Monday, January 04, 2010

8/4/76 - 2

There was a disordered pile on my side, ankle-deep, the characteristic refuse of car life: Styrofoam coffee cups, empty Marlboro reds, a yawning Big Mac box, pull tabs and cans, napkins, stir sticks and spent Heinz packets with ketchup coagulated along their lacerations. Rick's collection of 8-track tapes was carelessly intermingled with the trash. I nudged and burrowed until the soles of my shoes made contact with the floor.

"Grab a tape," Jim said.

I examined the choices. Pictures at an Exhibition, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. There Goes Rhymin' Simon, Paul Simon. Keep the Faith, Black Oak Arkansas. I dug deeper.

"How is this?" I asked, holding up the new Led Zeppelin, Presence. The cover depicted a wholesome family of four in their Sunday best, seated around a white-clothed table upon which rested a highly sinister, abstract object. They contemplated it cheerily.

"I dunno. It's OK. I–"

"Sucks!" yelled Rick from the back.

I looked at the cover more closely. Outside the window behind the family, pleasure boats bobbed in a marina. The title of the first song was "Achilles Last Stand."

"I haven't heard it all yet," Jim confessed.

"Fuckin' sucks," Rick repeated.

"Good. Fuck you. We're listening to it," I declared.

I popped it into Jim's player and pushed play. A creeping guitar figure arose and wound sinuously from the speakers. It was a weary little melody. It sounded like it had been playing for a thousand years and we'd just now intruded upon it. Suddenly a dark beat cracked, charging and throbbing like a pitiless storm. The drums were thunder. The guitars were lightning and rain. Floating above it all was a baleful, moaning song.

I looked out again at the mid-Jersey landscape. Macedonia. Leafy industrial parks by the side of the highway. Billboards for cigarettes and cars. Pontiac Bicentennial Sale-abration. Everything suspended in honey.

Rick tapped me on the shoulder and passed me a balloon filled with nitrous oxide. I emptied my lungs and placed it to my lips, inhaled deeply, and held my breath. Everything inside and outside of my mind fell away like water down a drain. I was in a small, bare room with a solitary light. A room without a door. I was on my hands and knees and gazing at the floor. I was higher than I'd ever been before. I turned to my right to see the window roller knob and for a moment I saw it for what it really was: not a window roller knob. Everything was transparent, porous. Purple petals of guitar and liquid bass. Ah, ah-ah-ah, ah, ah-ah-ah went the song. I realized I was sweating when I felt the vent wind cool on my face and that's when I stopped being high. I handed the rest of the balloon to Rick.