Practice in Place

You know, this social distancing thing, I’m all in.
Back the fuck up, buddy. Hell, that’s been my mantra for decades anyway.

The facemasks? The hand sanitizer? All good.
Who doesn’t want to walk around Target looking like Rorschach?
And it took a fucking worldwide pandemic to teach people how to wash their own hands.
Maybe next crisis we’ll learn how to balance a checkbook or use our turn signals.

But it’s funny, the things we miss. Awkward hugs with strangers, eating shitty Italian food in overheated diners.
And what about band practice?

The math is scary, if we ever cared to attempt it.
Been in the same band for 40 years, we’ve played a thousand gigs, which means we’ve got together to practice….damn.

How many times have we played I Got a Gun?

I mean, yeah. We have to play it to close out every show.
Oh, we’ve tried mixing it up in the setlist a few rare times, only to discover half the crowd is already out the door.
They came here to see the one CH3 song they know, so now it’s time to smoke American Spirits on the patio til Youth Brigade comes on.

You would think there would be no need to practice these old songs over and over.
But muscle memory quickly atrophies, the lyrics fade like memories of a summertime crush.

We’ve gathered in those garages and damp rooms, studios rented by the hour or basements paid for with shameful favor. Mom’s garage to Kimm’s Rec Room.
The glory days at Hully Gully, where we would work in a small room between Los Lobos and The Cramps.

It’s usually weeknights, practice.
You get up off the couch long after dinner, most of the time it would be damn nice to just grab a Drumstick out the freezer and return to the couch for an evening with Rick and Morty reruns.
But no.

You made the comittment to meet the fellas, you gotta get down to the room, haul out the gear, stack speaker boxes and amp heads.
It’s like assembling an Ikea bookcase every time.

And then you run through the setlist, hopefully not making any too many glaring mistakes.
Maybe you throw out a new song idea, work on that a bit.
Someone chimes in that they can’t rehearse next Tuesday will Wednesday work?
Out come the calendars and phones, each of us searching for the sweet spot: a blank square of the calendar, unmarred by highlit reminders of back to school nights or dinners demanded by the wife.

And before everyone leaves, there’s some show offers, a tour coming up in a month’s time.
We untangle the sticky guitar cords from the last gig, make note of what to pick up at Sam Ash before Saturday. Roll up the merch, decide who is taking the bass cabinet, what time to meet for soundcheck and what’s good to eat around that club.

You get together to practice the songs, yeah.
But you’re really practicing how to be in a band.
To nurture the living thing you have committed half your life.

It’s been so damned long since we’ve done this.
We compare face masks and laugh at our hair, as unruly as children in late Summer. We catch up on how we’re been dealing with it, the long days and fast weeks.

We try to talk of things other than the Virus, but it has taken over our lives, kept us apart.
There’s so many things to catch up on with these friends, finally back in the same room.
We finally get around to hanging guitars around our necks, and play.

I’m home now, and the ringing in my ears comforts me.
So great just to laugh at shared memories, catch up on life, play guitars really loud and just out of tune.

I give into the temptation and turn on the news.
There is rioting in the streets, another black man has been murdered by a racist cop.
The president calls for a shutdown of the social media he has so dearly abused.
New and horrific accounts have relegated this virus to the second page.

It feels like we’re fucked, again.

It feels like we’re almost back to normal.

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