Short Story Of the Day Night Guitar (part 2) by Bill Chance

“The only truth is music.”
― Jack Kerouac

Music at the Brewery Tour

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#46). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


 

Night Guitar (part 2)

Read Part 1 Here

 

Wendy’s parents were cool. Her father, Hank, had a beat-up old nylon string guitar that could never hold tune and fancied himself a musician. Doug had already formed his first band, a bunch of schoolboys with bad skin that called themselves Kubrick Honesty And The Midnight Emotion. They weren’t very good but Doug could already feel the power of being on stage, the glazed stare of the middle school girls leaning on the gymnasium stage, looking up at him.

Doug knew Hank was happy that Doug was Wendy’s boyfriend because Hank wanted to live out his own childhood fantasy of being a budding rockstar. And that was fine with Doug. He could put up with Wendy’s whining as long as her father would spend money on the young couple.

Wendy’s parents had a weekend cabin down at the lake. They would take Doug, and Wendy’s little brother Bart would bring a friend and the six of them would hang out, ride paddleboats, make a fire, cook hotdogs and s’mores. It was all a little too cute for Doug, too old-fashioned, too family-oriented, but he put up with it.

It was getting late in the year and Wendy started bugging him to go to the cabin with her parents that weekend.

“Ah, Wendy, it’s too damn cold, we can’t swim, nothing to do.”

“Doug, we’re going and that’s that. I’m trying to butter up the folks, I’m going to hit them up for a car at the end of the semester.”

If Wendy had a car, then he had a car. The way Hank slobbered over him Doug would probably get to pick the color.

The problem was that Bart, Wendy’s snotty little brother had a new friend… his name was Sam, but everybody called him Boo. At any rate, Boo had an older brother named Carter, and there was something wrong with him. Carter gave Doug the creeps and he was going to go along for the weekend.

Carter was blind and had terrible scars across his face. He wore dark glasses, a floppy hat, and a thick scarf. They put him in the very back of the station wagon, in that folding seat that faced backwards, all by himself. Everybody else piled in and off they went.

Doug leaned into Wendy, “I’ve had never heard Carter talk, can he?”

“Shh, not so loud,” Wendy said, “He can hear fine, he can talk fine. There’s nothing wrong with the inside of his noggin, really. Nobody knows why he don’t talk much. His parents can’t figure out what to do. He goes to a special school.”

“Well, what the hell happened to him?” Doug whispered.

“I don’t know for sure. I’ve heard Boo say that his mother pulled some grease off the stove and it fell on him when he was a baby. They don’t like to talk about it. I think his parents feel really guilty and try not to think about Carter much. He’s off at that school all the time anyway. He’s only home one weekend a month. And then they send him off with us.”

“Christ, that’s awful,” Doug said. “Crap, I hope he doesn’t screw up our whole weekend.”

“Don’t worry,” said Wendy. “He just sits there. We won’t even know he’s around.”

At the cabin they put Carter in a rocking chair on the porch, in the sun and he sat there, moving his hands silently across a Braille book, while the others went for a hike.

After the sun set, Wendy’s parents built a fire in a stone structure that ran behind the cabin. They called all the kids over.

“Glad to see you brought your guitar,” Hank said, gesturing at Doug’s steel-stringed Yamaha as he strummed a little chord on his. Bart and Boo brought Carter over, steering him until he sat on a bit of stone wall off to the side. It was Hank and his wife, Doug and Wendy, and Bart and Boo, all crowded around the fire, with Carter silent, alone.

“Play us a song, Doug,” Hank said.

“Please,” asked his wife.

“How about, ‘Blowing in the Wind.’”

“Yeah, Yeah! Blowin’ in the wind, shouted Bart and Boo, punching each other and making blowing noises.”

Doug was suddenly embarrassed, unsure. “Uh, I know the song, but I don’t want to sing by myself.” He looked around, the younger pair was still horsing around; nobody else seemed too interested.

“Here, give me that guitar.” Everybody jumped. It was Carter – the first thing that Doug had ever heard him say. What especially shocked Doug was that Carter’s voice was… perfectly normal, almost matter-of-fact. Ordinarily, Doug didn’t let anyone touch his guitar, but he was taken so much by surprise, without thinking, he leaned over and pushed the Yamaha into Carter’s arms.

Carter cradled the guitar, strummed the strings, and, though Doug always kept it in tune, adjusted two of the pegs, strummed again, then tweaked one the tiniest bit. That seemed to satisfy him, and without pause, he launched into the Dylan classic.

