Guns, booze, and a naked dude

Jamie Stewart

Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart

Photo by Jeremy Lange

When I was 17 years old my godmother, who is an atheist (my mother thought this would be funny) was having a Bastille day party at her house in the gold country mountains of northern California. She lived in a building that was a hotel in the 1850s. Pamela Hill is her name, and she is a world famous quilter. She has a quilt in the Smithsonian.

At the time, I wanted to be a painter and go to art school and my godmother, who knew lots of artists and crafts-people, arranged for me to take a day trip with an artist friend of hers named Rod. Rod made etchings, two of which hang in my mom's living room. Rod had no real idea who I was and I think must have owed my godmother a favor, for why else would he agree to waste an entire day hanging out with a zitty and lame teenager? I tried to impress everyone by leaving a copy of Lolita on my pillow. I was that kind of lame teenager, case in point.

The plan was that he and I would drive out to a waterfall and swimming hole. Today, I would love this kind of thing, but in addition to being a lame teenager I was also incredibly uptight. I was so uptight even my parents made fun of me. So, the idea of going to waterfall and swimming hole sound terrible, but I wanted to try to be a cool art guy and hang with a bonafide cool art guy, so I agreed.

We got into his white beater car and started zooming along the winding mountain roads. This scared the shit out of me. About every 15 minutes we would pass a little general store and Rod would walk inside and get a beer in can. Being uptight, I had never had a drink and did not really understand what alcohol did nor at what rate. Rod chugged this beer in the parking lot and got back into the car. After the third beer, he asked me if I knew how to drive. I'd had my license for about two months at that point, and as you would imagine, I was not very confident. I told him was too freaked out to drive on the twisting two-lane highway. So we stopped, he bought and chugged two more beers, and we kept driving like crazy people.

After a little while we pulled over at a clearing on the side of the road. He asked me if I'd ever shot a gun. To my great relief, I was able to say truthfully that I had, once, two years before with my karate instructor at a firing range. Finally I felt cool. He opened his glove box and there was a five-shot white handled revolver that must have been 100 years old. He said, “When I became a lawyer my father said I needed this gun.”

What! He was a lawyer too? What the hell?!

We got out of the car, and found, to our mutual surprise, that there was a taxidermied deer head on a stump in the field. Obviously we started shooting at it, but the gun was of a small caliber so the deer head did not really do anything if we hit it. It just shifted ever so slightly. The last of the five shots ricocheted and made that “pweeeeeeer” sound you hear in cowboy movies. We looked at each other and both went “OOOOOOOOOH!” and felt a connection between shooting at this dead animal head and the old West.

We got back in the car and drove about five minutes to this path that lead to the waterfall. Rod took three beers from the back of the car, which he'd had in there all along, and started downing them. After a 30 minute hike, which I hated, we arrived. He immediately took off all his clothes and jumped under the waterfall and then swam out to a boulder in the middle of the pond. He spread his body out in the shape of an X and passed the fuck out. I was at the top of the waterfall looking down at him. It was not so high, maybe ten feet. He had the biggest cock I have ever seen, then or now. Bear in mind that this was a snow runoff waterfall and the water is freezing, which will shrink a cock right up. But iced and flaccid, it still it was like a soup can. All I did was stare at it for what seemed like two hours. He just laid there, dead drunk and profoundly hung.

My memory is a little hazy about this but I don't think I ever got in the water. Maybe I did, to try to make him like me. I was insecure enough that I would have felt the need to do that but, as noted, anal enough to not want to get wet, so I am not sure what I did. He eventually woke up. We drove back to his apartment which was a store front, oddly, with big plate glass windows that made up a whole wall and looked out to the street. He covered them with moving blankets. A man was waiting there when we arrived. He was a old friend of Rod's with whom he had taken a trip to Paris when they were young. He flew from London or something to come see him but only had the one afternoon to visit. They had not seen each other in 20 years and Rod spent the whole day fucking around with me. The man had been waiting there for six hours.

The man was pissed and left but Rod did not care. He took out a photo of himself holding a baguette and showed me his time in Paris. Then he took out an Otis Redding record and played it for me. Luckily I knew Otis Greatest Hits from my dad and again I could feel cool. Rod started shouting “THAT IS 'A SIDE', MAN! THAT IS 'A SIDE', MAN!!!!!” referring to the greatness of songs on the first side of the record. It's true enough – those are among the best songs in human history. Fuck you, all other bands except Bauhaus and This Mortal Coil.

At that moment my godmother started banging on the giant window, yelling “Where have you been?” and so on. He opened the door and let me out without getting up, not saying hello to my godmother nor goodbye to me. We did not talk about art all day.

Looking back on it, clearly we did not need to.

I think.

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