From Aural Innovations #39 (May 2008)
They say that cats have nine lives. That they watch over us and guide our souls when we drift off to sleep. When we journey through that mysterious place that lies suspended between life and death.
They say that cats have an uncanny way of returning and finding us when we least expect it. That they can be familiar. A boon or a curse. And that curiosity can kill them.
They also say that sometimes we can sense ominous events before they are unleashed in The Real Time. That these events can manifest themselves as a feeling. A haunting feeling of doom. A premonition that strikes - like a sucker punch.
The pain exploded in my abdomen. Sudden and intense. Stabbing. Like a lead slug moving in slow motion. The pain coming in intense waves. Waves of bullet time. I rolled over and tried to sleep it off. Falling once again into the velvet void of nonexistence.
It was late by the time I finally got up. I still felt sore. The pain had decreased. But it wasn't ready to go away. It had decided to linger and slow me down. I dressed and decided to take it easy tonight. I'd bring along my Canon but I didn't intend to use it. I needed to recover. Not find myself in the middle of trouble. I planned to just observe and get the facts. Play it by ear. And just play it safe for once.
It had rained earlier in the day. So I was surprised when I stepped outside and looked up at the sky. It was almost clear. The clouds were dispersing. And a bashful moon was trying unsuccessfully to hide behind a wispy veil that was slowly drifting away. Laying the moon bare - for all to see.
I climbed into my jalopy and headed west. Taking a somewhat less than scenic route on Burnside - alongside the MAX light rail tracks that run between Gresham and Portland out in the East County. I followed the tracks until they veered over toward the Gateway Transit Centre. Where the trains snaked off in one of two different directions. East to Portland and Hillsboro. Or North to the International Airport near the Columbia River.
I kept driving straight down Burnside to the Burnside Bridge. Where Old Town rises up from the west bank of the Williamette River. The 46-foot-tall, rooftop, neon sign on the old White Stag/Hirsch-Weiss Building was flashing its dazzling display. The lights inside the Oregon-shaped border fizzled and filled with white scintillating bubbles - looking like a champaign supernova. There was a large luminous white stag sporting a bright red nose soared halfway out of its erector-set confines. Bolting toward the gigantic dark silhouette of a barrel-shaped water tower that stood next to the iconic 70-year-old landmark. The bounding buck must have been celebrating the holidays with W.C. Fields.
I crossed the Burnside Bridge when I came to it. Thankful that its reconstruction was finally completed. All those lengthy repairs that needed to be made to it after the Blitz. The on going repairs that turned the bridge into a maze of orange cones and temporary traffic lanes. Lanes that seemed to migrate from week to week. It was not a bridge to attempt to drive while stewed to the gills. In a trance. Or while trying to make a fast getaway. It was a real death trap.
It was 7:40 PM when I drove past Dante's. I glanced over at the club's window. There were a few people inside. A couple of them were standing on the stage. Probably going through a soundcheck. The window was tinted so I couldn't clearly make out what they looked like. But I was able to make out the shape of the instrument one of them was playing. He was standing at the centre of the stage - playing a Rickenbacker bass.
The club's door was shut. And the sidewalk outside was as bare as Mother Hubbard's. I pressed down on the accelerator and drove to Northwest Park Avenue and made a quick right. The curbs were all lined with cars. All the parking spaces had been claimed by the early birds and Saturday night party animals.
I pressed on. Made a right on Northwest Hoyt. Another right on Broadway. And a slow right back toward the North Park blocks. I hung a left on Northwest Eighth Avenue. Keeping my eyes peeled for anything that remotely resembled a vacant spot.
I pulled over into the only empty space I could find in this ghost town of abandoned cars. It was directly across the street from the Cascadian Customs Building. A white, granite-faced building about five stories high that dominates the entire block between Northwest Everett and Davis.
The first thing that one notices about the building are the windows on the lofty ground floor - they are all barred with forbidding black ironwork. The next thing that one notices is the huge open court yard enclosed by an elegant loggia - and black wrought iron gates. The final thing that one notices, if studying the building too long and hard, is the ominous dark sedan that suddenly appears - idling at the corner - until you're intimidated enough to leave. Yes, this building had eyes. And probably a fully functional dungeon, as well. Complete with hot and cold running inquisitors.
I climbed out of my puddle jumper. Locked up. And hoofed it back to the club. When I arrived at Dante's, I found a short queue lined up at the door where none had existed only a few minutes before. There were about half a dozen souls looking for a host.
I addressed the lost soul at the end of the queue. "So, what's up?"
He had a sheepish expression. "They kicked us out so we can could come back in."
I nodded and glanced at my watch. It was approaching 8 PM. And it appeared that I'd just missed an opportunity to waltz in early. I could have listened to the soundcheck. I'd make a note of this. It was something I could put to good use - on future recon missions.
It wasn't long before the gorilla at the door told us to stand next to the building. He asked to see our IDs. Then told us to wait near the door for the mistress of the till to call for us. That was the signal we were all waiting for. The mistress of the till was apparently in a biblical mood. She was signalling for us to enter in groups of two. Maybe she was expecting the rains to return.
It was 8:05 PM. The mistress of the till took my ticket. Dabbed a rubber stamp on an ink pad resting on the desk in front of her. And blotted the underside of my right wrist. The dark, inky smear she'd tagged me with was difficult to make out. It was blurred and indistinct. The image smeared below the palm of my hand appeared to be a pair of mushrooms or a couple of disgruntled question marks. Perhaps this was appropriate. I did have questions. And I was searching for answers. The answers would come in time. Hopefully, sometime after I located Lemmy.
The world I'd entered looked like Hell. It was dimly lit, draped in red, and there was no band up on the stage. But the stage wasn't empty by any means. It was generously littered with musical equipment.
The floor was made of concrete. Hard red concrete. And there were absolutely no tables set up anywhere on it. The space was left totally free for people to stand. Totally free to pack 'em in. Just like sardines in the can. Sauteed in their own juices.
In the centre of the room there was a large, black, heart-shaped rug duck taped to the floor. White William Morris style leaves and vines weaved a mazelike pattern over its entire surface. The lighting must have been provided by Dr. Fu Manchu. There were six red, round, oriental, paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling at the back of the room. Two rows of three lanterns to be exact. The illumination they provided was minimal.
There were two catwalks suspended from the ceiling. They hung parallel to the bars on the East and West side of the room. The catwalks were see-through platforms suspended by thick grey gunmetal-coloured chains that were attached to each corner. Metal ladders ran up the sides of columns located at the mid-section of each catwalk. These provided exotic dancers with access to the platforms. Where they could perform overhead - unobscured. Patrons could easily admire the view from the bar. All they had to do was keep their eyes open when they tipped back their drinks. The bottom of the platform was only seven feet above the floor. Which made for a close, cozy, and very unique viewing experience.
