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My drums were packed in the trunk and the back seat. I was headed to Clock Island to play a party with the band. A party. A howling conglomeration of joyous waxers. I was the drummer for a solid, hard-working band called The Lard-Assed Frogs of Avalon. We practiced once a week and played out two or three nights a week. We were professionals; we played for money. That was, in my opinion, how it should be. People take musicians for granted sometimes; they think it's easy or something. We were playing this party free of charge because the de facto leader of the band, Randy, had suggested we do so. I was the only one who had raised an objection. I felt that we were compromising our status as hard working professionals. You start playing for free because it’s Randy’s sister’s housewarming party and next thing George wants to play a free gig for his best friend’s brother who just got a better job.

But what the hell, I had no choice, really. I was in over my head, these guys were excellent musicians and I was hanging on by the skin of my teeth. I had to do what was required or they’d find another drummer. They might find another drummer anyway, especially if I showed up with an attitude. I needed to calm down and cheer up. But I was depressed. I felt bad. I had been feeling worse and worse for weeks. I knew I was obsessive and too serious, but it seemed like the necessary mindset of adulthood. You work your job and keep house and spend late nights playing music. You have virtually no free time. You never get enough sleep and you have bills to pay. What mindset is appropriate to such a life?

I took a right on Towndog Road and kept my eyes peeled for Trent Boulevard. Someone in a huge pickup truck was riding my bumper and they made the turn with me, apparently trying to push me out of the way through intimidation. “What in the pissant world is this?” I asked aloud. “Why in the frog-forsaken gardens of Glendale ...?”

The driver of this pickup truck was being very aggressive. The truck was so close that when I looked in my rear view mirror all I could see was the huge front bumper and grill. A sudden spaz attack of rage made me temporarily insane. I grabbed the empty coffee mug from where it had been laying on its side, rocking back on it's handle on the dashboard. I hurled that coffee mug at the truck behind me. As I hurled the mug I howled like a bellicose caddis fly. Only trouble was, the window wasn't rolled down, and all I did was hurt my hand on the glass. Jeez it hurt! “Frog-bitten mothers of Epsilon Humphrey!” I exclaimed. I pulled off the road and had a minute or two of extreme unhappiness. Rocking in the driver’s seat, cradling my wounded hand. The driver of the offending truck was probably bewildered. He must have thought I was nutty. Rather than curtail his tailgating with a ceramic projectile I had been spasmodic. I had probably given him a sense of power. He had succeeded in forcing me into a sudden convulsion, then I yielded and allowed him to pass.

I have never been able to figure out how anyone could be such an utter dog's head as to tailgate another driver so aggressively. If anything unexpected happens in the road in front of me and I hit the brakes, this fool tailgating me will smash into my car from behind. I find it discouraging to know from first hand experience that there are people who are that mean-spirited and careless.

I felt like an utter fool for trying to hurl a coffee mug without opening the window first. I was also concerned by the fact that I would do something so extreme. What if I had hurled the coffee mug and it had hit the guy's truck? Guy might flip out. He might brandish a tire iron and beat me senseless. There was no escaping the brutal thugs of the world, and I seemed unable to cope with that. I felt horrible and hopeless.

I found the party. Some helpful souls helped carry drums and stands for me. I was not a jovial party hound at all. I found it hard to be polite, much less festive. I was a square fart in a round church.

We got everything set up and started into our song list. For me it was an exercise in automation and duty. But despite my robotic playing the rest of the band was cooking. Dancing hounds howled with raucous glee. The room was jammed full of people, all of them anxious to be near the music. The joy all around me made me feel worse. I felt that the fun of life was behind me, that my greatest joy -playing music- had become a jaded and mundane chore. We played six songs and then Randy turned to me between songs and said so that no one else could hear, “You’re a real bundle of joy tonight, aren’t you?”

I couldn’t believe it. I knew I was the odd man out in the band, that I was the new guy, but now I was being insulted. Personal remarks were being made. If these dog’s heads wanted to play for free and abuse their drummer they could do it without me. No more. After tonight it was over. I should start packing up right now, that’d teach them. Go ahead, insult the drummer, see if you have a band left for the night. But they’d probably have just as much fun without me. Why were they so happy and why was I so mad and unpleasant? I felt it now, utterly. That creeping angst, that feeling of being on the wrong side of every equation, that undertow.

Just then Randy called Ain’t That Peculiar and counted it off. No time to deal with this major personal crisis. Got to keep time for these pissants. Trapped in a nightmare that was supposed to be a sweet dream.

“You tell me lies and still I’m crazy ‘bout you.” Monica was singing it, putting her whole sweet sexy self into it. She could sing, no doubt about it, and she loved to sing. Our version of this song was really funky. The beat was all syncopated and loose. To play this song I had to let go of the whole mess my mind was in and loosen up totally. I knew how to do it, and I had no choice. I took some deep breaths. I played. After a minute or so the whole thing turned. Somehow, and I don’t honestly know how, somehow this terrible feeling melted; it had nowhere to go. It was too big to stand any more, and it laid down. The music began to fill the space where the anxiety had been. A huge shiver ran up my spine, a release of all the bad feelings I had been carrying. What was the problem? Why had I taken myself so seriously? Couldn’t I see that the whole basis of this problem was that I took myself way too seriously? Sure, I had a hard row to hoe, I had to cart these drums around and keep late hours. I never got enough sleep and I had to get to work on time and bust my hump. But what made it so hard was that I was standing up so tall, thinking I was such a big deal, and this immoderate egotism was causing the weight of the world to hit me full in the face. If I would just allow things to flow through me, the way the music was flowing through me now, life would be a lot easier.

The song was winding down, but I threw out an off-the-wall flourish which was meant to signify that hey, let’s jam on this one. Randy turned around and smiled. No problems, no harkening back to five minutes ago when he was on my case for being a drag. His smile was true, it was forgiving. It forgave me for having been a drag and it forgave him for having come down on me. That was the appropriate mindset. I saw it!

We took that song all the way out, then Monica began to sing a Skyohmbics medley, and even though we'd never done the songs that way we all went with it and rocked it. The band came together so tight, so solid. We played for three hours without taking a break. Everyone was sweating and dancing and cheering us on. We played one song cycle which was pure improvisation. It began on a three chord theme and we took it from funk through reggae and into rock and roll, then brought it down real quiet, into a sparse jazz feel. The house was howling with delight at the amazing heights the music was reaching. I was sweating, glorious in this humility. I was thinking very clearly, listening and noticing and responding rationally, and yet I was also allowing myself to respond instinctively.

The source of the music was the ground, the destination the skies. The band was just the means of expression for the music springing from the very earth under the house, from the hills around-about, from the trees and their roots.

“Hey,” I said to myself, “I can wax out and still be a metal dog.”

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