Jesus, I had never enjoyed a beer less.
The stuff went into my overheated and plugged head, fizzed in the brassy confines of my mouth and crept past the burnt spot in my throat--the part that is swollen just enough to allow only liquid to pass.
The agony of my fever and sore throat is complete--peaking, in fact, as we speak--and it is my duty--as always--to cut it off at the pass.
The Lord's way of offering up painkiller to those who can't afford shrinks has always been the booze, sure. But I've had no choice but to also use beer to ward off physical ailments like the flu, toothaches, birth defects and even hepatitis. (Though the latter was certainly a tough one.)
Sometimes when I have the flu whilst pounding beers, I get this cozy, up-from-the-bones warmth and these whacked hallucinations. Freudian fuck-ups, if you will. The resulting dreams are like a patternless void; a splintered subconscious with its bits ping-ponging behind my eyeballs and spitting up images fit enough to shame even the devil.
Here's one: I am held in place by straps that also hold me motionless to the bed, pinned face down with a sheet up to my neck. The room is dimly lighted. I could be on my bed, could be on some other dank bed, I can't know. My face is flat on its side and turned toward the door. The door opens and a woman is standing there, backlighted by some shimmering outer light. I can see she is tall, big-boned, and more than curvy, with ample cleavage. Her hair is shiny and pinned up.
But because of the lighting, I can't make out her face. She is wearing some kind of tight uniform with a skirt stretched tautly over muttonesque thighs--like an obscene Army suit--something P.J. Soles could've worn in Stripes had she been a good 25 pounds heavier.
The uniformed woman moves over, closer. From three feet away, she looks very porn, and I can smell a soft vanilla mixed with a kind of fruity fragrance, like some sort of generic goop available in adult shops. But her face is still shadowed.
"Relax," she coos, stepping closer, her voice like a fluttering soft-reed instrument. "I have a degree in Swedish massage."
My eyes follow the trace of her shape, every little bend and push of her womanhood. She's an every-boy cracker-jacked dream, a Boy Scout ready to spurt.
What is this woman doing, and why do I feel so warm and fuzzy? She lifts her right hand, and in the wan light I can see she is holding some kind of medical apparatus, a longish, gunlike thing. Whatever it is, it lends an evil presence to the room. The woman moves back toward my feet, and I swear I can hear her smiling. She pulls the sheet back, down around the backs of my knees. I feel her hand, a frighteningly cold collection of palm and fingers; the feeling of something all wrong.
Then come these unmistakable words from her grinning lips: "Time for your colonic irrigation, Mr. Blake."
My mouth opens but carries a hideous silence, a helplessness borne of a dream from which one is unable to be awoken. Then darkness falls.
Later, I come to, open my eyes, and I see that my little succubus is still here, sitting directly before me in the half-light, smiling in a sadistic way.
Drawing a pack of cigarettes and matches out from some dark spot below her chair, she pulls out a smoke and puts it between her lips. With a graceful swishing movement, she tears a match and strikes it against the rough strip of the matchbook. And in that instantaneous sulfurous flash of light, a horror to end all terror is revealed to me.
Yes, yes, her body may be butterflies-in-the-loin pure porn; but her face, her face is like a twisted harpy: old, wattled like the fleshy lobe that hangs down from the chin of a turkey.
And with this recognition, I slip into a convulsing panic: . . . and I knew her . . . yes, I recognize her . . . but really? . . . It's a different time. . . . How can it?. . . . NO, NO, it's Mrs. Higgens, MY SEVENTH GRADE HOT LUNCH LADY!
Black Sabbath defined a precise moment of American history for true Beavis and Butt-head antecedents; the ones who smoked weed from things called lids, avoided eye contact with all people, including their friends, and frumped through a couple years of high school hallways with mouths agape, knuckles dragging and things like Led Zeppelin I and Fairies Wear Boots etched into the covers of their textbooks.
