I just moved. Again. This is my fourth move in two years. It seems like all I do is pack and unpack my shit. My truck hates me. My clothes hate me. My guitars hate me. Same for my computer and my books. Same for my incense and my shoes. I promised them that they could settle down, take a load off, that we’d be around for a while this time.
I don’t think they believe me.
This move was a pain in the ass just like all the others. But what I’ve learned over the years is to get down to the bare essentials. If I don’t use it I give it away or throw it away. I moved across the country twice. It was these two dreadful moves that taught me that rat-packing I’ll-probably-use-it-someday crap is ridiculous and a lie. After my divorce I gave everything to my ex. I took my books, clothes, one of the cars, my guitars, and most of my dignity. That’s it. It was liberating. It was very Zen. Today the things in my possession I use. I’m clutter-free for the first time in my life.
When I moved in I noticed my neighbors sitting outside drinking beer. Two dudes in their twenties and an older feller somewhere in his sixties. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen him stumbling around his house drunk. He drinks Budweiser. He never wears a shirt; nipples and dusty gray hair dancing in the desert wind.
“Hey, you play guitar?” he asked me as I was unloading my equipment.
“Rock and roll?”
“At times, yeah.”
“Hey, you should grow out your hair, man. You’d look cool. Long hair. Guitar. You know?”
“Think so, huh? You’re probably right.”
He didn’t know I’ve had long hair most of my life and recently hacked it all off.
“My name is Gilbert,” he said walking to the fence. I put my guitar down and shook his hand.
“Reno? Like in Reno, Nevada? All right. Isn’t that Mustang Ranch close to Reno?”
“I’d like to go there, man. They have a website. You should check it out. Some fine women work there. Oh, yeah, some fine women.”
We talked for a bit. He came from Fontana. Ex-military. Liked Santana. He told me to come over one night, down some beer, and play for him. I told him I would.
“The man next door likes, Santana,” I told my roommate.
“Making friends already, huh?” she said.
Pam lived above me. Nice girl. Beautician. Huge tits and a flat ass. We’d party together, smoke pot, and drink whatever was at hand. She was sweet on me despite the fact that I had a girlfriend. She had me by five years and was the classic been-there-done-that chick. She didn’t care that I had a girlfriend. She thought Gina was a total bitch which was true. She told me that I should dump her pronto, that I was young (I was twenty-five) and living in Vegas, that this wasn’t the time to be bogged down in a relationship. This all changed when Pam found a suitor. His name was Greg and either he had the world’s biggest dick or Pam was hoping that a porn producer lived in the complex and would draw her up a slutty contract after hearing her nasty contrived wailing.
She was loud.
My bedroom also served as my recording studio and on more than one occasion my mics picked up her moaning. I’d be laying down tracks and then: “Oh! Oh, my god! Oh! Oh! Oh…my…god!” I wanted to charge upstairs, kick down her door, and punch her in the throat. I wanted to tell Greg to quit fucking her. And if he couldn’t do that then he needed to handle her at his place. And the curious thing was that they always banged around nine o’clock at night. After she jacked up one too many takes, I started recording around the humping hour. I had some friends over one night and they got front row seats to Hammerfest.
“Watch, man,” I informed them. “Around nine o’clock you’ll hear Pammy Whammy and Ron Jeremy playing hide the salami.”
Sure as shit around five minutes after nine: “Oh! Oh, yes! Don’t stop! Oh, my god! Yes! Yes! Oh!” My friends were sickened. I was sickened. It was bad. Pam must have had a super cooter because Greg put a ring on her damn finger and she moved in with him a month later.
My house in Charlotte had a lake behind it. Coming from Las Vegas I wasn’t used to wildlife, real weather, trees or flowers. I had deer roaming around my property. Raccoons clicking. Giant birds casting shadows on the ground. My neighbor was a local, hailed from South Carolina, and had a thing for vodka. I’d always find Tim sitting in his driveway, drink in hand, sucking in the booze and the sticky humidity. He called me Vegas.
The neighborhood was beautiful and made for a great run. As soon as I moved in I mapped out a two-mile run that took me by the lake. Right by the lake was a small pond. That’s where I heard the sound. It was an odd bellowing sound. I’d never heard anything like it before. I told my wife at the time what I’d heard, that it was a haunting hollow sound.
