Pulling Out the Savoy Truffle

Reflections on music, literature, politics, and pop culture from retired rock musician, writer, and college professor Jim Booth. Email comments to Jim at jim@jimbooth.org.

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Location: Advance, North Carolina, United States

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Reading Room....

"Dear Sir or Madam/Will you read my book...?"
Sir Paul McCartney

I'm working on a new book Completeness of the Soul: The Life and Opinions of Jay Breeze, Rock Star. Some of the stories have already been published in literary journals (you may have even read some). Below is one that's been driving me crazy. Read and respond when you have time: (Warning: some adult content....)

RECEIVED WISDOM

February 5, 1992
11:30 PM

Dear Angel,

The Albuquerque show was a mess. It started snowing the morning of the show and the trucks carrying our equipment couldn’t get into town. Paul, Scott, and Van spent the entire day desperately phoning every music store and sound professional in Albuquerque and Santa Fe—just in case—trying to round up the right equipment so that we could do the concert. The weather got progressively worse as the day wore on.

Teddy and I had flown up to Taos to ski three days before; we quit at lunch time and started for Albuquerque, but we could only get as far as Santa Fe in a rented Jeep and that took us about four hours. They were going to send a snowplow kind of vehicle or something for us, but someone with better sense than us nixed that. Besides, with the weather so bad, there wasn’t going to be a show that night anyway. So Teddy and I wound up checked into a hotel called the Inn of the Governors.

We tried to check into a place called the El Dorado, but it’s part of the Quality Inn Corporation and we’re banned from those places for life. When Teddy gave them his AE card to pay for the room, some ID system on their computer spit our names out as bad, bad boys. The manager, a guy about 35 with pretensions to cool, came to the desk and told us politely that we couldn’t stay with them but that he’d be delighted to find us comparable accommodations.

The El Dorado’s lobby was really busy, so it didn’t take Teddy long to gather a crowd once he stated raising hell at the desk clerks and the manager. He just bashed the poor guy about sending us out into a howling blizzard because of prejudice against poor, underprivileged rock stars like us. I stood by and smiled at the crowd. People like me when I smile. I guess because I don’t very often.

I should explain why we’re banned with a for example. During the 1978 tour of the Southwest—for example—we trashed two rooms of the Quality Inn South in Dallas. It started innocently enough. Mick and I had a room adjoining Teddy and Sid’s. We couldn’t get the door adjoining the rooms to unlock, even though hotel management assured us it would open. We had a big party going (surprise) and were all pretty drunk when the guy arrived to get the door open for us. When he couldn’t get the door unlocked, for some reason we all got pissed off. We threw some furniture at the door and Paul and Van, pretty big guys, tried bashing the door down. Even that didn’t work.

Finally Mick got a fire axe (from where I have no idea) and we chopped the door open, all the time laughing and yelling, “Here’s Johnny!” Sid and I got into the spirit of things and pulled the pieces of the door off its hinges and threw them off our balcony onto the deck by the swimming pool. Teddy got some lighter fluid from somewhere (you know, that stuff you use to light charcoal on a grill).

The next thing I remember is cops and fire trucks arriving and we’re down by the pool dancing naked with some girls (yeah, they’re naked, too), and then we all get led away and get sheets wrapped around us. That cost us some money and evidently raised questions in the minds of the Quality Inn Corporation’s management about the wisdom of allowing us to be guests in their hotels.

Now do you understand? Yes, Angel, we’ve been bad boys. Quite often, actually.

Meanwhile, the hotel manager lost his cool and announced to the lobby at large, “You see, Mr. Hatter, corporate records show that you and your friend Mr. Breeze are responsible, in concert with a Mr. (he checked a computer screen) Mick Norris and a Mr. Sid (screen again) Vegas for seriously damaging some (screen again) 14 rooms in Quality Inns scattered across the country from Boston to Dallas.”

