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April 15, 2024

Expiration Date

By Dan Mulhollen

What can I say about Kevin Morelli? A man old enough to be my grandfather. A man my parents worshiped as a rock god? Someone who has been uncool as long as I've been alive?

"Read the lyrics," they'd scold, hearing my dismissive attitude. Then they'd play one of his solo albums. "One man and a dozen instruments, plus all the vocals. How many people can do that?"

It took time, after all, I could name several multi-instrumentalists. Todd Rundgren, Pete Townshend, Frank Zappa, a few German guys. But I slowly began to see their point. I do feel his earlier stuff with his best known band, the Differences, was better musically.

His solo stuff was all confusing. Was he a guitarist with a long chain of effects pedals, a keyboard player with a fortress of synthesizers, or a singer recording harmonies using multiple vocal tracks? Back then, I saw a musician like someone on a football team and everyone had their role. You wouldn't have a linebacker kicking field goals. But I did have to admit as a lyricist, his ability to turn a phrase was always remarkable. And slowly I did come around and could see the man's brilliance.

College was a two-part existence. Journalism and related English classes during the day and evenings, giving up a little self-respect to wear the skimpy, suggestive, sometimes too-revealing things expected of a "girl singer." The guitarist and keyboard players were big Differences fans. The bassist disliked them -- calling them "pretentious psychedelic bullshit." The drummer ... well ... drummed.

We had fans, although I was never sure if they liked the music or had a voyeuristic desire to see my boobs or more when I bent over the wrong way. But applause can be addictive -- far more than any of the substances I tried. Pot, a little booze, and being a psychedelic band (or so our fans claimed), a tab or two of weak modern-day acid that scarcely led to any mind-altering experiences. I ate a lot after a bowl of good Sativa, threw it all up after too many shots, and wrote lyrics that probably meant something at that moment, but left me scratching my head the next morning.

I noticed the double standard. Male rock musicians are supposed to be sexual athletes while female members are supposed to be virgin princesses. To be ogled, but always from afar. It could be a lonely, if largely self-fulfilled, existence. And I think I'll leave it at that.

In my senior year, I was faced with a choice. Journalism or the band. I was only a good singer, unable to manage the vocal acrobatics all the American Idol winners managed, seemingly with ease. So I decided to follow my major, which led to graduation, a journalism degree, and several years working check-out at a pharmacy.

* * *

London, 1965? The whole decade was a hoot (to use an Americanism I've become increasingly fond of)! Me and my mates forming a band, months of nightly shows to get our playing just right. That led to getting a recording contract, and making a reputation for ourselves. I must admit that contrary to our name, the Differences were not all that much different from any other band of that era. We had our hits which I was stuck singing ever since -- classic rock "fans" having a notable dislike of material written after 1980.

There was me on voice and keyboards, Vox Continental organ and Hohner electric piano. Ian, our bassist, a scholarly chap who ended up at Cambridge, Professor of Molecular Biology with a wife and two kids (who, as is common with the children of English rockers, have gone into acting). Alan, our guitarist, quiet, aloof, a man given more to growing orchids than music. His taciturn nature was better suited for rhythm than lead guitar. So I took on those added responsibilities. I'll not get into those tabloid stories regarding him, leave it at he's happy and doing well for himself, still in show biz, but behind the scenes. And then there's Mick, our drummer. A wild man, in the tradition of all great drummers. But he was good! He understood how being slightly before or slightly after the beat would create an entirely different feel for the song. "Beats, booze, and birds," he'd say, "the three things that make life worth living. ("Birds" being English slang for pretty young woman, in case you were concerned he might have become an ornithologist.). Offspring, a distinct but unconfirmed possibility ...

Then came the seventies -- the era of dinosaurs, and we were high up in the food chain. But when you get that big, you want more -- and that means going solo. Having a 64-track recording studio as your plaything made self-indulgence inevitable, and half-hour extravaganzas based on Buddhist koans did nothing to weaken the growing insurgency that was punk. Still, as radio DJs used to say, the hits kept coming.