They were old enough to misinterpret Learyesque "dropout" ideals, yet inside of them festered a healthy misanthropic glow that kept them locked away in the black-lighted haze of their bedrooms hunched over a bong with "Iron Man" blaring at an ungodly volume. These guys had the longest hair, the loudest car; and if a girl was involved, she had feathered hair parted in the middle, wore flares with flower patches and never said a word.
And years later, these Sabbath diehards wound up in one of three places: jail, the grave, or 12-Step meetings. But the ones in the latter category, those onetime Satan-questioning, true believers of the sabbath, have reason to believe in '99. They have reason to throw their arms up toward the sky and rejoice, sister, 'cause Black Sabbath is back: Ozzy, live album, tour and all.
Oh, let us open our book of hymnals, and howl!
Twenty years since the band's split, the cleverly titled Reunion (all original chumps: Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward) finds BS trotting out in front of the masses, sporting silly-size paunches and hardened arteries, shamelessly flogging that dull thud of yesteryear that swayed nearly every miserable metal moment our way, from Ministry to Metallica. (In this 18-"song" double gonzo is everything from "War Pigs" to "Paranoid," capped off with two new second-verse-same-as-the-first drones.)
And leading the way, in the great unwashed tradition of 30-year-old heavy metal, comes its flaccid slouching low priest--his fatness--Ozzy, sounding exactly like what would result if the shrill crows of a spoiled 7-year-old are crossed with a bloated Perry Como on crank. Just a slow-moving mountain of gack. Ack, ack, ack, ack.
I have a neighbor from Charlotte, North Carolina, a guy actually named Tavern, who gets his hometown's daily paper delivered to his trailer. Tavern brought over his latest edition thinking I'd be interested in this bit of info. He was right.
Feast your eyes on this, from the Charlotte Observer: "Quiet Riot singer Kevin DuBrow has been arrested for failing to pay off a concertgoer who sued him five years ago, but the veteran metal rocker is pleading poverty."
It gets better.
"DuBrow, 43, told a judge in Charlotte, NC, that he hasn't had a royalty check since 1987, he lives with his mother, and he can't even afford a car--he borrows hers. Although he once boasted an income of $500,000 a year, he no longer owns any property and owes $54,000 in back taxes. He claims to have only made between $18,000 and $25,000 last year from a brief stint as a Las Vegas disc jockey and scattered Quiet Riot club tours that pay him just $200 to $250 a show. After hearing the sob story, the sympathetic judge reduced DuBrow's bond from $210,000 to $1,000, and even gave the rocker two weeks to come up with the money.
"Sheriff's deputies arrested DuBrow Tuesday at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport when the band arrived for a scheduled appearance at a local nightclub. He spent the night in jail."
The story goes on to report that a local lawyer recruited by the band said that he was excited when he was called in to defend rock stars, but his bubble soon burst when he met the group as the members were pooling quarters to take clothes to a nearby coin laundry. Yee haw!
Step up to the plate, Sebastian Bach. You're next.
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Geddy Lee's eyes-too-close-together and ridiculous honk of a snozzle were as rock-star unlikely as anything in Loverboy back then, certainly, but it was the lyrical and drumming verbosity of Neil "ruined every bar band drummer from Toronto to Tucson" Peart that really got under our skins growing up as punk rockers.
Also, the marred suburban metaphors and off-rhythms in "Tom Sawyer" made even Johnny Cougar a welcome respite on the radio then, and worse, the kids who liked this were supposed to be the smart ones in school, the ones who scored well in science, were apples in teachers' eyes, Trekkies, all that. Fuck, I hated school; good thing I quit.
Fortunately, since the new Rush disc is really a hefty pack that includes three CDs--one of which was recorded during the band's halcyon days in 1978--it will fetch me a decent lunch and a 40 of malt when I am well enough to make it down to the used-record shop. A beer and lunch on Rush is hardly retribution for all the agony they've caused me.