Once you are an icon you can’t go back to being a regular guy…the joke was on Shamus, now all he wanted to be was one of the blokes…but all his old friends seemed a little too agreeable and slow to pay their tab. Some how for all his pissing, moaning and scratching…bad road side food, broken down shit hotels and morning after body odor he had made himself a bloody star! He hadn’t really noticed in the last 20 years of alcoholic fog…but a few years sober under his belt he was taking stock.
At The Bristle Bar he’d told his best mate Danny, “it’s like I’ve been asleep all this time and I just work up, and my whole life changed and i can’t go back.”
Danny, red nosed and potbellied laughed hard, he looked like a normal middle aged man…Shamus had a handler…he did fitness stuff…he looked a might better around the edges.
“Are you daft man, you have the world at your feet, no family gathering after church on Sunday or a nagging soggy wife who makes a face at the sight of ya…you look,”
Danny pointed to the bar, “that pretty young thing is winking your way…what I’d give to be you mate.”
Shamus really did understand this…and that’s why this all felt even more unreal. He had somehow no matter what state he’d been in continued to show up for his music. Years were blurry but he did love his guitar and piano and somehow he had eluded the grave of many of his musical peers.
He left the bar, and drove along a street he’d walked all his young life daily, in front of his grade school he watched from his Mercedes a gaggle of kids laughing and their parents picking them up and it seemed, right. The sun setting on the short day, a cold cold spring draft snuck through his cars cracked window and he rolled it up.He continued to drove slowly around a neighborhood that used to be so familiar. He dreamed of this day from his cold bed on a third floor walk up 50 years ago, that he would have a smart car, fine clothes and doors would open at his pleasure where ever he saught to be. Now he felt more of an outsider than ever. That was the trade off no one tells you about cause few get to that point.
He recalled meeting with a not so lucky chap…played with a big band we won’t mention here…but they filled the stadiums back in their day and let just say this guy dropped out a little too soon. Retiring at 28 doesn’t leave you with a big pension. The guy had some how gotten through to him and they’d met for breakfast, his teeth a mess, not looking particularly fresh and looking for work. His hands shook so bad Shamus wondered if he could still play. He didn’t like being put in that position…he didn’t want to disappoint the guy.
Shamus made the rounds and no one was willing so he put this guy on one of their records, the bloke sounded like shite’ and they over dubbed him out…the guy didn’t care, it was one last shot in the public eye, a little money and a few photo op’s.
Shamus sighed… he was glad that wasn’t him. He wondered…What was next? Shamus pulled into his little sisters car park and that night under those old quilts he had the best dreams he’d had in months.
His brother in law was kind of a puke, he was far too impressed with Shamus but his little sister couldn’t have cared less.
She gave him some advice, “It sounds pretty basic but settle yourself down, commit to something besides the road- you will always be a musician but you should give yourself a shot at being a person…not just a persona.”
She was right…but it wasn’t so easy. He’d hooked up with Kay his old high school sweetheart and tried to make nice, he thought it was going pretty well…but he heard her one day on the phone with one of her girlfriends…lets say the fringe benefits were more the topic and something about another man was brought up…Kay seemed to want the best of both worlds.
The light was almost gone from the day and he stood on the rocky rubble, facing the brutal coast- the ocean bashing its head against the boulders…the best thing to do was to not try and go back…it wasn’t gonna happen…he would go somewhere and be unknown…maybe that could help him remember who he really was or who he should be now.
Fast Forward -Micronesia:
Shamus felt like a steamed dumpling sitting in his grass shack by the sea watching the a millipede make its way out the front door. He wasn’t really sure what he was doing here but his sisters neighbor needed help with some special needs native islanders and he actually had some basic medical training from his very short stint in the military. So here he was trying not to get dysentary and avoid large spiders.
He walked in his sandals slowly, with a large knotty stick, trying to avoid the rather rabid dogs that would sneak up on you in packs- he would toss out some treats and hot foot it out of there. He finally got to the low cinderblock building where some of the more wheelchair bound folks were waiting for meds, treatment or a doctor. Today he was simply handing out clean water, meds and talking notes for the doctor on who was waiting for what.
He had time to chat. He liked it. He’d only been on the island a week and already he felt his cynicism start to slide away. Most of the people he met just wanted simple things- the things that mattered. Health, family, love, a patient explained, “if I get the gitchy-gitchy once a day what do I need to worry about,” a sun beaten faced joked joyfully while waiting in line, elbowing Shamus, as they both watched a cute girl pass by the clinic. They needed shelter, minimal clothes- church and social time was vastly more important than a computer…considering their electricity was limited to six hours a day, that made sense. Some would say it held back this group of people from moving ahead on the food chain…but really…they seemed to be sane and happy.
It was blast furnace hot, he would not stay here forever. “Shamus, gonna play Robinson Curusoe on our fair island,” one of the doctors had joked.
He held up a travel brochure to Brazil, a river boat trip on the Amazon River was next.
Month later his back pack smell quite ripe when he arrived in the hotel outside Manaus.
As he watched piranha eat a chunk of meat his tour guide had tossed in the water he realized he would not be happy just roaming the globe either.
The next day as his dug out canoe sliced slowly through the turkey river waters he watched a camimen side back into the muck of shore making his way back into the unknown darkness of the mysterious jungle.
Who would’ve thought a poor kid, who grew up underweight dodging the fists of his father… would someday be staying in a lodge with Howler moneys trying to steal his baseball cap. He realized, he had almost pissed all this away…he had fallen so deep into the drink, he could just be another rock and roll statistic.
A toucan squaked. He was so startled he almost fell out of the boat. The bird seemed to be alerting them of the big snake hanging precariously from tree coiled around branch they were passing from an over hanging limb.
Back at camp, after dinner he was reading in his tent when his sister called him to explain, “there’s a house in the next town over, faces the ocean…beautifully maintained by Ian Wilson’s father who just passed…you should get it! He hasn’t put it on the market yet.
Two days later he was headed home? The whole flight home he tired to imagine living in this old cottage by the sea. It would be a lifestyle change, the market was 20 miles from the house. He’d have to plan things a bit more. Things closed at 5 o’clock in the nearest town.
Howling wind, beat the stones and boulder that made his “new” home. Ian had said, “Don’t know exactly how old the place is but Da thought it made Stonehenge look modern,” they had a good laugh signing the sale papers.
As Shamus sat in a rocker by the hearth a ton of snow dumped on his new/old roof, scheduling some gigs from his smartphone, he realized he’d come full circle… in the best of way really.
He flipped on an old transistor radio that Ian's dad had left behind, the kind that was static-y and the needle was hard to get adjusted, as he scrolled a Stones song came blasting through, "time is on my side," and by God, it really was...