Friday was release day for a book I wrote called Beacon, book one of the Nation of Five series. The book is about young men and an impossible task they set before themselves. Well, I know a lot about impossible tasks. I’m a DID survivor who suffers from hallucinations. I have bipolar and Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder. Getting through a day where I make dinner, hang out with my kids, be a husband to my wife, and not end the day screaming, is the completion of an impossible task. Well, it may be an impossible task that’s undertaken in the book Beacon, but it’s only even considered because of the friendship between four boys. Four teenage boys attempt this daunting feat. Got me thinking about the boys and men in my life. And so this weekend to celebrate the release of Beacon, I will be dropping upon you chapters from Reality of the Unreal Mind. These chapters are from the unreleased third volume, titled The Keep. I start at 7:30 in the evening on Friday, and will end at 9 at night on Sunday. So follow me now into the story of the men who made me possible.
We went out of town for a concert a few years ago.
Not a band I knew, but Tiger wanted to see them because they were kind of friends. It’s one of, if not his favorite, band and Tiger is picky. He is a drummer and music is very important to him, so when he heard Thank You Scientist for the first time, he kind of lost his mind. Their drummer is insanely good. The singer is one of the greatest voices working today, and their guitarist is like I had never heard.
He was at work one day and saw a post on their page. I think it might have been an Instagram thing, but it said, “Hey we are in Springfield, Missouri. We have a few hours and we need someone to show us around.”
Out of work in the middle of the afternoon and meeting his favorite band in a bar of his choice. He hung out with them and they were so cool that he became friends with them. They hung out all day and into the night, then they vanished. He talked about it next time he saw me and said he was very cool about it but he was geeking out the entire time he was with them.
Well they were coming to St Louis, which is right up the road from us, about three hours away, and he introduced the idea of a road trip. I am always up for road trips with my favorite people, and so I was off to see a band I had never heard of and spend the weekend in St. Louis.
The concert was Friday night. We drove up there, hit our hotel real fast, then went out for a while. We went to a record shop so I could find a record for Sasquatch. We were walking by a bar and Tiger said we should go inside.
Now there is a thing with me and bars that I can’t explain. When I see one, I get weird, assume I am not supposed to be in there, and walk by them real fast. It has been that way for a while. I assume it is because there were so many bars in my neighborhood in Milwaukee that we were not allowed to go into when me and Cage were kids, it is burned into me that I can’t go into them. Every time I have ever been in a bar it has felt like a rebellion of some sort, even though when this happened I was about forty.
So he points out the bar we are walking past, and I break all the laws and we go in. One beer and we are sitting at the bar and talking about music. I confess that my tastes are all over the place, telling this music buff about musicians I like that have his skin crawling. He tells me music should mean something and that great music is an art and not just fun for the ears.
He does not try to make fun of me or cut down my tastes. He just accepts what I say and we go on. It is literally the first time anyone has ever done anything like that except Bekah and T.
We hit the road and we are at the concert. It’s in a bar too (don’t tell anyone), and we walk in as the warm up band is getting going. This band is terrible, and the music is so loud it is damn near a punishment. While this lead singer is ripping at his guitar, trying to get the sound right, he keeps looking at the sound guy, pointing his finger up, and I turn to Tiger and yell, “How loud does he need that thing?”
Of course, Tiger had no idea what I was saying. The fucking music was too loud.
We did survive. That was some terrible music, with wailing and howling that could not be understood and absolutely nothing worth remembering. But here I am telling you guys about it, so I guess it did make an impression.
They take their instruments, shuffle away, and the next band comes on to do their thing. It is a little better, and I actually like some of their work, but I never caught the name of their band. While they are getting their gear together and taking off, Tiger looks at the door and sees the guitarist of Thank You Scientist.
Now there are two guys standing there looking at everyone like they are better than them. They are wearing lab coats, which I think is actually pretty cool, and it is obvious these guys are here to see the same band we are. When the guitarist shows up at the door between sets, Tiger sees him and they make eye contact.
