Second Childhood, part 13: Bullets and Getting the Damn Thing Airborne


13 My Kind of Town

Boomer looked up from his laptop at the familiar sights of the freeway: Chi-town, coming right up. At last we’re out of the sticks, he thought. Boomer was from the Northside. Cubs fan. He still had that hard, nasal accent, though it had lost some of its punch from years in L.A.
The last three gigs had been work. The tour bloom was definitely fading a bit. In Cheyenne, the smallish hall had been half empty. Boomer didn’t know where they even found the front-range weirdoes who did show up. KWYZ, Take a ‘WYZ! Just Don’t Face the Wind When You Let It Fly! the oldies station, had a big give-away of tickets, but only managed to pawn off sixty passes to older tubby mamas and gray-haired biker types. Lincoln was even worse. They split the bill with The Vortexans again and did three-quarters of a house in a rodeo ring. The Vortos had a good following out in the hinterlands. The only problem was that they opened this time, and after their set, most of the crowd left. Joey with the sore pecker screamed at Russell – I’m too big for this kind of shit-, angrily did his Hitler thing for the remaining curious, and stormed offstage. He had Russell drive him on to Des Moines in a rented Hummer.
Harry the Hebe, now off his leash, got fairly hammered at the Holiday Inn and offered to take one of the cocktail waitresses to Bali. Boomer and Shinebone had to escort him back to his room before it got ugly with the waitress’s biker boyfriend. Ace got into a shouting match with his wife over the phone and sulked around when he couldn’t reach Roberta on his cell. Marco got invited to a frat party where he drank a lot of beer and woke up with a corn-fed girl who outweighed him by fifty pounds. He escaped by slipping out a window and walking two miles in the cold Nebraska dawn to the Holiday Inn Express wearing only a t-shirt and jeans and a pair of motel slippers. Boomer’s back was out, Ace’s knee was acting up, and Harry, who couldn’t handle a hangover any better than he could back when he was young, needed to grab naps. They were all grumbling about booking agents from hell and that tyrant, Greg Horn.
Des Moines was somewhat better. Iowa has always been a good rock’n’roll state for some reason. Tony Riggs and the Derricks had been a late addition to the bill. Tony could still pack’em in. He and Joey hammed it up on The Big One and on a torturously long slow blues to end the show. The backstage was hardly big-city, though. A few college professors and couple of slick-haired politicians were there. Tony and Joey posed for photos with several groups and then jetted off to Chicago on Tony’s plane.

The show in Chicago was a triple bill with Tony Riggs, The Vortexans and Childhood closing. Tony should have closed, but Xeonosis made it worth his while to play second on the bill. Tony had a wad bet on the implant, on Greg Horn’s advice. Horn flew in to town in the afternoon.
“OK, it’s all set, New Yawk, New Yawk. Trump Garden with us, Riggs, and the Hashemites opening. “
“The Hashemites? What the fuck are they doing on our show?” Joey was irritated. The Hashies were shaved-head thrashers with a rapper lead singer named Garbage.
“Universe Booking won’t do the Garden without a younger act. It’ll be cool.” Horn didn’t mention that he had just acquired the Hashemites management contract from Tralala Associates.
“So, how’s the pecker?”
“It better be ready.” The soreness had subsided, though it still was bothering him more than he was willing to say. It better be ready tonight! Joey was getting, at a minimum, blown tonight, one way or the other. I’m not going through a fucking shit-ass tour without getting any!
“Well, don’t go shooting it off until you’re sure you’re all healed.”
Greg didn’t tell Joey what Arkavarian had passed on to him. Horn would have to manage the after-gig situation carefully. I’ll call Trixie and have her send one of her top girls down. No amateurs for my big star. There’s too much riding on all this.

