Get Rhythm… and Get the Fuck Out: A long black night of the soul.
By COCO HAMES
I got a scholarship to the University of Florida,
a big state university where I felt like a total freak and was so overwhelmed
I’d get panic attacks, so I took solace as resident sad sack country singer at
a small dive bar near campus. There were never very many people in there, and
if there were, they were just the kind of run-of-the-mill creeps you’d find at
any north Floridian shithole.
One night, after my set, a guy came up to me and asked if he
could buy me a drink. I was 18 and took every opportunity not to have to show
my weak fake ID, so I accepted. The guy was small, tiny even, and was on crutches.
He had a scraggly beard and a cowboy hat. I figured his age to be somewhere in
the early 30s.
We sat down, got to drinking, and talked about country music. He said he had an
amazing vinyl collection, stuff no one else had, and asked if I’d like to come
over and listen to some records. After a few pitchers of beer, that sounded
like a great idea. He said I could ride with him, but I’d brought my car and
would need to move it anyway, so I said I’d follow behind him.
We drove for about 15 minutes, way past the interstate and into what we old Floridians
call “a place where nothing good happens.” It was beyond rural. I was evenly
weirded out by now, just about to turn around and bail, when he signaled and
turned into a patch of burnt land with a tiny trailer on it.
For some reason, I turned in behind him.
He got out of his rusty truck and assembled his crutches, then led the way into
the trailer. I was nearly laughing by this point because I was thinking, this
is such a very, very bad idea. But I was kind of stuck now.
To say that the place was a mess would be an idiotic understatement. Save for a
sunken-in, cushionless couch, there was no furniture in the main room. The
window was broken. There was no kitchen. The floor was littered with beer
bottles and newspaper, and a shower curtain hung over a doorframe that evidently
led to the bedroom. That just so happened to be where he-and by default, I-was
Sleeveless LPs were strewn about the floor. He produced a
small record player and set it among them. I didn’t know what to do so I kind
of perched on the broken sofa arm. That’s when I noticed the hypodermic needles
all over the floor and, propped against a rickety shelf opposite the door, a
small black handgun.
Before I could react to these discoveries, Johnny Cash’s
baritone filled the room. I looked over at the guy. He was balancing on one
crutch, pointing the other at the spinning, wobbling LP.
“Name it-name this song.”
“Uh… ‘Long Black Veil,’ I said.
He knocked the arm off the record and picked up another one,
setting it on the player. Another Johnny Cash song swelled up, and I was asked
to name it, too. This went on for a couple of songs, all Johnny Cash, all songs
I knew. I started to notice, every time he’d ask me to name a song, he’d glance
at the gun. If I guess wrong, I
thought, is he gonna shoot me?
At some point, he ducked into the bedroom to look for more
records. I got the fuck out of there.
Blurt “co-co-editor” Coco Hames fronts The Ettes, whose latest album Look
At Life Again Soon (Take Root) is still a
hot item-but look out for a new EP, “Danager Is,” and a Dan Auerbach-produced limited-edition
single in March 2009. And catch ‘em at SXSW, too.
Incidentally, we had to ask Coco what the hell was up with the photo, above. She advised us that it’s of her having just won “the coveted “best performance” award at the punk rock night at the Melody Inn in Indianapolis, one of our favorite sweat boxes! So proud!” We’re proud of ya too, Coco.