In a Dark Country

Paul Le Perdu

Copyright © 2010 Paul Le Perdu All rights reserved. ISBN: ISBN-13:

These flowers of youth doth frolic and glory in the warm caress of the sun. These same will rot and blacken sooth before the day is done. —Anonymous 14th Cent. Poet

CONTENTS
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 0 1 1 1 2 1 3 Skying You Can’t Cheat An Honest Band Play It Again? 9 21 27 39 44 48 60 70 75 83 94 98 10 2

Blah
Upon Our Arrival At The House The Rake’s Progress, Or, A Short History Of The Group’s Beginnings Four For The Road? What’s A Nice Girl Like You…? Reeperbahn In A Bar, Darkly Encore Aftermath Dawn Of The Dead

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1 4 1 5 1 6 1 7 1 8 1 9 2 0 2 1 2 2 2 3 2 4 2 5

One More For The Road Oh, And By The Way…. Making A Bargen Zurich, And Beyond A Walk On The Wild Side The Rotefabrik The Tempest At A Crossroads In The Woods In The Dark Of Night Black Forest Back In Black Freaks Freiburg Im Breisgau

10 5 11 2 11 7 12 8 14 1 14 8 15 6 17 0 17 4 18 8 20 8 21 7

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2 6 2 7 2 8 2 9 3 0 3 1 3 2

Whirlwind Where Was I? Solo Phantasmagoria Deported Crashing Epitaph

22 7 23 2 24 4 25 0 26 2 26 8 27 0

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1 SKYING
“Where are the emergency exits?” I asked, trying in vain to suppress my mounting paranoia. I’m sure that the stewardess was also trying to maintain her serene façade—one look at the flop sweat on my face and my strained, pale features must have been a jarring wrench for her, as I’d just boarded, and I was already on the edge of losing control. “Welcome to KLM flight 535, sir. There are emergency exits at the front of the plane on either side, over the wings on either side of the plane, and at the rear of the plane. They are all clearly marked, would you like me to show you how to get to them all?” She

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was cool. She was smooth. She was trying mightily to keep the passenger in seat 24 L in economy class from having a freakout, stroke, or worse. “No, I can see them from here.” “Can I get you something to drink or….” “No…no, I’m fine. I…I’ll be OK.” Passengers were jostling her, pushing past her trying to get to their seats or elbowing her as they put luggage in the overhead compartments, so she just kept a wary eye on me and started helping the newly arriving passengers. “Am I going to make it through this flight?” I wondered. “After all you’ve been through, you’ll be…you can make this.” I told myself, definitely. Looking across the aisle, the other guys look just as wound up and drawn out as I did. I fumbled hurriedly through my pockets for the last of the tranquilizer pills that I’d been hoping to ration so that they’d last me until I was home, safe. The three tablets that were sticking to my sweaty palm now were all that was left. That alone started my heart racing again. “No way to get water. I’ll just
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swallow.” A steward was engaged with the other guys from the band, in the other aisle, trying to serve drinks to them. “Would you like something to drink?” He intoned, professionally. “What kind of pop do you have?” Steve, the drummer, asked distractedly—I think it’s been ten years since he had a soft drink or water. “We have any kind that you’d like.” “I’ll take a Big Red.” “We don’t have Big Red.” “Well I thought you said that you had…” “You’re right, I did. I’m sorry. You can have any soda that you can think of, we just don’t have Big Red.” “OK…well, ummm…I’ll have a Mountain Dew.” “We don’t have that either.” The steward said with some exasperation. The other two guys were starting to laugh out

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loud. I was starting to relax a little now. I dug back into my seat a bit. “Calm…calming…think calm thoughts…remember…last Halloween?...green and blue always look good together…that stewardess is a knockout! She’s looking at me again. This time… she looks like she’s smiling. Did she just unbutton her shirt more? She did…she must have…her bra is really squeezing her breasts together. She’s coming toward me…looking right at me. She’s smiling….” The stewardess leaned over, low, right in front of me. Her bulging cleavage was now inches from my face. I could smell a faint scent of lavender or lilies or some flower. “You looked worried earlier. You look much calmer now. Let me take care of you. You don’t have to worry about anything. Look at my eyes. You’ll let me take care of you won’t you?” I was acting silly. I was safe now. And I’d just made friends with this ravishing creature hovering over me. “Her eyes are beautiful…they’re hazel or brown… they’re really more black. Her mouth is so red. Those lips…is she…I think she’s going to

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kiss me….” The full, scarlet lips were coming closer. Between them, china white teeth were parting slightly. Her eyeteeth are long? They look so sharp! She’s going to…no, NOOOO! I started awake with my hands about to close on the stewardesses’ throat. Kurt was holding back my left hand from across the aisle and a middle-aged man in a business suit, seated on my right, held my right hand back. The stewardess fell away from me into the aisle gasping, “I’m sorry… you were asleep…I was just putting a blanket on you.” The alarmed looks of the other passengers and a steward hurrying over convinced me that I’d just had another of the dreams that I’d been trying hard to deal with the past couple of weeks. After things settled down around me and the other passengers started to ask what had happened in hushed tones, looking over with queer looks, the steward helped his co-worker to the back of the plane. “What in the heck was that all about?” the mustachioed steward asked

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exaggeratedly, trying to simultaneously settle the rattled nerves of the stewardess and laugh-off the strangeness of what had happened. “We’re just two minutes into boarding and you’re already wrestling with the passengers! He’s good looking, but darling, I mean really! She gave a short laugh but secretly, she was scared. “There’s something wrong with that guy, Sam. There’s something really weird about him and those other guys he boarded with. Did you see him try to strangle me!” “You just woke him suddenly and he lost it.” “No! He thought that I was trying to bite his throat! He said it under his breath just before he came to. He thought I was going to bite his throat?” “Maybe he…” “No. There’s something really wrong there. Maybe I should call the airport security? “Honey, you can’t arrest someone for their dreams.”

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Was all of it just a bad dream? Just a horrible, bad dream? Was it just a nightmare? As I gaze out of the airplane window now, homebound, safe; I’m trying to skin the reality from the terrifying fog in my memory. Then again, there’s a powerful, overwhelming impulse somewhere in the back of my mind that’s urging me—imploring me, to just leave it buried. Looking across the cabin at the others, Steve is uncharacteristically subdued, and Kurt and Terry are already sleeping the sleep of the dead it looks like, I realize that they’re probably never going to discuss any of what happened—or didn’t happen. For some reason they seem to have lost recall of most of what they were doing and where they were. They were never very self-aware or self-examining anyway. When I try to bring up the subject, they seem to go off into a torpor—they’re distant and unresponsive. Could it be that they remember more than they’re telling, and that just like me, they’re trying to suppress and deny a sick nightmare?

Our group The Innocents—a scraggly, mangy, rock and roll band from Northwood,
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Illinois, U.S.A., landed at Amsterdam Schiphol (Amsterdam Airport) at 5:43 am in the last week of March. The weather was misting and raining and cold. What light there was was a silvery-gray diffused from behind the lowhanging clouds. Nothing though, could have dampened our spirits. “We made it! I can’t believe we’re finally in Europe!” Everyone was backslapping and jumping around like children. I don’t know what the rest of the passengers must have thought of us—we were dressed in our usual band gear of t-shirts, ripped-up jeans, and black leather motorcycle jackets, and we’d caused a bit of a row on the airplane because we were talking too loud and drinking too much while the rest of the passengers were trying to sleep—but what of it? We had just made it to Europe from the U.S. for our first tour! We’d worked hard for this and, exhausted, hung-over, and still drunk or not, we were soaring high. “Lets go to the Red Light district and find a hash bar,” someone said (it may have been me). “Let’s get to the hotel and pass out,”

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averred Kurt. He had been the drunkest on the flight and was looking a little gray. We collected our gear and got through customs somehow, and trudged out to the curb to look for our tour vessel. It was supposed to be a white rental van that had a cargo cube on the back of it. It was nowhere in sight. We stood around smoking gaspers and talking about what we were going to do and see. A cursory glance at some of the women walking around at the airport seemed to promise great things. The Reichsmuseum and the Van Gogh museum and the nightlife and the bars—it was all too much for us and we were laughing and beaming at each other. Jeez…Dutchland!… what the heck! Suddenly, a tall, thin man with a twoday stubble and a cheap, black plastic raincoat pushed in among us. “Are you The Innocents?” he asked no one in particular. “You didn’t give the password.” Steve drawled. “You must be the pain in my ass.” said the stranger back at Steve blankly. “I had to park in the lot so you’ll have to tote all this
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crap over there…it’s only about a mile.” The accent was English; the demeanor was down and out. “I’m Mitchell—you lot can call me Mitchell. My friends call me Mitch. I’m your tour manager, and as your tour budget is too miniscule to allow for one, I’m your tour driver as well.” We all just kind of looked at each other. Besides the tired hard-ass act and clichéd “…you can call me Mitchell…” movie line, I know that everyone was thinking what I was: “You’re kidding me, this dead-ender is our tour manager?” The trip from the airport to the hotel would have probably been pedestrian and non-descript for a Netherlander or for someone from the continent, but it was a stunning, eye-popper for us. The transition from urban to rural in Holland is much less gradual than in the U.S.—just outside the cement and pylons of the airport, sheep grazed in newly greening fields, tulip fields were just starting to display startling, vibrant colors of red and yellow and purple and pink against the brown, gray, and spring green of the rural landscape. Small thatched-roofed

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barns with matted-hair ponies in their yards were scattered here and there between sluggish-running water ditches in the soggy soil. The air smelled of wet soil and animal urine and manure and tobacco smoke and cold, fresh sea air. Reddish-orange clay-tile roofs on white plaster houses set off the blue and silver sky like lit fuses on firecrackers. Hung over and muzzy-brained as we were from all the alcohol, being up all night, and the long plane trip, we chattered excitedly all the way to the hotel. Our tour manager seemed exasperated and embarrassed by our excitement and mirth, but we pointed out scenic details and oohed and ahhed over various Dutch curiosities nonetheless. Once we were checked in at the hotel, the guys collapsed into their beds and a mighty snoring ensued. Mitchell went down to the hotel bar. I was too amped-up to sleep even though I felt like I could have for a couple of days. I went off on a saunter—a will-o’-the-wisp, wherever-I-end-up, I-end-up. Amsterdam was stunning that early spring. The clouds were silver and white and battleship gray, and the sky (when you can see it through the clouds) is a blue like the blue in a dream. Cantilever bridges from the
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1600s delicately hovered over the black/green water of the canals and all of the houses were narrow and tall. There were the cathedral spires and gas street lamps and canals and everything just like in the movies. It was so perfect. To an American like me in Europe for his first time, it seemed like every possibility in the world was right at your fingertips. Just like I knew where I was going, I skipped right past Rembrandt’s house and over a bridge. I found myself walking down a street full of bars and hash cafes. Imagine that? It was still only 10 o’clock in the morning and the bars were just opening their doors. I stopped off in one or two for a sweet, fresh Heineken and a smoke. Everyone spoke English and they seemed uninterested in another American from another rock band out and about. For them it was old hat—for me it was like I was sailing through a dream. The girls were stunning, the architecture was old, the sun coming through was warming and the beer made me mellow and at peace with all creatures. I went into a bookstore and a record store. Some local boys were playing cricket in a brick-paved square and I tried and failed to bat a cricket ball. “You Americans always try to swing at
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it like it’s a baseball.” the Dutch cricketeer said to me. “It’s cricket—you have to block at the ball.” I sat on a park bench overlooking a canal and watched a mother duck lead her ducklings in a stately procession through the seaweed green water and pretended I was a 17th century burgher waiting for a motherlode ship to come in from the East Indies. Finally, I meandered until I found myself back in front of our hotel. Mitchell was still at the bar and when he saw me, he motioned me in. “Look, you’re Martin, right…you’re the ‘sensible Innocent?’” This is your first time here, right? I’ve seen some bad lots while tour managing here, but you guys look like you’re going to make life difficult for the next two months. Very difficult.” “We’re not so bad” I protested, suddenly back on the planet earth and tired and beginning to resent the world-weary, hard-ass attitude of this “Limey bloke.” “When the booking agency told me we’d be paying five-hundred bucks a week for a ‘tour manager’ I told them we’d do without. If they didn’t threaten not to book us unless we hired you, you’d still be planting tulips or

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whatever you do here.” “Look mate…Martin” He leaned in toward me with a heavy alcohol breath “all I’m saying is I’ll probably be needing your help if you want to get your guys through this tour thing. I’m not your roadie, I’m not your mother, and I ain’t your priest…but if you listen to me and keep your bandmates from pissing me off, I can get you through this with some good cash in your pockets and make sure that your group does well enough musically to get asked back here, maybe even work out some record deal—and that’s what you want out of all this, isn’t it?” “That’s what I want” “I heard your music and it’s pretty good. I don’t like much of the music you get stuck hearing in this job and I don’t like most of the band-pricks I have to work with, but I know my job and I know how to be professional—I’m just asking that you be the same, and that you get your bandmates to sign on as well.” “I didn’t have any other notion. Maybe you should understand something…Mitchell. We made it through five tours through the U.S. and Canada and we didn’t need the help

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of any ‘tour manager.’ Why don’t you backoff this tough-guy shit and take it easy—you do your thing and we’ll do ours.” He looked at me through a cloud of cigarette smoke and stubbed-out the butt. He was probably only around thirty-five, but he had the worn and lined features of someone in their late forties. There was a slight tremor in his hand movements as he stubbed out his cigarette butt. As is generally the case, there was a hurt about him, something underneath all the booze and bad-attitude that was gnawing away inside somewhere. He wiped away some beer foam from the corner of his mouth. I wasn’t sure he wasn’t going to hit me. “Cheers, mate.” He said finally and extended his hand. “Care for a pint of Holland’s best?”

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2 YOU CAN’T CHEAT AN HONEST BAND
The jetlag hit me like a Mike Tyson left hook. I got to sleep for all of two hours. Mitchell rousted us (we were puffy-faced and dour) at two in the afternoon for a photo session outside the hotel and then shanghai’d us to a radio station for an interview. Thank God we didn’t have to play! We were so hungover and out of it, we would have sounded like we were playing with wool mittens on and would have sung like we were wheezing into paper bags. Then it was off to a newspaper office and then to a magazine office for more interviews. Our repartee was less than scintillating. Interviewer: “Vut do you tink is the nest trend in the music that is coming out from the United States?” “Uh…” [Steve]. “We haven’t heard much lately. We’ve been on the road a lot. We hear stuff in bars.” [Me].

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“I think they should bring back polka.” [Terry]. We finally staggered back in at the hotel at ten o’clock. The jetlag had its way with us though, and though we were incoherently exhausted, none of us could sleep, and we ended up all rolling around in our beds moaning. Sleep finally cast over us by the time the sun was busting through the shuttered windows. Luckily, we had a day off before the first show. Day off…not really—we did another round of interviews and photo sessions and went to the rental agency a hundred miles away to pick-up our amps and drum kit. We got back to the hotel at eight that night and we should have turned in early, but, well…we were in Holland on our first tour in Europe, and the call of the nightlife was deafening. We all met at the hotel bar before our first night out in Europe. I got there first and commandeered a table in the corner, ordering a round of beers for everyone, knowing they’d soon be along. Late for most everything, one could expect them to arrive with precisely perfect timing (or even be early) for meals or carousing. Steve, the

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drummer came down first. I imagine that the Visigoths looked to the Romans exactly the way that we did to these Amsterdam locals, as the Visigoth hordes stormed into Rome to sack the city. Why we thought that a bunch of long-haired, poorly clothed, drunken louts from the good ol’ U.S. of A. would be appealing and alluring to the women and good citizens of Amsterdam, I have no idea. I’m quite certain, however, that we left no bar unturned as we careened and caroused well into the early morning hours. The Amsterdammers gave us a wide berth. Details of the evening were scant when we tried to compare notes the next morning. After the complimentary hotel breakfast (Continental) of rolls, croissants, butter, jam, a few unidentified cold cuts, and some coffee, tea, and/or orange juice, we wobbled out to the tour van and squashed into it, all of us trying to avoid looking at the others, as we were a mite sheepish--totally hungover, and all feeling like we must look like raccoons to the others. In a cloud of blue diesel fumes and to the putt-putt of the fourcylinder engine, we were off to our first European tour show!

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“Testing: een, twee, drei. Testing: een, twee, drei” Looking into the spotlights out in the theater while trying to stand up on stage during our first sound-check of the tour that night was not a good idea. Having your retina burn out while you reel seasick and wobbly on a stage is never considered a ‘career move,’ but here you are. Kurt and Terry can throw-up behind their amps, and Steve can always heave over his shoulder as he beats his drums, but I’ll be up-front singing for most of the night, and it will be a little too punk to shower vomit over the first four rows from over the mic stand. We were pretty psyched though—we played well for our first show of the tour, and we even had some fun through the postbrain surgery miasma and misery that we were experiencing. Picture this: The white light and colored gels of the spotlights glaring into your eyes wipeout huge swaths of what you can see just ahead of you. It’s only when you duck down to go into a guitar duckwalk or when you leap into the air exultantly to smash a guitar chord that you tear free of the blinding light to see the sweaty, multi-colored heads and hair-dos of a thousand pogo-ing teenagers bobbing up and down in the black
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smudges of the theater. Their happy, expectant faces are turned up to you. Their cheeks are rosy from the heat and the excitement. They look into the future at you, but what they are really excited about, what they really see, is their own future that they’re trying to get to just past you somewhere, behind you at the back of the stage, that they can’t quite make out. You’re just a thrilling movie superimposed over the screen of what they anticipate their lives will bring. They want the excitement and explosive exuberance and passion of their youth to jettison from you and shower out onto them. Somehow mistaking their own power and passion that they project onto you as something that you’re disgorging onto them. The light splashes off the cymbals and flares wildly in multi-colors off the reflective surfaces of the guitar faces. Our brightly hued clothes in turquoise and burgundy and pink and green shimmer and smother in the dark and bright. Chrome flashes and black explodes. Wild, long hair spins and thrashes to monster backbeats from the heavy kick pedal drums and the jungle beat tom-toms, only to be swallowed whole by the bottomless whump from the four twelve

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speakers of the bass guitar amp. Two massive Marshall guitar amp cabinets roar and chime like a jet engine plain in Africa and a thousand cuckoo clocks chiming in time. The music shifts and soars and tumbles and every single person in the audience is sure that they are the only one who hears it exactly like they do, that it means only what it means to them, but it is the same in every heart in the room. They soar and careen wildly right with it, barely in control, their pulses jackhammering so that they are not sure if their hearts won’t explode. Every sense and sensation is alive right now and every emotion and feeling from hope to life to love rushes through the mind like a rampaging river of being. As we soar and sing and the music pours forth from somewhere deep and timeless in our souls we feel the same memory and sentiment and rush of life and death in a moment, and that moment is now—here, in this room with everyone. We’re just as surprised and elated and wrung-out when the song subsides as the audience, and we drench in their applause and adulation. We tear ourselves from our instruments that have brought us here and that we have some strange, animate bond with. We go to each

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other and shake hands when we’d really like to hug—but we’re too macho for that, and we slap each other on the back and clink beer bottles and thank our lucky stars. When we got three encores and we didn’t have anything left in the tank, Steve and Terry crowd-dived off the stage and the rest of us went out through the crowd of cheering, back-slapping, crazies to the bar at the front of the theater. It was probably a mistake to walk out that way, as everyone was buying us drinks and proffering a plethora of drugs to us. I noticed that the girls at the show were not at all shy about zeroing-in on their favorite Innocent. I was cornered at the bar by a large blonde woman named Brigitta and a totally sexy redhead named Teena; Steve, Terry, and Kurt were at the center of a milling contingent of wellwishers. We signed autographs and swilled beer and there was a lot of laughter and shouting. So far, so good. Mitchell was all business, striking the band’s equipment from the stage and loading it into the truck all by himself. This was supposed to be our job, but I’m sure he knew what his chances were of that happening. He also collected the box office receipts before corralling us all, much to our
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loud dismay and violent disapproval, out of the bar and into the van. Steve got a little case of beer muscles and started to tell Mitchell that he was thinking of thumping him right then and there and going back into the bar, but when the rest of us held him back and shoved him into the open van, he seemed completely content with it. Mitchell looked like he could take care of himself all right, he was a pretty big dude, and he smiled at Steve like he might like the excuse to take out some of his deep well of angst and grievance on this Yankee yo-yo. As it turned out, he just flicked his cigarette into the canal, got into the van, and drove us back to the hotel.

3 PLAY IT AGAIN?

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A curious thing happened to us after our show in Antwerp later that first week. It was odd and unsettling, and it foreboded more strange and troubling things to come. We were minding our own business, driving back to the Hotel Florida--for a change--and not going out on the town. Kristen, Wilma, and another girl, Jenette, had different ideas for the group, though. They ambushed us just as we were rolling out of the van at the hotel. “Hey! You, Innocents! The night is still young, hey? You guys can’t be in Antwerp and spend the whole time sleeping in a hotel, huh!” Kristen hugged each of us and kissed us on both cheeks. I saw the formerly dough-y, droopyeyed faces of the guys light up as she said it. We were all laughing and joking on the red brick pavement in front of the hotel when the night concierge came out to tell us to cease and desist. Wilma made a suggestion in Flemish to Kirsten and Jenette and they all excitedly agreed. “Guys, Wilma here is a zanger, and she would like to take us to a bar with the piano and a guy who plays, and then she will

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zang—uh, sing, a songs for us all?” Kirsten had the guys mesmerized, and she could have led us all straight into the canal that was just across the road from us, and we would have died like drowning rats. But happy rats. Mitch looked over his shoulder at us as we piled into a Mercedes sedan taxi cab and sped away, shook his head, and bent down to pick up the last of our baggage, to take it up the steps of the hotel. This cab driver seemed to know the girls and he kept up a rapid-fire dialogue in Flemish and French with them the whole trip. In fact, he got so animated and into their conversation that we just barely missed being nailed by several other screaming vehicles. Red lights were optional. “Eets too late to stop for the red lights—the police don’t care this late,” I was told when I screamed like a twelve-year-old-girl as we were careening through one at high speed. The girls all turned around to laugh at me like I was a worried elderly person. After a few more startlingly close near-collisions with cars and people, we finally slid to a stop at the end of a street full of bars and carousing revelers.

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There was a university near there and the students had just finished their spring term exams, and they were all out, arms over each others shoulders, dancing and singing in the streets. It was like Belgium had just won the World Cup or something. Every bar had black silhouettes crowded together in yellow windows. Their doors were open and the partiers spilled out into the streets arm and arm in high abandon. And we went to none of them. About the last place that I would have ever thought that I would see The Innocents in a million years was in a swanky jazz club. We ended up in this morgue with candelabras with fake flame light bulbs in them, chiffon draperies cascading across everywhere, and a few urbane, clean, older people in suits and ties and dresses sipping at martini and wine glasses. The color scheme was copper, sea green, and beige. It was so quiet, I thought they might be having a séance. The bartender, who looked like he could be an ex-boxer—black hair slicked back; broken nose, poorly set; heavy build and heavy but nimble hands—smiled warmly when he saw Wilma come in and he seemed to know the other girls, too. He also seemed genuinely pleased to have a scruffy bunch of

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drunk, rock dudes come into his place. He even welcomed us to sit at the bar, and shook up an excellent shaker of vodka martinis for us all. Before long, the girls had convinced Wilma to sing, and she was very shy and tentative about it. She was a fairly well known pop singer in Belgium, but I guess she thought that we were the real, professional musicians (HA!). She got up from the bar and went over to a grand piano that stretched languidly from a dark corner out into the bar. There were a few well-thumbed folios of songs and sheet music on the piano. As she looked through the music, trying to decide on a song to sing, my gaze shifted behind her to the cat at the piano. Nice chops. Whoa, really nice. His fingers skirted across the keys, producing a fluttering, riffling, arpeggio of slurred notes, only to suddenly seize on one note or chord, and then suddenly extract, with firm conviction, every nuance and coloring that that phrase would utter, before skittering away into some other musical landscape, totally unexpected, and then reintroduce the themes and phrases he’d been sculpting seconds before, revealing them like rare jewels that he’d kept hidden
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from other’s eyes. His hair was greased back like the bartender’s. His though, was thinning on top and graying in bands at the sides. His lined forehead and the bags under his eyes gave him a weary look that turned to weary melancholy when he turned up his watery blue eyes. His cheeks were hollow and his skin sallow. He seemed lost in a dream, or like he was thinking about some place far away from here. His playing though was superb, sublime, and yet accessibly human. Wilma interrupted his etude to ask him about one or two of the songs she was thinking of singing. When he stopped playing I noticed that several people, including my band mates, stopped talking and in a bruised way, looked over at him. He gave Wilma an E-flat chord and she sang a couple of passes at the opening of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, sotto voce, and then she started into it in full voice, but tentatively, with shy glances back at us to check on our approval. She had a nice lethargic languor to her voice and it slid around the room as if using the chiffon draperies as a conduit, it was so swoony. She was pleased that we looked pleased and she gained a little confidence in her phrasing and volume. I was wondering at the pianist’s
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perfect accompaniment. His buttressing of Wilma’s strained notes and his lilting chord changes behind her sultry bit was exactly what she needed. But he never drew attention to his playing—it was always at the service of her voice. Steve came up from behind me and asked, “Do you know who that guy is tinkling on the ivories? That’s Robby Mac Dunson!” I looked at the elegant wreck at the 88s and then at Steve and then at the wreck again. He was right. I knew he was right but I couldn’t believe he was right. Robert MacMillan Dunson was the definition of jazz cool in New York in the early seventies. He shunned the limelight of T.V. and major music deals, although he looked like a movie star and could have had a big career if he’d bitten. Of course, he didn’t need any of it. He was a DuPont somewhere in his family and his father was a famous corporation lawyer for the biggest companies in the U.S. He’d been to Princeton and was graduated. He kept underground though, mostly doing shows in small clubs in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. He was sought out though by the best players in the world and his musical arrangements were like gold but much rarer.

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Finally, he succumbed to a heroin addiction. He fled the U.S. for European cities where he could more easily score, and where he wasn’t already a marked man. Paris, Amsterdam, Milan, Berlin—he slowly submerged from the music media’s consciousness. Here he was years later, playing pure magic and looking like he could collapse at any second. Wilma finished her first tune and launched into a second. “What do you think he’s doing in here?” I leaned over to ask Steve. “He’s obviously just getting by, just paying the rent here, right?” Steve was a huge Jazz fan and he idolized the few bootleg recordings that he had of Robby Mac with Gerry Mulligan or Chet Baker or Cannonball Adderly. “I wonder if he’ll talk to us? Maybe we could get an autograph?” Wilma was having some trouble with the high notes in the middle eight of the song and so she bailed out to light applause from us and from some of the late-night patrons. She bowed shyly and kissed Robby on the cheek and sidled-off to a stool at the bar. Me and Steve went over to the piano just as the maestro was lighting a Lucky. Close up you could see the ravages of

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twenty-five years of heroin. His entire scalp was balding and the remaining black and gray hairs were greased together into a wispy, raked appearance. The yellow-gray skin hung creased and pocked on his face and just kind of poured loosely into his starched white collar. His gnarled hands seemed like they wouldn’t be able to use a door knob, much less play the tasty and highly sophisticated runs and chord progressions that he was tossing off like they were mere afterthoughts. He spoke French to us as we approached him—something about would we both like to sing or something—we both looked at each other and Steve chickenedout and went right around again to the bar. I held my ground but I didn’t know what to say. Finally, I came out with “No…not French…American.” “Sorry… I wasn’t…I should have known. My ex-countryman! Care to sing something for the paying customers? Sing for your supper?” He said crossing his arms on his lap in front of him. His cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth and the smoke rising into his eyes made him squint at me with his left eye, while regarding me suspiciously with his right. “I
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don’t really know any rock stuff….” He trailed off. “I’m a musician too. Well, not like you, I…we’re all on a tour here. Yeah, rock-type stuff. You play incredible! Hey, can I buy you a drink?” “No thanks, I get um free.” At this he held up his glass in his garbled hand and nodded to the bartender. “You know, we were thinking…” I took my chance. “Are you Robby Dunson?” Strangely, a gray wave crossed his face starting from just above his left eyebrow and rippling down to turn the corners of his mouth. He took the cigarette from where it was delicately clenched between his teeth, and snuffed it out into a heaped ashtray just above the keyboard. “What of it?” I could tell that I’d made some kind of mistake. After looking down at the keys and then off to the bar, he finally rolled his red-rimmed, marble blue eyes up at me. “What dayou want?” Thankfully, the bartender showed up with his drink just then, setting down a double vodka straight, no rocks onto the

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piano lid. He turned to Robby so that I couldn’t hear him and asked him something —probably like, “Is this guy bugging you?” Dunson lit another cigarette and said something back that I also couldn’t hear, but the bartender sauntered off after giving me a short, cold stare. “Look pal, don’t bug me. I got a job here. Don’t tell anyone that you saw me here OK? You’re a musician? Oh boy. Do me a favor—don’t go telling all your friends who you saw and where. I’m just doing a gig, ya know?” He squinted again at me and this time it was his left eye that regarded me with disdain, but some pity, I thought. I clinked his glass with mine and was turning to go, when he spit some tobacco off his lip and said “Hey kid! Come on outside and tell me about what’s new in the States. It’s just about break time.” He grabbed his glass with his two middle fingers inside the rim and his cigarette in the same hand between his thumb and index finger, and he walked haltingly out the glowing front door and into the frigid night. “So you’re a rock ‘n’ roll star, hey? So what’s the name of your group?” He leaned on the lamppost in on the street and waved

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his cigarette in front of his eyes while he talked. He drained his vodka in two big slugs. “Bet there’s a lot of ass, huh? How’s things back home?” “We’re not really “stars, “ this is our first time over. We’re just trying to get on our feet here. Seems like we didn’t really know what we were getting into.” “Road got ya down, huh? Well, take heart kid—it’ll either kill ya or make you its slave. That or you’ll all quit and go running back to where you came!” This sent him into a coughing-fit laugh. His voice was raspy but weak. Every few seconds he kept clearing his throat of what sounded like pancake-battered cotton balls. “How those other guys doing? They like it better then you?” “We’re all still kind of high on just being here. It’s all been pretty wild so far.” I know, I know, you all up to your necks in puss and beer and you can’t believe your luck?” I couldn’t come up with anything to say. I was just kind of thunderstruck to be talking on an Antwerp street to Robby Mac Dunson.

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“Of course, that’s the way it starts. You think that you’re seeing stars and then you realize they’re burning your mind out. You guys… are you hip? Just came here for the scene, right? You score yet here?” “Yeah…no, we’re definitely not cool. In fact we all are trying to stay out of trouble that way.” It was after I said it that it occurred to me that I might have just insulted him. He took a last drag at his Lucky and then flicked it across the street into the canal. It was a pretty good shot. “Look, I didn’t mean…. Hey, all I’m saying is….” Unsteadily, sliding his hand down along the lamppost, he bent and set his glass on the ground. He put his hands deep into his pants pockets and weaved a little bit, even though he was standing in place. “What do I know? I don’t even know who’s president now! You guys’ll do OK. Either that or…kidding. I’m just kidding ya! You’ll do OK.” “I was wondering, can I get you to tell me about when you were writing stuff with Bill Evans?” That gray wave crossed his face again.

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“You sure yer not a writer? No? Usually they’re from Japan, track me down here.” He turned away from me and took a step back toward the club door. Suddenly, he turned to face me again. His face now changed from pasty gray to furnace red. “I don’t go into nothing from the past anymore. Don’t ask. Tha’s just a lot of ghosts. Either dying ghost or already dead ghosts. Just uh lot a….Don’t ask, that’s all. You kids! You all think you’re so famous. You all over here. I bet you don’t know the firs thing about playing your instrument. Whaddaya know…three chords? You think yer gonna go home with lots of cash and prizes, huh? You can just see yourself on the plane with the European model and the glass of champagne? Don’t you think that’s what I thought? That’s what they all think. “Do you know what the reality is, though?” He jabbed a knobby finger into my chest, “You know the stinking reality? You think you can beat the odds don’t you? Don’t you? You and your crew will be lucky to get out of this with a spike in your arm and a

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monkey on your back…like I did…yeah, like I did. Has it woken up yet? Have you felt that little tickle in your brain? Do you fine that when yer high now that you fall deeper and deeper into somewhere in the middle of your brain? You’ve wandered there now, and you’ll never find your way back. Somewhere so far deep inside that no one else can ever go there? Is the little green monster awake there yet? He,he,he…he’s gonna wake up soon! You’ll have to feed him! You’ll have to keep bringing what keeps him happy or he’ll start to eat away--shred by shred--at the burning orange walls of that inner place. You can’t stand to be fucked up, but…you want him…to stop feeding on you! You want some free advice from a guy who’s been around the block and back again? Run like the devil, kid! Run back to your mama like the devil is right on your tail, because he’s got you in his sights now. He’s playing with you…and guess who’s gonna win?” This started another choking-fit laugh from him. He passed a hand over his sweaty, flaccid features and staggered slightly just as the bartender came out to help him back into the club. They elbowed past Steve, Terry, and Kurt, who were coming out the front door with cocktail napkins and pens to get

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autographs. I just looked at them as they stood watching Robby stagger with the bartender past them, and shook my head when the guys gave me a questioning look back.

