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Chapter 5

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 10 months ago

Chapter 5



Gordon Walkinshaw manning the Farfisa organ - the new Burner Boy


Steve was a hero, His brother was a free man, but for the band the best part of the day was over. We now had to drive across town and confront Long & McQuade. By now the huge music store had become a combination loan shark and social welfare agency to most of the bands in Vancouver. Steve had to plead our short rental payment to Ken, the credit manager. Ken had a goatee, a club foot and a black book.


Steve presented the pittance we had scrounged together. “Ken, we’re a little short on our payments. We’ll have it by the fifteenth”


Ken sneered and took the money. Then he opened his black book and wrote ‘The Burner Boys’ in red ink. “You’re redlined. That means no rentals, purchases or repairs unless it’s cash up front.”


Suddenly it was a grave situation. Without Ken’s blessing The Burner Boys could not function.


“Ken,” Steve began reasonably. “We have two broken mike cords. We can’t play unless you fix them. If we can’t play, we can’t pay.”


The rest of us discreetly withdrew from the counter as these negotiations took place. We moved guiltily among the drum sets and shimmering guitars, occasionally spotting well-to-do members from un-redlined bands like My Indole Ring or Stallion Thumbrock shopping with impunity. I was so angry I wanted to steal something, but the kazoos were under lock and key.


I felt most guilty of all as I was the cause for the repairs. As I developed my front man act my stage moves had become wildly physical. Instead of playing an instrument I played my body. It was exhausting but it gave another dimension to the music. Al called me Jeckyl and Hyde, because before the gig I’d walk around like a classy guy in a suit and tie but when I stepped onstage and started performing I was transformed into a possessed man with wild eyes and crazy long hair. The crowd loved it. Now after every gig I was soaked in sweat.


In doing so I got the annoyingly expensive habit of breaking microphone cords. I’d raise my arm then stamp on a downbeat and my foot would strike the mike cord, which was immediately ripped out of the microphone and went flying, leaving me with a dead mike. I’d have to dash over and sing into Al’s mike, which I’d remove from the stand and at some point step on that cord too. Then I’d take Tim’s mike. As this continued the band’s sound thinned badly. The trick to avoiding it was to loop the mike cord around the left wrist so if it was stepped on the wrist took the pressure and not the mike. The problem was I took the mike off and replaced it back onto the stand so many times I didn’t always remember to wrap. My record was destroying three cords in a night. I had to finish the gig with an old Electrovoice mike from the 1950’s which was more suitable to a local mayor’s speech I watched the lead singers of other bands for more clues as to how to avoid this but no one had my extreme physical style.


After a suitable amount of time we drifted back to the counter. From Ken’s dark look it was evident Steve had won the negotiations. We’d get the cords repaired on credit. In his crude way Ken embodied the best elements of a credit manager. People think good credit managers are flint-eyed bill collectors, but the best ones have hearts of gold. Ken would ream you out, but once he’d got it out of his system he had a mother hen instinct.


“The Burner Boys,” he shook his head. “You sound like a bunch of stove repair men. “You guys would solve a lot of problems for yourselves if you had a keyboard player. You’d get more work.”


“We’ve been looking for one since we came back from Prince Rupert,” said Al.


“You played in Prince Rupert?” Ken sneered. Perhaps he knew Billy Bond.


“We’ve hit a touch of a dry spot,” I said. “We can’t offer anyone much money.”


“Look over there,” Ken pointed to the bulletin board at the far end of the counter. “Some freak came in here yesterday looking for work. He stuck up an ad. He looked like he didn't need much money.”


We met him the next day at a pork chop café on West 4th in Vancouver. The band was waiting to interview him at a booth inside but he was late, so I went out to the sidewalk to watch. Finally a green, 1950’s converted bread van pulled into a parking spot. The passenger side sliding door immediately slammed open. A hippie woman in a granny dress and long mousey hair jumped out.


“Well fuck you too!” she slammed it shut with a boom and marched off up the street.


The driver killed the engine and emerged to inspect the damage. “Damn,” he observed drily. “Women can be hard on truck doors.”


Walkinshaw looked like a long-haired Woody Allen in a 1940’s suit and horn rimmmed glasses. He joined us in the booth. I didn’t know quite what to make of him. He certainly wasn’t another pretty face. Soon we peppered him with questions.


“Are you playing a gig right now?” I asked.


“I’m doing lunch at Foo’s Inn Chinese restaurant, eleven till two.”


This floored me. Sock hops were one thing, but being stuck playing oriental muzak in Chinatown was far worse. I imagined Walkinshaw riffing away while hundreds of yattering Chinese diners ignored him. It seemed like hell on earth. I thought if I got such a gig I would probably shoot myself. Yet to Walkinshaw it was neither good nor bad – just another gig in the life of a keyboard for hire. He probably would have been shocked if someone had turned it down.


