I was sitting in a chair on Sunday a week or two ago while my friend Bee was deciding which frames to use for her art prints while she was decorating her new house. I’m not a big art person. I can’t stand when people ask me to attend art shows. I hate having to try and figure out if the person that painted a giant red streak across a canvas is trying to convey their childhood angst, or if it’s just the color red. To be completely honest, I couldn’t care less either way. Give me a good old fashioned picture any day of the week. Bee had purchased two prints at our friend’s art gallery on 12th Street. One of them was of a female boxer giving a male an uppercut, and the other one was of Johnny Cash strangling an ostrich in what had definitely been an all out brawl at one point since they were both eye to eye. I’m not sure if everyone knows about Johnny Cash having ostriches on his property, but he did, and one day had to engage in battle with one. He ended up with a couple of broken ribs and a gash in the guts by one of its giant talons. My friend’s fiance brought the incident to life in a beautiful oil painting, and it currently resides in the Johnny Cash Museum. It’s an amazing picture not only because the story is great, but no matter how you look at it it’s Johnny Cash fighting with an ostrich. You don’t have to try and figure out its meaning. It’s an ostrich getting choked out by Johnny Cash. ‘I’m jealous! I wish our friends had stories like that!’ was the response this particular piece of art had elicited in me. It was at this point Bee had looked up from her project with an exasperated look on her face and said ‘we do, H.M. We fucking do.’ When I think about the things that have happened in my life, I don’t feel like it’s that interesting because I’ve lived it with so many other people that everything seems commonplace. I kind of consider everything that happens to us very normal.
I imagine that the wavy lines used on old TV shows to preface a memory would have appeared as I thought about the time I attempted to kill the singer from this awful band with a plastic fork in Las Vegas in my mid-twenties.
(I want to say first off that the thing I remember the most about Las Vegas is that my hair looked amazing. No humidity! I loved it!!) I had an obsession with music. I still have it to some degree, but it’s very rare that you’re going to catch me getting on a plane or even leaving the city limits to go see a band. That was not the case when I was younger. I had previously orchestrated an adventure to a music festival called Sleaze Fest that was held in Chapel Hill, North Carolina a few years before Las Vegas. A friend of ours had just been scooped up to play the drums by a popular new band that my buddies and I were super excited for him to be in, other friends were playing, and it was just an all around good excuse to leave town especially after my cinematic genius friend Ray had completed a film. He had written, directed and starred in this movie earlier that year and needed a break. We loaded up a family rental van and took off for a week I think. It was a long time ago. That road trip was pretty funny, but I’m trying to remember Las Vegas right now.
The Vegas trip was just a straight up selfish indulgence I planned because there were bands that I wanted to see playing a festival that were all going to be staying in the same hotel the entire event was taking place. It was called the Vegas Shakedown. I had never been to Las Vegas, had no interest in gambling, didn’t really care about being in Las Vegas, but was not missing a chance to see at least 15 of my favorite bands in one spot. This was pre-internet booking/checking out the situation/reviews etc., on top of being pre-cellphone. Everything was done by landlines. Plane tickets, hotel booking: all on land lines. It’s just what you did if you wanted to go anywhere or do anything. I think it might have made people feel a certain sense of accomplishment when you finally arrived at your destination because making numerous phone calls made you feel like you had actually earned the vacation.
I was not excited to get on a plane. I have a crippling fear of heights, and I freely and unabashedly admit that I am a control freak to the highest degree. So not only was I going to be traveling in something that I had no control of, I was also going to be thousands of feet in the air. Not a good time for someone who hadn’t been prescribed Xanax like I am in my middle age. My secret to success was to slam about four double shots of Wild Turkey before we got on the plane. It would have worked had the noise from the ice machine busting open mid flight, spewing ice cubes everywhere completely ruin my buzz and made me start to cry. The people next to me were so concerned that one of them held my hand until we landed in Las Vegas. Once we landed, my friends and I checked into the tacky as hell Gold Coast Casino and went to investigate. At this point I can admit that one of my main reasons to attend this particular festival was to meet up with the singer from this band from Kentucky called the STREETWALKERS(they capitalize it like that for some reason) who had just come through Austin. He was this huge, absolutely beautiful man with long black hair, a giant beard, and lots of tattoos. He looks like a total scumbag, and that was just my type. Years later I would find out that he was actually a complete and total comic book geek that looked like a scary biker, but I didn’t mind.
