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Blowing Out the Pipes

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Chet Baker loves band practice. He gets to sit on Uncle Steve (our fearless drummer's) lap and get his polka-dots tickled.

Thank you, Uncle Steve. Now I will make your chin shiny clean.

It was one of those days when the sky just weeps uncontrollably, when you feel the whole winter rolling out before you with more and more and more of the same. Somehow Bill and I had to summon up the energy to have an evening band practice for a gig happening this Saturday night. But wait, you ask. Isn't the Big Sit starting at dawn Sunday morning? Don't you have a houseful of guests coming Saturday? What's this about a gig, too? Don't you have some cleaning to do? Welcome to the wacky, whizzy world of Bill and Julie, who live as if their hair is on fire. Who have the metabolism and focus of a couple of frickin' shrews, running around and self-actualizing ourselves right into our graves.

I had the notion, well, somebody told me, that band practice started at 6:30 p.m. So at 5:45 p.m. I started serving out four plates of roast (I'm going to say it, cover your eyes) chicken, mashed potatoes, and cornbread. A car rolled up, closely followed by two more. It wasn't even six. The rest of the band had arrived, and they were hongry. Make that seven plates. I'm holding it together at this point, but just barely, trying to make a smallish hen and two large potatoes stretch seven ways. Whomped up some milk gravy to ease the sting of the small portions. We all got fed. Then it was down to the practice room.

I felt about as much like raising my voice in song as donning a tutu and doing a couple of twirls around the room. And yet...the first guitar chord struck, and Steve started whapping his drums, and Marty got his groove on his bass, and Vinnie overlaid some celestially tasty keyboard, and we just got down and played, and it was righteous. We only had an hour's worth of music to work up, and the couple of hours of rehearsal just flew.

Then it seemed like we were all done, and Bill pulled out a couple of sheets of lined yellow legal paper. That always means he's been writing songs, late at night downstairs all closed off where nobody can hear. They were freshly scrawled, illegible to anyone but him.And he set up a rhythm on his guitar, and everyone came in, and it sounded like a traffic jam where everyone is laying on the horn HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK. Like they're mad. Like they've been in the July sun for an hour or two and they've had it and they're hungry and fed up and their engines are starting to overheat. It was heady and ridiculous and unbelievably compelling. The kind of riff that makes you stomp both feet at the same time, like a happy idiot who sits in the corner twisting a bit of cloth. And then he started to sing, and the lyrics fit the song perfectly, furious and exasperated, biting right into the painful core, juice flying everywhere. Everybody but me was playing like crazy. I was sitting there watching my husband, his hands beating the blue-eyed crap out of his Strat, his eyes closed and his feet with a life of their own, scissoring and stamping, and there were tears pouring down my face, knowing brilliance when I heard it. I was flattened by the G's, like the guy in the old Memorex ad with his hair streaming straight back as he faces the speakers. This guy howling out his rage and frustration, sighting down the barrels of a lyric and blowing a hole out of the opposite wall, was my husband. I always used to imagine I knew him pretty well. I've come to realize that there are corridors in his soul that have collapsed in on themselves, blocked by solid rock, and I'm on my knees with a headlamp, tapping with my tiny chisel, wanting in.

We'll play Rewind Myself on Saturday, and see what Marietta thinks of it.


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