NOT IN MY DAY
I glanced over at my companion. He was clearly having a blast. He was moshing so hard to ‘Paradise City’ I thought his head would come off. And believe me, I’ve seen a few detaching heads in my time. Okay, bad joke.
There we were, final song of the night, no sign of let-up by my companion, nor the hoards who’d flocked to see the show.
John was grinning like the Cheshire cat, his lovely white teeth reflecting in the stabbing lights while the band went into apocalyptic meltdown on stage. My ears felt like they were ready to explode. I’ve always had sensitive hearing, just one of those occupational hazards.
And I was so hungry. Being at big spectator events always gives me the munchies. Music festivals, films, you name it. I’ve done many in my time and I always end up feeling famished.
And now after an hour and a half of having my eardrums assaulted, the red-haired singer finally hurled down the mike, shouted something inaudible and walked off-stage. Within seconds the others followed suit. It was over.
While the audience yelled, screamed, cheered and whistled, my ears re-adjusted to my surroundings. In a theatre, November, the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty eight. Sometimes I amuse myself.
“Enjoy yourself?” yelled John above the wall of audience appreciation.
I managed a faint smile.
“It wasn’t like this in my day.”
“Fuck man, how old are ya? Late thirties? You sound like a friggin’ pensioner.”
I smiled. John was great at finding exactly the right thing to say without quite knowing why. Late thirties. Heh. That was cute.
“Oh yeah, I’m ancient. I can still remember when TV only had three channels. You wanna join the rush? I need food.”
John nodded his assent and we joined the throbbing, pulsating human mass of people groping their way towards the exits in semi-darkness. Not that I’ve ever minded the crowds. There’s something about the warm buzz of humanity which makes you feel alive. Irony has always been one of my strong points.
We stumbled outside. The huge crowd-mass had turned into mildly-bewildered-looking people all going their separate ways. We joined them, just two guys wandering through the LA streets, John to his rented apartment and me to my own little sanctuary. John was talking and I was tuning in and out until we got to his street. He asked me in and I was sorely tempted.
But I never ate at friend’s houses – that was a cardinal rule. Not that I had many friends, although I’d known a lot in my time – and in many different places, too. In my line, you get around.
John was a nice guy, but what I needed badly now was to get back to the sanctuary, safe away. And get something to eat en route. The hunger was starting to gnaw away at me, and that’s always the real killer. I should have sorted myself out before I left for the show.
“Anyway, thanks for coming. I know it’s not really your scene.”
“I’ve a pretty varied collection, actually.”
John looked sceptical. He probably figured I was into electro or something equally passé.
“But they didn’t have it like that in your day, huh? Well, I can see I’ll have to work on you. G’night.”
I mumbled my farewell and walked back to my sanctuary, lost in my own private thoughts through the dark private streets.. Why did I go to the stupid concert anyway? My eardrums were still ringing and my stomach was groaning. Being around people was a curse. It just made you lethargic as you groped about finding what you wanted, what you craved. Anything just to take the edge off and get you back on track. Back in the game.
John made me laugh. He’d swallowed all that stuff about me having eccentric tastes like some New York dilettante. The truth was a little more complicated.
I liked rock n’roll, of course. I’d seen a few of them in my time, the old heroes. Elvis. Chuck Berry. They were great in the flesh and nothing beats live, either music or people.
And then there were the jazz greats. Miles, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong. I’d seen them, too. And Charlie Parker. He died in 1955. Some idiots say he lost it at the end, but it’s bullshit. He was white-hot. Trust me, I know.
And there had been more of course. Stravinsky, unveiling his masterpiece the Rite of Spring to a shocked audience in 1913. That was a real blast – watching all those uptight bourgeois jerks squirming as the chaotic pagan death-notes scythed their brains to soup.
How about Beethoven’s ninth symphony – premiere in 1824, Vienna? Louder than you can imagine, a nuclear assault on the senses, a flooding tidal wave of orgasmic titans lumbering through the forests of joy.
And don’t forget the writers and the artists. Wilde, Twain, Rimbaud. Further back, Goya, Blake, Milton. All those names, all those lives. Their reputations still alive as we closed on the millennium.
I didn’t have to rely on their reputations, though. I knew all about them. Some of them I’d watched at work, some of them I’d even visited. In the flesh.
And I was still fucking hungry and fucking wet from the icy rain.
Half-a-mile from home I couldn’t stand it any more. My hunger and thirst were commanding me, screwing my innards like a deranged choir. I headed for the large municipal park where I knew the derelicts would be. My hunger needed satisfying and 500 years had done nothing to help me control it, let alone end it.
I was one of the gifted, one of the immortals, one of the powerful and one of the eternal drinkers from life’s bloody chalice.
I was a vampire.