Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hola!

Cheeeeeee! Bienvenido a mi página oficial de blog. Soy Jose Marrone y estará tomando para Chris Extraño que es ya no entre nosotros. Cuando un tributo a él yo ofrezco un capítulo del "Corazón Hecho" a mano novedoso. Goce. Cheeeeeeee!

Handmade Heart

Chapter Five - Funeral for a friend


Objectively I’d have to say it was a nice morning for a funeral. People are sad enough at the loss of a loved one, they shouldn’t have to deal with Mother Nature pissing all over them as well. Although, the mood was sullen the day was pleasant enough, not sharing in empathy. The sun shone with an expected brilliance from a cloudless sky, the leaves rustled effortlessly on the occasional nonchalant breeze, and the birds chirped away happily on their own top-forty. Far off in the distance a lawnmower buzzed like a low flying plane over the scent of new mown grass.

Actually, I couldn’t believe I was standing here in the middle of this ritual, amidst the weeping and the wailing, in a place I didn’t want to be, witnessing a demise I didn’t want to view. It was a small gathering for which I was thankful, as everyone who was close to the deceased took turns speaking. Humorous stories, odes of loss, or just words of praise filled the air in a symphony of prose. Finally, a man I did not recognize concluded the proceedings. He would have made a good clergyman except he wasn’t. I think he was the next door neighbor. He was tall and lanky with a wreathe of hair, losing the battle of the bald. A man gifted with a deep booming voice minus the monster-truck-rally speed. Yet, the reverberation of his speech was soothing— lulling almost. His voice carried like music blowing in from across a lake. It gave you a sense of longing and wonder like you were missing something special if you failed to hear it clearly. He spoke with steady even control, his inflections and pauses in all the right places. He wove delicately through the sobs and sniffles as he said his piece.

“We . . . are gathered here to celebrate the life . . . not grieve the death . . . of our dearly departed. Although in comparison to you and I . . . he was taken from us far too soon, he lived a life, satisfying, . . . eventful, . . . rewarding. He was important to us all and his loss will be . . . greatly felt. For his time among us . . . was one of caring . . . and compassion. Of knowing when his presence was needed . . . his fellowship treasured . . . his comfort valued. I feel . . . his companionship will be missed most of all. One cannot measure the depths of this loss to those gathered here in the simplicity of words. However, . . . I will try . . . by saying I believe the greatest asset was the love he showed . . . his family . . . and those of you assembled here that knew him . . . with that said we now commit the body to the ground. Ashes to ashes. Dust . . . to dust.”

I looked around at the family members, acquaintances and friends of which I was one. Some faces were familiar, some were unrecognizable but the grief was shared without measure as if all were connected to it by a conduit of sadness.

Amid a gentle rain of quiet tears, the man continued. “It is at the family’s request that we now hear his favorite song.”

There was a pause as the music began to play from nearby speakers. It was a poorly recorded vinyl version of, Pop Goes the Weasel, with its own pops and scratches.

“So here ends the time on this earth of one who had an extremely playful nature, who was always quick to show his affection, Mr. Mittens the best cat a family could ask for.”

I whispered out the side of my mouth. “Christ, Skids, if I’d known you were laying your cat to rest, I’d have made other arrangements. Your mother looks inconsolable.”

Skids shrugged his shoulders and continued to peer ahead. His swoop of hair had its usual twisting wave. I half expected to see a miniature surfer hanging ten off the edge of it. Chas, who stood to my left, said nothing at all. He was standing like a tower guard, unmoving, peering through his dark, horn-rim spectacles, while the sun beat off his already reddish, bald skull. He leaned forward slightly on his shovel, as the tiny coffin— a microwave box— of Mr. Mittens was lowered into a freshly dug hole in the garden.

Skids, Chas and I, began to scoop the dirt into the grave with our spades as the rest of the mourners began to clear out. They laid cat toys and his favorite mouse on the box of the departed. A line began to form as they thanked the balding eulogist for his words of comfort.

“All this for a cat?”

“Chas! Try showing a little compassion will ya.”

“I thought I was?”

“Mr. Mittens was no ordinary cat you know.”

“Skids! You make it sound like he saved babies from burning buildings for Pete sake, when probably his only major contribution was horking up some incredibly, grossly-huge hairball.”

“He deserved this ceremony. He was loved. He was a friend. He used to chase his tail to that song.”