I need to mention something here, Angel. This asshole knew who we were. Everybody his age and socio-economic background knows who we are. I bet he had two or three of our albums. I mean this guy was no country music or R & B fan. You could smell his Ralph Lauren Polo. He listened to us in college. Probably still listened to us. I could see him cranking up “Mary, Quite Contrary” in the car when we came on the radio as he drove home listening to his favorite classic rock station. I couldn’t figure out why he wanted to make a production out of throwing us out of his hotel.

Then I noticed the girl. She must’ve been about 20. His favorite night clerk, I was betting. Dark hair and eyes. Very pretty. Watching first him, then us. He could smell her indecision about who was more attractive, so he had to do something. He was playing the big man for her. Showing her that even famous rock stars couldn’t fuck with him.

Teddy looked at me. “Is that right?”

I shrugged. “I thought it was closer to 20. How about Denver? And San Diego? And Atlanta? And…”

Teddy shook his head. “No, those were Holiday Inns.”

People had been gathering as we wrangled with the hotel manager, and there had been two different waves of murmuring building like swells off the North Shore. One wave was the “Is it really them?” wave. The other was the “They’re not going to give them a room? In this blizzard? Don’t they know who those guys are?” wave.

Then it was suddenly quiet.

It was that weird quiet that sometimes comes over a crowd for maybe 20 seconds before the band comes on stage. It was that quiet that you know is going to explode into pandemonium. That hotel manager hadn’t grasped what was about to happen to him. That lobby full of thirty-something’s coming from or going to Taos was going to leap on him like a pack of coyotes on a lost lamb.

One of the marvels of the rock star profession, Angel, (I guess one can call it a profession) is that no matter what kinds of assholes we are, our fans will defend us tooth and nail.

About then the manager realized what deep shit he was in. He went pale and took a half step back from the desk as if readying himself to run.

I figured somebody better do something.

I leaned over the desk and motioned to the manager. He hesitated. I motioned again, this time more urgently. For some reason, as I did so I thought of the little tramp in Chaplin’s The Gold Rush motioning impatiently to his prospector pal to pull him out of the cabin that’s about to go over a cliff. He stepped over and leaned close.

“Look,” I said quietly, matter-of-factly, “give us somewhere to go right now, then come back here and find us a room in a hotel close by. Then see to it that we get there as quickly and comfortably as possible.”

The manager looked out across the crowd that was just starting to reach that Banzai Pipeline crest before crashing down on him. He drew himself up and said, “Mr. Hatter, Mr. Breeze, on behalf of the Quality Inn corporation, we’d like to give you a comfortable place to relax while we arrange for your alternate accommodations. I suggest”—

The cute desk clerk who’d sort of just stood there wide-eyed at first while the manager and Teddy wrangled, had gotten busy. She handed him a telephone receiver. “This is the Inn of the Governors, sir,” she whispered. “They’ve got a suite ready for these gentlemen, and they’re sending someone in a Jeep to pick them up. They’ll be here in about 30 minutes.”

Manager boy took the receiver and spoke briefly. “Everything is arranged,” he said theatrically. “Now if you’ll follow me”—he came from behind the desk and picked up my bag.
Teddy stopped him.

“Acknowledge the girl for what she did,” he said quietly.

“What do you mean?” asked the manager.

“She saved your ass,” I said, taking my bag away from him. “Tell this crowd she did.”

The expression on his face told me he wasn’t going to last much longer in the hospitality industry if many more clients like us came along.

“Thank you, Brooke, for arranging for Mr. Hatter’s and Mr. Breeze’s accommodations.” He smiled as if someone had just stuck a branding iron against his ass. He took my bag, picked up Teddy’s and started for the bar.

“Yes, Brooke, thank you. Look, we’re going to be over at the Inn of the Governors. When you finish your shift, come on over and we’ll hang out. I’ll tell you about some of the interesting things that have happened to me in hotels,” Teddy said loudly enough for everybody in the lobby to hear.

I just smiled at her and winked.

Yeah, Angel she came over. She hooked up with Teddy.