The Windy City Music Hall was packed. This is more like it, thought Boomer. He had forty family guests, all relegated to the cheaper upper balcony seats. The cramped backstage was even more crowded with three bands sharing space.
“What!” Shouted Harry.
“Be cool, man; there are just not enough dressing rooms for everyone. The bus is parked right out in the alley.” Horn shrugged. Harry could fume. Childhood would have to use the bus as a dressing room. The other guys wouldn’t mind. Joey needed his own room in the building, and Joey came first.
Greg Horn himself was pissed, but not about the dressing room problem. He hadn’t figured out quite what to do about the Roberta situation yet. When Shinebone had called him to report in he had been stunned. Ace and Roberta! Horn hadn’t seen that one coming, and it bothered him, mostly because he thought he had it all mapped out. He had bought the forty acre piece right next to her place on the Little Fork. He was going to make nice for once and see if something might develop. Something real, for once.
Well, Ace and Roberta. It did make sense. Fuck! Here I let myself dream a little and I find it’s beyond my control. He had to laugh at the irony of it. You can’t control dreams. Greg was above all a realist. He didn’t like people fucking with his plans, but at the worst he could just add the forty-acres to his list of properties to be turned for a big profit. One fifty K now, three hundred later. He felt a little twinge. Damn; I was actually looking forward to building one of those big-ass log homes.
“What do I have, Juliana?” Horn was standing out in the wind-blown alley next to the theater. He cupped his hands around his cell so he could hear.
“Universe Booking called, also, Stone, Arkavarian, First Oceanside, your ex-wife, and Sheila Jones.”
Sheila Jones!
“Call Stone and Arkavarian and tell them I’ll get with them in the morning. And give me Sheila Jones’ number.”

The Windy City Music Hall rocked that night, courtesy of a fired-up Joey Lowe and the crowd-pleasing charisma of Tony Riggs. They jammed on the encore of The Big One, Riggs playing harp and Joey playing an incendiary solo. The two of them did a combo Hitler and Mussolini ending for the sold-out house at the end of the set and generally acted as if the other guys on stage were invisible, or at the most, semi- irritating, inconsequential necessesities.
The tiny passageways of the backstage were jammed with people trying to get to Joey and Tony. Joey was back in his element, beaming and holding court in his dressing room for the throng. Tony, who was originally from Michigan, had even more people lined up to pay homage. Russell was working hard to keep the flow going, to weed out those who had already had enough time with the stars, and to make sure the power brokers got their schmooze and had their wine glasses filled. A number of stunning women were there, wives of wealthy Chicago wheeler-dealers and doctors. A few of the wives were plainly ready for some extracurricular action. Marco was flirting around, big time. It seemed as if some of the husbands figured that if the cock stars did their old ladies, it was kind of like getting a little yourself, or something like that.
One amazing blonde showed up with a man who was plainly someone you wouldn’t want to fuck with. “We’re from Trixie, “The big, dark-haired guy said quietly to Russell, who nodded.
The scene was slowly winding down. Russell artfully shooed the remaining visitors over to Tony Riggs’s room. Russell showed the blonde into Joey’s inner sanctum, a tiny room off the back of the dressing room. Joey was leaning back relaxing on a small couch. A bottle of Sleeping Dragon Pinot Noir and two glasses were backlit by a scented candle on a table. Joey’s face fairly gleamed in the candlelight. He had the flush glow of a hundred milligrams of Viagra pulsing in his veins.
“Let me know if you need anything.” Said Russell as he pulled the door shut.

The sun was trying to break through a persistent overcast coming off of Lake Michigan,
“So, you’re just not quite healed yet! You’re not fucking Superman. You’re fifty-nine years old and you just had a dick operation. You’ve got to give it time.”
Greg Horn looked at his big star Joey Lowe, who sat back in a depressed slump in the coffee shop booth. He was enveloped in an outsized, hooded Bear’s warm-up jacket and was wearing dark shades on this cloudy, gray Chicago morning.
“It’s fucked up, man. I could barely get it up, and it hurt like hell.”
“It hurt you? That was a two thousand dollar hooker that I paid for, my old friend!” Horn’s attempt at humor landed somewhere near the container of Sweet-and-Low on the table. “Just give it a little more time.” said Greg, shrugging.
Gotta keep Joey away from Arkavarian. Greg had already prepped the doctor to not take Joey’s calls, but the story could get out any day now. Joey wasn’t used to crisis anymore. Horn knew that the easy life had made Joey expect that things would just always be the way he wanted them to be. Besides, there wasn’t a good answer to his penis situation except to wait and see if it would work right over time.
Joey forced a wry, talk- show smile. “Waste of a great hooker.”
“That’s my Joey!” said Horn.

