Leaving Rockland

John and I spent the day driving from one house to another. Mostly they were people John knew from High School or growing up and he’d pull out the hash oil, get everyone high, and talk about people and things they all knew. After a while, I just sat watching them. We got back to the house around 7 hungry and kind of tired.

“What’s that smell?” asked John coming into the kitchen. Fat Jay was at the stove, spaghetti in one pot and tomato sauce in another.

“Tuna fish.”

Jay shrugged. “It’s protein.”

“Vitello tonnato it’s not, Jay,” I told him and he shrugged. Jay grew up in their neighborhood. He was working in a psychiatric facility in the city to avoid the draft. He liked to get stoned, but he was more interested in being a psychologist and I wondered what he thought of everyone. It seemed to me that he liked the activity. The tuna sauce was kind of noxious, but with a lot of hot pepper and shaker Parmesan, it was OK.

John was pretty pleased. We’d gotten rid of all the hash oil and most of the pot and he had a wad of bills in his pocket. He was arranging it, straightening out the crinkled corners when Tony got there with a bunch of guys with guitar cases and amps. Tony grabbed a plate of spaghetti and, after a sniff of the tuna sauce, dumped some ketchup and cheese on it and wandered into the living room to set up.

Then, I noticed the inner seam of my jeans was ripped out, with a flash of thigh and pink underwear. Probably like that all day. The underwear was embarrassing, but all my underwear and sheets were pink, after a tie-dying session with Rit dye and no mordants. I got some nice lines on the sheets and it all looked good when I did it , but the blue, purple, and red all ran together in the wash and the green faded. Man.

After they got set up, Tony, another guitar, bass and drums started playing. They were supposed to sound jazzy, but all they were was loud and atonal. The other guitarist kept trying to play leads, but Tony hopped on them as soon as he could. When Tony soloed, the other guitarist did the same thing. Jeff started playing third guitar, rhythm and chords, but occasionally he’d throw in a lick. Tony looked pissed off whenever Jeff did, but Jeff kept on trying anyway.

Tony was the best guitar in the bunch, but I’d’ve hated to be in a band with him. It would be like playing in Cream, the “best” guitarist, bassist and drummer in the world, each trying to outdo the other. After an hour of this, I said that I was going for a walk around the lake. Jeff handed his guitar off and told me to wait up.

We walked down by the water together. A hot night, but with some wind so the bugs weren’t too bad. Jeff passed me a joint I didn’t need and asked how the pottery was doing.

“I haven’t done much lately. Working too much. Besides, I wonder how good I really am. I’m no art potter. I can make some good practical stuff that people can use. If I can do that every day, then I’ll be happy. You know what I mean?”

Jeff shook his head. “You have to want to be the best.”

“Burn hot and burn fast? How are you burning these days?”

“How hot can you burn in the suburbs?” He tossed the roach into the lake. It would have been a quiet night, but the music followed us. “I don’t know, Danny. Tony’s so much better. I’m just a kid brother.”

“Hey, it’s a pantheon, not a pyramid. All you have to do is take your rightful place. Besides, Tony is a dick.”

Jeff laughed. “All the greats are.” He kicked a rock, then picked it up and tossed it in the water with a thunk. “What do you do if you’re not the best?”

“I don’t know man. I wonder the same thing.” I made a silent promise to myself that when I got back, I was going to work in the pot shop every day, no matter what I.

“Come on, let’s go back, it’s getting cold.”

The jam was over. Tony and some of the boys were hitting up. I asked Jay to wake me up when he left for work, and took a sleeping bag out to the back porch. The night air smelled sweet, and a little marshy from the lake. I listened to the crickets chirp and sank into sleep.

Jay woke me at 7 and said good-bye. I shook John awake. I hated to do it to him, he must’ve felt as shot as I did, but I needed to get back to work. We left a note for Tony and Jeff and a baggie and took off.

We ate breakfast in the same diner, four cups of coffee apiece. “Watkins Glen is coming up,” John said to me. “You’ve got a ticket, right?” I nodded. “I’ll front you a pound. You can make three or four hundred over the weekend.”

I had two tickets, actually, one for Christine and one for me. I wondered how much dope I’d be selling if I was with her. Or even if she would be there. I got a pain in my gut thinking about her.

Before we get onto the highway, John pulled over and we snorted the remaining bit of speed. It didn’t seem to work on us anymore.

“So what did you think of Rockland?” he asked, as we drove off.

“It’s not the same anymore.”

“Made a ton of money,” said Jon. He smiled softly and stuck a tape into the machine. We barely talked for the rest of the ride back.

 

John let me off in front of Deli House at twenty to five. There wasn’t any time to go home or change or even take a walk, so I went inside and poured a cup of coffee. My insides felt hollow, like someone took a spoon and scraped me out. I needed a shower and a week of sleep, but instead, I washed my face in the bathroom and started doing set-ups like an automaton.

Christine came in at nine. Her eyes didn’t meet mine, but then, my eyes weren’t meeting anything anyway.

“Have fun camping?”

She shrugged. “It was OK. Actually, it was terrible.”

My turn to shrug. “We should make plans for Watkins Glen,” I said. “Allmans, Dead, and the Band. I have the tickets.”

“I’m going to go with Michael.  He asked me to go with him. Don’t look at me like that. You’d dump me if Matisse was around.” She started loading her arms with plates. “I’m sorry, Danny.”

“So am I. Well, it’s been nice knowing you, I guess.”

When I got home that night, I took both tickets and left them on the dining room table with a note for Bob.

“These are for you. I’ll work your hours.” I headed into my room, got undressed and put a pillow over my eyes and ears. For the next twelve hours, I was dead to the world.

 

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