“I don’t know what it is,” I told her. “Sounds like an animal. A sick cow. A moose. Or a camel. I don’t know. It seems to be coming from behind the woods. There might be a farm back there.”
“There’s no moose out here, sweetie. Or camels.”
“How do you know? Might be a farm back there.”
At work I asked the locals. They didn’t know. And if they did they weren’t giving me any answers. I was just some long-haired west coast dude invading their land of fried-pickles and Jesus. I came home one day to find Tim washing his boat. He was drunk. A bottle of vodka sat on his tailgate. I told him about the sound I’d heard right by the pond. I told him I thought there might be a farm behind the woods, that what I’d heard was probably a cow or something. He shook his head and started laughing hard. It took him a while to gather himself.
“What, fucker? Tell me,” I pleaded.
“Vegas, Vegas, Vegas. You’re talking about that little pond that feeds into the lake, right? Yeah, OK. What you’re hearing is a goddamn bullfrog!”
From that day on my name changed from Vegas to Bullfrog.
“What are you doing this weekend, Bullfrog?”
“Your Steelers are going down, Bullfrog.” “
Wanna drink, Bullfrog?”
Chris looked like Elvis Costello. He was a real estate agent, hailing from somewhere in the Midwest. Vegas was full of real estate agents and full of these types. Quasi-slick transplants. Hated their dry little towns. Packed up their junk and came to the neon to cash in. At first glance you would have thought Chris was gay. He possessed all the cliché characteristics: wore nice expensive clothes; walked around the world in a pretty haircut streaked with highlights; had clean manicured nails; got his tans at a tanning salon; drove a nice car that was always in immaculate condition; had a chunky lady friend that was always hanging around him. When I met him my gaydar didn’t register anything. Zip. He was just another pretty boy in a city full of pretty boys. But a few of my friend’s gaydars were pinned.
“Reno, who’s Mr. Skintip?”
“Chris. And he doesn’t smoke skin tips. He smokes a good-looking blond that you’d bang if you had the chance.”
“Bullshit. He’s smoking the skinnies. Remember Mr. Andrews the basketball coach? He was married, had two gruesome kids, but he smoked poles on the side.”
Chris’ girlfriend was beautiful. California blond. Deep sea-blue eyes. Button nose. Pretty hands. Nice body. She was also a nice person and liked literature. Big Faulkner fan. We used to swap books and talk shop. Her name was Sara.
At the time I had a sixteen-pound tabby named Toback. He was a gorgeous creature that viewed himself as a prisoner, always pawing the screen door to get out and see the world. I couldn’t blame him. I was an over protective parent. I cut off his berries, fed him expensive food, and kept the apartment warm and cozy. But he didn’t give a fuck about my efforts. He was fat and he knew it. He wanted to run with the wind and shed some weight. He didn’t have any balls and he knew that. He wanted to look at girl kitties for old time’s sake in hopes that his ghost nuts would twitch reminding him that, yes, he was still a man cat, that, yes, he was still alive. One night I slipped and left the sliding door open. Despite his weight Toback still had some wheels and I caught him flash out the door and over the wall and into the Great Wide Open.
I let him goof around for a bit. He ran from bush to bush, climbed to the top of the small tree in front of my balcony and leaped off into the darkness. He tumbled in the grass and meowed with glee. After a while I tried to get him, but he was having nothing of it. I’d get close to him and at the last second he’d dash. This went on for around ten minutes. It was a game to him. He was winning. I was pissed. Then Toback ran into a bush right by Chris’ balcony. Right when I approached the balcony I saw Sara butt-naked and walking around the apartment with a glass of wine. I dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. I turned and slowly made my way to my apartment hoping that she didn’t see me, telling Chris that I’m some sick peeping Tom. I wanted to kill Toback. To hell with him, I thought. Stay out there and get your ass kicked by some feral tomcat! See if I care, Toback! Five minutes later he strolled in coated in dirt and grass. Son of a bitch. That night my band came over and I told them what happened. Two of them understood how creepy I felt. The other two thought Toback hooked me up.
“Dude,” Aaron said. “Toback did you good. All my cat does is eat and shit in the living room.”
“Well, yeah. You can look at that way,” I said, as I saw Sara’s naked body move across my eyes once again. “She was a true blond that’s for sure.”