Chapter Eighteen: “Rat House”

PAULA

Paula was a likable gal, pleasant to look at and be with. She always had a smile. This helped her enormously in her occupation, which was manager of a juice co-op. She was in charge of the retail store and had to deal with the customers. A ready smile disarms the most agitated of consumers. She also scheduled the workers and helped with production or bottling when called upon. She was the jack of all trades at the co-op and the linchpin to their success.

Paula grew up in Seattle, her family had a house in Magnolia. They had money, her father was an attorney. I never asked her about her Native American background because it didn’t matter to me, but it was a big deal that her dad went to law school and she didn’t grow up on tribal land. To me, it didn’t matter, she was Paula and that was that.

She’d gone to university to study business, but dropped out after two years to work at the co-op. She started in the store working the register and moved up the ladder. She was due for another promotion soon. The juice business was good and everyone who worked there had a share. So, fortunately for me, she had money and could afford to buy the beers when we went out on our infrequent dates. Infrequent because I felt bad I couldn’t reciprocate her generosity. But I did get her into all our gigs for free. She was always on the guest list.

I asked Paula once if she thought I had animal magnetism, like Matt was always saying. She almost fell off her chair laughing.

“No, I wouldn’t say animal magnetism, but you are charming and charismatic. But charisma isn’t the same as animal magnetism. It’s much more intellectual,” she said.

I didn’t feel charismatic. Our stage presence without Ritchie was less than bombastic. He was the key to our onstage persona and we were just the cacophonous accompaniment to his antics. I could have been more demonstrative when I played, I suppose, but I was no Pete Townsend. Windmill power chords and guitar smashing wasn’t our style. We were too…intellectual, for want of a better word.

Paula enjoyed noisy music, by which I mean, squawking, squealing guitars paired with monstrous bass, heavy drums, and lots of effects like layers and layers of reverb. She also liked metal music, which I couldn’t get into, and grunge, which I could. Overall, our musical tastes coincided and made us a good match. She liked One Hand Clapping and tried to get her friends to come to shows, but not all of them shared her enthusiasm for the band. Of course, they weren’t sleeping with the guitar player.

She had a nice apartment on Capitol Hill, just off Broadway, and a short distance from the Comet. I kept going to the Comet to try to get a show there, but it was booked for months ahead, at least that’s what the booker told me when I was able to track her down. I had left a demo tape, then a tape of the recording session, and then a record. The single was on the jukebox at Squid Row, down the street from the Comet. I really wanted to play there because I’d seen lots of cool bands at the Comet and I would have liked to be on the same stage they were. Actually, they didn’t have a stage, per se, it was an area of the floor that was reserved for the band to set up on.

We did get to play the Central a couple of times. One of those nights, a Wednesday, Paula came with some of her coworkers, but they found out Dizzy Gillespie was playing across the street at the Bourbon Street and they all piled out and went to hear him, even Paula. I can’t blame them, I wanted to see Dizzy too, and not open for a band from Boston no one had heard of called Plowed Soil that attracted nobody to the show. When our crowd deserted us for Dizzy the place was empty. We still got fifty bucks, some kind of sympathy payment because we did the show on very short notice.

Paula was a good girlfriend as well as a good fan. She came to every show, even if she did leave me for Dizzy, and she bought drinks, which made the venue like us since we brought bar business. That’s how they made their money. The people she brought with her to our shows also liked to drink so they were helping our reputation as well. Of course, Clark and I drank as much as anyone else, so we brought good business to the bar just by being there. After all, we drank more than the two freebies we were given as performers.

Paula’s long black hair was her most attractive feature. She would tie it up sometimes when she went out because it got in her way. It went down past the small of her back. It took her a long time to wash it and dry it and she threatened to cut it, but I would persuade her not to. I liked it too much. When she bent over me I would be covered in hair, and I liked that. It was a pleasant feeling.

She also had the straightest teeth I had ever seen. I asked her if she had braces when she was younger, but she didn’t, they grew that way naturally. Her figure was very attractive and feminine, yet she could lift those heavy boxes at work.

I found her wonderful in many ways, but none so much as her taste in music. We would drive around Seattle just listening to tapes of Sonic Youth or the Pixies and really enjoy ourselves, even if it was raining outside. Since it rained nine months of the year we had to find activities that allowed us to keep dry, yet were inexpensive. Paula and I went to movies or played pool at the Comet. We also picked up dart playing and got pretty good. I won a steak at a darts shootout tournament once.

All in all we made a good couple. We could be together and do things or go out with our friends without be a couple, just singularly.

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