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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

"Never mention the word addiction, in certain company ..."

I pushed the little green phone on my cellie. I was kind of laughing to myself and just HAD to share. The phone started ringing. Two rings.



"Pablo! What's up buddy?" I begin to laugh.

"Did you see what I posted on the message board?"

"Oh boy! What did you do?"

"Nothing really ..." I laugh a little more.

"WHAT did YOU DO?"

"Well, it wasn't about you, really" By now, he has gone on the board and checked the most recent post.

"You just couldn't leave it alone, could you?"

"Am I wrong? It is pretty funny."

"arrrrghhhh! Oh ... Paul Brown! Do me a favor, keep me out of it."

"Oh ... comon, where's your sense of humor?"

"I get into enough trouble on my own, I don't need your help. Keep me out of it."

Okay, so you get the idea? That is the nature of our relationship. I'm sorry buddy, but I can't keep you out of it, not this time.

F. Alex Johnson and Jim Armenti

You see, yesterday was a rite of passage for both of us. It was huge. And we won. it was like the 2004 World Series, The Celtics beating the Lakers and all of the Pats' Super Bowl rings wrapped up into one. If you want to compare yesterday to where we had been, We just beat Ted Turner's ass and won the America's Cup.

In fact, I have made a conscious effort not to read Freddy's Blog today, in fear that I will be swayed away from documenting our shared experience. I am positive he wrote about the Newport Folk Festival. I doubt he used a song quote for the title of his post. That is my schtick, And I am sure that he is sticking more to his experience of performing at one of the oldest and most prestigious music festivals around and voicing a similar opinion in his unique and insightful brand of prose.

The Newport Folk Festival. Yeah, sure Bonnaroo and the Gathering of the Vibes are noteworthy. But they are new. They don't have the history that Newport has. JFK probably enjoyed the music and the company of Marilyn on the deck of his sailboat anchored within listening distance of Fort Adams State Park.

Apparently, Jakob Dylan joked about breaking family tradition by strapping on an acoustic guitar for his set. That is some funny shit, and I thought I was the clever one who came up with that one.

I got to Fort Adams right around 11:30. As I headed to my music tent of choice I heard my buddy ripping out Purple Haze as the Young @ Heart Chorus was hypnotizing the very enthusiastic crowd. The first people I see in the crowd of 15,000 are two friends from the home turf, James and Rachel. How could the day get any better?

I checked out the music and then found some sustenance, a yummy falafel. But, not before making a new friend in the vendors area. Cynthia from FireCat Glass had some wonderful jewelry for sale. It is always nice to meet a fellow lamp worker.

I went back to the tent for Dylan's set and then met up with Freddy. We hung out for a few minutes and then I was off to see Trey.

Everyone noticed he was drinking water! When people hear you are clean, they have a tendency to look in your cup to see what you are drinking.

I love Trey, he was good. Not quite the left hand pyrotechnics I was expecting to see. He played an acoustic guitar. He looked happy and healthy. He treated a surprisingly small, but devoted crowd to a good set. Let's not forget most of the hippies were further down the coast at the Gathering of the Vibes. Trey played many of Phish's "hits" - Bouncing Around the Room, Water in the Sky, Bathtub Gin, Sample in a Jar, Chalkdust Torture and, an odd choice in my opinion, Wilson.

He also played some of his solo tunes, Shine, Heavy Things (okay I guess it is a Phish tune but it's debut was on a solo tour) and Sleep Again. Good Stuff, Trey. Thanks.

Three things were re-affirmed watching Trey. The first being that I hope the murmurings created by Phish bassist Mike Gordon regarding the band getting back together for a tour are true, because I sure could use a Phish show.

The second, no matter what the gig is, Trey could have been up there humming through a comb with a tissue wrapped around it and there would be at least one kid in the front row, so fucked up and tripping that even a belch or a fart from Mr. Anastasio would be a profound, earth shattering event.