4 BLAH
From Antwerp on we played at a different theater, every night, all over Holland and Belgium for three weeks straight. Haarlem, Maastricht, Eindhoven, Delft, Rotterdam, Nijmegen, Groningen, Brussels, Ghent, Hove, Leuven, Namur etc. We even did one show in Paris--it was a rapid-fire, baptism-of-fire, and it really took all of the stuffing out of us by the end of the three weeks. We looked like shadows of our former selves by the time we got a day off at

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a house we’d rented, before going on to Germany and Switzerland for the next three weeks of shows. A certain pattern seemed to develop as we made our way through the tour. We would play our show; many drinks and drugs of one sort or another would be consumed by the various band members at sound check and before and during the show itself; the show over, we would be besieged by adoring females from the audience; more drinks and drugs consumed; a late-late night Bacchanalia would ensue; various band members would disappear with sundry “dates.” Most of the hotels had a policy of check-out by 11:00 AM. This meant that the morning would see one or more sheepish and hung-over band guys straggling into the hotel lobby around 11 or 12 or 1. The strength and exuberance of youth was quickly dissipating. Tempers were rising and the cure for thick-headed hangovers was changing from a couple of aspirin and a coke to a couple of beers and a small bottle of schnapps. Soon, a joint or a couple of unidentified pills were thrown into the mix, for good measure. Things were rapidly becoming muddled and confused among us. We were
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starting to lose the handle on just exactly why we were here and what it was we were here to do. When we piled into the truck mornings: haggard, our ears ringing, eyes bloodshot, tempers frayed; we all seemed secretly to be looking each other over— sizing each other up. I know I was. Were we here to play music in the hope of establishing ourselves as a musical entity that would become popular on a worldwide scale, make tons of money, and go down in the history books as one of the greatest rock bands ever? Or were we using our music as an excuse to go on one of the most incredible collective benders and sex romps that the world has ever seen? Were we good friends and compatriots who shared a common goal of bringing some phenomenal music to the world, or were we just a bunch of guys using each other’s talents to get laid and wasted in this beautiful setting of Northern Europe? Were we really aware of who we were and what was going on around us, or were we finally at the mercy our inner demons—and prey to the rip-off promoters and agents who were scamming us every night. Were we too dulled by drink and sex and drugs to see the way we were being royally abused and

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cheated? Were we blinding ourselves to the way we were shilling our talents—cheating ourselves and our audience of the music we could have, and should have, been playing— trading in what we might have been creating for some laughs and a three month drunk? On our way to the house on the Dutch side of the Rhine river just across from Germany, where we were going to take our first day off since the tour started, the guys and I were collapsed in the van, trying in vain to get some sleep in the crowded and straight-jacketed confines of the truly tortuous van seats. Black rings under the eyes, lolling heads, half-asleep, half-awake. He might as well have just dropped us off at the morgue. Not that any of us would have noticed. “This ain’t going to do it lads,” Mitchell said into the rearview mirror “You’re falling apart…you’re played out and it’s only been three weeks. You better take a good look at yourselves. You look like complete shit. You’ve been playing like it too. You don’t notice because you’re too shit-faced to realize. How long do you think it’s going to be before something really bad happens? You guys are so out of it, anyone could take advantage of you now in your weakened
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condition. How long do you think it’s going to be before one of you gets offered some horse and you’re so far gone that you don’t know the difference? That’s the way a lot of them end up getting hooked. Yeah…I’ve seen it before. You guys think you’re such hardened road warriors—smarter than all the rest, aren’t you? You’re headed for it, all of you. Well I ain’t taking part in this hell tour anymore. I’ve got a bit of news for you all—I called the agency this morning and I’m leaving the tour. It’s not you guys per se, just part of my professional creed—I don’t like to see a group, or any of its members die while in my tender care. Die musically or corpsewise. I don’t do coroner’s inquests or letters to grieving parents. So that’s it. When we get to Nijmegen and I drop you off at the house, I’m off back to Amsterdam. The agency said they’ll have another man down here by tomorrow night so you can make your Frankfurt show. Adieu, ladies, and God help you.” Well, that announcement sort of got my attention. I lifted up my sunglasses and looked at Mitchell’s reflection in the rearview mirror. He didn’t look like he was goofing around. “Are you serious?” I said in my most
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disinterested-sounding voice. I suddenly realized that, poseur hard case or not, Mitchell was a serious, professional guy just like he’d claimed to be. He’d been taking up the slack for us for weeks—packing up our equipment every night, tracking stray band mates down every morning, arguing with club and theater owners over money, arguing with promoters and agents, arguing with hotel managers intent on throwing us out on the street for a variety of offenses, all of which we were guilty of, and most of which should have involved the police. He’d been doing quite a job of it, and doing it without any thanks or help from the band, without any of us realizing it. I sat up in the wretched van seat and shook him by the shoulder. “Come on, Limey mate…not going to let down your little, lost blokes are ya? Just harvin’ a larf at our expense right?” “Piss off Jack, you’re the worst of all of ‘em. I thought you and me had an understanding. Now you’re so blitzed—you’re ten times worse off than the others.” I took a short drag off a small bottle of Jagermeister that was in my jacket pocket.

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“I think you’re serious…hey guys I think he’s serious. Hey guys…I think we might be in the shits.” Mitchell looked at me in the rearview mirror with a mixture of disdain, pity, and contempt. “Hey guys…I think we might be….” But the others were already back asleep.

5 UPON OUR ARRIVAL AT THE HOUSE
The shows were good, mostly. They were certainly grueling. I began to notice that, as our party quotient rose lustily, there was a corresponding precipitous drop off to our musical content quotient. That is, we were getting so blown out at all the shows
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and afterwards, that the show the following night always suffered some small, but noticeable decline in how good we sounded. The petty squabbling and the festering resentments that are always present in any group surfaced and found a rich Petri dish in our tour circle. There were good times too, though. I will always remember playing an outdoor festival show on a blustery day in Apeldoorn in Holland. We could barely feel our fingers while we played, but we sounded good again that day—like we used to—and we were actually smiling and having a good time jamming and goofing around on stage the whole time. The audience was jumping up and down in place, maybe because it was cold out, but maybe because they were digging it. After the show they gave us pork roast and sauerkraut, heaped high on the plate, with a burnt ear of corn still in the husk, that we shucked and smothered in butter. They served us with platters of cold beer and hard cider that seemed to have no end. Then after we’d eaten and we were trying to decide what to do for the rest of the day, the festival organizer showed up with a bunch of tickets for the fair rides. We all spilt
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up and bombed around to the various rides and booths. I spent my tickets on five rides in a row on an ancient carousel. The gray mare that I rode was chipped and worn but there was still a fierce look in her bulging eyes. I guess I alarmed some of the parents enough that they grabbed their children off of the rhino and giraffe, but what kind of a parent lets their kid ride on animals of the Serengeti plain, anyway? Of course, we all met up in the beer tent eventually. There were many, many tickets for that too. We laughed a lot and recounted tour stories up to that point, under the cut glass glare of green, yellow, and red neon lights. There was an old steam-driven, oneman-band that played tinny-sounding songs that must have been from around the time of the Great War. Of course, we had to stop at each of the bars along the street on the way back to the house where we were staying. Most of the locals had seen us at the show earlier and they were nice enough to humor our staggering, loud-mouthed bunch. At the house that we’d rented, we all stayed up to have a nightcap. The time flew and the stories flowed. We ended up, arms over shoulders, singing some old Beatles and Beach Boys songs. One by one, the members
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of our group fell away to either drape out across a couch or chair or to trundle off to bed. Kurt and I, the lone survivors, had one or two more drinks and talked about the shows again and fantasized about the future of the group. We spoke of all the world tours and huge stadiums and recordings at super studios in London or L.A. We went off on incredible tangents of becoming a karaoke band that would just play our songs and let the audience sing the vocal parts; becoming a mystic hermit band, donating all our money to charity and recording deep in some forest primeval, periodically sending out to civilization our transcendent recordings for an agog, waiting world. We talked about which actresses we’d marry and which movies we’d make. I was rambling off particularly eloquently (though slurring so badly, it was all-but unintelligible) on some subject or other, when it came to my attention, finally, that Kurt’s chin was on his chest and he was loudly snoring. I shook him awake and he told me that he had to wear the chicken hat for the clothes to dry properly. I helped him over to the stairway and shook him again to get him ready for the rigors of the climb. It must be explained here that the houses in Holland

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that are very old, as this one was, were built in a time when the property was taxed based on the width of the property, hence the canny, penurious Dutch built very narrow, very tall houses that make the stairways positively Himalayan to climb. Kurt took two steps up, one step down. One step up and slid three steps down (he was now back where he started). He made a valiant rush up four or five stairs, only to lose his nerve and to collapse on the stairs after falling back down a couple. I thought at this point about climbing above him on the stairs and pulling him up, but his crumpled body on the super-narrow staircase made that a limbo feat that, in my present state, I was not well advised to undertake. I finally half-shimmied up the banister, stepping once or twice on Kurt, to the landing above him on the stairway and from there I was able to coach/exhort him to give it the old college try again. This time he made it up the remaining thirteen steps and careening wildly, scudded face-first into his bed, lifeless. Mission accomplished, I went out on to a second-floor porch that overlooked the quaint Dutch street below. There was a full moon over the red-tiled roofs of the stately,

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willowy houses that fell onto the still and quiet streetscape in that moment just before the breach of dawn into the soft slumber of night. I had one last drag off a cigarette and blew the stale smoke from my lungs at the first dart of red across the black cape of that night. I went back intending to go to my bed on the third floor, but awoke the next morning, curled-up comfortably, on a hall rug beside the stairway.

6 THE RAKE’S PROGRESS, OR, A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GROUP’S BEGINNINGS
There were a lot of kids in our village who started goofing around with guitars and drums and bass when they got to the age of about eleven or so. Word would soon get around town of anyone who could say, play the intro to Stairway to Heaven or some Rush solo. The other info that would shoot

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like a rocket through the local community of aspiring rock ‘n’ roll musicians was whose dad had just bought a new amp or guitar for whom. I was school friends with Terry and a guy named Peter Stuart. I knew Terry from school but we really became friends in Cub Scouts. Unofficially, every afternoon after school I’d be at his house, and every weekend he would be over at my house, sleeping over whenever he wanted. We were very tight and we would discuss each day walking to and from the school, under the arching branches of the sheltering elm trees, a new radio station that we’d found or a new recording uncovered from someone’s parent’s or older brother’s collections. After school Peter, Terry, and I would usually buy a Hersey bar that we’d share in a small park that was on the way home. The park had a cedar shingled shelter where we’d sit on a bench, next to a small pond where ducks and geese would paddle around amongst lily pads and cattails. Our discussions would be free ranging. We’d talk of girls in our class that we liked, guitars for sale at the local music store, nasty teachers, where we’d try to sit at the football game (it was a much better view
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when seated just behind the cheerleaders), what new outrage rival gangs in town were up to—just the kind of things that kids talk about in the long hours and days leading up to the freedom of eighteen. Of chief concern always were our attempts to get certain girls to go out with us--that and our increasing involvement in, and love of, music. Terry’d had piano lessons as a child and he knew more of the nuts and bolts of how songs were made. After we’d shared the Hersey bar and dared each other to ask out some girl or other, we’d go to Terry’s house to pick out songs on the piano or to try to figure out some song or guitar chord. Terry’s mother worked (his father had died in Iraq) and we had the place to ourselves until five o’clock, when his sister would get home from junior college. Sometimes we’d spend the endless hours going through his dad’s record collection that was kept in the living room in a cabinet with an old record player on top of it. We’d lie on our backs on the living room rug staring at the ceiling, soaking up Billie Holiday or Deep Purple or Howlin’ Wolf or George Jones. Then we’d talk over what our group was going to sound like and what songs we’d play and what our tours would be like, what movies we’d be in, and which

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starlets we’d date. Terry’s sister Vivian was going to be a nurse, and she was the most beautiful and desirable girl that any of us (except Terry) could ever imagine. She was very patrician and regal in bearing (she had incredible posture that made the various parts of her body look astounding) and had long, straight, blonde almost-white, pale hair that never failed to almost stop my heart when she’d absently flick it over her shoulder. Also, she was nice to us and really paid attention to us when we’d talk to her—something most adults were pretty slack about. I always tried to start up a jam session or a sing along every afternoon around the time that she’d be getting home, hoping that she’d notice my incredible talent and that then the four years of age separating us would magically melt away and she’d ask me to marry her. She always encouraged our music making and would very seriously critique our efforts and ideas. One summer when we were out on the back porch at Terry’s house, she came home just as we were finishing practice. Terry and Pete had gone inside and I was still noodling on guitar, hoping that she’d notice the wispy moustache that I was tending, hoping that I’d
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look more mature than I felt. She threw her backpack of books onto a porch chair and sat down on the wicker love seat right next to me. Terror! “Hi Martin!” “Viv…hi…’lo.” I stammered, visibly shaken. “You sound lovely on that song…what is it?” “It’s a tune that Pete and Terry and I are working on.” I lied. It was really one of my songs, but to admit that to Vivian would have caused me to have a stroke. “It’s beautiful. Will you sing the lyrics for me?” I looked deeply into her impossibly turquoise eyes and accidently launched my guitar pick off a string and across the porch. She bent to pick it up and handed it back to me. She tucked one leg underneath her and rested her head on her arm on the back of the couch. I was on. “Remember when the light was new and all the while the bees would work among the flowers
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We were new then too And all the world was glowing and waiting for us The hours were bronze and blond and took the time To kiss us with the wealth of desire, dee—siii—er Remember when the bloom of youth converted into Serious involvement And everything we touched or held became another wreath of Mad desire, dee—siii—er Remember when we fell so hard And everything smelt of the lavender of your hair, were you aware Of my desire, deee—siii—er….”

“Oh…don’t stop! I really love that melody! Please finish it for me?” “But that’s all I…we have right now.”

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“Oh, I think you’ve really hit on something now. The melody really seems like you now. It doesn’t seem contrived or lifted off someone. Keep playing the chords for me?” I fumbled through another verse of the song and sheepishly stole a look or two into her eyes when I could. She seemed to be holding her gaze on me with a different intensity now. When I strummed the last diminished seventh chord that I’d looked up in a book especially to end the song, she looked like she’d just kind of melted. She sighed a couple of times and I was beginning to think that she was just making fun of me, when she took the guitar from me and slid over next to me on the sofa. “Where are Peter and Terry?” she asked kind of breathlessly. “They’re in making sandwiches.” I wheezed. “Oh.” She picked my hand up off the couch and laced her fingers in-between mine. “You really are going into music aren’t you?”

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A musical career at that point seemed so far fetched as to be embarrassing. “I… we…I’ve been thinking about becoming a test pilot.” “Don’t be silly.” She laughed “You have to be true to yourself and stick with your music until you’re sure, absolutely certain, that it’s no longer in your soul. Someday, after you’ve followed your music to wherever it’s taken you—will you promise me something? You’ll be older then. Age won’t seem like such a big difference then. Will you come back here and come to see me?” “Of course…yes, of course I will.” “Maybe then… maybe then we’ll see each other in a different way than now…you know?” I was blushing now and my face was hot. She bent toward me and I closed my eyes and lifted my mouth up to be kissed. All she did though, was caress my cheek with her hand and run her fingers through the hair on the side of my head. I opened my eyes to see her picking up her backpack and swaying into the house. My heart kept beating at heart attack pace, and I wiped the
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sweat off my face with the sleeve of my flannel shirt. I’ve gone over and over that moment now for four years. I’ve tried to think of a million different things that I should have said or done. Sometimes I dream about it and it always ends up with me waking up before she leaves me. I wonder what I should have done? Vivian might have forgotten about that time. She might have just been feeling wistful or playful. But I’m really going to do it some day. Someday, maybe after this tour is over, some day I’m going back to Vivian and I’m going to tell her about it and what she said, and about what I promised, now that the years have made us contemporaries rather than the adoring boy and the big sister, now that I can do something about it. I’m going back to see Vivian. Someday. ______________________________ Steve was the big deal, hot shot drummer from the town next to ours. I’d heard about him through other people a couple of years before I’d ever met him or heard him play. One night, the night of his village’s Oktoberfest festival, Terry and Pete and I, walked over the bridge to his town to

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see his band play at the festival stage. He was playing in a group with a bunch of older guys who were about twenty, and they actually made money when they played. They were the cool band for the dances and concerts around town. They had a laser show and fog machines. Whoa! I found this interview of Steve in an old music magazine. It’s from a couple of months after he’d first joined The Innocents: Interviewer [I]: How was it that you came to join the new group? Steve [S]: Well…I’d had a lot of local success in a group named Octagon…no really…don’t laugh. Yeah, what were we thinking? Anyway, my friends had all told me about some geezers across town that were really good, really happenin’, and they all said why don’t I go and jam with them, because they just have sit-in drummers playing their gigs with them—no one permanent since this guy Pete Stuart that played with them joined the Navy. They weren’t really professional, I mean, they were just playing at parties and school dances. But I’d been hearing about
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them. The dudes I was playing with were only in it for a couple of years…playing covers…just for the money. They were all a few years older than I was, too. I knew from a couple of other people that The Innocents were doing original material and that they we’re thinking about doing it for real— seriously professional. So, this one day my friend shows me where, in an ad in this local music paper, “The Innocents—Rock’N’Roll/Parties/Get– Togethers, Need drummer. Must be civil. #227-8954.” Well…this was kind of what I’d been waiting for, except there was kind of a mix-up: you see, I was only 16 at the time and didn’t have my license [He’s 17 now, girls—with license], and my Mom had to drive me over for the tryout. [I]: Was there some problem with…. [S]: No, well…you know, a “Rock” guy, drummer shows up with his mother…. [I]: Why, what did they say? [S]: Well it wasn’t say…so much as just laughing…. [I]: How was that first jam-out jam session?

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[S]: It was…it was perfect! We really were just on the exact same page, musically. We had the same sense of humor, same music influences, and we all knew the same people—had the same friends. It was a pretty natural thing for me. Octagon got one of the guy’s cousins to fill in and never missed a beat. That’s a joke…the beat part. [I]: That the drummer filled in? [S]: No…that the beat…jeez, forget it.” [I]: What do you think the future holds for you guys…The Innocents? [S]: Oh…let me get wistful for a moment if I may? Yeah, I don’t know. We definitely are in it for the long haul. We’re really tight right now, both musically and as friends and fans of each other. We have some bites from some agents and producers and record companies—but everyone gets those. We’ll see in the next two or three years where this all will take us… I mean… what else can you do? [I]: Where do you see yourself in three years if things aren’t working out successwise, with the band? [S]: Hmmm…I’ve never really thought

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of that. I guess now is when I should get contemplative and wistful. I just hope that we don’t get sucked dry by the more evil element of the music industry. I don’t know… not the foggiest…I’ve always wondered if there’s a school that you can go to to learn to become a safari guy? Something like that…more outdoors, I would think. Maybe a baker…. __________________________________ Kurt was the last Innocent to join. Terry had known him as a kid, and I’d met him through Terry a couple of times. We’d been playing then as a three piece, just starting to get gigs that were paying, and finally starting to get better and better shows for more and more money. Kurt was already kind of a local legend. He’d studied classical guitar with some classical guy since the young age of seven. He didn’t even get into rock ’n’ roll until he was like, fourteen or something. As soon as he did, though, people would start to follow whatever band he was with, bands would have no following and then he would join, and then they’d be selling out the clubs every night. Oh, yeah, and he played illegally—underage—at bars and nightclubs with these dudes that were ancient. That was pretty cool. He already had
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his own car from it when we met him. For a while after he joined, he was the only one of us who had any money. We bled him dry for about seven months until his money ran out and he was just as poor as the rest of us. I don’t know why he played with so many different groups. You should ask him that. Every month he’d show up with some other band. Amazing guitarist. Just amazing. Well, he finally decided to join our group, and we were happy to have him. I guess it must have stuck because, since that point, he’s only played with us and has yet to tumble along to his next ensemble. I think that he’ll stay, though. He wrote these song lyrics that we never used, but I think it was really a poem that he’d written: Where do we go in time? When our days and our hours devolve into fair sky and showers While the day slips away and we come to discover a summer, a summer, a summer. Why, when the moon flutters into the night, do you suddenly chill as if fright, do you suddenly see then the others.

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I’m going back in my mind, to see if I can find, where the time drained away in my life I’m going back just to see, who the people will be that will be someone, someone, someone.

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7 FOUR FOR THE ROAD?
The house we had rented for the day off was just outside the outskirts of Nijmegen in Holland, right across from Germany. The evening we arrived, sparse snow filtered down around us as we carried our belongings inside from the cobblestone street in front of our lodgings. No one was saying much and Mitchell was saying the least of all. Once everyone was settled into their rooms, I went to Mitchell’s room and knocked softly at his door. “Who’s that then?” he called quietly from inside. “It’s just me buddy…how’s about we

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celebrate you surviving the tour with one in the bar?” My hollow good cheer was obvious and thin. “Come on man…no hard feelings… it’s on me?” There was silence from behind the door for a few seconds and then the latch came off from inside and Mitchell opened up enough to look out with one eye. He looked as though he’d been crying. It was kind of an awkward moment, so I looked down the hall and said “Look man, you’re right about everything you said… we’ve been real shits but it’s just because we’re excited and really juiced-up about this whole thing. Don’t think it has anything to do with you. You’ve been really great and we appreciate everything that you’ve done for us. I just want you to come down and celebrate a little—you’ve been working really hard.” “It ain’t going to change a thing mate, I’m still leaving.” “Yeah, I know. I know that. Seriously, I’m not going to try to change your mind. I just don’t want you to hold anything against us. Come on down and show us there’s no bad feelings?” “Yeah. Alright…but it ain’t going to

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change nothin’.” Terry, Kurt, and Steve were already at the bar down the street, trying hard to get the barmaid, who looked like she’d heard it all before, but did look somewhat amused, to give them some indication of who among them she’d prefer. They were being pretty funny, if obnoxious. Me and Mitchell came in and moved off to a table over by a jukebox that was flashing red, yellow, and green lights and playing an old eighties disco song. In a little while we both had a beer and a shot in front of us. “So you’re going back home, huh?” I said. “Where exactly would that be?” “I live just across the Dutch border in Maastrict, Belgium.” “I thought you lived somewhere around Amsterdam.” “Used to. Had to move out of there about three months ago.” “Are you married…kids…anyone to go home to?” “Well…I guess Americans need to know every last personal detail….”

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“Sorry, I…you know…I was just trying to…” “No, that’s OK. I don’t mind. I’m trying to talk about it more so I’ll feel less shitty about the whole rotten thing. I…was married. I think I’m going through a divorce now, I think. I think that’s what she’s got in mind. I haven’t seen any papers or anything yet but…I guess that’s just around the corner. They might be at my apartment when I get there. I did live in Amsterdam. My wife convinced me to move with her there from England a couple of years ago. I used to be in a band in Bristol, I did a bit of record producing. I even had a couple of very minor hit songs. She’d heard I’d go farther faster if we moved to the continent and got something going here. There was a couple of groups that I fell in with, nothing special. I don’t think that she knew that it would be harder to get a break in Europe than it would be back home. I don’t think she knew how hard it would be to make a living here. Anyway, to keep us solvent and maintain my work visa, I had to take a tour manager job. That’s how I got into this line. The music career faded till I finally realized…it was useless. It used to bother me not being the musician slash producer Svengali-type, and

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just being the whipping boy, but not so much anymore.” He drained the beer and the shot at a gulp each, and caught the barmaid’s eye to order another round by raising an empty glass and jutting his chin at me. “I was never the big rock star type, anyway. I’m a good guitarist—you should hear me some time. But I’m not the photogenic star personality, ya know? I always liked jamming but not necessarily on a stage in front of people. I think my wife found that kind of frustrating about me. Thought I would be a big star in no time. I guess the reality hit her pretty hard over here. I was out on the road most of the time managing and she was lying about the house. She likes to drink…and that was about the only thing she seemed to do. Maybe that was all we ever had in common. Couldn’t speak the language and no job skills to speak of. It must have been a pretty dreary existence for her.” “So she said she wanted a divorce and moved back?” “Ah…no, no she let me know that things weren’t working out between us a

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different way. I came home early from a tour to surprise her…guess who got the surprise? She said that she was just drunk and lonely and that she didn’t even know the name of the guy at the house. She just met him at the bar down the block and took him home for company that night. She’d changed though. I was as beaten down as she was, so I…moved out.” “Dude that’s brutal.” “Shit, that’s the least of it. I moved out, but moving out doesn’t end everything. I never fell out of love with her. Good with the bad—rough patches…you know? I just knew that she’d never be in love with me again—if she ever was in the first place. So all in the course of about three years over here, I lost my dream of being a rich musician rock star and ‘My One and Only True Love.’” The musician thing doesn’t bother me….” I could see he was starting to tearand choke-up, so I turned toward the bar and asked the woman where our drinks were. She gave me a dirty look , but I had to do something to maneuver out of that sticky situation. By the time I looked back at him he was still not composed and he got up to look at the songs on the jukebox. The barmaid—

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Anka by name, brought our drinks and I paid. I think the hefty tip I gave her assuaged her feelings a bit. She smiled at me from the bar while she was washing some glasses. “Look, if it’s a matter of paying you a little more to cover the extra work…” “That’s not it, Martin. None of my screwed-up personal life, or the truly lazy, rotten way you guys conduct yourselves, is what the point is here. I’ve got to go because you guys are falling apart at the seams. You’re falling apart, and I’m afraid that it might be spreading…to me. You’ve got the worst case of American band Euro-itis that I’ve ever seen—and I’ve been doing this for three years now. I’m sure you’re all a real nice bunch of guys. Maybe my leaving will wake you guys up a little—maybe not. Maybe you’ll get yourselves straightened out, finish your tour and be big stars and all, I don’t know—I hope so. All I have left for me though is my personal sense of being a professional. That’s all I have left for me. I can’t let that go. I can’t let you guys going down the rat hole suck me in with you. My crappy job… and my pride in it…that’s all I have left now. That and like I said before—something bad is bound to happen. I can feel it. You’re

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all heading straight into a brick wall, but none of you can seem to see that. I really don’t want to be around for that. I’ve got my job and my own future to think of. What’s left of them.” He downed the second shot and then the beer. “You’ll forgive me…I want to help…but I’ve got too many of my own problems. You can change things though. I can see that you’re the one who can shake these idiots up and get them to get it together. You’ve got a couple of weeks of shows to work your way from Germany down to Switzerland and then you get a few days off. Why don’t you make it a point to get your act in order? Try to make these guys realize that, if you don’t sober up and play your best, no one’s ever going to book you here again. You can walk around in a dream all you like. You can go back to the States and get jobs in the car factory or whatever, ‘cause the music business here is tough—American bands are no big deal.” “That’s what I don’ t understand about you.” I was starting to heat up a little bit and the booze wasn’t cooling me down any. “We’ve been playing sold-out shows right

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along, and the audiences have been eating it up everywhere we’ve been. What’s your big problem?” “That’s right—you can’t see it! You guys think that if you get laid every night it’s a glowing comment on your music. You think, because someone offers you a handful of drugs so they can hangout and party with you backstage, that that’s some kind of A+ for your musical ability. It’s not! Your voices are getting strained and raw from lack of sleep and too much of everything else. You’re playing your instruments all raggedy —dropping notes like flies, forgetting where you are in the song, and then laughing it off like it’s all a big joke. Forgetting lyrics. You’re all out of tune. You all are looking haggard and shot-out and I can see that the cute, proper girls in the audience are leaving early or else looking at you like you’re a bunch of dirty young men—degenerates. You don’t notice, because you’re not from here, that the record company people and booking agents and theatre owners that come to see you don’t stick around through three songs.” “You guys are talented—you’re awesomely talented! I wish I had one ounce of the magic that you guys have—if I did I’d still be playing music and I’d have gotten
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somewhere by now. But you guys are parlaying your stardust into muck. You’re trading in your promise and your future for whatever skank and whatever buzz you can lay your hands on. Believe me. Take it from someone who sees from afar what you can’t see right in front of you because you’re too cocksure and too full of yourselves, and too hot to party, party, party. Don’t forget it—I can’t—that I’ve seen a couple red-faced, hotitem, Adonis-types, that weren’t looking too hot on their hotel room floors when I was calling the police to report an OD.” Anka was trying to quiet us down now and the rest of the patrons were either staring or getting up to leave because they thought we were going to brawl. I guess we’d been getting pretty loud and red-faced ourselves yelling across the table at each other. Steve, Kurt, and Terry were just leaning against the bar laughing. Mitchell paid for another round and tipped her big again, assuring her that we were all right and under control. “Believe it or not,” Mitchell started sotto voce now “I like you guys. I think that you could really make it, you know? You’ve got great songs and stage presence and you’re all asses, but you’re also likeable
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enough in your own way. I want you to succeed and that’s why I’m telling you all this. You’re better than any of the groups that I’ve ever seen—big-time or small potatoes. Get it together…don’t let this slip away for just some high time and sex. Get these guys straight. It’s your responsibility now…I’m gone.” He wasn’t though. The booking agency couldn’t come up with the promised new tour manager. Somewhat out of a sense of duty, but mostly because they threatened to fire him, he promised to stay on until our next days off in Switzerland, by which time the agency thought they could find someone to take over. I was secretly hoping that I could show him that we were a different band from the one that he said we were, by that time, and convince him not to leave. He was a good bloke, this Mitchell, and he knew his business. Just before we got thrown out of the bar at closing he reached out his hand to me as we stumbled to the door. “Frezs?” He slurred . “No hard feeings?” I took his hand and shook it hard and

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threw an arm over his shoulders, more to steady him than out of any sense of bonhomie. “Sure Mitchell. Friends and no hard feelings--but I’m going to prove to ya that we’re not what you think we are.” “Shurrr mate, shurr…frens and you’re not who I think you we are” he slurred as he shuffled forward under the gentle light of a gas streetlamp. “And why doan you call me Mitch?”

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8 WHAT’S A NICE GIRL LIKE YOU….
Kurt and Terry at work were an amazing pair. We find them at the hotel bar chatting with Anka. “Well, what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this” (Terry) “I’m working here as a bar girl” (Anka) “Bar girl! Bar girl? You’re too good for this place ma’am. In America you’d be the head of a vast corporate empire.” (Kurt) “What is that ‘empire?’” (Anka) “Empire…that’s like, you’d probably own Texas or something.” (Kurt)

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“You are definitely executive material…What’s your name ma’am?” (Terry) “Anka” (Anka) “How would one say that in English?” [Kurt] “Anka” [Anka] “You’re definitely being wasted behind the bar here…back home you could operate your own nuclear power plant or have a county club in your backyard. How would that be?” (Terry) “I don’t know all this things that you are saying, but I think that you must have got something wrong with your brains from the aero-plane trip. Did you hold in your breathing and sneeze when you were high up there? They can make the brain get hurt. (Anka) “Well our brains were already like that. What we’re trying to explain to you is that you’re a very attractive, intelligent woman…how do you say that in Flemish? And we’re trying to make you understand, with our extremely limited English, that you should come back to America with us, and

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you’ll never have to fish for dinner again.” (Kurt) “You seem like you are normal but when you talk to me I can tell that you should not be let on the street. Why if you want to make love to girls you don’t go find one who’s not working?” (Anka) “Not only would you not have to work again in America with us, you’d just be in a movie every year and then go to pick up your Oscar with some dreamy movie guy—or one of us. Would that be so bad?” (Kurt) At this point Anka was starting to look peeved. She was drying and putting glasses away behind the bar and even our two heroes could sense that they were straining their relationship with their new friend. “I think that we’re taking the wrong approach with Anka, Kurt. She’s obviously too smart and too beautiful to fall for this kind of bullshit stuff.” (Terry) “That is right. That is the first thing of sense that you say. You both beautiful guys. Why you don’t leave me alone and go after some the other girls?” (Anka) “Exactly, Anka, exactly. You see Kurt,

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she’s heard this all before. She is probably from some European royal family (Anka smiled at this), she’s hiding out here from some mean, despotic father or old uncle who wants her to marry a prince from Lichtenstein or Norway. Am I on the right track dear?” (Terry) “No, I am no queen but I work in this bar. Do you know how many times I hear men talk like this to me? Go on boys, go out to the street and play and be good boys. I have work here to do.“ (Anka) “Do you know, Anka, that we are rich and very famous American rock stars? Haven’t you ever seen our pictures on the news or at the post office? Do you have something against being married to rich Americans? Do you not like rock stars?” (Kurt) “Rock stars have disease and go to divorce. You want another drink now?” (Anka) “Rock stars at least know it when they see a beautiful, sensitive woman, who needs to be taken away from behind a bar and put into a velvet comfy chair amongst the clouds in pillow-y luxury. Don’t you want to have

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birds dress you every day and have a bath in sun-warmed champagne each morning?” (Terry) “You must be seeing birds fly around your head right now, no? You cute, you funny, why you not go to be cute and funny to some other girl in bar?” (Anka) I guess that at this point was when Mitchell and I were starting to raise our voices, as Anka pointed us out to Kurt and Terry and said: “Your friends are not happy right now. You should go tell them to be calm.” “They’ll be alright—they are probably just fighting over you right now. Anka, I just want you to be happy.” (Terry) “I just want you to be happy too Anka.” (Kurt) “You see Anka, we both just want you to be happy and come to America with us.” (Terry) “So tell us then: Which of us do you want to marry and spend the rest of your adorable life with?” (Kurt) “I want to marry neither. I want to

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marry this guys on TV.” (Anka) Anka pointed at the TV above the bar with her chin, where Siegfried and Roy were being interviewed next to an albino tiger on a velvet couch.

