Insalubrious, Part I posted September 3, 2012
It surprised Perry that a house with so much stone and open space could smell like his Aunt Tammy’s cigarette-stained double wide. The worry of an inevitable sinus headache to come was suspended, when he began counting guitars on the walls. He moved from one room to another, like a short-distance twitcher, and counted the rare “birds” collected and hung conveniently in one man’s home.
He checked the proverbial list with each sighting. One: Gibson Gary Moore Les Paul. Check. Two: Billy Gibbons Pearly Gates. Check. . . . Seven: Rickenbacker 12 String with a signature . . . Tom Petty! Check. . . . Nine: Gretsch Princess. Check. . . . Twelve: Benedetto Archtop Acoustic. Check.
Perry’s pursuits led him back to the music room where Todd waited. “Have you seen his collection? Incredible!” Perry pressed his nose to guitar number fifteen, when he heard shuffling feet from the hallway, and a man clearing his throat of phlegm.
“Todd, my man!” The voice said as it neared. “Why the hell did I let you talk me into meeting at eleven in the morning?”
“Stoney!” Todd answered.
“Bring it in man.” Stoney took Todd’s hand and pulled him in for a hug.
“You . . . actually . . . smell like vomit” Todd said, wiggling free of the embrace.
Stoney pulled his shirt up to his nose, smelled, and smiled. “Yeah. But it’s not mine, man.”
Perry held his guitar case with both hands to obstruct any possible man-hug that might come his way. “Hey, I’m Perry.”
“Perry” Stoney greeted. “You guys are an abomination to musicians. Calliope, Thalia, and Erato do not join the party before dark, you know?”
Perry did not know. Were these code names for something? Did the woman that answered the door have sisters . . . ? “Sorry. I’ve gotta work tonight” he answered.
“From what I hear, son you’ve got to work right now – today, quick, before you lose ‘em.” Stoney sat down on a white leather chair and lit a cigarette. “Have a seat guys. You want a beer or something?”
Again, Todd answered for both of them, “No thanks. It’s not even lunch.”
“Mimosas then” Stoney laughed, smoke leaving his nostrils.
“Actually, I could go for some water” Perry said.
“Sure son. There’s bottled water in the fridge. Help yourself” Stoney said.
As Perry walked to the kitchen, he wondered why Todd was “man” and he was “son”. Although worse for the wear, he guessed that Stoney wasn’t more than five years his senior.
Perry reached past the beer, sodas, and unusually high number of pickle jars, and pulled a Perrier from the fridge. He heard Stoney yell from the music room, “Grab the Hummingbird for me while you’re in there!”
Perry saw an acoustic guitar on a floor stand by the kitchen table. The guitar was beat to hell. The pickguard was cracked, and the celluloid surrounding the hummingbird had turned to powder. The rosewood fingerboard was indented from strings that looked a dozen years old. It was one bird that dipped out during his earlier expedition. Sixteen: ’66 Hummingbird Acoustic. Check.
“Ahhh, Jules. My Number One” Stoney said, receiving his guitar from Perry. “This girl can sing.”
Todd had his Larrivee acoustic guitar in his lap, tuning up.
Stoney played a riff on his Hummingbird and adjusted a tuning peg. “Let me hear your song, son. Did you write this with him, man?”
“Play the ballad for him. ‘Lush of the Vine’” Todd said to Perry. Then to Stoney, “No, I didn’t co-write on this one.”
Perry took his Taylor acoustic out of the case and used an app on his phone to tune. He took a long drink of water, cleared his throat, and began singing, “The fruit was low. The air was sweet. Nobody thought nothin’ ‘bout taking it slow. . . . Lush of the vine. . . .”
When Perry finished, Stoney rested his head on the waist of his guitar body. “That’s nice, son. Nice.”
“I’ve gotta admit I was a little nervous. I hoped . . .” Perry said.
“But nobody cares” Stoney interrupted.
“Wait. Uhhh. What?”
Stoney continued, “Men care about three things: Can I dance to it? Can I drink to it? Can I screw to it? Women care about four things: Can I dance to it? Can I drink to it? Can I screw to it? Can I kick my sorry ex boyfriend’s ass to it? Outside of that, you’re just wasting their time.”
“So . . . what, you think I’m wasting the audience’s time?” Perry asked.
“You’re wasting the label’s time. Sugar Wheatley. Thomas Hull. The people who might sign you; the people who might produce you. Might. If you don’t bore them off to the next crispy-headed, Taylor hugging, soul kissing songwriter waiting their turn in line” Stoney answered.
Perry looked to Todd for help; for rescuing. “I told you. No punches” Todd reminded him. Perry remembered the lifebuoy on the front door. He wanted to hug it. Wanted to hug the beautiful woman in the other room. Instead, he hugged his guitar; as Stoney suggested.
“I’m going to the kitchen to make some Mexican Coffee and cinnamon toast. Anybody want anything?” Stoney offered.
“What’s Mexican Coffee?” Todd asked.
“Folgers instant, Splenda, Tequila. When I get back, play one you wrote together.” Stoney ran his hand through his unwashed hair and looked at Perry. “Don’t worry brother; we’re going to make it all better.”
Perry put his guitar back in its case. He needed his hands free. He had graduated from “son” to “brother”. It was the only life raft offered, and he was going to grab it.
– Anita, Noted in Nashville