I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Part 15
While I can see the rehearsal in my mind, I remember very little other than going through the songs and being asked to use the butt end of the stick to play the snare drum louder. I had barely played the drums in over a year so I was in no position to argue. To this day I still hold the sticks the same way. Whenever I see a drummer playing the snare with the traditional end of the stick, I question whether they’ll ever get a good enough “thwak” out of it. It’s hard to break old habits. Cool habits.
After the rehearsal, we went our separate ways and everything was left up in the air. The next day, late afternoon if I recall correctly, my doorbell rang. I had just moved in and didn’t have a phone installed yet. This is before cell phones, texting and e-mail, so if someone wanted to talk to you immediately, the only other options were physically finding you or sending a Western Union telegram. I answered the door and it’s Barry, asking if I could rehearse again that evening. He only lived about five blocks away, on the second avenue side of CBGB, so I assume he got a call from Dibbs or Smut to walk over and find me. He knew where I lived as Dibbs and Jerry had lived there previously. As kismet would have it, I wasn’t working that day and was home unpacking boxes. As to whether I could rehearse that night, I let him know that I would find time between putting my socks into drawers to get there.
It must have been decided after the first rehearsal that I was in the band because on the way to the second one Dibbs said, with a coy smile, “Well Lewis, I guess you’re a Rockat now.” I’m sure he thought it somewhat ironic that this fellow who a little over a year before had appeared before him in red flares and a shag hairdo (his description, not mine) was now in this highly stylized band. I sure found it ironic. As for his tone, it didn’t convey honor or the winning of a prize. It conveyed to me that I was in for an adventure that was both overwhelming but also underwhelming by its daily, grueling mundanity. It was almost like he was saying “kid, you have no idea what you’re getting into.” He wasn’t kidding.
I was told after the next night’s gig at Zappa’s in Brooklyn, we’d be on a multi-week tour heading south and into the mid-west. As a new comer to the road, I was advised on what to bring: the number of suitcases (one), pairs of pants (three), etc. One more thing. “You’ll need a hairdryer,” Smutty told me.
I spent the day gathering up my road needs, getting someone to keep an eye on my apartment and quitting my job at the record shop. There was a moment when I was getting ready for that night’s gig…my first gig…and I looked in the bathroom mirror and noted the moment. I was 21, in a band with a major label record deal and a new apartment that Jerry Nolan had previously lived in. The bathroom had a shower and tub in it too. My previous apartment had a tub in the kitchen and a bathroom in the hall. I smiled as I fixed my perfectly coiffed hair and adjusted my collar. I felt as if I had made a breakthrough and I was on an upwards path towards eternal coolness. I’d started March 3rd at my humdrum record store gig. On March 5th I was a professional musician. It was like I had won the lottery.
Before the show, in a mentoring and helpful gesture I’m sure, one unnamed band member caringly asked if I was nervous. Before I could answer, I smelled something horrible. I suspected what it was but being the new guy didn’t feel I could say anything. Before I knew it, another band member said, “What’s that fuc*ing awful smell?” The previously caring partner was also a silent cheese cutter. He was now on a chair with his legs over his head, cackling and spreading his butt cheeks…yes, his pants were still on thankfully. Dibbs was right: I was in for an adventure. And yes, the passing of gas, not always silently, would soon reveal itself to be a universal activity on the road. Cool? Nah. Did it break up the boredom as well as the wind? Yes.
After the show we got in the van and started on our way to Washington DC to play two sets at the 930 club. The equipment went into the trailer and the band got into the van. There were no seats in the rear, and as we were all tired, within minutes everyone tried to catch some shut eye for the four hour drive. With crew members up front driving, all five of us were on the bare floor of the moving van in the dead of the night. We were all lying in the same direction, almost as if we were group spooning. With a certain sort of comfort and satisfaction, I silently said to myself, “I’m one of the guys.” It was like being in a gang without the guns and knives. There may be nothing cooler than camaraderie.
© Curt Weiss 2014