There were signs posted at each end of the catwalks. They proclaimed some mighty sound advice. And they clearly reflected the opinion of the dancers. The signs simply stated: TIPPING IS SEXY. At the moment, not a single dancer was stirring. Not even a louse. Then again, I wasn't expecting a graphic go-go exhibition. I was looking for someone. I had a hunch I knew where to find him. And it sure wasn't in this room. So I headed toward the archway in the red, brick-and-mortar wall that separated this room from the Game Room.
I found Lemmy sitting at the same video poker machine he was at the last time I saw him - many moons ago. It was as if time had stood still. He was decked out all in black. Black shirt. Black Trousers. And black Civil War styled hat - complete with silver crossed swords. He looked very much the outlaw or gunslinger. The villain who'd come to shoot up the town - and paint the sheriff red.
A cute, blonde, game moll was sitting in the chair next to him. She was short, shapely, and very young. Her hair was bobbed and crowned with a black ball cap. Her lips were a sizzling fire-engine red. Her skirt was short and her gams shapely. She was wearing a pair of fuzzy, doe coloured boots that came up to mid-thigh. Her bare legs rose up from the boots promising a glimpse of Shangri-la - if the winds were blowing real favourable like.
I strolled over and offered to shake hands with Lemmy.
"Hi George," He clasped my hand and gave it a firm shake.
I reached into my trench coat and produced a stiff, red, cardboard envelope and passed it to him. He removed it from my hand.. Keeping his eyes fixed on mine. I glance heavenward as if check for a halo.
"I seem to have made a few extra copies. I don't know why. I certainly don't need 'em. Perhaps you might find a use for them?"
Lemmy's eyes had a suspicious glaze to them. "From the files?"
His glaze softened to a questioning stare. He wasn't about to ask. He'd just waited for me to spill it.
"Maybe the rest of your gang haven't seen 'em."
He mumbled, "They haven't seen 'em."
"Now they can take a gander at what the authorities got on 'em."
"For starters. The bullfiddle player--"
"What about him?"
"He's been ID'd as Djordje Stijepovic, from Belgrade."
He passed the incriminating packet to the hot blonde.
"Here. Hold these."
Lemmy stood up. He made a beeline for a single video poker machine standing across from the bar, down where the tables and booths were located. He slid a crisp bill into the illuminated slot in the front of the machine. And made himself comfortable. By the time I caught up with him, he had already selected a game. There was a step pyramid displayed on the screen. And there was a black cat bouncing up and down on the pyramid's steps. Occasionally its fir flared out like a Halloween cat - as it spit and hissed.
Lemmy raised his glass and rattled the remaining ice. His Girl Friday removed the glass from his hand. She swished across the floor. And headed toward the bar. I gave her a full body scan as she drifted by. Committing every curve and feature to memory. There was something hauntingly familiar about her. And something that struck me as strange. I was convinced I had seen her somewhere before. But not as a blonde. She had a smug expression, smiling like the cat that ate the canary. As my eyes followed her graceful movements, she was watching me out of the corner of her eyes.
I returned my attention to Lemmy. It was time to sound him out. There were many things that I didn't know. And plenty of gaps that needed filling. What exactly happened after I left him several months ago? If he'd escaped safely, why was he back? Lemmy just passively grunted his replies as he kept his eyes fixed on the video screen. I was getting nowhere fast. The only one scoring was Lemmy.
I made another attempt to dig up a few details. I was determined to find out something. No matter how trivial it seemed to be.
"You got the message I sent?"
"Just. It came late."
"Did you run into Harpo and Chico?"
He frowned. "Did they see me?"
"They tried to."
"Did they see me?"
"They saw your show. But not your arrival or departure."
Lemmy relaxed and smiled. "Good."
"Are you on a break after tonight?"
I thought this over a moment. Long enough to become vaguely distracted. The cat on the screen was on the prowl. And it begged the question - what was Lemmy's game?
Lemmy broke the ice for me, "Got any plans?"
"Me? I'm planning to take it easy. And just watch the show."
He didn't say a word. He just gave me a sideways glance.
"Oh, don't get me wrong. I am packing. But I'd need a damn good reason before I go and stretch my neck out."
"Settle a score?"
"Where and when."
Lemmy chuckled, "Down front. During our set."
"That's the mosh pit's turf. It tends to crush people to powder."
He nodded. "It's good at that."
I wagged an index finger at him. " And it always seems to find me."
He looked thoughtful. "Fortunes can change."
"I wouldn't know. I don't cheat at Tarot."
"Try it. It'll change your life."
"I'll take it under consideration."
There was a momentary pause while Lemmy chalked up a few more points and the black cat danced for him on the pyramid. Then I cut to the chase.
"So what's up with the fat man?
"I wouldn't know."
"Neither would I. I'm just trying to piece things together."
Lemmy glanced at me. Laying on the vibe. He was cranking it up. And I was starting to feel uncomfortable. It felt like the Judas Rap. My eyes drifted back to the screen. The black cat was spitting and bouncing on the pyramid steps. It was staring at me. The image was riveting and hypnotic. It was causing my mind to swim. I was loosing my train of thought. I was hearing myself talking in echoing waves of staccato sentences in a choppy sea of static. Then there was a sudden logjam. Very little was trickling through.
I shook my head to try to clear the Sargasso of debris.
"I need to get a drink."
Lemmy smiled. "I'll be here."
The black cat jumped for joy. He'd scored a victory. I nodded and left him to the task of robbing the kitty. While I searched for a little Dutch courage. Wisdom. And truth.
The bartender smiled as I bellied up to the bar.
"I haven't seen you in a while."
"I've been working nights."
"So what brings you here tonight?"
He perked up. "You gonna shoot him?"
"Would you like and Amstel Light?"
"It's my job."
I waited for the bottle. Flipped him a fin. And told him to keep the change. Then I moved to the end of the bar so I could be closer to the video poker machines. I wanted to keep tabs on my charge.
Lemmy had moved back over to the first machine he'd been playing earlier. He was making the rounds. Making sure that he played every machine in the room. He was in it for the long haul. His young, blonde, Girl Friday was sitting real cosy like at his side. At his beck and call. It was the stuff of dreams. An image that Norman Rockwell had failed to capture for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. I wondered what Damon Runyon would have said about that. Probably something unintelligible, no doubt.
There was a minor disturbance to my right. A guy and his main squeeze had parked next to me. They were debating weather or not he should to go over and see if Lemmy might sign his Motorhead CD. He was fiddling with the jewel case. Glancing over at Lemmy. And exchanging anxious looks with his better half.
I studied his face before I threw in my two cents worth. He could be useful for testing the waters and the prevailing winds. I took a sip of my drink. Then caught his attention with a few choice words.
"You know, it's like this all the time. People coming up and asking Lemmy to sign something. If I was you, I'd go over there and take my chance, while I got it."
A moment of silence passed.