“Where else have you played?” Tim asked.


“The Chinese Legion Hall on Main Street.”


I had no idea there was such a thing as a Chinese Legion Hall, but it sounded nearly as ghastly as the Foo Inn. Chinese can’t hold their booze, and when they get drunk they don’t dance, they argue. It was certain they paid no more attention to Walkinshaw’s music than if he were a beaten up old Wurtlitzer.


“We’re looking for someone with a Fender Rhodes,” said Al. He was referring to the black, sleek Fender Rhodes electric piano highly valued for it's adaptability.


“I’ve got better. A Farfisa Cromwell organ. With foot pedals. Very handy for bulking up the sound.”


At this point I lost interest. A piano could give us a percussive, honky tonk quality. To my mind an organ was simply a backwash of sound. My mind drifted. I became aware of a woman watching us from another booth. As our interview with Walkinshaw continued she was obviously listening. Finally she approached our booth.


“Are you guys in a band?”


“Absolutely,” I said. “The Burner Boys. Have you heard of us?”


“I’m not sure,” she said vacuously. Her eyes drifted upward in the effort to remember. I, however, had stopped looking at her eyes. Beneath her Spiro Agnew t shirt he had the most magnificent pair of breasts I’d ever seen.


“Join us,” I invited her. Walkinshaw, already mad at women for the day, grumbled and slid over. As the conversation continued she simply fixed her eyes on me in an adoring stare, like she’d discovered the icon of a new religion. This was a welcome change. Tim and Steve were the pretty boys who usually got all the women.


After a few minutes she leaned across to me. “I’ve been through three changes today and all of them were heavy.” This was hippyspeak – meaningless buzz words used in an effort to be profound.


I responded in kind. “Wow. That is twice as heavy as anyyone else.”


“Yeah, sometimes my whole day is heavy,” she warmed to the subject.


“I’m not sure what is more heavy – symbolic heaviness or heavy symbolism,”


She looked at me as if I were a wizard. “That’s a heavy thought.”


Clearly we had reached intellectual common ground.


Meanwhile the rest of the band grilled Walkinshaw on his Farfisa organ. They wanted to know amp size and power, whether he had a pre amp, the size and make of his speakers. The conversation droned on. Suddenly I didn’t give a hoot about these technical details. Organs are organs. I would never know more than that, nor need to.


“I’m Dave,” I extended my hand to shake the woman’s hand.


“Carrie,” she reached across, held my hand between hers, squeezed and slowly let my fingers dribble through hers.


“That’s some t-shirt you have.”


“Thank you,” she looked down at her Spiro Agnew t-shirt.


“Spiro’s in a lot of trouble right now.”


“Is he? I can make him smile.”


I wasn’t sure what she meant. “Show me.”


She locked her hands behind her head, arched back, expanded her chest and thrust out her breasts. For the first time I saw she was bra-less. Spiro Agnew’s potato head face expanded until his smile radiated around the room. Only mine was bigger. This maneuver pretty well killed the Farfisa organ discussion.


Walkinshaw returned with us to Burner Mansion. So did Carrie. She simply followed us to the van and inserted herself like it was the most normal thing in the world. During the audition Walkinshaw pumped away on his huge, boxy Farfisa organ. He could whip off a polka, a Doors tune or a Bach fugue at the drop of a hat. After one run through he learned our songs. All those years in Chinese Legion Halls had given him a chameleon-like ability to mimic any material. The organ with its bass pedals filled the room, making the band sound huge. I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t already playing with another band. It didn’t make sense.


We hired him on the spot. In his shoes I would have been overjoyed at being freed from Chinese Legion Halls. He merely shrugged, asked when the next practice was then shambled off to his green bread truck looking like one of those cynical, beaten down Robert Crumb characters who will never truly know joy again.


It was now ten o’clock at night. During all these hours Carrie had been sitting on the couch, ignored. Surely a woman with such powerful sexuality had a better way to spend her time. At the very least she could have gotten work as an exotic dancer. No hospitality had been offered as we were out of food and drink. For this I felt bad.


I sat beside her on the couch. “I’d like to offer you something but the fridge is bare.”


“That’s cool,” she said. She was completely at home, not like some rootless fuck freak but like this was her regular job. “Do you want me to make Spiro Agnew smile again?”


“Yes. He needs more happiness in his life.”


She did this, but then slowly raised her tshirt to reveal the source of Agnew’s smile. Her magnificent breasts tumbled out. I tumbled in. In about three minutes we ran upstairs to my room. By three in the morning we’d done everything there was to do. I wanted to sleep but she kept squirming over my body asking what I wanted to do next.


