Nobody’s Opinion: Sometimes in life, when you’re just sitting there not bothering even your own mind, your own mind decides to bothers you, with a memory…a memory that is so strange and unfathomable that it sits in your banks of “weird” experiences of “What the hell just happened?” in hopes that someday you will get an answer to an unanswerable question, that you know will never be answered.
Therefore the problem.
It’s like a pesky fly that just won’t buzz–off. It keeps coming back and popping up, until finally, you’ve had enough. You cannot swat away a brain-fly, especially with most medical plans at the moment.
So, I’ve decided to dump it here. Well, why not? The political arena is pretty predictable at the moment.
It’s a memory about a girl drummer, a sick bass player, and a bus boy.
I think I was about 21, (or nineteen, I’m not sure) and it was the early 1970’s. Okay, I may not remember the year, but the day this “strange” event happened was July 9th...I’m sure of that. Don’t ask me how.
It happened in the middle of a hot blistering day in Missouri---the kind of day when the hot air sucks the oxygen right out of your lungs.
By the way, if you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing summer days in Missouri, then you will never know why you see more people in Missouri walking around with dark tans in the summer than on the southern beaches of Florida.
Well, unless of course, you’re Jewish, over 86 years old, and got money to burn on Miami Beach.
Actually, I don’t know if there still are a lot of Jewish people in Miami, it’s been so long since I’ve been there…but in the 1960’s, Miami Beach was covered with old Jewish people everywhere…sitting around looking like alligator purse commercials, they were all so dark. They would smoke and play canasta; on every corner you’d see them. The Jewish men had their cigars, their flowered shirts, with their skinny legs sticking out… and the old Jewish ladies would wear their big sunbonnets while they walked around the sidewalks, hunched over walking with canes, smelling of thousand-dollar perfume.
And all the hotels, for miles and miles down the beach, were just one color---white.
Sometimes I used to think that the white hotels were some sort of poetic justice for the Jewish people's suffering and horrible memories. Each hotel was like a huge marked white tombstone, all built as future graves of the Jewish families that had survived the holocaust. They could just die in their luxury hotel rooms, with huge diamond rings on, entombed till their last breathe in their air conditioned splendor.
Why else were all the hotels white? At least that what I thought when I was a kid.
Now, I hear it’s much more diversified…but I’m off the story…
That summer I was the leader of my own band, mainly because whoever owned a “PA” system was always the leader of the band. The band could not function without a “PA” to sing through, because, well, you try singing over an electric guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums, playing “Summertime Blues.” (You have to be “old” to remember that song-- my mother told me about it.)
Back then, PA systems were not cheap. My PA had four 4560 JBL speaker cabinets, which took two big guys who were willing, to carry them. I say willing because when it came time to carry them, all the guys in the band would disappear and it was usually me and some bus boy barely getting them off the U-Haul.
But they were worth it.
Those old JBL’s cabinet’s had so much power they could launch a jet takeoff, or a Ted Nugent football party, or break a few Donald Trump luxury windows, if turned up to ten.
Unfortunately, you had to keep the volume on one or two, so that the people in the restaurant could at least talk. That’s because bands back then, worked in what was called “lounges.” People could “lounge” around and pick up other “loungers” and get drunk and dance.
It was good money for a girl with no college education, and no “government” handout to get one. I was the drummer, and there weren’t too many girl drummers at that time, so I had the market covered on ‘strange and weird phenomenon’ in the local area.
So—freaky being an advantage---I got the gigs, I handled the money, the paychecks, I controlled the song lists---and in this group of misfits, appropriately named “Coconuts” in honor of the Marx Brother movies (which no one else in the band had seen but me) I was also officially…the “mom.”
And mom had to handle the “boy” fights---especially when it came to hotel rooms.
Coconuts was on the road for six months at a time. We played Ramada Inns in the Midwest, and I can tell you first hand that at that time, all the Ramada’s look the same. They had red carpets….with white country fringe…everywhere. Every room, every lobby, every state, every hotel, was exactly the same. And this Ramada was just off the highway, in a little town of nowhere called Marion, Illinois.