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9 REEPERBAHN
Not every show of a tour is all milk and honey. There are bound to be the bad ones that make a tour stink. Whether because the band is exhausted (be it their own fault or not), because the venue is a hole, because the crowd is rotten, because of equipment failures, or sloppy musicianship, or sore throats, or sore heads, or because of a million different reasons; you feel like crawling into the shadows and ending it all right there. The good and the bad gigs, the harsh crowd or the happy, the nights all begin to pile up and run into each other and the cumulative effect can wear down even

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the most resilient group. Bad food, no sleep, too much liquor, not enough sunshine, too many pills and other drugs, and burning of the candle at both ends: where does it all lead? Sometimes it’s something unrelated to the gig itself that can make things turn ugly —when it’s just being there that sucks. As we pulled into our seventh night in a row of German shows at a small club on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg’s “notorious red-light district,” it looked like it was all leading to a neon-lit hell. We unloaded our instruments through a light snowfall, while girls on the street came by in ones or twos to see if we’d be needing a date for that evening. While carrying in guitars and amplifiers, drums and cymbals, the working girls of Hamburg would tease and sweet talk or get dirty or profane. There were girls in short fur jackets and mini-skirts or hot pants and leg warmers. Some really made you sad to see them that way. Some so young and so beautiful--how did this happen to you, fraulein? Where did things go so wrong? I sat on the back bumper of the van, watching the stuff while the other guys made trips down the cellar stairs with the

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equipment (we’d taken a vow to be better about holding up our end of the bargain moving the equipment so that Mitch—it was Mitch now for all of us—would notice our recovering sense of responsibility), having a gasper and minding my own business. A tall, thin, blonde woman in a full-length fur coat walked by me and glanced at my face for a moment. I continued to admire her as she sauntered on occasionally stopping to glance into a storefront window. She had an aristocratic profile and a very well-starched bearing. Besides being really gorgeous, she possessed that kind of severe Prussian mien that some might find particularly alluring. “Sie sehr schone ist, ja mein bruder?” There, standing next to me, holding an unlit cigarette and smelling like a patchouli censor, was a thin man with spiky blond hair, a pockmarked complexion, and wearing a gray leather coat. He had unsettling blue eyes that were so clear it seemed that you could see all the way back to his brain. “Mochtest du…” “I’m a lot better at English than Deutsch, mein bruder.” “Ah…Amerikanischer or Englander?”
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“Well…um, just over from the States.” “You a band player, no?” “Yeah.” The long, tall, fur-bearing blonde had started to meander back toward us now. “It’s a lonely thing here for you avay von homes? You play rock, huh? You longhair guys alvays play the rock, huh?” With this, he grabbed at a piece of my hair. And as I stood up, I drew back away from him. Just then Terry came up the stairs from the club and looked from him to me as if to say “Everything OK, bub?” I handed Terry his last guitar case and gave him a look to let him know I was cool. He looked back at us a couple times as he descended the stairs back into the club. “Hey, band guy, you got a cigarette light?” “I thought that was your girl’s line.” “Ha! Funny, you rock guys are alvays the funny.” He held out his cigarette, but I kept

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mine in my mouth and didn’t move to offer him my lighter. He laughed again, shrugged, and put the unlit cigarette between his lips. His watery eyes seemed angry and smothering now. “Guten abend, gutaussehend,” Standing a few feet from me, swaying her purse on its chain and drenched in chinchilla was the flaxen-haired siren. “Fraulein, sprechen sie zu mich?” “So you do know some German? This is my friend, Frieda. He is a rock guy zum America, Frieda. What is it your name rock guy?” “It’s nice to meet you Frieda.” She was the kind of woman who you could have turned a page to in Vogue or have seen on a car commercial, or seen in a corporate office suite. Why here in Hamburg on the Reeperbahn this way? She was selfassured and bulletproof, but something in the way she would avert her eyes down or away was disquieting. Or maybe that was her act? Her eyes were the beautiful, deep blue of Dutch porcelain, and even if she might turn out to be the most hideous harridan in the world, I couldn’t help feeling
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sorry for her, lost here in the drifting snow with the foghorns from ships in the harbor sounding in the distance. Adrift here with this cheap, funny papers thug, the only float within her reach. You can never tell though— maybe she had hired him? Maybe they were just casing the truck to see what valuables were still to be had. Maybe she would stick a knife in my ribs and slip my wallet into her furs as I fell to the ground? Maybe she was kidnapped and being held in prostitution slavery with the threat of death over her head? Who knew? “Look, I’m busy here tonight. Why don’t you run along Wolfgang and let me get back to work?” I said to the gnomish psycho. “Was? You know she is a beautiful woman here, you come with us and we go get some drinks. This bar here is shit—oh sorry—no offense, it’s good for music, but we go to a klassy place, no?” “No.” “Oh…OK hard rock guy. You go with Frieda then, you go get some drinks.” “Look pal, you go with Frieda and take a hike; I got work to do.”

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“Hey…hard rock guy! You want me to take care of business mit her and then you watch, right?” I wanted to clock him or slam the back door of the van into his face, but it seemed like a kind of a delicate situation. You don’t know what these characters are packing, or if you’ll get deported if you put someone in the hospital, or if the tour will be over when you end up in the hospital yourself. Or worse. “Go screw yourself, Adolf” “Oh, ah see Frieda he do not like the girls. You a gay rock guy! I know where we can go to get the little boys for you gay rock guy.” Enough was enough. I was dead tired and I was already pissed off even before this douche bag slimed up out of the street. I pushed his cigarette and his face out of my way and grabbed a tire jack out of the back of the van. Thank God, just then Terry, Steve, Kurt, and Mitch were darting up the stairs from the club. He was reaching inside his coat at his waistline when he saw them on the stairs. The handle of a Walther pistol was visible just over his belt. He swore a couple of times in German and backed down

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the street a little ways grabbing and yanking Freida’s arm as he went. “OK, gay rock guys. You go fuck on each other,” he said and spit out the tobacco from his smashed cigarette into the street. I’ll be back and we see each other later.” “Frieda looked down at the street and pulled at a long strand of blonde hair that had blown across her face. Siegfried swore at us again in German and roughly hooked his arm in Frieda’s and strutted off down the street. “What in the hell was that!” The guys were laughing and whooping and alternately staring at me and at der Deutscher duo. “I thought that was a weird scene!” said Terry. “I went to round up the other dudes to save your ass!” “Jeez, you sure took long enough! Did you see—that dude had a pistol!” “No shit!” said Kurt. “You’re lucky that fucker didn’t buss a cap in yo’ ass!” “Man! We leave you out here alone for five minutes and you’re starting a gang war with the pimps!” Mitch laughed but looked

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kind of nervous. “Wait till after the gig to get your ass shot off, will ya?” Steve slapped me on the back but took a long look down the street after my pen pals. “Man, you never can be too careful, ya know?” “I know.” And I looked after Frieda and wondered. Where does it all lead?

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10 IN A BAR, DARKLY
The stairs going down into the Hamburg bar where we played were crumbling cement. They led from the busy Reeperbahn down to a stout wooden door that had an actual peephole in it. The dank light of the street-level windows showed a subterranean, Teutonic-looking dungeon of heavy stone walls wainscoted with heavy dark wood, tables and stools, a long bar along one side of the room, and a small stage backed by a black velvet drape. For some reason, it was thought that we couldn’t fill the three thousand-seat theatre that we’d originally been booked in. The beefy doorman, Heinz, assured me that they’d already sold out their fifteen-hundred person
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capacity and that the phone had been busy all day with calls from people looking for more tickets. A line had been forming outside, around the block for the last hour. One of our songs was doing well on the radio. Heinz was going to call some of his hefty friends to try to handle the overflow crowd. This is how a show goes: The equipment is slowly but surely set up by the various band members, each to his own set up. Invariably, the drummer is the last to finish, because there are more pieces to assemble for a drum kit than for a guitar player for instance, who will piece together a couple of amps, plug in a few effects pedals, tune up a few guitars, and then amble off to the bar for the first of what are sure to be many drinks for the evening. The drummer finishes with his kit and lights a cigarette. He jumps down from the stage and walks slowly—ever so slowly—to the bar. He orders a beer and blows a blue plume of smoke up into the harsh, white glare of a spotlight above the bar. The other musicians and the soundman (who is usually hired by the venue and who naturally already resents the band for getting what glory will be gotten tonight, all the while pummeling
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and pounding his precious eardrums ((for he makes his living by his hearing)) with their dreadful noise) sit at the bar with what is probably already their second or third drink of the evening (it’s probably not even evening yet—probably only five- or six o’clock). They look testily at the drummer, since it is he who must sound check first— that is, pound monotonously on each drum for minutes at a time while the soundman tries to get a volume and tone balance between all of the drums and cymbals in the kit. They are held hostage by the drummer’s nonchalance as the minutes tick away toward show time, limiting the time that they will have to check their sound and equipment, tune guitars, eat dinner, dress for the show, make out set lists, and do ten or twenty other small but vital tasks (such as get more drinks for the stage and find out if anyone can get them high before the show), so that they arrive on stage comfortable and prepared—not harried, hurried, and out-ofsorts. The drummer starts to read promotional posters that are tacked to the wall in a language that he cannot comprehend. He sips at his beer delicately and squints one smoke-smarted eye as he

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takes a drag from his nearly extinguished butt. Finally, thankfully, the soundman goes to his microphone and rumbles into it from behind his sound-mixing desk at the back of the bar, directly opposite from the stage: “Hey, drummerman! We going to be late for the show if you don’t do you sound check sometime, ja? Kom now, you can get you drinks later. I must abendessen some time here. What the fuck, hey?” The drummer unrolls the cigarette package from his T-shirt sleeve and shuffles up to the bar. He orders another round while lighting his cigarette from a candle in a green glass tumbler on the bar. At this point it’s a matter of principle. He won’t be rushed by God or Satan. Finally (thankfully), the drummer takes his seat behind the drum kit and begins the relentless, monotonous pounding of the drums for the sound check. Eventually, each one of the players takes his turn pounding on his instrument and warbling into his respective vocal microphone. The lights are adjusted and the sound monitors (stage speakers through which each player attempts—usually fruitlessly—to hear what he is playing and singing, and what the others are playing and singing) are screwed around with. If there
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are a couple of minutes remaining (it’s now close to eight-thirty, and the doors were supposed to open to the public at eight) the whole band chimes into a snatch of a song that they’ve had trouble with or one that gets them revved-up and ready to play—a confidence builder. With this all done, they quickly grab their drinks and guitars and light out from the stage back to a usually dismal dressing room. The dressing room in this Hamburg pub was, as is frequently the case, smelly—with rancid beer smell predominating, but with B.O., vomit, cigarette smoke, and urine smells mixed-in for good measure—the walls spray painted with graffiti, the furniture splintered, sprung, and sparse, with a couple of fractured mirrors to make your visage more closely resemble your fractured spirit, just when you needed a break. Or didn’t need one. This night the band goes across the Reeperbahn to a tiny gasthaus that serves us thin beefsteaks and thin fries. We all have a few more beers here. The yellow lantern lights tinge the waitresses’ face with a ghastly hue. She is somewhere in her latefifties/early-sixties. She’s laced into one of those Bavarian bodices that bulge her considerable bosom out at us, but there are

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numerous wrinkled folds at the top of her cleavage. Her cheeks are rosy from exhaustion, her lashes are mascara’d jet black. Sweat tugs at her peroxided hairline, and smears her eye makeup a bit. She makes some vaguely suggestive remarks to us at the end of dinner, hoping to get a tip. I can tell that she’s starting to look somewhat better to the guys than she did when we walked in. She laughs girlishly when we start to stumble out of the restaurant and one of the lads pats her ass. I look from the door as she shoves our tip money down between her breasts. The show is only minutes away now (it’s nine-thirty) and it’s back to the club and through a back door to avoid the mob of people still waiting around the front door of the club to see if they can get in. There’s nothing worse than having to small talk with fans before a show when you don’t want to be rude, but you still have a million things to do before you go on, and the time is winding down. I was looking over my shoulder and into the shadows, afraid that the dick that had threatened me earlier might be lurking somewhere with his pistol or some friends, but we made it inside OK. “Guten abend guys! I’m Dieter da guy
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who owns da club! Hey, I heard you music today and I think it’s really fantastic! They people are trying to get in and we already fill over the club. I hope the police don’t come or we be in big trouble, huh?” Dieter looked to be about forty-five and he had a scraggly beard and one pierced ear. His heavy black plastic eyeglass frames made him look like Buddy Holly—after the plane crash. “Hey guys—did you know that you be playing on the same stage dat da Beatles played on in Hamburg? Ja, when they teared down the Star Club, I went in and took up the floorboards from the stage! Hey guys! You just take any drinks you want from the bars and don’t pay OK? We also got the coke to sniff here for you. You smoke the hashish too OK? I know you band guys, I been in dis business for twenty and five years now—I used to play in a band too when I was you age. I know what band guys like! HA, ha, ha , ha, ha, ha, ha HA!” This guy Dieter was hilarious. He seemed like he’d been taking a little too much of his coke for his own good, but true to his word he was also overly generous with it. He regaled us with stories non-stop about

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his days in the German underground rock scene and the punk era and all about life on the Reeperbahn. We hurried to get ready, all the while snorting lines of his coke and smoking a bottomless pipe bowl of hashish. He kept sending his henchman/sidekick back to the bar for trays of shots of peppermint schnapps and shots of Scotch whisky. It was wrenching when time was up and we finally had to go on stage and actually play—we were having such a gas with Dieter! We tore into the first three songs of our set coming out of the total blackness of the unlit stage into an explosion of white light and a deafening barrage of sound. The audience which had been talking, milling, getting drinks, clapping in unison and chanting for the band to come on, was shocked into total surprise and awe and frozen into the poses that they’d been in when we’d hit our first monster chord and raged into the first song. Eventually, people stopped gaping and looked for the first time to their friends or the people next to them and huge smiles broke out on their faces, at the same time that people began dancing in uncontrolled spasms or singing along or just beaming in place. After the first three songs Steve played Ringmaster Ned from behind

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the drum set: “’ello love! (the crowd roared) Yo! It’s great to be in Hamburg! Ich bin ein Hamburger! (the crowd laughed) We’ve got some tunes that we’d like to play for you all! (the crowd cheered) How about it? (the crowd cheered) Sieg Heil! (the crowd laughed and cat-called) We are The Innocents from die OO ESS AH and we are here to ROCK AND ROLL!!! (The crowd went into a frenzy) Here is where the time started to slow down and distort a little bit. The colored gels on the lights played green and yellow and orange across the stage and across all of us. The guys were dressed for the occasion: Terry had on pink velvet bellbottoms that were slung low at the waist and were kind of uncomfortably tight-looking. He wore a long, white satin scarf with little pink hearts on it at his neck and his sleeveless white jean jacket was open to his bare chest and slashed by the black leather and spikes of his bass guitar strap. Somewhere he had found some turquoise Italian high-heel boots that he was wearing and that he looked about to fall over in. Kurt wore his too-small, black leather jacket and black jeans with some red high-top gym shoes. He had a spiked, red
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leather wrist band on his guitar strumming hand that would grate the guitar strings horribly when he did a windmill strum with his whole arm flailing around and around. His dirty, long blond hair was several days past having to be washed and was starting to get dreadlock-y. Steve was pounding away furiously on the skins in a bright purple turtleneck and he’d rimmed his eyes ‘round with black eyeliner. He was throwing his black hair this-way-and-that with the colored spotlights shining through the gossamer filaments of his fright wig-like mane. You couldn’t see it out front, but he had on white leather trousers and Beatle boots behind his drum kit. The splinters of wood sheared from his drum sticks kept spraying out into the crowd and pelting off the backs of us guys in front like shrapnel, as he played at the edges of his cymbals so that they’d shred his sticks. Each time a stick would be eaten through, he would throw it knife-like into the crowd, viciously—it’s always amazed me that no one ever loses an eye or ends-up with the jagged stick protruding from their forehead. I was subdued and demure, having opted for a white dress shirt and a fringed, orangey/brown suede cowboy jacket; tight, tan stovepipe jeans, and ridiculously high-heeled black cowboy boots. My black Les Paul

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Custom guitar with three pick-ups and a Bigsby tremelo bar was as much of a fashion statement as I needed. We were playing really well considering that, by this time, we’d all had at least six- or seven beers as well as a few shots. The coke and hash were brewing up into a frothy euphoria that was impossible now to heel down. Our surroundings and the moment seemed to be washing over us in waves. We were looking over at each other and smiling smiles. During the day we’d been barely civil to each other but here and now everything was groovy, man. With the crowd with us, and the music feeling really good and comfortable, I began to go on autopilot and started to look around at the crowd. The up-turned faces were laughing and singing and some closed-eyed girls were just swaying along to the sound. Two men were kissing at the front of the stage and looking up at us to see if they were turning the band on. I saw the silhouettes of people at the back standing on chairs and tables to see us and the air was thick with the heavy smoke from tobacco and cannabis. Just then a tray of shots held precariously over a waitresses’ head began making its way through the audience and up to the stage as

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if it were a magical hovercraft of soma floating on a wave to my waiting lips. The guys all took one or two shot glasses and upended them violently. We were laughing too, and the music seemed to pour forth from us like it would have been playing even if we hadn’t have been there. Some of the solos turned into hypnotic jam sessions— something we all detested usually, but it all seemed so natural and beautiful that we were having trouble stopping and going on to the next song. The audience was in the same mood and they booed every time that we’d stop playing a song—because they were so into it that they wanted it to keep going. When we’d start into another song though, they’d explode ecstatically and it was clear that they were all familiar with the tunes. It was then, at this peak of the heady, blissful union between our wills and spirits with those of the audience that I first saw her. She was making her way from the back of the club into the front of the stage in a zigzag fashion across the waves of people. She seemed to be dancing and not really heading in one particular direction or another, but somehow, suddenly, she just ended up at the foot of the stage and looking

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up at me. I had seen her yellow and tawny head rolling through the crowd for the last few minutes and now her clear and winsome face was tilted up at me with a pleased expression, as if to say “Ah, I’m here, at last I’ve found you!” You meet and see a lot of beautiful people when you’re out-and-about touring here and there all over the place, of course. Of course, you try not to be swoon-y, or dewy-eyed with every single, gorgeous woman that you meet. Sometimes though, you can’t help it. “Where have I seen this luscious creature before?” I daydreamed helplessly, while I fumbled with the guitar chords. I know that face. I know her from somewhere and it’s just on the tip of the tongue of my memory but I just can’t reach it. She was in a crocheted, white mini-skirt dress and white go-go boots and she held a small white purse demurely in her hands. Her skin was tan and pink and glowing and her dark eyes were searching through me while I played. “I’ll have to go right backstage and stay there,” I thought as I fought my intense desire to introduce myself to her, right then and there, in the middle of the song, “or else…or else what? Why is there an ‘or else?’” I was just kind of drifting along to the

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music and staring into her beautiful face, mesmerized, when suddenly I realized that we were on our last song and that I’d have to snap back to whatever reality I could grab onto in my drug-addled, booze-limited grasp —We were on stage in front of a couple of thousand people and I was about to slide jelly-like off the stage and into the arms of this adorable girl in the middle of our big, show-ending number! I had to get control of myself! The drums were pounding furiously, the guitars chiming and roaring in lock-step unison, the guy’s voices were angelic and shimmering like heat off a desert sand. When I sprang into the air with my guitar held aloft to carang the last chord, I wasn’t sure that I’d ever stop rising and just continue out into the stratosphere. I came down, of course, on one knee just in front of this dream-vision, and she took my hand, and took the guitar pick out of it and laid it on the stage, and she kissed the palm of my hand and folded back my fingers around her kiss.

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11 ENCORE

There is that ritual convention that: All bands shall cease playing and quit the stage in glory, only to retake the podium in magnificence and triumph. This convention, known colloquially as the “encore,” is a strange tribal artifice; nonetheless, it is one demanded by the audience and the group themselves, as a self-congratulatory rite-ofpassage that must be observed and relished. As I was dragged wet and sweaty, smitten and semi-conscious from the stage by my bemused band mates, I could not let the girl go from my sight. I had a sudden and uncontrollable urge to break away and to run back to her, but I was finally yanked-down off the stage and wrestled into the dressing room. “Did you see what that girl did to me?” I asked no one in particular, breathlessly. “WOOOO!! Did you see how nuts everyone was going, dude?” Stevie was manic and flushed. “Yeah! Man!? WOOOO!!! You know

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that ‘dude’ is just ‘dud’ with an ‘e’ on it?” Kurt was philosophical. Terry located an opener and was popping tops off of beer bottles and handing them around. Mitch had just come down from the stage with the news that the mob was rioting and wanted more. We could hear them chanting and stomping violently outside in the bar. Just then Dieter burst into the dressing room with yet another tray of brimming, spilling shot glasses. He was ecstatic at the band’s performance, at the crowd’s reaction, and at the take from the bar and door. Of course, he was coked to the gills, but that was merely the proverbial “frosting” on the proverbial “cake.” “Guys! Guys! That was sehr wunderbar! I am knocked-out guys! You must go up to do another number before they ruin my bar out there! Please, you guys are the greatest! Here! We have another toot and some smoke and then you go to do the show!” The “guys” were all goofily pleased with themselves and we all did as Dieter commanded. Then, from the corner of my eye, I saw some hangers-on insinuate themselves into the dressing room. Three or

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four girls, and a couple of guys, too. Terry popped open some more beers and handed them to the new arrivals without so much as an introduction. Dieter was now demanding that we go back up on stage, as the stomping and pounding from out in the bar was getting monstrous. As I looked around the room thinking that maybe the girl would suddenly appear there, I noticed the new arrivals unrolling a plastic baggie of white, black, red, and yellow beanies. I was certain they weren’t M&M’s. The other guys reached in greedily and indiscriminately grabbed whatever came to hand and then popped one or two into their gaping maws and swigged out of their beers. I leaped to the top of the stage stairs to peer out into the audience for any sign of my vision. I found myself becoming agitated as I realized that she’d gone from the front of the stage. It only took peeking my head out from behind the black velvet curtain to set off a frenzy in the audience. I felt a slap on the shoulder and Terry was standing beside me. “Should we go and give them whatfor?” He shouted into my ear as he cocked his head toward me.

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“What else?” I yelled. The other guys came storming up the stairs and onto the stage into what seemed like a crescendo tidal wave of hoots, hollers, and manic clapping. We launched into our perfunctory encore songs like a T. rex taking a bite out of a brontosaurus haunch. It sounded somewhat like that too. The crowd went nuts. I kept looking around the sea of bobbing heads for that girl, but the writhing bodies of some possessed stage-divers were being passed around over the heads of the audience, and they obscured my view into the back of the bar. When I wasn’t singing, I was busily scanning the back rows of people in between the glare of the spotlights, but the people standing on chairs and tables, combined with the murky darkness at the back of the club, made any positive sighting hopeless. We ripped into a second tune even before the fade from the first song went silent and the frenzy was on again. This one I wasn’t singing lead on, so I stood on top of a monitor speaker at the front of the stage to see if I could gain a better view. Leaning over the stage lip and grabbing at my ankles, the crazies at the front of the crowd were trying to drag me off the speaker and down into the
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seething maelstrom. I broke free and went back to the relative safety of my microphone stand. I could tell that the other guys were starting finally to succumb to the cumulative effects of their imbibing. What I mean to say is: the dudes were totally whacked! Tempos started to shift precariously and notes dropped here and there like poisoned pigeons. When it came time to call a halt to a strange jam that had gone on way past its bedtime. I simply said our “thank you’s” and “goodnight’s” and tried to reel in the other guys by grabbing their sleeves and tugging them toward the side of the stage, even though we still had yet to do our big hit song for the finale. The others were somewhat surprised that I was hauling them off-stage, but their goofy expressions and staggering gaits, made it clear to me and probably to the audience, that discretion was the nobler part of valor at that point. It didn’t matter— the applause and shouting were wild.

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12 AFTERMATH

The guys were soaking wet with sweat and completely wrung out from their exertions. As I surveyed the wreckage in the dressing room, everyone seemed elated, happy, and stoned. Whereas, before, everyone was too hyped-up to sit down, now everyone was draped wherever they’d collapsed after coming in off the stage. Joints were passed. The hangers-on were back (with their plastic baggie making another round of the room), and Dieter wobbled in with a case of champagne bottles that were soon popping and frothing all over everything and everyone. It was a good thing that not a lot of the bubbly was making it into anyone’s mouth, because, frankly, the guys were all pole-axed. I drew Mitch aside. “That was a really, really great show man! “ He said clapping his arm over my shoulder and up-ending a bottle of champagne into the side of his mouth. After
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a couple of glugs he continued. “Do you see what I mean about really committing to the audience and giving it all you’ve got?” I thought it odd that: a) he was drinking because he’d always avoided alcohol until after we’d gotten back to the hotel and his professional duties were taken care of and that, b) he seemed not the least bit concerned or upset that the band had been ravenously consuming every substance in sight since we’d gotten to the club that afternoon. That said, I accepted his congratulations gratefully and then asked him for a favor. “Mitch, you’ve got to do something for me.” “Sure dude, what you got?” “Did you see that woman that was in front of me while we were playing the set?” “I saw her before you did! She’s mine! HA HA HA! There weren’t more than one or two punters that weren’t eyeing her the whole night, mate—you’ll have to get in line!” “Mitch, I’m serious, Mitch I’ll get mobbed if I go out there right now—I hate to

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ask, but do you think you could go around and see if you can find her somewhere?” “Sure mate, sure. You really are seriously ga-ga aren’t you! HA! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha….” He continued yukking it up until he was well out the door and I could hear his laughter trail off in the distance as he leapt down into the audience (no one was leaving, and they continued to stomp and yell for more). For some reason Terry and Kurt were sitting with a girl in black and white striped tights and a red-sequined mini-dress, between them singing Auld Lang Syne, and Steve was rudely and slobberingly making out with a super-hot girl in the corner. Dieter was sprawled on a chair with his legs akimbo and his head back, snoring. A champagne bottle had made a puddle on the floor under his chair where he’d dropped it when he’d passed out. The plastic bag was on the floor in the middle of the room, empty. I took another look from the edge of the stage out over the wild bar scene. The party was going way, way over the edge now. Practically no one had left, and the bartenders looked ragged. She was nowhere that I could see. I ignored the pleas of the people standing around in front of the stage to come down for a drink, and I was starting
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to get a panicky feeling that she’d gone, and that I’d never see her again. That was it, I couldn’t wait for Mitch any longer, so I jumped down and was immediately grabbed and throttled and hugged by a bunch of wellmeaning, but thoroughly sauced maniacs. I could barely struggle through them, and I hated to ignore and push my way through roughly, but I felt like a man underwater for too long with no air. I scrummed onward and went through a welter of back-slaps and hairtouslings, before I finally surfaced at the front door. Bruno and Heinz, the bouncers, pulled me out of the crowd and held back a few of the grasping patrons that were still on me. “Hey! Did you guys see that woman in the white knit dress that was here tonight?” I shouted at their sweating faces. “Ja, ja the real knock-out, I knew you were looking at her at the stage,” Heinz laughed. He then explained to Bruno in German what I’d said and Bruno laughed too. “Did you see her leave or is she still in the club somewhere?” I yelled Bruno shook his head and Heinz said. “No, no, she never came out this way and

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this is the only exit that she could go out. The safety doors all haf alarms on them.” Just then Mitch spun me around and yelled in my ear. “I went ‘round the club twice and even got some girls to check out the ladies loo, but she’s not in here. Sorry mate.” He handed me the champagne bottle and I drained the last third at a gulp.

13 DAWN OF THE DEAD

The post mortem in our Hamburg hotel lobby the next morning was grim. Not

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because the show had not been a smashing success—it had. It was funereal because all of the participants (not Steve at this point, he was being tracked down by Mitch to some girl’s apartment and was not yet present) were brain damaged and shame-faced. Terry had a purple-ish bump in the middle of his forehead that he couldn’t remember how he gotten. I looked like a raccoon. Kurt was prostrate on a couch, alternately snoring fitfully or moaning. The hotel concierge came in to tell us that Steve had just called the hotel to say that he’d be arriving in ten minutes in a cab, and that someone should wait by the curb with cab fare—and to help him in. Mitch kept one eye closed and popped one aspirin after another. “Well, you boys played one hell of a show last night. I wish I could remember the encores, because I’ll bet they were brilliant. I have a few other ideas and critiques, but right now I need some quiet time. Martin, would you mind driving for the first leg this morning?” I wanted to respond but my tongue was a horned toad lizard that was comatose and moribund. I shook my head a little, but that made it hurt so I stopped.

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“I want a doctor.” Terry intoned mournfully. “Not in the budget lad,” said Mitch. “Anyone feel like breakfast?” No one responded. “Bar?” said Mitch Kurt rolled off the couch and onto the floor. We picked him up and asked the concierge if he wouldn’t, for the love of God, open the bar and make a few Bloody Marys. He looked at us blankly, sniffled once, put his head down and got out his key ring. We took turns putting one piece of luggage at a time into the truck. Kurt and Terry each took turns throwing up in an alley next to the hotel. Steve arrived and we paid for his taxi, but he just held onto the taxi for a few seconds, felt his way hand-over-hand to the truck and then got in. I packed his things in his room and brought his bag down. The drive was going to be the longest yet (929 Km) from Hamburg to Zurich, Switzerland. “How could that be?” you might ask, “They’re nowhere near each other!” Yes, but that is not tour logic. Tour booking logic clearly states that when band A seeks

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to proceed from gig B to gig C, they must follow the longest and most circuitous, torturous, path possible. Never mind that there are ten venues in between that they will eventually go back to play in later on, they must proceed in the most hellish, hither and tither fashion to the next far distant show. This is not always the case—but the exception proves the rule. So I started driving. Thankfully, Mitch was kind enough to give me three or four of some of the little white pills that he had culled from the plastic baggie the night before. They managed to keep me alert enough to keep us on the road, more or less, and out of a fiery car crash. The others slept and moaned, moaned and slept. The odor of alcohol, bad breath, vomit, and two or three other things was intolerable, and so to keep conscious I kept my window fully open, even though it was completely frigid outside. Along the way I tried desperately to fight a depression that was growing in me over the thought that the girl that I’d seen the night before was somehow “The One.” I knew it was foolish and teenage, but I could not shake the feeling that I’d just lost the one person in my life that I would ever really, really fall in love with.

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I told myself it was my hangover or a reaction to withdrawal from the drugs from the night before. I argued with myself over the fatuousness of the very concept of “Love at first sight,” and that there could be one person out of six billion that was meant “just for you.” No matter what I told myself or however rational an argument I could muster, I felt bereft. It could have been hangover, home-sickness, or any of the other worries and fears that beset one while traveling in trying circumstances far from home, but while the other guys slept, I cried for a while.

14 ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD

Mitch was the first to wake up. His face was all puffy, he’d been drooling on his chest, and his pants zipper was down. Not a very pretty picture. “Thanks for driving mate. Ughhhh… where the hell are we?” “Just outside of Hannover. Your zipper’s down.”

