Segarini: The Blahs

The past two weeks have been ridiculously difficult, a combination of many things clumping together like a badly made béarnaise and gumming up the works, namely…me.

First it was an inordinate amount of commitments I made (I really must learn to say ‘no’ occasionally) which I could not have kept without a clone or a time machine,  The Toronto Independent Music Awards, Thanksgiving, Indie Week, and then the worst cold I’ve had since there was a Bush in the White House. I still feel like crap. On top of all that, I am, shall we say, strapped beyond belief. If it weren’t for two very good friends (strangely enough, both named Dave) I would have choked on an air sandwich sometime in the past two weeks and starved to death. Fortunately, Cherry Cola’s and the good people at Cameron’s Brewery made sure I didn’t expire from thirst.

The end result of this whine-inducing convergence of bad luck, bad timing, bad financial planning on my part (I admit it, I positively should never be allowed to control any money I happen to make, ever) and this horrendous coughing, sneezing, drippy-nosed, phlegm producing, mucous driven bacteria-riddled carnival known as the common cold, has been NO energy, NO focus, and NO desire to do anything except get to the bathroom on time and lay back down as soon as I stand up.

I have The Blahs.

…and whoever gave The Blahs that name deserves a medal, because the word describes the subject perfectly.

So, I’m not trying to make excuses for my lack of creativity or not being where I am supposed to be, but I felt I owe you all the reasons for my disappearing act for the past little while. Even posting my wonderful (and always on time) fellow writers interesting and enjoyable work has been an exercise in will power (of which I have very little) and moxy (of which I have a lot but have misplaced), and I am happy to report that they have all been swell about my absenteeism. So swell, in fact, that I don’t think they even noticed I haven’t written anything in two weeks.

Well, look for me to be back at it a week from today, and in the meantime (today and next Sunday) I am reprinting 4 posts from years ago that have had the most requests to be reprinted of all the things I have ever written.

One of these days, I promise I will finish what I started, along with a screenplay, some outlines for the Rock Files TV series, and the treatment for the proposed ‘Don’t Believe a Word I Say’ television (weekly) and radio (daily) shows we are trying to develop. All I need is either a job that comes with a paycheque, an investor, some seed money, or a sugar daddy.

Anyway here are the first two chapters of my first work of fiction with two more to follow next Sunday. There are no pictures because I want you to create them in your head. I know you will do a much better job than I could. If you’ve read these before, please stop bugging me to reprint them, and if you haven’t read them before, please let me know what you think. I’d hug you all but then you would catch this cold and you don’t want this cold any more than I do. Stupid fucking cold….

=0=

Murder in E Minor

Chapter One: Mustang Sally

It wasn’t her real name, of course, but it was what everybody called her. She had the kind of silky dark red hair you wanted to bury your nose in if you got close enough to do so. And when you saw her, getting close was the first thing that entered your mind. She had a face like a movie star and the kind of body that drained the blood from your brain and deposited it below your belt, where it would do the most good if given the chance. If Sally walked past you on the street, chances were good that you would walk right into a street lamp or a newspaper box. It was hard to take your eyes off her ass, and harder still to look where you were going. I’ve seen her have that effect on guys more than once.

The real attraction for guys like me and the other men that played the club circuit all over Ontario and beyond wasn’t that we just want to tuck into her like a hot bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken after 3 sets in some crappy bar, but in what she could do with her Strat. A beautiful 1963 white Fender Stratocaster that was the luckiest guitar in the world. What I wouldn’t give to have her fingers wrapped around me, coaxing the notes out in a cascade of fluid moves, stroking the neck, knowing when to pull the strings, when to pause, when to bear down.

Bitch could play.

You’ve heard Bonnie play, hell, you’ve heard Clapton play, and Sally, on any given night, whether she was as sober as a 7th Day Adventist, or even loaded on blow and a bottle of Kentucky sweet bourbon, could give both of ‘em a run for their money. There wasn’t a musician in town that didn’t want to play with her…and you can take that any way you want.

 =0=

I met Sal the first time her band, Cat’s Paw, played the Jarvis House. I didn’t expect much, I mean she looked like the kind of woman that rock stars passed around like a joint, not a player. Not a fucking amazing player and singer whose very presence in a room outshone every other female in the place. Sally walked into the Jarvis House like she owned it, and after her first set…she did. There were line ups at the 3 payphones by the door after her first set. Every musician in the joint calling their friends, telling them they had to come down to the Jarvis and hear this woman. By the time the second set started, the place was packed. By the time the 3rd set started people were standing 5 deep at the bar and packed onto the dance floor in front of the stage like sardines. Some were watching her fingers glide over the neck of her Strat, some were just drinking in the fire in her dark green eyes, and every man and half the women were wondering how to get into the tight faded jeans that separated them from heaven.