He frowned. "Are you a friend of his?"
I kept a straight face. "Uh-huh. You could say that."
He thought this over.
I smiled, "Might as well go for it. You got a clear shot and nothing to lose. There's nobody over there right now."
He turned and gazed deeply into his companion's eyes. When he was through soul searching, he slid the booklet out of the jewel case. Stood up. And stalked across the room. He paused briefly when he arrived at Lemmy's back. Then he said something I couldn't hear. And waited for a reaction.
Lemmy turned. Looked down at the booklet. Took the pen from his hand. And started to sign the insert without a second thought. I lifted my camera and shot. It was a perfect setup. And it just kept getting better and better. Another random variable had fallen into our orbit and entered into the equation.
A large goon with Slovak features was standing behind me - carefully peeling a flier off the wall. It was a Head Cat flier advertising tonight's show. He was joined by a dame that had just spotted Lemmy with very little effort. After all, he is a babe magnet.
She made a suggestion, "You can have Lemmy sign it."
The goon just ignored her and continued fiddling with the flier. Trying painstakingly to remove it from the wall without damaging it.
She pointed across the room toward the Coat Check stall. "Lemmy's right over there!"
"No he's not."
"Yes he is."
"That's not him."
"Yes it is."
The goon gazed across the room and squinted. Then his face underwent a transformation. It's like he'd just woke up. The fog had lifted. His eyes widened and he bellowed as he rushed across the room.
"LEMMY, I LOVE YOU!"
I started laughing.
Lemmy turned with a start. He stared at the goon hurtling toward him. Briefly shifted his gaze over at me. Then turned his full attention to the inevitable.
The canned music suddenly ceased playing on the club's PA. What followed was a moment of silence. Chased by a generous dose of energetic, live, swanky music. The first support band had hit the stage. There were three large screen TVs mounted on the Game Room walls. All of them sharing the same picture. A live image of the stage and the band playing on it - The Stood-ups.
A camera was fixed to the top of a pillar located eight feet away from the stage. It provided the live feed to the remote viewing stations. Making it possible to watch the show while in the comfort of the Game Room. This greatly reduced the risk of life and limb - like the bunkers at atomic test sites back in the 1950s. An arrangement like this was probably how Blue Oyster Cult managed to safely work on Godzilla.
The use of the live feed and remote viewing stations did cause me to stop and wonder. What I was wondering had little to do with atomic research. And a lot to do with high tech crime. What I was wondering was this - where else did the live feed go? Did it also manage to find its way to a recording device? Was it possible that someone might be archiving the live performances of certain bands? I didn't know the answers. But it was an interesting set of questions.
It was about 9:30 PM when the Stood-ups started playing. They were a band I had never seen before. And a band I knew absolutely nothing about. The only thing I knew was what I was experiencing in the here and now. There were six Joes in the band. They played jazzy rock'n'roll covers. And sounded kinda like a lounge band playing a style of music that might best be described as a cross between 1940s swing and 1950s rock'n'roll. Served straight up with a twist of Vegas.
Three of the six band members in the lineup stood out. One was a trumpet player. Two was a tenor sax player. And three was the singer/frontman who was wearing a fancy, frilly shirt. A shirt something like what you'd expect Tom Jones to wear as he dodged underwear and hotel room keys.
I removed my mobile from the inner pocket of my trench coat and checked it for messages. There were none. What was keeping Lossom Allen? My Washington operative was way overdue. He should have checked in hours ago. The plan was to meet somewhere before Dante's opened. Lossom would fill me in on last night's Head Cat show in Seattle. And we'd make our plans for the Portland show. Something must have happened to him. But what?
I pocketed my mobile and noticed Danny B. Harvey. He must have just come up the stairs from the Green Room. He was dressed all in black except for the leopard fur trimmings that highlighted his jacket. He looked like he was ready to hit the stage - and get on with the show. Danny was standing over at the merchandise stall. He talked to a few people that came over to him. Then he wandered over to the bar. Talked to a few people there. Glanced around the room several times like he was looking for someone in particular. He ordered a drink. Loitered around the bar. But the whole time he was doing this, he was glancing around the room. Searching.
Finally Danny left the bar and scurried back down the stairs. Down into the depths below the club. And the safety and seclusion of the Green Room. I decided it was high time that I conducted my own little search. But I would go a little further afield than Danny had. I wouldn't limit my search to just one room. My search would cover all the rooms and all the faces lurking in them. Maybe Lossom Allen was already here, somewhere. Maybe he was keeping a low profile. Or maybe, he had been detained - shanghaied - and had managed to escape his captors.
I made my way into the main room. There was a biker standing just inside the door - between the till and the mixing desk. He was a Gypsy Joker. His affiliation wasn't all that hard to figure out. He was wearing his colours on the back of his black leather jacket. His bike was parked out on the sidewalk - right in front of the club. This was causing quite a commotion. He was talking to the club employees stationed near the door. It looked like he was trying to sort out something. Or come to some sort of an agreement with them.
After several long, tense minutes, the biker marched out the door. The sound of a bike kicking to life followed. Then a loud thundering rumble flooded in from the street. The biker revved his iron dream. And roared off down the road.
I continued my search of the main room. I turned up nothing. Nada. Zilch. Lossom was nowhere to be found. He just wasn't here. So I headed back to recheck the Game Room.
I made an interesting discovery when I entered the Game Room. Lemmy had vanished! I'm not sure how he manages to do this so quickly and smoothly. Maybe he uses smoke and mirrors. Or a well placed trapdoor. He's definitely a hard act to follow.
I headed over to the merchandise stall. From that location I could easily keep an eye on the stage, the stairs leading down to the Green Room, the large screen TV mounted on the south wall, and the distinctive red-felt pool table that occupies the southwestern corner of the room. There was very little action to speak of. In fact, you could say that it was rather dead. Nobody was shooting a friendly game of pool. Of course, It was still early. That would come later.
People were gradually filtering into the club. Most of them were congregated at the bar. Others were standing in the isles chatting with friends. And then there was that one couple who'd claimed the edge of the pool table as their private watering hole. A guy and his doll were leaning up against it sipping their drinks. They spotted me loitering nearby. And made the effort to introduce themselves. They were your average run-of-the-mill caucasian couple. They went by the names of Amber and Corwin. Both were roughly the same height. About five-foot-five. Short, but not too short. They were somewhere in their mid-twenties. Young, but not too young. They were certainly old enough to know better.
Amber was very talkative. She was assertive, but friendly. Occasionally she would let others get a word in edgewise. She had long, straight, sandy-coloured hair. And wore a ring on her left hand middle finger. Corwin was clean-shaven. He had short brown hair. Had a medium build. And said he was a writer interested in becoming published. I took this to mean that he fancied himself a writer, but had little to show to back up this claim - only his own word. His words bore a confession of his voyeuristic tendencies.
His face literally glowed as he confided in me.
