It was Monday, December 21, 1987.
The DJ service loved me.
I picked up beat-mixing fast. All my years of music paid off in spades; as much as the other guys at the company kvetched about it, it really wasn’t that hard:
- With the first record playing, start the second record in “cue” (playing only in the headphones).
- Speed up the second record (or slow down the first one) one notch, roughly, for every beat-per-minute difference.
- Get the two records so that the snare, high-hat or bass hit, and kept, hitting, at exactly the same time; change the speed on one or both records to get them into sync or, if needed, drag the second record with your thumb (or speed it up by twirling it a little near the spindle) or crank the speed way faster or slower for an instant, to get the beats hitting precisely together.
- With the beats in sync, turn up the volume on the second record, and fade out the first.
And voila – it was a dance party.
It helped that I had a good voice for working a room, and a decent sense of how to work a crowd. The bartenders and owners liked me, since I kept a decent crowd on the floor – and a dancing house is a drinking and tipping house.
City Limits loved me; my second bar, “Jams”, in Brooklyn Center, seemed to dig me as well.
For a quick ‘n dirty, in and out temporary gig, it looked like it’d pay the bills until a radio gig came through.
Liz and Brenda had moved out at the beginning of October. I’d advertised for roommates.
I got two.
“Chris” was a clean-cut, very scandinavian-looking fellow – handsome, blond, outdoorsy-looking. And he had his share of the deposit ready to go.
“Wyatt”, on the other hand, looked like one of the backup singers in “Color Me Badd”; tall, with “Zorba the Greek” good looks and a neatly-trimmed Guido beard, he confessed he’d just gotten out of Hazelden after a run-in with the law after a brief bout of using drugs. He and I hit it off, though. He peeled off his $166 for the deposit, and moved in as Liz and Brenda were moving out.
So by October 5, I had roommates. Whew. Being on the hook for $500 a month would have been a problem.
Let’s back up a minute.
I never had a lot of luck with roommates. Back in college, in my three years in the dorms, I had…:
- one roommate – a bit of an alcoholic – who knocked up his girlfriend, and skipped town.
- another with serious drug and alcohol problems who tried to kill himself with one of my knives (turned out he was dialing with repressed homosexuality; once he came out of the closet, he was a pretty happy camper. This was long after he left college).
- one roommate who…well, I never saw. He had a girlfriend pretty much the whole year. In fact, all three roommates were barely in evidence; #3 was gone the whole time, #2 left school around semester time, and the rabbit died for #1 in mid-October; in every case, in effect, I got a private room for the price of a double occupancy.
After that? My first roommate wasn’t bad. In the next house, with the five women, one was addicted to pain pills. Among the next group, one was a borderline alcoholic, and the other…well, who knew?
But it was a whole new slate of people.
Well, Chris turned out to have deep-seated emotional problems. He “worked” two hours a day, setting up the salad bar at the Wendy’s on University Avenue (until he got fired, around Thanksgiving). He was on total mental disability, otherwise. He earned extra money by stealing clothing from Daytons’, and using their “no questions asked” return policy to return the clothing for a refund. Some days, frozen by panic attacks, he wouldn’t leave the house (hence the firing). Most nights, he’d sit with his cat in his room, when he wasn’t going out trolling for underage skeeze (he was a handsome devil).
Wyatt? Well, it took about a month for the house to smell like pot. By Thanksgiving, bottles were piling up, and I had to stick to buying clear liquor and transferring it into water jugs to keep him from stealing it. And he missed his share of the December rent payment; he’d lost his job as a carpenter for being too drunk to come to work four days running.
At least I had the band.
Well, sort of.
We finally kicked Casey out of the band; he was drinking too much, and he got belligerent when he got drunk. Which conflicted with Bill the drummer, who also got belligerent when he got drunk, and history shows there’s only room for one drunk in a band.
But Casey and I were pals, so we came up with a solomonic solution in mid-October; two bands, sharing the rhythm section. Casey, Mark and Bill were one band, while Bill and Mark and I had a different one. We had a few gigs. Life was all right…
…except that the drunken belligerence started the morph into a sort of communal hopelessness about the odds of ever getting out of the basement, and playing places better than “Fernando’s”.
Casey called, and asked if he might carpool with me back to Jamestown for Christmas. I said “sure, why not?”
I needed the break, after all.