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“Whoa! What the hell. I guess that I owe you some apologies?” “For your zipper being down or for not driving?” “Well, you know for me abrogating my responsibilities after lecturing you all for the last couple weeks. That…and for getting so magnificently smashed last night. I really kind of let the side down, and just when I’m about to jump ship in the middle of a tour. I…” “I did kind of wonder why you ‘let yourself go,’ but it’s not like you didn’t deserve it--after all we’ve put you through. Don’t give it another thought.” “It’s… I…I’ve kind of been getting um…concerned about going home this week. I’ll probably be getting some kind of contact from me ex. It’s…it’s not something that I’m looking forward to. I’ve been rather dreading the whole thing. Up to now I’ve been able to avoid it by being gone on tours for the last three months, but the proverbial “shit” has got to hit the proverbial “fan” at some point. I guess that I’ve been avoiding it with myself too.” As he said this he flipped down the sun visor to look in the mirror on the other side of

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it. “Oh man, I look like shit!” “I guess some of the way that I’ve been criticizing you guys is down to me trying to avoid my own situation—sorry for that too. I am serious though about it in some ways. I was never going to make it in music myself—I know that now. Now I’m all messed up with all of my own shit, and I see a group like you blokes who actually have what it takes to take off…you know, I mean really go somewhere, do something. It’s that stark contrast between my situation and yours, I don’t know…it isn’t jealousy… I just…I didn’t want to see you guys blow it by getting high and not caring, you know? Last night, I just started to realize what’s in store for me and what’s in store for you all…if you can keep it together. I saw all the things that I wanted for me and my wife…all the things that my wife wanted for us. All that could actually be in your reach…the things that’ll never happen for me now. As much as I hate her…I still love her. I’ll probably always love her. I was the best husband to her that she’ll ever have. But that doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t love you anymore. “Last night I started thinking how it’s going to be for the rest of my life—failed musician, failed marriage, no future-129

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knowing that I’ll always love her. I’ll always be thinking of what ‘she’s doing now.’ I kinda just lost my bearings and went overboard. Did the ‘drown my sorrows’ thing. I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry for riding you all so hard because of my screwed up life.” He fumbled around for a cigarette and looked out his window. I didn’t really know what to say. He had a couple of years on me and I could see how he must have been feeling about all that stuff. Just then the guys in the back started coughing and rustling around. The back seat in this truck was so straight up and down, it was more like a torture device than a seating place for humans. “Oh my god, my fucking back!” “Jeez can’t you guys move over any!” “Where am I?” A litany of expletives, moans, complaints, and gurgles went up from behind me. Looking in the rearview mirror, I was wondering if I might not redirect the van to a trauma center rather than go to Zurich. Deathly pale, purple-black circles under their eyes, matted, greasy hair, runny noses— really not a very pretty picture. “Cheerio Lads, top o’ the afternoon to

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ya!” “Fuck you Marty” “Where are we? I need a john… seriously!” “We’ll be there in just another ten hours, sit tight.” “Listen dude, you better pull over soon because I’m having major organ failure. Either you pull over or whatever happens, happens.” We needed diesel anyway. The guys came out of the truck stop loaded down with tall cans of beer and little airplane-sized bottles of various liquors. They really looked bad. I mean they looked like hungover, drugged-out, out-of-it, cretins from a shitty rock band. Whoops! I guess we were! The weather started to get nasty as we pulled back onto the autobahn. Mitch had taken over the wheel and we heard reports on German radio that we’d be heading into snowstorms on the A4 traveling through the mountain pass at Bargen on the Swiss border. The moody clouds were already lowhanging and dark. Curtains of snowflakes whipped against the windshield in angry

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sweeps. We only had today for traveling, our next show, a big one, was scheduled for Zurich tomorrow night. Mitch and I were going over the map and discussing our options if the pass at Bargen should close from the storm. Just then a loud snort issued from the back of the van. “Wooo! That’ll clear the sinuses! Wooo baby! Snorrrrt! “Yowza baby! Whoa!” Looking into the back seat, Terry and Kurt had arranged a few lines of white powder on the back of a book placed between them on the seat. They were each holding their head back and trying to breathe through their mouths. “What in the name of all that’s holy… where did you guys get that!” I gasped. “Dieter gave it to us just before he passed out.” Kurt said before lining up another line. “Yeah but…dudes…we could all go to prison if the cops pull us over! What the hell are you guys thinking? What about the tour!”

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“What do you want us to do? We’re trying to get rid of it! Whaddaya want us to throw it out the window and waste it?” Terry said. “Take it easy, princess.” Kurt said. Kurt scarfed up the biggest line handing a rolled up ten mark note over to Terry, and now Terry was going after one. “Look…is that the last of the coke you have on you?” “It’s not just coke—Dieter said he mixed in some heroin.” Terry said just before vacuuming up a fat line. “Holy shit you guys! I thought we agreed…” “Yeah, but we’d already done some by the time he told us about the heroin! You did some! I think that’s why we were puking so bad this morning.” Kurt was the lawyer in the group. “Is there anything else drug-wise that we have to get rid of? They could search us at the border!” “That’s the last of it, except for this hash.” Terry said holding up a chunk of hash
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the size of a can of tuna. “Jesus Christ! Throw it out the window! What if we get pulled over? What are you guys….” Just then I looked over at Steve. He was sitting up ramrod straight with a ridiculous, rigor mortis grin plastered across his face. He had beads of sweat rolling off his forehead and his skin looked like gray cookie dough. “What in the heck is the matter with Steve!?” “He took that little purple pill those people gave us last night. It might have been micro dot. I think he’s tripping on LSD.” Terry averred. Terry was the pharmacologist in the group. “Steven, are you OK?” I said, trying my best to be calm. Steve barely turned his head a centimeter and just said: “Haumpfz…” Terry and Kurt burst out laughing. “Oh my god you guys! This is serious…get rid of that…” Terry and Kurt had already started to eat the hash. I was outraged, but amused. I had to admit that,

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while totally wasted, they were not wasteful. “Dudes! Save some of that for me!” If you can’t beat ‘em….

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15 OH, AND BY THE WAY….

One of the hazards of life on the road is being cooped-up with your band mates in the tiny confines of a van, and being interminably intertwined in meandering conversations that can move in the flick of an eye from the sublime to the really screwed up. Incoherent rants; frank testimonials; drug-induced fantasies; pseudo-political tripe flossing; half-true tales about last night; staggeringly dull, bizarrely out-of-it small talk—all of these and more are continually (excepting times when all conversationalists are passed out) assaulting your already pummeled eardrums and palpitating brain, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. You’re trapped. While I tried fruitlessly to sleep off the night before in the front passenger’s seat, Mitch drove. Behind us, Steve slept with his ear pressed against the cold side window, his jaw slung loosely, breathing heavily. Kurt and Terry slumped and smoked next to him. “Well…were heading farther south soon.” [Kurt]

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“Into the bowels of Europe.” [Terry] “Into the dark underskirts of the continent.” [Kurt] “We going anywhere near Transylvania?” [Terry] “Pardon me boy, is that the Transylvania station?” [Kurt, singing] “HA!” [Terry] “Why do you ask me?” [Kurt] “You used to get National Geographic didn’t you?” [Terry] “You used to get Motor Trend, but you can’t open the hood on a car.” [Kurt] “Plus, you’re intrepid” [Terry] “I guess you’re right. Transylvania is in Romania. We’re only going as far south as Ljubljana in Slovenia.” [Kurt] “Easy for you to say.” [Terry] “Why, do you fancy seeing some of the undead?” “Well, it’s just that after staying up so late for Bela or Boris so many nights, I
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thought maybe we’d be able to do some vampire castle sightseeing in person.” [Terry] “That was pretty funny when I used to sleepover at your house and your mom would let us stay up for The Black Cat or The Mummy! Nightmares! My mom made her cut us off for a while ‘cause you were having nightmares and I was waking up screaming every other night.” [Kurt] “Remember when we used to go to Derry Drugs and get Vampirella?”[Terry] “That’s who we should go look up while we’re here is Vampirella!” [Kurt] “You don’t think that she’s just a comic book person?” [Terry] “Well, she had to be based on something.” [Kurt] “Why can’t I meet a Vampirella?” [Terry] “What should I tell your parents if you do?” [Kurt] “Oh, you know, something like ‘Terry has fallen for some girl. He’s been smitten and bitten and he’s shacking up with her
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somewhere in the Romanian mountains. If you absolutely must reach him, post your letters to: Brooding Castle, Death Mountain, Transylvania, RFD.’” [Terry] “They’re not losing a son, they’re gaining an eternally alive daughter.” [Kurt] “Exactly!” [Terry] “Well, actually, the scientific and academic communities now know that vampires were just a folk legend.” [Kurt] “That’s not what that girl last night told me. She said that she’d been offered eternal life but turned it down. [Terry] “Afraid of what her parents might think?” [Kurt] “She said that she was just getting started at a convent…” “She was going to be a nun?” [Kurt] “Yeah, she’d only been there three months and she started getting a late night visitor in her room.” [Terry] “Who was it?” [Kurt] “Well, at first she thought it was Jesus

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Christ. He kept offering her eternal life, but was always trying to get in bed with her. She would always turn him down. One night the guy that looked like Jesus got angry with her refusals and then she could see what he really was.” [Terry] “What he really was?” [Kurt] “It was just a pig. A big, filthy, stinking pig. When she screamed at him, he ran squealing out of her room! The other nuns heard it, and some of them saw it, but they didn’t believe her and she had to leave the convent, even though they found the muck and straw all over her bed and room.” [Terry] “How is she now?” [Kurt] “She seems kind of shattered. She’s just trying to pick up the pieces. Said she used to be suicidal, then she was just terrified, and now…she says that she’s very thankful. She’s very philosophic.” [Terry] “One meets the strangest people.” [Kurt]

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16 MAKING A BARGEN

We made it into the Bargen Pass just before the authorities closed the A4 into Switzerland. The mountains were absolutely awesome in the storm. Though the light was fading and the snow seemed like a heavy, immoveable gauze over everything, the

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mountains skulked magnificently—black, sharply craggy, immense, eternal. The going was treacherous. Where the road itself was, was a matter of interpretation. Thankfully, we couldn’t see down through the impenetrable foggy murk cloaking the valleys dropping precipitously off the side of the road a feet from us. The hash made everything seem like we were just watching an incredibly scary movie. Steve, awake now, was sweating worse than ever and whimpering pitifully, the rigor mortis grimace still etched across his face. Terry and Kurt just kept staring at him and laughing—which wasn’t helping matters. Mitch and I peered tensely past the globs of wet snow that kept smacking the windshield. The sweep of the windshield wipers got narrower and narrower as the snow stuck viciously to them, and more and more of the windshield became plastered with the icy accumulation. We wanted to stop and clear the glass, but were afraid that we’d get rammed from behind and shoved off the cliff into nothingness. Our noses were inches from the windshield and our portholes had narrowed to the size of saucers when we finally saw the exit sign that would lead us to our hotel. The roads were almost impassable

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now, and we actually ended up having to get out and push the truck into the parking lot of our hotel. All of us except Steve, who, when I asked him if he thought he could help push, just opened a small corner of his mouth and said: “Inghhh” Kurt and Terry nearly burst. Even Mitch had a good laugh at that one, now that the intense tension of driving in the blizzard the last few hours was a thing of the past. The hotel that we were booked into looked like a postcard of a Swiss hotel in a blizzard. This was though, a Swiss hotel in a blizzard. Terry and Kurt each grabbed one of Steve’s arms and helped him, shakily, up the staircase to our rooms, while Mitch and I brought in our bags and checked in. The guys were too wiped out from the last few days, from last night, and from the hilarity and hi-jinx of our long drive, to make it back down for dinner. Mitch only came down to buy a bottle of Sambucca from the hotel clerk who doubled as the bartender and waiter, and then he slunk back up the stairs to his room. I wasn’t particularly hungry (the coke/H mixture had taken care of that urge), but I wasn’t ready for bed yet, and there was

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a roaring fire in a neat stone fireplace at the far-end of the dining room. I wasn’t so zonedout that I didn’t want at least for a short while to sit by the fire and soak up its warmth and some of the Alp-y, local atmosphere. Plus, I was so wound-up from the last couple of hours of driving all tensedup, that I really needed to back down a little from the ledge. I took a table with a clean white, starched tablecloth near the fireplace, and looked over the menu that the waiter/hotel clerk handed me. I was only able to figure out a few of the dishes mentioned on the menu that was entirely in German, and most of them seemed too heavy for the meager appetite that I had. I ended up ordering a local beer brand, and something called “leberknodelsuppe.” I was only guessing as to what it might be. I knew that “suppe” meant “soup” and “knodel” must be noodle. What I wasn’t aware of was that leber is “liver”—a food I detest. In fact I felt like tossing the snowball-sized liver dumpling that was served in the middle of the bowl of clear broth into a potted rubber plant that was only eight feet from where I was seated. The broth was delicious though, and just what the doctor ordered. I ended up picking

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a little bit at the huge liver-ball, and eventually ate the whole thing. I sat at the table eating, all the while mulling over and over the chance meeting, and the chance losing, of the woman that I’d seen in Hamburg the night before. I wasn’t though, as bereft as I’d felt that morning and all day. I’d been rationalizing away at it while driving and while co-piloting the truck. Luckily, the lines we snorted had blunted it, and the storm hitting had absorbed what was left of my attention span, and the vision that I had of her in my mind settled somewhere at the back of my consciousness. It reared up again ferociously now, sitting here alone and staring into the fire. The strangest thing about it was that I really had no recollection of her at all! I knew that she was a woman, that she was wearing a particular kind of dress, even that I was unnaturally attracted to her—but for the life of me, I couldn’t summon to mind a vision of what she looked like! Strange. Very strange. The feeling of loss and even of sorrow that I might never see her again, or ever meet her, was more real and present than any image that I could conjure of her. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I tried to shake it off, and I told myself that I would just have to

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deal somehow with the confusion and pain. After glugging down the rest of the excellent beer that I’d had with dinner, I was ready to order a small nightcap, and retire to my lodgings. Out of the corner of my eye, however, I suddenly noticed that I was no longer alone in the room. Though I never heard her come in or sit down, now there was the most ravishing creature seated in one of the big, overstuffed leather chairs that sat half-facing me and half-facing the fire. She was cradling a tumbler of what appeared to be wine in her slender, long-nailed fingers. I tried not to stare, but I’m afraid that I failed. Her hair was long and black—very black… Inuit black. It fell in two long cascades on either side of her really intensely beautiful face. Her skin was sallow and somewhat waxy looking—not what one would think of as being a lovely skin-tone, but somehow it seemed enchanting and exotic. Her long lashes and dark, dark eyes were staring intently into the fire. Her red, pursed lips matched the color of the wine as she held it up to them to sip. I don’t mean to be gauche, but even seated as she was I could tell that her breasts, very exposed by her black, lowcut sweater, were something of an architectural marvel. While large and full,

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they jutted out in a way that seemed to defy gravity. Her long and shapely legs were crossed on an old ottoman in front of her. I wrested my gaze away from her and was hoping that she hadn’t noticed me staring. Trying to snap out of it, I left money for my bill and was just standing up to leave when she leveled her gaze at me and said “Won’t you come and join me by the fire, Martin?” I’m afraid that I started a little at the mention of my name. “Please—come and sit down.” I was just about to look around behind me when I regained my sea legs and tried to muster what little suavity I could in the situation. “I…how did you know my name?” Well…there is a register, and there are only one or two other guests at the hotel tonight. There is a storm going on…” “Oh yes…a storm…there is a storm… outside.” I said with debonair off-handedness and a certain mastery of the obvious. “You did notice it then?”

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“Yes. I did notice. The storm? Yes, outside.” “And I was right—your name is Martin?” “Yes, Martin…that…that is my name, yes?” For some reason I was stammering like a chattering, agog simpleton. I was desperately trying to think of what to do or say to regain some composure, but I’m afraid all I did was lock my eyes on to her delicious cleavage. “Martin.” “Ummm…yes?” “Here, come and sit down by me and we’ll have a sclaftrinken together.” I had half-started toward her when I noticed that I’d inadvertently tucked my tablecloth into my pants and was about to bring it and the contents of the table over to the fireplace with me. With consummate grace I extricated myself from the nearfiasco with a brisk wrist-snap of the tablecloth from the top of my trousers. I briefly ran my hand through my hair to signal that I was unfazed by my knavish doltery.

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Her accent was strange—not German or Swiss—it sounded distinctly Hungarian or of some other Eastern European language. She called in German to the hotel clerk in the other room and he soon came over to us with a dark green wine bottle that was halffull, and a glass for me. “Please,” she said pouring some of the contents of the bottle into my glass. “Have a little drink with me of my wine.” I sat down in the leather chair next to her, feeling my way into it with my hands, because my eyes had now shifted from her breasts to become locked in an unbreakable gaze with her eyes. They seemed bottomless, boundless. What’s more, it should have struck me as unsettling, I’m sure it would have with anyone else, but there seemed to be no delineation between her iris and pupil. They were the most entrancing, blackest eyes I’ve ever seen. Yet the impression they left me with was one of mirth and warmth. I definitely felt like curling up next to her and going to sleep, or something. “Please, some wine,” she said holding the glass to my lips.

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“Um, wow, that’s something!” Was all I could muster upon tasting the odd nectar she’d offered me. I wanted to be urbane and worldly, but I was coming off more monosyllabic and trollish. “That’s wine?” The vintage seemed more like a brandy, but dully sweet and a little cloying. It was thicker than any wine that I’d had before (I’ve had little experience with good wines), and there was a…I don’t know how to say it accept to say a “dusty” aftertaste to it—sort of musty, like the smell of an attic or basement—vaguely unpleasant and unsettling, it undulated on the tongue. As I say I’ve not had much experience with vino— other than the kind that comes in a box by the gallon. “This is the vintage that comes from my town in Germany. Do you like it?” Had I been James Bond or Philip Marlowe I’d have said something like “It… and you” The only thing that came out though was, “mahha” which, I don’t think, means anything. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I couldn’t speak. I felt like my nervous system had gone on ahead without me. Finally, I managed: “Do you like snow?” a shrewd conversational gambit.

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“You must be in a music group, yes? I think I heard one of your friends say that you were going to play in Zurich tomorrow. May I ask which venue?” “I think it’s called the Rotefabrik” “Yes. I know it well. Would you mind if I came to see you there? I must leave here very early in the morning but I’ll be in Zurich tomorrow on business, we have a wine concern in that city. Wouldn’t you like it if I could see you there tomorrow night?” I felt like the wine was untying my tongue and vocal chords and slowly restoring my ability to assemble sentences. It was warm in the belly and the warmth rose slowly through my core and vitals to my throat. “It would be wonderful to see you there…I…I don’t know your name?” “My name? Meine name ist Ursula.” “Ursula…” I repeated it like a moron. “That’s a beautiful name…” I stopped myself just before I blurted out “…for a beautiful woman.” She smiled at me in a way that was Mona Lisa-ish, that is, only the corners of her mouth moved. It made me feel weak…and

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yet full of lust. She leaned forward exposing the swell of her breasts and poured out another full glass of wine for me. We talked for the next…hour? two hours? It might have been more, but I have absolutely no recollection of what it was that we were saying. I only know that when she said that it was late and time for her to go to bed the fire was in embers and the hotel clerk was asleep behind the desk in a rocking chair, with a dark green, wool blanket over him. I followed behind her up the stairs, and I tripped…oh, at least twice, being unable to keep my eyes on the stairway. We stopped at her room that was just down the hall from mine. She handed me her key. I thought for a moment that it was my key, and I wondered “Why does she have my key?” It was her key though, and she was waiting for me to open her door for her, which I did, finally. She stepped just inside the door and flicked the light on. She said, “Why don’t you come in for some more wine with me?” My head, which was spinning with that wine, and with the intoxication of this beautiful woman, refused to allow me to go through the door, or to walk away. Something in the back of my mind, like an
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indistinct voice calling from another room, restrained me. I stood stupidly holding myself up by the doorframe. She lightly brushed my hair out of my eyes with soft fingertips, and caressed my cheek with the back of her hand. Kissing her was like falling into a deep, dark pit—falling endlessly and spinning, spinning and never wanting it to stop. But something did stop me. Something was tugging at the back of my mind and pushing me to stop. I drew back away from her and her arms fell from around me like a shroud from around my shoulders. I was filled with an insane desire for her and yet it was as if a the door was closing between us —it was the girl from the other night that rose up in front of my eyes, fully flesh and blood, and all her features and face and body was right there before me. I felt the brush of her breath on my cheek and its fragrance was lilac and lilies. I was torn but immobile. I felt as if I had no will of my own and that a puff of air could have sent me in one direction or the other. Ursula looked into my eyes deeply again, but this time their suction was lessening. I remained standing, although I felt drained and chilled. “You won’t come in then? You are a
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lovely man. You disappoint me, but you are a lovely man, and I shall keep my date with you of tomorrow night. We’ll be together again very soon. We will be together. Until then mon cher.” She said whispering, and standing on her toes she kissed me lightly again on the lips and then closed the door between us.

17 ZURICH, AND BEYOND
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It was a surly and befuddled bunch of band dudes that descended to the van the next morning. We loaded up, not saying two words to each other. Mitch was severely hung over. Steve wore dark sunglasses. Kurt demanded of no one in particular that he sit in the front passenger’s seat—or else. Terry slumped into his van seat and promptly went back to sleep. We covered the remaining distance to Zurich in about two hours, the storm over and the roads being fairly clear now. The van was quiet on the way. Gone now was the jubilation and ebullience that had been our constant companion during the first few weeks of the tour. Looking around at the guy’s faces, it seemed like each of us, me included, had aged about ten years in those three weeks. We seemed to have aged, but there was no increase in our awareness of ourselves, or any recognition of the disgusting way that we’d been carrying on. We’d gone in a few short days from being a self-sufficient group that had succeeded for two years in fending for itself under very difficult circumstances, to being a bunch of wastoid, strung-out looking, hedonists— every man for himself and to each his own.
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Before, the band had been everything to us, and the goals that we’d set and the promises that we’d made to each other to attain those goals seemed to be slipping between each of our fingers as we got deeper and deeper into the tour. And the really sad thing was, not one of us seemed to care. I sat staring out the window at the beautiful snow-covered Swiss mountains and told myself that I wasn’t anyone’s caretaker: The other guys would have to stand or fall themselves—I couldn’t force anyone to snap out of anything. I was having my own problems. I’d never been one to delve into drugs and drinking the way some people do. Yet here I was, going right along with everyone, falling into all of the traps that we always said we’d never fall into. Prey to thinking that I was just trying to be “one of the guys.” The problem was that I was getting just as messed up as anyone else—and liking it. I argued with myself that we’d made it this far by hard work and by keeping our noses clean, and that this finally was our reward: a little European vacation with all our fingers in all of the fleshpots and vices that the continent had to offer. These failings would never follow us home. We’d leave them at the airport.

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I knew that I was jiving myself, though. That’s the worst part of it. While I was telling myself all this, I was standing off to the side saying “What a load of crap you’re able to sell yourself! Keep talking, and maybe you, or someone else will buy it eventually.” I knew that, for the group to survive, for the group to flourish, we’d have not only to play well and cultivate a European audience for our music—we’d have to absolutely kill here—in order that we double our sales and show our record company that we were a viable, reliable music-selling machine that could pull it off on a world-wide scale. Without accomplishing that, all the rest of this was rubbish. I knew it. I knew it—and I consciously pushed it to the back of my mind. The real trouble now was not just the shabby state that the band had worn itself into, not just our sudden disastrous turn into a sodden state of drugtaking and binge-drinking that we’d made of ourselves; the thing that was distracting and hassling my mind, that was dividing my concentration and robbing me of my ability to face facts, was that I was now beset with a state of being that was completely new to me. Aside from being completely consumed and blinded in the muddle of the drugs and alcohol that enshrouded me, I’d finally found

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a feeling within me that had never really dawned in me before: I felt that I was in love. That feeling was more complex and confounding, though—I felt like I was in love…with two different women! One I didn’t know if I’d ever see again—I didn’t know her name, or where she lived. I didn’t know anything about her. And yet I was bewitched by her. And I could barely remember her! The other I’d only met the night before, and yet, in much the very same way, I had totally fallen in love with her as well! Her memory also seemed to dissolve before my mind’s eye as soon as I could conjure it. What the hell was going on here? You stumble around on the planet for twenty-two years, having a crush here and there, becoming infatuated here and there, but never really, really falling in Love, and now within forty-eight hours, you think that you’ve met the only woman in the world for you—you’ve met her twice! That’s totally not me, either. I’m not one of those people who reject outright, “love at first sight.” I definitely am, though, one of those people who reject the notion of falling in love at first sight with two different women in consecutive days! What was happening to me? “Homesickness!” That was Mitch’s
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opinion. I felt like I had to talk about this stuff with someone and while Mitch and I unloaded the equipment into the loading dock at the Rotefabrik, I asked him what his diagnosis was on all of these questions plaguing me. “Homesickness lad. It gets to the best of them. I’ve seen it, firsthand. Look at me: Here, I’m going home tomorrow for my first time off in months on the road, and I’ve got just the reverse: I’ve got afraid-to-go-home sickness. Afraid that the divorce papers will be in my mailbox, afraid of sitting alone in an apartment that I’ve never spent more than a day in before, afraid of seeing her picture again. In short, I’m afraid of everything. I’m drinking a fifth a night and quakin’ in my boots! Now look at you lot. You say you were perfectly fine on your home turf, touring amongst all the same temptations etc. that you’re facing here, but now you’re all falling apart, right? It’s obvious to me that once you guys get over your homesickness, you’ll be back in the pink again, but quick. I’ve seen it before mate. Give it another few days. You’ve got your first big time off since you started this tour coming up after this show. Three whole days and nights! Think of it. A little rest and some vegetables, have

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yourselves a cry, and you’ll be right as rain. I’m going to call you guys and check in every so often—just to make sure you’re on the straight–and-narrow, right? Plus, I’m going to stick around to let the new guy from the agency know how things are shaping up with you. You know, just so he gets an idea of how to handle things with you bastards; just so he doesn’t make the same mistakes I did. You guys are going to be OK. You’ll see. So am I.” The Rotefabrik is a huge airplane hanger of a place situated on the shore of Lake Zurich that, I think, had actually been a factory at one time. Its name (Rotefabrik=Red Factory) is a reference to the stated aim of its more recent residents (I think a group of squatters who took over the vacant building): that the youth that would be attracted there to see rock ‘n’ roll shows, would be indoctrinated in the communist ideology, and go forward, stoned on their asses, to link arms with the workers and take over the filthy capitalist world. Ha! Looking around the place as we set up our equipment for the gig, it looked like the local sputniks weren’t going to be ready to link arms with anyone any time soon, because their arms would be too sore
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and infected from shooting-up all the time! Night of the Living Dead looked like Mardi Gras compared to this place. The second I lit up a cigarette, about ten guys descended on me, itching here and there, and trying to bum a smoke. When I politely declined, they all muttered something under their breath about Americans this, and Americans that. It looked like we were in for a long night. To make matters worse, after I got my stuff set up and I went back to the dressing room, Kurt, Terry, and Steve were already sitting around with the soundman, and he’s cutting out some lines. This time it was brown powder. I totally lost it. I told the sound dude to get lost. He scooped his powder back into a box and gave me a wide berth as he left. I slammed the door behind him and started screaming, “What the fuck are you guys doing? What is going on here? Are you guys turning into a bunch of drugged-out junkies after just a few weeks on the road? What about when we swore that we’d never do H and that we’d never let getting high get in the way of the music? I can’t believe this!” Steve jumped up and got right in my face and started screaming. “You think you’re the man in charge here? You think
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you’re gonna tell us what to do? A few people ask you all the interview questions and suddenly it’s your band and we’re just the unwitting dupes backing you up? Listen buddy, we started this band too and we can keep it going just fine without you playing Mr. Clean and Mr. Star in front of everybody! You want to take it outside and see who’s gonna tell who, what to do?” I was angry, sure. I was also really hurt and really mystified at what had just happened. Things were never like this before. We were into a whole different thing now. I started thinking, “Are we gonna tear apart now, at this pathetic level of nonsuccess, before we even go anywhere? Have we all just been dreaming? Or is this shit the dream and we just have to wake-up somehow?” Kurt stood up in-between Steve and me then. It’s lucky that he did, because it seemed as if anything could have happened if we’d been left to our own devices. “Whoa! Steady guys, steady. We still got a show to play tonight. You guys can duke-it-out tomorrow when we’re on vacation.” Kurt was gruff but nervous.

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“I’m glad someone remembers that we’re supposed to be in a band.” I said bitterly. Now it was Terry’s turn, “Listen punk, you been trying to show off for Mitchell about how pro you are and how pathetic we all are ever since we got here. What’s wrong with you, man? When did you become so perfect? I seem to remember you sniffin’ and smokin’ and slamming booze just like the rest of us, and then you want to tell us what we can and can’t do? You’re fulla shit, man!” Thank God Mitch ambled in just at that point. “Hmmm…this looks like Bandus eruptabus? Who’s gonna put the boot in on whom, here? “You shut-up and stay out of this, limey. You’re the one who started this whole thing!” Terry fumed. “Hey, look guys…you’re right…I’m just a stupid limey, and I’ll be outta your hair by tomorrow. But you guys still have six weeks of touring left to do. Are you going to breakup here? Do you have the money to buy plane tickets back to America at the Zurich airport tomorrow? How are you going to pay back the booking company for all of the

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money they laid out for all this equipment and stuff? Come on! Let’s just all split up for a while and go to neutral corners and then get back together again and play the show tonight? Whaddaya say?” That seemed to do the trick. Terry picked up his leather jacket off the sofa, put his cigarette between his teeth, and split, slamming the door behind him. Steve and Kurt just went back to puttering around with their gear. I lit up a smoke and gave a look to Mitch that said “Thanks, dude.” There was a tray of sandwiches and some beer and soft drinks on a table at the end of the room. I went over and thought about eating something, but the contretemp had effectively killed any appetite I might have had. Mitch told us we had to be back on stage to do the sound check in one hour. Just before he left the dressing room, he said that someone should go and let Terry know about the sound check time. Since neither Steve nor Kurt got out of their chairs in front of the dressing room mirror, I went out to go and look for him. The Rotefabrik was a large, menacing hippodrome that looked like it probably housed zeppelins during the First World War or something. The black rafters that ribbed the ceiling were covered with dirt

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and grime and hanging cobwebs that could be seen with the naked eye, even though the rafters soared fifty feet over your head. A damp coldness pervaded the place, and, not seeing Terry anywhere amongst the two groups of milling goth-types by the soundboard, I struck out through a side door to take a look. There was a thick fog coming in off the lake, and it combined with the heavy gloom of a late March afternoon to fuel my depression. I found Terry sitting on a picnic table by the lakeshore talking with some haggard, junkie-looking types. “Don’t worry man, we’re not shooting up or anything if that’s what you’re thinking.” This comment from Terry sent the locals scurrying away. “What, are you just trying to separate me from anyone that isn’t pre-approved by you?” “Terry! Dude! It’s just me. We used to be good friends, remember?” “Do you remember? Ever since we got here you seem like a different person. You should see what you’re becoming. We’re a rock ‘n’ roll band, Martin. We’re not selling Bibles or teaching classes at the local girl’s

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school. You didn’t start this group yourself. We started it together, you and me. I don’t remember that when we used to talk about it at your dad’s house that we said that we were out to be the primmest band ever. We wanted to be the greatest rock band ever! I mean, the reason that we got into this was because we thought that we’d never be able to party or get girls if we didn’t come up with some cover story! I had to laugh at that one. We used to sit at my dad’s house before he’d get home from work on Saturday and Sunday and plot and plan for hours about what we’d wear and what girls would want to date us and what our album covers would look like. We only had acoustic guitars and a snare drum to play on, but we’d play and sing for hours at a time. Pete wasn’t even in our “group” yet. Dreaming and jamming—never a thought about school or jobs or anything serious. That really was the best time in the group (even though it was just us two and we’d never even played in public yet!). The dreaming about it is always the best part of anything—before the reality sets in. When it’s just the dreams, before the reality can be applied. “Do I remember? Jeez, those were the
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best days of my life! Remember how I could never get a girl to go out with me, and then when Mary Jane Dellar found out we were going to play at the coffeehouse, she suddenly started coming over to the house to hang out?” “Dude, she dumped your ass.” “I wish I’d never started going out with her! As soon as we started opening shows with bigger bands she dumped me for that guy in The Reepers who always wore those red spandex pants.” “That guy was an ass! He used to wear them to school and to church and stuff…jeez…how embarrassing! What an idiot!” We both had a good laugh at that. “Do you remember when Stevie came to try out and he had that, like, fifty- piece drum kit and his mother dropped him off and waited in the car! Man! That should have immediately disqualified him!” “What were we thinking! And he had those huge, black-rimmed glasses! We should make him wear those on stage again —It’d start a new fashion trend.” “How about when we finally worked up

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courage to ask Kurt to quit Death Zone and join The Innocents! Death Zone—remember how cool we thought that name was? What a bunch of dopes!” “Remember how there’d be all those girls crowded-up at the edge of the stage and we’d elbow our way in to see how he was playing leads and see what settings his amp was on?” “How about how he wouldn’t look at us because he thought we’d gone gay and we were only there to check him out!” “And then when we tried to talk to him about joining, he got all red and told us he had a girlfriend!” That provided a few more laughs. Those really were the best times. Those early days of the band. It was only a few years before, but it seemed like ages ago now. “Look, dude. That’s what I’m talking about. We still want things to be the way we wanted them to be back then, right? We’re still in this to get to the top? Are we going to let boozing and shit get in the way now?“ I said.

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“I know. I’m sorry about that. I’ve just gotten so tired out from traveling and playing so much. And we haven’t really had a chance to catch our breath. I feel like a jerk about it but it’s really hard to keep any perspective on it when we’re running around like this and there are so many temptations behind every door! I mean, this is what we wanted too isn’t it—the girls and the drugs and the booze? We used to talk about that too? I want to have some fun while we’re doing this, not just be a businessman trying to make money. I know we’re not playing too good right now. I know we always used to draw the line at H., pun intended. God! I’ve just been so fucked-up and tired the whole time—that’s all it is.” “I know…that’s how I feel too. I know the other guys are beat too. I just don’t want us being so wasted and screwed-up that we get to the point where it breaks up the group…do you?” “Of course not. It’s funny but when I came out here before I could swear you looked just like the devil to me. Now you’re back to just Marty. I’m gonna try. I’ll try harder to… you know…try to be straighter. I’ll play better tonight, you’ll see. If I could just get sober for like two or three hours! I
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can’t see straight! I’ve never been so exhausted. I’ve never been this wasted in my life!” “I know! Mitch was saying that he’s never been so drunk, Steve looks like a shadow of his former self…Kurt has been a complete waste-oid, and just last night, while you guys were asleep, I met the most incredible—well, one of the most incredible women I’ve ever met, and she turned me onto this wild wine, I mean, I was totally loopy. I was walking around and talking, but I was so numbed-out and wasted…I wish I could have got some for you guys to try, it was really weird!” “You seem to be meeting a lot of groovy women lately, huh?” “Yeah man, I wanted to talk to you about it, but we’ve been so at each other’s throats!” “Dude! I know. We’re still pals though, right?” “Right-o Terry, let’s be pals even if we end up hating each other, OK? Oh yeah, I forgot—we’re supposed to do the sound check in like twenty minutes.”

