These streets are familiar. I’ve walked down them so many times. They change, as they should, tugging at my own indifference and stubbornness. I’ve put so much time in. I keep waiting to be killed off. But the lighting isn’t right. There’s another season. I need to usher in a new character. Maybe better looking, though perhaps not as charming. The importance stemming on something new. This dramatic moment and idea needs better direction. There is more work for you yet. I thought there would be just that right moment when the final scene takes place. And then maybe the production can get interesting. You can laugh. It can be helpful. I just wander endlessly wondering what all this talk of hell was about that dominated my beginning.
It’s 1986. At school an announcement has been made. We will be going home early today. Hurricane Gloria is set to hit tonight. The teacher is instructing us all to place our chairs on our desks. While putting on my back pack, the sudden crescendo of the students jars me, mocking my nervous anticipation. The teacher orders us to quiet down. I play with the nearly broken rubber stopper on the foot of my turned up chair leg, looking at the clock. Eventually we move out single file, out to the front of the school. My dad is outside. He is always on time. He tells me to not worry, that God will take care of us. When we get home, my mom is getting together an “early dinner.” My mom keeps a menu which consists of something like this….Monday night – spaghetti, Tuesday night – macaroni and cheese and hotdogs, Wednesday night – fish sticks and French fries, Thursday night – pork chops, Friday night – meat and gravy over rice, Saturday Night – something fun, like breakfast foods, Sunday – usually a big chicken dinner. I like when she colors the chicken orange.
Tonight my mom is making macaroni and cheese. My dad has already boarded up the windows. I ask my dad if the hurricane is really going to be that bad. My dad is bewildered.
My mom tells my dad that before the storm gets bad and before we eat, she would like us to go visit her friend across the street. This is met with great protest from my dad. My dad does not like this idea, but for other reasons not involving the storm. Eventually my dad caves, and it is decided that we will go over there. I am more nervous now. We go outside and the wind is very strong. As we approach the house, my dad lets out a whistle and a “oh boy.” The house has decorations from every holiday. A snowman is next to a witch. A Santa is next to an Easter bunny. Christmas lights strangle the hedges. My mom’s friend answers the door. There is an overwhelming immense sound of dog’s barking as we enter. Dogs, Birds, and cats, in cages in the living room. In every bedroom. In the hall. A man sits at the kitchen table near more cages. Leather jacket, alarming smile. He looks like he’s never stopped riding a motorcycle. Even now. My mom’s friend looks like Ozzy Osbourne after a long tour, years after Black Sabbath. Her voice is raspy, and she takes her time saying a sentence. There is talk about how long the power will last. There is a tv on in the living room with the news on. My dad is attempting to talk with the man at the table. My brother is surveying all the animals. I ask him why they are all in cages. He tells me that he thinks that she’s saved these animals. I feel bad for them. I ask my brother why they are all in cages. He says that he doesn’t know, but that he thinks maybe because there are so many of them. I feel weird about it.
My mother tells her friend that she would like to say a prayer for safety. The two of them kneel in front of the tv, which makes me more nervous. My mom is praying in a way that she usually doesn’t. They are raising their hands in unison and then bringing them down to the floor. My dad is telling them to take it easy. I feel scared. Eventually they stop as my mom finishes her prayer. Immediately my parents are acting like they do when they’re about to get into a fight. My dad says that it’s time to go back home now before the storm really hits.
While we’re eating the dinner, the power goes out. My mom immediately begins lighting candles. I feel uneasy and start asking questions. My older brother is telling me about an epic G.I.Joe battle that we can have in the dark. My brother is a genius and has battery powered lights attached to G.I.Joe vehicles, which is something that we do anyway, even while normally having power. It’s at this moment where something isn’t feeling right, and I need to go to the bathroom. I am sitting on the toilet by candle light. Shadows scare me, and I’m very nervous about the hurricane. Shadows are the reason I slept for maybe 3 hours during 3 years of my childhood. My mom is checking on me, asking me through the door if I’m okay. I tell her I’m fine. But I’m not. I can’t shit. My dad is asking me if I’m okay. My brother is asking me if I’m okay. I eventually go into the kitchen and awkwardly try to explain to my mom what is happening. Her one word reply consists of “prunes!!” I eat the prunes, and sure enough I can do my business. Amen.
