Gomer Eckstein sat in the back of the darkened room. He was in a bad space and up in his head. He had just had another fight with Miranda. It wasn't a total blowout, but she decided perhaps it would be a good idea to get away for a few days, so she decided to go back to San Francisco.
Although he was agitated that he had caused her to leave, in fact by the time she had left that afternoon, after his gig, they had patched things up a bit and it was a pleasant farewell. Deep down, Gomer was just as happy to have a few days to himself.
By the time he had gotten to the club, the sting began to settle in a bit and he was beating himself up again. He did have a good time chatting with his friends Sean and Sherrill from the band Rail Rider. They always seemed to have a positive outlook on things.
Gomer sat and awaited his turn as the featured performer at the open mic left the stage. Gomer liked this room. It was a quiet little sober club where not many people knew him as the front man for the Hook Nosed Satans.
He was dressed incognito, not wearing his black "get up" as his father like to call the outfit Gomer's stage persona donned for every performance. He looked a far cry away from the guy who just last year caused a furor by pulling a vegetarian out of the audience, actually his girlfriend Miranda) and whipping her bare back with a cat o nine tails fashioned with raw strips of bacon ... 39 times, just for shits and giggles.
Every fearful of being alone, Gomer asked Sveltie to join him for the evening. Her husband Jeff didn't join them because he was "somewhere else" as she said. Gomer gathered from that comment that the last place Jeff wanted to be was at a sober club.
Gomer looked over to the corner of the room. There was a guy he had seen once or twice before hanging around the fringes of the scene, who was rummaging around with a guitar in one hand and a sloppily wound instrument cable in the other. He had tucked under his arm a black plastic binder overflowing with spindled, crushed and folded pages protruding from the insides.
Gomer poked Sveltie and said, "What's up with this guy?"
He was holding an old Stratocaster which looked like it had seen years of action. The guy was an old rocker. Late fifty-ish, wearing black jeans, a black leather vest which deftly contained his paunch. A head band was stretched around his thinning black hair. He had a dangling nose ring and a couple of visible tattoos, a rose and what appeared to be a Bonedaddy tattoo and some tribal feather like patterns.
Sveltie leaned in and whispered , "He looks like an unhealthy Keith Richards, if there is such a thing." Gomer laughed.
"I was thinking more along the lines of if Ron Wood and Johnny Ramone had somehow spawned." Sveltie laughed and smacked Gomer in the arm.
Gomer went up and did his three songs. He played a new tune he had written which he butchered, forgetting of all things on of the chords. He started over and made his way through the tune, later giving an offhand apology for screwing up the tune. He was beating himself up for his lack of preparedness.
As he got back to his seat, Sean grabbed him and said, "you know the cardinal rule number one. Never apologize for sharing your music!" Gomer replied,
"I know I know ..." ugh!
Gomer's angst soon dissipated as the guy he and Sveltie had been checking out made his way to the stage.
It took him a long time to set up. He almost seemed bewildered or even high as he got his shit together. The guy was obviously a casualty of years of drug and alcohol abuse. Gomer was aghast as this guy just farted around for minutes fiddling with the guitar cable, then the microphone which was about a foot and a half away from his mouth. Then the music stand. He then left to the stage to retrieve yet another equally unkempt and dilapidated binder leaving a trail of dropped pages in his wake as he made his way back to the stage.
As he strapped on his guitar, he started talking, which no one could hear because his mic was so far away.
The sound man had a blank expression on his face which clearly read, "You gotta be fucking kidding me!" The guy from the Glenwood Mills Band was on the edge of his seat, his hand over his mouth hiding a smile, trying to conceal his amusement. What on earth was about to happen?
It could have gone either way Gomer thought, either this is going to be awful or he is going to be the best guitar player he had ever heard.
Then he hit his first chord. It was ... awful. It sounded like a 12 year old who was playing his first chord ever on a guitar after turning the reverb and drive WAY up on his amp. He began singing which again, no one could hear because of the placement of the mic and slowly worked his way through the chords of the unrecognizable tune he was playing.