It was June, 1978 and it was already hot outside, but the heat coming off that stage made the temperature outside feel cool by comparison. Smoke hung in the air like a veil, sweat poured down cheeks and arms like we’d all been caught in a summer shower, and Sally’s hair was sticking to her beautiful face, sweat molding her shirt to her breasts like it wanted us to desire her even more than we did, teasing us, taunting us, daring us to come closer, reach for her, get to know her.

=0=

There were a few songs most musicians balked at when playing in a bar. Brown Eyed Girl, Midnight Hour, and Mustang Sally. Not that they’re bad songs, but on the bar circuit in 1978 they had been abused by so many bands that no one ever wanted to play, or hear them again. Audiences, however, just loved those tunes, shouting out the names constantly toward the end of the night, fueled by cheap beer and the delusional belief that they could dance better to those songs. That they could dance, period.

Sally had really wound up her last set. Leading off with a smokin’ version of James Brown’s Think, she succeeded in slowing it down just enough to make it sultry instead of frenetic, bending the notes and switching from picking to slide with the ease of a seasoned pro. From there she segued her tight four piece band into a nasty re-working of  Bobby Marchan’s There is Something On My Mind and completed the opening triple play by doing Johnnie Taylor’s Who’s Makin’ Love, her raspy voice giving the title more power than even Taylor’s original. The rest of the band, Earl Ennis on keys and the Petty brothers, Carl and Clark on bass and drums, followed her gestures and signals like the ass end of a cat follows the front end. A dynamite band, and this was the first any of us had ever heard of them. Sure, we all knew the Petty brothers, but Earl and Sally were definitely not from around here.

The rest of the set was just as inspiring, full of classic, but borderline obscure R&B and blues standards that some of the better players in the audience would be hard pressed to play as inventively as Sal. There were some exceptions of course. I glance over to a table by the stage and spot Freddie Keelor and Dom Troiano digging the band. Standing at the bar was Donald “The Beaver” Seaver, lead guitar player of Macon Bacon, the hottest blues band in the city, and by the door, John Bride and Ray Harrison from a close second, the Cameo Blues band, who must have arrived late after a set at the Isabella, giving thumbs up to no one in particular. We all knew we were seeing and hearing something special.

The bartenders and waitresses announced last call and Norm, the manager, held up his index finger towards the band, signaling one last song. A member of the audience (probably from Scarboro or Mississauga) yelled out Mustang Sally at the top of his lungs.

Sal didn’t blink. She looked at the band and counted it in…and the place went nuts. In her hands the song took on new life. I’ve never heard it played that way before or since except when Sal plays it. After that night no one would play Mustang Sally not because the song was old and worn out, but because Sal owned it now, and when she played it, everybody wanted to hear it.

=0=

A dozen or so of us ended up at the Four Brothers, a booze can located up a steep flight of stairs next door to the El Mocambo. It was a favored haunt for musicians, dope dealers, strippers, bartenders, and wait staff where everyone could smoke a doob, do a line, and have a drink after a long night entertaining the crowds that packed Toronto’s bars back then. We had convinced Sal and her band to join us, and Sal was the centre of attention that night, answering questions and accepting the drinks everybody was buying her. Everyone was hitting on her too, but she graciously declined the nice attempts and answered the rude requests with the words ‘Fuck off’ said with a soft drawl and in a quiet voice accompanied by a ‘drop dead’ smile.

Unfortunately, one of our bunch would do exactly that.

Before the sun came up, Earl Ennis would find Donald Seaver in a stall in the men’s room slumped between the toilet and the graffiti covered wall.

What a shitty place to die.

=0=

Chapter Two: Guitar Boogie Shuffle

Donald Seaver spent the first few minutes of his life being born in the backseat of a cab on the way to Our Lady of Mercy Hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana. His mother, Donna Lee Seaver, had just finished her shift at the Lakeside Inn, which the locals referred to as the Dew Drop Inn because they liked the pun and Dewey Basquez, the owner, thought it was funny. Her water broke just as she locked the front door and walked down the steps and onto the gravel parking lot toward the old Chevy cab that drove her home every night.

 =0=

Dewey spent most of his time drinking at the bar with his buddies while Donna did most of the work, sometimes pulling shifts that ran from 6 am when the Inn opened for breakfast, (mostly tequila and eggs) to after 2 am, when it closed for the night and Beaner and his son came in to clean the place (and drink whatever was left on the bar and tables).

