Friday was a perfect work day. I ate some Christmas party food and left work early. I had a gig that night and wanted to get a nap. We set up the P.A. and lights with out a hitch. We played a few tunes and all was well. I started noodling on the drum intro to the Van Halen song; "Hot For Teacher". Normally this kind of thing drives the band mates nuts but because I am not the bands real drummer, this really and impresses them. Tony the bands singer, jokes that we should do the song.
The first set is played to three dock workers and four housewives with their backs to us. The club is empty. The place is usually packed on Friday with newly divorced, fake boobied cougars and the guys that buy them drinks. On the plus side: it's raining. Tony makes a joke or two and we play a few more songs. Half way through the second set, it looks like a tour bus of middle aged party people arrived and the joint is macking in full swing. The band decides not to break and play straight through. We've all had a few more than normal, during the low key first set. Tony is shined up a little more than the rest of us and after introducing me says:
"Play that double bass thing!"
I start the "Hot for Teacher" intro, the guitar player comes in (right on que) and we launch into the song. Tony starts singing and we drop the last verse, but basically its pretty good. The crowd goes ape shit, I feel like a stud, and Tony says Good night.
The next day is going to be perfect, I have another gig with the band in Panama City and I don't have to leave until 2:30 p.m. Ms. W.B. is taking the boys to Jacksonville and I will be able to sleep in and leave rested and relaxed. At 7:00 a.m. someone is driving cattle through my house. There are loud noises and doors slamming. My left eye creeks open and sees the clock. I went to bed four hours ago. Not to worry, I need to say goodbye to the troops anyway and then I can sleep till noon like a rock star. Ms. W.B. is glad she doesn't have to keep everyone quiet and I look like a hero for getting up after a late night. They disembark and I snuggle back in to safety under my blankies.
No one told the dog I was sleeping and she had a schedule of her own:
(8:30 a.m.) Bark at all sides of the yard, make sure all the neighbors dogs are awake and barking too.
(9:00 a.m.) Run in and out of the dog door as many times as possible, at the highest rate of speed, making sure to bark at the squirrels in the front yard as well as the squirrels in the back yard.
(10:00 a.m.) Push bedroom door open lick private parts, scratch area by tags (so they jingle) then jump on the bed and make sure man owner is still sleeping.
(10:30 a.m.) Mid morning nap.
I am in the midst of a great dream, the waves are cracking and I am on a clothing optional beach. All the women are beautiful and exercising their option. They are happy to see me as they cover each other with tanning oil. They wave as I enter the crystal clear ocean. Everything would be perfect if that bell wasn't ringing. Why would anyone allow a door chime on such a scenic beach? The scene fades and I am sucked into a vortex. My eyes open and I hear the door bell ringing over and over, like kid on Ritalin is at the controls. I drop three hundred and seventy two f-bombs in the twelve steps it takes to get to the door. I am just in time to see the U.P.S. guy drive away. I give up. It's time to make tea and get on with life.
The gig in Panama City goes off well. It is a black tie, Toys for Tots, charity event. The band has played this show for four years and they love Tony and the boys. We have access to a VIP room with a free bar and a nice lay out of finger food. Three sets, thanks a lot, drums in the car and I hit the road. I get home at 5:30 a.m. and sleep the sleep of the dead. I wake up at 1:30 stoked to find out Worm is going to Tom Brown for a ride. He sent out an email to the crew, so it will probably be a big ride. I suit up and run out the door.
Worm is there but no one else. No worries. They are probably late, so we will take a short lap and cruise back though the parking lot. As we roll up to the cars, I am overwhelmed by the stench of dog poo. I go to the hose and start rinsing off the recycled dog chow. It gets on me, my bike, and my gloves. Big Worm, who is really pissed at the crew (for their no show act) is starting to show signs of life. He chuckles as I get covered in water, shit and mud on one of the coldest days of the year. We set off towards Cadillac and a joyous day of mountain biking in the church of the open sky. Big Worm leads out, and I can tell he is going to open up on the single track. No worries, I am right on his wheel and really enjoying his fast lines. He goes into a really rooty section and takes a new line. I admire the way he rips thought it and I decide to follow him. The first root rips my bars to the left, as my right foots unclips from my pedal. I push the bars out in front of me and try to get control as the next group of bigger roots approaches. I lunge forward trying to get back over the bike when the bars leave my hands violently and I go down like a bag of hammers. I try to get up but the air intake is not working, so I just lay back down and amuse Worm as I try to breath. Worm, who was really in a bad mood, now seems to be having a great day. He has a grin that couldn't be knocked off with a baseball bat, and I find myself wishing I could try. We continue to roll and my bike begins making a sound that the Wormster (always mindful of new ways to add to my misery) diagnoses as a sound his Yeti frame made just before it broke. I have to act like nothing bothers me because I just can't bear to watch Worm get any happier and we finish out the ride.
On the way home I shoot Shin's a call at Joe's. They stay open on Sundays near the holidays. He tells me to come on by. He throws my beloved bike on the rack and rips it apart like and old woman declawing a lobster on her birthday. Parts are every where and Shin's shows no signs of anything I can decipher as good news or bad. We close the shop down and Shin's keeps throwing parts of my bike all over the counters floors and ceiling. At one point he produces a bottle of Irish whiskey and offers me a snort. I haven't eaten in six hours, but it seems like a great idea. Three hours after he should have been home with his wife and kids (on a Sunday!) my bike is rebuilt, with new pivot bearings and clean as whistle. Shin's says to come by tomorrow and settle up. In the morning I run to The Cake Shop, to get pastry for Shin's and Joey. Shin's eyes water as he eats the apple cake, and Joe's eats the lemon squares while making primal, orgasmic groans. Mission accomplished.
Running from the dark. It is an old pastime, a deep seated fear and a primal trigger in the reaches of my wiring. My only rule as a kid was to be home before the streetlights came on. I always overestimated the daylight and underestimated my ETA to the porch. Many a panicked time trial was motored home at the top of my heart rate.
I never tired of the game and the pattern repeated. I frequently found myself waiting in the lineup for one more wave, as the fifty foot Australian pines subdivided the sun like a math graph. The switch would flip, and turn the blue ocean to oil. Over head swells look just like lull, when the contrast is turned down. The adrenalin drives the pupils open and the brain searches frantically for clues of survival. At the edge of hope, I'd catch one and aim for the last trace of glare.
I arrived at the top of a skate park snake run, when I heard my name over the P.A.. They shut out the lights and I bombed that run full speed from memory. It was quiet, roaring, calm and frantic, all in one trance. The kind of thing that makes the more aware and older in attendance marvel at stupidity, luck, and skill with equal measure. A head shake and an insult were the only payoff.
So it was that I found myself, after starting too late, with no light, picking my way out of Cadillac, Tom Brown and finally a pitch dark Fern Trail. Now the challenge is not so much how far my courage will hold, but over coming my failing eyesight. My rock and roll hearing (which is white noise at the first wisp of wind), leaves me rotating my head like an escaped mental patient, trying to hone in on what ever real or imagined threats, are scurrying in the periphery.
Safe on pavement the final act is winding down at thirty miles an hour. Nothing is as sweet as passing commuters in the bike lane, as traffic chokes the progress, of the shiny metal boxes. At last, safe in my hood, I am tortured by the smell of fire wood and combinations of dinners in the breeze. The last blocks are a hands free cruise, past holiday lights.
Darkness is a magical thing. It is where the truth lives. It is the place where love is made, and doubts grow into mountains. There is a thrill that comes with living three feet at a time, known only to those who ride in silhouette.