Everyone around the fire was stunned. Carter had Bob Dylan’s technique down to a tee, his guitar playing and the gravelly voice was spot-on. Still, Carter was able to add something, to make the song his own. It was surreal. He finished and sat there, running his fingers up and down the strings. The others were gobsmacked. Doug had no idea what to say or do. Only Wendy’s mother was able to get out a sentence.

“Why Carter, that’s lovely. I didn’t know you could play and sing like that. Where did you learn that?”

“Oh, they teach me in school. I don’t have anything else so I can practice for hours every day. I do work very hard on it.”

“Please,” Wendy’s mother said, “Sing us something else.”

Without hesitation, Carter started strumming and singing. He belted out Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” which was on the radio at the time. Doug, again, was stunned. That’s a tough song to sing, especially solo, especially for a kid. Somehow, Carter was able to strum out the rhythm, bounce the drum part with his fingers on the guitar, and pick the accompaniment simultaneously, making it sound like he had a backing band.

When he finished, Doug was able to muster up a question.

“Carter, you know, we have a talent show at the school, I think you should come down there and play.”

Without raising his head Carter pulled a derisive grunt from his throat. “Gah, you know, I work really hard on this. It’s very important to me. It’s all I’ve got. I don’t think I’m going to waste my work on a talent show at Estes Kefauver High School. Besides, I’m mostly a songwriter, not a performer. I don’t think anybody’s really going to want to look at me.”

Stunned, Doug asked, “Can you… can you play something you’ve wrote?”

“Well, I’m working on something. Instrumental. It’s for piano, not guitar, but I think I can…” He began picking out a melody, very softly at first, but growing in volume on the second round. He added chords and then began the drumlike thumping until he sounded like a small orchestra sitting there. He played through the melody again and again, starting with subtle variations then veering off in unexpected directions, changing keys and rhythm, until finally coming back to where he started.

Doug was amazed at the technical virtuosity needed to pull this off with a simple guitar sitting around a campfire. He forgot about Wendy about the others… even Bart and Boo sat silent and motionless. Doug could see in his mind’s eye the scarred blind kid sitting in an empty classroom hunched over a piano, practicing day after day, shunned and forgotten by everyone and everything except his music.

Doug knew how many untold hours it took to learn that. Doug knew that he couldn’t put in that much work – he had too much else to do. He also knew that he would never, ever, in his entire life, be that good. He would never be able to do that. He would never write anything that beautiful.

Doug and Wendy broke up a week later. From the stage at the talent show, he saw Wendy’s father Hank at the back of the auditorium. Doug’s band won, though Doug didn’t feel as excited as he thought he would.

And now decades later, he was Copernicus Mayhem, and his dreams had come true. He had strings of hit records, mansions, and supermodel girlfriends. His life was all money, excitement, and decadence. Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.

And now he was in a symphony hall, listening to music by the famous and secretive Tyrone Page, and he had heard that melody before. It started out soft, in the double reed woodwind section, which was an odd way to start, but it worked. The melody was picked up by the strings; then handed off as the entire orchestra joined in, each section taking turns with new variations and modifications.

Even though he had heard it only once fifteen years ago it had burned into his brain so deep he was able to pick out new ideas and novel variations that Tyrone/Carter had come up with over the years. It was innovative, it was exquisitely polished. It was a masterpiece.

And all of a sudden Copernicus was Doug again. And he knew that he could never, ever, do that. Still, he smiled, and raised the Maker’s Mark that he had smuggled in, and toasted the blind and scarred boy he once had heard around the campfire.

Short Story Of the Day Night Guitar (part 1) by Bill Chance

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Dan Colcer
Deep Ellum Art Park
Dallas, Texas

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#45). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


 

Night Guitar (part 1)

 

Copernicus Mayhem was the lead singer and guitarist of the band Sweetmeat Valentine. Copernicus Mayhem wasn’t his real name, but he made sure everyone used it. His real name was Doug Chandler. Nobody called him that. Not any more.

“Oh, come on Copernicus, please, pretty please, let’s go. I wanna go,” said Serena Twist, Copernicus’ girlfriend. She was his West Coast girlfriend, and they were on the West Coast.

“Oh, babe, I’m beat. This is the first day off I’ve had in a month. Let’s stay here. The suite’s big and nice. Let’s do room service, hit some weed, soak in the tub.”

“Hit some weed and soak in the tub? That’s all you wanna do. I’m bored. I’m bored. Let’s go.” Serena switched her voice into high sniveling mode – like fingernails on chalkboard. Copernicus knew he would give in, but he held out for a minute. To keep up appearances.

“What kind of stupid concert is this anyway?” Copernicus asked.

