The Manly Arts

A few weeks passed and I got the the Peavey Classic. I had to carry it home from the store. It weighed 65 pounds. I think I carried it a half a block, put it down, switched sides, picked it up, went another half block and so on. Only, I didn’t carry it the full mile to my house. I stopped 2 and a half blocks short. I took it to Brian’s house. Not only was I exhausted and totally fatigued from my journey, Brian had just asked his mother if we could start playing in their garage. She said yes! It was totally amazing. I was shocked. Brian’s mother was generally a hateful person. There was something very bizarre about her allowing this to happen, but I wasn’t gonna question it too hard. Ever since we had to leave my house, we were kind of floundering. We had no home base. Richie had set up his drum kit at Brian’s a few days before, and when I told them I was getting a new amp, they said to come over with it.

When I picked up the amplifier, I found out that it had some accessories. It had a dust cover, an instruction manual, and a foot pedal. I was totally blown away. It was another kind of foot pedal than what I was used to. Unlike the BOSS and DOD processors I had begun to become familiar with, this was a foot switch that changed the amp settings. I was supposed to plug my guitar directly into this amp and the foot switch would turn the amp’s reverb off and on, it would turn off and on the built in phaser, and it would switch between the clean and overdriven channels of the amp. I was elated! Not only did I have a new amp that could hold its own with a drummer, but now I also had a wealth of new sounds without having to hook up a bunch of signal processors!

We started to scrounge up lots of carpet. Anywhere we could find pieces of carpet, we would drag them back to Brian’s house. We wanted to sound proof the garage. We also wanted to weather proof the garage. It was getting to be winter (1988) and it was cold as shit in there. Still, this was a pretty perfect situation. These garages were rarely used for cars in Frankford row homes. To get a car into one, you’d have to drive down the alley and then down an angled embankment, then stop, get out of the car, open the garage door, then slowly pull into the garage which wasn’t really that much bigger than most late 70s cars, which is what everybody around here was drivin’. Lots of folks just used these garages as colder dingier extensions of their cold, dingy basements, letting shit pile up in them and using them as a storage area for stuff they didn’t really care about. The thing is, Brian and his family had just moved into this house a little over a year before, and they had come from a much smaller apartment in Kensington, so they didn’t have a lifetime worth of crap to store. In fact, the garage had been empty from the time they moved in.

We got some pallets and built a drum riser. We covered the riser with carpet. We locked and screwed the garage door shut and covered it with carpet. Somebody bought/stole/borrowed/acquired a P.A. System. It consisted of a powered 4 channel mixer and 2 tall speakers. It looked old as shit. Somebody somewhere warned us that it would shock the shit out of you because it wasn’t grounded (what the fuck is grounded?). I think Brian even got his hands on a bass amp and he bought Eric Midgett’s Cort short scale bass. We had ourselves a real band!! The best part was Steve had gone missing so there was no threat of him coming to sing with or menace us in any way!

I read the manual for my amp from cover to cover. It turned out that SATURATION was just another way of saying distortion level. The EQ knob also had a feature called “PULL THICK” which we all thought was funny because of dicks. I plugged in my foot controller and my guitar and turned that fucker up and man did it sound glorious! A whole spectrum of tones, sounds and special effects. The manual had a section that showed what positions the knobs should be in for 4 different styles of playing: soft rock, hard rock, country, and jazz. We never fucked around with country or jazz, but it was still good to know that this amp could pull it off. I used the hard rock settings and Richie and Brian and I kicked into the greatest version of Paranoid we had ever played.

Around this time, another neighborhood guy named Danny started to play the guitar. He got really good really fast. I think he had been taking lessons from a local guitar legend named Chris Commadero. Danny only lived a block away from Brian, so he began to join our rehearsals. He played good leads and I played good rhythm so we were on our way.
Brian’s mom worked all kinds of funky hours, so I think the deal was, whenever she wasn’t around, we could play. We hadn’t heard anything from any neighbors, so it seemed like we were good to go. Every time I showed up, there’d be something new like a lamp with a colored bulb or a tapestry or some psychedelic poster hanging on top of the carpet. The garage was quickly becoming a fun, cool place to hang out. One time, Brian’s kid brother was down there and left a bowl of fruity pebbles sitting around. Nobody cleaned it up. Then, somebody put out some cigarettes in it. It sat around and became completely disgusting. One day, Brian, Richie and I were there and I grabbed the bowl and scooped a spoonful of the cementized, curdled, cigarette scented cereal out and flung it in the corner. I walked up behind Richie and acted like I was chewing and swallowing the filthy old food. I must have done a good job pretending because he was horrified. I swallowed hard and hollered, “There’s nothing wrong with this! It’s fine!” He looked like he was gonna wretch. I falsely gained a reputation as “the guy who will eat anything.”
It was odd though. Brian wasn’t allowed to smoke, but suddenly Brian and everyone who smoked was doing it in the garage. Everybody started smoking weed and drinking in the garage too. I didn’t do any of that stuff, and I was kinda weirded out that that was just suddenly the way it was. I was certain that it would somehow lead to us not being allowed to play there anymore.

There was a fat stack of nudie books there. Richie was perusing one during a break in the music and he bellowed with laughter when he came across an article entitled, The Manly Art. It was about jackin’ off. We all decided that would be the name of our band. The Manly Arts. We wrote it on the wall with electrical tape. We started calling each other Art.

Sure enough, about two or three weeks after it began, it all abruptly ended. Brian got in trouble for something, I don’t remember what. It was something super stupid like he left dishes in the sink. His mom said that there would be no more music in her garage. It totally sucked. We had JUST gotten the place transformed into a perfect rehearsal spot. I’m convinced she only let us move in so that she’d have the pleasure of throwing us out.

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