* * * * * * * * *


We followed the Pompous One toward the bar. The crowd parted for us like the Red Sea. Some of the same weird stuff that always used to happen when we walked through a crowd happened. A woman stepped out of the crowd and kissed Teddy on the cheek, then ducked back into the mob. She must’ve been about forty. As I passed her I noticed a guy looking at her—must’ve been her husband—like she’d just broken his heart. Another woman stepped out and touched my hair, just drew the back of her hand across it as I passed her. I looked back and she was holding her hand and looking at it as if she’d burned it or gotten something on it. Guys were saying stuff to us like “Hey, Teddy,” or “Cool hair, Jay.” It was such an old fashioned moment.

The kids just don’t react that way now. They just talk to you like you’re anybody else. That damned Cobain and Michael Stipe are ruining it for everybody.


* * * * * * * * * * *


It was after five by then and Teddy went immediately to the phone in the bar and called Albuquerque to tell them where we would be. The show was definitely cancelled. We heard the announcement on a radio playing in the bar. I ordered us a couple of beers and told the bartender to charge them to Manager Boy.

The bartender, a good-looking blonde with hair about the same length as mine, cocked her head at me. “He’s my boss,” she said. Then she raised her eyebrows in anticipation of the comeback.

“I’m his daddy,” I said, shaking my head so my earring would jingle. I had on the hoop with the guitar dangling in it. Women love that thing.

She drew the beer, put one in front of me, and slid the other down the bar to Teddy who was still on the phone. He caught it like a good shortstop and lifted it to his lips. She smiled at his grace, then turned to me. “So. You’re him and he’s him.” She reached laid a cd cover on the bar. One finger tapped a picture of me, then of Teddy.

I tapped the picture of me. As I did, my hand brushed hers. She looked up from the picture. So did I.

You know, Angel, you’d be easier to be faithful to if you weren’t fucking dead.

Yes, I know I’m using anger to ease my guilt. No, it’s not working.

Either you’re going to have to come back to life or I’m going to have to die. This “one on this side, the other on that side” shit isn’t working.

Yeah, she came over to our other hotel. No, she didn’t hook up with Teddy. She was with someone else….

“We’re gonna be at the Inn of the Governors later,” said Teddy from the end of the bar. That was for the benefit of the bartender, although if he’d looked around at us he’d have seen that he didn’t have to say it.

He kept looking out the door and across the lobby and I knew he was communicating with the girl Brooke somehow. I didn’t figure he could see her, so I guessed he was just standing there being famous. That’s pretty much all we ever have to do.

You know, Angel, fame is such bullshit. That girl was a perfectly lovely, intelligent person, someone who helped us, and in return she was being reduced to—what? A bird facing a snake? That’s what it feels like much of the time.

Why? Because I have some name and face recognition.

Why? Because I like to make up songs and sing them for people. And so now I’m famous and people pay $20 a pop to watch me do something I’d do for them for free.

Why? So a bunch of assholes can make a living marketing what I do, setting up places for me to do it, taking my picture, writing about my doing it (hell, even Charlie did that, although I think he saw through it after all), recording my singing and playing.

What’s that line from the Byrds’s song? “Sell your soul to the company/Who are waiting there to sell plastic ware….”

The bartender leaned over so that her face was close to mine. “Which is your favorite of your albums?”

We looked at each other for about a minute. “ANTHEMS FOR DOOMED YOUTH,” I said, telling the truth for once. That’s not the one most people, especially most women, want to hear.

“Oh.” She leaned back, hesitating, then said, "My favorite is—"

“HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR BLUE-EYED BOYS?” we said together.

She cocked her head and almost smiled. “You know your audience.”

“After the fact, maybe,” I said. “We were young and looking for love when we wrote that album. We said the things we thought women would want to hear.”

“Sounds more like you were looking for sex,” she said.

I nodded slightly and looked down at my beer. Smart girl.