“Got any Ibuprofen?”
“I got Alleve. How about Naproxen?”
“No. I need Ibu.”
“Shit’s bad for your liver, Boomer.”
“You worry about your liver, Hebe; I’ll worry about mine.”
“How’s the neck, Ace?”
“My neck is ok, just a little tingling down my arm; it’s my knee that’s hurting. Arthritis. My hip has been hurting lately too.”
“You’ll forget about all that pain when your wife gets ahold of you.”
Ha-ha.
“Holy crap, I need to get a good night’s sleep. This bus is wearing me out.”
“Let’s face it: we’re too fucking old to be doing this.”
“Only three more weeks, and tomorrow is New Yawk, baby!”
“Yeah, we can really paint the town red, until eleven o’clock and bedtime.”
“God, you guys are a bunch of broken-down old octogenarians, aren’t you? Even Joey.”
“Just wait a few years, Marco. You’ll see. Besides, Joey got the implant, man, and it ain’t working. That’s why he’s so out of it.”
“You’re shitting me… Oh, that makes sense. I couldn’t get him to go pull those two beauties last night. I was wondering what the fuck was going on.”
“Yeah, his dick is too dead to dance.”
“Unleaded pencil.”
“Wiffle bat.”
“Well, the guy needs to get laid. Why would he get the implant? The fucker gets women like that last girlfriend of his, what was her name? “
“Jasmine. Jas. Yeah, great looking girl. Pretty cool, too.”
“Maybe Jas wasn’t jazzed.”
“I think it’s because Stone has such a legendary cock. Joey’s been trying to catch up to Mr. Tantric Sex for twenty years.”
“You were getting somewhere with Jas’ friend, the blonde.”
“Oh, shit, you mean Ella? She was just fucking around with me. Girls like that know they can make us old guys fall down and drool on their shoes. They get a kick out of it.”
“Well, you showed her!”
“Yeah, I drooled on her leg instead.”
“No, I mean Roberta.”
“Yes, Marco. I’m so fuckin; smart.” Said Ace.” Think about it. When did you last see a guy actively encourage his wife to sue for divorce and take everything he owns?”
“If it makes you happy, like it seems it has, maybe it’s the right thing.”
“What’s funny about that is that it just might be the right thing, for once,”
said Ace Jones, with a serious smile on his face.

Sandy listened absently to the chatter of Evangelical radio fade in and out as she bumped out Dead Horse canyon road.
Up there I can shoot and no one’ll hear. This is God’s country. It’s free.
Someday I’ll be free, too.
The sere plains of the lower Birch Creek drainage were cold and windy. March in Idaho. The mountains rose up in a wall before her. Dead Horse Canyon was a fold in between two of the nameless vertical peaks. The dusty twin ruts of the BLM road stretched out across the broken ground. Even the scrubby sage was gray and dead looking. In the time of the Ice Age, the First People came down this way, heading for the desert beyond and further, all the way to Tierra del Fuego. The fire rings of eleven thousand years ago were still there in hidden canyons in the mountains. Beer cans and whiskey bottles lay broken around some of them, wreckage of sheep-boys’ nights out going back a hundred years. Miners had picked around out here, too. There were rattlesnake-infested shafts and holes up in the draws and canyons. Nothing permanent. No houses, not even the ubiquitous tumbled-down one-room log shacks of the pioneers you find most places out west.
Sandy glanced at the .38 special on the truck’s seat. The thing kicks. I need to practice.
A jack rabbit jumped out of the sagebrush and bolted out across the hard ground.
Got to make sure I can hold on to it good.

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