So! Over the course of the past few weeks in Austin a bunch of bands that I LOVED had ALL come through playing shows at Emo’s in Austin on their ways to the Shakedown. It was a dream line-up for me that was all happening in our hotel. Right when we got there I looked for the singer from the Streetwalkers. Again, this is pre cell phone, so it was strictly looking around for people. I didn’t know his last name, I didn’t know when they were getting there, I didn’t know anything. I ran into someone that I had seen at their show in Austin, and they gave me the awful news: The band had split up on their way to Las Vegas!! THE BAND HAD SPLIT UP. I still can’t believe how upset I was. I really liked them, and back then you couldn’t find music online and all of that. You had to buy their stuff when they came through town. So not only did I not get the chance to crawl all over this guy for three days in Las Vegas, I would never see them play again. I was upset, but after about the first twenty minutes I guess I compartmentalized my disappointment.
My close friend Starr had different a musical taste than I did, and wanted to go see this band called The Jezebels. I hated The Jezebels. They were an all girl band that did cover songs, and their original ones just totally sucked. They had become popular over the last few years for some reason. I think it was a stupid movie or something. I’m still annoyed just thinking about that crappy band. I agreed to go with Starr to see them because I wasn’t really that invested in seeing any of the other bands playing right then. The Jezebels had played their lame show and were all hanging out afterward being super cool to everyone. I kind of hung back because fuck them, but my friend Starr was super stoked to see them. Her boyfriend (now husband) at the time liked them as well and she wanted a picture for him.
Now, I’m not someone who thinks public figures owe anyone anything. It’s what they do, it’s not who they are. But these chicks were standing there hanging out with everyone, being cool, taking pictures, etc. Starr said ‘I want to get a picture. Bryce (the boyfriend) would be so happy’ or something to that effect. We walked over to them and Starr very nicely asked if she could take a picture, and all of them but the singer grouped up for their photo. She for whatever reason rolls her eyes and says ‘I GUESS so!’ like it was this major inconvenience for one fan to take a picture of her when she was just standing in the lobby of a crappy hotel casino getting her picture taken by literally tens of people. I heard her say this and I was already annoyed from having to watch them anyway, so I said ‘EXCUSE me??’ She looked a little nervous but let Starr take the picture.
I think I remember The Jezebels had this gimmick where they were all named Jezebel, but with their last names abbreviated to just one letter. I can’t believe how pissed off I’m getting thinking about this again… So I’m kind of annoyed, but we’re talking to the drummer I think her name was Jezebel G, or something. I start talking about what a bitch their singer was, and why did she think it was cool to be giving someone attitude who by getting a picture of her was actually going to make her really happy as well as her boyfriend who was in another freaking state etc., etc. I mean, seriously. The drummer kind of alluded to the fact that the singer had let their new-found success go to her head, and that it had been interesting becoming well known in such a short period of time. I took that as my cue to loudly proclaim ‘Gee! It must be really hard not to act like a BITCH when you’re making all kinds of money off of your fans!’ and ‘I can’t imagine how hard it is to not be a TOTAL BITCH when someone wants to show their appreciation by taking a picture of you!’ Things of that nature. I did that for a good five minutes before she finally started realizing that I wasn’t going to stop doing it. We said goodbye to the other members of the band and I gave the singer the finger as we walked out. What do you do in Las Vegas whether you’re happy, mad or sad? You drink. My friend Ray and I wandered into some bar that started serving us whiskey in these ridiculously large plastic cowboy boots once they found out we were from Texas. One of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen in all of my 26 years was whiskey coming out of a soda gun. I had only seen the guns used in bars to fill up cokes and the occasional glass of water, but these things were filling our cowboy boots full of whiskey. As we sat there drinking I got angrier and angrier thinking about what a bitch that chick had been. I mean, to this day I still can’t think of one person besides Starr who even cared that much to be at their show besides a bunch of guys trying to nail them, or little pre-teen girls that had heard them in a movie or something. I imagine that some of my disappointment over the Streetwalkers not making it there bubbled back up to the surface. At a certain point I was so mad that Ray made the mistake of telling me to calm down. Well I don’t know what that does to other people, but that’s one of the top two things you can say to me that will make me lose my freaking mind. I’m not going to calm down. As a matter of fact, I’m going to go completely off the rails. I will make sure that you’re going to remember why you don’t ever suggest that to me. The last thing I remember is Ray going ‘Okay! Geez!’ as I went storming off through the hotel looking for the singer of the The Jezebels. At some point I guess I found a plastic fork. The only reason that I know that is when I came to on my bed later that night; I still had it in my hand. My friends said they had found me passed out face down on a table in an alcove of a tiny nightclub on the first floor gripping this fork. I guess I had gone raging around looking for this chick to the point where she was hiding in her hotel room and didn’t come out again until they flew out later that night for their next show in some other state. I don’t know how close I got, but I had obviously tuckered myself out on my murderous hunt around the hotel like the last scenes of the Shining with Jack Nicholson dragging his axe. I know it’s not Johnny Cash fighting an Ostrich memorable, but it could definitely be brought to life in an oil painting with minimal explanation.
Did I mention how awesome my hair looked in Las Vegas? Dry heat.