"I had to come to see this show."
"A chance to see Lemmy? Close up? And in a small venue like this?" He laughed. "You'd have to be mad to pass up a chance like this."
I shrugged. "I suppose."
"Why, it's the opportunity of a life time. To be in the same room - right up close - right next to a living legend. I wouldn't miss it for the world!"
"Be careful what you wish for."
He gave me a concerned look. "Why?"
"It might come at a high cost."
"Oh, that depends."
"Whatever the mark will bear."
The Stood-ups were finishing their set. And I knew this would trigger a mad rush to the bars. There would be an increase in congestion elsewhere, as well. And this would impede my ability to move quickly.
I decided it would be wise to pay a visit to the Gents before attempting to refuel my liver. That was the plan. A plan shared by others of a similar mind. All trying to beat the odds. And thinking that it was best to get while the getting was good.
There was a small queue lined up at the door baring the universally understood male symbol that promised temporary relief from overindulgence. I got in line with the rest of the gents... and waited.
A moment later, a broad cut in front of me. Her appearance caused several gents - with expectant bladders - to exchange nervous, fidgety glances amongst themselves. But they all managed to keep their thoughts to themselves. The broad in question was a short, burned out hag of a blonde. Looking somewhat dishevelled and oblivious to all. What you might call the rock'n'roll version of a bag lady.
When her turn came, she entered and I waited. When my turn came, I entered and took in my surroundings. The Gents Room was a real dive. The walls were painted flat black with some graffiti scrawled here and there just to break up the monotony. The porcelain was chipped on the urinals. The sink that used to be by the door was totally missing - it had been ripped clean out of the wall. And the blonde suffragette standing next to me at the urinals, was taking a slash. And why not? The only stall in the Gents was occupied by some lucky bastard. So it was standing room only at the urinals. All two of 'em. It certainly wasn't a Kodak moment.
She finished her business. And left me to finish mine. I wasn't sure where she went after she was done. Neither did I care. I had other things on my mind. And an ever increasing thirst to quench. I made my exit and gradually migrated over to the bar. I queued up. Ordered another Amstel Light. And started to head out of the Game Room. It was nearly time for the next support band.
I made it almost halfway down the bar when a woman's voice interrupted me.
"Hey, I remember you!"
I stopped dead in my tracks. Casually turned in the direction of her voice. And waited for enlightenment. I wanted to give my neurons time to kick into gear. No need to accidentally incriminate myself. I'd wait and find out who she was first. And what she wanted second. Third was up for grabs.
She wasted no time bringing me up to speed.
"You were here last year when they played."
"Guilty as charged."
My eyes drifted down from her face. Flowed down her shoulders. And came to rest on her arms. The tattoos on them were an intricate mesh of intertwined coils. They looked almost like scales. That's when it clicked. She was the dame with the chain mail tattoos.
She continued prompting me. "You were at the stage."
"Shooting the band."
"Yes, I remember seeing you." I smiled and added, "I better make it back so I can find a place to stand."
She smiled. Raised her hand. And gave me a warm, friendly wave as I continued on my way. I had a funny feeling that I hadn't seen the last of her.
Blackout Radio was another band that I had never seen before. There were three Joes in the band. A bass player with a black stand-up bass. A drummer. And a singer/guitarist that was dressed all in black. He was wearing a black vest that had silver studs lining his shoulders like shiny little crenulations. He had black hair and long thin sideburns that ran down past his ears - ending at his jaw.
They sounded like a punk band, but looked like something else. I guess you could call them Psychobilly. Blending punk attitude with rockabilly rhythm. And ending up with a lively, rocking, energetic sound. Clearly it was the stand-up bass that made all the difference. There was a prominent white scrawl running down its facing edge. The scrawl had a familiar look to it. It was a signature I'd seen somewhere before. It was practically etched into my mind. The Mark of Lemmy!
I roamed around the room. Stopping randomly here and there to watch the band play from various different vantage points. I was getting a feel for the crowd. Observing how they reacted and where they seemed to congregate. I was trying to visualize what my future prospects might be. I was wondering how difficult it was going to be to work my way down to the stage when the time came. It looked like I had my work cut out for me. It wasn't going to be a cake walk. It was going to be a trial by fire. They were homesteading and didn't take kindly to claim jumpers or squatters.
I eventually settled in toward the back of the room. And it wasn't long before I heard a familiar voice somewhere behind me. Somewhere very close. I turned to find Lossom Allen grinning down at me.
Lossom was a good looking, respectable, guy next door type. He had collar length hair. Was clean-shaven. He was tall with a thin to medium build. And was wearing a long-sleeved, flannel shirt. Sporting a casual grunge-lumberjack look that's popular in the Cascadian forests.
I arched an eyebrow. "Oh, so you did make it, after all. I thought you got waylaid."
"I was held up."
Lossom chuckled. "No. Nothing as dramatic as that."
"So what lead to your timely arrival?"
"I was stuck in traffic."
"Got into a jam, eh. Where abouts?"
"All that idle time with the Artesians, and you couldn't send a message."
"No point. I knew I'd be late. And I knew where to find you."
"Well, at least you made it."
"With time to spare."
So... how was Seattle?"
Lossom rolled his eyes. "They had seven bands on the bill. They all tried to hog as much time as they could. And to top it all off - the sound at El Corazon was bad."
"Notice anything unusual."
He thought a moment. "Yeah, now that you mention it. There was a blind man at the show."
"A blind man?"
"Complete with white cane. He was standing in the audience."
"And people kept guiding him deeper and deeper into the crowd."
"That's not on. He wouldn't stand a chance in Hell!"
Lossom's expression took on an impish quality.
"It was rather Pythonesque."
I steered the conversation back on track.
"Did you manage to have a word with our dear Mr. Kilmister?"
"No. It was impossible. I couldn't get anywhere near him."
"There was a gunsel keeping the curious at bay."
"Figures. My operatives in San Francisco didn't fair much better."
"Have you seen him?"
"Uh-Huh. He was double parked in front of a video poker machine... feeding the kitty."
Lossom grinned. "He was expecting you."
"Let's just say, he wasn't the least bit surprised."
"Did you find out anything?"
"Nah, He's a tough nut to crack. I'll have another go at him later. After the show."
"If you can get to him."
"Not if. When I get to him."
Lossom fell silent. He was passively listening to the band and watching people in the crowd. I spotted someone up in the VIP balcony and pointed him out. He was wearing a black cowboy hat.
"That our man?"
Lossom scowled and shook his head.
"Uh, no. I don't think so."
"Yeah, you're right. He's way too animated to be Lemmy."
The geezer in the balcony was sitting at a table acting more like a spectator at a rodeo. Or a hopped-up rustler roping phantom cattle with an invisible lasso. Bouncing up and down in his seat. And waving his fist around in circles over his head.
