The cabin was small and dusty and dry. Everything was super dried out.
The air was dry. The curtains, rugs, furniture, wallpaper and floor boards seemed almost brittle. A stray spark would send this place up like a Christmas tree in March. A thought that raced through my head every time Frankie lit a cigarette with his tarnished, spark throwing Zippo.
There was no TV or radio and I didn’t bring a book. The only reading material was an old Sports Illustrated from the 70s. Yellow and dried out, it fell apart as I tried to read about the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association.
More tinder for my inevitable funeral pyre.
There was nothing else to do but wait.
And listen to Frankie talk.
And talk and talk and talk.
Just when I thought he couldn’t talk anymore, he found an old can of coffee in the kitchen and brewed up a pot. It smelled stale and funky but I nursed a cup. Frankie drained 3 or 4 cups and the talking hit a higher gear.
Pretty soon he was going on about drugs again and I looked over to see him tying up his arm and fixing a shot.
I must have had a weird look on my face because Frankie felt the need to say, “Hey man, take it easy. You knew I got a habit.”
“No, it’s not that.” My eyes were focused on the Zippo lighter, open and flaming and balanced upright on the rickety wooden table.
Frankie ignored me and kept on with his insane conversation. He defended his habit.
“Why was I drawn to this shit in the first place? I don’t know, man. I was born a musician, to musical parents. I was always around musicians and artists, idolized them, mimicked them. They all did drugs of some kind. My old man used to shoot cocaine and wail on his big old baritone sax.”
But what is it about musicians and artists and actors and drugs, man?
They are all fucked up inside somehow. The good ones, anyway. They all need to get out of their heads, you know?
Again, I didn’t answer, and again he went on as if I did.
“Why was I curious about heroin? Why not ask Charlie Parker, Jimmy Page, Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Keith Richards, John Lennon, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jerry Garcia, Slash, William S. Burroughs, Gregg Allman, Steve Earle, John Belushi, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Sid Vicious, David Crosby, Ozzy Osbourne, James Taylor, Steven Tyler, Kurt Cobain, that dude with the big mustache from Three Dog Night and Bela fucking Legosi why they were all curious about heroin?
Think about all of the great music that was written or played by stone cold junkies, man. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, ‘Layla’, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. Those early seventies Rolling Stones albums, the best Stones albums. The Mick Taylor stuff. Mick the T couldn’t hang with Keith in the drug department, but that dude was a nasty guitar player!”
I happened to agree with this last statement and normally would be overjoyed to converse with a fellow music nerd about all of the fascinating details and idiosyncrasies of the various Rolling Stones albums and eras, but I kept silent.
“And speaking of the Taylor Clan, how about James Fucking Taylor?!?! Probably your mom’s favorite, right? Sweet Baby James was smacked out to the gills! Me and my buddy Tommy Tritone seen him at the Greek Theatre or someplace. He was so high that he fell off the stage. Honest to God, he went head first into the orchestra pit.
Look what happened to Guns n Roses. Junkie street punks turned it up and rocked! Then those guys cleaned up and couldn’t be in the same room with each other anymore and the music suffered. They suck without drugs, just terrible!
Think about the evolution of Aerosmith songs: ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady’? ‘Love in an Elevator’? Come on! Are you fucking kidding me? That shit was garbage, man. That’s how you knew they were clean, by the shitty music they were making.
‘Draw the Line’, ‘Back in the Saddle’, ‘Sweet Emotion’? That shit was fucking tasty, and that’s back when they here high as shit.
And their version of ‘Come Together’? The ultimate junkie anthem, man. Fucking great.
Heroin made Aerosmith what they were. Heroin was the sixth member of the band! Aerosmith should have changed their name to Heroin. No! better yet, Aerosmith should have become street slang for heroin. ‘Yo, Holmes, I’m looking for a bundle of the Aerosmith’. Ha Ha!!!
But really, what happened to those guys? Did they just get old and give up? In their prime they were lean and mean and they swaggered and staggered and they were shot out and high as fuck and they were America’s coolest band, maybe second to the Ramones, but that’s it!
I’m telling you, it’s the heroin! Because after they sobered up they went soft. It’s a shame really. I kind of wish they could have given us 2 or 3 more classic albums and then flamed out in a blaze of white powder and hard feelings. I mean, I really don’t give a fuck personally about Joe Perry and Steven Tyler’s health. They don’t give a fuck about me. They care about my consumer dollars, sure, but they don’t know me, don’t care to and wouldn’t cross the street to piss on me if I was on fire. So why should I care if their personal lives are a big fucking mess? I don’t have to live with them. Get as fucked up as you need to be boys! Cozy on up to the edge of death and fucking Rock the fuck out in a studio in Morocco or the South of France or whatever. Just gimme a big fat kick ass double album for Christmas!!!
I guess the flip side is Kurt Cobain. Nobody will ever say, ‘Damn, Kurt Cobain. What happened?’ He didn’t stick around long enough to lose his mojo and have to go on tour with an orchestra or do a whole record of Doris Day songs or some other embarrassing shit.
It’s a fine line. A balancing act.”
I just sat there and took it all in. Sleep deprived and buzzing on the shitty coffee.
Then I noticed that it had been quiet for a little while.
(end of Part One)