Summer, age 14. F & JR, who I called R, were my secret music camp friends. Music camp because I needed "culture", JR needed to play drums somewhere other than his dad's barn, and F couldn't live anywhere else. The three of us all read Brave New World way too early for our own sakes and thought of our instruments as weapons. I remember that F and I met first in an advanced snob recital class that we were both too nervous to take and quickly formed The Duo That Would Transfer To The Experimental Forms Class Toot Sweet. It's amazing that the Schoenberg was the thing that made us understand, but we told everybody that the Cage challenge in class was really the moment we turned.
F insisted that "this guy" who was staying in his dorm who kept following him around and calling him "Hendrinks" should join us. We practiced at night, outside, by the science library, in the bushes. JR claimed later that he's the one who introduced us all to evil doings, mushrooms, and vodka shooters, but we all had families, that place where everyone learns how to screw up.
We learned new techniques from filmstrips & stole instruments from our music departments. We stayed at JR's dad's barn the next summer and listened to a history of rock 'n roll backwards on 78s. F was the only one among us who could actually tell his family what we were doing. His parents brought us sandwiches and carried their own lawn chairs at our first show, a kids stage carnival block party in F's neighborhood. JR had to drop out for weeks at harvest time to run the hay rides for his family's pumpkin tourist spot. October was for composing and November for spitting it all out onto the street. It stayed that way, secret summer style, well into our adult years.
Well, into our adult year. 18 begat more fucking up and F screwing around with scarier and scarier monsters, JR leading the way, both of them pleading or yelling at me for retreating. Me spending more nights inside my head, going to the party to play the first 3 notes and then scurrying out unable to process why people like each other so much. Me trying to fit in anywhere, sideways, at least nearby.
For a bit of time, it still worked, booking shows for ourselves by showing up, communicating psychically, feeling bits of skin peel off F's finger and rest on my own, drinking JR's sweat, losing them both in countless crowds only to find each other at the same time at that tree that I noticed coming in, the tree that seemed to be bending into the street as if to say, "This way, my friends," with a swoop of leaves. That tree that must have said the same thing to F & JR in their own hazy language.
One of these guys can only send us psychic messages now and the last one I got really helped. He's been quiet for a while. At least to me. I think he's in a deep composition mode and maybe the other guy forced some previews out of him before he was ready. Maybe the other guy needs a break from the solid and pushy life he has built since the first guy went into his haze. Maybe music's not the only thing that gets into your blood.
The other guy, the one who I could still call on the phone if I wanted to, the one that still sends me screeches now and again, that guy is trying to throw himself in these days. Or tried to throw himself in. All I know is that I got a terse email from his partner (his long-suffering partner who graciously sat through our silent three hour reunion a few years ago), an email that said "Step 1, again, so don't expect to see him this summer."
Because this summer, the other guy will be hopefully healing up and pounding on something other than his arm or leg or ankle or hand. & I'll be going back to the bush by the science library, alone for the first time, playing along to some scratchy recordings and pretending that the trees are people. & ghosts will rise and recommend transitions. At least that's the way I'll remember it when I'm older.
Like the time JR grabbed a big piece of sod and threw it at the guitars, screaming "You want to smoke this?" in his incredulous, never-to-be-satisfied screech, while F nodded off on top of the pitcher of water on the transistor and shorted out the radio. A small "fizit" of smoke and wire in the air and then the sound of static chopping. We all woke up and sawed away, wishing that we hit the red button on the 4 track two minutes earlier.
- Salem Collo-Julin