What Happened In Puerto Rico?

A Round of Shots
Friday, October 23, 9:35pm

Fritzy walks over to me and asks, “Are you going to talk to them or what?”

“I’m working up to it.”

“I’m gonna buy them a round of shots,” he says.

“Oh shit.”

Aleida laughs at me. My heart is beating so hard I can feel a bruise forming on my chest. Fritzy walks over to where the Vivian Girls are sitting and asks if he can buy them a round of shots. The girls shrug their shoulders and nod their heads.

Oh, god. I sigh, take a deep breath, and set down my drink.

“Okay, I have to go talk to them.”

Wondering Why and For What
Friday, October 23, 7:15am

It’s early. The rest of the house is still asleep. I’m outside, lying in a hammock. I feel like the guy at William Duffy’s farm. Over my head, I watch the green celebration of palm trees, their enormous leaves puffed out like sails set forth on an open ocean, flapping against the light blue sky. A lizard leaps from a blade of grass to land, with a soft rustle, among pebbles and sand. To my left, a hummingbird buzzes and whirs into some strange and intoxicatingly fragrant face of purple velvet. Down the road and behind the old, tangled shack, roosters are arguing over the sun, long into the distances of morning.

I’m listening to a lost recording of Multi-Purpose Solution songs played back from an iPod Nano through Monster’s Beats by Dr. Dre headphones: subtle reminders of my real life back home. I’m amazed at how good the band once was, but I’m hopeful that we can be even better in the future. I wish I had a guitar with me here in Puerto Rico, so that I could play the new song for Fuzzy.

Looking up at this world and listening to this music, I find myself thinking simple thoughts, wondering why and for what: We spend our childhoods in school to spend our adult lives at work, for what? To take orders, for what? To make money, for what? To buy records from bands who achieved what we could not, who live our dream while we go to work, for what? Why do we do anything at all?

My head is heavy and sore from travel and so many cans of Medalla. I’ve only had five hours of sleep over the last two nights. Somehow I have to get myself ready for this evening’s Vivian Girls show at Bamboo Beach in Isabela.

Not the Whole Story
Saturday, October 24

No, seriously: When Vivian Girls’ bassist Kickball Katy let her hair down, it was like one of those miracles of light from heaven, God running his fingers through thick storm clouds to splash a bit in the blue-green ocean. Crazy stuff like that. It was heart-stopping, arresting beauty. Angels cried happy tears. I could have died.

You know how it is when you see a band for the first time and, though you’ve been in love with their recordings and you’ve memorized all the words and have become one with the melodies, the live performance—the entire live experience, in fact—leaves you so sad and cold that you can never ever enjoy the music again? (This has happened to me more than once, unfortunately.) Seeing the Vivian Girls perform live at Bamboo Beach was the exact opposite: Katy smiling, singing into the pretty white light, letting her bass riffs fly like lassos; Ali in her heart-shaped sunglasses, pounding the kit; Cassie dropping to the floor and making her guitar echo long into the island night. They played with fire and love and honesty. And when Katy looked up and smiled during “The End,” it seemed as if she was playing the song just for me, and I felt important and beautiful and huge. Did I imagine it, or did it really happen? It’s no matter: Either way, it’s something I’ll never forget.

It made me want to see them again and again; made me want to listen over and over; made me love them even more.

And I know what you’re thinking, dudes. I’m a pathetic, 32-year old, ex-punk guitarist and the Vivian Girls are young and hot. Alright, there’s truth in that. But it’s not the whole story.

At the Counter
Friday, November 6

It’s Friday night in Jersey City and I’m standing at the counter of the Chinese food place, waiting for my Szechuan beef, wondering what the Vivian Girls would think of me now, standing here, on a Friday night, waiting for my Szechuan beef.

This is not cool.

At the Bamboo Bar
Friday, October 23, 10:47pm

We’re at the bamboo bar. Katy is to my left, drinking a margarita, appalled by what she sees on the television screen above us. It’s some sort of cooking show, I think. They’re sending raw beef through a grinder and preparing it for consumption. Cassie is standing near us. We get around to talking about what it’s like to be in a band.

“Yeah, I know how that can be,” I say. “I used to play in a band. Actually, we just got back together recently.”

“What’s the band’s name?” Katy asks.

I figure there’s no way in the world she could’ve ever heard of us, but I tell her: “The Multi-Purpose Solution.”

“A friend of mine knew one of the guys in your band,” Katy replies, turning back to the television.

“What?”

“What are the names of the guys in your band?” Cassie asks.

“Jim Teacher, Fuzzy, Alan, and Dave.”

“Yeah, maybe it was Dave. You guys were one of the first underground bands I ever listened to when I was like 14 years old.”

“What?”

A Powerless One
Wednesday, October 28

I’ve been away from a computer for an entire week. I check my e-mail and find a string of messages from the band. We could’ve booked a show at Maxwell’s in December, but, instead, we’re breaking up.

Again? Already? What? But we just got back together. I’m surprised, but not distraught. Puerto Rico is still too close; it’s impossible to be upset.

I try, in an indirect way, for reconciliation. I send an e-mail telling the band about what had happened in Puerto Rico, about what Katy and Cassie had said, but it’s no use. It’s just a story now, a good story maybe, but a powerless one. It inspires no one.

The End
Friday, October 23, 9:36pm

I’m kneeling beside their small table. Ali is to my right; she is facing her boyfriend. To his left is Cassie, and opposite Cassie is Katy. We’ve just finished a round of tequila shots.

