A few weeks back I wrote a brief, mildly respectful bit about a teammate of mine from my girlie school’s rugby team. I won’t lie to you; the contemplation of mortality has gotten to me a little bit.
Up until news of his death hit social media, the last time I’d thought of my old teammate was two years back, when I got lost coming home from a friend’s house near American University in D.C., and wound up on K Street. I’ve been around a bit, and I’ve seen a few things, but I’d never seen anything like K Street around 2 in the morning. It was strange to see trampy party women spilling out of ‘nice’ places wearing haute coutoure fashions. (Normally, tramps look like tramps — they either look cheap in their Fashion Bug trampwear, or barring that, show too much skin in their selections from Neimann-Marcus. At least that’s what my field guides back in the Magic City told me.*) It occurred to me that this might just be the world my old acquaintance Lazy Pete lived in; he’d occasionally drop some scarcely-to-be-believed tales on us when he first came out for the team. He wasn’t boasting, as it turned out; he tore thru a bunch of no-fun skirts** in no time. I always wondered why; his car was a beater and he was funny-looking. It’s possible that, in addition to unwashed hair and Marlboros, he reeked of Privilege. But Privilege will only get you so far, and the guys I knew who hung out with him more have all reported strongly on his character, so for all his rakishness, he was basically a good guy.
The only guy I’d met in my travels who came close to balancing Privilege, rakishness and — for lack of a better word — character as well as Lazy Pete was Hee-Hawg Herman of the Benmont Poops, but Pete didn’t play guitar and did it all without drawing so much goddamn attention to himself. Advantage Pete.
I’d thought, of course, of heading down next weekend for the Alumni Game. I have no intention of playing. I’d like to see some of the old boys, though, but it’s occurred to me that my path and those of the other hard-partying SMCM rugby old boys diverged a looooong time ago. I think I saw the Fatboy walk past Hee-Hawg Herman’s Pants-Fillin’ Pastry Shop in Patterson Park one night when I had a gig there, but he saw all the scurvy-lookin’ dorks that gravitate to the Hee-Hawg, like to get themselves stuck in the Hee-Hawg’s Accretion Disc, and moved on. Two different worlds…. And I know I’ve seen both Squishy Pete and the Schropper at the grocery store around the corner from my house. Whatcha gonna do? And my most favorite of the Old Boys have either moved West or stayed way the hell away from social media, so I never know if they come on down.
The last time I went to an alumni game was back in the fall of ’08. I stopped in for a sandwich at — what was it, Cooks? — the gas station/liquor store 5 miles off campus. While I was there I saw two guys, who must have been rugby alumni of a more recent vintage than myself, load up their car with suitcases of some college shit beer, like the Beast. When was the last time I did that on a road trip — drive someplace and fall into a vat of cheap brew? Oh yeah, it was the Little Dan and the Atomic Press Gang’s road trip to Auburn, AL, back in the fall of ’99. I left my Stratocaster in a Northport pawnshop for the gas money to make this trip, drank and drove across the state, acted like quite the flamer, got into a fistfight with the Cheetah of the Immortal Lee County Killers and the opening retro-Farfisa band, won that damn fistfight, and got all sulky when I found out we weren’t getting paid for this shit. I got 20 bucks off the Cheetah, because I was a real tough guy, back when I was 140 pounds and stinking drunk I could still manhandle other musicians.*** Better you guys than me, I thought as I watched the two rugby drinking buddies haul all their lousy beer to the cash register.
When I had my Flaming Asshole Rock’n’Roll Road Trip, I was 26. My bandmates were 19 and 20, people were bending over backwards to help us out, and I was just being a dick. I wasn’t doing anyone any favors with my behavior, and all’s I can say is that my P.O.V. was just that I was on some kind of adventure, which is little comfort for anyone, but it should add a somewhat sillier slant on those episodes if you take into account, on the inside, I legitimately thought I was acting like Han Solo, or Ash from Army of Darkness.
When I was 19 or 20, I couldn’t go on a Rock’n’Roll Road Trip. Simply wasn’t wanted. I was, however, welcomed by SMCM rugby. You read old rock bios, guys are teenagers when they get picked up to go play music, which is a total turnaround from the way things have been for as long as I’ve been around, or since I went to school — there’s a glut of music-type people, and complete go-nowhere dipshits play the exclusive game with you, like you have to be specifically chosen to hear the Call — just like Oral Roberts — to make no money playing music for people who won’t listen to you while they wait for somebody cooler with even less money to come by and flatter them. So when I was at that gas station/sandwich shop, watching the two much younger rugby alumni load up their $12 worth of nasty beer farts in the can, I was reminded that I’d had the rock’n’roll adventure experience long before I was ever even the least bit wanted in the music world.
Just before I was 21, I went on a bender, acted quite the flamer at an off-campus party, and walked home on a dark road, getting myself hit by a car in the process. The rugby team visited me in the hospital, which was far more acknowledgement than I might have deserved, considering the way I’d been acting as of late. I pulled away from the team after that, partly because I sure as fuck never wanted to get hit by a human being running at me ever again, but also because I wanted to get into performing live music, which I thought would bring me the road-trippin,’ cheap booze, and adventure rugby had brought me.
Ha ha. Little did I know that it was gonna be five and a half fucking years before anyone would help me (or, more to the point, anyone with whom I associated) out enough to make a little rock’n’roll road trip. You know, I’d been to school, but I sure as fuck couldn’t learn. Nowhere road, indeed.
Next Saturday, the Golden Boy starts his soccer season. Wouldn’t be right to bail on him to go walking down Memory Lane without a ding dong thing on my mind.
I wouldn’t mind haulin’ down to Smibby Murlind on Friday night, and marking a few fire lanes as Lazy Pete’s private parking spaces. I’ve thought about either doing a stencil and spray paint, but that takes too long and leaves tell-tale paint on the hands, or just getting some sign-sized sheet metal, painting ‘No Parking (Except For Lazy Pete)’ and bolting it to the corrugated posts at Dorchester and Montgomery Hall under the no parking signs, photographing it, bailing, and posting the pix. Mebbe head to the Green Door, have a diet coke while I scan the room for any alumni I recognize, head home, knowing I’d done a little something for the memories Lazy Pete left us all of his outstanding and remarkable laziness.
*Or, ‘heiresses who like the cocaine.’
**They were certainly ‘no fun’ to me.
***This is because musicians are real candyasses.