Thursday, July 29, 2010
Steamy night en route to Junior's Farm with a 68-year-old genius singing along with Dylan
Paul and I rolled hard and fast into the steamy night. It had been a great concert and he had some time to kill before he went to Charlotte to do it again.
“I don’t want to think about the next show just yet,” he said, looking into the glove box of my old Saab and fishing out a cassette tape of volume one of The Beatles Anthology.
“Don’t you have anything else in here other than this old batch of odds that me, George, Ringo and Yoko fobbed off on Americans,” he said, with a laugh, slapping the old cassette into the slot and waiting for it to rewind. “John would have loved how everyone in the States bought all of our outtakes and junk.”
I shrugged. Heck, I’d bought it all, a couple of times. Cassettes for the car, CDs for home. Even have the old TV promo kit with the series on VHS tape.
Sure, I bought the junk, as I am a Beatles completist. But on this night, as we cut through the steam of downtown Nashville, I knew I was going to get the last laugh on the 68-year-old knight.
“Lay lady Lay, lay across my big brass bed,” Dylan, doing his sort of Nashville/Perry Como thing, escaped from the 26 year old speakers.
“That’s Bob, don’t you know,” said Paul. “Not us.”
“Yeah, I know,” I said, smiling as I took a left, jamming the car the wrong way up a one-way street through the dying industrial district near the condos where Steve McNair died last year.
I pointed that fact out to Paul and he shook his head. “I really like American football, you know. British football, what you call ‘soccer’ is pure crap. Don’t you hope Favre comes back one more year?”
Ever since I’d known him, I knew he was more than the so-called “cute Beatle,” because he likes the real game of football. And, since he is 68 and had just put on the show of his life, or at least one of the shows of my life, at the Bridgestone Arena, I could understand his affinity for Favre.
I have the same feeling. Heck, I’m going on 59. Paul’s not even a decade older than I am. And, as most of us know, Favre is now 83 and yet he still can throw a clutch pass or an interception just like he did when he helped Vince Lombardi establish the Green Bay Packers Football Club and Bocce Society.
I smiled, because Paul was singing along with Dylan’s voice. He hadn’t even mentioned that a copy of Nashville Skyline had found its way into the plastic container for Anthology. He didn’t change it either.
“I like this album. Kinda reminds me of why I came here to record all those years ago,” he said, patting his sweat-stained black Beatles jacket and coming up with a peppermint stick. He broke off a piece and handed it to me. “Breath, Flap,” he said. “What’d you have for dinner, bloody fish and chips?”
I jammed the stick into my mouth, remembering the days before we became peppermint-stick guys and we would cruise into the Nashville nights, giggling, searching for watermelon stands and Thai food.
We’d avoided the arena traffic after the concert. I’d rolled down in the tunnel that sinks into the guts of the arena and picked him up.
Speaking of arena traffic. Has anyone ever seen the kind of pre-concert human congestion in the plaza outside the Bridgestone/Sommet/Jagger Center before? It was dangerous, sweaty people pushing against each other for two or more hours in 100-degree heat, the ones at the very front knocking on the door, telling the guards to do them a favor and let ‘em in.
Course no one did. The crowd suffered. Tornado swirls were in the clouds above. If that rain broke loose while we were jammed out there, there would be a stampede. Blood on the streets in the town of Nashville.
A guy with a Predators jersey and a Beatles ballcap said to me: ‘’leave it to Nashville to make things dangerous. I wonder why they don’t let people in to buy merchandise, beers and get in their seats.”
Sounded reasonable, but I had no answer. And besides that, I already had the aftertaste of my fish and chips dinner, washed down by three liters of jelly-bean-flavored cold water. All I wanted was to get in the arena, find my seat and find out if Paul had gotten my message that I’d pick him up when the show was over.
I didn’t know for sure until a few minutes after the red and pink confetti filled the arena and he disappeared in a sort of “Elvis has left the building” fashion. I sprinted to my old car and cranked it up, rolling it from my secret car-stash spot and right into the tunnel to the guts of the arena, the place where the Zamboni is king. Paul signaled to the security that I was OK. So they holstered their weaponry, allowing Paul to climb down from the big ice-making tractor – “I’ve gotta fit Zamboni into a song soon,” he said.
“I got a girl named Bony Maronie, she’s got a butt like a big Zamboni,” I offered.
He laughed and said: “Flap, hit it!”
Before we knew it we were on Lebanon Road, on the way to Gladeville. Paul, pumped up by the evening’s performance ,was looking forward to waking up Curly Putman Jr. and serenading him with the song named for the spread where the McCartney family and the band Wings stayed back in the summer of 1974.
“I want to sing him Junior’s Farm,” he said. “I need you to play guitar and sing harmony.”
Well, I have to tell you at that point I thought I probably was dreaming. Very seldom in my life has anyone, not even a Beatle, asked me to play guitar and sing along.
The main thing, I’ve been told by my friends in show biz, such as The Musician Peter Cooper and Brad “I love to sing show tunes” Schmitt is that I can’t play guitar, otherwise I’d be very good at it. That’s true enough. If I do something, I do it as well as I can, work hard to make sure it’s the best I can offer. But, as Duane Allman once told me before I turned down that spin on his motorcycle: “Flap: You suck as a guitarist.”
