At Any Given Moment

They look like they're joining the Marines tomorrow, but they'll melt your face tonight
They look like they’re joining the Marines tomorrow, but they’ll melt your face tonight

Last Friday night my band, AMERICAN FALCON, was set to rock The Palace in downtown Missoula. It was a warm night, and there was a ton of activity downtown. We arrived around 9:00 PM or so, loaded in, then were just kind of hanging around outside. In an oddly surreal setting, what with all the young people running up and down the street hooting and hollering, and the thudding, muffled grumble of a metal band starting up inside, there was a large group of religious folks across the street singing spiritual songs. Based on their garb I’m guessing they were from one of the various Hutterite groups in the area (or are they Mennonite? Hell, I don’t know….). After a while they broke up, but then a woman, with two young girls in tow, started making her way up the sidewalk with a handful of pamphlets and plenty to say to anyone who would listen.

She ended up beside me, telling her story about how she’d given up drugs and alcohol and sex with her boyfriend and all that awful stuff, then she asked me if I was ready to face death, ready to face Jesus. I just shrugged and said that when the time came I really didn’t have much of a choice but to face whatever comes next, and who really knows what that is, right? She looked at me, and she said, “You know, a lot of people your age and your size die suddenly. You need to be ready, you need to get straight with Jesus.”

I just kind of laughed and looked at Travis and Jimmy. “Did you hear that? She just called me old and fat.”

“You’re gonna die at any moment,” Jimmy said.

It’s an interesting thing, playing these shows. It’s something that, when it’s happening, I still love. I wish we could do it more. The other day I was flipping through this part-memoir, part-photo book by Nikki Sixx from Mötley Crüe. I’m not really a fan of the band but I’ve seen the guy’s street photography and it’s pretty damn good. This particular book didn’t have much subject matter that I was that interested in, but I did read a passage where he was talking about his band members. That he doesn’t feel like he’s aged at all, but when he looks at the other guys in the band he sees how they have aged, and knows that they see the same thing in him.

I certainly relate to that. Looking in the room around me, I see other rock people, whether band members or just people out for the evening, and it’s the same crowd I’ve been seeing for decades now. They look the same as they ever did, and I don’t feel much different. But I know I’ve changed, and with the miles and the gray hair and all that I know I look like that old burnout that doesn’t belong there. Until we start to play anyway.

Being gigantic is my own stupid fault, and I also know it ain’t as bad as it looks. But earlier this summer, when my son was having some difficulties, I realized that I would be a hypocrite to lecture him about taking better care of himself if I didn’t do the same. It isn’t always easy to make the right decisions — to eat right, to keep our minds right, to exercise — especially when it seems the American marketing machine is trying to lure us down paths we shouldn’t take. There’s a quote I’ve seen attributed various ways to various people that goes something like this: self discipline is the highest form of self respect. I like that.

Still. I’m not that old, especially coming from a long line of people too stubborn and ornery to yield to an early death, and fuck you if you think I should be spending my time on things more “age appropriate.” I’m not as fat as I was even just a couple weeks ago, and I’m almost forty pounds less than I was when we did our residency in February. The band can still rock with any pack of young punks that square off with us, and I can still beat my big, strong kid arm wrestling. So don’t count me out just yet. . . .


Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Missoula, MT.

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