He sure was getting into it. I was just riding it out. Waiting for the main act to take the stage. Blackout Radio was alright, but they weren't what I'd come to see. I was just killing time. I turned to Lossom when Blackout Radio announced their last song.
"That's my cue. Care to join me?"
"No, that's okay. I'll just watch from a safe distance."
"You only live once."
"I know. That's why I'm staying put."
I made a move toward the Game Room. I was going to try to outflank the crowd before the mad scramble for the facilities and the bar started. Instead of heading directly to the stage, I was going to go around the crowd by ducking into the Game Room. Then I'd dart out into the main room and resurface near the side of the stage. From there I'd just swim in from the side to the front of the stage. With a bit of luck this just might give me the edge I needed. And with this crowd, I'd need all the luck I could get. The Head Cat's reputation had preceded them. Dante's was packed to the gills.
Nice advice. But these brave, dashing daredevils in jungle jodhpurs had an definite advantage over me. They had whips. Chairs. And pistols. All I had was a camera and my wits.
The crowd was thicker than water. So is blood, and thank God none of that had been spilled. That would bring out the sharks and run the risk of turning the joint inside out. Creating a scene rivalling that of a classic wild west barroom brawl.
I worked my way slowly toward the stage. Moving closer and closer. Moving from body to body. It was tedious work. It required a lot of patience. A dopey, apologetic smile. And something I'm rather short on - tack.
The lens of my Canon was protruding forward. The crowd was pressing in. The two didn't mix well. I was trying to shield the lens as best as I could. Turning it this way and that. Hoping to find nooks and crannies in the dwindling space around me. And then the inevitable happened. The lens pressed firmly into the hot dish standing right in front of me. I quickly withdrew it from the small of her back. But not quick enough.
She spun around. Gazed into my eyes and momentarily glanced down to size up the situation. She formed a lovely round shape with her lips.
Her lips flattened out into a long slash. Then the corners of her mouth curved upward. And her eyes took on a mischievous sparkle.
"I was about to say... Hey, that's not my boyfriend!"
"Ah, yeah. I... I haven't had the pleasure." I cupped the end of the lens with my hand. "Must be a little uncomfortable having this thing jammed into you like that."
She nodded and made a faux pout.
I reassured her, "I'll try to keep it under control."
"Not my boyfriend, she purred. "Get it?"
"I got it."
She gave me a friendly, warm smile. Turned a soft shoulder. And left me to contemplate her tempting backside. She glanced back once to make sure I was still admiring her. She was hardly a cold fish. She was open for business. But her business would have to wait. I had something more pressing to attend to at the moment. Like getting as close to the stage as I could.
I noticed a young hoodlum doing a Curious George impression. He was staring in my direction. Trying to positively ID me. Searching through his mental files. And wondering just what category I fit into. He kept up his silent vigil. Alternating between watching the stage and watching me. Until it finally got the better of him. He worked his way closer to me and smiled as he approached.
"Have you seen Wolf Creek?"
I scowled and tried to place the location. But I couldn't. It was a total blank. I shook my head. "No."
"It's an Aussie film. You kinda look like a guy in it."
"Never saw it."
He tried to fill me in. But I'd become distracted.
I'd spotted Amber and Corwin. They were closer to the stage then I was. Over to the right a bit, and forward. A couple of heads away from the edge of the stage. They'd somehow managed to materialize in a prized location. I'd been trumped by the Hemmingway wannabe.
I gazed over to my left and recognized another face. It was very close - only a couple of faces away. It belonged to a geek wearing black horn-rimmed glasses. A geek that had surfaced last year. He was a mosher. One of the instigators that stirred up the pit at the last Head Cat show.
I had an ominous feeling that I was been set up. The mosh pit was lurking close at hand. I'd be living on the edge tonight. Rubbing elbows with danger. And waiting for the time when it would strike. I didn't have long to wait.
The Head Cat walked out on stage. The crowd let out a roar. Cheering as loud as they could as the band took up their positions. Danny B. Harvey to the left. Slim Jim Phantom to the right. And Lemmy Kilmister standing right in the middle - dead centre.
There was no guest stand-up bass player tonight. It was just the three of them. Playing the music like it was meant to be played. Hard. Loud. Fast. Down and dirty. They launched into their first song - Eddie Cockran's "Somethin' Else". And that's when all Hell broke loose. The audience surged forward. They were transformed into a massive tidal wave of euphoria. Every last one of them swept up in the intoxicating crush of Head Cat mania.
One of these enraptured souls was the dame I had run into earlier at the bar. The one with the chain mail tattoos. She was down front hugging the stage. Standing next to her was a fiery babe. A short-haired redhead. The redhead was wearing a Levi jacket, chewing gum, and standing right in front of Slim Jim Phantom. She projected a 1950s style, hot, rebel chick vibe. Chewing and snapping her gum. And letting the music take her body wherever it wanted. Yeah, she was the real deal. The cat's pyjamas.
She quickly caught the eye of Slim Jim Phantom. It wasn't long before they had developed a mutual rapport. Soon they were joking. Pointing at each other. And smiling. Smiling a lot. Slim Jim Phantom was quite the lady's man. A real smoothie.
The rebel redhead wasn't the only chick in the crowd making herself noticed. Amber was rising to the occasion. She suddenly shot up in the air. Let out a wild whoop. Revelling in her abandon as she floated over a sea of faces. Wiggling and squirming. Waving her arms. Cheering the band on. And beaming proudly while suspended above the crowd - for all to see. Amber's levitation act lasted a minute or so. Then she descended back down to earth. To rejoin the rest of us mere mortals.
Meanwhile, a not so demure brunette, with a nice rack, was giving me the business. She was wearing a skimpy white outfit held in place with black fishnet webbing. She was bumping and grinding. Working her way slowly around me. While flashing her mischievous thoughts like some psi powered telepromtor. I gave her the once over - many times over. My ogling was obsessive-compulsive. And she lapped it up like catnip. I was trying her on for size. Admiring the packaging. And seeing how she handled around the tight spots. The internal warning lamps were flashing - SHARP CURVES AHEAD... SLIPPERY WHEN WET....
Miss Rack-and-pinion was soft, sleek, smooth, and nicely padded in all the right places. A real pleasure to bump into in a dark alley. And it appeared that she was in no hurry to leave. She attempted several ascents. Climbing up and down my back as her excitement mounted under the Head Cat spell. Their musical mojo was driving her over the top. The fact that they weren't playing "Who Do You Love" was a blessing. It saved me from listening to sighs of someone else's name - Lemmy's.
The songs that the Head Cat were playing were all classics. Tricked-out covers of early rock'n'roll and rockabilly songs. Songs by Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and other great grandmasters of rock.
The complete set list was sitting right up there on the stage. Too far away to read. Too dangerous to try to get. I knew I'd never lay my hands on it. I'd just have to keep my ears peeled. I remembered hearing "Bad Boy", "Susie Q", and a lively cover of Johnny Kidd And The Pirates' popular hit song - "Shaking All Over." Other than that, I remember trying like Hell to stay alive. The primal instincts were taking over.