And then there’s the fact that it sounds like I got my vocal training from Kris Kristofferson, who is a friend and can write like the devil, although the devil carries a tune better. And you remember how bad the devil sounded when he played fiddle with Charlie Daniels. Kris: you’d better rosin up your throat, man.
Of course, “I’ve always been a word man, it’s better than a bird man,” as Jim Morrison used to tell me when we looked at the moon from the rooftop in Venice Beach and he told me how he thought he’d probably grow up to be the President of the United States of America. Instead, he’s sort of a bearded, fat puppet dictator over a colony of Lizard worshipers at the edge of Uganda.
Speaking of the Presidents of the United States of America, where were any of them when I needed help this summer?
Oh, I know, my pal the Big O plays a mean game of “H-E-Y-J-U-D-E” on the basketball court here behind the house.
But he also promised me he’d get me help to escape from what has been the most horrible summer of my life.
The flood devastated my home and tore away what little income I have. The Big O told me FEMA would help me.
I’ve been neglected, inspected, rejected and suspected by every sort of evil and ornery G-Man since the days after the flood.
FEMA has been here four times. The first three visits led to them declining my pleas for aid. But then I decided to take one more crack at it, compiling a very professional looking portfolio that included the square feet damaged, the materials hauled away, the materials and cost it took to replace. I got the whole 29-page package of documentation – including a letter from the Big O and another from Muhammad Ali asking them to cooperate with me – notarized, certified and sanctified and mailed it off about five weeks ago.
I have a collection of FEMA rejection letters that almost equals the collection of rejection letters I got from publishers, girlfriends, the NFL and the Greater Wichita Falls Association of Acupuncturists and Toe Suckers.
Those of you from outside of Nashville may not know about it much, but we had one of those “Who Built the Arc” kind of events in early May and a lot of my friends and myself are still bailing out. Well, not literally any more, but scrambling for another day and another dollar.
My own losses were, as you probably know, in the millions of dollars. Well, maybe a lot lower than that, as the only thing worth in the millions of dollars in my house was my best friend, my cat, Pal, and he died of cancer as we still were rebuilding. I’d rather be homeless and still have my cat.
And just as the rebuilding reached an end, there was that big old BAM, when the woman ran the red light at what appears to be a high rate of speed and hit my family’s minivan squarely in the driver’s side door. It was such a fierce impact that the frame was bent, the car deemed irreparable and insurance settling for what it is worth to them rather than what it is worth to a real family that needs a vehicle to carry them around town and who has taken care of the vehicle from day one.
Oil changes at 2,500 miles, new tires whenever needed, belts, hoses, brakes … Keep it running at most costs because we can’t afford a car payment.
After all, thanks to Sarah Palin, all efforts to help the little guy in this country have been put on hold until she decides when she wants her little girl and that young punk to make their man and wife public appearance. Of course, it depends on how much money she can get from the hate-mongers at Fox.
Hate-monger a little strong? OK, ask Shirley Sherrod about the edited tape provided by one of Washington’s many wacko right-wing opportunist bloggers – some of them are Vandy grads, by the way -- and then thrown on the air by Fox.
Saw today that one of those outfits was ranting and railing about Paul McCartney’s dig at Little W’s lack of intellect, charm and integrity during a White House bash for the Big O.
These self-important fascists said they thought it would hurt McCartney’s concert tour, as if anyone cares what kind of verbal shot you take at Mr. “Mission Accomplished, so now let’s just let the soldiers die and rot in the desert for another decade or two and we’ll pretend war is over.” Yeah, if you want it.
Big O, you could fix that, by the way. As Paul said the other night, “All We Are Saying is Give Peace a Chance.”
I used to sing that at anti-war rallies back in the Vietnam days, when music and politics and social upheaval had a perfect union, when the world changed, briefly, for the better.
Of course that has changed now, and students primarily get up in arms about tuition increases and other criminal acts. The whole world’s watching and ashamed.
Hey kids: See the boxes they’ve been flying home to Dover? There are former people in there. War heroes to be saluted and buried. Not for their war, but for their sacrifice.
Oh yeah, back to the car. We haven’t gotten the check yet, but you all know what happens. A car is worth thousands to you, because you have paid it off, kept it up and don’t plan on getting a new one any time soon.
Then someone runs a light and that car is now worth pennies on the dollar. Bad damn summer, at least until Monday’s concert.
“Paul you know it ain’t easy,” I said, fudging a line from the last real session Paul produced for The Beatles, The Ballad of John and Yoko.
“Yes, Flap, I know how hard it can be,” he said, reminding me that I was with John when we made that song up after a night of bowling near Gilley’s in Pasadena, Texas.
It was about then that my good pal Rob “Death” Dollar, who took me to the concert, tapped me on the shoulder and I returned to the weird reality of the crowded confines inside Bridgestone. I stood up and sang along. My voice still sounded bad. There were fireworks and explosions. Peace signs and a cheerful dancing drummer. Big smiles and great entertainment from a genius, who even offered up tributes to his fallen pals, Georgie and John.
I watched for awhile. Then I shook off the reality and returned to the Saab, where I looked over to Paul and goosed the car.
We sped toward Gladeville, the moon roof open in the old Saab, the passenger standing up, fiddling with the strings of his Hofner, and yelling Moroccan curses into the night.