“Where do you get your energy?” I asked.


“I get it from you,” she said in a spooky voice. It was like she was a sex witch, consuming me from the dick up.


At five she let me rest. I was just drifting off to sleep when there was a loud hammering on the door downstairs. At first I thought I was dreaming but then there were the sounds of doors slamming and feet thumping down the stairs I immediately thought it was the police, here to bust us for the keif we’d sold to pay the bills. I pulled on my pants and ran downstairs ready to deny everything or take the rap, as I’d promised Steve I would do when we took the keif package. What I saw when I got to the door resembled no police scene. There was a husky 45 year old man – bald and in a sweatsuit – yelling at Steve and Rish.


“What have you done to my daughter?”


The three of us shrugged. Standing next to some full grocery bags a pretty teenage girl bawled like a calf. Slowly I pieced it together. The girl, named Kim, had been drawn to Burner Mansion by the constant thumping of the band playing. Prior to this we had not known that the sound even went outside the house. Apparently it did. It pulsated through the streets for blocks around like a sexual lure and now teenage girls were drawn to the place. Tim had met up with one of these.


“My daughter’s been stealing food from our house and bringing it here,” he pointed to the grocery bags. “I want to know who’s responsible!”


“Look man,” I approached the father. “We don’t know. Take the groceries back. We’re sorry this ever happened. We’re just a band.”


“Bullshit. You take me to the guy now or I’m calling the cops. She’s 16 years old!”


That sounded like something Jerry Lee Lewis had gone to jail for. We chose the least of two evils and slowly led the father upstairs to Tim’s room. I dreaded what would happen next. We opened the door. The room was stylishly decorated by someone with an artist’s eye. There was an easel, paints and a painting in progress in the corner. This was good. It indicated the inhabitant had a work ethic and wasn’t all bad. The bed was made. The only thing awry was the window. It was wide open and the curtains blew through it. Tim had decamped.


“The chicken shit punk’s gone out the window,” accused the father.


Tim may have been a punk but he was no coward. I felt obligated to defend him. “Not necessarily. He’s an artist and likes the north light so he always keeps the window open.”


The father shot me a furious look. “You think it’s funny, smartass? I find my daughter here again and I’ll have you all charged with aiding and abetting sex with a minor. Laugh that off.” With that he stamped off downstairs, took daughter and groceries in hand and left. He slammed the door. Hard.


“What a pity,” sniffed Steve as we watched them disappear. “You’d think he could have at least left something for breakfast.”


We went out onto the verandah and hollered Tim out of the fruit trees where he’d been lurking like a feral dog. He was lucky he hadn’t twisted an ankle from his second story jump. We all dragged ourselves back to our bedrooms. Thank God there was time to get a few hours sleep.


I tip-toed into my room. Under no circumstances did I want to arouse Carrie. She was asleep, whiffling softly, but as I crept closer to the bed she stirred. It was like her nervous system was wired to some special sex radar that flashed red when a man got within ten feet. She was instantly awake, like switching on a light.


“Go back to sleep,” I pleaded.


“I don’t want to sleep,” she moaned. She’d used her 20 minute nap to completely re-energize herself, the equivalent of eight hours sleep in a normal person. “Let’s play.”


Now I moaned. I was exhausted. Instead of feeling like some rock ‘n roll stud I dreaded what was to come. I tried to crawl quietly between the covers. It was more like being thrown into a washing machine on spin cycle. My arms and legs were flailed against the walls with loud thumps. I worried about waking people up. The woman seemed to survive on air and sex. Somewhere past dawn I was allowed to sleep.


Around ten the next morning I woke up. Carrie was gone but there was a note beside the bed. I went downstairs. Without the groceries from Tim’s 16-year-old girlfriend everyone was back eating bowls of mush. I read the note: 'Here is my phone number. I’ve got yours already. I know you are busy so if you don’t call me I will call you. Don’t worry, I will be at all your dances from now on I’ll bring my friend. She would like to eat Steve alive.'


I’d always wished for a real groupie and now I had got one. It was heavy. I quietly spooned my cold mush and tried to think of better things. At least we had a 5th Burner Boy.

Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 10:11 am on May 30, 2006

Burner Mansion was situated on the corner of Harold and Fromme Roads. Harold Fromme, one of Lynn Valley's true pioneers still lived kitty-corner to Burner Mansion. His ten-year-old grand-daughter, Janice, was repeadtedly warned to "stay away from the hippy house", which was Burner Mansion. Some twenty years later Tim met the now twenty-one-year-old Janice. They started dating, eventually co-habitating, and have been together ever since.

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