Chapter 1

I can’t say my family didn’t love me, they did. But it was too much of a love that it impinged on what I thought should be my basic freedoms in this world, namely the right to say whatever the fuck I want. That’s not something most people take kindly to anymore. They want you to have that feedom, but if you exercise it, just don’t do it around them. They’ ve got that right, too. Only problem is that there are so many of them out there, and I’ve got such a big mouth even though most people think I’m pretty shy, that we never get along. It’s sad. It’s like Teardrop.
Teardrop was my mule. Died of old age about three years ago happy, but not always, because I did something really stupid. I lost him in a poker game because I thought that’s what somebody with a mule does. I was stoned and had been fighting with Moxy because she felt like a cowboy and is really this Jewish girl from New Jersey. Down in town, I was playing cards with Jay and Frank. I rode Teardrop into town just for a hoot. Teardrop was a strong mule, but we did walk a lot of the way. The guys thought he was a cool little mule and so did I. He was happy. I kept carrots for him and sugar cubes and apple cores. He dug ’em all. But then Jay gets out a jay and we smoke it up and suddenly, I think to myself how Teardrop is my best friend and then, instead of knowing it, believing it, I think of it in betting terms, and I’m just about out of money… when this guy says, “Throw in Teardrop.”

Throw in Teardrop. An amazing conception ultimately, but I didn’t know it then. Back then, when I was still smoking and drinking a little because I was weaning myself off heroin, I didn’t know better. I didn’t know, either, that a mule could hold the secret not only to muledom, but pretty much to whatever secret anybody would ever feel worthy of holding. You remember that story by Christ, I think it was, he said that he who does good unto the least of these, pointing around at the old and sick does unto me. And that’s what Teardrop was. He was truly the least of these and when I lost after that quick nod of my head, when this guy Jay thought it would be cool to own a mule named Teardrop, I recognized the least of these in my mule and didn’t want to see him go. You know what I mean? You’ve got to know what I mean.
Anyway, I lost Teardrop that day, and he went to live with Jay down in the town. Jay fixed lawnmowers in his lawnmower shop. He lived in the back by his lawnmowers and that’s where Teardrop went to live because it turns out Jay used to have a horse that he kept in a pen back there, but he didn’t have a horse no more, didn’t want one because a horse is for a kid to ride, and, well, his wife left him as was only right since, after all, Jay liked to do a lot of smoking, drinking and gambling. So his vices weren’t all bad. They got him Teardrop anyway, unless you want to consider my side of the story, that is, it took Teardrop from me. But that mule is dead now anyhow.

I got myself a little girl. Yeah, I know, what’s a jerk like me doing with a little girl. I haven’t even been near the mountains for years. Not hardly. Always lived in a town. I moved here a few years ago from New Jersey where me and Moxy had lived for a long time, too long a time. I grew up down the hill in Millsville. Moxy is Helen. She’s my wife. I was on heroin for over ten years and she took care of me. A few years ago I’m sitting around detoxing finally after so long doing smack and my brother Albert comes to Fort Lee where I had been living with Moxy. Minnie wasn’t around yet. That’s my daughter. She’s five going on forty. And Albert comes to Fort Lee looking for me. Albert is one of a kind. I remember when he was a kid I was over talking to this sweet little girl I was hot for at the skating rink, I always took my brother on Friday nights, who else was going to do it? And I look up and I see Albert, had to be about seven, skating around the roller rink with his little friend Stevie and then this monster comes up behind him, about my age, and rolls over my little brother and doesn’t even stop. Just laughs. So I skate over there past my brother whose being taken care of and have a little chat with our friend the gorilla. He disagreed as well that hurting my brother was a good idea. Albert, he looked up to me back then so much he finally rescued me.
Sitting in a Dunkin Donuts while me and Moxy sit in her car outside and me wondering if I should go the hell in because by then I was too ashamed to think about what I’d done to my family, my brother, and my mama back in Tennessee. Well, I go in, finally, but only after Albert comes out. I can’t go in. He starts crying, happy as all hell to see me, and we go back in to sit down. The girl from Dunkin Donuts comes around and tells me that he’s a good boy, that he’s a good boy like she loves him or something and then next thing I know he pops me in the eye real hard and I literally black out. Moxy picks me up and Albert is gone.

So since then I got my brother back. Me and Moxy drove to Millsville, waiting a few days to let Albert get back which turned out to be by bus. Albert was still a little cold to me, but I could see the same Albert there staring at me while I hugged my mama and I myself began to cry. He was bouncing some papers on his leg as we all sat there drinking coffee at the kitchen table. Then he hands me the papers. It says “Petals. A Rock Scenario.” Turns out all those marijuana jam sessions that I had in my room when I truly hated the world and everybody in it was a sort of schooling for my little brother who would sit in on the sessions and listen. Albert turned out to be somebody who wrote rock operas and sitting there with Petals on his lap, him looking so nervous, I thought to myself that whatever it is in his hand that he wants me to see I’ll see, and whatever it is that this little man who listened to me wants me to do, I’ll do. So he gives me the rock opera “Petals. A Rock Scenario” and it’s about the death of Princess Diana. This kid took the whole story of the death of Princess Diana and turned it into a musical, a rock musical, but he had no music. He came looking for me, looking all the hell over New York City, thinking I was a busted up heroin junkie living in the gutter. He walked in to Harlem crack houses and talked to people who I knew. That’s says you go pretty far to get what you want. He knows Slit, for god’s sake, a guy I plied with money, but who was the biggest liar I’d ever met except about his quality of heroin. Slit had some of the best. He was of course connected to The Lady. The Lady was no lady to say the least. She was as mean as they come. A certifiable nymphomaniac. Did me a couple of times till I got to know better. I know that’s a strange thing for a man to say, but it’s true. Albert met her. Once again, for someone who would talk to The Lady to find me, you gotta hand it to him. So I took on Petals.
But that doesn’t mean that my life ends. I am in the process of straightening things out and if I occasionally lose a mule due to the stupidity of a marijuana high then I will die knowing that I, like everybody else under God’s blue sky, is a complete and utter idiot, and that pain comes. Pain comes, but it doesn’t burden us more than we can handle. We always make it because there are people like Albert out there guided by some sort of angel and if we think we’re the angels, we’re wrong. The angels are the angels and they know who they are. They’re out there.

