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Steps up to microphone… “This is dedicated to the one I love…”

she smiles but does not sing.  She just takes a moment to look around at the half-empty hall dotted with leather n black t-shirts, longhairs, miniskirts denim lace and otherwise, smiling sweet faces who came to drink and have a good time with friends. They were eager for some kick-ass music in a place they felt safe waiting for their band to come and play the songs that were part of their bloodstreams.  A brotherhood, a sisterhood, a conclave where they can’t smoke inside, so the habit chases them outside in un-degree weather holy fuck their fingernails turned blue…

I wore my boots because I learned I will get trounced in the mosh pit. I left my purse at home, only carrying cash and my license so they could identify my body when it was all done I always said, jokingly.  I never ate there because it’s not that kind of place. I liked to stand behind the mixing board, explore the balcony upstairs and see what mischief was made but there never was any, just a bunch of empty seats in a tiny theatre that never forgot its stained-glass roots while down below waited a tiny black stage gouged to hell, walls and curtains bordello red,  radio station banners that could have been made by high-schoolers, that was until the headliner came on and the banners rose up into the heavens, up up and away, exposing three stage lights or maybe a fog machine.  The band came, the one we needed to see, even that night when I was in a fever sweat, nothing could keep me away. It’s heaven, it’s passion, strangers no more, we are one when the first chord leaps out of the amps and doesn’t let go for two hours.

and I was “dancin’ with myself oh oh oh oh..

If I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don’t know

I hate myself for loving you… ”

I broke the hand dryer in the lady’s room by accident. Guess I shouldn’t have activated it so hard, you know it sparked and shut down and my girlfriend said I was a beast and that’s not so easy to live down. (Oh, and never, ever, leave home without a few squares of TP in your pocket, there won’t be any in the bathroom by the time you get there no matter how early you arrive.) And don’t look in the men’s room as you walk through the narrow hall, the door is always open (why?) and it’s just not polite. Um… yeah, I did.

The bouncer knows me so he lets me prowl around backstage. I got to wrap some wires and help stow them in the truck when the set was done, sober, because the drinks were bottom shelf, full of ice, but I wasn’t there to get wasted, after all.

In another time and place the American Legion was open across the road from the venue because they knew us folks would want a sip of something cool before the doors opened so we queued up for overpriced water.  That’s all right, it’s a worthy cause.  I wandered their wood paneled establishment, beer in hand, studying black and white photos of the veterans, placards with names and dates, feeling grateful for their service and wondering why there weren’t more Iron Maiden t-shirts at the bar and in my world in general.

But then, it’s all about the music.  The vibe. The reason I show up with my camera stuffed in my pocket. I got your autograph. How about that time you were only five feet away from me, courtesy of a good friend who VIPd me up front. We prayed to the metal gods all those nights, together. I watched the creatures punching the night with their fists in the air, hugging their new friends in the parking lot, waiting for the band to come out and say hello to the stalwart few, sweaty hair freezing on their faces, waking up with that plastic band on their wrist that said they’d been somewhere and had the best night of their lives.

Somewhere. Somewhere that wasn’t the emergency room because somebody brought a gun and his misery and fear and pain and anger into the room.

This is dedicated to the one I love. I got you tucked in my tight jeans, inside my creaky leather jacket, you’re with me on the long drive home beside the river, shimmering with a rainbow of lights in black water, the moon nine days old, none of this a dream. “And no one can take it away.”

*old black water keep on rolling, Mississippi moon won’t you keep on shining on me… Thank you, Doobies.