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Here we were, on the shore of Lake Zurich, Switzerland. Just like we’d dreamed it when we were little kids back in Northwood, Illinois, way back when. We still were in the same dream, just like then. We still were friends, just like then. And we walked back to the Rotefabrik with our arms over each other’s shoulders, just like when we were little kids.

18 A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

Kurt was so upset and pissed-off after the argument, and so oppressed by the dank and stifling atmosphere of the dressing room, he took off from the hall in the direction opposite the one I had. Kurt walked out from the eye of the storm into the foggy, brisk air by the lakeshore. He wandered along the lakeshore, looking out over the fog shrouded granite water. Long boats tied to rickety piers, bobbed and scraped to the water’s slap. He breathed the moist, cold air deeply and exhaled consciously to empty himself of all the toxic feelings and problems that seem to have overtaken the group like a stealthy pack of wolves from out of a dark

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forest. Keening birds shattered the gray air. They were wheeling around somewhere in the low clouds overhead, but he could not see them. As Kurt stumbled contentedly toward town along the shore, the occasional piers turned into boat houses and the property became private. He cut up to a street that paralleled the water. When he got to a massive gray stone bridge, he stood on his hands on the cold stone wall to look down into where Lake Zurich empties into the Limmat river. At one point in his ramble, he stopped to sit on a bench that someone had pulled from out of a park and put under a bridge that crossed over the river. Striking a wooden match from a box that came from Das Rathaus in Hamburg, he sparked a smoke up and drew in a huge lungful of smoke. The resulting cloud that he exhaled shot out ten feet from his tilted-back head. “The group is just about over” he thought. “I wonder if community college is that hard to get into?” “Terry is a loser. I wish he’d take a bath. Why does he think that every girl is looking at him? It must have been him that took my

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shower cap. Damn it!” He knit his brows and hunched over on the bench as he cooled from walking through the cold, damp air. He clenched the cigarette in his curled fist. “Steve is catatonic. If he drops any more beats or any more acid or stumbles out of one more drum roll, I swear…I swear….” “Marty is nearing sainthood…in his own mind…in his own twisted, demented, grasping, needy mind. I hope he doesn’t party himself into a body bag. The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out….” “I’m just sick of this whole thing. Thank God for community college! I can get my old job at the record store back and see if Polly is single. Gee…I could really use a tuna fish sandwich right now! Soup!” As Kurt’s reverie progressed from out of the fog in his brain, an ebony silhouette approached from out of the fog swirling on the pavement. He stopped just out of range from where you’d be able to make out his features. He just stopped for a second and then zeroed in on Kurt. “Ist das ein cigaretten?” He started out lamely.

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“Yeah…cigaretten.” Kurt was snapped to from his musing that the original Star Trek series was better than any of the other TV series or the movies. “Do you have ein andere…one more? Kurt settled back into the bench the better regard this specter. “Well…junkie!” he thought straight off. “Definitely junkie and about my age.” The specter reached out a dirty hand from underneath a too long, frayed coat sleeve and brought two stained fingers up to his trembling lips in the international sign for cigarette. The dark wool overcoat was well tailored and was certainly at one time, expensive. The stringy hair hanging in his face was black with a red tinge to it, well past time for a trim. The hand at his mouth spasmed involuntarily. “Sure, try my brand” Kurt said shaking a couple of smokes just a bit out of the pack. “Tourist?” The specter took the two out of the pack and reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a plastic lighter. The lighter was crapped out. He desperately rasped the flint five or six times before he sidearmed it into the churning river. “Lighter? Thanks!” His shaking hands
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eventually got the flame into the proximity of the end of the cigarette long enough for it to catch. “Tourist?” “No, I’m in a band that’s playing down the road from here.” “The Rotefabrik?” “Yeah, that’s the one.” He blew on the end of his cigarette to get the ember to burn better. “Can you get me in there?” “I don’t know, we don’t get guest passes or anything. What’s your name? I can try leaving it at the door.” “Ahhh…forget it. They probably won’t let me back in there. You must be in The Innocents? I’ve seen your posters up around here. There’s a kiosk in a square by here. They play a radio station over a loud speaker there. You’ve been getting a lot of airplay. Heavy rotation…. I also heard it outside a hotel downtown…. It’s good! You must be pretty excited.” “You’re from the U.S., right? You sound like you are.” “Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I used to be in
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music too. I played in bands. Just in the States, we never made it over here. I did play a lot here in cafes and on the street, though. Just flew over one time. I traveled all over. Tried to put a group together here. Never shook out.” “Maybe you could play a few songs at our show before we go on tonight?” “HA!” He loudly snorted. He also snorted back on his nose, which was running. “HA! Not very likely…no I couldn’t do that anymore. No guitar. Sold it a while back. No…I couldn’t do that.” He took a last bitter drag off his cigarette—right down to the filter —and let it go, into the gutter. “Would you have another?” Kurt gave him his pack, taking one out for himself, first. He lit both the cigarettes, and exhaled a bucket of smoke into the air between them, “You’re hooked on stuff, right?” Kurt didn’t mince the words. “Yeah.” The specter blew a smoke ring and poked his cigarette through it. “Can’t you get any help here?” “That’s why I am here. Best methadone in the world here. Plus, you don’t have to worry

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about immigration because, once they get you in the system, they can’t deport. The real shit’s not too bad either. And, it’s pretty rare that you can’t find anything on the street—good supply lines.” “What’ it like…being…hooked, ya know?” “Hooked. I’m not really hooked. I want to be here. Hooked sounds like you can’t get away or something. I’m managing my ecstasy. I get along OK. “Not so well….” “You know, you’re a lucky guy. Your band looks like they’re on their way, right? That’s gotta mean a lot a money, right? You got any money?” “No. Not to mention.” “I don’t have that. I don’t have much. But I’m doing alright. I was getting along good. I was playing around, had a girl friend, we were like on a permanent vacation. Just bumming. We just picked it up from each other. And from a lot of friends we made on the road. I just got into it where…you know…this is my life now. “We used to just smoke or snort. Needles

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make everything more serious. Everything’s different after the needle bites. We used to score on a Friday night and sit in our apartment or room and…it was like you were…Jesus Christ! That was some fun times. I never liked the way it makes you withdraw all into yourself. It came between us that way. The way you just curl up and curl up until you’ve rolled into your belly and then farther, into a secret place in your mind that’s so deep and so faraway. Do you know that place—it’s in your mind, but it’s like it’s in your past or your DNA or something? There’s one burning ember in a room, in a vault, in a deep recess somewhere inside of you, inside your head? You just keep blowing on the ember and blowing on it and never wanting it to go out, you know…because it’s the last of everything, that’s the end of the universe, you know?” “No, not really.” He shook violently for a moment and then took another drag “Have a good show tonight. Thanks for your smoke.” “Whatever happened to your girlfriend?” “Oh…her….” He knit his eyebrows and looked over at the river. “I got real sick in

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Berlin…I was in a hospital…almost died. She got some bad smack…died.” He looked over his shoulder as if someone had called to him from behind. He turned around and went back to where he had come from. Back into the fog. Kurt stood up and began walking back the way he had come. “We’re getting played at the hotel. Heard us on the radio? That must mean something? I wonder if this could be something big? I wonder if it’s time for sound check? I better be getting back. I should show those guys my new song. They’ll know exactly what to do with it. One good thing about playing with the same guys from childhood is that they all know just what to play. It’s gonna sound great! Community college. Jeez…community college? I wish I could ask someone what to do.”

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19 THE ROTEFABRIK

We were all still pals. And when we got back we did a good soundcheck and we had a good talk with everyone about everything in the dressing room afterward. Everyone agreed that what was needed was a little more self-restraint and a little more intestinal fortitude. But our new found sobriety was not to be. We were so pleased that we were all friends again and that we weren’t going to let ourselves get overwhelmed by all of the distractions of life on the road, that we celebrated with a bottle of champagne that Mitch had in his luggage. We topped that off with a bunch of the beers that were sitting in a tub of ice in the dressing room, and then we smoked a bunch of hash that the soundman had. He’d come in looking for a place to smoke, and we cleaned him out of his stash. From there on out, it was a sad repetition of the usual routine of the previous three weeks of shows: Some wellwisher’s/hanger’s-on show up at the door, they weasel their way into the dressing room, they break out whatever drugs they’ve brought to engage the band’s interest. The promoter shows up with a bottle of this or

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that and insists that everyone join him in a drink or two—that turns into five or six or seven. Some groupie-type girls pop out of nowhere and, before you know it, one’s sitting on Kurt’s lap and Terry is making out in the corner with the other one. More beers arrive, courtesy of the management. Some skulky dudes show up trying to glom onto the free food and booze and end up bustingout some kind of powder that’s in a cigarette cellophane. I’m in another corner talking to a woman who says she works for a music magazine. I’m puffing a joint and holding forth on all matters musical, political, and philosophic. I know that I’m not really making any sense, but I’m starting to get so blown away, and the woman seems so impressed, and I’m sneaking so many furtive glances down her blouse, that I really can’t help myself. Mitch is sitting on the couch with his feet up on the coffee table. He and Steve are passing a bottle of Courvoisier back and forth between them and coughing up clouds of hash smoke. So much for our temperance campaign. The opening band was pretty good

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and plenty loud. They sounded like they were performing their act in our dressing room, which, by that point had just turned into a three-ring circus of whomever felt like coming in and partying with the band. There were rich Swiss girls who were dressed like Paris fashion models who were probably just there to slum with a band for a night before going to Monaco in the morning. There was a guy who said he was prince somebody from somewhere, that nobody had ever heard of, who had a couple of really stunning brunettes on his arms, and who kept producing joint after joint from out of a gold cigarette case. Two large-ish women who couldn’t speak any English but who sat armin-arm on the couch, coolly appraising everyone and sharing their appraisals in whispers into each other’s ears. There was a dwarf who was the head of security who said he was there to make sure that we were secure. There was a very tall, very thin guy in a caftan, with tremendous black circles under his eyes, who kept reciting poetry in German that I was assured by some of the Swiss there, was just complete gibberish. There was so much smoke and breaking glass and loud shouting over the intensely loud music, it was so hot and there was such a crush of people in and out, and I was so

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very, very high that I thought I might pass out. I was going to go find a window for some cold, fresh air, when the music faded and the smoke seemed to swirl away and my head stopped spinning and started to merely swim. Right in front of me, sort of like Botticelli’s Venus emerging out of the crowd, was the girl from Hamburg. She was clothed and everything, though. But it was that same girl. She was in a purple velvet dress and she had a gold heart locket hanging down around her neck. I’d never seen such a beautiful woman. And she was looking at me! And she was walking straight toward me! And suddenly the volume came up again, and the smoke filled the room again and the talking and laughing and tumult ensued like before, but I was immune from it and I was floating like a cloud in an endless blue sky. Really, I could have sworn I was. And it was like we were completely alone in the middle of some hellish orgy. I guess I was so wasted that all of these images were crowding into my mind at once and resulting in some kind of déjà vu experience that I’d been waiting for my whole life to happen. Suddenly she was right in front of me and her lips were moving, but I couldn’t hear. I bent my head down toward her mouth and

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she drew closer toward me. I still couldn’t make out what she was saying so I turned my ear to her, and she leaned up against me with her breasts on either side of my upper arm and her fragrant breath warm and sultry in my ear and on my neck! She put her arm around my back and led me out the door like I was a child. I couldn’t feel my feet move but we were definitely sliding out of the dressing room and then out into the cold, night air. She was saying something to me that I know was pleasing and familiar, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was. When I shivered, she put her arms around me and I bent down to kiss her. Then I said, “What’s going on?” “I was just telling you how happy I am to see you again! And then you kissed me!” And I did again. “I don’t mean what’s going on like that, I mean, you know, what’s happening?” “I don’t know what you mean? I saw your show the other night and since I live near here and I found out that you were playing here tonight, I drove down to see you play again. I love your band and I think you are so cute and I’m so attracted to you, and I

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just wanted to talk to you, and then we came out here and now you’re holding me in your arms and kissing me. What do you mean ‘What’s going on’?” It seemed so utterly reasonable and rational the way she said it that I wondered why I had asked her the question in the first place. “Do you know how happy I am? I mean…do you know how happy you’ve made me? And I know I don’t even know you… but…do you know that I’ve been going out of my mind thinking about you, and thinking that I might never see you again?” “Well…now you can stop your worrying because I am here and you are here and we are together.” She kissed me this time. “Yes…but…isn’t it strange…don’t you think it’s kind of…” “Sometimes things are meant to be the way they are.” Her strange logic, the warmth of her body, and the ethereal, enchanting smell of her hair were at war with my reason and with

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any attempts that I was making to object or to question the windfall miracle that was enfolded in my arms and was lightly kissing my lips, brushing hers against mine. I wanted to try to come back to reality but this was more powerful and sexy than any reality that I had ever known. Forget reality! We were really getting to know each other better when the door behind us burst open and Terry, beer in hand leaned out. “Five minutes to show time Mr. Martin!” He slurred out smartly. He was just about to go back inside when he turned about again and gave me a sly smile and a “thumbs-up.” Then he laughed quietly and disappeared inside. I suddenly snapped back to Zurich, and the band, and having the show to do. Dammit! “Promise me something?” the vision said to me. “Of course…anything!” “Promise me that you’ll come back with me to Freiburg tonight?” “Oh, jeez!”

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“What’s the matter?” “This is the last show for a while and we have drive to a hotel that we’re supposed to stay at for the next few days. Can’t you just come there with us?” “Ummm…no, I have to be somewhere tomorrow very early. Can’t you let the others go there and you can come with me?” “Believe me, I have to go there just to find out where it is and make sure that we get settled and then I’ll go wherever you want me to—I’ve got the next three days free, I swear I’ll be your slave for those three days, but I just have to get some stuff done for our group first. Look, you wait here for me after the show and I’ll be back here as soon as we’re done playing.” “You promised me anything!” “I know…I know…I swear I’ll keep it too, but…tomorrow.” I won’t be here when you’re done. I have a long drive back. I’ll see your show, but I’ll have to start back by eleven. Promise me then, that you’ll go to this address in Freiburg tomorrow night by…it’ll be dark by seven…the town is so beautiful lit up at

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night! Promise me that you’ll be there by seven?” She wrote the address in red lipstick on a small note card. “Please Martin…promise me…and keep it.” “I promise…ummm.” “Cassandra.” “Cassandra….” With the sound of her name I felt like I was falling back into the swoon that had muddled me before. Then she held me tightly and kissed me again, this time deeply and breathlessly, I was completely lost. She drew back from me and turned me toward the building. She guided me along back into the building with her arm around me and her hand holding mine. I turned to her and we kissed again and I got lost again until she said “The show.” “The show?” “The show.”

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20 THE TEMPEST

Things didn’t start out too well. As we were plugging in our instruments and turning on our amps, Kurt came over and rasped “Look at Terry and Steve!” I turned around and tried to make them out through the purplish darkness. The only light was what looked like slight moonlight falling on our heads. Steve was on his drum seat, but only just barely. A

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cigarette in his mouth had burned down to the nub, but he seemed not to notice. His eyes were staring straight ahead, unblinking. Terry was tuning-up, but his shoulders were stooped, his chest concave. He looked like an eighty-year-old man. His long hair was greasy and lank, hanging down over his face. He didn’t make any attempt to push it out of his eyes. It looked like he’d forgotten to light the cigarette hanging limply from his lips. “It’s this brown heroin they get here, I just did a little and now I feel like I need to curl up and go to sleep. Those guys did a lot more and I think it’s starting to catch up with them.” Kurt said, and then coughed a couple of times. “Are they gonna be OK? Will they make it through the show?” “I don’t know if I’ll make it through the show! Keep an eye on them. Keep an eye on me! If I fall off the stage don’t leave me there.” I wish I could have been more concerned about those guys, but I was worried about me. I had the staggers and I wasn’t too sure if I’d make it out of the end of this tunnel. When the curtain went up, I

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thought I was hallucinating. The crowd was almost completely composed, or decomposed, of those pale, waxy-looking junkies that had been hanging around our sound check earlier. Only now they’d multiplied by three thousand. The girls in the front looked distinctly unhealthy. “Is there no sunlight in Switzerland?” I wondered. After the stage lights went up, it was still just about as murky as before. The dull yellow and purple lights they were using only increased the pallor of the upturned, nodding heads that sagged back and forth. Their empty eyes sockets were black pools that they held trance-like on our every move. Not that we were moving much. Songs that were supposed to be kicked out like runaway freight trains, were now moody and sluggish. Steve looked like a cadaver in a spotlight up on the drum riser. He was keeping it together, but just barely. Terry stood off in the dark by his amp just out of the spotlight. After Kurt lit his cigarette for him, it would suddenly glow red in the corner of his mouth whenever he took a drag on it. Every so often, his mirrored sunglasses would catch a glint off the spotlights and it made it look like his head was on fire. The music that was so triumphant and

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energized a couple nights ago, now spun dirge-like and muddy from the speakers. It wound around in the huge, cavernous hall like a serpent, and moaned and shrieked in the black recesses of the ceiling. I was so wasted that I felt like we were in the belly of a great beast, calling and wailing to get out, but no one could hear us. My vision began to blur and I had to keep taking deep breaths and making sure I exhaled to keep from passing out or from losing my balance and pitching out into the front rows. Sometimes it seemed as if the heads tilted up at us were just rotting in front of our eyes, their teeth dropping one-by–one out of the black gaping maws. I wished the lighting guy would turn up some lights so that I could see them more clearly and see that they were real people and not the hideous specters that my mind, the drugs, and the darkness were turning them into. “I don’t think that I can go too much longer.” I told Kurt in between songs at one point. He gave me a slug off his beer and tried to buck me up.” “I know what you mean, I’m hallucinating pretty bad—you should see what I’m seeing! Try to keep it together, only three more songs to go and then we’ll bolt,
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OK?” “OK, but make sure we all leave the stage together. I’m feeling really weird. Make sure we stick together, OK?” “You bet your life.” Suddenly the damp, musty, animal urine and cigarette smoke and stale beer smell of the place began to recede away from me. I could’ve sworn then that a smell of death filled my nostrils and I thought that I was going to puke. The last song was a marathon that had no finish line. Those rotting cadaver faces and that revolting stench of rotting flesh kaleidoscoped and whirled me around in endless circles. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t get my balance. I thought I was going to pass out and then I thought I was going to die. We made it. Just barely. Steve finally fell off his stool on the last cymbal hit of the last song. Terry had to feel his way along the tops of the amplifiers and the drum riser in the dark after the curtain closed. Why didn’t they turn on some goddam lights! Mitch was just off stage and he handed us some towels as we came by him off the stage one-by-one. “I didn’t think that one was ever going
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to end. Let’s get the hell out of here!” “Did you see it too?” I asked him cautiously. “Did I see what? I’d rather not talk about it. Let’s just get out of here and compare notes later.” There was enough applause and shouting that the stage manager came up and said we should go do an encore. Mitch angled him away from us and said that one of us was sick and that we couldn’t oblige. We somehow all made it back to our dressing room in a huddled-mass together. There were no lights on in the hall. What was going on? We locked the door to the dressing room behind us, we didn’t answer the repeated booming knocks and kicks to it that sounded like echoing cannon shots. Steve and Terry were nearly unconscious and badly shaken. The quickly made plan was for Mitch and Kurt to go out and hustle the equipment into the truck as fast as possible, leaving the dressing room by way of the window and fire escape. I was supposed to watch Terry and Steve and get everything in the dressing room ready to load out as soon as the truck backed up to the door to the outside. I locked the window to the dressing room again when

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Mitch and Kurt left. I threw stuff wildly into our gig bags and suitcases not paying any attention to what belonged to whom. It was so dark in there, I couldn’t tell what was what anyway. Terry and Steve sat next to each other on the couch staring at the floor. When I had everything together and by the doors, I sat down and looked at myself in the mirrors. I looked terrified and ashen. Was that really me? I was sweating and trembly. I was thinking how good it would be just to get out of there and get back on the road. I dropped my head into my hands, and for the first time I felt a real despair taking over my soul. I was on the verge of tears when, I smelled a familiar smell that oddly turned my desperate feeling, perversely, into one of arousal. How do you get from there to there? There was someone behind me. The fragrance was lavender and lilies. “How are you darling?” Ursula’s voice came soothing and cooling to my ears. You looked like you weren’t very comfortable on the stage out there.” I looked into the mirror hoping against hope that I’d see that voluptuous vision of gorgeousness in the glass, but it was so dark that there was no one there. I jerked around to face her, and she caressed my cheek with
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her hand and then brushed back my hair from my eyes. “Here…” she said, turning me back away from her with her hands on my shoulders, “Just sit back and relax and I’ll massage your shoulders. You’ve been working so hard and you’re all so tired, lay back and let me take care of you.” Her touch was so soothing and strong. I did as she said and slid down into the chair and into her caresses. “You’re so worn out and unhappy, just try to forget your worries. I’ll make you feel better.” She was right. Her finger tips expertly delved into the tense, wound-up muscles in my neck and shoulders, I wanted to slip into sleep right then and there, but the sexual longing she induced made sleep an impossibility. She gently moved up the nape of my neck to the hairline. She lifted my long damp hair from my neck. “You’re all hot and wet, just try to relax.” She said as she bent down over me and, pursing her lips, gently blew cool air over my neck and hair. I never felt so much like melting before. And still, it was intensely
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erotic. “Uhhh…Ursula…the guys…” “They’re asleep. It’s just you and me now. Please, just relax.” And I did. And it was so wonderful a feeling that I too began to drift away to sleep. She began to softly kiss my throat from behind. The pounding and stomping outside the door brought me back around. “It’s Kurt—let us in!” Involuntarily, I sprang out of the chair and charged to the door. The hallway was full of people. Mitch and Kurt squeezed through the half-opened door and then pushed the door back hard on the milling and abusive crowd that was trying to force their way in. Mitch said “You don’t know what it’s like out there. I can’t tell if they liked you and they just want to hang out with you or if they thought you were shit or if they’re mad that you didn’t come out for an encore or what, but there’s a hundred people out in the hall and a lot more than that outside the building. They’re all pissed out of their brains out-of-it and angry. I don’t know what’s going on! I don’t know how we’re going to get through them all to get the equipment loaded—things
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could get ugly.” Mitch said suddenly sobered-up and scared. “Maybe we outta just stay here and see if they won’t go away?” Kurt said. Then Ursula chipped in. “Wait, I have a lot of my friends waiting for me. These are real tough guys. They will stand in the way of those freaks and you can get your truck loaded. Just give me a few minutes to let them know what’s going on and it’ll be no problem.” Ursula said with such authority and command that the matter seemed to be settled. Kurt and Mitch looked at each other and then back again at the tall gorgeous woman who was issuing orders to them and then they both simply muttered, “Okay.” We let Ursula out of the door and everyone parted like melting butter for her. Mitch and Kurt got Steve and Terry up and on their feet and we all stood by the door waiting for our escort. There was a hurried, whispered discussion as to weapons and tactics should things go all to hell. All at once the kicking, stomping, and shouting in the hall ceased and then came a sharp knock on the door with Ursula saying, “Let’s go guys!”

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We opened the door to the horde of barbarians that had been pounding it and yelling at us from out in the hall. Yikes! What a scary mob! They were being held back by a bunch of older, tougher guys who looked like they knew what they were doing. At least the junkie natives were impressed, and they backed-off long enough for us to ram the equipment into the truck and to get the rest of the gear from the dressing room out of there. “Hey, why no encore you guys. Why you don’t go play some more?” “”Why you leaving now, you owe us! Mach Schau!” “You Americans suck! Don’t come back here now!” The girls were as vicious and workedup as the guys. Some tried to spit on us as we walked to the van. The cordon of toughlooking blokes held until we were all inside the van and then they jumped into two cars just in front of us, driving a way through the crowd and out of the gate onto the road. The angry mob of ugly faces seethed and spat out wild jeers and curses in German as we drove slowly past. They pounded on the hood

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and top and windows and kicked at the doors. I’m not sure what they were saying, but I knew it couldn’t have been good. We had to use the wipers to get the spit off the windshield. Ursula, who’d gotten into the van with us was giving Mitch directions from the back seat over his shoulder as we followed the two cars ahead around the end of the lake and then up into the foothills of the mountains just outside of town. “We’ll take you to a road that will get you to your hotel and then I’ll have to leave you and go back to my town with my friends,” Ursula told me. “Wait a second, you just got here. You just got us out of there and now you’re leaving?” I was trying feverishly to figure out a way that I could get a few more moments alone with her. I was suddenly terrified that I’d never see her again. “Well…yes, we could stop on the way there. I know a lovely little tavern on the side of the mountain that looks just like Heidi lives there. We could stop and have a drink.” “God, I could use a drink,” moaned Mitch. “Me too,” said Kurt.
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“Us, three and four,” croaked Steve, speaking for Terry who was passed out against the window. At the next stoplight we let Ursula out to run up and talk to the guys in the two cars ahead. In another ten minutes we were all tucked up in a place that looked like the streussel haus. All white plaster and exposed wooden timbers. The barkeep, an old guy with white hair and a big white mustache, seemed to know Ursula. He brought over a couple of trays of beer and left a bottle of schnapps on the table. Ursula’s companions were a rough looking bunch. They were nice enough, but kind of brooding and quiet. They all seemed to have scars. They warmed up to us as the liquor flowed and we emerged from our state of semi-shock. Even Terry and Steve perked up a little as they got to know our bodyguards. “Thanks you guys,” Kurt said, raising his glass in a toast, “If it wasn’t for you we might not have made it out of there alive.” The German guys all looked at each other and started laughing. “I’m serious, that was a nasty crowd. I don’t wanna ever go through that again.”

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Then the tall, dark guy with an iron filing, four-day stubble, who seemed to be the leader of the German fellas said, “Here is to you, The Innocents. It was a great show. Those people are all rich Swiss. They are all spoiled and expect to be entertained and get the people to jump through hoops. That’s how they get when you don’t do what they say to you.” We all drank to that and then a round of shots and another round of beers were brought to the table. The tall guy, Rolf, introduced himself and the rest of the guys he was with. Terry took care of the band introductions. Suddenly we were all great friends and the voices and the laughter got louder. It was almost as if the macabre carnival earlier that evening had never happened. Ursula hooked her arm through mine and pulled me over by the roaring blaze in the fireplace. “You come with me. I like you by the fire where we can be warm together.” “Ummm…Jawohl mein hottie! That sounds wunderbar to me.” She smiled at me and laughed a little
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and pulled me down onto the loveseat across from the blaze. “You disappointed me last night. I thought about you all day today. I couldn’t wait to see you again tonight.” As she said it, it struck me that I had used words just like that with Cassandra only a few hours before. How could it be that I was completely in love with one woman just a few hours before, and then completely smitten by another woman just a few hours later? I knew that I was too wasted (and too turned-on) to figure any of this out this night. Better just enjoy this now and try to sort everything out in the morning…right? Ursula was just as wonderful and sexy as she had been the night before. I was completely entranced by her. The more we talked and laughed, the more I wondered if this wasn’t the kind of woman that I could spend the rest of life with. She was perfect. She made what was a total preposterous disaster evening into a night that I’d never forget. The guys at the table launched into some German drinking songs, and then some other songs that sounded more like Nazi

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marching songs, and the bartender came over to join in. Ursula got up to go out to the car, and Kurt took that opportunity to come over and give me some shit. “Well, well, well, Mr. Goody-two-shoes has got himself a voman!” “Why don’t you go….” “And not just any woman, man! Woo! She is hot! She is smokin’. Where’d you meet a woman like that--does she have any fraulein friends for me? HA!” “I met her last night at the hotel bar, and if you guys hadn’t been so totally smashed you’d have been there to see if she had any fraulein friends for you!” “Dude, look, these guys are alright! They said this hotel we’re booked at is like a jillion dollars a night. They say all the Swiss hotels are real expensive like that. So they said, if we want, we can go back to this town Gadarene in the Black Forest that they live in and stay there. It’s like out in the middle of nowhere, and they’ve got empty houses and lots of girls and parties, and they said it’ll all be totally free—we can save all that hotel money and blow it on pot later—whaddaya say?”
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Just then the money we’d save didn’t mean anything to me. I was only thinking that for the next three days, I’d be in the town that my beloved Ursula lived in, and of how cool it sounded to be in “the middle of nowhere” in the “Black Forest” with her! Yes! Score! I tried to contain my mirth and ebullience, “Uhhh…yeah…that sounds cool.” “’Uhhh…yeah…that sounds cool.’” Kurt said mincingly mimicking me mockingly. “Why you old…” Just then Ursula came back in with a gust of wind from outside. She was carrying a bottle of wine and she went behind the bar and took down two wine glasses. Kurt took his cue and staggered back to the table where Mein Hut Er Hat Drei Ecken was going on to about its’ tenth verse. Here mein liebchen, here is a wine that will make you a big and strong man for me and take away all your worries. She poured out a glass for herself and one for me and then raising her glass and gazing very seductively into my eyes she said “In the Black Forest we have a toast that lovers make to each other: ‘May we stay bound together in each others arms throughout life, and after death, throughout all of eternity.’”

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I eagerly sucked the contents of the glass and then closed my eyes, as her red lips were upon mine.

21 AT A CROSSROADS IN THE WOODS IN THE DARK OF NIGHT

The two cars ahead of us stopped at the red and white striped gate that hung across the road. Large flakes of snow drifted aimlessly through our headlights as we waited in our truck behind the cars. A younglooking man in a Swiss border control uniform came out from a small, brightly-lit, guardhouse and walked over to the driver’sside window of the leading car. He looked into the car and leaned over slightly to look around inside. After saying a few words and listening to the replies, he drew up the gate and motioned the first car through and then

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signaled for the second car to stop. Without lowering the gate again, he then repeated the same procedure with the second car. At something that he heard from the second car, he stood up from his slightly bent posture and looked back toward our van. After hesitating a short while, he motioned the second car through without looking at them and then, going and lowering the gate, he waved us toward him and motioned for us to stop. “Guten abend. You are citizens of what country please? Mitch, who was driving said, “I’m a British national working with a Belgian visa and these others are all Americans.” “Yes, I see,” he said looking in through the window around at all of us. “Belgian visa…do you mind if I see the work permit please? All the others have their passports, yes?” “Yes,” Mitch said a little irritably, as we all started to go through our pockets for our passports. “Is there some kind of a problem sir?” “No, no problem. I wonder if you would all mind coming inside for a brief moment
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while I inspect your papers, just pull over into that parking area please.” I noticed as we all piled out of the truck and walked up the stairs into the guardhouse that our new friends were pulled off the road just beyond the barrier, with their headlights and red tail lights still glowing in the dense darkness. Coming into the guardhouse we were greeted in German by an older man in the same kind of customs uniform. He had a large, drooping white mustache that covered his upper lip and he was seated behind a beaten-up, wooden desk. He was smoking a pipe and to his right was a cast iron stove that had a brightly burning fire inside. The old man asked in a lowered tone why we were being brought inside. The younger border guard sat on a corner of the desk facing away from us and in a muffled reply none of us could make heads or tales of, he made a brief report. The older man regarded us steadily, puffing at his pipe, while his partner was speaking. When he was finished, the older man stood up and came out from around the desk. He asked in German something of the other guard and then said after clearing his throat and taking his pipe out of his mouth,
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“Well, I do not speak so good English— you understand?” He asked again in German for his partner to translate a phrase back to him. “You go now to Germany, to a Black Forest town. You are know where that ist?” We all assented in some form or other. The younger guard said something that we could not hear into his ear from behind him, “These other mens and woman you meet… you know them?” “Well…not well, we only just met them tonight.” Mitch offered. The younger guard started to translate but the older stopped him by putting up his hand and then said, “You haff been trinking. These people, this village…there iss other hotels and wheres you to stop dieses nacht…this night. We will telephone for room for you, yes?” This time I spoke up “We’ve accepted an invitation to stay with those people who went through just before us,” directing my words to the younger man. “They already have some rooms for us for the night.” The young guard said something again over the shoulder of the old man and the old man shook his head and glanced around at our faces with a look of real concern. “You papers are in order. I can no

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stop. I tell you though this…these peoples… the…” Finally, failing to come up with the English words he wanted he looked back at the younger man. The guard stood up and came toward us, “These people you have met, you will forgive me to say it, but they are no good. This town, it’s a dark place in the forest…a bad place. We haff many troubles from it. You will be away from everywhere there. I…we often times…have heard things that make us ask you to not go there, and we offer that you go to a hotel we will secure for you for the night.” “Well, cheers right, mate!” Mitch said, “That’s really nice but we’ve already taken them up on it and the others are waiting. I have to get this band here off to bed, right? If there’s nothing that you’re stopping us for, we’d like to be on our way.” “This town…this people. I am saying to you please, to let us find ein andere place to schlaf for night,” the old man said, pleading with us. We just stood there looking at them. We were all so wasted and tired and worn out, no one said a word. The old man put his pipe between his teeth and collected the passports from his desk and handed them to

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Mitch. He then proceeded to make a short speech completely in German and then nodded to the younger man and went back and sat behind his desk. The young guard said merely, “You are free to go.” As the others struggled drunkenly back into the van, I approached the young guard who was raising the gate for us in the glare of our headlights. “Excuse me but that old guy in there, what was that that he said to us?” The young guard waved the van through once the gate was raised and then looked at me like he was memorizing my face for a few seconds. “He said that it was beyond his official capacity to stop you, but that he, in a strictly personal capacity, and not as a customs official of the state of Switzerland, was asking God to bless you all.” I jumped into the open door of the van and we drove through the border, into the forest. As I looked behind, the guard simply lowered the gate again, brushed some snow from his gloves, and walked back into the darkness.