Slim Jim Phantom was standing at his drum kit like a dashing matinee idol. Swinging his sticks with dramatic flare. Singing and smiling as he kept the rhythm rolling. He was clearly having the time of his life.
The dark-complected rogue standing directly in front of me was wearing a blue bandanna on his head like a pirate. His build was somewhere in the range from medium to heavy. He was firmly anchored to the edge of the stage. Nothing short of an armada was going to budge him. He was casually taking pictures with a digital camera. And having a much easier time of it than I was. For him it was smooth sailing. For me it was a maritime disaster.
True I was now closer to the stage. But I had been shoved so far into his back that I could have been considered a fashion accessory. And then there was Miss Rack-and-pinion. That randy, dirty dancing brunette ridding my back. The simple task of shooting the band had quickly turned into mission impossible. I was struggling to fire off hasty shots. Focusing. Aiming. And waiting for a clear opening in the sea of heads, hands, arms, and various other body parts that were being thrust into my view finder. What was becoming clear to me was the fact that I needed to find a better place to stand.
Lemmy and Slim Jim were the easiest targets. They were the closest. Danny was a real challenge. He was the farthest away - a long shot. There were way too many bodies between us for me to be able to get a clean shot. He was the one bandmember that I felt for sure I was going to miss.
I followed Lemmy's movements closely and fired off a few shots. When I was sure that I'd got him, I turned my attention to Slim Jim. Firing off several shots in rapid succession. I made several attempts to pick off Danny, but my aim was deflected by the surging crowd. I'd have to wait for him to come to me. And come he would. Danny was prowling the stage. It was only a matter of time before he'd give me the opening I was looking for. Then I'd get him. And get him good!
My biggest challenge turned out to be something very simple to do under normal circumstances - changing the film in my camera. It required reloading on the spot - right in the middle of a full blown tempest. Sure it's easy to remove an empty roll of film. But try to get another roll in the camera and thread it onto a take-up reel. Try not to drop the roll. Try to line up the holes with the sprockets in semi-darkness and make sure the film's firmly in place. And try like hell not to damage or lose the camera while it's leaping around in your hands - like a hooked chinook.
Somehow I managed to do this after only half a dozen attempts. I snapped my camera shut. Advanced the film. And was back in action. Lady Luck was smiling on me.
She took the form of the dame with the chain mail tattoos. She was signalling me. Holding out her hand and urging me to join her down at the edge of the stage. She became very insistent.
"Take my spot."
"You need to be HERE!"
I struggled against the crush of bodies. Reaching forward. And straining until I was able to reach her hand. Then I clasped it. And she drew me forward to her side.
She grinned, "Just like last year."
"Thanks. You're a life saver."
"No problem - now go get 'em, tiger!"
I squeezed by and took her former position at the edge of the stage. This placed me squarely between Lemmy's mic stand and Slim Jim's drum kit. With absolutely no one obstructing my view of the band. I was in like Flynn.
The crowd continued to surge as I hugged the stage. I wedged myself firmly in place and fired off shots as quickly as I could. I was making up for lost time. Picking off a few easy shots of Lemmy. And then pivoting in place to pick off a few close-up shots of Slim Jim. I was concentrating on Danny when fate stepped in and dealt me a rotten hand. A powerful surge knocked me forward. The edge of the stage jammed deep into my side. And a sharp pain exploded in my abdomen. It felt like I'd been gunned down.
I gritted my teeth. Bracing my knees against the stage. And pushed myself as far back as I could to try to relieve the pain. I somehow managed to hold back the crowd long enough to get off a single shot. Then I was slammed against the stage and had to start the whole process all over again. I wasn't sure how much longer I could keep this up. My muscles were aching. I was starting to tremble. I could feel my energy draining. And the pain wasn't releasing its grip. It was increasing in intensity. I felt like I'd been worked over by a tag team of midgets strung out on angel dust.
A rakish looking roadie rushed out on stage and lunged at a the monitor near me. He was wearing an Irish flat cap and had a pencil-thin mustache as well as a razor-thin beard that flowed along his jawline like a jaunty shadow. He was frantically shoving the monitor. Trying desperately to move it back to the edge of the stage. The audience had been pushing the monitor further and further back every time they surged. Now it had come down to crunch time. A shoving match between them and the roadie. He crouched down low - ramming the monitor with all the force he could muster. The monitor jerked and advanced slightly. He was slowly turning the tide. Bouncing it back to its original position.
By now I had shot half the roll. The pain in my gut was getting the better of me. I decided I'd better pull back while I still could. Find a place where it was less packed. Somewhere where the mosh pit couldn't find me. And where I could recover. I turned to the dame with the chain mail tattoos.
"You can have your spot back."
"Yeah, I'm finished."
"Uh-huh. I gotta get outta here."
We traded places. But I was still stuck down front. Mired in an orgy of bodies. She quickly figured out a fast solution to the problem.
She yelled, "Let this man outta here!"
As soon as the crowd sensed that I was leaving - they spun me out. Twirling me through the crowd faster than Jonah being spit out of a whale. When I came to rest, I found myself next to the bar. A safe haven for the numb. And as good a place as any.
Lemmy was standing at the mic. Staring at the audience. Waiting until he had their full attention. Then he spoke.
"Rock'n'roll can save your life!" He spread his arms away from his body. Turned his hands inward. And pointed at himself. "Here's the proof!"
The crowd was speechless. They just stared at him in utter silence. Could rock'n'roll save their lives too? Was rock'n'roll the Holy Grail? And Lemmy the knight who'd brought it back - to save the land?
The chance to hear a new song by Lemmy was always a treat. Especially when it's a song that wasn't available on any album. And "Rock'N'Roll Can Save Your Life" delivered the goods. It kicked the crowd into gear. And got the joint jumping like you'd never seen. It was pure unadulterated pandemonium.
A feisty hep kitten with long blonde hair was doing a provocative Pulp Fiction dance. Her arms and hands were moving in wide arcs as she strutted around like Uma Thurman hopped up on Bennies. Her eyes were fixed and fierce. They were as piercing and determined as a bird of prey. She danced circles around the Johns standing near her. Daring them to make her day. She was Kali's seamstress. Hemming them in with her intense dance of death.
The mosh pit was growing in size and intensity. It was threatening to take over the entire floor. Over the past few songs it had quickly swelled and spread. Rushing and toppling people that got in its way. They were falling all over themselves like kinetic dominos. A big, brawny bouncer was standing over to the left of me. He was dressed all in black. His head was totally clean-shaven. But his face was not. There was a thin, well groomed goatee warming his chin, if not his disposition.