“It’s classy. It’s classical. This composer, Tyrone Page, has a new symphony. It’s never been performed before. You’ve been invited and I want to go. It’s a humongous deal.”

Copernicus didn’t have anything against classical music. He wasn’t as stupid as he looked. His music was teenage angst and noise. But he kept up. He knew of Tyrone Page. Page was a mystery, an enigma, nobody knew who he was or where he came from.

The scores of Page’s works arrived on the desks of famous conductors at random intervals. Page never allowed his stuff to be recorded. It had to be heard live. No bootlegs, even. Though the composer was hidden, his army of lawyers weren’t.

Copernicus was interested. He wanted to go; intrigued. It had been so long since he had been intrigued he had forgotten what it felt like. He gave in after a calibrated resistance.

“Ok, ok, If you want this so much,” Copernicus said. “But I want you to call Skinner and make the transportation arrangements. I want a stretch this time, no van. And I want some weed in the car and a bottle of Maker’s Mark. And plenty of ice.”

“Sure honey, I’ll set it up. Thank you, Thank you.” Serena seemed truly grateful.

Copernicus couldn’t resist, “Oh, and please change. If this is a big deal, I want you to wear something… something shiny.”


The weed and the Maker’s Mark in the limo did the trick and Copernicus was very relaxed when they pulled up in front of the Opera House. He had to lean on Serena to make it through the gauntlet of flashbulbs and microphones between the street and the private box entrance. Skinner pulled him aside and made him talk to the asshole from TMZ.

The reported asked, “What are your touring plans now? How are you going to keep the band together after the tragic death of your drummer?”

Copernicus had forgotten about the drummer and the overdose. He had never spoken a word to the guy – Skinner had hired him. He always had bad luck with drummers and never wanted to get involved. It was just work. On tour – the drummer never actually played. The percussion tracks were all on tape.

“Oh, it was a terrible tragedy, but I have a responsibility to our fans and we’ll find a way to make it up to them.” The reporter seemed satisfied, Skinner nodded, and Serena pulled him inside the door.


Copernicus found himself sinking down, slinking toward the floor of the private box. Serena tugged on his shoulder to make him scootch back upright.

On stage, some geezer stumbled out and rambled away with an appeal for funds. Copernicus was really fading, fighting to stay awake. He had forgotten why he had wanted to come to the concert and was glad he had brought the whiskey in. He raised the Maker’s Mark bottle to his lips. Nobody would say anything – he was a rock star.

The lights dimmed and the music swelled from below. It began strange, atonal, repetitive, and that made Copernicus slip even closer to oblivion. Serena gave him a sharp elbow.

Then, without warning, the main theme of the first movement came cutting through – starting with the woodwinds and quickly picked up by the strings. It jolted Copernicus. It resonated somewhere, somewhere deep in his memory. He jerked up straight; his eyes bolted wide.

He had heard this before. He had to relax and let the memories flow in before he could figure out where and when had he heard this music before.


Decades ago, in high school, when he was still Doug, Copernicus had a girlfriend named Wendy. He hadn’t thought about her in a long, long, time. He thought about her now. Copernicus realized that Wendy looked a lot like Serena Twist. Though his life had changed – veered off into the ozone – his taste in women had not. Like Serena, Wendy liked to get her way by whining until Doug gave in.

 

Read Part 2 Here

It’s Got Them Disraeli Gears

I just managed to convince my grandmother that it was a worth while that was something to do, you know, and when I did finally get the guitar, it didn’t seem that difficult to me, to be able to make a good noise out of it.

—-Eric Clapton

Dan Colcer
Deep Ellum Art Park
Dallas, Texas

There’s this show that shows up on AXS television – on the cable, you know – called Classic Albums. On the show they take an hour and go through the production of a classic rock album – usually with the musicians, producers, artists, hangers-on… the whole works. It’s pretty cool. I watch for these and DVR the ones that look interesting to me. I’ve seen a few, let’s see… Aja, Dark Side of the Moon, So, Damn the Torpedoes, Pet Sounds.

Last night I watched one on an album I wasn’t all that familiar with – Cream’s Disraeli Gears. I’m old enough to remember Cream back in the day but a bit too young to be a huge fan. They were only together for two years – Disraeli Gears came out in 1967 – and I was ten years old. I didn’t really start listening to popular music until 1968 – I would scrounge up a dollar each week and buy one 45 single on Saturday, the first one I bought was the theme song for Hawaii Five-O (jeez, don’t be hard on me, I was only eleven).

