Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Best Compliment

About the best compliment I ever got was from a young woman named Claudia who didn't even like me very much. Sometime back around 1967 I was living with a rock-and-roll band in a two-story house on 19th Street near Guadalupe in Austin. It was also near Littlefield Fountain, one of my favorite Austin landmarks.

Claudia played rhythm guitar. I was not a member, but a "friend of the band", a gofer who ran the recording equipment or whatever else I felt like contributing. I was an interested party, you might say, for we also partied together, drank quarts of beer while washing clothes at the Laundromat (by twos and threes), etc.

Some of the equipment, particularly the drums, stayed set up on the second floor for practice sessions except when the band had a gig. So anyone who was stubborn or brave enough to wander in, pick up sticks, and start playing could do so. Out of boredom—after all, I was no musician—I got to where I'd do so once in a while myself, starting out very gingerly and trying not to play very loud. I can't explain to you how that's done, of course—not playing the drums very loudly! In fact, I was making plenty of noise.

Clevis and Claudia were married and lived downstairs in a more nearly complete apartment—it had a kitchen where we could make grilled cheese sandwiches. The rest of the band, all single men, got by with single rooms on the top floor. The lead singer, a young woman, lived elsewhere. Claudia would come upstairs about 50% of the time and ask me to lay off, she was studying, napping, or whatever. I always apologized profusely, having merely gotten carried away. I felt it was more important to get along with her than play along with Taj Mahal records. I didn't want to annoy the Universe, as drums, it is well known, can do! And, besides, I was no musician!

One day, though, after I'd had a drum session earlier in the day, the band was practicing but between songs when Claudia volunteered the remark that I was "definitely improving" with my drum playing and I was amazed to hear it. I thought I was just screwing around, really. It felt great to think I was getting better instead of just driving the universe mad!

Well, this wasn't the start of a "beautiful relationship" or anything like that. Claudia remained as aloof and self-sustaining and generally unsmiling as before, a woman (as far as I knew) who talked when talked to and who, when angry, very quietly and firmly expressed it to the band members. She wasn't the "band mother"; I don't think we had one.

Of course, we did have a female lead singer named Daria who could be very emotional, both positively and negatively. She wasn't anybody's mother, though. I was fond of talking vulgar and using obscenities myself—after all, my father was an auto mechanic, and they know how to cuss! Even so, Daria got my attention when I realized that her favorite vulgarity was a particularly piquant one:

"Oh, Dogfuck!" she'd holler when peeved. She'd use it as I might have said, "What the fuck" or "Oh, shit!"

Or, "That dogfuck bastard!" she'd complain angrily of someone.

It made me more fond of her than otherwise, and I grinned most of the time that she cussed, as long as she wasn't cussing me. I wanted to get along with her, too, though later found that it wasn't a goal I could achieve all the time. I don't just mean to say that she was hard to get along with, but that I was.

The band broke up and we spread out like cockroaches, staying in contact in differing degrees. Some people remained close, some barely ever saw one another again. Claudia was one of the last; I saw her only a few more times. Suffice it to say, I didn't continue with my drum practice and nothing ever came of that, but I hadn't thought that it would. But I do, very oddly, remember Claudia's compliment.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here! (At least put on your socks and pants.)