January 27, 2001

Stowed Away with a Few Pints


I've been feeling a little over the hill lately. Maybe it's the thinning hair, or even the unconscious desire to watch more VH-1 than MTV, but I get the feeling that the impulse that keeps me away from Gold's Gym is the same one that keeps me happily stowed away with a few pints at the James Joyce every Saturday, soaking in Ulysses or some other amalgamation of men that look like my grandpa churning out that ancient twentieth century music called jazz. I bet those guys don't feel as old as I do sometimes, at least not when they're onstage. It's just too easy for me to find that one location and stick to it, like I was born ten years too late and missed the casting call for Cheers or something.

So while I'm getting ready to depart again, like some poor misguided Andy Capp, to my alcohol closet of choice, it occurs to me that if I don't act soon I'm gonna end up older than Ulysses and feeling worse about it in no time. "Hey," I say to myself, "I could at least be in the same boat with those guys in thirty years- I'm a musician, so why don't I start acting like one?" Now, before I figure out it's not a rhetorical question I get as dressed to kill as any postgraduate with a midlife crisis, and am soon raring to go promote myself and my musical talent on Lower State, with of course a final tour of James Joyce at the end.

Tonight most of the excitement and variety comes in the guise of the many incentives I have to use to convince my girlfriend to come with me: "Hey, maybe we'll meet KEYT''s John Palminteri again!"; "I'll make all the trips to the peanut barrel for you!"; or even "Well, it can only be better than last time, right?" She's less than impressed; she knows my real reason for crawling around downtown this time is to hawk demos of my own rock and roll band, the Mojo Wire, to various club promoters and managers, and she wants no part of it, despite the promise of our favorite Irish pub as the eventual destination.

I don't blame her, and as a fellow Isla Vistan on a limited budget, I appreciate the paranoia that comes with consideration of the many issues at stake: a) How crowded Bill's Bus will be at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning, which leads to b), how many taxis will be available afterward (and how expensive is it- we really got gouged once after a Mermen show at Soho), and finally, c), why don’t we know anyone who lives down there that would spare us the angst and simply let us crash at their place? Of course if we were really impulsive enough we wouldn’t even think this far ahead and would be down there now, already tossed and lost, demos be damned, but we’re far too compulsive to even think of it.

Eventually she relents, though I’m unsure she doesn’t regret it, as the bus ride progresses and I regale her with more stories she already knows, like how I almost got booted from the Wildcat last summer for not looking anything like my seventeen-year-old self pictured on my I.D., or the time Cool Water Canyon covered “Billie Jean” at the Tank/Toes/Sharkeez (they’re all beginning to run together now) to a rabid audience of beautiful women, and on and on through every bar downtown, all the while simply throwing my demos away on people who probably won’t listen, until we reach the James Joyce. Ulysses is there, though they’ve recessed for the moment, so we stand over by the infinite well of peanuts with our pints and wait.

When the band returns, they play an excellent Dixieland set to all ages clapping and stomping the floor to splinters as peanut shells fly and beer sloshes (were it not for the booze, this could be, ugh, Disneyland) and everyone has a good time and we don’t care how un-hip it is. My girlfriend surveys the crowd for a while, smiles, laughs, and concludes confidently that if I were to become a geezer of a bass player, amusing my fellow musicians onstage in thirty years, she would gladly be the loudest cheering grandma in the club. I thank her of course, but I realize all too belatedly that I’m no older than I thought I was. I just need to step out of I.V. and into the rest of the world every once in a while to be reminded of that fact.

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