The recording ended and the needle bounced in a playful skip of off-time, rhythmic jumps at the end of its vinyl road.

Chas rolled his eyes and shoveled in another mound of dirt. “When my pets die I just flush and that’s the end of it.”

“Maybe when you die, we’ll just flush you!”

“Careful Chas, Skid’s is emotionally unstable at the moment and wielding a shovel.”

“That’s OK Spark. There isn’t a microwave box big enough to hold me.” Chas stopped momentarily to wipe the sweat from his brow with his forearm, before pounding in another scoop of dirt.

Skids grumbled. “You know Chas. Sometimes you are so quiet and other times– like this– no one has the power to shut you up.”

“I think Skids likes quiet Chas best,” I said.

Chas nodded and grinned slightly. “I need a drink when this is done,” he said. “Rye. A double.”

“Sorry I drank the last of mine during the ceremony,” I jested.

I had met these two, years ago in the days after Wally’s departure. They had wandered down to our new rehearsal unit located under a barber shop in a tiny L-shaped plaza of small businesses. They were looking to share practice space with us. They and another who we came to know as The Mayor accompanied them. I don’t remember the name of their band, but I do remember Doc being concerned that we were being besieged by Christian rock fags again, (he was always on about it for some reason). But the guys proved to be all right and eventually we became close friends. They melted into a mold, becoming our road crew. Well . . . except for The Mayor, who always seemed to miss the bus, called away on last minute assignments for the news agency that rendered him obsolete during touring.

There was the zippered scratch of the needle on vinyl as the swing arm was returned to its cradle. From there the Mayor wandered up and looked at us as we continued to fill in the hole.

Skids, still angry from Chas’ words, looked at him in disgust. “You’re late.”

“I don’t eat animals and I definitely don’t like to see them buried. Besides I had trouble getting out of bed this morning.”

“Oh, really? Who was she?” I inquired.

“Someone I met last night.”

“Someone you’re going to see again?”

“I don’t think so.”

Skids shook his head. “Alright what’s wrong with this one? Her nose whistles when she breathes? She doesn’t like soy byproducts? Her little toe crosses over the one next to it?”

“Ugh!” I added. “I couldn’t date her either.”

“I was talking to The Mayor.”

“Too much bush if you really want to know,” The Mayor responded.

“Wow. Too bad Doc wasn’t here. He’d really be in his element,” I said.

Chas who’d been patting the dirt down with his shovel, ceased his action. “That’s it? Too much pubic hair? They have wonderful inventions called razors and waxing you know. Besides I thought you like those tree hugging, au-naturale types?”

“Yeah. Every time you bring a girl around I half expect her to grill me on the library books I never returned,” Skids said. He knelt down and poked a makeshift cross into the mound of earth. It was just two sticks tied together but it sufficed. He could feel Chas looking down at him with disapproval. “What? This is just temporary. Until we get the headstone.”

“I’m not saying a word,” Chas said, as he jammed his shovel into the ground next to the grave and brushed his hands off. He paused and pushed his glasses back up his nose from where they had slid to. “You know,” he said. “I once dated this girl with a massive bush. Like the frickin’ Amazon . . . ”

“Doc used to call it ‘bearded clam’,” I maintained.

“...But I kept dating her and every time we got together she’d trim it back a touch. Her Ludwig Von eventually became last of the Mohicans and— one day. Poof! Bare as a baby’s bottom. A man-in-the-boat exposed to the elements. Clitoris glorious if you prefer Latin?”

“That’s not Latin, you knob.”

Chas ignored Skids and continued to chirp happily. “Then when we finally made it official. You know, an exclusive relationship. She suddenly lost her drive for personal hygiene and it was welcome to the jungle all over again. Man! The hours of my life I’ll never get back because I was too busy trying to untangle myself from that afro after sex. I just don’t understand women.”

“Can we talk about something else?” Skids motioned to the grave. “It doesn’t seem . . . appropriate . . . you know . . . in front of Mr. Mittens.”

“Skids! We’re talking about pussy here! How much more appropriate do you want?” Chas giggled. Skids shot him a searing glance.

“I feel the same way Chas,” I said.

“About pussy?”

“No about women. I don’t understand them either. I sometimes think there’s no such thing as a soul mate.”

The Mayor looked at me. “First of all, you have to stop dating all those L’s. The Lona’s, the Laura’s, the Lulu’s.”

