Friday, September 17, 2010

"Dust of the Earth" by Jim Parks (ch. 4)

Welcome to the continuing serialized version of Phantom Limbs' bassist Jim Parks' novel, "Dust Of The Earth", a Tucson story about Tucson history, mystery, other worlds, desert mojo, forbidden love, and the fledling Tucson music scene... (c) by Jim Parks, reprinted with permission
Chapter 4

He started pouring out his bottle of Bud on the bar, daring the bartender to do something about it.
 Having shows on Thursdays was an experiment that didn't seem to be going so well. The opening act, the Psy-Gones, took the stage with a dozen people on the bar side and maybe half that on the other. This band had been playing nights like this in Tucson for over a year and never seemed to develop a following. They were made up of a clean-cut singer in a business suit who did a sort of Ska thing, backed by older guys who looked like they had never emerged from the sixties. The bass player had long hair and a flowing beard -- completely gray -- and wore overalls. Rumor had it that he had turned prematurely gray from the shock of a particularly gruesome event in Viet Nam, and that for many years he had never said a word and only played the harmonica. Other than these kinds of stories about them, there wasn't anything very entertaining about the Psy-Gones. They deserve credit for doing original material, but their songs were mediocre at best. I remember there was one song about a photographer. "Boom, boom, I shot her with my Canon...."

    So when Jorge and the sisters showed up and offered me a hit of acid, I took advantage of the respite from boredom and washed down the blotter paper with a glass of beer. I bought another pitcher and sat with Jorge and the girls at a booth, where we made fun of the daytime clientele still hanging on at the bar. There was one guy -- a short stocky Mexican not much older than I was -- who was getting into an argument with the bartender. He started pouring out his bottle of Bud on the bar, daring the bartender to do something about it. Sometimes after I've had a few beers, I fancy myself a righter of wrongs, and I interfere in situations that really aren't any of my business. I'm not a tough guy or a brawler. All I have to defend myself with is my moral outrage -- and though that has caused some to back down, more often I find myself held up against a wall or sprawled on the floor after having been popped a few times. The stocky Mexican looked like he was ready to do one or another, but I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to see Jorge.
    "Come back to the table, Sugar Ray. You don't want this kind of trouble."
    As I walked away with Jorge's arm around my shoulder, he said softly into my ear, "You need to be careful, maestro. You won't always have me to protect you."
    Once again I felt Jorge's unsettling affection for me.
    Back at the booth the mood quickly lightened, and I became aware that one of the sisters -- the blonde, I think -- was displaying a much less unsettling form of affection for me. She took my hand and sat close to me, and the dim light of the bar became brighter and warmer. We started giggling uncontrollably about everything that we saw or said. There was an oscillation of light and shadow around us, and I kept looking up, expecting to see a huge ceiling fan rotating slowly. I then had that revelation -- the one where you've forgotten you took a hit of acid and it suddenly becomes abundantly clear that you are tripping.
    I got a little apprehensive. "This shit is pretty strong," I said to Jorge. He wasn't paying attention. I grabbed his arm and repeated myself.
    "It's blotter, man. Sometimes you get a stronger hit."
    I began to regret my decision to do the acid, clamming up while Jorge and the girls continued to cavort. The blonde sister kept poking me and teasing me. I got up from the booth and walked over to the other side of the club, where a somewhat larger crowd had formed to watch the Psy-Gones' second set. I was worried about how I was going to get through the next eight to ten hours, but I began to pay attention to the music and the spectacle on stage. It seemed to me that the Psy-Gones had never sounded so good before -- that they had become something like a lost segment of Fantasia. The silhouettes of the crowd in front of me, contrasted against the light on the stage, conducted the performance like dozens of identical Stokowskis.

 To Be Continued...

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