And there's more ... (from Sisco)

...... I can't recall clearly (it was the 70s, after all...), just where I met Freddy.* but it was right around here somewhere. Probably at a long-ago bar. Maybe the Salty Dog, where all sorts of fun and debauchery took place. Or it might have been Tuner's Place in St. Albans. Maybe the Quincy Hotel in Enosburg, or The Bucket here in Jeffersonville. Maybe some hipster's house. I can't recall. Anyways, I'm still here, and a few of the other old-time hipsters are also still here, though I don't see much of them anymore. Seems like a long time now people have been living pretty private and close to home around here.
The place we first met up and played guitar and traded songs and stuff, and not just be in the same place, was in Johnson, ten minutes up the road, where Peter Mix* had a guitar making shop at the time. I was still in the service and home on leave, carrying on and spending money like the drunken sailor I was. I was strung out on whites at the time and my brother was scouring the local college there to get me a fix, while I waited at Pete's shop. Freddy was there, jonesing as well, as he needed to take a ride on the Robutussin Highway (again) and have someone else with a car sign for him, so he could get his fix. We traded songs for a while til my brother got back-- I'd just written my song "Settle for a Rambler" which Jeffrey always liked and requested, after that--and then Jeff and I hit every pharmacy between Johnson and St. Johnsbury, Jeff and me drinking Robe from the bottle like whiskey between stops. It's a little harder now to get an opiate hit than it was then! Ha ha! I remember one time when Jeff played this old bar that was in Hardwick in them days, Ray & Lucy's--the building's still there but it's abandoned now. He was high on codeine and as he sang, he'd start to nod and the tempo would slow...way...down, and then he'd wake up again and it would speed back up and so on...I moved back here seven winters ago with my partner Bronwyn, after we bought a piece of land and built our mansion on the hill. John Fox and family and his sidekick Kent still in Waterville where they always have been: they were buds of Fred and of the tribe in the day and I still see them regular. Wax* and Michelle still live in the same house in E. Fairfield where they've been since the days. I've told Michael that sometimes I feel like a ghost riding these roads alone. Those days are long gone, here, now. They'd lock us up and destroy the key and the keymaking machine along with it if we got to having any fun like we used to could 'bout these parts. I even have a tape series going, Ghost this and Ghost that. I play them in the car when I'm riding the hills. Before we had our barn (we're horse farmers these days), we were boarding my horsepal Suzy at a barn 20 miles north in Enosburg,

 

and everyday I'd drive past Lake Elwood on the way to take care of her, and the house he describes in the notes in "ooh la la...Les Clams" , that's right beside the road, across from the pond, and then, a couple of miles further on, I'd drive by Chester Arthur Road, what we used to call Hipster Hill or Hipster Highway. Michael once made a t-shirt with his cartoon rats running on it. It said Rat Race on Hipster Hill. It's a different climate now, tamer than it was by far, but the places are all still here and some of the people too. Jeff read the writing on the wall way back in the days and fled for the West. He never did come back. At night I can see the bar from here, across the valley and the river, where he told me after one of my gigs that he was bailing out. He asked me if I was on the bus or what, and I closed up my Vermont band right then and that night. What else could I have done? Not all that long out of the service and rearing to go, and I was in love with Jeffrey, like everyone was. He was my hero. The coolest, wildest, funniest cat I'd ever met (still is) and the best barroom rock and roll singer, ever. I'd have cut off a foot to be in his band in those days, so of course there was only one answer to that question. Freddy said all I needed to know was to go to The End of the Trail Saloon,** in Dayton, NV. So I sold everything I owned (not much, mainly a stereo and some records) except my guitar and little sound system and beat it for Nevada in a collapsing Dodge Dart with a broken frame. First person saw when I walked in the saloon was Morgan Huber, who I had known in VT when we were both teenagers. Home sweet home! Jeffrey showed up a few drinks later, with Shorty in tow. I spent two more winters there after that, the last one with Michael along as well. ("You brought me to a fucking sandpit, Crispo") I lived with Jeffry in a trailer in Silver Springs that last year. Michael abandoned ship and drove back East on Samuella the Fortune Teller's dime (she was on the crazy list and got SSI checks), which was the end of The Amazing Sensitivos (Michael, David and I and special guests, most often Lonesome Wayne Thomas). Dave and Mike Shade* and me and a Portland drummer whose name I can't recall made another band up in Portland for a time, but my then wife wanted to go back to VT. I didn't, myself, but we were terrible broke . We spent a time at Weber's* house and then sleeping on David Lightbourne's* couch, at a place a block or so away from the Earth Tavern, and what the hell. Time to go. Actually come to think of it, we returned to Vermont via Nevada, and that's where I last saw Fred, at The End of the Trail .