Dewey had come back from the war with a steel plate in his left knee and a smattering of French he’d picked up in Paris and not much else. It was nothing like the French he’d heard spoken when he was growing up in Louisiana, and his left knee ached like hell when it was about to rain. So much for the spoils of war.

After traveling to Baton Rouge from his discharge at Fort Benning in Georgia, a brutal 8 hour ride in an Army bus that had been built in 1939, he hitched a ride with a couple of  Creole musicians from Opelousas for the last 128 miles to Lake Charles. Instead of checking into a motel, Dewey found himself sitting at a table in the bar of the Lakeside Inn with the owner, a hardboiled little Greek man who wheezed when he talked, earning him the nickname ‘Wheezer’ (which he despised being called), the Lakeside’s Mexican handyman who everybody called ‘Beaner’ and his kid, who poured nickels into the jukebox and shots of good whiskey and tequila for the men and mixed Wheezer’s gin and tonics “Jez right” (and spent the night sitting in front of the jukebox looking through Wheezer’s girlie magazines) and the two musicians, Milton “MardiGras’ Fontaine and a 20 year old kid that played the accordion named Clifton Chenier. The sixth man at the table was the Mayor of Lake Charles, a dead ringer for Sidney Greenstreet right down to the white suit and hat, Devon Littleton, but everyone called him Sir.

The game was 5 card draw, and Dewey, discharge money in his pocket, was in for half of it after the first 40 minutes. Louie Jordan’s Caldonia was playing on the Seeburg, and the game was starting to get serious.

 =0=

Donna Lee hated Wheezer almost as much as he loved her. She had come to work at the Lakeside 4 years ago, when she was 16 and her daddy kicked her out of the house because he had caught her with one of the neighbor boys screwing like rabbits in his tool shed. Damn near killed the boy with a hoe, and slapped Donna Lee so hard his handprint stayed on her left cheek for days.

Donna Lee’s mother had simply stood in the yard watching her husband wail the tar out of the boy, who was on his knees crying and begging Big Lee to stop hitting him, and when Big Lee slapped Donna Lee with enough force to knock her out the door of the shed and into the yard, crumpling at her mother’s feet, she simply stared down at the girl with a look of pity on her face, wiped her hands on her apron and reached down to help Donna Lee to her feet. Donna slapped her hand away and got up on her own. No sense in looking to her mother for help now, she had been standing aside, watching her daughter suffer at the hands of her father since she was 12 years old, and had done nothing. The extended hand at this point was an insult. Donna Lee looked up at her mother and said, “Fuck you”, spit a mouthful of blood onto her orthopedic nurse’s shoes, and stood up on her own, brushing the grass off her skirt with her hands before screaming at her father to quit beating the boy.

Big Lee stopped in mid-swing and turned to face his daughter.

“When I’m done here, I don’t want to see you when I turn back around. I don’t want to see you in the house, and I don’t want to see you ever again. You pack your shit and you get out or I’ll beat you way worse than this little piece of shit”.

The little piece of shit took Big Lee’s soliloquy as an opportunity to get the fuck out of there and rabbited across the yard and over the fence before Big Lee turned back to him. Big Lee threw the hoe at the escaping boy who just made it over the fence as the hoe bounced off of it and back into the yard.

He turned to Donna Lee.

“I’m goin’ to Favereroux’s to have a drink and get the sight of you and that shit stain outta my head. When I get back your ass better be gone, or I’m gonna shove that hoe up in there and make you wish you was dead”.

Yeah, Donna Lee thought, Again. Only it won’t be the hoe. It’ll be that shriveled up little thing you call a penis, you fat ugly bastard. She turned and walked back towards the house, her mother following behind her like a puppy.

 =0=

“Shee-it, motherfucker! Where dem cards comin’ from?”, Sir threw down his 3 kings and took a big swig of his bourbon and branch. “Deys gotta be a thousand dollars in dat pot.”

Dewey raked the money towards him and laughed, “Hell, Sir, I beat ya with some little bitty cards, nothin’ fancy. A ‘course, when 3 little bitty deuces get together with 2 little bitty 4’s, them 3 big-ass Kings don’t stand a chance!” He laughed again.

There were just three of them at the table now. Dewey, Wheezer, and Sir.

Beaner was at the bar flipping through the girlie magazines and drinking a Rheingold, his son sitting next to him pouring shots of tequila for his father and looking over his shoulder at the titties and long, nylon clad legs. The 2 musicians were over on the small stage in the corner with the other 3 members of their band, setting up for the show they came to play the next night. The rest of the band had arrived about an hour ago.