Not much happening there at the time. We were pretty much it.
As my brain-fly is buzzing me, the night before the “event,” the lead singer in the band (Who was a black guy named Charlie) pleaded with me for at least an hour, to take his roommate of the band (who was the bass player named Rick) into my room, so that he and his pretty hot looking girlfriend could spend the night alone.
If I had said no….the following would not have happened.
Now, before you all go into…”Did you guys have wild and crazy sex? Bass player and drummer, oooooo...what rhythm!” Well of course! Go ahead and imagine it!
I must tell you, that first of all, I did not mess around with my co-workers. Second of all, Rick was sick. Really, really sick in fact. (Yeah, he even looks sick in the picture.)
He had some kind of fever that just wouldn’t go away. So, being the “mom” that I am, I nursed him all night, feeding him soup, wiping his forehead down with cold rags.
When his fever got up to 103, going on 104, and he seemed to be going into some kind of lethargic state of stupor…I ordered us room service.
Well yeah, I was hungry. I had been on a diet of M&M’s for about a month, and taking care of sick bass players can drain you.
Besides, I knew Rick didn’t have any money, so I would have to pay for a doctor. I didn’t have any money either, but when you’re sick, you’re sick.
I placed the order to the kitchen at about nine o’clock. And I remember that it seemed to take forever for our breakfast eggs and bacon to arrive. I wanted to get Rick to the hospital, and I wanted to get some food in us before we went, and I kept looking out of the pulled curtains…there was not one cloud in the sky, and even at that time in the morning, it was already around 98 degrees outside.
I remember thinking “Man, it is HOT, maybe we should just stay here, Rick might melt.”
And then, it happened…
Like an unexpected tax increase…Death walked right into that room.
Of course, I did not recognize him right away. He was a tall boy, about nineteen, at the prime of his male life…handsome in every way. And when he entered the room, holding a tray of food, the most frightening thing happened.
The whole room turned solid black. I’m not kidding, solid black.…especially around him. From head to foot he was covered in some sort of thick, black, fog that radiated out filling up the whole room.
The first thing I said to him was, “Doesn’t it seem really dark in here? Weird.”
I went and opened the curtains, it was the brightest day I had ever seen… but it was still dark.
That’s when I got really spooked. Off the scale. Whoa...pay attention girl.
“Well, just set it over there,” I said. “I have to get my purse.”
The boy didn’t say a word. He just stood there, in a vapor of black.
Now, by this time I could tell by the look on his face the kid was in the ozone somewhere. I wondered at the time if he was just stoned. He didn’t smile. He refused to talk or answer anything I said. And I asked him about ten questions…like “How long have you worked here?” and “Do you live around here?” and “Do you go to school?” etc.
And he had the most fearful look that I have ever seen then or since, on his face. It was as if he knew something terribly was going to happen, any minute. And he didn’t believe it, didn’t want it. He was paralyzed by this unknown black force that was in that room.
It had a powerful grip on him, and it scared him to death. Hey, it was scaring me to death and I was just standing next to it.
Any other time I would have considered the boy’s silence as just being rude, and would not have tipped him. But I remember giving him a big tip, because I felt so sorry for him…I just couldn’t explain it. Something was really wrong…something was in that room with us both…and it was worse than any boogey man.
The boy finally left after his tip. The room very slowly became normal again. The spookiness was gone.
I told Rick about it, but he was out of it. I took his temperature one more time---104 degrees…time to go. My “mom” instincts kicked in and I told Rick I was taking him to the local emergency room. So we ate, got in the car, and I drove him there.
The hospital was only five minutes away, and the emergency room looked like a small doctor’s office. It was empty…and Rick was slumped over feeling pretty shitty, and I was bored. So bored, that I was counting water stains in the ceiling tiles. I kept looking at my watch wondering why we were sitting there so long, and why they couldn’t get better chairs than the metal ones we were sitting on. And then I heard that horrible, sound---a sound that I still hear to this day…a sound from hell itself.