But the point here is this. Jay didn’t keep that mule for long. Teardrop loved me I hate to say and I don’t live all that close to town, in fact, when me and Moxy moved back home she knew we’d have to live on Anna Belle Mountain. So we did, and within the year we had a dozen chickens, a pig, a cow and a mule. The following year we had Minnie. A little baby, Minnie. A girl. We had Albert and my mama down there in town not far from where Jay still lives and my mule did only briefly. We had the supermarket, me, I had the supermarket back. I used to work there. Then Albert got a job and he’s still there. He’s funny. He complains about his job like he’s a columnist for the New Yorker. His literary work hero is John Updike for writing a story about an asshole manager kicking out a couple of babes who wanted to buy something in their bikinis. He’s assistant produce manager now. He hates it still. He’ll never accept it. He’s written four rock operas, but none like this tribute that I’m doing the music for about the Princess Diana. I don’t know. At first I thought my brother had gone a little bit crazy or a little bit queer for wanting to write about a princess, but then I looked at the play. My brother is a first rate writer. His only problem is that he hasn’t been discovered. My mama, she paints pictures, and he had her paint a picture of Princess Diana with folded hands and angels and burning orange sunsets behind her like she’s beautiful but very much dead. Maybe this whole concept of accepting death isn’t popular for a very good reason.
But I’m not quitting on my brother because my brother never quit on me. I never would have gone home or if I had it would have been several years later. I’d become a bit of a coward hiding out there in Fort Lee. Our band had been over for years because the heroin became a better ride. Helen never took that stuff and she stood by me all those years. Actually, we separated for awhile. She couldn’t take it. That’s when I went to New York. Albert was right anyway about where I might go if I was a down and out junkie. I headed straight to New York City. It’s also where Moxy found me. I’d go downtown sometimes even though I lived up in the 200s. Walked right by me. Our eyes met on the street and we just hugged. I was saving my hit for later and had just taken some other things, a few lines, a few bowls. Pretty stoned, but I was still looking for a drink. I’m not an alcoholic though. What I mean was I was looking for a place to sit down and have a drink so I could listen to some good music. I’m a rock guitarist.

Moxy Priestess is a band that I believe was every bit as good as anything the 1970s produced. In 1978 we opened for Rush in Ontario, Canada. I was written up in the newspapers as being Jimmy Page-like. I eventually played with Jimmy three years later, just after Zeppelin broke up. I was 18 in 1978. At 21, I hadn’t talked to my family for four years. Albert was about eight when I left the house at 17 to run away to Nashville where I was kicked out of so many clubs it stopped being funny because back then they didn’t mess with rock and roll at all like they do now. I am a country boy who doesn’t do country. Mel Tillis never graced my eight track if you know what I mean. My dad played a lot of Dylan. Nah, Jimmy Page. With Jimmy I was born. Then came Jimi and that sealed it. Name them then, the ones that you would think my heroes were, and I couldn’t think of nothing but playing as good as these guys or playing with these guys someday, and I did: Clapton, Lifeson, Morse, Beck, Van Halen, the list goes on and on.
Yeah. So this mule, Teardrop, he chews his way out of the weakest part of the fence and he starts walking. Anna Belle Mountain is a little over ten miles away and we live on the top of it up a dirt road that travels beside a sheer fall. If you’re stoned and willing to allow the beast to actually carry you at times, as mules can, then you can make it into Millsville in two three hours. That’s what I did. Took a bongload and went to town. Where I live, well, it’s not the best place to live if you’re afraid of heights or you can’t afford a four wheel drive. We’re about five miles up. Somehow though, Teardrop gets to the mountain unseen, but he doesn’t know anything about roads, Teardrop, he doesn’t think like we do. He just knows that on top of a mountain somewhere is me and Moxy and the baby Minnie, that’s all.

Some days I’ll just think about it. When he finally came into the yard he was bleeding profusely on all four of his legs. He had a gash in his side a foot long. He was wet and caked with mud. There was nothing about him that wasn’t wrong. Even his eyes looked hollow and jelly-like, like he’d seen too many ghosts. Teardrop never took the road, but later we found tracks. He went right up the back side of the mountain and didn’t once stop going up. Nobody knows exactly what happened to him, but I can imagine and I do sometimes and I miss him. He died a few years ago real peacefully. Me and Moxy and Minnie and Albert and even my mama dug a big whole for him and put him right on the side of the mountain that he climbed up so valiantly to get home again, to get to us.

Published in: on August 26, 2009 at 4:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

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