“Hey,” she said, a little brusquely, sounding so much like you I glanced up at her, startled. “Nothing wrong with that.”

We locked eyes then. She had these great hazel eyes. And in the middle of January in Santa Fe, a great tan.

Sometimes need is as strong as love, Angel. It happens. That’s why we have forgiveness.

Just then Brooke showed up at the door. “Your ride’s here, “she said to Teddy, oblivious to the other two people in the bar. The blonde and I broke our gazes and looked at them.

Teddy drained his beer and drew Brooke’s eyes to his. “You coming later?” he said.

Brooke didn’t say anything. She just kept looking at him. That whole bird and snake thing again.

“She can ride over with me,” said the bartender.

We locked eyes again. “Nothing wrong with”—we said together.

“Look,” I began—

She reached over and flicked my earring. “I know I like my blue-eyed boy. I just want to know how much.” She looked down at the bar then back at me.

I thought hard about you, Angel. I thought hard about me. I thought hard about love, hard about sex, and hard about the difference it makes if you get them together. I thought hard about being dead and being alive.

Then I just thought, “Fuck it.” I mean, sometimes you just have to.

“See you later tonight,” I said. I picked up the beer and took a long swig, then handed her the half full glass.

She took the glass from me and finished off the beer. “For sure.”

We nodded at each other in that way people do when something’s going to happen between them. I turned to follow Teddy out to the Jeep they had waiting to take us to the Inn of the Governors.

“Hey.”

I looked back at her.

“I’m Betsy.”

“Yeah. I’m Jay. Jay Breeze.”

She held up the cd cover. “I’ve heard of you.”

“Yeah. Right.”

Teddy called me and I went out into the snow and joined him in the Jeep for the ride to the hotel.

We ordered lots of food and wine sent up to our suite. The rest of the night went about as you’d expect. The snake got the bird and Betsy found out how much….


* * * * * * * * * * *

February 6, 1992

It’s four o’clock in the morning. Still snowing. I’ve got a great view out my hotel window of the mountains in the distance. They’re the Santa Fe Mountains, I guess, but you know me. Looking stuff like that up.... It’s not going to happen.

I keep looking out the window at the snow coming down with the mountains in the background. Mind if I quote some poetry? “Now more than ever seems it rich to die.” John Keats. “Ode to a Nightingale.”

Why did you have to die, Angel? Why do you have to be the one to be dead? I’m the one who’s lived dangerously all these years. I’m the one the shrink said had self-destructive tendencies.
Why do you have to be the one who left? I never would have left, Angel.

My mother would say (as she said at the time), “John Jay, it’s all part of God’s plan. We aren’t meant to understand. We must accept.”

Well, I don’t accept, Angel. I’m royally pissed. If God’s plan includes killing off 24 year girls, then God better get a clue.

Okay. You’re right. What do I know? Maybe I should do like the guy in the old song. You wouldn’t remember it, but maybe you heard it sometime on one of those oldies stations. It’s called “Last Kiss” and goes something like:

Oh where, oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me.
She’s gone to heaven, so I’ve got to be good,
So I can see my baby when I leave this world….

Doesn’t really sound like me, does it? What the hell, you know? I’d try being good if I thought it would make any difference.

I’ve been reading in a guidebook about the city. Santa Fe means “Holy Faith.” I guess it was like that letter I wrote about the dreams. A message. I look for messages from you all the time. In one of our last conversations, one you didn’t remember when I asked you because you were drunk when you called me, you told me that if we were never together again on earth that we’d be together in heaven because we were one and while God might let us be apart here he’d never make us be apart there. I believe that, Angel. I believed you when you told me that. I believe. I have to. It’s all I can do.

I’ve convinced Teddy to let me put that song you mentioned, “Will I See You in Heaven?” on the new album.


* * * * * * * * * *


It’s six in the morning now. Still snowing. I fell asleep for a bit. Dreams of you. They come and come. As always.

The girl? I sent her away. You knew I would. (to be continued)
JB