Today at work I played Depeche Mode during a long line for a theater show. I told one of my friends in line, “This is why they made Rambo.” I don’t know if it was funny. There was an old woman who interrupted the work flow with a loud, “Turn this off right now!” She did not care for Depeche Mode. Her opinion reinforced with spit as she yelled. I laughed. After work I stopped for a burrito. I received an email. It was not a good one. My friend from school has passed away. I remember when I first met him. We were in gym class. He was behind me in line. We were in line to do pull ups. He was charming from the start. He said, “There isn’t any way we can get out of this waste of time, is there?” We discovered that we both played drums. He said that we should knock his drums around one day, and I actually went over his house. He was all about John Bonham, and I was all about Neil Peart. (I really should’ve stuck with Larry Mullen Jr.) He offered me little Debbie treats. He purposefully gave me a moldy one, to see how long it would take for me to speak up. It was a good prank. I was awkward, and that hasn’t changed. Later in years I ran into him here in NYC. We had some really great talks. He hadn’t changed. He was a blast like back then. We fell out of touch again. And then I got that email. Struck me hard. So per usual, I went to the drag show on Monday nights. I had quite a bit of drinks during the show. On the way home, I saw a girl passed out in the subway station. I woke her up and told her that if she wanted to catch the train, the next one was coming. She just stared forwards, and didn’t move. Felt weird as the train left, seeing her still sitting there not moving. When I was walking and almost home, there was a man with no legs in a wheel chair on the corner. He asked me to push him across the street. I asked him what he was doing out here at 3 in the morning. He said that he needed to get to the store. I started pushing him across the street. Then I pushed him down the block away from where I live. I immediately noticed how bad he smelled. Then I thought that this must be some crazy guy, and who knows where he’s headed. (I remembered how my Sunday school/drum teacher used to bring me to his house to play drums; but he would always take a woman in a wheel chair around the neighborhood to get her out of her house. I remember he told me, “this is what it’s about, not all about your rock star ideas.”) But then this didn’t all add up to me. I thought that this David Lynch life that I have is taking its toll. The guy told me that I was going too fast. I kept asking him what he was doing out at 3 am. I got him a couple blocks, then started to feel like something’s not right. I told him that’s as far as I can go. He was calling me a mother fucker as I walked away. I looked back and watched him push himself on. I told myself I always think that I can’t take anymore, but that’s never the case. I don’t want to tell myself that anymore. I keep getting stronger, so that’s what I’m going to do! When I got home I told my roommate Sam about it. He started laughing and told me that this guy was out there seven hours ago. Said that he needed to get to the store. I guess all those feelings were for nothing. Haha. I am doomed to wander forever as a lost David Lynch character on nights in search of a moon.
I am the dark side of my father. I order all the drinks. I wear the dark mess of beauty. Gender fuck a definite yes. I am the dark extension of my father. I travel and play drums. Like his big band and jazz favorites, I travel and move the people with my beats. I don’t take orders or instructions from people of the church. My father locks up the church at night. I find a new meaning of existence in black tights. I am the darkness my father never wanted to accept. I dance with drag queens. I understand what my cat is saying in candle light. I answer to no one.
I’m in a fire. Fear of hell is on the hour. If he of she wants me, it is painfully debated. A war inside. The eyes burn at me. From across the bar. I smile. Put down another drink. The feel of grip tape of a drum stick. My hand wants more. Earlier, destroying what we know as drums. Did you ask for a beat? I’ve got it covered. Yes, I recorded tonight. Yes, you gave me your number. Be a mother fucking peacock, man. Live your dream. I remember his green wig. I remember the other’s mesh top. I can summon the memories of fog surrounding me in my drums. The sticks in my hands. The pounding of the snare drum. Waiting for the train home. Thinking of you putting your make up on. The sound of your voice. He wants to tease me. John Waters movies on all the screens. The lights of the city while on the Q train. My black tights. Jesus on the cross, half naked, tortured, believers up in arms about violence. I run along the east side of New York. I do sit ups, drum rudiments, every morning before I make espresso drinks for people. I’ll never get tired. Another shot of whiskey. Yeah, I miss you. I’m not going to lie. These drums are going to speak to you like you’ve never been spoken to before.
I honestly have no idea where my desire to play drums came from. I can’t think of anything in particular that made me want to play drums. At the time, I didn’t even understand how music was made. I just remember walking with purpose into the living room and telling my dad that I wanted to play drums. My mom had been giving me piano lessons. Playing piano freaked me out, because I wanted to be good at at it. I wanted to be able to sit at a piano and play a piece, and just make you fall into tears. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. I never wanted to play sports. I just wanted to move people. Sports seemed obviously competitive and stupidly redundant for my taste. My dad responded well to my interest in drums. Nothing like the soul sucking pounding drums. The first thing that happened is that my dad signed some school form which enabled me to receive a drum pad and sticks. I was in sixth grade. I spent that year learning basic drum lessons from the school, resulting in one performance on triangle during the winter concert. Once I moved on to 7th, 8th, and 9th grade, I started learning how to play a drum kit. My sunday school teacher gave me an old no name Japanese drum kit. He showed me how to play, and before I knew it, I was attempting Rush songs. By high school, I could play along with Smashing Pumpkins, The Pixies, you get the idea. This is a 17 year old attempting “experience.” What did I know about playing in front of such a big audience. The drums gave me purpose. When I graduated from high school, a week after, I left for Ipswich, Ma. I spent that year becoming 18, growing white dread locks, getting big hoop earrings, attempting feeding myself, learning to pay rent, being fucked with for being faggy, and playing with The Alexander Field. Also dreaming of tattoos began. That year was really difficult. I would fall asleep every night listening to the newly released Tori Amos song “Crucify” looking at the stars drowning in tears of religious suppression. I remember that an art dealer that my friend worked for told me that I should never listen to anyone telling me that I’m wasting my time with drums. So I’ve been playing music for a long time in various situations. When I’m playing drums, time has stopped. I’m in a fog of pure joy. I just don’t want it to end. It is the most clear cut, special place. I can’t imagine anything being that good. Tonight when I was cleaning up at work, I thought of Keith Moon, and how he wouldn’t have even been able to keep a job. He would’ve not showed up one day, or drank his way through a shift, resulting in getting fired. Playing drums killed him. I never thought that anything would come out of it for me, because sometimes to be honest, the dream of making music is harsh and sad in these times. It’s just not the same. When punk kids now talk shit on The Beatles, I just think, “Oh, you just have no idea about history or anything, do you, moron?” But I got to tour Europe before I was 40. Keith Moon was great because he made playing drums fun. There were pros and cons to his madness. His not giving a fuck inspires me, but as I mentioned, it definitely killed him. He was young when he got his start. They were inventing the rock n roll star. Maybe if I could just makes this all a bit more foggy, I could find some peace. But I strongly doubt it.