A Lot Has Happened...

Yep. A lot has happened since my last gig, 2 weeks ago. I finally have my CD all mixed and mastered, and almost ready to go, save for the packaging, which I should have completed within the next 2 weeks. A few major life changes have hit me kinda hard too, so it'll be very cathartic indeed to play tonight at Portage Lake Parlor. Sometimes, man... I just want to run away. Buy me a one way ticket to Memphis or New Orleans, and not look back. And that is exactly what I would have done, and did in fact do, just a few short years ago. I even got to sleep on the bluff on the Mississippi River, because I could not cash a check. Certain things you want to do before you run away as an adult... One would be to find out the check cashing policies at the escape destination. I have to admit though, those three nights were wonderful. It was warm, the moon was bright, and I was laying right there, kind of under a tree, with the stars shining down on me. The tugboats pushing the long barges throughout the night, whose captains could obviously see me there in the moonlight, would blow their whistles, and man, it was simply surreal. I highly doubt the people staying at the Memphis Mission, where hundreds of men have to sleep on mats on the floor of a huge sermon hall, because all the rooms with rows of cots are always full, think it's very romantic, but I had a check which had been mailed to me in my possession in the amount of $3,800.00, and I knew it was just a matter of time before I could cash it. So thank God, I had a little wiggle room when it came to seeing the romantic aspects of my situation.

I had been living there, in Memphis, for 3 months at that time, and had been staying at a nice little rooming house in a very black neighborhood. I loved it there. One time the man upstairs found out that I played the blues, and asked me if I wanted to come up and have a few beers. Several 6 packs later, around 3 am, our singing, playing, and beat-keeping (stomping) were silenced.. several times.. by the live in property manager, who obviously had a dislike for my music... at 3 am. The neighborhood was very cool too.. There were these really funny prostitutes who I would almost always encounter whenever I went to the convenience store who would cat-call me. They wore lots of this day-glo makeup, and sported huge piled up orange and purple bee hive wigs, all while balancing on 8" platform heels. Oh yes, they were all queens. Very tall black men dressed up like beautiful cartoon models, who would tease me as I walked by. Too funny. They probably were all packing pistols, no doubt! Or maybe they were just glad to see me. We'll never know.

I had been paying my rent on a weekly basis, and knew when the check was going to arrive, so I hadn't bothered putting back any rent money. I had no bank account, so the banks would not deal with me as a customer. They also flat out refused to cash my very legitimate check. The hood party stores (convenience stores to all you Southerners), even the check cashing places wouldn't cash it. The only way I could take care of it in Tennessee was to have a State ID. In order to get an ID, I needed three things. One was a piece of business mail with my Tennessee address on it, which I had, but the other two, my Social Security card, and Birth Certificate were lost, or more like thrown away by my estranged wife, when I split months before. So I was screwed. 

That's how I ended up sleeping on the bluff in Memphis, right there above the shore of the Mighty Mississippi River. I would go to my corner in the morning, and play and sing for the passing tourists (God I musta looked a fright) and at the end of the day, buy a half pint of Jim Beam, more Off bug spray, and head back "home" down the bluff. After my third day, I had managed to make enough cash to buy a Greyhound ticket for a quick trip back to Jackson, Michigan, which is my hometown, in order to cash the check, get a certified copy of my birth certificate, apply for another SS card, jump on the train, head to Chicago, and catch the special back to Memphis. This is merely one of many trips I have made over the years, by the way. When times are fat, you fly, or take the train, my favorite being the City of New Orleans Special out of Chicago. When times are lean, you get a ticket on a Greyhound bus, or walk!

The bus trip was long, and very hot, and I had spent every penny on my ticket. I had no water, and no food. Once at night, early in the trip, the driver made a stop at McDonalds and told us we had 10 minutes. Man, when the folks got back on the bus, that food smelled so damned good! The next day, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, the bus broke down. It was a really shitty diner with no air conditioning, and nothing else. Just a hot diner in the middle of third world Podunk county. Dirt parking lot. With the occasional 18 wheeler kicking up massive clouds of dust. The place was overrun with huge black wasps, and I hated it. I recall that Flo behind the counter of the hot, sticky little place was totally out of her element when a bus load of hot, sweating, anxious customers ran through the door, swatting at wasps and screaming   We were stranded there in the 100 plus degree temperature for about 5 hours, when a relief bus finally arrived. With broken AC. Oh well. I arrived, hot, tired and starving in my hometown around 9 am on a Saturday.. I walked straight to the party store (convenience store for all you Southerners), and the lady said Hi Cooper. I said hi, and handed her the check. She cashed it without even asking for my ID. Man. I was relieved.

Stayed at a nice hotel (shit hole) for the next two nights, and partied with a new friend. Great memories. Monday morning, I went to my friend Connie's place, who was storing some of my things, and arranged to have a very large double-stack Marshall DSL amp picked up and taken to a place that charged me $150.00 to package it up. Then I had it shipped to Memphis. In the meantime, I got all my documentation needed taken care of, said a few hasty good byes, and headed to the train station. Often, when times are bad, and we are going through what seems like a regular shit-tornado, we don't think about the memories that are being made. I wouldn't trade these things for a pot of gold. Wait a minute, yeah.. I would!


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