“Yeah Spark. Especially the Lulu’s.”

“Chas do you mind?” The Mayor returned his attention to me. “ Listen why don’t you focus on another letter of the alphabet for a change. In fact, avoid the whole middle, K through P. You’ll meet the right person.”

“Sure! When?”

“When you stop looking and don’t settle.”

“Advice from a man who has a revolving door on his bedroom,” Skids offered.

“Hey, I can’t help that in order to see the inner beauty of a woman I have to go in through the vagina.”

“Let’s change the subject. I’m getting depressed,” I said.

Chas gave his glasses another coax with his index finger. “Well, you were telling us about getting the Oral Blondes back together, weren’t ya Spark?”

The Mayor butt in. “Chas, why do you still call John, Spark? Don’t you think we’re getting a little old to use nicknames?”

“We call you The Mayor and him Skids.”

-“Good point. Sorry, continue. You were talking about the old band.”

-“Before I was commandeered to inter the bodies of deceased house pets. But I’m not sure that’s going to be any less depressing. Besides it’s a one time thing at the moment. Don’t go packing your bags for the road just yet. But Wally said yes. That accounts for everybody.”

“Wait a minute. Last night you told me, ‘No one’s said yes other than Wally’ You haven’t even talked to Skunk or Grub.”

"Nick names..."

"Shut up Chas."

“Doc said he was in if I could get Wally to agree . . . ” I said.

“...and everyone else?” The Mayor reminded.

“That’s the beauty of it, guys. They don’t know what each other has said. We haven’t been in the same room together for years. It’s a little trick I learned from Alice.”

“...She used to book the gigs. Right?” The Mayor interrupted like he was being tested. “And she has sisters,” he said, pointing at me like he was just coming out of a bout of amnesia.

“That’s really good for a guy who was never there. Identical sisters. They were quadruplets.”

“How’d you tell em apart?”

“They all had slightly different feet.”

“Fuck, Spark. You and your foot fetish.”

Skids moaned. “Shit! I couldn’t tell them apart and that’s after spending three months sleeping on their couch.”

There was a round of laughter.

“Remember the gig we did with Matt Tallicas?”

“The guy who did Metallica covers like a lounge singer?”

“That’s the one Chas. He was huge in Cleveland and Syracuse for some reason, but nowhere else. We wanted to do this gig with him in upstate New York. Everyone had to say yes in order for us to open for him— the manager, the agent, the event coordination. The amazing thing was Alice made them all believe everyone else was on board until they gave the ok. When in actuality, no one did. That’s all I did with Wally and Doc. I don’t think Skunk, or Grub will be a problem. It’s what Wires would’ve wanted.”

The Mayor asked. “Have you seen him lately?”

“Who Matt Tallicus?”

“It’s just Matt Morgolis now but it should be Matt Moredonuts. He dropped the Tallicus and the Metallica but that was all he dropped. He’s as huge as a house now. Fifty pounds away from being a shut in.”

Chas was amazed. “No shit?”

“Can we stay on track for a change?” Skids protested. “I want to hear about the studio.”

“We’re booked for a weekend at a studio up in Ernie’s Bay.”

“Couldn’t they get you a studio closer? I mean, Ernie’s Bay, that’s a hell of a long way to go to record. A two-hour drive up the interstate, at least.”

“It’s what I was told. It was the closest studio they were affiliated with. I meet with one of their lawyers next Wednesday for the final arrangements. Then Doc and I will pick up Wally Thursday afternoon. Skunk and Grub can arrive together Friday morning. We’ll have until Monday to get it done.”

“You better get Skunk and Grub to agree then. I hear crow doesn’t taste so good. I though this was supposed to be an entitlement?”

“It is.”

“John, they don’t usually come with time constraints and deadlines. If Wires wanted to help you so much, you’d think he would have left the time table up to you as well as your choice in recording facilities? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like Wires’ L.A. legals are making it awfully tough to do this. Are you sure this is what he wanted?”

“Christ Mayor! You're not at work right now. Not everything is a conspiracy you know. If we don’t follow through with these exact details then the money goes to a charity.”

“What’s the name of the charity?”

“I don’t know— 'Time for Tykes'. Something like that. I don’t remember.”

“Never heard of it.”

