Searching for Zack
When I woke up on Friday morning, it was cold. Not bone-chilling cold;
not winter cold, but just enough to make me dread the oncoming winter. I decided that staying in my sweats and lazing around the couch was the order of the day. I had ideas about going to the gym, but that quickly went by the wayside. Instead, I compromised by walking the 15 blocks to the Post Office to mail a copy of my book to someone who’s probably never going to read it.
When I got home, my lovely bride was bursting through the door, a smile plastered on her face.
“I have a 4 day weekend!”
I had forgotten. My jealousy raged.
“Watta ya wanna do tonite?” She inquired.
I shrugged my shoulders. I was content to stay right where I was.
Then I read this paragraph as I was perusing the blog of one of my lyrical and literary idols, Bernie Taupin.
“Rock and Roll isn’t like any other job on earth. There is no expiration date, no age when retirement is deemed acceptable or mandatory, and no benefits after you clock out for the last time.”
It applies to fans just as much as musicians. I could feel the fires burning deep in my soul. I yelled up to her.
“I changed my mind.”
“Where are we going?” She yelled back down the stairs.
“Looking for Zack.”
She knew what I meant.
I grabbed my copy of the Village Voice and looked to see who might be playing at The Bottom Line, Or CBGB’s, or Kenny’s Castaways.
Ok, scratch that. None of those places exist anymore.
And I haven’t seen a copy of the Voice in 10 years. Do they still print newspapers?
After a lovely dinner of pork chops and perogies, we headed out into the night. Two rock and roll kids in search of adventure. We headed down to the Lower East Side. Zack always hated the LES, but he hung out there anyway. No one would expect him to be there.
We made our first stop at the Rockwood Music Hall. Some cat named Matthew Mayfield was playing. He’s a singer-songwriter, up on a stage with just a microphone and an acoustic guitar. He’s got the obligatory beard. His voice is deep and hollow, and it resonates within me. He’s a tortured and lonely troubadour. The five girls from Atlanta who have driven up to see him, scream when he plays a certain song. Apparently, he’s got following. Good for him. He’s really good, but he’s not Zack.
He plays a song with a “na na na” sing-along part. Some guy in the back, early 50’s, leather jacket, graying hair, sings along with the rest of the crowd. He’s a little bit louder than everyone else. He thinks he can sing. When the song is over, Mayfield says, “Wow, that was good. You guys can really sing.” Everyone laughs. The guy in the back whispers to his date,
“If they only knew.”
What a Pretentious jerk.
We take our leave and wander the streets for a while, Up Ludlow, along Rivington, down Stanton. The streets are teeming. We comment about everything we see. Their clothes, their speech, their fake Doc Martens. They roll their own tobacco and drink Gluten-free Pabst. I can barely stand them, but then it dawns on me,
“Is this the same thing that the hippies thought about us?”
I’m sure when the Rock and Roll kids from the 50’s first encountered the hippies, they were pretty disgusted too. It’s just the changing of the guard.
We make our way over to a place called the Cake Shop. Evidently, they play live music there. In a past life, it was an actual “cake shop”, hence the name. A 3-piece band is setting up. Two bearded dudes and a wild-haired chick bass player in a house frock. I listen for three songs. There music is a wall of sludge. The words are indecipherable. One of the songs is called
Fuck-Boy. The between song banter is an inane stream of inside jokes. But they seem to be having the time of their lives, and the audience seems to be enjoying it, so what the hell do I know?
I’m getting ready to leave when I spy this hot brunette with banging body. She’s in all black with knee-high boots; a real rock-n-roll chick. I want to get her attention, but I have no idea how to approach her. I leave.
My last stop is at Arlene’s Grocery. There was a rumor that Zack was there last week, in a drunken stupor, trying to pick up some 23-year old co-ed, but I doubt that it’s true.
Some band is finishing up as I enter. The crowd of young hipsters seems to have enjoyed it. As the bands switch over, the DJ plays Highway 61 Revisited. I wonder if anyone in the joint even knows what it is, or it’s impact on the culture. No one seems to care.
The new band comes out to set up.
Another chick bass player.
The drummer is wearing capri pants.
The front man is a portly guy wearing a baseball cap and brown deck shoes. The other guitarist is wearing skinny jeans and a zippered hoodie.
Their presentation is atrocious.
Doesn’t anyone wear leather pants anymore?
The band starts. They’re called the Bushicks. I really don’t expect much, and the first song doesn’t change my mind. It’s some kind of alt-country,
post-rock nonsense. It falls flat at the end. The crowd applauds politely. I agree to give them one more song and then I’m out of there. They proceed to rattle off six rousing rock and roll tunes that get my head bopping and my feet bouncing. They were well-crafted, rollicking songs that are a good polish away from being a real good band. Zack would have loved their energy and their commitment. I was pleasantly surprised. I give them a B minus and make a note to check them out online when I get home.
I turn to leave and see the brunette again. She must have followed me; it can’t be a coincidence. I decide to throw caution to the wind.
“You want to come home with me?” I ask nervously.
She turns slowly before responding.
“What took you so long?”
We jump in the car and head back to Brooklyn. We ride in nervous silence for the first ten minutes, before I break the ice.
“What time do you have to be at the doctor tomorrow?”
“Ten am. What time are you leaving for work?”
We discuss the boys, and the house, and a generation of kids that will never see the inside of L’amour or CBGB’s. I pity them, but not too much.
We fall silent again; for the last ten minutes, she takes my hand in hers.
We never did find Zack. The search continues, but I got enough from the Bushicks to keep me happy for a day. There is still some Rock and Roll in the world, it just wears ugly pants.
In some ways’ the search for Zack is the search for redemption; the search of lost time, of missed opportunities.
In some ways, it’s the search for my old man, or a messiah.
But we really know who I’m searching for.
I’ll let you know when I find him.