“Play us a little somethin’”, Wheezer yelled across the room waving his cigar around as he spoke, “You can go to your rooms when this game is over. Junior! Turn off that damn jukebox!” Beaner’s kid ran over to the jukebox, reached behind it and pulled the plug out of the wall. Woody Herman’s Laura slowly lost speed until it died quietly on the turntable. The band launched into Bon Ton Roulet.

“Don’t forget I own that accordion and washboard now, Chenier!” Dewey shouted, laughing again and getting a frown from Sir.

“Dis ain’t over yet, Doughboy”, Sir chided, “I mean to gets my money back and then some.”

“Maybe if the stakes were higher, your cards will get scared and leave you, boy”, Wheezer said, wheezing after ‘higher’ and ‘boy’ and accidentally dropping his lit cigar into his gin and tonic, “Damn!”

Now Sir and Dewey shared a laugh.

 =0=

Four years before the card game started, Donna Lee had packed a small tattered suitcase her mother had pulled out of the attic with some clothes and a teddy bear she had had since she was born named Tag. There was a well worn hardbound copy of Little Women in there too, but it wasn’t to read. Donna Lee had meticulously hollowed out the pages years earlier and had been squirreling money away in it since she was 10 years old. Money she kept from errands to the store, money she had earned baby sitting the Emmerson’s brats over on Hollister Street, and money her father had given her when he had left her room late on some nights when he was drunk and in a good mood. There was also money in there collected from neighbor boys like the one her father had caught her with in the shed.

She had put the lessons Big Lee had taught her to good use.

 =0=

Wheezer knew a good thing when he saw it. This young girl looked like one fine piece of tail, and Wheeze meant to get some of that for himself.

“How much?” Donna Lee asked again.

“Week will cost you 11 dollars, Missy. In advance. You got that kind of money?”

Donna Lee didn’t say anything. She took a ten and a single out of her suitcase and slapped it on the Inn’s bar. Wheezer pocketed the bills and reached into a box under the counter and fished out a key.

“Room 7. Lucky 7, Missy. Had some great people stay in that room. Some fine musicians. Couple of politicians. I think Huey Long had himself a whore up in that room one time when he was stumpin’ through here. Even had Miss Dorothy Lamour stay here once, back when she was Miss New Orleans in ’31 I believe, before she got real famous.” Wheezer handed her the key and looked Donna Lee up and down. “You gonna be famous some day, missy?”

Donna shrugged, picked up her little suitcase, and started to walk towards the stairs. Wheezer watched her, day dreaming about what she would look like outta that dress and then shouted after her, “You lookin’ for a job?”

Donna Lee turned around. “Doin’ what?”

“Hell, lots of stuff. Cleanin’ the rooms, waitin’ tables at night, maybe even teach you to tend bar when I ain’t in the mood and Sam Dormer’s too drunk to work.” Wheezer stared at her breasts.

“How much?” Donna Lee asked.

“20 dollars a week, how does that sound?”

“Throw in the room and meals and I’ll consider it”, she said, holding the suitcase up in front of her with both hands.

“Hell, girl, you drive a hard bargain for such a slip of a thing.” Wheezer looked in her eyes, “Tell you what, I’ll go you one better. I got a nice room up to my place. Got a sink in it and everything. Bathroom down the hall. You can make your own meals in my kitchen and it won’t cost you nothin’, maybe some tidyin’ up once a week plus the work here.”

Right, thought Donna Lee, I know what you want me to ‘tidy up’.” I’m tired. Let’s talk about this in the morning, alright?”

“Whatever you say, Missy…whatever you say.”

 =0=

Donna Lee looked around the large, well appointed living room in Wheezer’s big Victorian on Chester Street. There was a jukebox just like the one in the bar over by the sofa. Ten years from now she would sit on that sofa and watch her 4 year old boy listen to number 15 over and over again, sitting cross-legged in front of the jukebox strumming a cigar box ukulele that Dewey had made for him. It would be her and Dewey’s house by then. She wasn’t sure who that little boy’s father was, but she knew she was his mother, and that was all that mattered.

Donna Lee would never forget the song he listened to again and again. Guitar Boogie by Arthur Smith. Yessiree, little Donald Seaver just loved that song.

=0=

Segarini’s regular column appears here every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

5 Responses to “Segarini: The Blahs”

  1. Got me hooked, don’t stop writing , it will make u feel better

  2. This was worth waiting for the last two weeks. Get well swoon.

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