I was listening to Buddy Guy burning the house down on guitar when I realized that blues musicians are just musicians whose living off women has finally caught up with them.
THE COWBOY I DIDN’T SAVE
I was working in my first record store, had spent the few prior years as a hippie, had spent the prior summer caretaking a ranch, was wearing cowboy boots and jeans for everyday and was just entering my glam rock phase, and was mentally still transitioning and reconciling with change. So I was probably a confusing hodgepodge of a person.
I had come from the country, of course, grew up with horses and fields surrounding me, attended my share of little community rodeos, but I guess because of the times, being late sixties, early seventies, I’d pretty much shunned the cowboy community and was already completely immersed in the rock music community. There was a big divide between conservatives and hippies, and you pretty much had to take a side. But I always didn’t mind getting an eyeful of a real cowboy every now and then, but never seriously considered taking one on as a boyfriend. I didn’t figure they’d put up with me, and I was probably right. Still, me and a friend would sometimes go backstage (or back-corral, as it were) during the National Finals Rodeo and just, as they say, have a look-see. There was something about the swagger of a cowboy, a real cowboy, that can’t be denied, just like there is men of rock. It’s just a different foil.
So one day I’m working in the record store, and this cute cowboy comes in. I didn’t do anything particular to encourage him. I don’t know why he gravitated to me. Probably the boots. They were some good-lookin’ boots. Anyway, he chatted me up a little, and it did seem like there was some chemistry there. He was a gen-u-ine rodeo cowboy. Not long after, he came in one day with a girl and shopped. Not much conversation that day, just some glances. She was probably nice enough, but you know women, we can’t help but be a little catty. She had “local” written all over her.
I’m not sure how much time passed, probably just a week or so. He came in as soon as we opened one day, like he’d been waiting, didn’t make any pretense of shopping, and came up and told me he’s getting married later that day. I was, like, “Well, what are you doing here then?” He said, “I just wanted to tell you.” I could tell he just very badly wanted me to stop him. He had that panicky trapped look. But I had had exactly one conversation with this cowboy, whose name I never even knew, and here he was wanting me to save him from marrying the local filly. He was just this young guy, probably was just still maturing and changing and it probably just hit him he hadn’t explored much. I don’t know. And why me, I don’t know. I felt really bad for him, but there was just no foundation upon which I could justify pulling the reins in on him. It was a look of regret in his eyes as he left the store, and I imagine I had that same look, but what can you do when people won’t stop themselves from going down the trail most traveled?
“THE BAND WE’RE GOING TO MARRY”
Ian was just straight-up sexy, a deliberate, self-admiring, calculating female torturer, deliciously slitherincubus in form. To watch him dress and get ready was arguably better than the main event. He became so self-enamored that he used one of his bandmates, a lithe six-footer with rainbow hair, as a foil when he would come out of the back of the bus resplendent. I saw the scene repeated more than once, with these two seemingly heterosexual men having a playful flirtatious moment before the show.
Ian owned the sexiest pair of leather pants I have ever seen — and I’ve seen plenty. He emerged from behind the separating door into the aisle of the bus , muscles moving catlike, smoothly and almost imperceptibly, in those red leathers with diamond-shaped cutouts all the way down the side, the tender flesh pushing out in tantalizing shivers, alive, as if between the diamond windows, it was crawling slowly like skin on a snake. It was a moment of stunning animal grace.
The interesting thing is he wasn’t even the one I liked best in the band.
Lee was well over six foot tall and naturally shy, but he had mastered his shyness to a degree. Well, he was a performer, so he had mastered it quite well, but you could still tell. That’s a strong person, you know, who overcomes their innate nature and makes themself push through it. His hair hung all the way down his long back in rainbow tatters. Although it was the second meeting, my first clear memory of him was he was watching as I came down the narrow stairs into the basement below the Hollywood stage after the show. It was my birthday, a rare perfect one. He remembered meeting in Dallas, seemed really happy to see us. He was always so nice from then on, made me and the label girl feel like family, saw to it the crew did as well. She and I used to joke that this was the band we were going to marry — and in no particular order. They were all so nice and talented and gorgeous that anyone would have trouble focusing, but Lee was the first one that raised my interest. But it was to be overridden.
