Story #13–Blind and Puffy: A Life in Showbiz by….
Hours after the gig in Bend, Oregon, I stumbled into the alley behind the building, contact lenses dancing around my eyes with every blink so the moon looked like a wet gloopy mess of distorted white against a black-blue unfamiliar western sky. Drunk on the bar’s microbrew. Dizzy from exhaustion. Too tired to comprehend what was happening.
Behind me, Gina opened the back door. “There you are. Are you ok?”
I turned around, panicked. “No! No I’m not!”
I couldn’t see her reaction because of my contacts, but she said, “Oh my God. Your face. You need to get to a mirror. Now.”
The mirror in the bathroom, covered, natch, with band stickers, walls covered in auto magazine ads. The bathroom was on the opposite end of the building, past the sounds of drunk chatter and the jukebox playing that one alt-country song about the trailer park, the girl who lives there, how she owns a shotgun, how she owns a 1973 baby blue Chevrolet Impala and how it’s rusting on cinderblocks, how she drinks Jack Daniels straight from the bottle, how she has Black Flag bars tattooed on her ass, how the poster where Johnny Cash gives the cameraman “the finger” is the only framed picture in the double-wide, and quite a few other rural totems .
There was just enough mirror space to see my reflection. My face was puffed out like Dizzy Gillespie. The puffiness made my eyes squint. I looked like the pinhead freak of some traveling Mongolian carnival. An allergic reaction? But to what? The microbrew? The skunky cheap beer I switched to, walking behind the bar and helping myself? The pickled asparagus in the jar at the bar that the hippie woman insisted I try? The fish and chips from the adjoining restaurant built into a double decker bus? This otherwise lovely cold-crisp late-winter/early spring night? This wonderful assemblage of ski bums and neo-hippies? The entire state of Oregon? What is it?!
After dozens of attempts, I pinched out my contact lenses and left the bathroom. A small gathering of indiscernible faces and bodies stood outside the door. The guy who ran the bar was also an EMT. The band and this guy led me to a fold-out couch, where I was drunk enough to pass out and hope for the best in the morning. After van break downs in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas, after cancelled shows and double and triple booked shows, so far from home, I tried to use what was left of my brain to think pleasant thoughts, and not about completing the tour as the proverbial poster manchild for the blind and the puffy.