“It’s some Big Brother type organization for underprivileged kids....from unwed mothers....of.....of ex-Olympians I think. Along those lines anyway. It’s a good cause. It’s a charity Mayor. Apparently he already left them a considerable chunk. -Look! Wires wanted us to have this chance and I’m going to do my damndest not to let him down!”

“Can we come?”

“I don’t think that would be a good idea Chas. Remember what happened the last time you guys came into the studio with us?”

***

We’d bonded quickly with the Christian rock fags as our paths crossed between rehearsals. Soon they were hanging with us instead of practicing. We were preparing for our first foray into the recording studio and invited them to join us. It was a high and exciting time in The Oral Blondes budding career. We had a new drummer, we had a slew of what we felt were great songs and most importantly, we had the fresh breath of new management. At the time, Blake Cole was a manager starting out in the music business like us, but he had already made inroads with some of the major record companies. He arranged a sweet deal with one of the biggest studios in the city. His primary band was in recording their second effort for RCA and we could go in at night to use the downtime after they left.

The studio was state of the art and the best money could buy. We could not contain our mirth and felt we should repay the faithful who had stood by us as we forged ahead. So we also invited other friends, and family, and girlfriends, . . . and chubs, . . . and hangers-on. We might have well put up flyers. The turnout was larger than most gigs we’d played. Even Wires had showed up to witness the blessed event.

It was bedlam from the get-go. Like kindergarten at recess. Video machines were assaulted, fridges were raided, and platinum records were removed from walls and used as frisbees. People were strewn about the place like corpses on a battle field, mostly drunk in puddles of their own vomit. In the control room the plush couches supported the bodies, in places two deep, and the mindless chatter the onset of an alcoholic daze will induce. Someone even brought a monkey. Several times the sound engineer had to turn around and tell people to, 'shut up', between takes. The air was blue with the thunder clouds of a smokey haze, and the sound console was a virtual bar of rye, rum, gin, and vodka mixtures.

I was busy mixing myself a new drink when the door edged open and Wires’ head slowly made an entrance. I was ecstatic and ran to welcome him. I put my hand on his shoulder and coaxed him in. “Wires! You came. It’s great to see you man.”

“Wouldn’t have missed it Sparky.”

“What you been up to? Still with the old band?”

“Naw. It finally died its death. I’m in charge of the house-sound for the Golden Horseshoe now.”

“That’s cool. What about the drawings?” I gulped a mouthful of my drink. Some spilled on the carpet and I used my foot to blend it in. “Still as creative as ever?”

“I still make time to do them. In fact, the local paper in Beaton wants to run my comics in the Saturday issue.”

“The Beaton Path? Wow. That’s great! You should talk to the Mayor he works for a newspaper. Maybe he can get you an in with them as well. He’s a fair-haired guy, vegetarian. You must have passed him on the way in.”

“I passed a lot of people on the way in, Sparky. What exactly is a vegetarian supposed to look like? There was a bald guy with glasses almost comatose on the couch. Is that him?”

“No. That’s probably Chas. You know once I saw him sleep perpendicular across two bar stools.”

“Well, I think Chas fell asleep on the remote. The TV was flipping channels and no one was watching. There was another guy in a room with some half-naked girl.”

“Now that sounds like the Mayor.”

“He was eating something but I don’t think it was vegetarian. Oh and I think there’s some record executives here. I heard them discussing you guys out in the lobby before I entered.”

“Record guys? Shit!” I looked at Doc who had been pushing buttons and yelling, “bulk erase!” My eyes darted to the madhouse around us. “Everybody Hide! Quick!” There was a terrible commotion as bodies got up and exploded into one another in an effort to find concealed spaces in a room barely big enough to contain those within it. I felt as if our parents had suddenly come home unannounced in the middle of the party they told us not to have.

Wires moved to the side and reached for a cigarette, as a girl I did not know crawled under the sound console between the legs of the stunned engineer. Four others ran into the sound booth and put on head phones as they crouched down in a corner behind a bass amp. The rest elected couch cushions for their cloak of invisibility, thrusting their heads under, and remaining partially hidden like obscure human ostriches. Skunk slept through it all. She was still slumped against the track machines in the far corner where she’d been for the last two hours after finishing her guitar pass. There was an empty bottle of Jack jutting out from between her legs like an erect penis. Wires struck a match with his thumb nail as he leaned against the wall. He still preferred to use the old wooden ones. He lit the end of the cigarette as the door to the control room swung opened. It was our new manager Blake Cole. He looked around, shook his head, and silently motioned for Doc and I to join him in the hall. The come hither motion of his finger was like some hypnotic fleshy fish-hook and I knew we’d soon be in the frying pan over the fire.