When Mick died in 1985, Ian, Alan, and I decided to get back together. The album was solid and the tour a success, but we all knew we were by then just four washed-up blokes with an American hired gun on drums. No, the Differences died when that disagreeable, vulgar old git went to that drunken orgy in the sky.

By the nineties anyone with eyes could see that the industry was past its heyday. Dozens of labels merging into a few multi-media conglomerates. Contracts were harder to come by and usually requiring the use of celebrity producers, songwriting committees, an unnecessary and totally obtrusive rap interlude, and that abomination known as auto-tune.

Yet as much as I disparage the latter, my voice was not what it used to be. In 1970, everybody -- male and female -- wanted to sing like Janis Joplin. Twenty-plus years of that does a number on the old vocal cords.

So I went into semi-retirement. I kept up with the technology, building a nice 24-track digital studio in my basement. And while I've never abandoned my loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen, or completely lost my accent, I am now pretty much a Yank.

A hermit you might call me. But four marriages and a good half-dozen offspring (although I do forget if it's four boys and two girls or vice versa), and none of them, wife or kids, ever calls -- even to let me know I'm a grandfather. But I live outside an old town yet to be swallowed up by strip malls and big box stores. Most mornings, I'll drive down to a coffee shop that only sells good coffee you don't have to know fluent Seattle to order. I'll usually spend some time at a book store where some old published novelists, poets, and artists hang out. So I'm a has-been in a village of has-beens. It suits me quite comfortably.

Yet two anniversaries are looming. Mick's death, and another milestone birthday. The two keep conflating in my mind. I would now be twice the age of the crazy drunken sot. My liver is not the corroded, bloody mass his was but my knees, ankles, and reproductive system are not what they once were. And music? My playing is not up to my old standards, my voice is shot, and the words and melodies are not coming anymore. A remedy crosses my mind on occasion. As the anniversaries near, it is becoming more appealing.

* * *

Okay, so the pharmacy job led to one at supermarket. That led to my being hired at a large bookstore. A career in journalism seemed to have disappeared. There I noticed something odd about the magazine aisles. Most of the music magazines were British. I spotted one with cover with a cover featuring a tribute to an old band whose members were all now dead. Below, in smaller print, was an article "Whatever Happened To the Differences?" I had to check that out!

I was shocked to learn Kevin Morelli had moved to the US and was living in a small town a two-hour drive from where I lived. I remembered learning the old marketing procedures of queries and submissions, but was surprised to find this magazine preferred emailed attachments, requiring a notarized release from anyone interviewed or photographed. My next day off, I got in my car, only knowing the town name, and using GPS to find this town. I would have to ask around about the mysterious Mr. Morelli. Sam and Bernice's Coffee Shoppe seemed a good place to start.

"Morelli?" the teenage waitress at the coffeehouse asked. "Long-haired guy over there, reading the newspaper."

I turned and saw him, looking a lot like a wizard in a fantasy novel. "Mister Morelli?" I asked, approaching him.

"Yes?" he replied, setting aside the thin area newspaper.

"I'd like to interview you for a British publication."

"I'm afraid you've come at a bad time," he said in a businesslike tone of voice. He rested his head on his fist. "Or maybe the right time. You are?"

"Kristi O'Shea,"

"O'Shea? You don't look Irish," he said, looking me over. "Or much of a Kristi either. Guinevere Maddock, I'd imagine you, like one of my daughters when she was your age."

I could feel myself blush. His flirtation had an odd paternal ring to it. "Mister Morelli?"

"But who am I to talk about names? An Irish barmaid working in London meets an Italian church organist fleeing both the Germans and the Americans. After (according to their memories) a romantic courtship, the posting of banns and religious instruction, a Catholic wedding, long marriage, and eventually two Catholic funerals. But only one child, not terribly Catholic of them. But then, post-war England was no place for big families."

