Thirsty Thursday: Under the Overpass (Maryland Deathfest 2016)

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I looked out the window to see high rise signs and vacant parking lots, rows of shuttered boards and liquor stores, and a crying angel in a graveyard that can be seen all the way up to the room on the 8th floor. My thought processes lingered at their stupored pace, mildly amazed that even after 21 years there could still be areas of Baltimore so unfamiliar. In a room of equal ruin, ash aluminum, and languidly hanging white sheets, my sister finally stirred from her face plant in the bed opposite mine. Free booze merch, pistachio shells, and two scantily-clad ladies were the last reminisce of Maryland Deathfest, all left behind by one of the bands that had to catch an early flight back across the country

Julie rolled over to give me that look through her piles of folk metal hair.

“Brah,” I said, smiling back.

“Brah…” she echoed raspily. “What the fuck happened?”

Every fiber of my mind tried to wrap itself around such a question, every synapse attempted to stir, but it all fell flat. I closed my eyes, determined to get something. At first all I could see was the smoke lit by a flickering bulb in a distant bathroom, illuminating the cracks of doors and the space between the linings of each cloud. I could hear the laughing, the convos about titty milk and asthma and day jobs. I tried to concentrate harder. It wasn’t just the pieces of the previous night that I was grasping for, it was the beginning domino.

Finally, I flashed back into what seemed like another lifetime – I could see myself running out on the 8 hours of pacing I had just undergone at my office and desperately trying to keep the eyeliner I had shellacked on that morning from smudging in the 1,2,3, sun and heat (the Dark Lord forgot to bestow the Mid-Atlantic with the rite of spring). I relished the sight of my sister in her little sneakers and sweats like we were about to go see Youth of Today, which loosened my feeling of non-belonging in my secretary sweater. It was finally time to shed our whack wear and fall into the arms of the room we had impulse bought, emptying bank accounts for prime proximity to the Edison Parkfast, complete with garden views of the JFX.

I could still see visions of Zappa hanging on the wall, keeping one eye open over our pregame as if he could hear our bellows while I unwisely mixed Fireball and eyelash glue while Rotting Christ played from phone speakers across the room. One hour in, and the room was even more trashed than we were. But we were carelessly unaware, even as Zappa’s gaze kept after us down the hall as we waited for an elevator for what felt like the beginning of time (also unaware that we were too busy Snapping to press the down button).

I could still see the rays of sun tilting gradually downward below the downtown high rises and feel my legs march towards the direction of sound until it metamorphosed from muffled disaster into something so soul-shatteringly decisive. Finally embraced by the carnivalesque mess, Julie and I ran about arm-in-arm with red, white, and blue Budweiser cans stuffed into the pockets of our cut-offs. Darkness descended as we starred into Paradise Lost like a crystal ball into a UK gypsy camp that was shook up and pedestaled on Mayhem’s altar. The manufactured smoke blew the myth and the legend, the excess blood, into the views of the next-door billboards advertising pre-paid phones and the Hopkins oncology unit while the blades of the police helicopter facilitated its tapering into the stars.

I could still see Saturday’s sundrenched bliss from a violently merciful sky, rightfully accompanied by frozen margaritas and three-shot hard lemonade. We ran the drag of vendors who ranged from your friendly neighborhood kvlt record store to the Decibel machine, taking promo whiskey shots for spending way too much money on that must-have merch that would normally take two months to arrive from that Bergen-based Etsy shop. Thrash stronghold Hirax played in the background while intermittently pausing to express their gratitude to help rally up the truest of the troops. But the truest of them all was the dreadlocked angel that happily ate Julie’s fallen vegan corndog off the ground while the stand fixed her a fresh one, preventing all kinds of I can haz soy cheese black bean patty.

I could still see the delirium that awoke in my concrete nap as rays began to fall once more. We called defeat and retreat. I closed my eyes and saw the flashes of the patrol that had come to bust the crustie caravan that had been parked out front, which only hurried the hangover I denied would ever come. With Sunday came that looming reality that we lose our ability to suppress as the day grows older. The rain moved in and we hung in the rows huddled under the overpass. The despair rose with the parking lot soot that was very quickly overtaking my tanned body to the point where I would have fit right in selling handmade bowls outside with the banjo army.

But in a dream, in a cloud of smoke, we were swept back away, back into ecstasy and adventure in the cool leather of cabs and the soft seas of sheets while our souls hung on puppet strings of genuine laughter. It was a dream that we sewed into our hearts as we descended into a cab once more, which carried us from our home on the 8th floor into the throws of the unofficial summer solstice.

 

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