“I’m enjoying the new album,” I say.

“Oh?” says Katy. “Thanks. Do you have any requests? Any favorite songs?”

I think about it for a moment, but I already know the answer: “The last song on side A, ‘The End.’ I love that song.”

“I like that song, too!”

I’m relieved. “It’s a great song. And your bass playing,” I hesitate, “is like a lasso, drawing the listener into the music.”

“I’ve never heard it described like that before. We’ll definitely play that one.”

“I also love where the song is placed on the record. It could have easily been the last song on the record, but it’s not. It’s the last song on side A.”

“Yeah, that’s such an important song. The last song on side A has got to make you want to flip the record.”

“Exactly.”

Sunday Morning, At Home
Sunday, November 8

I don’t know if I’m depressed or what, but lately, whenever I look at the albums on my CD racks and LP shelves, all I see are hundreds of broken dreams, each record representing what we failed to achieve. What the?

This is not fun.

What Happened in Puerto Rico
Wednesday, October 28

I thought that something special would happen in Puerto Rico, because it always does. And it did. Something special did happen, but I’m not sure what it was. It has something to do with the Vivian Girls and something to do with me and it probably has something to do with a lot of other things that I’m not aware of. It has something to do with music/art. It has something to do with the tragic inability of the listener/viewer to separate the artist from his/her art. It has something to do with the tragic inability of the artist to fully appreciate the listener/viewer’s attraction to the artist’s work. It has something to do with communication and miscommunication. It has something to do with the space between giving up and acceptance. It has something to do with growing. Here’s what happened:

Friday, October 23, 7:30pm

We’re sitting in Aleida and Jack's house, and we’ve just finished dinner. Aleida is drinking port and Jack is pouring rum and I’m so tired I nearly want to call the whole thing off. We spent the entire day in the ocean, riding beers and drinking waves, and to get here we drove for an hour through a storm that swallowed the entire highway, and now I am soaking wet and I would love to be in bed. Listen, guys, I want to say, I know I’ve been making a big deal about this Vivian Girls show, but, if you want, we can just go home. But I don’t say anything. Jack and Aleida are looking ready to party, and I don’t want to sour the mood.

8pm

It’s night. The sky has cleared to reveal more stars than I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s as if there are more stars in the sky than sky, as if the sky isn’t large enough to contain them all. I look up and nearly fall. A streak of white light tears through the darkness and is extinguished by something I can’t see. Coquis chirp madly.

We’re on our way. The road is narrow and winding. Grass and vines claw at our van from beyond the hidden guardrail. The radio is playing. A disc jockey is laughing like a sick hyena, over and over again, cackling and crowing, with no respect at all for the music. Along some dark and unforgiving road, we nearly get into an accident. Another van has stalled. Dead engine. We stop to make sure that everyone is okay and then continue a few miles into Isabela. Bamboo Beach: restaurant and beach lounge. Its white awning depicts a sleepy-eyed rooster. Inside, there is a murky koi pool, a few tables scattered about, bamboo chairs and a long bamboo bar, little else. The place is nearly empty. The Vivian Girls haven’t arrived. I’ve looked all over.

9pm

We’re standing at the bar. Aleida is encouraging me.

“Are you going to talk to them?”

“I don’t know. Yes, I guess so.”

“You have to talk to them.”

“I’m so tired. I need a Red Bull, or something.”

Aleida orders me a Red Bull. It comes with ice and a straw and I suck the wretched juice into my stomach, hoping it’ll give me life.

“You’re drinking a Red Bull?” Fritzy asks. “What you need is a shot.”

“No shots!”

9:30pm

Three women walk into the room. “Is that them?” Aleida asks. “Is that them?” Tigga asks. “Is that them?” Rizzo asks.

Giggles and poking and teasing.

“I don’t know what you guys are talking about. I don’t see anyone,” I say.

I turn my back to the large room to face the mirrorless bar. My heart is racing. Is it the Red Bull?

9:35pm

Fritzy walks over to me and asks, “Are you going to talk to them or what?”

“I’m working up to it.”

“I’m gonna go buy them a round of shots,” he says.

“Oh shit.”

Aleida laughs at me. My heart is beating so hard I can feel a bruise forming on my chest. Fritzy walks over to where the Vivian Girls are sitting and asks if he can buy them a round of shots. The girls shrug their shoulders and nod their heads.

Oh, god. I sigh, take a deep breath, and set down my drink.

“Okay, I have to go talk to them.”

The End.

***

Okay, that’s just a taste of my early mid-life crisis. I’m tired of thinking about it and would like to return to my regularly scheduled programming: a comfortable, secure, and entirely satisfying life devoid of hammocks and palm trees. In our Gallery, you'll find a selection of images from the Vivian Girls show at Bamboo Beach in Isabela, Puerto Rico. Check 'em out.

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Comments
Mahlernut's picture

Steven: What an EXCELLENT blog entry. That is the BEST thing I have read in weeks! You need to take this and expand it into a short story - or a novel. It's THAT good!Thom T.Music is life, and life is music.

Doug Bowker's picture

A truly sublime ride Stephen. The jumbled timing, the real and imagined, the dread and joy. It made me a feel a little more alive and prompted some desire to get out and take some chances. Good man.

KBK's picture

Just Like I said, Stephen..they're grooming you for a slot in the corporation...heh heh....That, was also - very good. You paid attention in Anglais class.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Thanks very much, guys. The entire trip was an experience I won't forget, but I knew I had to write about these aspects of it in order to sort some things out in my head. I'm glad I could share the story here.

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