"So how did you get into music?"

"From my father, I grew up with a knowledge of keyboards. From my mother, the ability to sing at the drop of a hat. Then, around '64 - '65, I saw a picture in the paper of Paul McCartney with Jane Asher -- big model at the time. I couldn't help wondering if he could bag a bird like that, why couldn't I? Sometimes I still wonder if a 69 year old couldn't get into a ..." he stopped and laughed.

"Are you were flirting with me?" I asked, wondering if I should feel somehow honored.

"Was I? Well, apologies, then. But to be truthful, any prospect of intimacy would require a trip to the pharmacy to refill a prescription on the way home." He then left out a broad, hearty laugh. At his own expense or mine? I had to wonder.

He gave me directions to his house and my asked my preferred bedroom furniture style, assuming I was staying overnight. "Early American, Louis XV, Shaker, Scandinavian?"

"How many bedrooms do you have?"

"Five, including my lovely baroque monstrosity" he said with a chuckle. "I'd expected one of my kids would visit. But it never happens -- even holidays.

Was the flirting masking some sort of sadness? He was a puzzle I would have to figure out. "Scandinavian will be fine."

The drive to his house was pleasant enough, although longer than I might have expected. But his house was a complete surprise. What had once been a three story block of stores possibly in a defunct town was now Stately Morelli Manor, I giggled, imagining Morelli more Alfred than Batman. Trees had time to grow, but I could see a few old chimneys around. The house itself had small double sash windows and brick where plate glass windows had been. Most of the doors had been bricked up, although the roofed entrance niches remained.

I saw Kevin Morelli standing by a massive doorway in the middle, where the parallel rows of stores met. A tile and stained glass arch led to a large double door. He gestured for me to come inside. A passageway led to what I can best describe as a "great hall" straight out of a medieval castle with a rectangular table stood surrounded by nine chairs, assorted shelves and cabinets and large fireplace on the wall opposite the entry. The long walls running along both sides showed their storefront origins with numerous indentations indicating different stores. I realized this had once been an alley with parking spaces on both sides. The ceiling was over three stories high and had four evenly spaced skylights made of blue and red squares of translucent glass.

Two stairways began, one on each side of the fireplace, coming to a landing that met behind the fireplace. Then a final set of steps led to a balcony leading to the two second floor balconies, doubling as hallways.

* * *

"Your room is the first on the right-hand side," I said, noticing her fascination in the woodworking. I would have to tell her of my decision, but figured it could wait until it would be too late for her to take action. "Dinner will be at seven. Dress, optional," I said, smiling at my double entendre. "I'll be on the ground floor -- or basement, if you prefer."

"How do I ..?"

"Door off the entry," I said. "Mind the sign above the doorway. Oh and is pizza acceptable?"

"Always," she replied, laughing, "some cola too, if you don't mind."

I smiled and nodded my head. I went downstairs into my den. Sitting at my desk, I hit the space bar on my computer keyboard to get it out of sleep mode. I looked at my Videos directory. "August 19 1975 - London" Good concert, I decided, making that selection. My black Les Paul through a Marshall Stack -- personally "hot rodded" for me by Jim Marshall himself, producing sweet feedback. Then my keyboard arsenal; a Hammond B-3 organ, Rhodes electric piano, Mellotron, Mini-Moog synthesizer. The classic Differences line-up with Mick's powerful, intentionally imprecise drumming. Ian and Alan perfectionists as always. My voice and playing were strong and the audience gratifyingly noisy.

I then selected "March 30 2012 - Boston. Digital keyboards, acceptable but lacking the "tweakability" of the vintage synthesizers and a $500 drum machine instead of the irreplaceable Mick. My playing was acceptable but my voice showed strain. Audience was respectful but unenthusiastic. It was that show where the seed was first planted, one which took years to germinate.