22 BLACK FOREST
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The Black Forest. The name doesn’t begin to describe the impenetrable nether region that we now entered. The snow had begun to pick up and our headlights pierced the blackness ahead of us on the little twolane road that we traveled. On either side of the roadway towering monoliths of obsidian fir and pine trees sealed us off from the rest of the world. Peer up as far as you might into the gloom and you couldn’t see to the tops of these massive trees. The pervading sense of claustrophobia and mild terror that being hemmed in by these giant conifers produced in one at once made you feel silly to be so effected, and yet still on edge and unnerved. The constant hairpin turning and unsafe speed at which we now hurtled, trying madly to keep up with the two cars ahead of us did nothing to settle one’s nerves. Up, up we climbed between the bleak grasping boughs of those specters that lined the sides of the road like the black velvet lining of a casket. The increasing altitude, the exhaustion, and our drunkenness made us woozy and crazily upped our apprehension. “These guys are really cute--driving like a bunch of lunatics!” Mitch roared. “Are they trying to lose us or kill us or what?” We
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spun out of turn after turn, narrowly missing flying off the road into the inky darkness of the trees. Every so often we would get a quick glimpse in between the trees at the yawning precipice that hugged the road to our right. The road surface was slick and icy and we frequently skidded off onto the narrow shoulder before Mitch could barely regain control of the careening truck and wrestle us back onto the macadam. Just as suddenly the surfaced road disappeared from under our wheels and we were now flying down a rutted, one-lane, crushed-stone road. The flinging rocks beneath us clawed and gnawed at the underside of the van like the teeth of some vicious monster trying to rip its way into the truck through its underbelly. Mitch was seriously sweating it out with the road conditions and the horrible twists and turns that were required to keep us within sight of the two cars ahead that were almost beyond sight at this point. “This is crazy!” I finally gasped, “Lets just pull off the road and go back! Those maniacs are going to kill us!” No sooner had I spoken those words, which everyone assented to, than we hurtled out of the woods and into a small clearing that revealed a small town below us on the

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hillside. The tiny red glow of the cars ahead slowed now and we caught up again to them. We continued down this gravel road into the deserted main street of the village. The buildings were blank and vacant looking. There were very few lights anywhere. The church and its steeple looked dilapidated and in serious disrepair. From the cobblestoned main street we turned off between some three story buildings and finally came to a stop at one that was just on the edge of town. It was now after four o’clock in the morning and we all just blew a sigh of relief off and looked around the van at each other and laughed. “What a F-in’ day!” Kurt huffed, expressing the feeling that we all had. A thin stab of light showed out onto the dirt road in front of us from the house. We dragged ourselves and our baggage up two floors of the sagging, narrow stairway that finally led us to a hallway and a sort of a living room. Holy shit! Was this our luxurious accommodation? The drab, dank yellowishbrown walls looked like they’d been painted with cigarette smoke. Beer and wine bottles littered any available surface—windowsills, tables, chair arms, the floor. The few ashtrays scattered about were heaped with

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small mountains of butts and beer caps. The possibly wine-colored, possibly dark brown threadbare rug on the floor was matted and foul smelling. The entire place looked like it hadn’t seen sunlight or fresh air for several centuries. “Is this it?” Terry gasped as he came into the room and dropped his backpack on the dirty floor. A cloud of dust flew up from where he’d dropped the backpack, and he snatched it up again. “What happened to the ‘great hotel’ and the ‘house to ourselves’ thing?” “Oh ja! Sure ting! But tomorrow. The hotel is closed up now. We get you all set up in the morning.” I looked around the miserable room now through the dimly lit smoke. The gang that had been with us at the bar were now slung over most of the chairs and couches in the room. A small gas stove in the corner was giving off some, but not much, heat. “Wait a second—where’s Ursula?” Her sudden absence startled me. Although I had thought that tonight might present a second chance for me to become intimately friendly with Ursula. I was still so torn though

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between wanting to be with Cassandra, yet being so totally smitten by the dark enchantress Ursula, that I was almost relieved that she wasn’t among us. At least, I thought, until I can sort this thing out—until I can think this all through. The German guys all looked at each other and laughed slyly. Rolf then said, “Ursula said that she would see you in the morning. She had to go home tonight but she’ll get you tomorrow. For now,” he said holding up a crate of beer in one hand, “we have a party and some drinks, ja?” “Nein! You bastards go ahead…drink yourselves silly… we need to get some sleep or we’re going to drop dead.” Steve said, pissed-off and incredulous. Where do we pass out around here?” “No, no…you must haff some beer mit uns first, then we sleep.” Rolf ordered. Too tired to fight about it the guys all took a brew and threw themselves down at any available spot that wasn’t already taken by the German crew. I went along with it, but only for one beer to unwind a little and then I was going to find somewhere to sleep, even if it meant going out into the cold van.

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The Germans were a sallow, yellowish looking bunch. There was Hermann, a wispy mustached, rail-thin hawk-nosed fellow with black, rotting teeth. Reinhold, a longhaired, metal-looking dude who kept a hand-rolled cigarette between his lips at all times. Usually, he would just let the ash fall off and roll down the front of him. On the rare occasion he would take the cigarette out of his mouth to flick ash at the pile of butts on the ashtray, you could see a distinct dark brown stain the size of a dime on his front teeth. Gabe (pronounced: “Gob-ee”) was obviously homosexual in his effeminate manner and in the shrill, lisping way that he spoke. The others were totally noncommunicative—they didn’t know much English, but you also got the feeling that, even if they were fluent in it, they weren’t going to be saying much. They drank and smoked silently and issued sporadic guffaws when Rolf translated something we’d said, that he found amusing. As the night slowly wore off and the sky outside became a dark purple hue, we all asked a few more times where we could sleep. It was almost as if they wanted us completely worn out and off guard. Finally, Rolf showed us around the house: filthy, disgusting bathroom; garbage strewn sitting room off the hallway; a kitchen

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that is better left undescribed, and a couple of tiny bedrooms. We were all just about ready to drop, but all of the beds and couches seemed to be occupied by comatose Germans now. “Yeah, lovely! Lovely place Rolf, but where in the hell are we supposed to sleep?” Mitch said, totally pissed off now. Rolf looked around at all of the bodies strewn around on the furniture and said, matter-of-factly, “Why don’t you just sleep with your new friends?” Mitch’s eyes flared suddenly and I was sure he would hit him. Just as suddenly he turned on his heel and went into the sitting room. He violently kicked clear a space on the floor with his boot and laid down putting his satchel under his head. The other guys followed his lead. “Just translate this for your pals, Rolf: You tell them that if anyone bothers us tonight they’re gonna be thrown out the fucking windows so we can get some fresh air into this friggin’ hellhole! You got that! Versteh?” Rolf curled the corners of his mouth and crinkled the corners of his yellowish eyes
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in what could have been an attempt at a smile, and walked out of the room. There was no place left on the floor at that point for me to bed down, and as the floor was too grimy anyway, I walked down the hall to go out to the van. As I passed one of the rooms off the hall, one of the Germans held up a corner of the blanket on his bed, as if to beckon me. It turned my stomach, and I tripped down the stairs and out into the icy dawn to sleep fitfully in the locked van. I jarred awake a couple of hours later. I’d had a bad dream. It took me a couple of seconds to catch my breath, figure out where I was, and get my racing pulse and breathing under control. I had dreamt I was in a church, about to be married. The inside of it was cavernous and all black. It was absolutely dark except at the back near the doors. There, a curious liquid yellow sort of light the color and consistency of pus oozed from the back of the church. I was waiting at the altar in a suit that was suitable for burial. I kept waiting for the bride, draped in a white sheet, to turn around and walk down the aisle to me. A tall, thin man in a gray mourning coat glided slowly out from the darkness to the bride’s side. He whispered to her through the many layers of her white

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lace veil. I heard them whispering and softly laughing, but I couldn’t hear any of what they were saying or what they were laughing about. I felt weak and powerless, terrified yet angry. I waded down the aisle toward the church doors feeling like my body was walking into a hurricane or through loose earth. I was outraged and furious that this guy in this monkey suit was talking to my bride about me so that I could not hear what they said. I was murderously angry and hideously frightened that they were laughing at me. As I neared them the man turned and hovered away into the darkness again. There were no black shoes as he walked away on the gray slate floor. His feet were hooves. I finally strained and struggled my way up to my bride. I jerked her around violently and shot back her veil. But there was no face there. Only blackness and an unutterable, ungodly, hollow echo of a laugh that happened centuries ago. Frost covered the windows of the van. I was terribly hung over and incredibly thirsty. Bright sunlight glowed behind the crystallized windows, and I took three aspirins out of my duffel bag and found a half-empty, partially frozen bottle of water to swallow them. I laid back down on the floor
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of the van and put my arm behind my head. My breath smoked. My leather motorcycle jacket was the only thing between me and the frosty-cold morning air, and I shivered; from the cold, from the dream, and from the flitting, chilly memories of last night that flashed across my mind like a perverted slide show. What was going on? What happened during the show last night? Was that just bad drugs and exhaustion working on the mind like a weird horror flick? What were we getting ourselves into now with these freaks in this godforsaken town? Who even knew where we were on a map? Should we just pack up and split before these creeps wake up? I have to try to find Ursula and convince her to split here with us! Would she even go? Or was I being crazy and out of control? What about my rendezvous with Cassandra? Would the guys be OK here while I took the truck to Freiburg to meet her? My head spun with a whirling merrygo-round of all of these unknowns, and with the silent movies of last night constantly flickering through my brain. I was getting sick--literally nauseated. Somehow, I got a cigarette lit and tried to call the booking company to tell them where we were and why we wouldn’t be showing up at the hotel

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they’d booked for us in Zurich, but the cell phone was useless in these mountains. I’d have to wait for the hotel to open and try to find a phone there. Maybe the new tour manager could meet us here or at our next show in Nuremburg? If things looked better in the light of day here, maybe everything would settle down and be cool. We could stick around here for a few days, rest up, hook up with the new tour manager, and get ourselves ready and fit for the rest of the tour. God knows we were at the end of our ropes right now. If we had to go look around for another place to stay and sit in hotel rooms in the city for three days, that wouldn’t be much of a way to recharge and get straight for the three weeks of shows ahead. Maybe we could just cool out here for a few days. Cut out the drinking and drugging and girls? Get some mountain air and sun and a little exercise—maybe some hiking or skiing or something? At any rate, get out of the clutches of those cretins in that charnel house! Unable to sleep again and curious to see if the other guys were still alive, I locked up the van and went back inside the house. The musty stench of rancid beer and rotting food and fetid urine that filled my nostrils

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inside the house sent chills up my spine and didn’t help to cure the feeling that I might throw up at any second. I tiptoed up the creaky stairway and crept down the hallway to check on the guys. The heavy drapes and dirty windows admitted no light. They were all where I’d left them, seemingly OK and snoring away like asthmatic stevedores. The Germans were still draped all over the fourth-hand looking furniture; no noise was coming from any of them. They seemed almost like they weren’t breathing, lying lifeless and inert like large slugs. I looked through the topmost pages of a couple of decades of old newspapers that were stacked in boxes in the hallway, and then decided to take a gander at what was behind a door that I’d not noticed the night before, just off the hallway. It opened to a staircase that led up to the third floor. I crept up it as quietly as I could. The wooden stairs winced and whined at my tread. I had the feeling of eyes on my back and kept turning around to see if I was being followed. The third floor was nothing more than an attic that contained a bunch of old junk and boxes. Cobwebs hung everywhere and the dust was at least an eighth-of-an-inch thick over everything, like a layer of filthy snow. The air was as frigid as it was outside and my breath

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formed white puffs ahead of me. There was only one window at the far end, and I decided to go and try to clean off the grime that grayed it out to see what the village looked like from that vantage point. The view wasn’t all that good: I could see a little of the village square and the dilapidated church. There didn’t seem to be anyone stirring yet in the village. I turned to go back downstairs and noticed a stack of plywood crosses leaning against the canted ceiling rafters. I pushed aside some long crates in the way and made it over to them through the junk. They were painted in gray and white and black and each bore a name, and a birth date, and a date of death. There were ten or twelve of them and all of the death dates were either in 1944, or ’45—all corresponding to the time of the Second World War. I made my way back downstairs and was trying to close the door quietly when I was sure I felt the presence of someone behind me. “You were not invited to go upstairs here! That is not of your business up there! Who do you think that you are going sneaking where you are uninvited to!” It was Rolf and besides looking like death warmed over, he looked pissed off as hell!

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“Oh, uh…sorry, I just thought I might find somewhere to sleep in here. It’s really cold outside.” I lied. Grabbing the collar of my coat in one hand, he rammed me against the doorframe and picked me up off the ground a couple of inches. I weighed in at about 205, so the guy was no slouch. “You were looking up there. You didn’t go trough the boxes—they don’t belong to me. What were you looking at up there? He was maniacally angry and seemed afraid. The pressure of his fist in my windpipe made me sound like Donald Duck. “Nothing…take it easy…I just looked out the window and…I just saw some crosses. I just looked at your village, that’s all.” This seemed to calm him down a little. I grabbed his wrist with both my hands and he let me down. “You should not haff done that. Those a sacred kurters from the graves of brave soldiers that died for the…for their country in battle.” “Why are they up in the attic?” “That is none of your business! They

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mark the graves of the dead until stone could be carved to be put on over da graves.” He let me down and backed away. Then he looked around at my band mates who were up now and ready for battle. “Germany was very poor after the war and it took many years for the stones to be put there. Many families have kept those crosses. Why should they do? Trow dem away? Anyvay they are not Christian crosses, they are the shape of iron crosses. That is a symbol that means the triumph of the German knight over death. You wouldn’t understand. You had no right to be nosy dare. Don’t ever go up dare again, do you hear me!” “OK…calm down…no harm done, OK?” The guys were hungover and bleary eyed and royally pissed at being woken up that way. They crowded in around Rolf and demanded to know what his problem was. “Nothing, nothing.” Rolf said as he took a key from his pocket and turned it locking the door to the third floor. “No one go up der—do you hear!” The German fellows were also starting to rouse at this point. Rolf jammed the key in
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his pocket and gave me one more steely look from his bloodshot, bulging eyes like he’d like to kill me, and then stalked into the kitchen and started clanging around, making some coffee or something. I went in to where the other band guys were milling, lighting smokes and coughing to tell them that I was going to go find a phone and call the agency. I said it in the quietest way I could so as not to be heard by the Germans. I had no specific reason in mind for hiding my actions from them, but something told me that I was better off not letting them know. The image of those crosses in the attic kept flashing into my brain while the guys were packing their stuff. The first one that I had come across had the dates: Geboren [born]1916, Gestorben [died] 1945, and the name on the cross was Rolf Vitters.

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23 BACK IN BLACK

We had high hopes that our time off was going to allow us the rest and recuperation we so badly needed from the horrible grind of touring, from our preposterous overindulgence of drugs and alcohol, and from our sexual adventurism.

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Ahhh…but that was not to be. Gabe conducted us to a breakfast that was in the common room of a local school that had been closed down and was now apparently used by the local youth groups for their social functions, or so we were told. “What kind of a place is this?” I wondered. There was a long bar along one wall and heavy curtains shut out any light from the small windows. There were pinball machines and dartboards, pool tables and slot machines. It had a kind of a “swinging Vegas,” ‘60s-vibe. “This is for the young people of the town. They don’t have anywhere to go to have fun or party, so this was built to keep us all amused out here away from the rest of the world.” Gabe said, lispingly. We were seated at long cafeteria-style tables. The spread laid out on the tables was typical of a German breakfast: musli (a kind of granola cereal), yogurt, bread, coffee, and cold cuts. The thing that wasn’t typical were the pitchers of beer on the table and the two bottles of port that showed up soon after we began eating. “Hey Gabe!” Kurt asked, “What’s with

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the booze for breakfast?” “Jawohl! We need to have some of the hair from the dog that bit us the last night!” Gabe returned. Steve was the first with the worst. He had half of a sandwich and then started right in on the porto. I could see that things were heading in a downward spiral, and that any plans that we had to repair and refit our damaged selves were rapidly flying out the window. I decided to play it cool. Maybe what we needed wasn’t cold turkey abstinence and withdrawal. Maybe what we needed was to push things to a final conclusion. To get so whacked out, so over indulged and sated that by the time that we got on the road again, we’d be ready for monastic life. Maybe by getting so poisoned and so near death, we’d hit bottom, and some primal life wish would kick in and ensure that we lived through the rest of the tour. Maybe…I was full of shit, but there didn’t seem to be any way to stop this runaway train. Something was going to give. Something was going to break. I kind of covered my eyes and waited for the crack-up. At that point, the moment of my resignation and of my flinging myself into the

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abyss, the double glass doors of the room suddenly swung open and in fluttered Ursula in a stunning, tight, form-fitting black running suit, and with her came three young, knock-out girls. I was trying to regain my bearings after being totally tasered by Ursula’s hotness, and was wondering how I might, in an aside to the guys, remind them that we’d promised to be good, when Ursula planted the hottest kiss on my mouth that I’d ever experienced. I was waiting for my eyes to refocus when she said, “My prince! I’m so sorry that I had to leave you without saying goodnight last night, but you’ll understand that it was so late and I had to get home!” “What, do you live with your parents or something?” I wondered. She laughed. “My parents are long dead. I was just so tired and I didn’t want to still be partying with you fellows when the sun was coming up. Don’t you think my beauty sleep looks well on me?” I had to admit—she had a point. Her olive skin was glowing like light through tallow and her bottomless black eyes were making me forget where I was, who I was,

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and what I was doing. I just wanted to fall into that deep, dark well and keep falling forever. Her painted-on running suit wasn’t helping any. She really was a gold-medalist in the body Olympics. Her heavy breasts were barely contained by the half-zippered top and her tall slim figure was perfectly revealed by the tight, thin skin of the fabric. The other guys were mesmerized by her as well. That is, right up until she introduced her bevy of enthralling female accomplices that she unleashed on us. They were all sort of metal-y, punk-y, rock chicks with heavy mascara, fantastically colored hair, and piercings of various sorts in various places. The other guys were trying to be cool, but their mute appraisal of the situation was telling. They suddenly became all gentlemanly, all standing and offering seats to the ladies (of course, the seats right next to them). There must have been something in the water or the soil of the place that had a certain sculptural effect on the female form. Ursula’s friends were as physically stunning as she was. And I mean stunning— the guys were, for once, quiet and withdrawn into their own perverted thoughts. They seemed to be peering through a fog at the girls as they took seats by them. This mesmerization continued throughout the

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next couple of hours as we all talked, and laughed, and drank beer and port, and smoked. The girls each paired off with one of the guys. Except for Mitch who had paired off with a bottle of Porto and was already well on his way to oblivion. Kurt sat next to Frida, a charming platinum blonde woman who couldn’t have been more than twenty, although she could also have been thirty or forty. It was strange that I couldn’t really tell her age—any of their ages—exactly. She had dangling gold earrings and a sleeveless white shirt that buttoned up to her neck. Her purple micro-mini skirt made it difficult for her to sit down, but once she was seated, it showed to great advantage her long and shapely legs. Steve was earnestly engaged in a conversation with Katrin, a vixen-ish, spiky-haired girl with heavy black mascara rimming her gorgeous cornflower eyes. She contained her ample bosom in a dark green suede leather vest laced provocatively across the cleave of her breasts. Terry laughed and joked with Elke who had purple hair and who wore a black leather motorcycle jacket, as he was. Her tight, black toreador pants and ripped-up pink t-shirt left her flat stomach and belly-button on display.

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All of them had rings a-plenty on the fingers of both hands. The only ring that they all had in common was a skull death’s head ring with a particularly menacing rigor mortis grin. Finally a joint or two were produced from somewhere and were passed around the table. The new arrivals offered to show us the local sights and entertain us while we were guests of their village. Ursula took me aside as we were getting ready to go. “You promise me that you won’t end up in the arms of one of my pretty friends today?” “Well…you’ll be here to make sure that I don’t, right?” “Honig, you know that I want to be here to be with you and make you feel good today, but I told you about our winemaking place. I have so many things to attend to there—I have a regular job, you know? I promise that tonight we’ll be together for the whole night, OK?” “I won’t be able to do that Ursula. I’ve… I made an appointment for tonight.” “You mean you’ve made a date? With another girl?” She looked hurt, but not surprised in any way. I didn’t want to lie
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about my date with Cassandra, but now I was totally terrified of losing Ursula. “Yes, I’m going to see a girl. I want you to know though, that…I don’t know how to say this…this is very confusing…. You see Ursula, before I met you I met, or I came to know, someone else. It’s important to me that you understand this, because I’ve…I know it’s only been a couple of days, but…I want you to wait for me to figure this out… please.” “Are you in love with this other girl?” Her eyes narrowed as she waited for my response. “I don’t want to be dishonest with you! It’s only been a couple of days and I feel something about you that I’ve never felt about anyone except for….” “Except for this other girl…yes?” “Yes.” I said, finally resigned to having Ursula totally blow me off and storm out of the place. “You are…” she said wrapping her arms around my shoulders and lightly kissing my lips, “handsome [kiss], very talented [kiss] and a wonderful kisser [long kiss], and

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you are not a liar [no kiss].” She drew back from me and stared deep into my eyes. “I hate you. But I suppose that if I am to have you completely, there’s something that you must find out about this other girl. And for that I have to let you go for tonight, and maybe…who knows…forever!” “Ursula [kiss—my turn now], I want to be sure [kiss], that I’m completely, totally yours [kiss, kiss], if that’s what is meant to be—I don’t want to deceive you about anything [kiss], I want something that’s eternal [long, long kiss]. “Well then…” she said pulling away and trying to regain her composure— straightening her long, black hair and flinging it over her lovely shoulders. “I must go now. I’m not crying and I will not. You’ll be back here soon and we’ll be together then forever.” She kissed me once more, looked deeply into my eyes, said a few goodbyes to those around the table, and ran off. I was left standing there, dumbly, numbed, and completely at a loss. “Let her get away again then didn’t you mate!” Mitch chimed brightly with nary a slur. “Take it from me—you don’t want to

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neglect them too long, you might end up losing her like I did mine!” He was smiling and drunk, but there was hurt beneath his words. He raised his glass to me and knocked back another. I decided to spend the rest of the day knocking about with the lads and their new friends until evening, when I’d have to fire up the truck and leave for Freiburg. We left Mitch reclining in an easy chair, cradling a port bottle and toasting our departure. Gabe and the girls took us, all piled in together in the back of a pick-up truck, to get Hermann and Reinhold, and then we all drove up the mountainside and out a little way into the woods. On the way we passed some chalets that were deserted and in disrepair, a number of fallow fields and an old cemetery that clung stubbornly to the side of the hill. As we passed it, we caught sight of a nearly naked man, dressed only in scraps of rags. Hermann, Reinhold and the girls hooted and jeered at him as he ducked behind a rosecolored, marble tombstone. Me and the guys all looked at each other like, “Did we really just see that?” Hermann and Reinhold both saw the surprise on our faces and they shouted over the wind in the back of the pick up, “Dat was
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Vater Matthias. He vas die old priest that was von die church in town. He ist gone crazy now. They catch him with the little boy. Now he live in the tomb back there. Crazy old man!” We continued on up the hill past the graveyard to a small clearing in the forest. There were a few trees felled and stripped of branches for benches, that were set around a circle of ashes where a great fire pit was dug. “This is where we come out to have the party in natur. At night we take off all our clothes and jump through the fire.” “Good thing it’s daytime.” Steve said leaning over to Kurt. Reinhold now produced two green gallon jugs from out of the pickup truck cab. “This is the local wine.” Reinhold said. “Drink it and it will make you go mad! You won’t be able to control yourselves with these girls here!” This seemed to be very funny to Hermann, Gabe, and Reinhold and the girls. They all laughed uproariously as they took swigs from the jug and passed it along to us. From the looks of things, Kurt, Steve, and Terry didn’t seem to need any
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help losing control with the girls. “Does anyone want to try some of our local smoke?” Hermann said as he set fire to some tinder and sticks in the fire circle. “You mean inhale smoke from the fire?” Terry asked, not unreasonably. This set the Germans to laughing hysterically again. “No…not von die feuer hier. We have some oil that we smoke from a tree that grows here. You never get so high in all your lives.” I brought some wood over from a pile of gray branches near the tree line and noticed when I set them down that there were a lot of different bones mixed up in the ashes in the fire pit. The guys seemed drunk enough to try smoking anything, especially after a few slugs from the wine jug. I took a few jolts myself. It was the same wine that I’d drunk the other night with Ursula that made me so loopy and out of it. I stopped taking my turn drinking it as it came around to me again, as I was becoming dizzy after only a few swigs. On top of all the beer and port at breakfast, and after last night, I couldn’t believe that the others were already going at it again. It wasn’t even noon yet.

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“That’s some vino dudes!” Terry said. “At first it tastes like a dead animal, but it grows on you after a few swigs.” The Germans all burst out laughing again. Hermann had gone over to a patch of dirt where no grass was growing and began digging around. With everyone watching him now, he carefully molded a tube from the mud over a hole he’d dug. He took a small brown bottle and a lighter from his pocket. Pouring some of the contents from the bottle into a small aperture at the base of the mud tube and lighting it, he put his lips inside the tube and began to draw fiercely on it as if it were a pipe. When his lungs were full and smoke was pouring from the top of the tube, he drew back and said looking wildly at us, smoke escaping from his mouth and nostrils with every word: “Who vants a hit?” All of the girls got up and went over. It only took another minute before Kurt, Terry, and Steve were over there, on their knees on the ground smoking the “earth” pipe. The smoke from it smelled like incense from church mixed with the breath of the grave. Everyone came away from it coughing and hacking. The guys staggered comically as they tried to make it back to their seats. If Katrin, Elke, and Frida hadn’t helped them, they would have all bit the dirt. I was the only one who

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hadn’t tried it. Everyone looked at me now, with eyes so red it looked like pure blood was surrounding their pupils. “Kom now Martin, you haff this to try!” Hermann cajoled. “Marty, you didn’t come all this way not to smoke the earth pipe, did you!” Steve guffawed spouting puffs of smoke with every chortle. They all joined in a chorus of jibes and ribbing until I went over to the pipe and fell on my knees. It was still spilling the foul smelling smoke from its rim like sulphurous brimstone coming up from lava flowing through the bowels of the center of the earth. They all chanted now in a monotonous bleat, “Marty, Marty, Marty….” I bent to place my lips inside the clammy earthen cylinder. The smoke was acrid and burning. I breathed in as much as I could until I was certain my lungs had caught fire. I staggered up and away from the cauldron. Reinhold and Hermann grabbed me from either side, or I would have pitched head-long into the woods and staved in my head on a tree. I must have passed out, because, when I came to, they were pressing the jug to my lips and pouring the dark, thick swill down

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my throat. What was the once sickly sweet wine was shockingly vinegar-y and foul tasting now. It brought me around like smelling salts, but then the effect of it turned into a whirl of images of the forest and the Germans and the guys. I thought I might pass out again. Everything was spinning. Katrin had her arms around me now and Elke was smoothed my hair back from my face. “You took too much! We have to hold you now or Ursula will be mad with us if you fall!” Katrin was pressing herself against me and the feeling was not unpleasant. “There, there, now don’t you feel better?” Elke said holding my head in her hands and looking longingly into my eyes. I have to admit, I felt like letting them do whatever they felt like doing if it was going to feel that good. Steve and Terry, of course, got mad and came over to pull Elke and Katrin away from me. “Hey, what do you tink you are doing?” Katrin complained. “We like all of you and we can all be good friends together!” Elke said. “We can all go together to bed if you like!” added Frida, as if it was a splendid idea
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she’d just happened upon. “All go to bed together?” Terry said looking at Steve and Kurt. Now it was their turn to laugh uproariously. They took it like it was a big joke, but I’m pretty sure that none of the Germans thought it was funny. The jug went around a couple more times and Hermann refilled the earth pipe. “Where do you get this ‘tree oil,’ Kurt asked, “this shit is totally wild, I totally feel like I’m tripping! Can we get some to take with us?” “I doubt it,” Hermann said. We get it from old Klaus that makes the boxes to bury people in.” “What? Terry gasped incredulously. “You get it from an old man who makes caskets!” “Sure! He makes them from the tree wood that grows only here. He scrapes the oil from the wood from the caskets, otherwise the wood never rots!” This sent the Germans into fits of insane laughter. They were all staring at us and laughing more at us than at his stupid joke. “That’s not even funny,” Steve said. “I

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don’t even know what you’re laughing at.” “It’s not funny,” said Gabe, “It’s the truth!” They all burst again into peals of mad laughter again. “You guys really are tripping.” Kurt said. They were all completely out of their minds now and laughing and screaming out in the middle of nowhere. I turned down the jug when it came to me again. I was desperately trying to maintain consciousness now. I was trying to keep it in the front of my mind that I had to try to sober up if I was going to make the drive to Freiburg in the evening. I stumbled away from the party and out into a field on the edge of the woods. I thought if I could only keep walking, the spinning behind my eyes would go away. The others called after me and their questions and laughter receded behind me like the fear upon waking after a bad dream. I kept on putting one foot in front of the other and concentrating on keeping a notion of where the horizon might be, stable before me. The damned trees that were everywhere distorted one’s sense of balance because you had to look up to see where the tops were to get an idea of where the horizon

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would be, but each time you did, you’d trip or stagger on the rocky, uneven, tilting ground. I couldn’t have gone too far before I finally did trip and fall, smashing into the ground particularly hard, as I didn’t do anything to break my fall—I was that wasted. I just lay there in the dirt, breathing. My head still spun, my whole body still spun, but at least I had the solidness of the ground to hold onto. I had closed my eyes and just before passing out, or falling asleep—who knows which—I remember thinking that if I died just then, it wouldn’t really bother me. When I came to, to the haggard, lined face of an old man was bent over me. He was brushing the dirt off of my face. A string of drool hung from the corner of my mouth and he wiped it away with a bit of cloth in his hand. Suddenly realizing who it was, I sprang bolt up right into a sitting position holding my hands up in front of my face, ready to strike out at him. He was trying to calm me down in German, but I wasn’t understanding any of it. I managed to squeak out, “Just keep away from me.” “Du bist ein Englander? Uh…you are English?” “American.”

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“Are you healthy? I found you here fallen to the ground, I thought you were tot.” “I’m fine…I’m…tired. Just stay away from me.” The poor guy was holding his raggedy pants up with one hand because they were about ten sizes too big and it didn’t look as if the zipper or the clasp was working on them. Plus he had no belt. His once white shirt was now a tattered gray and yellow rag. Yellowish/white wisps of long hair blew about his face in uncombed tangles. His eyes though, were intelligent and didn’t seem at all crazy. He kept his distance. “Can you get up on to your feet?” “Ummm…that might take a while.” “You smell like drinking. Are you OK if I leave you here?” I tried to get up, but the spinning increased as I got to one knee, and I fell on my ass when I tried to stand. “You stay here, I will go fur wasser.” I didn’t have much choice. I stayed on my butt with my head between my knees. The old guy seemed OK. In fact, he seemed
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way more sane than most of the other people that we’d run into in the last few days. He returned in a few minutes with some super cold water in an old Coke bottle. “Drink this.” He said “It comes from a spring that is very fresh and good water. You’ve been drinking bad things, I can tell you this.” The water was really good, it seemed to bring me around almost immediately. I drained the entire bottle and thanked him. In another minute my head had cleared considerably. “Can you walk if I give you my arm, boy?” It was then that I remembered more clearly who this old fellow was. “He vas die old priest….” Hermann had said, “They catch him with the little boy.” “I’m OK.” The way I careened when I got up made it clear however that I wasn’t OK, and he grabbed my arm to steady me. He led me a little way through a broken gate into the cemetery. There he brought me to a marble mausoleum that we’d seen from the road.

