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a sweet haze

December 23, 2009

Maybe today I write down my dream, revisiting the Nutria house of music and madness. The off-tune red-haired singer humming Marley, laid out stoned on the couch beyond a broken door, the guitarist, full of joy, hiding high in a tree with a bottle of cheap wine, and a bass player tossing a drinking jar across the room, embedding glass into the walls of the treasured house. No surprises here, sir, the way things were in Eugene were far different from the rest of the world. We called it Fiction World as opposed to MTV’s Real World and time there moved like syrup, thick and slow.

It was beer and wine, it was good friends and bad, it was constant funk –both the music and the smell. The living room held a sweet haze, the basement hid grow-lamps and the band’s full equipment, and of course a green room, hidden behind the organ which was borrowed without permission from the frat-house next door, with more sloppy couches, empties and ashtrays strewn about. The drums were set up under the stairs and I usually played with a horn player or two in front of me, trying to find their inner Coltrane behind their red, half-lidded eyes, which I loved to watch.

I am so fond of the scene in that house, the world behind our glass front doors, just 41 steps from Tom’s Market. On party days we’d tap the keg after class in the afternoon and find happy laughter easing into each of us from quick-witted guests, and our own delusional wisdom, or tears like the time we all found ourselves huddled in Justin’s room in a circle, all of us sneezing for some reason, listening to Van Morrison sing “ever-y one, ever-y one, ever-y one, ever-y one.” Magic happens in times like that and even if we’d been more aware, it still would have happened.

Ever try to hide two hundred drunken college kids in a damp basement while the police crack knuckles on the front door, the back door, the side windows and the basement half-walls because the band and the crowd were too loud for a Tuesday night in the neighborhood? Well it didn’t work, but I knew the officer at the front door by name at that point in the year and I think it helped that I was polite and took our noise violation without argument. I went to court and paid a fine, and we celebrated with an acoustic party that night.

We were the band and the band was the house, but we liked to be part of the party, too, not simply the house band for the party where we experienced the vibe from our “stage,” so we held other parties, multi-media parties with music playing loud through our band’s PA system and multiple TVs playing Disney’s Fantasia with no sound, the colors bouncing with us around the room. Find yourself dancing with friends late night to Stevie’s “Boogie on Reggae Woman” in your living room, the place packed and hot and stuffy and everyone with their minds in the same space, there is nothing better.

We found time to study and I found time to write and almost all of us figured out how to graduate.  The people and events of 1456 East 19th remain a clear memory, tainted only slightly by time and distance. It was the mid-1990s and it was College and we were friends from New Jersey, California, Oregon and Vermont. It didn’t make sense that we found each other at that point in our individual lives, no there wasn’t a reason we’d ever hope to dream of such a place, but it wasn’t about reason, or choices; it wasn’t even truly about the music. It could have been anyone playing the drums under the stairs, but it was me and I still keep hope the jam will continue.

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