But now a complication. This nosy Kristi O'Shea person. How long was she planning on staying? I suppose I could check through her luggage -- number of undergarments would be an indication. Odd, I thought, how some of my biggest female fans from way back, took my lyrical hints and never bothered with the flimsy "guardians of decency." I was never Frank Sinatra -- who needed nine pairs a day. I'd gone entire decades without any -- a luxuriously long English bath or the quickness of the high-water pressure American shower made it all relatively sanitary.

Following through on my plans without telling her would, of course, be rude. My mind was made, though. I could be vague. Mick's body was found in a nasty pool of all the various nastiness the human body was capable of producing -- the Time of Death uncertain. I looked through my "Unreleased Songs" file and selected "day_or_night.wav" my would-be comeback song. Good arrangement, solid guitar solo, but the one missing track stuck out, not so much as a sore thumb, but as a demon perched on my shoulder gnawing away at the back of my skull.

* * *

I was impressed -- stunned even -- by the place. How he turned a small commercial block into a mansion was mind-blowing. His attention to detail was fantastic. From the imported hardwoods in the carved railings to the Spanish tiles on the hallway floors. And private -- close to an hour away from town. The closest sign of civilization, I remembered, being a tiny strip mall about a half hour's drive with a beverage store, dollar store, and a pizza place, I couldn't help but wonder where the locals -- the raccoon and deer got their dollars.

My room was nice. Paneled walls, hand-crafted Scandinavian-style furniture -- none of the "Allen Wrench included" stuff you usually think when you hear the word "Scandinavian." The carpet was nice diagonal geometric pattern, thicker blue and thin brown on white. And without any horrifying stains -- the kind making you think every hotel room in America was used to make porn. The bathroom had both a tub and a shower -- both built for either one or two, or even three bathers was a nice touch. I made a few calculations and figured he must have been around 50 when he moved here.

Typical middle-age male behavior, I mused. Pour your heart and soul into a project but leave enough hints around that you are not over the hill. I might have to check his medicine cabinet for the "hard-on pills" he'd joked about.

All that driving was tiring and I needed a nap. I took off my bra, which I wore more for decorum than actual need, and then climbed on the pine-framed bed. Norwegian pine? Isn't it fine? I thought, drifting off to sleep.

I woke up with the pizza delivery. I slipped on my pullover leaving my bra behind. During dinner, I noticed Morelli's appreciative but hardly lecherous glances. "So," he said, taking his second slice, "you've seen the main floor and the guestroom area. The third floor is rather dull, two parallel storerooms, full of all the stuff I might need 'someday'."

"And beneath here?" I asked, tapping my foot on the floor.

"Everything," he said, and then took a bite of pizza. "Den, workshop, gym, and my home studio."

"So you're still making music?"

"By whose standards?" he asked, cynicism in his voice. "By the standards of the '60s, '70s, '80s and even the '90s, definitely. But file sharing, corporate greed, and egocentric divas and their rapper boyfriends killed music."

"Pessimistic view," I said.

"Oh, there are some good songs coming out, to be sure. Mostly independent labels and bands nobody's ever -- or will ever -- hear of. A few greedy companies lied to the Clinton Administration, getting them to change FCC rules. It's been downhill ever since. Less local flavor, minuscule playlists. How many great songs has, say, Neil Diamond or Stevie Nicks written? How few of them do you hear on the radio.?"

He stood up. "When you're done eating, come downstairs, just follow the sound." I finished my third slice and gulped down the cola. I tore open a wet-wipe packet to clean my hands. Even there, I could clearly hear the music from downstairs. Acoustic guitar, bass, drums -- drum machine most likely -- and keyboards. I smiled, thinking 'so he likes playing with himself,' noticing the lead guitar was the instrument he was stopping and restarting with.