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“Here, you rest here for a little while. Then you must leave this place as soon as you can. You not from here. Go back to where you can get to other people, outside of this black forest!” Maybe he was crazy after all. He seemed to be a little worked up. He tried to get me to lay down on a marble sarcophagus in the mausoleum. When I resisted, he said, “You lie here now. The marble ist kalt and it will make you fell better.” He was right. The marble was cold and it did make me feel better. It was clear from the things placed around in the mausoleum that he must have been living here for some time. There was an old wooden chair, an old metal T.V. dinner tray table that had some jars and bottles and a large black Bible on it. There were some bags and boxes in one corner and in the other corner, a fifty-five gallon drum with some coals smothering in it. Also, propped-up in the corner was a sixfoot tall mitre or staff of wood with a large, heavy, menacing silver crucifix on the top of it. The bottom of the staff had been whittled into a wickedly sharp point like a spear. He had painted crosses with different colors of paint and with black ash on every possible square-inch of the walls and the ceiling and
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the floor of the tomb. “You must be the old priest…Vater Matthias?” I said, not really knowing what one says in such circumstances. “Die others told you dat?” They said you… that you had the church down in the town…” “And they said that I went verruckt… that my mind went away?” “Well…something like that.” I lied. “Did they say anysing else of me?” “Uhhh…” “They must have said to you that I wass bad with a boy from my church!” He sputtered this with barely contained rage. His face grew purple and the veins at his temples pulsed grotesquely. The tendons in his neck stood out through his thin, loose skin. His sudden outburst of anger kind of unnerved me. I suddenly realized that I was laying ill, on the top of a marble sarcophagus, in a mausoleum, in a German graveyard, with a lunatic, perverted old priest leaning over me! What the heck?
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“I think I’m OK to go now,” I said, though I really wasn’t. Please…you listen to me! They are liars and the pawns of Satan! They are lying in wait for you like serpents in the grass! They will make your head crazy and rob you of your reason, and then,” he said raising his hand to his throat and grabbing it violently,” then they will suck each last drop of blood from your body!” Nice! Whoa! That’s it! I thought. Woozy or not now’s the time to bust a move! “They will set snares and traps for your soul! Don’t…please listen to me junge…don’t go now!” I swung down off the marble and groped my way over to the door. He held me up by my arm, and kept jabbering away at me as he helped me cautiously to the gate of the graveyard. “They told you I wass impure with a boy. I tell you I never! Never would I do such a thing! I was lonely, yes! They had turned all of the people against me and emptied the church. They started rumors and vicious lies to scare away the country people from coming to town for church and wrote terrible
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letters to my superiors! I wass lonely…I wass alone…I got on my knees to hug—only to hug—the boy who served at mass. It was a pure hug—not dirty. He was looking like a small beautiful angel! He had light shining all around him! When I hugged him…I suddenly felt the hair of an animal in my hands— against my face—and I pulled back away from him! In my arms was an ape—an ape! Do you understand me? And it bit its teeth into the side of my face! He was crying at that point, really sobbing. He got me to the broken gate of the cemetery and then grabbed and held onto the rusting metal post there. I left him standing there, sobbing pitifully. I could see, where the tears streamed down the side of his face, a red circle of scars that could be from nothing other than teeth. He called after me as I walked away, “If you need me--you can find me here! Please, wait!” I was afraid to stop now, but I did. As he came up to me, he fumbled in the pocket of his trousers for something. When he drew up next to me, he pushed a rosary into the palm of my hand and, saying nothing further, turned and trudged back into the graveyard.
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24 FREAKS
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Walking back toward where the shrieks and howls emanated from the woods, I counted my blessings that I was finally regaining my wits and my balance. I also counted my blessings that the old maniac had not tried something on me while I was passed out or when I was out of it and too weak to fight him off. Although the woods were dense and impossible to see for more than six or eight feet in any direction and although the boughs and branches occluded almost any light from getting in to make negotiating through them any easier, the jibbers and cackling that penetrated and echoed through the forest, made it easy enough to find my way back to the bacchanal. No wonder the evil fairies and trolls and gnomes of European folktales hatched from these choking, dismal, primeval woods. To lose one’s way would take only a few steps. When wolves and bears were common here, man must have stood little chance in this malevolent curtain of spruce, fir, hemlock, and pine. One loses all sense of direction and proportion and reality enclosed there. Danger could lurk and hide in that dense curtain in any of a thousand places close at hand. Hansel and

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Gretel and Red Riding Hood must have been the folktale result, of thousands of innocent children who went missing—never to be heard from again—in these conifer mandibles. I came out into the clearing from the trees to gleeful and malicious taunts from the leaping and delirious furies that danced and chanted near the fire now. Rather than expressing any concern about where I’d gone off to, or whether I was OK, my band mates were content to stand with their arms about the German girls or guys and ask whether I’d puked or defiled a sheep or abused myself amongst the trees. Katrin, Elke, and Frida seemed to sneer at me while Hermann, Gabe, and Reinhold leered and smiled sickly. For some reason, I’d now become the odd man out, even with my own group members. I stood mutely taking the ridicule for a few minutes until they grew tired of trashing me. Then I sat down and regarded with wonder and alarm the metamorphosis of my band pals. Steve was shirtless even though it couldn’t have been more than forty-five degrees outside. His chin and chest were stained red by the wine that had spilled from his lips on to them and stained even the top
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of his boxers and pants. Kurt was crazed with the liquor and drugs he’d ingested; usually moribund when high or drunk, he was now howling and curling back his lips, baring redstained teeth. Terry was down to his boxers, dancing obscenely with Frida. “Take your clothes off, Martin!” Terry slurred, “We’re going to strip and jump through the fire to welcome the return of the spring gods!” Hey! Dudes! I yelled, mostly in anger, but trying in some way to snap them out of the whacked-out mood they’d descended into. “We’ve got to talk! I’ve got to leave for Freiburg soon!” This only brought on more insults and lewd jokes. “Seriously!”

I kind of lost my temper and I stalked over to Kurt who was closest to me. I grabbed his arm from Gabe’s shoulder and shook him hard by both shoulders. He put his arms inside mine and violently flung them outward, breaking my hold on him. In a flash he shoved me in the chest so hard that I reeled back three or four steps before nearly falling into the fire. Terry ran to where I was lying on the ground and put his dukes up.

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“Come on rockstar guy! Get up and see if you can push us around now!” Steve came over with a jug of wine, took a glug off it, and handed it to Terry. “He’s too much of a pussy to party with us or fight with us now. Let him go off to get laid in Freiburg, maybe that will screw his head back on straight.” I got up slowly and kept my eyes on them. I was mad. I felt like taking them all on. Even if I got my ass completely kicked, I didn’t want to take shit like this from the likes of them. “I’m leaving. I’m taking the truck. I’ll be back tomorrow night. Make sure that Mitch gets in at the hotel OK.” “We’re through taking orders from you, fucker!” Kurt spat out from his gory mouth. “Make sure Mitch goes to hell yourself!” This brought a gout of laughter and hooting from them all now. Terry spat a mouthful of wine into the fire that making it flare wildly and turned his back to me, raising the jug above his head with one finger and dancing back into the waiting embrace of Katrin and Reinhold. They leered over his shoulders at me in triumph.
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As I walked down along the road into town, I was stunned and hurt and surprised, and still pretty wasted. There was no sign of the priest as I passed the graveyard, but I took the rosary he’d given me out of my pocket. I was raised Protestant and I’d never really looked at one closely before. I wasn’t sure what all the beads meant and didn’t really believe in those kinds of religious gimcracks, but I shoved it back into my pocket for whatever reason. The town still seemed deserted but I could hear various noises coming from different places. The community center was locked, and when I checked at the hotel, the creepy, skinny guy at the desk said that Mitch had checked in and had asked not to be disturbed by anyone. I looked over a map for a while in the van but I couldn’t find this town, Gadarene, anywhere. I’d heard them repeat the name time and again but there was nowhere on the map that was spelled even remotely like that sounded. Exasperated, I folded the map back and caught a sudden glimpse into the rearview mirror, and saw someone I could hardly recognize staring back at me. I started the engine and pulled out onto the cobblestones. The trip to Freiburg would

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probably only take a couple of hours and I couldn’t believe the sense of relief that I felt when I finally made it off the entrance ramp and onto the autobahn. The sense of release was out of all proportion to anything that I should have been feeling then. The physical distance away from the group seemed to give me some relative distance away from our whole tour experience, the screwed-up town and the people there, and especially from the last few chaotic and anarchic days. While still not exactly sober and with probably only eight or ten total hours of sleep in the last few nights, I at least finally had time to think about things without the constant harangue of liquor and drugs and band demands breathing down my neck. I had to admit that things had spun terribly out of control in the last few days. I was horrified by what had been happening to us, and between us, since Hamburg. When I poured over everything that we’d been through, I was having real trouble separating what was the reality of everything, what was stuff I might have been making up with my overactive imagination, and what was just the result of no sleep, bad food, tons of drinking, mixing and matching whatever hallucinogens and other psychotropic agents

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that anyone handed me, and the pressure and stresses that I was under—from the tour, from the group, and from being in love with two different women. What exactly happened to us in Zurich? Never had something so weird and upsetting taken place at any show we’d ever played. Had someone played a trick on us and spiked our drinks with some acid or worse? Had anyone else seen any of the things I thought I saw? Things were happening at such a rapid, dizzying pace lately, that I hadn’t even had time to ask the other guys if what I thought had happened there had really happened. Now, with the way things had become between the others and me, I doubted if I would even be able to talk to them about stuff like that. I wished that Mitch wouldn’t be leaving the tour right at that critical time, and at such a crucial time for the band. I wondered if this was the end of the tour and of the band. I didn’t see how we could go on much longer with things the way they were. Suddenly, I felt like I was free of all of the entanglements of the pathetic and dangerous situation we’d gotten ourselves into. It struck me then that we didn’t have to finish the tour! My mind came clear now that
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I was away from all of the confusion and strangeness that had trapped me into thinking that there was no other way out for us. I could just get to a phone in Freiburg, call the booking agency, assure them that we’d make good on our financial debts for the tour, and then cancel the rest of our tour dates and figure out from there how to get us plane tickets home. I was sure I could call someone back in the States to front us the money to get back. Or else there had to be some kind of U.S. Consulate office in Freiburg or somewhere? Better to cancel the tour and try to regroup at home—where we were on our own turf, and could think things through under more normal conditions—than to risk the tour becoming a financial and euro career-ending disaster, risk the group breaking up, or, God help us, risk someone cracking up or having some physical injury from all of the pernicious stuff that had been going on. If we kept up the way we were going at that point, I was certain that something really, really bad was going to happen. All of the doubts and uncertainties that whirled around my mind about the group and the tour were competing with the doubts and uncertainties that I was also experiencing

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about Cassandra and Ursula. Why was I so enthralled by them? It seemed that I was completely and forever in love with both of them! How could that be? I’d only just met them, I didn’t know either of them well at all, and I’d never fallen in love like this before! And with two different women at the same time? It seemed more like when you have a dream about love. In the dream, you are totally immersed in the feeling of loving the person in the dream. When you wake up though, you realize you have a totally different understanding of what loving someone means in real life. Or, you only keep that dream feeling of love for a little while before you understand that it was simply a foggy symptom of your dream, and that it has no being in the world of waking reality. Was I going to wake up in a few weeks and see that it was all just a result of being lonely and homesick in a faraway land, like Mitch said? Was I trying to use the feeling of being in love to distract me and comfort me in the face of all of the scary, terrible feelings the tour had brought on in me? Was love just another drug to dull the pain and disillusionment that I was feeling at every turn in Europe? Whoa! Dude! I took a deep breath and let

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it out slowly. I shook my head around and slapped myself a couple of times. Man! Dude! You’re in Europe on your first tour! Just try to relax and enjoy the moment and the scenery! You’re getting all jumbled-up in this mumbo-jumbo psycho crap! Looking out the window at the gorgeous mountains, the cloud-skimmed blue sky, and sunshine-y, shimmery warmth of the coming spring! I was starting to feel a little better. Sure! You’re going to visit a beautiful girl in a town in Germany that you’ve only read about but have never been to before! What’s your problem, buddy? This is going to be great! This could be the woman that you fall in love with and marry! You might look back on this as the best time in your life someday! The band is going to get itself together and the rest of the tour is going to be fantastic and successful! God, I just needed to get away for a while! But then, I caught a glimpse of my face in the rearview mirror. Again, I was shocked. I didn’t want to look back, but I also couldn’t keep myself from doing it. That’s me? I wondered. Can that gaunt, haggard, wornout looking old man be me? Where did those black circles under the eyes come from? How did your skin get so dry and creased? Why is
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your hair so greasy and stringy? Why do you have that haunted, hunted look in your eyes? Why are they so red and worried? Maybe, I thought, I should take the middle ground. I’ll call the booking agency and tell them how things have been going. I’ll see about the consulate. I’ll try to relax a little and pull myself together again. There was something though, something in the pit of my stomach, something in the back of my mind. Something was picking at me and gnawing at me. Get a hold, boy. Try to get a hold.

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25 FREIBURG IM BREISGAU

I parked the truck in the city center and found the public washroom at the bus terminal. The rearview mirror wasn’t lying. The mirror in the bathroom there gave back the same result, only a little more grotesque looking due to the fluorescent lighting there. I flossed and brushed my teeth. I washed my hair in the sink, washed myself, and then shaved. I put on a clean t-shirt. My leather jacket smelled rather nasty, and it should have gone to a drycleaners, but it was too late for that now. Reappraising myself after the deluge, I did look slightly less like a homeless junkie, but it wasn’t quite the Cary Grant-effect that I’d hoped for. Cassandra had given me the address of a tavern just off the city square about five blocks from the bus terminal. I walked there briskly, hoping the exercise would put some color into my ashen complexion. The bar was apparently from the late middle ages, sometime. It was another one of those white plaster buildings with exposed beam timbers and a doorway just big enough to allow a

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munchkin to enter without stooping. The lowbeamed ceiling threatened to smite the head of anyone standing to full height. I was fully expecting to see a thatching ceiling, but it must have been replaced by wooden planking sometime in the 1600s. Damn modernity! Cassandra sat regally at one end of the bar amidst three or four sporty-looking soccertypes. Her face beamed when she saw me in direct opposite proportion to how much the faces of the guys around her drooped. She pushed them aside to make a spot for me at the bar and they slunk off muttering derogatory Teutonic comments about me. “Darling, my prince! You’ve really come at last! I am so very happy to see you. Oh, we’re going to have such a wonderful time, I promise!” she said wrapping her arms around my neck. We had a couple of tall beers and a plate of sausage with some mustard and sliced dark brown bread. I was starting to really feel so much better. Freiburg translates in English as “Free town,” and I was definitely feeling free then—my bonds and woes were falling away from me. I realized that I was entirely correct about what a knock-out

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Cassandra was. Not only could I not keep my eyes off of her, whenever I happened to glance up from her and around the bar, every other man was looking at her too. Her long, flaxen hair was straight and fine. A sort of butter-y color that drew the eye and made you feel good just to look at it. Her eyes were a deep and calming ocean blue color that I’d never seen before. They were shining and inviting and the entirely engrossed way she looked at you made you feel like you were the only man in the world to her. Her gaze was at once playful and super sexy. Her pupils seemed to dilate fluidly and then to narrow like a cat’s as she gazed into my eyes —like she was very aroused and thinking intensely sexual thoughts about me the entire time. I wanted to discretely check out her incredible body, but her eyes held mine as if I were in a trance, and I kept thinking that I would, hopefully, have lots of time for that later. Just as I was working the conversation nonchalantly around to where I might find sleeping arrangements in the town, she took my beer away from me and kissed me hard and for a long time. “We can talk about that later, my prince. For now, I have so much to show you. Let’s go outside and walk through the town and

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then later, there is a very romantic spot that I want to share with you.” We traipsed down over the ancient cobbles in narrow lanes that were only just big enough for a horse to traverse. The buildings were from the Middle Ages and most were that same white plaster and timber, or of a yellow limestone construction. We came out from them into a large square just across from the town’s medieval cathedral. There, she pulled me down to her by my jacket lapels and kissed me again. It was a kiss that I wished would not end, and yet, it was so explicit that eventually I worried that passers-by or impressionable children would see us. She seemed to sense my trepidation, merely laughed, and pecked at my lips again. We walked across the square hand in hand over toward the cathedral. It’s a reddish-brown, brooding structure with a tower that soars up over the gabled roofs of the town with imposing severity. It’s a curious mix of Romanesque and Gothic: hardly any of the high-flying lightness of the Gothic here, but a heavy dose of the frank, Romanesque, architectural assertion of either/or: redemption or damnation. “Here is our cathedral.” my beautiful tour
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guide began, “It was begun in 1200 but not finished until around 1500.” “It’s really impressive, really…” “It’s not very beautiful, but it does have a curious history…for a cathedral. The steps here are where, in 1299, the town butcher stabbed the archbishop to death. His blood probably splashed right where you’re standing.” I quickly jumped to one side, as if I was trying to stay out of the blood. It was pretty weak, but she laughed anyway. “Later on, during the Reformation, the Catholics used the tower for throwing down the heretics and the Protestants to their deaths. They did the same thing with the witches during the Black Plague, here. They blamed the witches for calling the Black Death here into the city.” “Witches…huh…a lot of medieval nonsense.” “Why? Don’t you think they called the Black Death here?” I laughed, trying to return the favor. She just kept the same quizzical expression on her

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face and then continued. “The cathedral is steeped in blood and I hesitated to bring you here because of its sorry history, but most visitors want to see it so I thought we’d get it out of the way. Religion is always such a sorry waste of time, isn’t it?” The laugh I’d intended got stuck somewhere in my throat. The result was something like, “Hulg.” “Anyway, let’s not think about that, now we will go to the real place I want to take you.” She wouldn’t reveal any more details of our destination then—only that we’d have to drive there. So we headed back toward the van, walking with quiet desire, our arms around each other, back through shadowed lanes. Soon we were driving along a winding mountain road that she’d directed me to. This mountain, the Schlossberg, is the tallest mountain in the area and commands the town. The road to its top was narrow and ran between dense walls of forest, as all of the roads in those parts seemed to. Up and up we drove, missing by inches the plummeting, speeding cars that were careening down

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suicidally in the opposite direction. “Do drivers in Germany worry at all about ending up in a fire-y ball of fire from car crashes?” I asked, mostly to allay my tension and worry by trying to laugh at the Euro-maniac drivers. “In Europe we understand that life and death are all one. You can’t be around all this history of so many, many generations upon generations of people, and still think that one’s individual life is all that important or special. Wars and famine, plague and illness —we are much more resigned to death here. We don’t seem to get hung up about it like you do in America. Death, death, death— that’s all you seem to talk about. Here in Europe we’re much more realistic about death. It’s like an old friend here. Here it’s really just a continuation of life for some people.” “I hate being provincial and the Ugly American and all that, but I think I’ll hold off on death for a while longer yet, at least until we find a parking space.” The road finally settled into a relatively straight stretch that terminated in a gravel parking lot.

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“This path, going this way, leads to a big metal tower that all of the tourists come to climb for a view of the town. We are going along a different way. The tourists don’t know—most people from the town don’t know—that back in the forest here is an old stone tower.” We set off into a hole in the forest curtain. There was no discernable path. We wound our way through trees and rocks and patches of deep snow. The trees shut out almost all of the light. There were no sounds except those of fluttering birds that we could hear but not see. I started to breathe heavily from the altitude and rough going. Cassandra seemed like she wasn’t even drawing breath. Before us, through green and black branches, a black tower constructed of heavy stone and patched here and there by bright green moss. The forest had closed in around it. Only by standing at the base of it could you look upward to see the full height of it. Although only twenty feet tall now, you could tell from the stones laying everywhere at the base of it that it had probably been immense before its ruin. “This is all that remains of a castle that

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once stood here,” Cassandra spoke in a strange perfunctory tone then, like an impersonal tour guide or someone in a trance. “Some say the Romans built the first castle here, but this tower was built here later, probably in the Dark Ages. There are many stories the people who know of it tell. “I know one that I want to tell you about. It concerns good and evil, as all fairy tales must. The king who built this place was allpowerful in his time and all the people of the valley were bound to do his will. He was a terrible tyrant and a scourge upon his subjects. He demanded virgins from the forest dwellers to sate his bottomless lusts. After he had had his own way with them, he would throw them from this tower so that none would bear a son that might depose him. The bones of these maidens littered the ground here. Their sightless skulls stared up at the black walls of the castle. After many years of this horrible excess the king, growing old, finally decided to spare one of these young girls to keep as a slave. Although he terrorized her, in time she came to love him in spite of all of the evil that he had done to her and to all of the people from this forest. She kept as a secret from him that she bore him a son. Not being aware of

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that form of his immortality, he looked across the land and he sent out many ambassadors and agents to foreign countries to find him a way that he might become immortal. Many witches and wise men, hermits and sorcerers, were brought here before him with their various spells and schemes for how he might achieve immortality. None of them worked though, and all of these false prophets he had burned. The king continued to age rapidly and was reaching his frailty. One night, a tall man, richly dressed, appeared in his court from out of nowhere. He promised the king his immortality in exchange for his soul, a request that the king agreed to. No one knows how it was achieved, how the foreign man brought it about, but the next day, the king was restored to his youth. From that day forward he reveled with his tall visitor each night. They ravaged the young virgins from all his lands. It was then that these girls and young boys were drained of every drop of their blood by morning. When they had discovered the truth of the birth of the king’s son at court, the king and the stranger soon included the boy in their orgies. The queen was so horrified by the abuses of the tall

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stranger on herself and her son, she soon found a way that she might avenge herself on these miscreants. She once found them asleep by day and pierced their hearts with a wooden spike—all except for her son whom she spared because she could not bring herself to banish him to hell. Soon she learned, however, that both she and her son bore the same immortality and the same thirst for evil of her two victims. The people of the valley, learning of the death of the evil king, burned this castle to the ground. This tower is all that remains of that time. Except for the queen and her son, who still live in these very hills, granting immortality to those whom they wish to accompany them through the ages of eternity.” “Whoa! Scary! That is quite a story! It’s kind of creepy, but you look really beautiful while you tell it!” I was impressed by the enthralling way that she spun her romantic web, but I have to admit that I was very much more interested in a different romantic pursuit. She must have noticed the lustful look that had come over me. Within seconds, we had made our way though a low gate into the tower, and upon the bed of cool moss that covered a large, flat stone, we made
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love until the dark of twilight descended. On our way back through the dim forest we were mostly silent. Finally, when we were within sight of the van she stopped me just inside the wood. “Martin, do you love me?” “Yes, I guess that I do. I’ve only felt this way about one other woman before. Before this week, I’d never really been in love before, but the way that I feel now, I guess that I am in love with you.” “Isn’t love a kind of immortality, Martin? When I offered myself to you just now, didn’t it feel like we should be together forever so that we could share that feeling of making love for all time?” Rather than answer in words, I kissed her. “Martin,” she said breathlessly, “if I could offer you a way that we could be together for all of time, would you accept that from me?” “That would be great. I mean…that’s what I’ve been trying to decide about now for the past couple of days. I know that we don’t know each other all that well, but I’ve

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been thinking a lot about whether we should try to be together when this tour ends. You know…I mean…us…permanently…together.” “You make me very happy Martin,” she said hugging me to her breast. Then she pulled back from me and looked up earnestly into my eyes. She said, “I know of a way that we can be like this, young and in love, forever. I am going to give this secret to you, Martin. Martin, I am going to give you immortality!”

26 WHIRLWIND

When we got back into town in the pitch black of night, we stopped at a small shop and she bought sweet wines and grapes and dark bread. Next, we went down some stairs into a cellar tavern that was lit only by candles and we drank several bottles of the sweet white wine and we ate the grapes and the bread. We were so into each

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other that I don’t really recall where we went next or how we got there. The town was totally dark and the wine made me dull and lethargic. I only know for certain that we made love until just before dawn and then I fell into a kind of deep sleep that I’ve never experienced before. The dreams that I had were like being awake, but I had no will of my own, or control over waking or sleeping. I remember one that seemed to go on for hours: where I was lying naked and completely paralyzed on a white bed. Cassandra led several people to the edge of the bed and held my hair back as they all in turn, knelt next to me and each of them licked at a stream of blood that trickled from my neck. If you could have seen the way they licked their lips, licked them and licked them, over and over. It made my stomach sick, so sick. It was as if I were floating above the scene, looking down at my naked body strewn across the white sheet, and with each passing moment, my blood seeped out soaking the sheet, forming a red halo that encircled me, until at last, I lay upon a crimson altar. The memory of the dream struck me like a blow upon waking. Even though I knew it was only a dream, I was horrified and

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totally freaked out. Even though it was a dream, I think that before that time I would have been totally creeped-out and wanting to see a psychiatrist. As it was though, when I thought of it later that morning, I felt only a strange sense of euphoria and well-being. Except that somewhere, in the back of my mind, somewhere inside myself, I would later flash-back to it, and I would shudder uncontrollably at the thought. “Wake up my prince!” Cassandra was in a silk kimono, with her hair up, and my face was in her hands. She was only a black silhouette in the strong sunlight that came from behind her. I was in a brick-walled garden, seated on a white wrought iron chair, fully dressed. “I brought you some coffee and some rolls, darling. You can’t be very rested after sleeping in that chair.” She kissed me and moved from out of the sunlight, allowing it to blind me. “I fell asleep in this chair? But I…we…I remember very well that we…” “We did and you were magnificent. Wasn’t it wonderful how well we were together!”
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“Yes…yes it was…but…” “You came out here to have a smoke and then you fell asleep. I didn’t want to wake you this morning—until now, since we were up so late and since you said you would have to go back this afternoon.” I wanted to ask her more about the night and where we went and what we did, but instead she told me in a low voice about the things that she particularly enjoyed while we were making love. All the while she split a croissant and buttered it, finishing it with a smear of orange marmalade and kissing me just before inserting the croissant into my mouth. The croissant was incredibly delicious, as was the intense black coffee that I poured eagerly and drank with relish. I was completely drugged by the whirring of bees and the birds chirping, and by the ecstatic aroma of roses warmed by the sun. I felt not the least bit hung over, and I was dismayed and a little hurt when she told me that I should be running along as she had some appointments to attend to. “But…how…when, will I see…” “Darling, how can you think that I would rush you out of my life without a

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detailed plan as to how and where we will spend every moment of the next several years of our lives together? You can’t be serious!” “Yes, but if I’m going back…” “You’re going back to Gadarene today. I’ll see you there tonight. We’ll be together again in only a few hours!” “Gadarene? You didn’t tell me that…” “I did! I think I did, in fact I’m sure we discussed it last night.” “Last night…well, last night…” “We will have a nice dinner and I will introduce you to all of my old friends there and show you around the town and…” “You’re kidding me! Are you serious?” “Darling, my prince! I am serious! I want to be inseparable from you from now on. We will never be apart again after today, don’t worry, I will see to it.” Suddenly, I had a splitting headache. The sun clouded over and the birds stopped chirping. I ran my hands through my hair and pulled a little at the roots.
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“Cassandra,” I said somewhat pained. “You know what I said yesterday--that I’d only ever known one other girl that I thought that I was in love with?” “Did you say that?” “I think I did? The thing is…I have to settle some things…with her. I don’t feel right now that we’re…” “Do what you must my darling, I only want what is best for you. I trust you completely.” I was trying to sort things out in my mind as she said this. Everything was a huge confusing mess, and to make matters worse, as she was speaking, she took the pin from her hair and let it fall around her shoulders. Just as I was starting to put my thoughts into some logical order, she got up from her chair and came toward me, letting her silk kimono slip to the ground.

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27 WHERE WAS I?

Before leaving Freiburg that afternoon, I made a short stop at the local American consul’s office. The consulate was ensconced in a well-manicured house just outside of the city. I was ushered there, into a small but smartly appointed office with designerlooking gray walls and dark walnut furniture. Mr. Ibbotsen the representative of the U.S.

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Department of State in Freiburg extended his hand to me, but seemed loath to do so. I explained to him that I, and my American citizen band mates, were in the midst of an extended European tour, during which we were performing musical compositions of our own authorship. My conundrum, should he choose to follow me, was that we were experiencing certain difficulties within and without the group that might preclude our completion of the tour. This, regrettably, would leave us in some debt to our booking agency, and unable to provide for our return airplane fares to the U.S. of A. Was there, I wondered, any provision within his (Mr. Ibbotsen’s) auspices that might allow the Department of State to advance to us, as citizens of the U.S. in a foreign land, the amount of the return fares? He stared levelly at me across the green baize and brown leather blotter of his desk. After an uncomfortable few seconds, he picked up a letter opener from the blotter and began to toy with it. “Do you think that you’re the first punk band-guy that’s been in here trying to siphon bucks off the American taxpayer? I’ve had a snoot-full of your type. ‘We’ve had a

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sudden overdose of one of our band members’; ‘The drummer’s having a sexual identity crisis and he wants out’; you know, I’ve even heard ‘This girl I’ve been sleeping with is sucking my blood!’ Personally, I could care less about your cock-a-mamie problems and predicaments. You rock groups think you can come over here and lay this and snort that and that the ‘good ol’ U.S.A.’ will swoop right in and wipe your noses and clean up your messes and tuck in your shirts, and then you can jet right back to the next protest march in Denver or Seattle and burn the flag! Well it’s not going to happen here, missy, not on my watch. You’re not going to hornswoggle the American taxpayer on my dime. My advice is: Get a haircut, dry out for a while, see a psychiatrist, and then call mommy and daddy and tell them what you told me and see if you get a red cent!” I thanked him for his advice and concern and put the business card that he offered me into my wallet. He did bestow on me the use of his office phone so I could call our booking agent in Belgium, an act of largesse for which I was most grateful. What I learned from the agency was distressing. They hadn’t heard anything from Mitch. He was expected back at the Belgian
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office that morning and he never showed up, nor had he e-mailed, faxed, or called. Our new tour manager, having failed to find us at our hotel in Zurich was en route to Nuremburg. The reviews of our performance in Zurich were abysmal. The director of the booking agency was hoping that we would be available for a conference call upon our arrival in Nuremburg. He was, apparently, not happy. The drive back to Gadarene was a running battle between the images, memories, delusions, and questions that were squirming into and attacking my consciousness, and my almost super-human attempts to suppress these thoughts, doubts, and fears. I just wanted to get back to the band guys and try to sort things out before events spun any more wildly out of control. If we could just get a handle on ourselves and get through a few more shows, we’d be solvent with the bookers and could then either pull the plug on the whole nightmare, or try to muddle on to the end. Rolf’s house in Gadarene was locked and no one answered my repeated knocks and shouts. I drove over to the hotel and found it too, locked and dark inside. The only thing that I could think of, was going to the
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community center to see if anyone knew the whereabouts of three Yankee yahoos and a limey tosspot. I was just getting my keys out and heading across the street to the van when I thought I heard someone hiss my name. I looked up and down the street, but it was deserted. I had reached the van and was about to unlock the door when I heard my name hissed again. I turned around to a dilapidated double wooden door that looked like it was the front of a garage of some sort. I could see, just between the splintered wood of a crack in the door, an eye looking out at me. “Martin! Come around to the back of this building and come in through the window. Make sure no one sees you!” It was Mitch doing the hissing. He sounded completely unhinged—completely mad, insane. I made my way through the weeds and rusting trash of a side yard and then slid over the rotting wooden casement of a glass-less window at the back of the garage. The inside was dark, musty, and full of dust and cobwebs and the smell of damp plaster. I couldn’t see anything beyond the small area by the window where I was standing. Finally, after my eyes had somewhat adjusted to the dismal lighting,
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someone came out from behind some black shapes that were leaning against a wall. “Is there anyone following you?” Mitch whispered hoarsely. I glanced back over my shoulder into the empty yard. “I don’t think so?” “Martin, we’ve got to get out of here right away! We’ll make a run for the truck. Is there any diesel left in it?” “What about the guys?” “Fuck the guys! They’re lost anyway! I just came from a room where they’re jamming with these…these…. Do you know what they said when I had them alone and I told them what they were in danger of? They told me to stop freaking out and just give in! They said I should forget about my wife and you and the tour and everything else and just surrender! “Surrender to what? What are you talking about? Where are those guys anyway?” “Martin, do you know what I’ve just been through? You don’t have any idea of what I’ve seen or what’s been going on

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around here or what the hell’s happening here, do you? Where have you been!” Even when he was dead drunk and wretchedly depressed and he was at rock bottom about all the stuff he’d been going through with his wife and with the rest of his life’s problems, I’d never seen Mitch like this before. He was in some kind of serious shock. His hair was all matted and his eyes were red-rimmed, bloodshot, and crazy looking. He was barefoot and he only had on pants and a white T-shirt. His bare feet were cut and slashed and bleeding. His wrists and hands were scrubbed raw and bleeding in places. He was filthy and unshaven and his jaw quivered whenever he stopped talking. In his anguished, hoarse, lowered voice he moaned again “Martin…where have you been?” “Do you know what’s been going on around here?” he spat out. “Do you know that when you left me at that school or whatever, they just got me drunker and drunker? Those guys came on to me and I had to fight with them just to get out of there! I ran halfway across the town and hid before they ran past me and I was able to crawl over to a barn behind the church. Oh, Martin! Martin! Do you know what they’re
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doing here? Do you know what’s in that barn behind that church? I saw it Martin! I saw it with my own two eyes. Don’t tell me I didn’t. If I tell you this Martin…you gotta promise me…don’t tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Don’t tell me that I didn’t see what I know I saw or I swear I’ll go fucking mad!” I wanted to go over and hold him or do something to calm him down and comfort him, but to be honest, I was afraid to go near him. He was seriously scaring the living hell out of me. “Martin! They’re doing it. In that barn back there. I saw…listen to me…” “Look, Mitch, just try to calm down! Just tell me what’s going on…” “Fuck! ‘Just try to calm down’…Fuck that man! I saw them in there! Martin they’ve got eight or nine…I don’t know eight or nine or…I don’t know how many people… they have people…bodies…dead bodies— hanging up in there…upside down, just, just they’re draining the blood out of them! Do you hear me? They’re draining the blood from the bodies and putting it into some kind of vat. I saw them…hanging… and there are

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these tubes and vials… there’s these glass vials hanging next to them...full of red blood. Full of blood!” “Mitch, I know something’s wrong. I know you saw something…” “Fuck that! ‘I know you saw something! You fucking promised Marty!’” He was crying uncontrollably now. His teeth were clenched so hard I thought they would shatter. His lips were split and turned back and his mouth grimaced spasmodically and dripped spittle. He was shaking all over. “Just tell me, Mitch: Where are those guys? I’ve got to try to find those guys and then I swear we’ll leave.” I TOLD YOU: FUCK those guys! We’ve gotta leave now! Do you hear me--NOW! Do you wanna end up hanging with your… blood…” Now he completely lost it and collapsed onto the dirt floor, a writhing, sputtering, sobbing mess. Somehow I got control of my fear of him and I knelt beside him and put my arm around his shoulders. I lifted him up onto his knees but he fought back away from me, cringing on the ground.