We stood in the protective culvert of the Laquer Channel where the master discs were born. For now it provided some muted solitude. Despite the clamor and clatter of everything falling apart around us, Grub walked calmly by, toward the studio, with a cup of tea in his hand. Blake waited for him to pass. “What’s going on here guys?”

“Uh . . . We were excited to be here and decided to have a few friends in to share the moment . . . that’s all.”

“A few friends is one thing, but legions of inconsiderate malcontents is another.”

“Things may be getting a little out of control I’ll admit but . . . ”

“...A little out of control? A LITTLE OUT OF CONTROL!” Blake’s voice rumbled like thunder to be quickly swallowed by the acoustics of the room. “Have you seen the lounge? It’s a mess! There’s a gold record being used to serve cheese and crackers! Someone threw shit against the wall, as in human excrement, and there’s a monkey with the TV remote changing channels. Last I saw, he was jumping up and down on a bald guy, who’s passed out on the couch.”

Doc spoke. “It’s a gibbon.”

“A wha?”

“The monkey. It’s a gibbon. Probably responsible for the shit on the wall too. Don’t know about the cheese and cracker tray, they are mostly herbivores, but definitely the shit on the wall.”

Blake glared at him.

“OK . . . I think I’ll just shut my trap now . . . ” Doc trailed off.

Blake boomed. “Just because you pay for the time doesn’t mean you can do whatever you please with it, gentlemen! I have one of the A&R people from RCA out in the car. I was bringing him in to hear you guys. That’s right! But this unprofessional behavior.” He shook his head. “I can’t take a chance. This already makes me look bad and you worse.”

“Blake I don’t know what to say?”

Blake held up his hand to silence me. “Let me finish. You have a golden opportunity to step ahead of others. It’s in front of your face and you’re blowing it. I think you’re going to look back on this one day and regret you missed this window. In this business you don’t get too many second chances. You have to capitalize on them when you do. It’s there for those who really want it, but if you’re just using it to play rock star then....I have no sympathy for you. Go get a day job. Now! I suggest you get busy putting this place back in order. Understand? Spic-and-span, or it’ll be a long time before you find yourself in a situation like this again, if at all.” After his tirade Blake paused for a moment to collect himself. He tugged downward on his blazer and strangled his tie to center, then turned and calmly walked off. His vocal blast had shaken the very foundation of my being, melting my soul from it’s empty shell. I’m sure it was now nothing more than a cuckold aura pooling about my feet.

Bug joined us. He sipped his tea and placed it back in the saucer. He seemed somewhat concerned yet his register remained monotone. “ There’s four peoples ass’s sticking out of the couch in the control room. There’s no place to sit and I can’t find my monkey.”

***

“Blake wouldn’t even take our calls after that day. He was right. We did live to regret it. Shit.”

“What did you need Blake the Snake for anyway?”

“Skids! He went on to manage Bone White Oblivion. To this day I can’t listen to their music. It reminds me how we failed. That should have been us doing videos, being on the radio, signing the big contract.”

“Blake manages them? They’re big-time.”

“Used to,” the Mayor corrected. “Now he’s a talent scout for one of those musical reality shows.”

“No shit?” Skids mused.

“But at that time, he took them on right after us,” I injected. “The rest is history. Christ, even Wires saw what we were doing to ourselves but didn’t feel it was his place to say anything. Maybe that’s why he’s given us this second chance. So . . . no . . . I don’t think we should have anyone in the studio who isn’t going to be performing.”

“Does everyone know Wires is behind this venture?”

“No Mayor, they don’t, and they are not to know just yet. Doc knew he’d passed on and thought initially, it was why I was there to see him. Wally had no clue.”

“It’s too cloak and dagger if you want my opinion. Very peculiar. You can hide behind the excuses of for the greater good and it’s what Wires would’ve wanted, but you’ve already lied to two of your former band-mates. These are people who once were your best friends and still respect you. This is a dangerous game you’re playing John. The type you used to curse others for playing on you.”

“It will work out Mayor. You’ll see. It has to.”

In the distance I could hear a phone ringing and the morose voice of Skids’ mother as she answered. I was reminded of the call I had received almost three weeks ago. The one putting everything in motion.

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