Memphis Girl - Part One

by Van Warren

The rumor at school was that James Gang was playing in Memphis. It's about 100 miles, an hour and a half if you're in the car and three hours if you're standing in the rain, sopping wet looking for an overpass in the plains.

Now I'd hitched to Memphis before. You see, Memphis is Hollywood to a lost soul and if anything miraculous happens, it's going to happen there. My first trip to Memphis was a bummer in the truest sense of the word. Ran out of bread, ended up staying in a halfway house with Courtney and Rodgers - high school friends in the truest sense of the word. "You fellows can't drink in here", the priest said. I was real hungry that weekend. We bought a six-pack and some munchies, and that was it, you don't want to get caught holding by the High-Way Patrol. Their greatest hope is to save your mortal soul by throwing your ass in jail for the night and embarrassing the shit out of your parents, who for all their pretending, really want you to go away. I hitchhiked home alone that weekend, I don't remember why.

That was in the past, and I had places to go, things to see. Concerts were top priority for any number of reasons. I told my mother, who was the only one whose radio still worked, that I was going to a "water polo swim meet". It was her birthday, November 5th, Sunday. If it was important I could always lie to mother and get away with it; IF I put something novel in. My mom was big into education and life experience, so if I implied, "I'll really learn something", the answer was always yes and "yes" came in handy.

I told Tim Britt, the local guru, that I needed to get to the concert - I never lied to my friends unless it was real important - he was going and I wasn't lying. He had a pretty girlfriend - long brown hair, a perfect face, slender. Tim said I could ride in his VW van. It had paisley flowers and that Peter Max in-need-of-repair feeling.

Somehow I made it to Memphis. The Mid-South Coliseum anyway. Tim dropped me off so I could get tickets, said, "they had to go meet friends".

A rowdy hillbilly band had just hit the big time, "Black Oak Arkansas", was playing intro to James Gang and they were deity. Black Oak was famous for a tune called, "Hot and Nasty", a sickening display of sex gone wrong, with a nice hook and guitar solo. The lead singer had a raspy man-sized Kleenex voice, long silver hair and a presence like an alien fresh off the UFO from your own backyard. So far they were just letters on the big sign outside. Mid-South was starting to fill up and it had that feeling that something was about to happen.

My ticket was up in the bleachers, cheap seats, but I could see. I didn't want to get my ears shot off anyway. I waited around awhile watching the people mill like ants, secreting away their concert goodies.

There was a commotion a few rows front of me. Some people had stumbled in a few rows ahead of me, just behind the rail that you don't want to fall from if you're loaded. The commotion sat down, well most of it, and gazed at the sound equipment. God damn, it was Courtney and Rodgers. They had chicks with them. Courtney was sitting with Liz Williams. She was cool. Rodger's was sitting with a nice thick-brown-haired girl, cute nose. Beside her was a beautiful girl, very mysterious. She was having a little trouble walking and getting sat down. She was laughing. Who's she with? I jumped down and said hello to Courtney, as in, remember me.

I think he introduced me, we were always pals, all I know is I got the good chair, the one beside mysterious, the one beside Memphis girl.