Gomer thought to himself. "This can't be ... NOBODY is that bad." People began to get up from their seats and head outside for either a smoke, a breath or fresh air, or even better, a breath of second hand smoke.
There was an exodus as one by one, people left the room. The crowd outside was abuzz with their comments and criticisms of what was happening inside. Gomer stood on the rail of the ramp and watched the guy through the window picking up reflected flashes as the stage lights hit the guy's nose ring.
Again Gomer said this can't be. After the guy got off the stage, people meandered back into the club. Gomer was in the hallway discussing the topic at hand when the guy walked by. A friend of Gomer's engaged the guy in a brief conversation encouraging him. Gomer quietly observed. First he noticed that the dangling nose ring was a clip on. Then he noticed that the tattoos were a little too shiny. They were temporary.
Gomer and Sveltie began to chat when he was out of ear shot.
"What do you make of that guy? He was so bad. Maybe somebody should tell him." She proposed. Gomer scoffed.
"Go ahead, you tell him. All I know is that I forgot how I thought I had butchered my new tune." When he said that some guy piped up and stuck out his hand,
"Dude, you were awesome, You got really good lyrics, man!" Gomer thanked him. Sveltie Smiled, winked, leaned in and whispered to Gomer, "Mr. Rock star ... But what about that guy?"
Gomer thought for a moment. Sveltie looked at him expectantly.
"Seveltie, he was sooo bad that it can't possibly be. The nose ring is a clip on, the tattoos are fake, the whole package is so over the top that I suspect there is a bigger picture we are missing."
"And what do you think that is?" Sveltie asked.
"Either he is completely nuts, which is possible and he thinks what he did is acceptable or we just witnessed some type of Dadaist performance art piece that was perpetrated with one purpose in mind ... to clear the room of the patient, respectful and attentive listening audience which shows up here on a regular basis."
"Comon Gomer ..."
"No I'm serious! Nobody can play the guitar that badly, even a beginner who just sat down with their new "how to play CD" from Esteban could put together a three chorder." Sveltie laughed.
"You can only play that badly, if you actually know how to play."
"I don't know Gomer, you have some pretty weird ideas sometimes. You know how you are always proclaiming, "what a weirdo!" she mimicked him.
"Takes one to know one ..." She leaned in for a hug.
Then a 18 or 19 year old kid walked up to them.
"Uh ...." He piped up. "Aren't you Gomer Shabbos from the Satans?" Sveltie just looked at Gomer and Smiled. "Can you sign this?" The kid handed Gomer a Sharpie and as he held out his White Ibanez bass guitar.
"I didn't know you were in recovery, Gomer. I saw you sit in with PRY last summer at Shoreline. You guys rocked!"
"Thanks kid, what's your name?"
"Kyle, I been sober for about 6 months." Gomer smiled. He signed the bass, dug into his pocket and gave the kid his card with his cell number.
"Keep up the good work man, if you ever get that feeling like you're gonna pick up, give me a call first, we'll rap." The kid was wide eyed.
"I'll do that Gomer!!!" He walked away beaming. Gomer watched him walk away and got that warm feeling inside. He looked at Sveltie.
"What's up with Jeff?" Gomer asked.
"He's not been available for the last month or so. Probably passed out by now." Gomer hung his head, feeling the swirling excitement, which he knew would be quickly followed by rising guilt.
"That's too bad ..."
"When is Miranda coming back?" Sveltie asked.
"Next week, she coming to the Red Rocks gig with me." Sveltie squeezed his hand and with that mischievous twinkle Gomer knew so well said,
"Let's go to Sherrif Hawthorne's hidey hole at the hotel and see what we can find."
Gomer looked down at the ground then into her eyes and said,
"I'd like to do that ..."
Gomer and Sveltie walked away together, hand in hand, feeling only the excitement of the moment, just mere hours away from feeling the pain of regret. Perhaps this time it will be different?
The two lovers disappeared into the night, leaving behind a great evening of entertainment and amusement, once again seeking to find what just didn't or couldn't exist between them as they once again were off to the races as they were both ...
Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats