By O. Lucio d’Arc
I’m gonna take the sins of my father
I’m gonna take the sins of my mother
I’m gonna take the sins of my brother
Down to the pond. — Tom Waits
This story starts with Carole, with an “e,” like King and Simpson. She’s a musician, she enjoys playing electric guitar. She likes to hold the guitar arm tight against her breasts and the guitar belly tight to her crotch, because she finds the vibrations, well, arousing.
And a hard nipple is a crowdpleaser, especially at the joints she plays.
Tonight it’s Rambo’s, a small tavern off Ashbury in San Francisco, where she lives, and a place she has played before. There’s no smoking but the place is smoky anyway, and gloomy, the bar mirrors encased in old dark wood and the step-up stage in the corner barely big enough for her, a stool and a small amp
They know her here, kinda, she thinks. Her jeans and bare feet and peasant blouse always go over big.
Her solo act – she’s played in a couple of duos and trios over the years, but found relying on people a tense and sometimes costly inconvenience – is mostly stuff she writes herself, especially since she’s been involved with the Country Music Pot Song Project.
Scott Free, her best friend and sometimes manager, who thought this all up, decided after a trip to Memphis that there was a future in country music about marijuana.
Carole, he told her, you need to write and strum and croon this stuff.
So she did.
Scott was gay, although he dressed conservatively on the street, had a practiced manly handshake, a head of curly hair and the winning smile of that guy in “50 Shades of Grey.” A top’s top. And his initials, he often bragged, were the same as the fair city they lived in. He set up the gigs and usually came around, but not this night.
Carole sings languidly:
I’ll never be as witty
As Conway Twitty.
I’ll never swing my pelvis
Like a young and sexy Elvis.
I’ll never be a smash
Like good old Johnny Cash.
But now I can always Be. As. High.
California had just decriminalized recreational marijuana, but that was an historical burp, a huge after-thought.
Pot had been cheap and plentiful in California for a century or two, way before Kerouac was a kid.
The crowd tonight was a mix of West Coast wasted and underage wannabes. Couple of leather-jacket-and-lipstick babes thrown into the mix. Carole closes her eyes and sings the chorus.
’Cause America ate the apple
America knows the truth
We all just need to understand
Pot is the new Baby Ruth.
The lyrics sucked, but it is what these potheads wanted to hear. The applause and table-tapping at the end is high-spirited.
If you know what I mean.
On the Coast, she’s fallen in and out of love, made some music, wrote some songs, grubbed enough for a one-roomer off The Castro.
Carole describes herself as a Rust-Belt Runaway, raised in the East by a three-job, never-home father, Ed, and a mostly comatose alcoholic mother with a bad rep, Mary, a so-so social worker who faded away and died when Carole was 17.
She has two best friends from kindergarten.
One is Diz, a born trickster and troublemaker, and Carole’s best friend. She only likes two things: hell-raising and Carole. Diz is short for Dizzy, you know, like the eighth dwarf.
The other best friend was Nino, a nice Italian boy and Carole’s first love. He was killed by a hit-and-run pick-up while pedaling his bicycle over to her house after school. He was 15.
Besides country pot songs, Carole does the blues pretty good, too.
Oreste P. D’Arconte, who writes fiction under the name O. Lucio d’Arc, is a retired newspaper publisher and a weekly newspaper columnist. His short stories have appeared in the Murder Inc. trilogy of anthologies and he has had his poetry published in several literary magazines. A resident of Attleboro, Mass., he also wrote a hardback history of the Attleboro YMCA in 2017.