I rarely go out.
RARELY go out.
You can ask anyone.
Over the years my aversion to shows has become so legendary that when I do appear people think that I am a figment of their imagination.
But I have recently been dipping my toes in the water again…
Feeling the need to swim back into music…
A show here… a show there….
An impromptu trip to Bakersfield to see Johnny Two-Bags and Salvation Town with X, and a walk around the Buck Owens museum and suddenly…. I’ve been feeling “all in…”
Bobby De Luna:
a known musical recluse as well… must have been feeling my “itch” because he began to call and harass me about it.
“You went to Bakersfield without me fucker? Call me back.”
And so, it wasn’t surprising that he would be the one to ask me to go to The Blasters, The Knittters and X at The Observatory.
And I really wanted to go… I did.
I wanted to see the music… I wanted to watch the performances of many of the musicians I grew up with… I just didn’t want what goes a long with it: Huge crowds of people, a flood of memories related to my sketchy rock-and-roll past, and a night wedged into uncomfortable clothing.
But the drive for music was pulling me… added with Bobby’s way of forcing me out of my rat hole… the way he always does… with messages like:
“If you don’t come with me I’m going to come over and slap you in the face right in front of Nana”
“I swear to God D.D. Grish, if you even think about cancelling mother fucker…”
or my personal favorite…
“I’ll let you out of dinner before the show but… if you try to cancel going with me… I will come over and make your children orphans”
I get it.
I spent hours working my way into about five pairs of spanxs and then a corset to really hold in those years of massive cupcake eating.
I knew that I had succeeded in looking pretty decent for an old lady when Dylan, my son walked into the bathroom and said, “You look really good mom. Wow… Your boobs are huge.”
I thanked him for the compliment and was pleased to see that Lexi, my daughter, had done my hair and eyelashes in such a way that for once I actually looked put together and not like the disheveled high school professor I had become; hair in a messy bun, glasses somewhat askew on my face, tell-tell coffee stain or cupcake smear down the front of my shirt.
I waved goodbye to my kids, teetered off on my four-inch red heels towards the street where I wobbled at the curb and waited for Bobby to pick me up…
I watched as he drove right past me.
I called his cell phone and before I could even say anything he said, “Jesus… was that you I just passed? I thought it was some really good looking tranny.”
We road off to The Observatory, parked about ten miles away, and walked our pilgrimage with a multitude of others until we arrived at our musical mecca.
It had been about fifteen years since I had been to the venue.. back when it was still known as The Galaxy… and as I walked through the corridors, past the small band room to the main stage… I was overwhelmed by the packed house.
Years of being in just these types of band situations caused my instincts to kick in and I found myself immediately jockeying for a position: across from the emergency exit, tight against the rail… close behind a photographer with a very large tripod, and Bobby standing behind me to block my back.
I settled in.
The Knitters were already on stage and the sound was fantastic.
Deep and rich, each instrument blending together in a fine mix of Americana… the members at home on stage and in their own skins after so many years of being seasoned performers.
It was amazing to see so many people wedged into one place, now way too old to slam dance, fight or push… everyone bobbing to the music and having a really good time.
For a moment I actually felt comfortable and safe.
For a moment I thought “Hey… maybe I can deal with a crowd if it is as passive and happy as this one…”
For a moment it all seemed okay until the only walkway turned into a bottleneck of people, backed up from the stage door to the front entrance, and I felt panic set in.
Having almost been trampled once at a rabid ACDC concert some time circa 1986, my fear of being trapped in the crowd intensified in magnitude until I gave Bobby a quick nod… barely waiting for a response… before pushing my way towards the outside smoking area where I actually text’d my man to come and pick me up and bring me home.
“Where are you?” was not the response I was looking for but, was the response I got from Bobby De Luna who text’d me back first.
I was about to type him back when another text from him rolled through…
“You better not fucking ditch me D.D. Grish”
I looked around at the other panickers sitting in the smoking area with me, heard their own hushed whispers to spouses and lovers through a variety of smart phones… and thought, This is ridiculous, before I plastered on my best Barbara Stanwick steely face and strutted back into the club.
