off stage, the first of the many stadium shows to come. I lit a cigarette and stepped into our dressing room. Alfonso sat with his woman on the couch laughing, kissing, holding each other while Jake continued to intoxicate himself, surrounded by the company of women, quite possibly prostitutes, he struggled to stay awake. I myself took a seat in the corner, smoked my cigarettes and drank whiskey. I sat and watched the rush of the roadies and management zooming in and out of the room, sporadic in their movements, trying desperately to get this band together so we could move on to the next city. We had 25 shows booked this month, a February, and I could already feel the strain it would have on my voice. We migrated to the bus and I sat up front with the driver, chain smoking through the night while the other two partied and made love. Our driver Fred and I took shifts driving the bus so we could push on through the night. Things began to quiet down around 4 AM but like many nights, sleep eluded me.
"Wake up mutherf--kers. Lets grab some breakfast, I'm starving."
I kicked Jake awake and nudged Alfonso. Alfonso buried his face in the breasts of his woman and fell back asleep so Jake and I went into the diner while everyone slept. A rather attractive woman greeted us and I was pleasantly surprised when she asked if we were smoking or non-smoking. I replied uncharacteristically pleased, "Smoking."
So Duke, you enjoying yourself? We just played our first stadium show and you're actin' like your mother died."
"Just looking ahead. It's going to be a long tour."
"Well scrape some joy out of it man. You can't stay cooped up in that shell of yours forever."
"We're here, nobody's died yet, I think I'll be happy with that."
"Don't give me that bullshit man. We both know you're itchin' to cause so mayhem. It's just not you to sit so quietly through the night. You of all people should be proud of this."
"Jake, I'm not sure if you noticed but right now we're a fad. Fads lose steam quick. I've got to be ready with something better for when that does happen. Do you wannna end up a one-hit-wonder or legends or rock?"
"Legend of rock."
"Then let me figure things out before I go destroying everything I've worked for."
"You may sing the songs man but you don't write me or Fonz's parts."
"True, but I'm the one who brings you two the songs. You guys add the polish. I've said it before I"ll say it again, this is my band."
"Yeah, I've heard it enough."
The same woman who'd greeted us came to take our orders.
"What can I get you boys?"
"I'll take an order of sausage, bacon, 3 scrambled eggs with ham mixed in, 3 bottles of Coronas, a fifth of Jack Daniels, and a pot of Coffee. Oh, and grapefruit."
"Jesus Christ Duke. Uhm, I'll have what he's having."
Jake rode shotgun while I drove the bus. I lit a cigarette and hit the cruise control button.
I jolted from my seat, swerving the bus, almost losing control. People began to wake up.
"What the f--k!"
Mikel stood behind my seat, looking at me in my rearview mirror. I glared back at him.
"How in the f--k did you get in here?"
"I had one of your fans drive me down this way. I made it to your show but they wouldn't let me in. This was the only major highway heading to your next venue though so I figured I'd catch you along the way. I sort of had to promise her that she'd get to meet you though."
"Well where the f--k is she?"
"OH MY GAWWD. It's really you."
"I see you've invited her on the bus."
"I couldn't go back on my word man. What kind of guy would I be if I did?"
She nervously approached the side of my seat and knelt down to speak with me.
"Hi. Nice to meet you. I'm-"
"Duke! I know who you are. I love everything you've done. I've got everything you've ever released! I've even got your original demos!"
"I never released those. How'd you get em'?"
"I know a guy who works at Sabbath Records. He copied them for me."
Mikel stepped back into the conversation.
"Anyways I was thinkin' maybe we take her along. Her car broke down and we can't just leave her stranded out here."
I sat there, fidgeting with my fork and my food and thought about it. I didn't want to take her but as much as I try to she'd the image of any type of sensitivity or kindness there's always a little bit of my childhood self that manages to pierce through.
"Alright we'll take her, but she's on your watch."
"Don't worry, I"ll stay on her."
"I bet you will..."
See the thing about Mikel is, well he's Mikel. The man is sporadic. That's why we get on so well. We're both wild but we're both different. It's a hard thing to explain. And even if I did, could you really understand it? I've tried a few times to explain it to people. It was during those real deep personal-type talks where people are exposing all their deeply rooted issues to you. I always understood what they were getting at but they never understood me. I just got a lot of blank stares and apologetic looks. They always feel bad when they can't understand you; they try harder but no matter how hard they try there's no grasping the concept for them. So they blame you and demonize you, they vilify you, and soon you're walking alone through the corridors of an empty hallway, wondering where all the time went, wondering where all the people have gone all because they couldn't understand what you meant exactly. Ignorance is not bliss, only hateful. And hate, well it sprouts from the silent screamer, the vacant looking observer, the trustworthy friend, hate emanates from the very cause of all human conflict: jealousy. People like me, we are jealous yes, I'll not try to kid you there, but we please ourselves with the fact that we have no reason to envy, because we get what we want, even if we have to take it.