We had a few pops at the bar and long about sundown, Bang and I headed for the car to start the long drive 'cross the deserts and plains on I-80. Jeffrey stuck something in my shirt pocket on the way out and told me it was a little present. Down the road apiece, between Silver Springs and I-80, I felt around in my pocket and lo and behold, there was a black beauty of all things! Cool. Thanks, Fred. Well, I'm here to tell you that was one long teeth-grinding night and next day too-- not even a beer to or anything, nor money to buy one with, to take the edge off - no tape player even, just talk radio on the AM-- and I was cursing Fred with a psychotic grin about the time I hit Cheyenne and started to feel like maybe I could pull over for a nap.

Well, except for Central America, I've been in Varmint ever since.  I lived in Burlington for 13 years, where I was prince of the skids -- desk clerk and chief bouncer at Heartbreak Hotel (the name Michael gave to the shelter where I worked).  Place got so yuppy-fied I had no choice but to bail, so we fell back on the old hills here, again.  So, here we are, and it looks very much like here we'll stay.

Which is an awful long way of getting around to telling you the story I was writing to you about to begin with.  This is a true story.  I'm not making up a single word.
 
I got a call from a Vermont friend who'd moved to Portland some years before, telling me that Jeffrey'd died. It was too late by the time I heard to head out for his wake or I'd have been there.  You know, it had never really occurred to me that Jeffrey would die.  I guess I always just thought he was blessed and that he'd just carry on forever, a rock and roll god.  I don't know what I thought, but I know I never seriously thought he'd die and that I'd never get to see or talk to him again.  I was stunned like a cop had just laid his stick upside my head.

So I went down to the liquor store and bought me a bottle of sour mash so I could could have a belt for old Fred, and when I got home, I poured a tall one and pulled out a cassette of "Spiders in the Moonlight" , that I had, to play for me and Brownyn while I told her lies and stuff and remembered my old pal. But when I put the tape on it wouldn't play. Shit! So I walked down to the local record store and bought a CD of "Have Moicy!", and brought 'that' home to play. When I put the CD in, the music on it was some old r&b! It was entirely the wrong music. It said "Have Moicy!", on it but it had been printed with some other record's music. So I'll be damned if I could play a single lick of Jeffrey's music at home that day.

I couldn't believe it but it was true. But it gets stranger. Not long afterwards, another old rock and roll buddy, Zoot Wilson, another hero of my youth, and by then a tragically fading junkie-alkie combo, decided to hang himself one day out in Santa Fe. Another crusher. So I pulls out the sour mash again and a tape that had Zoot's band, the N-Zones live on one side and Elwood's "Long Journey" on the other. The "Long Journey" side would play but Zoot's side would not, no matter what I did to that cassette and I did many things to it trying to get that side to play. No dice.I recalled that day with Bronwyn yesterday, whilst we were listening to "Live at the Ice House", and how spooked I was at the time. She told me that the grave has a long reach and it was just my buddies having some fun with me, whether I believed in such things or not. She may be right, for all I know, these days. But that's a true tale, every word.

 

*Footnotes: (Who's who for those of you who are in the dark)

Elwood...Michael Hurley

Segundo...Dave Reisch

Kustom Kenny...Ken Kramer, one of the tribe

Lonesome Wayne...Wayne Thomas, musician

Vita...owner of the End of the Trail**

Tex...one of the tribe and Vita's husband

Randy Rolaid...one of the tribe

Morgan Huber...musician, bass / mandolin on "Live at the Ice House"

Jack the Fluke...Jack Gallegher, emcee on "ooh la la...Les Clams" & of the tribe

Peter Mix...musician, Tom Mix's grandson

Michael Shade...musician, guitar on "ooh la la...Les Clams"

Weber...Steve Weber, Holy Modal Rounders

David Lightbourne...musician

 

** Foot, footnote:  The End of the Trail was an infamous saloon in Dayton, Nevada that Vita owned and sold numerous times to any fool who was willing to be taken in.  In 1984 Jeffrey and I were thought we were above being deceived or screwed by Vita and we too gave up many hard earned dollars to once again fatten Vita's coffers. We had the bar for approximately six months. Long enough to get itoff the ground again, all the equipment in good repair and its name back on the map, through Jeffrey's talents and three weekly shows. The End of the Trail is still operating but under the ownership of Californians who replaced the orginal mahogany bar with a formica one and inserted slot machines. Need I say more?  We all still loved Vita though.

Kathryn Frederick

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