He was systematically swatting moshers. Scattering them off in random directions before they had a chance to get anywhere near me. This made my task much easier. Now I was able to take my time. Casually focus. Aim. And shoot. While all my potential problems were being dispatched by a human dynamo. The Heat Cat kept right on cranking up the vibe. They were going into overdrive. After finishing a high-octane version of "Rock This Town", they turned up the heat. Unleashing a blistering cover of "Blue Suede Shoes." The audience was going ballistic.
That's when something caught my eye. It flew off the stage and tumbled through the air. Flipping over like it had been tossed for a loop - sent sailing in a jolly jujitsu joy ride. The hapless geezer was screaming through space on a collision course with his destiny - the mosh pit. It reached up and snatched his body from space. Swallowing him up whole. Never to be seen again.
When the song ended, The Head Cat left the stage. The crowd yelled and screamed for more. Their rowdy demonstration only lasted for a matter of minutes. And it brought the desired result - the return of the Head Cat.
The band walked back out on stage. Took up their former positions and did something I wasn't expecting. They played a cover of "Route 66". And chased it with a cover of "Crossroads". When they finished playing "Crossroads", they walked off the stage. Continued down the stairs. And vanished from sight. They were hunkering down in the privacy of their underground bunker - The Green Room.
The house lights went up. And the crowd started to disperse. I spotted Lossom Allen loitering around the back of the room. He was watching the fans dissipated from the front of the room by the stage and flock over to the bars. Or slowly leave the club. I strolled across the room and joined him. It was time to compare notes.
"I made it to the stage."
"I noticed. It looked rough down there."
"How do you feel?"
"Maybe they knocked some sense into you."
"I'll get over it."
Lossom shook his head and chuckled. "This time."
"So what did you think of it?"
"The sound was better than Seattle."
"Chalk one up for Portland."
"I didn't say it was good. I said it was better."
"You mean the sound was off? I didn't notice."
"Too busy working the crowd, no doubt."
"Could you be more specific?"
"No, no, I mean about the sound. What was wrong with the sound?"
"They didn't get the bass levels right until the show was almost over."
"The house sound man."
"What exactly was it that he mucked up?"
"You know the famous effect that Lemmy goes for?"
I didn't have a clue, but I nodded anyway.
"Lemmy plays through a guitar amp with the treble all the way up and the bass at zero."
"Well, the engineer blew it. He just couldn't get it right."
"That must have gone over real well." "Lemmy was shouting between songs - NO BASS. TURN THE BASS DOWN!"
"And that cleared up the problem."
"No. That just made it worse."
"How could that make it worse? Lemmy knows what he's doing."
"But the engineer doesn't. He took this to mean that Lemmy wanted the bass volume at zero - and completely turned him off for a number of songs."
I was dumbstruck. How could it get any worse?
"It was a bit comical watching the engineers trying to make him happy."
"Yeah, get this. The guy that they had on tour with them kept bringing out the backup bass thinking there was a problem with Lemmy's bass itself."
"That's screwy, he must have been steamed."
"He let us all know exactly how he felt when he said - It'd be faster to train a monkey."
"Funny, the sound was alright when I was over at the bar."
"It got sorted out by that time - at the end of the set."
I frowned. I was wondering if I might need someone as backup when I made my move on Lemmy. It was time to sound out Lossom.
"Are you going to hang around awhile?"
"Naw. I'm heading back."
"To Seattle? You just got here."
"I got some things to take care off."
"Not much else for me to do here."
"Well, it was just a thought."
"You going to wait around to catch Lemmy?"
"Uh-huh. It's not over till I do."
"Thanks. And keep in touch. I may have another job for you."
"Sure. Will do."
Lossom headed toward the door. It was time for him to hit the road. And start the long journey home. I headed toward the Game Room. It was time for a well deserved drink. And to call someone's bluff.
There was another archway in the red brick-and-mortar wall down at the south end of the bar. It's opening was right next to the merchandise stall in the Game Room. And where music equipment was temporarily stacked by visiting bands in the main room. The south end of the bar is where I decided to settle in and take root. Right near the corner. Easy as you please. And one thing was a sure bet - nothing was going to get by me without me knowing about it.
It was late. 1:45 AM to be exact, and rapidly closing in on the last call. That dreaded time when you're about to be cut off. When they stop serving the giggle juice. Instead you're given a reasonable amount of time to drink up. Then you're politely asked to clear out. Wham, bam, thank you mam. I was keeping a close eye on who came and who went. Nursing my drink. And jotting down a few notes and observations. There weren't very many paying customers left in the club. Most of the punters had split when the show had ended. It was now down to the usual suspects - the club employees, the musicians, and their roadies. Then of course, there was yours truly. I'd managed to blend in with my surroundings like a social chameleon. I'd become part of the furnishings.
I continued my surveillance as the club was being prepared for the next day. Tables and chairs were carried out from storage and set up on the floor. Items that had been set up on the sidewalk outside the club were brought back in and spirited away. For all intents and purposes - the club was closing down for the night. This of course remained to be seen. Sometimes these joints go private after hours.
I downed my drink and switched to something less proactive. I ordered a coke on the rocks. Call it a faux cocktail. Or a real low-ball. Sure it was something that you'd expect Bert and Ernie to guzzle down on Sesame Street. It wasn't much more than a handy prop. But it provided me with a dandy excuse to linger longer. I was drinking. And I appeared to belong here. The casual club employee might figure I was someone connected with the mob. A mobsmen might figure I was someone connected with the club. I was simply playing one side against the other. And taking the benefit of the doubt.
An anime film was playing simultaneously on all the club's big screen TVs. One was located over the bar, one was mounted on the wall behind the pool table, and another one was over on the wall directly across from the Game Room bar. From where I was sitting I could see all three. The sound was a different story. It was muted. Subtitles were flashing across the bottom of the screens.
I made the quantum leap and assumed that all those wide-eyed, busty, asian dames on the screen were not speaking English. Even with the aid of subtitles, I couldn't fathom what the Hell was going on. All I could figure out was that it was titled "Adult Swim". And one of the drop-dead-gorgeous babes must have OD'd on silicone and had developed a chronic sleep disorder that enabled her to snooze underwater without drowning. A feat not even Esther Williams was ever able to achieve during her heyday in Hollywood.
The picture on the screen over the pool table was fuzzy. It had a couple of out of phase ghost images - one in green and one in red. The subtitles were warped. And each line of text was repeated in a different colour above and below the actual subtitle. It was somewhat unique and psychotropic. Subtitles acting like pop art - hiccuping in colourful, Andy Warhol inspired, stilted English.
Time dragged on and on. And still no sign of Lemmy. The first actual glimpse of a Head Cat member after the show was about to occur. It wasn't the bass player that made the first appearance. It was a Stray Cat.
Slim Jim Phantom walked up the stairs from the Green Room. He loitered momentarily at the side of the stage where some musical equipment had been packed up and stored. He was joined a few moments later by a young henchman. Probably his personal roadie. They both wandered out of the club, and into the night. They didn't return, so I figured that they had departed in a waiting vehicle. One down. Two to go.
