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Into the woods part II
Or: How I came out of the woods
My sophomore year started pretty normally until the third day or so. I got called to one of the counselors offices and was told that, due to the results of some testing I’d taken over the summer, I’d been selected to take part in a work experience program that was being offered that year. It was the first time the school had tried something like this and they warned me to not fuck it up. There were only two jobs left and I applied for both, immediately thinking that I was bright enough and eloquent enough to get a job for the local English newspaper. Once again, I was wrong.
Two days later I left school two periods early and headed over to the adjoining kaserne. I had the address of where I was going on a slip of paper and it wasn’t too far from the school, but in a part of the kaserne I’d never been in. Two blocks, three blocks…. Right around this corner and… Damn that’s a pretty good sized building. Instead of working for the paper, I was working for the community theater, doing god knows what. Excactly the type of job I was qualified for.
“Excuse me, “ I inquired. He stirred a bit on the couch, but not enough to fully rouse himself. There was a bottle of gin, a rocks glass and a box of Silk Cut on the table next to him. “Excuse me,” I repeated, louder this time. He came awake with a start, nearly falling off the couch. He sprung to his feet and extended a hand in my direction. His eyes wandered wildly, the look of a man who’d been in a deep sleep and who was trying his best to look like he hadn’t been.
Alan was small and ginger. Rumpled suit and dapper shoes. He lit a cigarette with a silver lighter, and exhaled ever so slowly, pacing the room as I told him why I was there. When I was finished he looked at me a little incredulously. “I asked for what ?” he inquired.
“I don’t know what you asked for, sir,” I said, “But you’ve got me.” He asked if I knew anything about lighting or set construction. No to both counts. Painting ? Nope. “What the hell are you good for then ?” he asked. “Very little, according to my father,” I replied. He smiled at that and it seemed we had it off. He walked me around the theater for an hour or so, showing me the control rooms, the offices, the rafters, the lighting cage, etc. It really was a well constructed and outfitted theater, especially one that was government sponsored.
“Yes,” he said. “And I’ll expect you to keep this place up for me while I’m gone.” Alan had no idea what he’d done. I had no idea what I was going to do. All I knew was that he was giving me the keys to this place for a month. He had a gi-fucking-normous sound system in what he called the “big room” and there were two back doors to this place. And I’d have keys. He smiled at me. “We have a deal?” he asked. Oh, hell yeah, we had a deal.
For the first few weeks, I worked my ass off the three days a week I was supposed to be there. Alan and I made a good team. He did absolutely nothing while I was there but smoke, drink and sing Cole Porter songs, off key and off kilter. I took care of the chores. One Wednesday, I showed up in the afternoon, a little earlier than my normal time. I came in through one of the back doors and my ears were assaulted by what I could only imagine was Minnie Mouse being done by a large black man. An incredibly shrill voice was, by the sound of it, having a damn good time somewhere not far from the door I had just come in. I walked slowly around the corner, still mostly hidden by the scrims. Alan had his pants around his ankles and there was a woman in uniform bent over the very front row of seats, hollering like I hadn’t heard anyone holler before.
I took my leave, quietly, out the door I had come in. Walked about 75 feet from the door and planted my ass on a curb, while I waited on the back door to open and close behind me. Then I’d head back. About twenty minutes later, it had and I headed back in. Alan was sitting in the front row, fully clothed, and smoking a cigarette. “Walked in on me then ?” he asked. I nodded an affirmative. “Then you and I will have to work out something.” he said. “If her husband finds out, he’ll fucking kill me.”
And we did. I decided to go for the whole ball of wax. I asked for access… Whenever I wanted, for me and the crew. I told him flat out that we were looking for somewhere to party, listen to music and get loaded. A sly smile crept over his face. “There’ll be girls, right ?” he asked. “Yeah,” I told him. “You give me a call before hand, then.” he said and smiled.
For the entire year, once a week or so, we threw parties. Alan and I would play gracious hosts, a few friends would do the DJ work and, if there wasn’t a show running, we’d let the party go until it had just run itself out. Kids would bring their own booze and music. He and I were just providing a place for them to play and have a good time. And we had a good times. Hell, after he’d spent a month in Africa, he came by, straight from the airport to have a beer and see what was going on. We had so much fun in that place, it was kinda scary. But my fondest memory will always be this:
Two in the morning…. Half a dozen loaded and sleepy kids are left in the place. Alan’s been hopped up all night on something and barely drinking. I’m sitting on the steps and talking to a girl I barely know. “Angel of Death” starts blaring from that fucking sound system so loud, I’m firmly convinced that my ears are bleeding…. Alan plays the whole album… Me on the steps, long after the girl had been scared off… He in the control room, cackling so loud, I could hear it in between the songs….