(actually composed on 11/15/2011)
So my girlfriend walks in after work last night, and hands me a package from California. Now, I could lie and say I wasn't expecting it, but the truth is, I'd been quietly composing an ugly email message for the good folks at deadclubs.com concerning the Thirsty Whale t-shirt I'd ordered AND PAID FOR over a month ago. I had nearly drafted and fired my initial salvo of consumer frustration the previous day, but found myself tied up in more pressing matters. Thankfully that detour sidelined any heated correspondence, because those swell kids; presumably wracked with guilt over their inability to ship my wares in a timely fashion, threw in a size medium Madame Wong's shirt, free of charge. Patience is indeed a virtue....or whatever.
Most of you reading this are probably wondering what a "Thirsty Whale" is. Well, in my younger days, when hair was bigger, pants were tighter, and my wallet lighter, a select group of associates I called a band would trek to Chicago's "Wrigleyville" AKA "boys town", where we would shop for stage clothes made of exotic fabrics like crushed velvet & pleather. We would also get a crash course in pan-handling and out-and-proud gay culture, two things we didn't see on our rural streets back home.
I can remember parking my girlfriend's(same one mentioned above....don't ask about marriage, please...I only have so much space at my disposal.) overheating Ford Tempo behind an apartment complex, while the four of us ran into a joint called The 99th Floor to grab a faux suede jacket I'd had my eye on for months. Upon our return(jacket-less, mind you...sold out....never did get one), our borrowed wheels were gone! Assuming our ride had been purloined by local hoodlums, it wasn't until one of us glanced up at the sign hanging above the empty space it had just occupied....you know, the one declaring the lot "private parking. violators towed at owner's expense"??...Yeah, that one. Let me tell you something, you haven't lived until you've see 4 guys looking like they just got off the road with Firehouse, jogging a dozen blocks in cowboy boots and skinny jeans, to the nearest police station, so they can get a heads-up as to which impound yard might be harboring their beater. A few more swift strides through what I'm pretty sure was the same neighborhood "Judgement Night" was filmed in, and 80 borrowed dollars later, we had wheels.
Now, where does The Thirsty Whale fit into this? The Thirsty Whale was a rock club on Grand Ave., way out in River Grove, IL. It was the place we REALLY wanted to(and eventually would, in the most disappointing fashion) play. It had been around since the 70s(it's now a BP/McDonald's), and several of our heroes had played there over the years. They'd host 2 shows a night on the weekends, one all ages, the other 21 & up, so we were able to get in to the early show, take notes on everything from which pointy head-stocked guitar was coolest to which pose we should employ in our next promo shot(train tracks or brick wall covered in graffiti?).
We'd generally coordinate our journeys based around someone like Lillian Axe or Enuff Z'Nuff playing there, someone we just HAD to see,...but once....the choice made itself.
Now, remember those cowboy boots?(like Nancy Sinatra said "made for walkin' ", but definitely not for running) Well, I had bought myself a pretty sweet pair, (which looked especially good worn on the OUTSIDE of my jeans, as was the fashion at the time....or so I was lead to believe.) but I only tried on the left boot, mainly because it was the only one displayed, but also because both of my feet are conveniently pretty much the same size. I had the clerk grab a pair from the back, paid for my purchase, and back to Central Illinois we went.
250 miles later, I discovered I had been sold TWO LEFT BOOTS! To this day, my old boss Bob Long calls me "Lefty"!
I had no choice but to saddle up, enlist my buddy Josh to ride shotgun, and head back to Chicago the following weekend, to procure my right kick.
Mission accomplished and already in the vicinity, we decided to head out to The Thirsty Whale, where we caught a set by metal C-listers TUFF, a set complete with a meltdown and near fisticuffs between the drummer and an impossibly mammoth-coifed guitarist.
TUFF's frontman, Stevie Rachelle, would go on to form the infamous website Metal Sludge, where I would eventually do an interview some 15 years later, promoting my band at the time, Bombshell Crush's appearance at the New Years Eve event he was hosting in Cleveland, OH. I made sure to mention to him that night that I had once travelled all the way to Chicago, and the Thirsty Whale, JUST TO SEE TUFF!
I left out the bit about the boot.