Monday, June 26, 2006


You know I don't need a miracle but I could use a push in the right direction...

Coming home from work tonight, I popped in one of my favorite cd's from the mid-90's, The Refreshments' Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy (gotta love that Tempe sound!). I haven't listened to it for several months, maybe years, and hearing it took me back to life as it was ten years ago. At the time, I was sharing a house with probably the strangest roommate I ever had--he was the original 40-year old virgin, but not in a funny-ha-ha way, more in a funny-strange way. I was working for a crappy startup company doing database research making crappy money (thinking I'd stay there for the long haul like the dudes at Microsoft and end up being a go-zillionaire like Forrest Gump after the hurricane) and driving my POS 280 zx with no air conditioner.

One night that summer, my guitar teacher, Jack Wolf from the band Attitude Cat, invited me to come see them play that weekend at one of the greatest dive bars ever, The Mesa Lounge. To call it a dump would be an insult to all of the proper landfills out there. But there it was, tucked into the corner of a run down strip mall in what nice folks would call an 'economically diverse' area of town.

Of course the band rocked the house and I laughed out loud when some redneck gave me the great (future) idea to yell 'FREE BIRD' whenever the band took a quick pause between songs. But I was having a helluva time drinking my two-dollar Bud Lite, listening to some great classic rock, and watching the crowd--obviously a roomful of extras from five seasons' worth of COPS.

The band was a five-piece, sometimes six, but that depended on if Billy the 'other singer' was in jail or not. If he wasn't spending time as a guest of Sheriff Joe out in Tent City, he'd be on stage doing all of the high-pitched stuff like AC/DC or Guns & Roses. I've never seen anybody that could cover Axl as well as Billy the jailbird. And, well, if he was back in jail on any particular weekend, they'd just skip that stuff and play more hillbilly rock.

Anyhow, after the first two sets, the waitress told me that all my beers were free, courtesy of the owner because he wanted to talk to me.

And that's how I got a second job that summer making $50 a night working the door every weekend and taking out all of the empty beer bottles at the end of each night. I also got to be good friends with the bartender Rob, and by the end of the summer I moved out of the house with the 40-year-old virgin and into a better place with Rob and his girlfriend Elizabeth.

(Quick story about the weird roommate--one night, during the summer Olympics in 1996 from Atlanta, I brought a girl home with me. We came in the front door, and the roommate was sitting in the living room recliner watching tv. Whatever he was watching involved much screaming and cheering. Thinking we were going to catch the USA winning another gold medal, we stopped in the living room for a second to see what all the fuss was about. Not only was the guy wearing only tighty whiteys, but the entire rest of the country was glued to the Olympics at the time, and he was watching American Gladiators. In his underwear. On a Friday night... We made a hasty retreat to the bedroom and didn't emerge until the next day when we were sure the coast was clear).

Anyhow, I eventually moved out of there and into a much better spot a few miles away in Gilbert. A few months later, around 10 at night, my doorbell was ringing. My brother, the Reverend Dave, showed up with all of his clothes in a suitcase and told me that he and his freak-ass first wife were splitting up.

Oh hell yeah! Everyone in our family hated her--we knew it wouldn't last and it only took Dave about two years or so to come to his senses.

Anyhow, it was cause for celebration, so we headed out to Walgreens and bought a couple packs of Swisher Sweets and Dutch Masters, then headed to the liquor store for a bottle of Johnny Walker Red, and we sat out on my screened-in back patio smoking the worst cigars and the harshest Scotch in the history of mankind's vices until the wee hours, laughing it up and enjoying his newly-found freedom.

That's how I got started smoking cigars. Luckily my tastes have improved in the years since that night. If I'm drinking Johnny Walker, it's gotta be Blue Label. And Partagas Black Labels are my cigar of choice. We ended up giving the bottle of Red Label to Rob--he was a varsity alcoholic. But it was so harsh that even he could only drink about half of it before giving up and pouring it down the sink...

Ten years under the bridge. Luckily my fortunes have improved somewhat. Sadly, it seems that the music world has been unable to keep up.

Now I just have to get the good reverend to finally burn me a copy of The Pistoleros Hang On To Nothing cd. They were another fantastic Tempe band from that era that should've gotten huge, but didn't. One time, at the height of their popularity, I ran into the lead singer in the mens' room at America West Arena, and he recognized me from the audience at a couple of their other gigs. I had to teach him the no-handshaking-in-public-restrooms rule, but that's a story for another time...

At least it wasn't the mens' room at the Mesa Lounge.


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