December 30, 1981

I found the Cigs in their VW bus, which was parked on the sidewalk in front of the club. I couldn’t see through the windows, for it was dark, and walked cautiously up to the van, to suddenly see hands waving and hear voices shouting greetings. The side door rolled open and I crawled in to join them, hands coming from every direction to clasp me in welcome. I felt as if I was loved. We all began chattering away at a great rate. Donna had come down with them, as had a woman I had never before met, named Janas. We talked and laughed and made joyful noise until the owners arrived to unlock the club doors, and we went around the back and unloaded equipment. Donna and I sat at a table while the band set up, and had beers and yakked away at a tremendous rate. She had taken a quarter of a hit of acid before leaving Bloomington, and was very buzzed out. We were both noisy and emotional and had a good time.

The other band, Chinese, began setting up and the Cigs and I went to Arby’s just down the block, along with Janas and one or two Louisville friends. They all milled around and didn’t know what to choose and made things difficult for the cashier while cracking obscure jokes and looking dangerously new-wavish. We all ate, complained about the food, talked with our mouths full, and tossed around samples of food to each other, making a real mess. We returned to Tewligan’s and sat around drinking and milling about as the place filled up. The first band, Chinese, turned out to be musically unsophisticated and crude-sounding and we were all unimpressed. The Cigs took over the stage and began, and they sounded so good in comparison that the crowd simply ate them up. There was a good number of people, and they received the Cigarettes better than I had hoped, applauding and cheering. People went up front by the stage and began dancing, with no prompting. I asked Donna to join me on the floor, but she was too timid, due to the drug. I didn’t get to dance until the second set, when Janas asked me to go front and center with her. Donna did maybe one or two numbers but was too self-conscious to continue.

During the intermission I talked with Tim, and then Gordon. Tim is working at the Penguin for somewhere about $2.80 an hour; Michael Gitlin is the janitor at City Hall in Bloomington, and Emily is a waitress at the Magic Horn. When I asked Gordon what he was doing for a job, he replied with his usual grin, “I’m working at Sera-Tec.” “As an injector or an injectee?” For answer he showed me his needle-spotted arm. They all nearly broke my heart with their poverty and talk of selling plasma to make ends meet, but I had to remind myself that they were poor indeed but surviving and reasonably happy, which is more than many people have. The band could not survive on a similar economic scale in many other cities, but they can do so in Bloomington.

Donna and I talked about Jackie quitting the band. I said I missed her in the back, going “ping-pang” with the weird percussion instruments they had. Donna said, “I don’t blame her for quitting one bit. I wouldn’t want to do it, if they offered it to me. What kind of job is that, to stand in the back and ping-pang?” But then when I asked her what she was going to do (she’s now again unemployed) or where she was going to go, she said it would depend a lot on what the Cigarettes decided to do, with moving away or staying in Bloomington. I didn’t really see the logic in being the band’s number-one groupie/roadie but not deigning to be the ping-panger.

After the show, the band members were all fairly pleased with the evening. “They’ll have us back again,” predicted Michael, “they’ll beg us to play on the weekend!” I sat watching them pack up, and watching people come and go and drift away into the night. I grew very tired and was sorry they had to leave, and I considered going home. I ended up remaining to the bitter end and going with them to the 24-hour Windmill Pancake House on Broadway. They all ordered grits and made disparaging remarks about the place and rather embarrassed me. I was sorry to see them giving an innocent stranger (the waitress) a hard time. They weren’t downright offensive, so I just shrugged it off. We all ate and talked and laughed and at last got up to go. It was 3:30 in the morning and Michael Gitlin had to be at work at City Hall at seven, and Timothy had to be at work at eight. Poor Michael planed to catch an hour or two of shut-eye, then do speed and go to work. I loved them and pitied them and laughed with them, remembering that I lived like that not so long ago. In the parking lot, Emily, Michael, Timothy, and Janas gave me hearty loving hugs and bade me farewell. I drove off into the night, honking my car horn, hearing them honk back, knowing they were waving. I went to bed exhausted, smoky, and sweaty, but happier than I’ve been in a long time.

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