There’s always a sense of quiet desperation that permeates your life when you’re young; a restlessness, if you will. Time seems infinite, the world seems boundless, and there are possibilities around every corner, hiding in every crevice. Fun will be had. Consequences be damned. Looking back, it all feels rather romantic, and the old adage “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times,” feels more and more prescient, as I move forward. It was a crazy, wild time in my life, and was full of, what felt like at the time, harrowing growing pains. I was a nice guy, and, simultaneously, a complete asshole, fueled by ambition, and clueless bouts of fear. Also, lots and lots of booze.
Back then, it was pretty easy to get me to follow along, or hangout. The only barrier for entry: a situation that would allow me to get drunk, and when I say “drunk” I mean plastered. This wasn’t exactly unique to me, when it came to the rabble-rousers I hung out with, we all were kind of like that. “What’s the point of doing something if a little drinking wasn’t involved? What would be the point?” Well, that was the pervasive philosophical leaning of the time, anyways. In a lot of ways, there’s nothing really wrong with that. We were all in our early twenties, and you know what? Sometimes, we were totally right. Like say, Frisbee Golf(Or Frolfing if you’re a dip-shit.). That is a game that greatly benefits from being under the influence of something. Jesus, the time I spent playing that game just so I could have a drink. Okay, that’s not completely true. A few good friends liuke to play it, and it was better than staying home, and jerking off, or something. I would be totally drinking. of course, but, you know, I probably wouldn’t cry. Okay, I might have cried. Like I said, “wild times.” Don’t judge!
Anyways, we were always looking for things to fill our “infinite” amounts of time. The weirder, the better. The more we could “ironically” enjoy something, the more we wanted to do it, because we were young, and, honestly, assholes. I’ve since then completely grown out of “ironic enjoyment,” and now just enjoy things. Crazy, right? No, not really. In fact, I’m much happier for it. It takes a certain amount of psychic energy to engage stuff in that way, and I find it exhausting now, and no longer have any interest in condescendingly looking down on people or activities(Except for the above mentioned, Frisbee Golf. I will always look down on that game. More so because of those that “love” to play it, than the actual game.). Great strides I’ve made. I accept your adulation. But that’s now, I want to talk about then. You know, “Back then.” Surely, you’ve heard about this…
Given the criteria that I graciously laid out for you in the above paragraphs, it should come as no surprise to you by this point that when I heard Mr. Frank Stallone was playing in the dive bar up the street from from my abode, fuck yeah I went. I mean, if if this opportunity were to present itself in my current state of “struggling with adulthood,” I would still probably go, honestly. It was just too odd of an opportunity to pass up. How could I not? Also, like I said, it was literally just up the street from my place, and often I would stumble home from this pit of despair. So, stumbling to it was no big deal. I was really good at stumbling back and forth to places in the day. I also did not own a car, which really sucked as I did live in Alaska; a place that’s not exactly known for it’s “beautiful weather.”
Anyways, upon entering the bar, I was greeted with a veritable cornucopia of humanity. From wealthy to poor; from homeless to not homeless; from pool hustlers to casual players. If anything, it was a great place to people watch, that was for sure. It was dingy place, but, surprisingly, well lit and open. Often times, dive bars are dark, and claustrophobic, almost as if they are designed to force one to face the inherent desperation that lies within. But not this place. Well, not the first floor, anyways. The bar, Eddie’s, had a basement area where they would have live performance. Most of the time, the acts that would play here would be local country bands, that mostly performed covers, or a few of Alaska’s self proclaimed “folk heroes,” who were actually pretty good if memory serves me correct. I mean, if you were drunk enough to be in the mood for such things, I suppose.
The basement area of Eddie’s falls much more closely in line with the criteria of “dive bars” that I spoke of before. Small, dark, and musty smelling; a small dance floor area; a small stage on the far wall; metal fold out tables and chairs clogging up most of the floor space, only leaving a few feet of space to navigate your way around(Bubble butts beware!). So, you’d go up to the miniature bar, get yourself a few drinks, and try to find a seat that didn’t require too much navigation, because glasses don’t tend to be bottomless, and you were going to have to get up to get yourself another drink at some point. Honestly, a lot of the time, I would just stand towards the back, strategically positioning myself into “the path of least resistance.,” and hoping that I wouldn’t be accosted by some middle aged man or women(It used to happen a lot. Don’t ask.).
I didn’t have any expectations, good or bad, when it came to Frank Stallone. The only song of his that I was aware of was the one that plays at the end of First Blood, and even then I still didn’t know the title of it, and let me tell you, he does not like to be asked to “Play the Rambo song,” as I would come to find out. You see, even just a few years ago, smart phones weren’t as prevalent as they are today, so, I couldn’t just look it up, and spare him some drunken rudeness, or play the part of a “fan,” eagerly requesting my favorites. In a weird way, I think to pose as an acolyte of his work would be worse, but that might be just me.
When I did in fact ask him to “Play the Rambo song,” he shot back: “Oh, fuck you, alright,” and that was pretty much that. I’m fairly certain he didn’t know where the question came from, as I was hanging out in the back, cloaked in darkness; he didn’t even look up from his guitar. Maybe he thought it came from inside his own head, and he was just answering that nagging part of his subconscious, and treated it like the disembodied voice he often faces in his private moments. It’s possible, or maybe he gets asked that a lot, and doesn’t like being defined by a song that was featured at the end of one of his famous brothers’ movies. Yeah, that’s probably it. Honestly, I don’t really blame him. It’s understandable. It would be a bummer to live in the shadow of someone, compounded by the fact that his brother isn’t even a musician. That’s got to sting a little. Looking back, I feel a little guilty for having even requested the song. Although, it probably wouldn’t have been as bad if I knew the title.