The guitarist waves him over and we head out the door, while the dudes in lab coats geek out. We are taken on the bus and hang out with the band for a while. They are excited to see Tiger and I just try to stay out of the way. I am, of course, introduced, but these guys are trying to get ready for a show, and me and Tiger get out of there as soon as we can.
The guitarist comes out on stage, and while the drummer is setting up, the guitarist starts to warm up.
His fingers are moving so fast, as he totally owns this guitar, and it looks like the man playing it barely notices. It is as if he invented the instrument and has known it longer than anyone else. He is shredding this fucking instrument, and I am standing slack jawed staring at this guy warms up. He plays for about two minutes then disappears again.
This is the way this band works. The drummer seems to have been born playing the drums. The singer is very excited about singing and is all over the place at times jumping up and down as he goes. They have a saxophone player who is so good it is almost criminal, and they are just an awesome band.
Now the lab coat dudes are very pissed at us. They keep giving us the stink eye. They can’t help but hate us. We understand, we really do, and we do not hold it against them.
When the set is over, the band goes to the back and sells CDs and signs autographs. What I thought was very cool is that everyone in that band took a sharpie to those lab coats and signed them. They talked to the guys and hung out with them as long as they wanted to be there.
You would have thought those two guys were kids meeting Santa Claus. They were alight, and I realized these are not the kind of guys who get attention. These are the kind of guys who are always made fun of and bullied. This band made them feel like superstars. And for that, I will always love Thank You Scientist.
We hit the road on the way home and stopped at White Castle. If you haven’t eaten there, go find it. Don’t blame me for what you find. You have to at least eat it once. But take the top bun off the cheeseburger and put a chicken ring on top before you replace the bun. It is much better that way.
Anyway, when we were on the road and headed home, I mention that me and Kraken had been watching a lot of bad movies and we are thinking about starting a club. Tiger blows up and raves that he would definitely want to be in that club.
“Let’s do it, man. I could make it to a meeting every third Saturday and it would be so great! Put it together, dude, you have to!”
So I did.
We meet every third Saturday. We have a treasurer, which is Vigil. We have a secretary, which is Kraken. His duties involve doing research on the movie we are watching and giving us the lowdown on the budget, the production, and the legend behind each movie. We have a president who is an ass and showed up one time. And I am the Sergeant at Arms, which basically means I host and make sure everyone has a chair.
We throw in twenty bucks every now and then, and start the night hitting the store and buying snacks. We take turns bringing terrible movies and we make a night of it. It is a blast. I personally think that Tiger and Kraken talk too much and cut too many jokes for us to actually watch the movie. The one night the president did show up, Tiger had to sit next to Kraken and it was so bad that I refuse to let them sit next to each other ever again.
I have a lot of fun with Tiger, but it is not easy being my friend. I break down a lot, telling him about things that happened in my past that are pretty grisly. I ask him for validation on my work over and over again to fight off imposter syndrome (that is where you doubt yourself at what you do best, think you are an imposter and that one day everyone will find out you are fake and don’t know what you are doing). He has to deal with that a lot. I am quite a burden to my friends, even though they would never say so, but they get one thing from me.
They get undying loyalty. I am a Ride or Die ’til the end. They all get the very best from me, even if they don’t deserve it. Tiger and Kraken do.
One week I was suicidal. I was having the final fight with Rose. I was hearing a lot of terrible things about myself and I was saying all of the things that I wanted her to hear. It was around the clock supervision with me and I reached out to Tiger just to talk.
He didn’t want to talk. He wanted to help. He talked to Kraken and Bekah and said if they could get me as far as eight o’clock, he would get me through the night.
He showed up at my house at eight with a sack. He had Hot Pockets. (We had been saying how terrible they were and he wanted proof. He got the kind he had never had that I said was so bad, and he brought two boxes.) He brought about six movies. Action movies. Comedy movies. I think he even brought a rom-com. He brought a board game. He brought everything he might need to keep me alive. He was ready to listen, was ready to get me past this thing I was going through no matter what that looked like.
Tiger is the kind of guy you need in your life. If you are going to design a friend for yourself, it had better look like Tiger or you are going to be disappointed. He has helped me so much in my life and I will ride with him until I die.
If he will have me.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.