I was pretty poor when I was in graduate school in the late eighties-early nineties. So poor, in fact, that I usually ran out of money for food before the end of the month and I had to make do with beef jerky and Cheetos from the Texaco, since that was the only credit card I had. My parents paid for my tiny apartment and my tuition, but I had to pay for everything else – gas, food, power, phone, books, entertainment, etc. – out of the five hundred dollars a month I made as a graduate assistant. Being a graduate assistant basically meant that I sat in the professors’ offices in the afternoons grading papers and pretending to laugh at their jokes. What little time I had left over from classes and this “assisting” was mostly devoted to study.
I developed my own system of study, which involved creating charts and outlines of information on giant art paper, taping them all over the walls, then muting the T.V. when the commercials came on to memorize them. When the show came back on, I quit the memorization thing until the next commercial break. At the end of the night, I would lie in bed and test my memory, running back and forth to the living room to review if I couldn’t remember something. It worked great. By the time I took whatever exam I was studying for, I would have pretty much memorized everything and could fill up exam booklet after exam booklet with intricately detailed essays. I was usually one of the last students to finish because of this. Of course, I realize now that I was probably a big pain in the neck to my professors and they just wanted to get the heck out of there and they would have given me the same grade for half as much work, but there you have it. That was my modus operandi.
So one night I was lying in bed, just finishing my final review for a big exam the next day, about to go to sleep, and through the gossamer veil that served as a wall between my bedroom and that of the next door tenant, I suddenly heard a lot of loud male-female banter, followed by what sounded like elephants mating on a boardwalk. Apparently, our headboards were back-to-back. I waited for a few minutes, thinking that surely I must be mistaken about what I am hearing, but after other sounds convinced me of the truth of the situation, I took my pillow and blanket out to the postage-stamp sized living room to try to sleep on the couch. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a full size couch – it was a just a “love seat”. I’m kind of a short little thing, but my legs still hung over the armrest, which cut painfully into my calves. After a few minutes, I gave up and went back to the bedroom, thinking it must be safe by now.
All was quiet when I got back into bed and I settled down for a few hours of sleep before my 8:00 a.m. exam. Then the real kicker – I started hearing voices again. But this time, it wasn’t two voices – it was three, possibly four. Then the elephants on the boardwalk thing again, this time a whole herd. I was utterly shocked and grossed out, not to mention about to explode with righteous fury. I picked up one of my thick-heeled cowgirl boots off the floor and banged as hard as I could on the wall with it. “SHUT UP IN THERE! YOU’RE DISGUSTING! DON’T YOU KNOW PEOPLE CAN HEAR YOU? DECENT PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO SLEEP AROUND HERE!”
There was a brief interval of silence. Then the elephants again, but this time it was like they had moved from the boardwalk to the sand and were just tiptoeing around lightly and carefully. But it was enough, with all my fury spent, for me to go to sleep. Unfortunately, however, it seems that I had angered an elephant, because the next night, Stevie Ray Vaughan was blasted at top volume from the other side of the wall, just as I was about to go to bed. It sounded like they had placed a speaker right next to the wall. So I did the same thing. You just can’t mess with me like that. I’ll blast you right back, don’t think I won’t. I dragged one of my giant Pioneer speakers, which was nearly as big as me, up to the wall on my side. Thus, the Stevie Ray Vaughan wars had begun. You blast me with “Little Wing”; I’m gonna wallop you with “Look at Little Sister”. You hit me hard with “Pride and Joy”; I’m gonna knock you out with “Texas Flood”.
The probable reason that SRV was the chosen weapon in this war was because he was scheduled for a concert up in Jackson in a few weeks, so everybody had him on the brain. I had saved the money for my ticket by eating mostly at the Texaco for several weeks and I was all set with some friends to make the drive up from Hattiesburg to Jackson for the concert. I was excited, but the SRV wars were wearing me down. It went on for over a week. I knew something had to give. The elephant and I had carefully avoided each other; I listened for his front door to slam in the morning before I walked to my classes, and I guess he was using the same kind of strategy to avoid me.
But of course, this stand-off couldn’t go on forever, and sure enough, one day I was leaving my apartment, probably to walk to the Texaco again, and he was leaving at the same time. Fortunately, I had my Ray-Bans on, so I could keep my poker face, but he just froze and stared at me. I walked away as fast as I could, heading in the direction of the mailboxes. There were other people there and I didn’t want to be in the parking lot alone with him. I could tell he was following behind me, though, and I surreptitiously monitored his actions through my sunglasses. I started getting my mail, and he walked right up behind me and said, “Hey, can we talk about this?”. I said, “I don’t think so, Mr. Nasty” and kept walking, thinking I’m a bad ass with my bold retort. That night, there was a knock at my door, and it was the elephant man, standing there with flowers.
He begins to apologize profusely – he’s so embarrassed, he can’t believe he’s acted this way toward a “nice” girl, he was a jerk, etc. He goes into his level of intoxication on the original night in question and elaborates on the wily ways of barroom sluts that throw themselves at you. He basically begged my forgiveness for everything, and of course, I granted it. I told him I was sorry that I had called him disgusting and nasty. He said that he deserved it and that he was, indeed, disgusting and nasty. Then the coup de gras – he pulled out tickets to the SRV concert and asked me if I would go with him, and he promised it was on the up and up and was a conciliatory gesture of good will. Yeah, okay. I was thinking I’d rather eat nothing but Cheetos for the rest of my life than go off alone with this guy, the perv, but I wanted to end the war, so I told him I’d already bought my ticket and offered to let him ride up with me and my friends.
Stevie Ray smoked that night, obviously. I don’t know how the Jackson City Auditorium still stands to this day, or why there wasn’t at least scorch marks left on the stage, because there was most definitely a fire burning all up in that place. What a concert! As I’ve mentioned before, I was not a big fan of eighties music – didn’t like new wave, despised hair bands – but SRV almost single-handedly redeemed an entire decade of music for me. True, there were some lesser lights, but no one burned so brightly, and with such power, as Stevie Ray Vaughan. Me and the elephant man stood next to each other throughout the concert, experiencing a mutual soulgasm that I assure you was far greater than anything that took place on the boardwalk that terrible night. After that, we were close, naturally – that’s what music does for people. It bonds you together. A few years later, when Stevie Ray died, the elephant man called me from the coast, where he was living by then, and we cried hysterically together on the phone. I was extra heart-broken because I had missed a chance to see SRV just months before – I was supposed to meet my cousins from Houston and San Antonio in Austin for a concert, but I had to back out because of some stupid job-related thing. Dammit, dammit, dammit. Now get ready for a one-two punch.
Pow! Right in the kisser with that old bad-ass voodoo…one master honoring another…
Now I’m gonna knock you out…
Well, okay, you know I’m really just a softie. Besides, I can barely tolerate life without Stevie, how could I possibly live without you? Let’s make up with “Life Without You”.
Oo oo now baby….
Tell me how have you been
We all have missed you….
And the way you grin
The day is necessary….
Every now and then
For souls to move on….
Givin’ life back again, and again
Fly on fly on….
Fly on my friend
Day after day….
Night after night
Sittin’ here singin’ every minute….
As the years go passing by….
By, by, by
Long look in the mirror….
We’ve come face to face
Wishin’ all the love we took for granted….
Love we have today
Life without you….
All the love you passed my way
The angels have waited for so long….
Now they have their way
Take your place….
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