I was gazing down at the floor when a dark form drifted by. Looking up, I spotted the spectre as it cruised by the opening in the red brick wall. Yes, it was Lemmy. And he was travelling at a fast clip - heading straight toward the video poker machines. like a shot of iron homing in on a powerful magnet.
It was now 2:30 AM and I was in hot pursuit of my quarry.
By the time I'd caught up with Lemmy, he was standing between a video poker machine and a gumball machine filled with earplugs. He was directly in front of the Coat Check stall. The roadie I'd seen up on stage wrangling dislocated monitors was standing next to him. He was facing Lemmy. And they were busy discussing something.
There was something else that had unexpectedly cropped up and caused me to pause. It was a troll straddling a chair backwards - sitting right in the middle of the floor. Blocking my path to Lemmy. He watched me approach with great amusement - grinning a Cheshire grin.
He was large. Heavy set. Had a ruddy complexion. And was rather hairy. His long, rusty hair was tucked up under a woollen ski cap. And his beard freely flowed down over his chest. Somewhere beneath the nether regions of his beard lurked a woodsy outdoor coat. A drab olive-green one that looked more suitable for camping than it did for nightclub excursions.
The troll tilted his head and challenged me.
"I've seen you before. You were here the last time."
I nodded. "That's right."
"What's your name?"
I arched an eyebrow and searched his face suspiciously. Now don't that beat all. A troll with the most common name in the phone directory. It didn't seem to fit the profile of a troll at all. It was way too modest. I had him figured more as a Smith. I decided to humour him.
"It was much more crowded tonight than last year."
"It sold out."
"Sold out? I thought it didn't."
"It did. I keep track of these things."
I was beginning to wonder just what Jones' connection was. Was he in with the band? In with the club? Or working for Special Agent Greg Stoker and the Cascadian Ministry of Defense.
The troll wasn't finished with me. He had a few more things on his mind and a comfy spot to go over them. Jones got right down to the basics.
"What brings you here?"
"He's over there."
I glanced over at the Coat Check stall."
"So he is."
"You wish to see him?"
"No, I wish to talk to him."
The troll mulled this over.
"Aren't you going to ask me what my favourite colour is?"
"No. It's obvious--BLACK."
"Black isn't a colour. It's the lack of colour."
"So is death."
I shook my head. And wandered over to the Coat Check stall. Lemmy watched me approach. When I stopped in front of him, I drew my lips back from my teeth and rasped, "I can't tell you how the sound was. I was too busy just trying to stay alive."
Lemmy maintained his silence. So I continued.
"I think I need to replace my left nut!"
His jaw dropped. And his eyes went wide. Then he regained composure and started to chuckle. "So do I at my age."
I gave him a curt nod and preceded to bore him with the details.
"Okay, here's the lowdown. I shot about one and a half rolls. Then I had to pull back and take a breather. It was wild out there. I got worked over. I got worked over good."
Lemmy was smiling.
I rolled my eyes. "I really don't know what I got - probably a lot of jerk shots."
Lemmy did another double-take. So I kept right on talking.
"Judging from the places I ended up. That I never intended to go to. And suddenly found myself exploring....
He started laughing and rattled off a list of rather interesting body parts that I may have shot - instead of his band.
I nodded, "Uh-huh, yeah. And plenty of arms, hands, and heads thrown in for good measure."
He was clearly amused and carried on laughing. I continued with my list of ordeals.
"There was a girl climbing up my back. And another trying to take up residence in my left pocket."
"You should have said something."
"I tried to. But at my age... if she wanted to climb all over me... who was I to spoil her fun?"
His eyes took on a devilish glint.
"You should coat yourself with oil next time."
This time my jaw dropped. Lemmy grinned thoughtfully.
"It might be fun."
"Ah, yeah. It might at that."
He seemed to enjoy hearing about my misadventures. I switched topics.
"About that other matter."
Lemmy regained his composure. Now he looked dead serious. Like Judge and jury all in one. So I just laid it on the line. "I don't have a say in the outcome. It's you're call. If you do - you do. If you don't you don't."
He wasn't saying boo.
I reached forward and offered my hand. He took it and gave it a firm clasp and shook it. As I turned to go, he did something I wasn't expecting. He spread his arms wide and gave me a hug. Patted me on the back. Then stepped back. And watched me leave the room. I was hoping he hadn't watched "The Godfather" recently.
I was half way out of the room when I turned and darted back inside. A stack of magazines sitting on the floor in a the wire rack by the Ladies Room had caught my attention. It was filled with the latest copy of Exotic. The scantily clad seductress on the cover was one of the strippers from Sassy's Bar & Grill. She was a devilishly attractive brunette that went by the moniker - Pistolita. The bold white-hot caption next to her hip said it all: "NUDE YEAR SPECTACULAR".
She was wearing a silver tiara, silver choker, and a light-blue denim bikini - sporting large buckles in strategic places. There was a tattoo on her left arm that spanned the distance from her shoulder all the way down to her wrist. If you're into that sort of thing.
They say that Portland has the largest number of strip clubs per capita than any other city in North America. Well, people have to have something to do when it rains. And around here - it rains a lot. But who really notices when they spend can their time indoors. Pursuing other interests, besides the weather.
Exotic was basically one great big advertisement for the local adult service industry. It was chock full of photos of the ladies. Provided phone numbers and web addresses for the strip clubs they worked at. It also contained maps of Portland and Salem pinpointing their locations.
I shot a glance over at the troll.
"Forgot my dirty magazine!"
He rocked in his chair laughing.
"Oh no, you mustn't forget that."
"Yeah, I gotta have something for the cops to read when they pull me over."
It wasn't the cops I had to worry about. As I left Old Town and drove across the Burnside Bridge something winked into existence in my rear view mirror. Three lights. Three independent lights. All with minds of their own. I was being followed. And worst of all - they were gaining on me. They roared up from behind and caught up with me at the next red light. They were bikers. Three Gypsy Jokers. Someone had stacked the deck and dealt me a helluva hand. One of the Jokers pulled over in front of me. The other two pulled up alongside me. I was hemmed in. The light changed to green. And I gave them plenty of room. As fate would have it, the next light turned red as we approached it. We were now at the three-way intersection where Burnside converges with Sandy Boulevard and Northeast 12th avenue. We were just sitting there idling with time to kill.
The bikers revved their engines. I adjusted the volume on my radio and muttered to myself.
"Now don't that beat all. I'm being taken for a ride."
The light changed to green and we all angled over to the left onto Sandy Boulevard. We kept right on cruising down the road - heading east. Heading toward the Hollywood District. Toward Mark Lindsay's Rock N Roll Cafe.
They say that sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Live and let live. That was the way to get through life. At least, that was the plan for now.