So I remember the Cream album covers in the stores and over the years I heard all the hits (Strange Brew, Sunshine of Your Love, Tales of Brave Ulysses) but didn’t know much about the band except that it had Eric Clapton in it. I did see a documentary about Ginger Baker once – he was a madman.

The show was interesting and gave me a new appreciation of this classic rock music.

But the best part was finding out what Disraeli Gears meant. I always assumed it was some sort of British political statement. It isn’t. It’s a malaprop and a cycling reference.

“You know how the title came about – Disraeli Gears – yeah? We had this Austin Westminster, and Mick Turner was one of the roadies who’d been with me a long time, and he was driving along and Eric (Clapton) was talking about getting a racing bicycle. Mick, driving, went ‘Oh yeah it’s got them Disraeli gears!’ meaning derailleur gears… We all just fell over… We said that’s got to be the album title.”

—-Ginger Backer, 1967

How cool is that! You learn something every day.

Stone Sculpture on the Riverbank

“Leaving New Orleans also frightened me considerably. Outside of the city limits the heart of darkness, the true wasteland begins.”
― John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

I was walking along the strip of concrete along the top of the Mississippi levee that separates the French Quarter from the vast moisture of the Big Muddy. There was the path, a narrow strip of weedy grass, a band of riparian riprap rock used for erosion control and then the water itself.

I noticed a pile of rock in a peculiar arrangement, down right next to the water. At first I thought someone had simply piled them up, but as I looked closer, it seemed that they would not hold together in that formation by themselves. Gravity would pull them asunder. Someone had gone down there with some industrial adhesive or quick-set epoxy and glued the stones together. It was a sculpture, a work of art.

An Internet search failed to reveal any information about this impromptu pile of granite.

Who knows how long they will hold together under the assault of the elements, but if you want to check – it’s right there near the entrance to Jackson Square.

Riverbank Sculpture, Mississippi River, French Quarter, New Orleans

Blocks Of Granite Towering Over the City

“Build your house on granite. By granite I mean your nature that you are torturing to death, the love in your child’s body, your wife’s dream of love, your own dream of life when you were sixteen. Exchange your illusions for a bit of truth. Throw out your politicians and diplomats! Take your destiny into your own hands and build your life on rock.

Don’t try to improve on nature. Learn to understand it and protect it. Go to the library instead of the prize fight, go to foreign countries rather than to Coney Island. And first and foremost, think straight, trust the quiet inner voice inside you that tells you what to do. You hold your life in your hands, don’t entrust it to anyone else, least of all to your chosen leaders. BE YOURSELF! Any number of great men have told you that.”
—-Wilhelm Reich, Listen, Little Man!

Tears Were Warm, And Girls Were Beautiful, Like Dreams

“Even so, there were times I saw freshness and beauty. I could smell the air, and I really loved rock ‘n’ roll. Tears were warm, and girls were beautiful, like dreams. I liked movie theaters, the darkness and intimacy, and I liked the deep, sad summer nights.”
― Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

Monco Poncho and Fans Four Bullets Brewery Richardson, Texas

Monco Poncho and Fans
Four Bullets Brewery
Richardson, Texas

Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Bass Player

“People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands – literally thousands – of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.”
― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

Monco Poncho Four Bullets Brewery Richardson, Texas

Monco Poncho
Four Bullets Brewery
Richardson, Texas

Waiting for the Gig

In front of the Winspear Opera House, Arts District, Dallas, Texas

“Even so, there were times I saw freshness and beauty. I could smell the air, and I really loved rock ‘n’ roll. Tears were warm, and girls were beautiful, like dreams. I liked movie theaters, the darkness and intimacy, and I liked the deep, sad summer nights.”
― Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

set1

“We feared that the music which had given us sustenance was in danger of spiritual starvation. We feared it losing its sense of purpose, we feared it falling into fattened hands, we feared it floundering in a mire of spectacle, finance, and vapid technical complexity. We would call forth in our minds the image of Paul Revere, riding through the American night, petitioning the people to wake up, to take up arms. We too would take up arms, the arms of our generation, the electric guitar and the microphone.”
― Patti Smith, Just Kids

set2

I’ve taken pictures here before and before… and now I’ve done it again and again.

“If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.”
― William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Ducado Vega

During the Deep Ellum Food Truck Festival a band set up along the side, in front of a recording studio. It was Ducado Vega (facebook) and Zenya – winners of the Dallas Observer Music Award for “Best Funk/R&B Act.” They were nice and loud and a lot of fun. Especially when they moved back in time for some classic James Brown funk and some unusual covers (Rolling in the Deep).

Great local music.

Support your local bands. Ducado Vega will be in the Colony this weekend.