I made it as far as the small band room before I heard the roar of the main stage, freaked out, and detoured into the quiet sanctity of the small space, where the next band was just getting ready to take the stage and only a few of their die hard followers were waiting to hear them play.
It was there that my messiah appeared in the form of: Steve Cunningham.
Thank God for my friends who work the shows.
Steve’s face lit up and so did mine as we hugged and laughed before he gave me a backstage wrist band and told me to go get comfortable.
I almost ran outside to go around to the back where I called Stephen, my man, and told him I didn’t want to go home yet.
“I’m almost to the club,” he moaned. “What the hell?” but being the good man that he is, turned around to kill some time before we agreed he would come back and get me at 10.
I walked through the backstage gate and was greeted by the faces of many of my old friends.
Suddenly, I felt like I was 20 again… on stage in my petty coat, bullet belt, half naked except for a small leopard skin jacket and a bra:
I watched as John Doe walked past… and smiled to myself thinking that he looked like a 60’s version of my grandpa now, with his little skinny pants, funky leather vest and cowboy shirt, gray long hair parted to the side, greasy and straggly and remembered the night that I once hula danced for him at Disgraceland, Tupelo Joe on ukelele, Pleasant and the Lame Flames dancing by my side, Joe, my ex-husband, grinning from the couch as he watched in quiet admiration.
Exene was standing in the corner, looking like a cute little punk plump sugar cookie, cigarette in one hand, beer in the other, whispering conspiratorially with a girl in a green cowboy dress, yellow and black bumblebee boots, and purple hair about God knows what… but still courteous enough to hide her smoke and booze, in the photo I instagramed to my students as she smiled as innocently or as innocently as Exene ever possibly could…
I crossed through the lot and headed backstage to find Drac, my friend in charge of the event, and ran straight into Jonny Ray Bartel who plays stand up with The Knitters.
I smiled, not realizing that no one recognized the woman that was here tonight… no longer the skinny blonde in the petty coats, my long dark hair and black glasses, my twenty pounds of plump frame, hiding the girl I used to be.
“Hey Sassypants!” I said.
He walked past me, turned around and give me a dirty look, until about five minutes later when he realized who I was and came up to give me a big hug.
“Shit, D.D.” He said. “Sorry I was upset. My bass pick-up kept falling out during the set.”
It was a nice lie…not recognizing me… the way he hid it in the truth.
I told him it sounded great from the front… no one knew… and I wanted to add; Can’t do anything about it now… you’re done playing… But he rolled his eyes as if I was just appeasing him and went off in search of his brother.
My phone whistled.
“Where the fuck are you fucker?”
Bobby De Luna.
“Backstage.” I text’d back and couldn’t help but smile knowing the response I was about to get.
“Fucker. I’m gonna stand out here and be a civilian.”
I giggled to myself, I could just imagine what he was going to say later, once he found out that I was ditching him at 10.
I listened to The Blasters, caught up on the lives of all my old friends, lamented the people we had lost over the years, to drugs, disease, and alcohol, before taking one last look around, making a mental photograph of the moment, Exene now singing Jackson with Dave Alvin from the stage, Phil waiting to make a grand entrance, the new up-and-coming baby musicians huddled together in their own little group, before heading out the gate and walking to the marquee where I would wait for Stephen to come and pick me up.
Later, I would be half naked in the car, removing corset after corset, unwilling to sit in pain the entire ride home, not caring who might see Ms. Wood, their favorite high school teacher, rolling down the freeway in a state of undress…. dying for relief, and a late night Del Taco red burrito with a large coke….
But for right then, for just that moment… I sat on the curb… and listened to the last few songs of The Blasters and felt the melancholy of the evening washing over me… wishing that I had documented every moment of our young musical lives in each of my writings, in each of my songs, a photograph of everything we once were… locked in time… forever immortalized.