Friday, April 11, 2008

Club Baby Head, Pt. 2: Au Revoir, Buffalo Tom!

I was off to France. It had been quite a summer. In many ways I was already finished with college. I started working at a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. I spent time out in the woods cutting down trees with these new strange co-workers and got Lyme's Disease. And all along I prepared to leave the United States.

The Lyme's Disease put a big crimp in my work/social schedule. Mostly I sat around and watched movies. Two movies to be more specific. 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' and 'Goodfellas'. Seen back to back, their dual nihilism and dark-hearted joy matched my innards perfectly.

I'd made many new friends through the group home, including a family from Westerly, the Mahoneys. John was a big good hearted environmentalist and artist. His brothers and sisters were all interesting folks with eclectic pursuits. We bonded over music and illegal drugs.

I attended many parties connected to this new crowd. I remember being surprised that I'd made new friends in Rhode Island. Just as I was leaving the country a whole new scene opened up for me, a scene I would revisit upon my return in a year. In fact, my band would wind up named The Mahoneys as a joke which stuck.

I remember a sprawling lawn at their Westerly compound swarming with inebriates. Pockets of people stood around acoustic guitars. The statues that John had been making out of scrap iron stood like sentinels. Fires blazed in garbage cans. John's sister was down from Boston. We struck up a conversation which almost immediately centered around my leaving for France.

She had a young baby which was asleep in the upstairs bedroom of the house. In what seems to be a pattern (see earlier post 'Before Sonic Youth'), she wanted me to see her baby. Her marriage was troubled. She was at a crossroads.

Somehow my newness to the circle combined with the fact that I was so shortly leaving created an immediate sense of intimacy. We stood in the darkness and looked down at the sleeping beauty. Why she needed me to witness this I couldn't say. There wasn't anything illicit or sensual about it but it went far beyond simple parental pride.

The rest of the summer was a blur. Every event I attended became a farewell. My leaving lent intensity to gatherings. Old flirtations were revived and admitted.

Once again cousin Liam comes into play. He'd given me a copy of Buffalo Tom's eponymous debut album. I love this album. I almost wore it out that summer. So when Club Baby Head announced their August schedule and Buffalo Tom was on it, I knew I wanted to tie it in to my farewell party.

All of my disparate crowds met in Providence that night to see Buffalo Tom. Some like the Mahoney/group home crowd were indie music aficionados and knew all about BT. Others, like my theater crew, had never even heard of Club Baby Head, let alone Buffalo Tom.

If you've never seen Buffalo Tom live, the main thing to keep in mind is passion. They are never less than fully engaged. You always have the sense that they are playing as hard as they can. They sweat, they laugh, the egg each other on. I've come to know them over the years...Bill Janowitz wrote music for a play my cousin Mike wrote that I acted in, he wrote a new theme song for 'Yes, Dear' at Mike's insistence, Buffalo Tom actually reunited to play Mike's wedding for pete's sake!

But at this point they were not known to me personally. Their emotional commitment gave me and all of my fellow revellers the permission to go whole hog with sentimentality over my impending ex-patriation.

Who showed up? John Mahoney's sister. She'd heard about it through John and driven down from Boston to say good bye. I'd only met her once before! She gave me her address and asked that I write to her from France. It would let her know that the world was larger than her particular set of problems. I agreed and we did wind up writing a few letters back and forth.

In one of them I recounted to her how I'd gone to London to visit an ex-girlfriend/old friend. We'd gone out on the town and taken in a concert. Buffalo Tom! In London!

I don't know if her marriage survived. I know that the Mahoneys have faced some difficult times of late...I've heard this through the grapevine 73 times removed. How strange that Bill Janowitz knows my name and hugs me when we meet and the Mahoneys have receded into my past.

Like Woody Allen sitting with Martin Landau discussing murder, like Ray Liotta in slippers on his Arizona doorstep, I stand in disbelief at how far I've come.


Anonymous said...

I've read all of your blog. This entry stands out to me. Exceptional. Miss you. Tom

Brendan O'Malley said...

Thanks Tommy! How's it hanging'?