I was focused enough on Lee that I can’t say when Cash took over. Cash got caught in my personal memory vortex. You know how sometimes you don’t realize it but someone reminds you of someone from long ago that you really disliked? It was all unconscious, but that’s why I hadn’t paid much attention to Cash, other than his guitarwork. At some point we began having more interaction, mainly over a belt I’d made and worn to a show. Lee seemed to step down and Cash stepped up. None of this was blatant, you have to realize. It was band politics, band courtesy. Nothing had gone on outside of private thoughts between any of us. At the time, I had to sit down and figure out why I had dismissed Cash at first, and it finally came to me. Once I’d pulled that from my subconscious, I was able to look at Cash with new eyes.
He would play guitar sitting across from me on the bus, then do his hair and makeup right before the show. He had perfect features and thick long black hair. We’d had a walk in the parking lot, where he told me about being in his first year of AA and was faking drinking because people kept trying to give him drinks. I watched on the bus as Ian’s strippers tried to pull Cash back to the lounge with them and he had to literally fight them to leave him alone. Being on a tour bus your first year in AA is not an ideal situation. The portrait of him that stays with me was when he came out on stage in all black, including a wide-brimmed leather hat, and how he was just rock-perfect, his clothes, his looks, his attitude, and his playing.
The label friend and I used to comment solemnly that this was a band that had it all. She and I were always “protected” at their gigs. Cash would always leave the bus to see me and her to our car. During gigs, the band would insist we either stand right in front of them or on the stage, off to the side, where the entire band would play to us, including Ian, who would sing to us while slithering and crawling toward us on the ground.
By sheer felicity, I have good pictures of Cash and I from the first meeting. We look like we already know each other, but we didn’t. An ill fate cut me off from the world right in the middle of this slowly developing friendship. When I emerged 10 years later into the internet age of MySpace and reconnected with him, he sent me a TREX lyric for his comment. I think it was:
“Could it be
you’re gonna bring my baby to me
she’ll be wild you know
a rock and roll child.”
He had, like, a thousand women friending him and leaving comments like they were trying to hook up with him at gigs. On my part, I’d been distracted by the somewhat recent re-ignition of an old flame, though by then it was behind me in fact but not quite emotionally. Cash and I exchanged a couple of friendly emails. Some months later, he wrote saying something like, So you were just interested in seeing what the band was up to, I guess. I just didn’t really know what to do. I reminded him that I was always older than him (and now 50-something to his 40). I guess it’s the John Galt in me, but I didn’t see how it could get better. I know he wasn’t “the typical band guy,” at least not when I’d known him, but common sense told me band guys are always going to opt for the younger women if they’re surrounded by them, and he still was. But it was sweet anyway, bittersweet. A casualty of bad timing and my own weakness. I let him fall through he cracks back there at the end of that decade because I was just going through a very bad time. Who knows, he could have been the angel that pulled me from my hell.
ARMS OF ANGELS
I am the faithful bride of my dreams
I lay breathless in the arms of angels
their mouths pressed on mine
filling me with life.
My head falls back with the touch of their stroke
A single tear lies on my cheek
My arm encircles their shoulders
touches their chest
as they reach for me
to pull me away from my hell.
Tolling the death nell
I roll away sated
My heart is still pounding,
but my lust has abated for now
Resting at peace, I sleep soundly awhile
and dreams once again seduce me
with visions of fate
Destiny is running late
Sand in an hourglass
drifting to sea
lapping the shore
taking little bits of me away
Check back for more “Tantalizing Men I Was Not Necessarily Involved With” as I add to the topic.