The sound of a mother’s screams.
It was a scream that I have never heard before or since. A voice from a body I couldn’t see was saying, “No, No, No, No…She was screaming her boy’s name at the top of her lungs. …Jimmy is NOT dead…Jimmy is NOT dead…no, no, no, no, no, no, NO, NO…OH NO God, NOOOOO!!
Rick and I looked at each other. Now his fever seemed like a little finger cut.
Out of nowhere we saw about five burly men in white scramble up stairways to retrain her. I saw a glimpse of her…a heavyset woman collapsing, arms flaying, swinging at everyone even near…the men couldn’t hold her, her body was uncontrollable. It flung up towards the ceiling, fists hitting at the arms of the men trying to contain her.
They wouldn’t let her see him….his body.
They tried to hold her. She continued to scream.
A nurse came down the stairs. The woman’s son had just died she told us, it was her only child.
Nobody could tell us much more at the hospital. But, it was obvious “death” had touched a mother. And to this day, I still sometimes hear her screaming deep in my soul. In the winter, when it’s cold…when the clouds are dark, before the snow.
Everything good that had happen to me up until that point in time, seemed irrelevant compared to this woman’s pain. Depressed is not the word I felt for this poor lady. I was never so glad to get out of there. Rick got some antibiotics, and we were gone.
When we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel, around about eleven-thirty, lots of the service people were running all over the parking lot. Young girls, busboys, desk clerks, and maids were all walking around in a daze outside the hotel. The parking lot was full of zombies, as if they didn’t know where to go.
I thought maybe there was a fire in the hotel, and that’s why everyone was outside.
I rolled down my window as I pulled into the hotel parking lot, and asked a young girl what had happened--”Was there a fire?”
“Didn’t you hear?” she said. “Jimmy’s car just got hit by a huge truck on the freeway. He was killed instantly. He was just mangled. There’s nothing left of his car. And he had just left his shift.”
“What does he look like?” I asked.
Well, he’s tall…blond…he just delivered some room service and left.”
“Does he talk, I mean---he wasn’t mute was he?”
“Jimmy, oh no, yeah, sure he could talk. He talked a lot. Oh God, we can’t believe this. He was such a sweet guy.”
I couldn’t either. I realized at that moment that I was the last person to see that boy alive. I also realized that the mother at the hospital was his mother.
And I swear to this day, that my busboy knew he was going to die, or something terrible was going to happen to him.
This “dark event,” this unexplained black presence I felt on that hot summer day full of light…has bothered me to this day. If I had only recognized death, could I have warned him?
Would anything I could have said made any difference? Was it just his time?
Does Death have a cloak? Does it have some sort of physical presence?
And why? Why the young, the innocent, the deeply loved?
Well, it’s a nasty brain fly…but I do know one thing. I know that I did not hallucinate that whole “event.” I really did see and feel death come through that hotel door. I saw a vibrant human being at the peak of his young life, who knew something terrible was going to happen to him. And even his tremendous life force was no match for this dark creature. It scared him so much that he didn’t even talk.
He took him to his death.
There are things in this world that cannot be explained, damn it.
But some things can. Rick found out he had Mono from his doctors at home, and so that pretty much ended The Coconuts. He was bedridden for six months and he told me his mother wondered where he had gotten it. She was mad.
Frankly, I did too, but I was also very glad to have his own mother take over as nurse.
All these years later, I don’t think about the guys in that band much. I do know Charlie is still singing around the area, and I’m proud that I helped give him his “start.” Everyone loved Charlie, and I imagine they still do.
But I do still think about that boy, and his poor mother, and the questions we all think about when some people do not survive unexplained “accidents”--- whether by tornados, disease, gunshot wounds, or car accidents.
What can you do?
J.K. Rowling sums it up nicely in one of her books. A man is speaking to Harry Potter, and remarks how sad it was that his parents died.
“And yet, here we are.” He says, and looks around at the trees in amazement. And that’s the point here.
Yes, that’s the point. Here we are. Amazingly…here we are.