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“They caught me Martin. They found me there. They took me back to that hotel and put me upstairs in a room in there. They knew you would come back and try to find me there. They put me like a piece of bait in a trap.” “I was there yesterday. The guy behind the desk said you…” “The guy behind the desk! The guy behind the desk? Do you know what he is? They threw me onto a bed in that hotel… they threw me like I was a corpse! That thing behind the desk! They left him sitting on the foot rail of the bed—like an animal—on his haunches…shifting from foot to foot up on top of the bed foot rail! To watch me…to make sure I wouldn’t escape and warn you! They knew you’d come there after me! That fiend! He watched me through the night with only the light of a candle burning by the window. He was sitting on his haunches on the foot rail of the bed leering over me, rocking backward and forward through those long night hours with his silent…fiendish… laughing. He was so amused at my vain attempts to escape him. He was waiting, waiting—licking his lips in anticipation of the time when he would catch me off my guard
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for one brief moment, then he would get the opportunity he was waiting for of burying his teeth in my throat. His eyes…his head…it looked like a leopard-head but it had no skin…it was horrible…the waiting…the waiting!” “But what happened! How did you get out of there? How…” “It was the priest! The priest—Father Matthias! There’s a priest here. He saw the candle in the window and he knew there was no one…no one earthly was in that hotel! He came in…thank God! He came in swinging this pole with a silver cross on it. He cleaved that fucker’s skull in two and rammed that pole into that fucker’s heart! God save him… that priest! He just kept telling me that he wasn’t crazy and that we would have to get all of you out! But I’m not risking it! I’m not risking it, Martin, we’ve gotta go now! As soon as that priest gets back here we’ve gotta make a run for it, promise me!” He grabbed my arm and dug his nails in and started dragging me toward the doors. Even through the leather of my jacket it was painful. “The priest, wait a second, hold on,

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where is the priest now?” He’s at the church! In the basement of the church! He said he buried some relics and crosses and things that they’d tried to get from him there, and he wasn’t leaving until he got them. If he’s not back in a few minutes…I think we should just take off, Martin! God love him! He saved my life but… they probably have him by now! Whaddaya say Marty, lets go! Let’s get outta here! We gotta leave now!” I put my hand over his mouth. There was someone outside the window. Someone was edging their head up over the sill to look in. I picked up a brick off the floor and drew it back over my shoulder. Mitch shook spastically like he was being electrocuted, and I thought he was going to scream any second. It was Father Matthias! He started and made a low grunt when he finally perceived us looking at him through the gloom. We ran over and yanked him in through the window. I looked around outside, but I didn’t see anyone. He had a dirty bag slung over his shoulder and he was too out of breath to speak when we pulled him inside. We held him up by his armpits and waited for him to get his wind back.

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“It’s you! I prayed for you,” he gasped. “I prayed they wouldn’t get you and here you are! Your friends are in grave danger! You must go to get them out of here or you vill all burn in the eternal fires of hell! Do you understand me!” “Father, it’s alright. I’ll get them. You and Mitch, you go now…you can take the truck. I’ll go and find them and we’ll get out of here, I promise.” “You don’t understand me! I tried to tell you yesterday! Don’t you know what hell ist?” I wish I could say that I was totally convinced that these two were not completely insane, and that I was in a great deal of danger just being alone in a confined space with them. I wish I could say that I didn’t believe any of what they were saying and that I was just going to placate them until I could get the hell out of there. What I really was, however, was totally overwhelmed. Enough bizarre, horrible stuff had been going on to make me think that they must know what they were talking about. Something seriously wrong and terrible must be happening. Just to look at them you could see they were in mortal

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terror. I had a sick feeling in my gut that I would have to do exactly as they said immediately, or something horrific was going to happen at any moment. At the same time I kept saying to myself over and over again in my head “This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening…” I mean, I wanted to believe them and I felt like they were telling me the truth, but I was also so freaked out by everything, that I wanted to just say “Time out! Let’s just take this one step at a time and think about this rationally!” Once again, I couldn’t reconcile the things that were happening all around me with the things that really happen all the time in the everyday, real world. “Martin…I know this is hard for you. It would have been hard for me…but I saw it! Just please try and trust me. Forget what Matthias says, forget about those guys… you’ve got to…we’re running out of time!” They both just stood there gasping, looking at me with terror-filled eyes. “I can’t,” I said finally, “I can’t do it! I’m not going to leave until I at least talk to those guys and see what’s going on myself! Here…here are the keys. You take father and go off somewhere and call the police or whatever. I swear I’ll take care of myself and
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make sure that those guys are OK. I just can’t leave until I see them!” “We’ll wait! Damn you Martin! We’ll wait! I know it’s a mistake but we’ll wait here for one hour,” Mitch said. “One hour, Martin! If you’re not back here, with or without those guys…we’re leaving!” “Don’t be foolish again junge! Don’t let the father of all lies trick you! They’re waiting for you to return. For some reason they want you more than the rest and they’re using your friends for a bait for you. See them if you must. Tell them what you can, but if their souls are lost, they are lost. In that case you must look to your own soul and save yourself!” “Where are they? How do I get there?” “You can hear them from over by the church—they’re playing crazy music and it sounds like all hell,” Mitch spat through clenched teeth. “You go…God help you…one hour Martin. We’ll only wait one more hour.” The priest drew a cross on my forehead with his thumb and said some words under his breath. I looked at Mitch. All he said was, “One hour, Martin.”

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28 SOLO

After I dropped out of the window. I hunched down into the weeds and ran the fifty yards to the next group of buildings. While I was bent down, running through the weeds I thought “I hope that this isn’t just some LSD flashback or something.” After a while though I thought again “Jeez…I hope it is.” I minced through a gangway in between buildings, looking behind me every few seconds. I waited for a full minute scanning the front of every dwelling on that block before I finally dashed across the street, sprinted through another gangway between buildings, and came out through a couple of backyards, jumping their weathered picket fences at a run, to the town square just in front of the church. I could hear them now. There was a sinister droning of instruments but none of it made any sense. There was no rhythm or individual notes—just a shrill
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barrage of discordant notes and arbitrary wailing and shrieking. It sent chills down my spine and shot cold fear through my veins. Suddenly, that metallic wail robbed me of any courage I thought I had. My throat and mouth were roasted dry. I felt like throwing up. It was the craziest, weirdest, sickest sound I’d ever heard. For a moment I looked across at the barn behind the church. That must be the barn that Mitch was talking about. I was about to go and see if what he said was true. That would put an end to all of this. That would be the final nail in the coffin. It would establish beyond doubt if it was all bullshit or not. …I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t bring myself to go over there! I couldn’t bring myself to actually look inside. “I’ll just go and check on the guys now,” I told myself, totally chickening out, “That’ll tell me everything I need to know.” I walked over to the warehouse where that screeching and howling was coming from. I was shaking. I tried to look back over my shoulder, but I didn’t have the courage to. I was exposed now, out in the open. I had to cross the square. I felt like there were a

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million eyes on me. Like I was under a microscope being minutely examined, dissected. As I reached for the handle to the warehouse door, it swung open. There was a gigantic swell of the “music” and then a horrific crash of sound. It split my eardrums and I wanted to fall on my knees from the pain. There was a very tall, very thin man in the middle of the cavernous room before me. He was completely still and his eyes were blank, black holes pinned into my very skin. His yawning mouth hung agape, another black cavern. His hair was in sparse gray patches across a paper-thin, scaly scalp. The skin sagged off his bones like thin, latex ooze. He floated in air a foot off the floor. Rolf came forward from somewhere inside and threw his arm over my shoulder. His arm was bony, but phenomenally strong. “Martin, I knew you could not resist the beautiful music from you band mates! That is the downfall of all musicians—they just cannot resist the music!” I was swept forward into the room. I was powerless to resist. I found it hard to breath for some reason and my eyes were smarting and dried-out and wanted to close,

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but I dare not shut them. I had a metallic taste in my mouth. I felt weak. It was like I was in a dream, and my limbs were so heavy, I could barely move them. The guys stood holding instruments, but they didn’t seem happy. They looked trapped. They had looks on their faces like they were mainlining Thorazine and antifreeze. They looked stupefied with terror. They were staring straight ahead and didn’t seem to recognize me. They didn’t say anything. The tall corpse-looking dude in the middle of the room just hovered there. Then he was gone. I was looking right at him. Then he was gone. “Terry, Steve, Kurt…it’s Martin!” Rolf said lighting a cigarette with a match and then flicking his wrist to put the match out. They all turned to me then and looked at me. “Hello, Marty,” Kurt and Terry whispered. “Hi, Martin.” Steve said after a moment. Terry and Kurt took off their guitars and Steve stood up from behind the drums. Dazed, comatose, they all came over mechanically and sat down. “We were all having a jam session, now we’re all tired.,” Rolf said. “You wouldn’t like

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to play something, would you Marty?” It sounded like a dare. “No, actually…” my voice was quiet, quavering. I didn’t sound very confident. I didn’t even sound like me. “Actually, I’d like to talk to these guys… I haven’t seen them since yesterday…and we…we have to talk about some things…outside.” “Talk? Yes, of course! You will talk with your friends. We will leave you now to talk… but stay here…because we are making you a dinner to honor you tonight. Did you know that? The guys accepted an invitation for you and I know that Ursula is expecting you. She should be here any minute…so you must not go away.” “…must not go away.” It seemed that now, they were beginning to drop pretense. One by one Katrin, Elke, Frida, Reinhold, Gabe, Hermann, Horst and a couple of other freaks that had been draped languidly over the couches and chairs in the room, got up and, zombie-like, drifted out the front doors. No one said anything, and when Rolf, the last to leave, closed the doors behind him, the doors clicked hollowly and certainly, as being locked. I went over and parted the curtains slightly, only to see them all wander off in

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various directions, aimlessly, as if in a dream. Steve, Kurt, and Terry sat mutely on a couch. They wouldn’t look at me. It wouldn’t have been a very pleasant sight if they had. Their eyes now were blood red, their pupils dilated to the size of dimes. “I don’t suppose that there’s a back door around here?” My attempt at humor was timid and wasted—wasted, as I knew any attempt at escaping would be. I went around to the windows and doors trying them all in vain. The guys sat in a stupor. I didn’t know where they were now or if any of this was getting through to them. It was only after I sat down on a coffee table in front of them and told them that we had to try to make a break for the truck, and do whatever it took to make it over there, that I got any response at all. Terry croaked “Resign.” When I asked him what he meant, he said “We’ve gone too far. You go, we have to stay. We have to stay now. There’s nowhere left for us to go now.” When I asked him what that meant, he laughed a short little laugh, and then began to cry.

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Fury rose through my core until, screaming, I swung the coffee table from beneath me. I flung it from over my head through the curtains. The window blew out onto the front steps and I leapt onto the sill, only to face three of the gooks that had just left, standing in a semi-circle on the pavement outside. They didn’t say a word about me smashing their property. They were waiting for me to take the next step to the outside. I looked behind me and shouted at the fellows, “Come on now! Let’s get the hell out of here! There’s only three of them out here now.” There they sat, as if they hadn’t heard me, as if I’d not just thrown a table though a window. I kind of deflated. The guys didn’t even make a single move. They just sat staring straight ahead of them. They were scared, they were terrified, but they were too scared and terrified to move even a single muscle. What really hurt was that, when I looked outside again, I could see in the distance, our truck making its way up the grade just outside of the town, heading for the highway. I got down from the widow sill, crackling some shards of glass under my boots. I went over to the guys and sat down on the arm of a chair. Steve finally looked up

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at me then and all he said was, “We’re sorry, Marty.”

29 PHANTAMAGORIA

Purple crepuscular shades of evening soon crept into the room through the smashed out window. The thin sheer drapes and green curtains on the other windows rustled now and then in a timid wind. The room grew steadily darker, and with the darkness, came a crushing sense of doom. We’d sat there in silence for an hour or so in the black room before Rolf and four others came in to conduct us to the church building.

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We shuffled across the bricks of the square like French prisoners being led to the guillotine. The huge oak plank doors of the church swung back to disclose the apse, painted completely in black and lit by hundreds of candles on every flat surface and in huge chandeliers that hung heavily on greasy chain, from high up in the vaulted ceiling. The denizens who greeted us were dressed in decaying finery from any of the previous twelve centuries. The present era was well represented. The pews had all been rent from the floor and were now set in a circle around a leaping fire in the middle of the apse. A large, heavily laden table ran down where the center aisle would have been, ending before a fire pit. The morbid sounds that came from every beam and rafter, from every crevice and hollow, from all of the black corners and dark recesses of the former church, most closely resembled a human moan. There were other noises and sounds—shrieks, babbling, hoarse cries, and echoes, something like weeping. Oily black smoke emanated from the fire and spread throughout the building. Its acrid, bitter odor mixed with the reek of rotting flesh—both animal and human—and hung like a pall over

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everything inside. It made every breath a disgusting, horrifying effort. The rancid fog clung inside the mouth and nostrils and lay on the tongue like a corrupt host. We were bidden by Rolf to the table to “enjoy the hasenpfeffer and repast.” I’m certain that hasenpfeffer is rabbit. But on these platters were whole goats, stripped of their skin and with the heads still on, some with horns. The rest of the dishes consisted of some moldy bread, and tray after tray of blackened, rotting fruit and vegetables. A starving dog whose ribs struck out from his withered sides approached us with a baby’s head in his black-rimmed jaws. The stench from it all was overwhelming, and more than once I vomited from the intense, revolting reek and my sickening fear. The drink was their wine. Pitchers and casks of it. Punch bowls. In mugs and flutes and skull bowls and rams horns, they drank it wantonly, swilling and spilling it, it ran down cheeks and faces and chins and dripped and spattered. The floor was awash in its gore. We huddled together, our arms around each other. Our faces turned down toward the floor in a stupid attempt to avoid staring into their vacuous, empty, sunken eyes, as they all held the look of death or of animals

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at slaughter. The crowd mingled and jostled. There were no conversations or words. There was though, an undertow of constant murmuring, muttering, and high, hideous laughter. I wish that I could say that I was beyond surprise now, beyond any feeling other than the stark, freezing fear and the utter horror that gripped me. The surprises weren’t through yet. The doors of the church flew open. In came the pock marked pimp who’d threatened me in Hamburg with, on his arm, Cassandra. She swept up toward me. I thought that I might pass out. I reached back with my arm to strike with my fist the gloating, dopey face of the bastard that escorted her. He simply caught the blow in his hand like it was a fly, and threw my crushed hand back into the air in front of me. “Guten abend my lord! It is so nice to see you again. I understand that we will be seeing a lot of each other from now on,” he said with a laugh of utter hatred. He bowed to Cassandra and nodded briefly to her then turned on his heel, limped to a table and hefted a tankard of the wine to his grim, red lips. “My lord, you are here and we are

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together again just as I prophesied this morning.” Cassandra knelt before me in a black crepe dress with long, full skirts that trailed several feet behind her. “Cassandra,” I gasped. “Get up! You’ve got to help us!” I tried to keep my voice down but my terror raised it to a volume that I hadn’t anticipated. The laughter and jibbering that resulted from the seething mob around us increased exponentially, until it was searing my eardrums, and I could barely stand it. “Help you? My lord it is you who will now help me! It is you who will now ascend to the eternal life that I seek! It is you who will be installed as consort to our queen! From now on I shall seek your aid and comfort, not you mine!” “Cass… please, please listen to me. This can’t be happening…can’t you…you said you loved me!” “I?...I never said that! I couldn’t have said that! It is no longer a province within my country. I have ever been a faithful servant of our queen and no more. I have only performed the services that she has required of me. I couldn’t love you, or anyone. Love

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doesn’t exist—don’t you know?” “Are you still struggling with your pathetic, simplistic, notions?” The pimp butted in now. “You’ll soon be disabused! Cassandra was merely flattering your own egotistical, self-serving conceits and lusts. Don’t you see! She just acted out for you, your own disgusting image of what you’d imagined for yourself. She is only a mirror reflecting the animal that you are back to yourself!” The laughter shrilled and echoed agonizingly again. Cassandra held up her hand to silence the shrieking and raised her voice to be heard above it. “It’s true, my lord! I was following you not to satisfy my desires! I followed you so that your hateful desires would lead you here to this place tonight. Your own sins guided you here without any guile or deception from me!” “NO! Don’t surrender to these… to these…Cassandra come with us--we’ll get out of here. At that, the gaping maws of all those present vomited peals of piercing, bizarre squeaks and grating metal noises. “It’s true my lord! I was the waitress
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whose bosom you could not take your eyes off of in the restaurant in Hamburg, even though she was old enough to be your grandmother! I too was that whore in Hamburg, that you wanted to defile, but that your self-righteous, self-inflated image that you‘ve woven for yourself would not allow you to! I am the worm in the apple that you blanch at, but that you’d wantonly lick if the mucous of its skin would transform your sorry, boring, pathetic little world into the exciting, fantastic, titillating wonderland you think you so richly deserve for all of your talent and good looks! As she enumerated all of her previous incarnations, she transformed into each of them in turn and then back into Cassandra again. I did not bring you here my lord! NO! I did not lure you here! You brought yourself to this celebration of your poverty, ignorance, and depravity!” She raised a ram’s horn of the gory wine above her head and splashed the bloody serum down her hands and arm. “And long may we celebrate the hatefulness of your lost soul!” “Hear, Hear!” cried the pimp, and every ghoul and fiend in that cavernous hell

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raised their bloody chalice above their heads. There was a deafening banging like an iceberg shattering against the steel hull of a huge ship, like a bullet piercing a metal helmet. Suddenly, the crowd began to part, stepping aside as a tide ran through them and they separated to expose the place where the altar had once stood, a dais where two ragged velvet thrones were placed. From out of the ebony dankness at the back of the church two figures approached. Their dark outlines materialized from the blackness like drowned bodies being pulled up from the black clutches of a deep, cold, and murky lake. Into the red orange aurora of the furious fire and beneath the sick yellow glow of the dripping candles, Ursula floated forward, two feet above the ground on the arm of the skeletal specter that I’d seen before at the warehouse. All present bent to their knees. Finally, an abrupt hush came from out of the thinness of the air to silence all of the horrible noises, like a rustling from rushes in a wind near a stream. All heads were bowed, and it seemed like black wings fluttered among the gables and rafters at the ceiling.
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She was indeed, beautiful beyond all description. Her black gown clung to her voluptuous body as if it were not there, and it may not have been, such was the chimera her image presented. To look at her was to feast one’s eyes on a visage so insanely alluring and erotic, and yet so elusive, that you could never fix in your mind what it was exactly that you were seeing. What you were looking at was what you were, and weren’t, seeing. Still, her form seemed to represent pure lustful, carnal desire as it exists in the recesses of your consciousness—unknowable and unreachable to the conscious mind and heart, concealed by thousands of years of evolution and the sheer weight of animal suppression—but lurking there as certain as anything can be in this world. She called me forward to her and I, powerless, slid across the floor, unable to resist. As if in a dream I came before her, wanting to reach out and touch her; but, as in a dream, I was inanimate and limp. When she looked at me her face transformed into the gorgeous face that I’d first encountered in the hotel at Bargen. The angelic beauty of it mesmerized and lulled me from out of the horror that I’d formerly been all consumed by. It drugged me beyond any of the

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revulsion and terror that I’d been immersed in, and raised me into gentle, enfolding arms of ecstatic bliss. “I have chosen you to be my consort for the next thousand years. I would not have it if you do not willingly give your consent. Before my son and myself, and before all those assembled here, do you so grant your assent to my wishes?” Why had I struggled so hard? Why had I resisted? Why would I have tried with all of my might to place any impediment between myself and this eternal, Nirvanic bliss that I, undeservingly, had been bestowed with? I wanted to laugh at myself but my jaw was slack and I had not the energy or effort to summon it. All I had to do now was exert a simple, effortless act of my will as I’d done thousands, hundreds of thousands of times before, to enjoy forever, all of the splendors and sensations I’d ever dreamed of or conjured, and so many others of which I could never even conceive. The decision fluttered across my mind like the wings of a butterfly—I have only to assent to this last sin, this mere trifle, this gossamer nothing— and all of the vistas of the universe will be forever opened to me. I will be the equal of God.
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I turned my face up to hers so that she might kiss my waiting mouth. Her lips descended past mine and down toward the taught skin of my throat. “I have not heard his words of assent to your invitation to hell!” boomed out and echoed like a huge tolling bell throughout the church. It was the priest, Father Matthias, draped in a black robe and holding in front of him the silver crucifix atop the wooden staff. Behind him, just inside the doors stood Mitch with a golden aspersorium in one hand, and clutching a gold crucifix to his chest with the other. All hell broke loose in the church. A shriek, like the sound of a backbone cracking, amplified and speeded up, emitted from the throng. It was deafening, roaring—rolling like a tidal wave of hatred through the mob and crashing into my ears and onto my head in a cascade of searing pain. The priest advanced through the parting black sea of hellions holding the staff and cross before him in one hand and dipping into the aspersorium and hurling holy water from the gold wand in his other. It sounded like the skin was being ripped whole from the bodies of all that damned host assembled. The holy water struck them and
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hissed and steamed horribly, emitting a sulfurous stench as they cowered and covered their heads to escape the sight of the cross held aloft over them. Still lost and insane, I cursed the wretched priest and his cowardly lackey. I hissed in pain and wished to hell that Ursula would burn them to a blackened crisp before me. I turned back to her to beseech that she do the same. I staggered and fell to the floor. Before me, where Ursula had been, was no beatific vision of sexual promise and sensual splendor. In her place, there on the dais next to the skeletal, floating corpse, reared the rotting carcass of a horse. From the empty sockets of its eyes, an array of worms, snakes, and maggots lolled out, conveying an unspeakable horror. The priest, flung holy water madly, and Mitch cowered behind him and behind the crucifix. They made their way through the writhing, palsied rabble to the place in the apse where Steve, Kurt, and Terry all huddled together on their knees on the floor. The priest raised them up screaming incantations in Latin. They made their way up to me—I was insensate, nearly unconscious, lying on the floor at the altar. Mitch threw me over his shoulder and they,
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clasping together in a mass, crept through the seething and diabolic host, which edged toward us at each step, threatening and seething, and milling like maggots in and out of a corpse. The priest handed the aspergillum to Mitch and Mitch handed me off to the other guys. In a frenzy he whipped the holy water into the air, in an acid rain onto their ulcering heads and faces. Then Father Matthias, as we inched down the aisle toward the doors, seized a flaming brand out of the fire pit and set alight any of those cadavers near him that he could torch with it. They scattered in showers of sparks and in wreaths and tongues of flame in a mad, trampling rush over the pews, setting fire to all they touched as a wave of purifying blaze swept across the church with an unnatural, all-consuming fury. The heat became so intense as we neared the doors that our hair smothered and our skin singed painfully. We’d almost made the door when those not already alight pressed in upon us murderously clawing and hammering toward us with their clawed, withered fists. I took a last look toward the altar to see the inferno engulf whole, the rearing, flailing, rotting corpse of a horse. As the minions of hell reached ever

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closer to draw us back with them into the flaming pit of hell, the priest began pushing us bodily through the oaken doors. Mitch tried to pull him through with us, but there was no way that we could all make it out with the clutching, grasping mob descending —they snatched and plucked and scratched at us, desperate and blind, just as people drowning clutch at and drag their rescuers down below with them—someone would have to hold them off, to let us trickle out; keeping them away from the doors, sealing their escape. “Father, save yourself! Go with them!” Mitch commanded. “I will not let these horrors back into the world! Save yourself and the others— they are sick and helpless!” It was too late then. The intense inferno and the raving fiends reached us just as we slid between the closing doors. Not so Mitch and Father Matthias. They stood before the doors, Father Matthias swinging his crucifix staff and Mitch showering holy water on those nightmare forms that flamed before them. I thought, I may have misheard, but I thought that as he forced the doors closed behind him, Mitch screamed something to

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me. It may have been “Tell my wife I love her.” Through the last crack in the doors I saw the priest forcing the staff through the door handles, sealing the doom of all inside. We tripped and rolled down the steps of the church just as a furious fireball exploded out from all of the windows and belfry of the building. The entire edifice was consumed in a conflagration so intense that every building around it took flame, until the incineration of the entire town was assured. We helped each other struggle to the truck across the square while waves of heat scorched our skin and burning cinders and ash cascaded all around. They threw me onto the floor in the back of the van and Terry fired up the engine and floored it, squealing the tires as the others flung themselves into the moving vehicle. No one spoke. The headlights were useless, as the brightness of the halocaust of the burning town and the incinerating forests around it permitted no shadow of darkness to fall before us.

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30 DEPORTED

We drove madly for the autobahn entrance, searching behind us for anything following our speeding truck, still possessed body and soul by absolute terror. We broke into two or three different arguments over what to do and where to go. Steve and Terry wanted to keep driving until the fuel ran out and to keep track of any cars or trucks that might be following us, so that we’d be ready...for…for what? What would we do if we were being followed? What could we do?

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Did they even need cars? Kurt and I wanted to find a police station or police car and at least report the fire that must be totally out of control and raging through all of the forest around there. We were completely overwrought and hysterical, but we finally agreed that if we came on a good-sized town, well lit and with the look of lots of people about, we would stop to report the fire. We also agreed that we would only stop long enough to make the report and that we’d then flee as quickly as possible. We passed one or two exits but there were no towns visible from them. There was a gas station complex that we could see from the road, but no one had any confidence in stopping there. After another five minutes passed we saw a police car that had pulled a driver over to the side of the autobahn. After a hurried, furious argument, we decided to pull over and back up to him. To report the fire, but also to see if any vehicles stopped or turned off the road when we did. There were two policemen in the car. They forgot all about the car that they’d originally pulled over and instead became more interested in us, especially when we refused to get out of our vehicle, even when they’d pulled their guns on us.

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“Versteh? FEUER! Im Gadarene! Verstehst du nicht!” I screamed in my limited German. In no time there were three other police cars there and a van with a S.W.A.T. team in full battle gear. They finally wrestled us out of the truck and beat us up pretty bad to do it. They took us to a fluorescent-lit, maximum security lock-up. We were freaked out and raving pretty good by then. They had us on twenty-four hour suicide watch. We didn’t mind. We were pretty well convinced that, though we were sitting ducks in that jail, the guards watching us, armed with fully-automatic 9mm weapons, would be able to take out a lot of those shitheels before they could get to us. The shit hit the fan though, when we realized that they probably could just come through the walls, what would we do then? I guess we kind of lost it at that point. They ended up having to sedate us all and transfer us to a mental hospital. What followed were seven days of sedation, psychiatrists, police interviews, lawyers, depositions, and doctors, in a blurry succession. Apparently, we each had our good days and bad days. We’d make some progress and then one or more of us would just freak out and tear the place apart
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from a flashback or nightmare or in trying to escape. Even though we all, at one time or another, tried to make an escape from that facility, we failed, because we were always trying to find the other guys to spring each other—no one tried to make it out alone. The police were pretty intense because two burnt corpses were found in the ashes of the church. They were mulling murder or manslaughter charges for us. They found no other bodies. We all told various stories. Some were the truth, some were combinations of the truth and lies, and some were all lies. By the end of the seven days we were all just telling them what it was that they seemed to want to hear: that we’d been so drunk and drugged out that a fire we’d started had gotten out of control and burned down the town and four hectares of forest. Our tour manager and a vagrant that inhabited the town had burned to death accidentally. In the end we all signed statements to that effect. As they gradually decreased the sedatives they were giving us, we were allowed to spend more time together, but we usually just sat in a common room that had a

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television going twenty-four hours a day. That was when we were the calmest. The police had a police person or a hospital guard there at all times. We never complained. Ibbotsen came to the hospital the day before we were supposed to appear in court. He straightened me out on a few of the details of what had happened to us. Apparently, we were in deep shit for the forest fire. Luckily, he said, the local farmers had reported it and it was already extinguished by the time that we’d been stopped by the cops. The authorities were going to consider the death of the vagrant ex-priest and the British national as accidental. He thought that that would probably be the extent of the damage. “What about the town though? They don’t care that we burned down an entire town? “The town? The town that you guys insist on calling Gadarene was actually the town of Garndorf. The only building there that is still under current ownership was the church. The church was only kept open for the local farmers, and even that was closed three years ago after an incident that the

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priest had. The rest of the town was a ghost town. Just a few derelict buildings that were falling down anyway. The entire town was wiped out at the end of World War Two when some SS bitter-enders held out there after the surrender, and the place had to be decimated by U.S. troops. Both the civilian population and the SS were completely wiped out. The town was never rebuilt. The Germans could care less about the town. They’ve had a lot of trouble around there with missing persons and vagrants. Strange reports to the police. I think they’re glad you burned it.” On the eighth day in custody we were arraigned in court. We had a state department lawyer that Mr. Ibbotsen had arranged for us, and a German lawyer that our families had gotten. The arraignment only took a half an hour because Ibbotsen had already been working things out with the German authorities. We were to be deported and barred from entering Germany for two years from that date. We also received suspended sentences and a 20,000 Euro fine for the costs incurred in putting out the forest fire and for our arrest and confinement. Ibbotsen said we got off cheap. The day we were taken to the Munich
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airport, Ibbotsen showed up to make sure we got on the plane. “You guys are really lucky, aren’t you? You should be rotting in a German prison, and instead you’re flyin’ out of here scotfree, and in business class. You come over here and live it up and trash the place and the reputation of the United States of America, and then you fly off and leave your messes for everyone else to clean up. You really are the limit! I’d say ‘I hoped you’d learned a lesson!’ but I know your type— you’re only in it for the laughs and the broads—it never occurs to your kind about the hell you put other people into.” He handed us our flight tickets, passports, and deportation papers and snapped shut his briefcase with particular violence. “My parting advice to you as a humble servant of Uncle Sam and the American people is ‘Go to hell!’” I couldn’t really fault him for it. He’d actually done us a few good turns, and I could understand what he thought of us and why. All I said was, ”Thanks for the advice, Ibbotsen, but we’ve already been there.”

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31 CRASHING

Who can tell why things happen the way that they do? On the entrance ramp to the airplane we got a call from our U.S.
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record company telling us that two of the songs from the album that we’d just released had charted and that we were already selling at a platinum level. They also said that they were negotiating the terms of a contract to make one of our songs the theme music for a Hollywood movie that was already in production. That news made no dent in us. A few weeks ago, we would have celebrated for a month. The guys are quiet now on the airplane. Kurt is looking out the window and Steve and Terry went into fitful sleep a half an hour after takeoff. For once, none of us ordered a drink. The stewardess and steward are keeping a wary eye on us. We still haven’t really gone over things among ourselves. Maybe we will in another couple of weeks, or months, or maybe we never will. We’ve all written notes to Mitch’s family and to his widow. We’re going to send a wreath or something to a memorial service his family is having in Britain this week. We called around some to see about doing something for Father Matthias’s family, but it seems that he has none. He has no one to remember him in a good light. Except for us.

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I know now that I was wrong. I know now how wrong I was. I know now that evil can only enter into the world through the tiny portal door of the hearts of men and women. I know now that I will never, never be the person that I was before. Hopefully— the best I can hope for—is that I can come to some kind of peace with all of this. Someday, but not today, and not for a very long time into the future. I would like to go to sleep now. The flight is going to be another seven hours before reaching Chicago. But I don’t really sleep anymore. Not like I used to be able to. Not unless I want to see some things that I‘ll never get used to seeing as long as I live. I’m only able to get a half hour here and there now. I don’t want to fall into too deep a sleep. I’m afraid that I’ll never wake up.

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32 EPITAPH

The Innocents landed in Chicago exactly six weeks and five days after they’d left for their first tour of Europe. Due to certain circumstances beyond their control, they were unable to complete their tour schedule. The usual jet lag and exhaustion that besets the weary traveler after the long trans-Atlantic flight was compounded for them, due to their recent difficulties. They arrived on the tarmac in Chicago a beatendown and spent relic of the band that left here triumphant and determined to conquer foreign lands only a month or so before. They dragged themselves through the baggage pick-up and customs inspection and met up with a small contingent of family members and friends at the exit of the international terminal, but they were a vastly changed group from the boys that left here a month ago. They were bedraggled and somewhat tearful when the welcoming party
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accosted them on their arrival. The band all shook hands with each other and hugged and said good-byes just before getting into separate cars to leave the airport. But most of all they just wanted to leave behind them at the airport and in Europe what they knew they could not. And as they got into cars and closed car doors and hoped to close doors in their minds and in their hearts and in their memories that would never be completely shut, the overseas airfreight from the newly arrived aircraft from Munich began moving down the conveyor. Among the German freight items that rode the conveyor belt down to the airport transport trucks were certain boxes or crates that had “Do Not Inspect” stamps of customs immunity from the German government. “Handle With Care” was stenciled on the sides of the sturdily constructed crates. The baggage handlers had some difficulty loading them into the trucks because their size and shape were particularly large for that type of conveyance, until someone realized that they would fit perfectly into the casket transfer truck, because they were all boxes of those exact same dimensions.

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DAS ENDE

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