So, I remained pretty silent for the rest of his performance, well, when it came to actually addressing the man, anyways. My friends took a slightly different approach, and bought him shot after shot They were definitely enjoying themselves, and not in an ironic way. Frank was providing us with a pretty spirited solo performance, but I couldn’t tell if they were, in some small way, actually making fun of him. You see, the shots that they purchased him were not consistent and were made up of a variety of different liquors. From Jack Daniel’s, to Yagermeister, which, from personal experience, does not exactly make for a “settled stomach.” With every subsequent shot delivered to corner of the stage, therein lied a secret dare, I guess you could say. An unspoken challenge, just to see if he would do it. You could see it in his eyes: the desire to please, and to prove himself to the table of young guys that were howling and carrying on. But he’s an older guy, and with age comes experience, that I’m sure lead to his eventual refusal to “pour another one down the hatch.”
I can’t remember how long he played for exactly. It was probably only 90 minutes or so. Definitely not more than 2 hours. I remember how tired he looked towards the end, which was understandable. He was slowly slipping into that “1,000 yard stare,” and it was apparent that he really wanted off of the tiny stage. As he stepped off the stage, a large man wearing a black shirt and jeans approached him, and seemed to hover about. He packed up his stuff, largely left alone by the audience, and then made his way up towards the bar. People started crowding around him,and who I assume was his body guard stayed close as he was chit chatting and shaking hands. Once it died down a bit, I saw an opening to say “Hello,” or to just say thanks for the performance. At the time I was in a band, and I always made sure to thank whatever act I was watching as a “show of support,” or something.
As I started towards him, his body guard stepped towards me, blacking my path. I was immediately taken aback, because I hadn’t noticed this kind of aggressive gesture put forth to anyone else that had approached the man. I mean, I realize I was probably inebriated to some degree, but I wasn’t falling all over myself. I don’t know, maybe I looked crazy. I had long hair, and was wearing jeans with holes in them, but I don’t think I was that bad, but who knows… Before his body guard could completely cut me off, I zoomed forward and stuck my hand out, in the hopes of shaking Frank’s hand. You know what happened next? Well, I’ll tell you. He just stared at me, still wearing that “1,000 yard” look on his face. It certainly caught me off guard, as you would assume that he would have just shook my hand, even if to just be rid of me, but that’s not what went down. With my arm still extended, I said “Hey, Mr. Stallone. I just wanted to say ‘thanks’ for the performance. I appreciate it, and had a really good time.” He kept staring, with a vacant look on his face, and said “Yeah,” and then turned away.
At the time I was kind of offended by this interaction, but in hindsight I get it. Yeah, there’s no accounting for manners, but the dude was in Alaska, of all places, and to him I probably just seemed like some dirty, drunk kid. Hell, maybe he did recognize me as the guy that requested “The Rambo song,” so, eh, there’s that. I did it, though. So there!
The reason this memory has pushed it way up through the old memory banks was a recent Ebay listing. It’s since ended, with zero bids. I mean who wouldn’t pay, on the low end, 20 grand to have Frank come play your New Year’s Eve party, or shin-dig? That’s my question… But not only would you have to win the bid and pay whatever that was going to be, but there is a plethora of other things you would have to pay for, and provide. Like, travel, lodging, meals, a rental car, per diem of an unspecified amount, and, this one’s real good, all the instruments. Wow. I don’t even know what to say. At the end of the day, this whole thing would probably run a person, at the very least, 40 thousand dollars, or so. Listen, I have no idea how these things work on a regular day, but I assume if you are a performer that’s offering their services up for auction Ebay you might want to, I don’t know, make it feasible? MAYBE?
So, you’d have to pay all this money, and provide all this stuff for only a 60-90 minute show, and then I guess he would leave? I don’t know, it just struck me as weird. I suppose this stuff is par for the course if you’re having your services acquired by a venue of some sort, but a private, unsolicited performance? Hmmm… It reeks of desperation, in my opinion. Obviously, I could be wrong about that. Maybe he just had an open slot, and thought this would be a cool way to fill it; giving a wealthy fan the chance to be graced with his presence and all.
Honestly, if I had that kind of disposable income I’d probably do it. I’d rent out a big hall with a stage; have it fully staffed with bartenders and stuff. I’d keep the lighting low, except for a big spotlight on the stage. Oh, and I’d be the only attending guest. I’d wear a tuxedo, no shoes, and one of those cheap party hats that say’s “Happy New Years.” Then, as they performed, I’d stand directly in the the center of the stage, drinking whiskey out of a sippy-cup, and lighting sparklers at the end of every song. I’d do all this in complete silence. Also, I would demand that no one look me directly in the eye. Yeah, if I was stupid rich I’d be eccentric just because I could. What’s the point of being really wealthy if you don’t do weird shit just to do it?
The auction made me think back to the time that I saw him play at Eddie’s, and made me curious how much they payed him to perform there. Whatever it was what they made in sales must have been worth it, because he played there a handful of times during the few years that I lived close by. I don’t know. Everyone has to make a living, I guess.
Well, if anything, this auction has caused me to feel a little bit nostalgic for those days. Probably the best time of my life so far(Other than meeting my fiance, of course). So many good memories. So many awkward memories! It was the time of my life where I started to define who I’m going to be someday. I say “who I’m going to be someday,” because it’s an ever ongoing process.