Third - There will never, ever be a shortage of blonde, dreadlocked and bra less twenty something hippie chicks seductively gyrating to aforementioned farting, belching and comb humming.

Shortly after Trey's set, I was forced to drag out my .99 cent emergency poncho and hid beneath it as the crowd was pelted by sheets of rain. This was just outside the tent as She and Him featuring M. Ward and Zooey Daschanel were performing. Great set of music. The rain had no bearing on what was happening on stage. I was mesmerized.

I met up with Freddy again and headed back stage for a cup of coffee and a pilfered sandwich from the press tent. We sat down in the artist hospitality area as he brought me up to speed regarding the gig he played with his other band Drunk Stuntmen, in Brattleboro, VT, the night before.

We then went and checked out Jim James of My Morning Jacket. What a voice on that guy.

Then it was time for the Black Crowes. We headed over to the main stage, and went back stage, into the VIP viewing area. The performance was flawless. There were two red apples on either side of the stage speared with multiple sticks of burning incense. The way the band builds into a groove was amazing. The crowd was loving it. I was loving it, and it was a perfect day.

Nice View from the side of the stage, eh?

We had both seen the Black Crowes before. Once we saw them together at the Riverside Park Speedway about 11 years ago. The last time I saw him at that show, was right before the Crowes hit the stage. I saw him passed out against the armco barrier in turn three of the high banked 1/4-mile oval track. I was glad he made it back to the van. He actually missed most of the concert because he knew getting back to the van was a priority and it would take him at least an hour in his current state.

The last time I saw the Crowes was a couple of years ago at Pearl St. in Northampton, MA. They were billed as Mr. Crowes Garden for a couple of word of mouth gigs to warm up for a national stadium tour. I was a mess at that show. I was injecting dilaudid, drinking and smoking weed. When I got home that night, I listened to an urgent call, on my answering machine, from my primary care physician. I was oblivious to the warning signs being given to me by my abused and pickled body. Fortunately, I had a blood test the day before, a routine thing. Due to my filthy little habits, I was diagnosed in the very early stages of sepsis, a blood infection. I showed up at the ER and gave them my name. They were ready for me. Despite the fact that I was drunk, stoned and opiated, they admitted me immediately and hooked me up to a week's worth of IV antibiotics.

Needless to say our last two Black Crowes shows were not very memorable other than being gross reminders of where the disease of addiction had taken us.

But here we were, backstage at the Newport Folk Festival, clean and sober, thoroughly enjoying a day's worth of live music without the desire to use. Without the uncomfortable feeling of not having a drink in our hands. At one point, as a cloud of kind bud smoke wafted our way. We looked at each other and silently made eye contact. Eye contact and a few raised eyebrows was all that was needed, no words were necessary. We both knew that was some dank ass weed which was being puffed. And someone was really going to enjoy it. But that was not us, not today. That look simply said, "Yep, we can't do that."

Seeing the way the band interacted with each other, the singing and dancing crowd and to have just as much fun, and even more fun since it wasn't a horrifying drug and alcohol induced nightmare, was the icing on the cake.

Being there and having that wonderful experience gave us hope. He expressed his hopes for the future and he will make it because he already is doing it, he is well on his way.

It gave me hope for the future in the respect that I can be whomever I want to be. My habits can't limit me If I don't pick up. I will finish my book, I will achieve notoriety as a glass artist because I am good and can only get better. I will know my daughter as an adult and continue to be a positive force in her life.

As far as the music goes. who knows? unlike Freddy, I'll never be a rock star, even though I felt like one yesterday. Someone has to sit in their living room strumming their guitar by themselves, it might as well be me. Meanwhile, I've got bigger fish to fry.

With the hail on my back, you will always find me ...

Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.


1 comment:

F. Alex Johnson said...

Nice one, Pablo.

And for the record, I wasn't passed out ... I was *sleeping.*

Those rides take a lot out of you.

F. A. J.

Now, keep me out of it.