Dungeons & Dickheads

I kept going to Josh’s house. There were no mobile phones, so I always showed up unannounced. He was never too happy to see me. I think I liked him too much. I thought he was so cool in his personal style, that I wanted to be like him. The last thing a non-conformist wants is somebody hanging around trying to ape their style. He had a little sister who was the sweetest, prettiest little girl. Josh would always yell at her and say terrible things to her. I never understood it. He was kind of a creep, but I was fascinated with him…and his Stratocaster. I was starting to think that I needed to find some new people to play music with. My tastes were shifting pretty radically and I wanted to be playing the music that I liked to listen to, instead of continuing on this head banging trip. In the back of my head, I was thinking that since Josh had a good look, and a Strat, he might be a good person to try to start a new band with.

I would knock on his door sometimes after I got home from school. If his mom answered, she’d let me in and I’d go up to his room where he’d be hanging out. I’d try to steer the conversations toward music and his guitar and see what he knew. He was always evasive and changed the subject. I’d ask him about what bands he liked. He always hated whatever bands I mentioned. If he was the one who answered the door, I wouldn’t even make it into the house. Josh would close the big door behind him and wedge his body between it and the screen door and ask me what I wanted. I should have gotten the hint. I just wanted to be friends with the guy, but looking back, it’s clear that he wasn’t interested in that or starting a band or anything. He said that he was gonna be playing Dungeons and Dragons with some friends later that night. I had played the game a little bit a few years earlier with my friend Butchie. My dad was always the dungeon master. “Mind if I join you guys?” I asked. “Yeah, if ya want. Come back tonight at 7.” , he offered.

Later that evening, I knocked on the masculinely perfumed front door. His mom opened it and invited me in. On the TV, Tina Tuner was conceding that, in fact, it was Master Blaster who ran Bartertown as Mrs. G motioned for me to continue through to the kitchen where D&D was getting underway. Josh was at the head of the table with some kind of book or folder standing up in front of him. It looked like Dungeon Master information about the D&D campaign that only he was privy to. I knew all the other kids at the table. Their names were Jude, Chris, and Danny. I sat at one of the available chairs. There were certain things I recognized about the game. The players all had their character sheets in front of them, and the six different kinds of dice were all out on the table, but some aspects of it seemed different than what I remembered from playing 5 or 6 years years before. I think Butchie and my dad and I had been playing some very loose version of the game, because these guys seemed like they were following a lot more rules than what I remembered. I hung back and observed, so that I could figure out what was what.

No more than 15 minutes after I arrived, Josh abruptly ended the game. He declared that everyone had fallen into a pit and died. Some of the players argued incredulously. “What are you talking about?!? We didn’t even roll for damage!!” “That’s it! Campaign’s over! You’re all dead!” Josh said as he started to pack the game back into its box. “That’s not how ya play!”, Jude protested. Mrs. G walked in from the living room. “Josh! What are you doing?” Then to all of us, “Is he being a little jerk? Is that how you’re supposed to play?” “They all died!” He shouted, trying not to laugh as he lied to his mom. I stayed quiet. This was super awkward. Chris and Danny and Jude were all arguing different angles of the same thing, that Josh had no legal (ha!) right to kill off all of their characters like that. I found this all to be petty and annoying. “I’ll see you guys later”, I said and made my way out. I got on my skateboard and pushed off into the night.

You’d think that after a few incidents like these that I’d just declare dude a dickhead and leave him alone. Eventually I did, but I gave it a few more trys. I’m glad I did. One day, I stopped by and Mrs. G let me in and told me they were all upstairs. Who is they all, I wondered. As I went into Josh’s bedroom, I found it full of punk rockers. Real life, full on fuckin mohawk, combat boot, leather bomber jacket punk rockers. The stereo announced, “Ziggy played………Gui tarrrrr ahhh!” It sounded off. “Bowie?” I asked. A small, friendly kid with a wolverine haircut held up an album cover. “Bauhaus (he pronounced it /bah hahs/ but I got the point)”, he said. His name was Jamie. The other dudes were called Bunky, Chris, and Dave. They were all kind of quiet, but Jamie was animated, lively, and friendly. The record continued to play and the music was everything I ever wanted music to be. Raw and kinetic, but also spooky and elegant. I felt like I had won the fuckin lottery and had been transported into the Frankford version of a Penelope Spheeris movie. Jamie had a Pink Floyd bumper sticker on the bottom of the back of his jacket. This confused me because I knew that Johnny Rotten got to be a Sex Pistol by hating Pink Floyd.

I sat down and tried to blend into the already existing hang. Apparently, when I arrived, Josh was in the middle of berating Echo & The Bunnymen. I had heard their name before, but I had never heard their music. I gathered from the conversation that they were somehow uncool. I was the only person in the room who didn’t have some part of their head shaved. At some point in the conversation about bands, I declared that I liked Fine Young Cannibals. Nobody said anything, they all just looked at me totally disgusted. Like I had set fire to a fart at high tea.

A few weeks later, at the dentist office, I was leafing through old copies of People Magazine, waiting for my turn in the chair. Surprisingly, I saw a review of Earth Sun Moon by Love and Rockets, which happened to be my favorite album at that time. It didn’t seem like the typical People faire. In the review, it mentioned that Love and Rockets were the band that was left over when Bauhaus broke up. What?! That’s amazing! The band that I wanted to be my new favorite band was already kinda my favorite band. Shortly after that, I went to The Record Cellar and bought a copy of Mask, the second album by the progenitors of Goth Rock. It was so good. It had a gatefold album cover with sexy, witchy, fetishistic imagery. The music sounded like it was recorded in a crypt. It had an obtuse sense of humor and endless tormented atmosphere. I listened to it constantly and hoped I’d run into Jamie and the Punks again.

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