The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book, Miles Per Gallon by Mike Magrann.
Miles Per Gallon
The cop tapped again on the window of the Blue & White, then he took a step back and tilted his cap back on his head.
“What the hell you boys got going on here?” he asked.
He squinted up at the roof of the van where Chris and Doug were still asleep.
“Hell, looks like a goddamned gypsy wagon or somethin’, hah! What, y’all gypsies?”
He was grinning, probably used to seeing passed out tourists and hippie campers in the neighborhood.
We were used to our cops back home: humorless, violent.
I crawled off the van floor and opened the sliding door.
An empty Dixie bottle fell out and shattered in the gutter.
The cop looked down at the glass, then at me, shaking his head.
“Well, it looks like you boys are up now, gotta get rolling. We got street sweepers coming, all right?”
And then he just walked away.
We went to Buster Holmes’ for lunch, each of us taking a turn in the bathroom to brush our teeth and take a crap.
A plate of red beans and rice was ninety cents, add seventy-five for a half andouille sausage on top of that.
I was charmed by the city, the cheap and exotic food, the dedication to drunken pleasures.
Even the absurd humidity that demanded surrender.
I pictured living here, sweating in a little loft above a nightclub.
I’d sweep the floors for free drinks, learn to play the trombone.
I would thread carnival beads by candlelight, an audience of black cats tracking my bleeding fingertips.
Davey from The Sluts was hanging with us after soundcheck at Tupelo’s.
The Stray Cats had been there just the night before to shoot a music video for the song “Sexy &17” and the club was still littered with empty beer bottles and overflowing ashtrays.
Davey pointed out a keg of beer in a trash can of melted ice water.
“Y’all are welcome to kill that keg,” he said. “That’s what they were giving the kids in the crowd scenes. Might be a little warm but what the hell, huh?”
We gathered around the keg as if it were a campfire, took turns pumping it and filling up pitchers until it finally sputtered only foam.
We were finishing the last of the keg beer as we watched The Sluts do their set.
Davey had a microphone cord 100 feet long, and spent each song in the crowd, wandering the club, howling the songs and jumping around.
At one point he was outside the club, shouting lyrics to the night sky.
They get off the stage as the crowd shouts for more, and I know we have been challenged to follow up with a good set.
It is that friendly but unavoidable rivalry between bands, old as winking vaudevillians leaving the dogshitted stage after the poodle act, saying, beat that.
When we got on stage and plugged in, I already knew it was going to be a good one.
Kids were coming up to say hello before we played, shaking our hands, bringing us shots of whiskey.
We were in a room of people raised on live music.
They were friendly and curious, without the too-cool posture that we’d often encountered in LA.
We started with “Out of Control” and flew through the set list Ramones style, no talking, just end one song and count off the next.
Halfway through the set, Jay came back to the amps and used his forearm to roll each of the knobs on my Fender Bassman head to 10.
Kimm saw and grinned, walked back to his amp and dialed the Marshall all the way up as well.
Now the guitar leads squealed with feedback, the muted downstrokes we played chopped metallic, as if powered by internal combustion.
Beer flew from the stage to the floor and back again.
We slipped on the wet stage but regained our footing with a spin, fell to our knees as if begging for tips.
I tried to remember to breathe as I matched Jay’s jumps, running to Kimm’s side of the stage, making it back to the microphone just in time for the chorus.
We were playing just on the other edge of our ability.
It felt like we were racing toward the finish line.
I close my eyes as I sing, but I don’t think about the words I am shouting.
I’m thinking of the tiny fish that swam upstream into a warm gulf stream of pee.
I sing to a dozen Hop Sings, delivering poisoned noodles to the fat drunk tourists of Bourbon Street.
We’re on the last song of the set, and I’m not even there on the stage anymore.
I am somewhere else, hovering above and just to the left, daring not to be present and fuck up this moment.
Three times nine is 27, I remind myself.
Five times nine, that’s forty-five...
The Blue & White