The songs were more recent, noticeably missing vocals. I'd read he had been struggling with his voice, often cited as the reason he quit recording. Still, with what I was able to guess the melody as being, none of his songwriting skills declined.

Okay, I thought, doorway at the entry hall. Which one -- there was one on each side. Chose one, closet with a few jackets, and jeans and a t shirt sharing a hanger -- in case of a 'nudie day' and an unexpected visitor? Then I walked to the other side and the other,door. Bingo.

I followed the music down the stairs and found a sign above the door. The rectangular sign with dimmed neon tube letters said "Recording in Progress. KEEP OUT!" So I went inside. Kevin Morelli had a guitar strapped around his shoulder -- a Gibson SG, if memory served. But both hands were on two different keyboards, the two forming a ninety-degree angle. The drawbars and dual keyboards on the left indicated an organ -- as did the word 'Hammond,' clearly visible. The one to the right seemed to be a compact electronic piano. There were a number of other keyboards slightly raised from these two.

He immediately noticed me but kept playing until he was finished with the piece. "Nice little setup," he said, gesturing to the array of keyboards.

"I know some of them," I said, focusing on this mysterious three-octave white instrument sitting on the organ. "And some ..."

"Ah!" he said, noticing what I was looking at. "My Memotron -- a digital Mellotron. Back in the old days' I had an original. 120 pounds of temperamental machinery -- one 3-track tape player per key, nine seconds of actual pre-recorded sound. This one uses computer memory instead of tapes and is lighter, more reliable, and a fraction of the price." He pressed a key and a familiar string sound came through his sound system. "The classic 3 violin voice." His fingers ran up the keyboard, sometimes playing two or three notes. "Everyone from Yes Genesis, and the Moody Blues to Aerosmith, Bob Seeger, and Lynyrd Skynyrd used this sound." He turned a knob and started to play a few very familiar flute notes.

"'Strawberry Fields Forever,'" I said.

"My," he said, pleased. "A song a good twenty years older than you. Impressive. Most people have a bias for music of their teens and early twenties."

"Does that make me two hundred years too young to enjoy Beethoven?"

He switched back to the violin setting and played the opening to the Fifth Symphony. "I certainly hope not."

* * *

Her interviews were, in the main, biographical. Where I'd been, where I thought the music industry was heading. She sometimes betrayed an odd bit of the fan I've sometimes noticed in younger women. Those who'd never give a second thought to the old bloke sitting on the bus, but would be enthusiastic about sleeping with a Jagger or a Dylan. No, I did not get the same vibes from Kristi, but those that I did get were not that far off the mark -- willingness to risk losing her bookstore job by missing work for this interview chief among them.

It soon became clear that she was planning more than an interview, but an entire biography. A nice idea, but one that would require her staying past my self-imposed "expiration date." As that day drew near, I decided I would have to tell her my plans.

One night, I called her down to the studio and showed her a fair-sized apparatus with sliders and a color LCD. "Know what this is?" I asked.

"Some sort of recorder," she half-asked. "Digital?"

"Exactly," I said. "A 24-track digital recorder. Back in the day, any musician worth his salt would have given his firstborn for such a beast." I pushed a few buttons and a song started playing. "This was to be the opener on my come-back album,"

She listened intently, noticing the missing track. "Not intentionally an instrumental," she commented. "Where are the vocals?"

"In my head," I said, handing her a clipboard with a sheet of loose leaf paper, half the words scratched out. "Some years ago, I realized my voice was in decline. Now, my voice is shot and even writing a complete lyric is becoming damn near impossible."

"I'm sorry," she said.

"Anyway," I said, stopping the song, "I've two significant dates upcoming. The seventieth anniversary of my birth and the thirty-fifth anniversary of my old drummer's demise -- oddly enough at about the same time, give or take a few hours. As my career in music is over, it is fitting that I ..."

Her face went white, realizing my plan. "But ..." was all she could say.

"I've heard there is contentment that comes when one sees the end and finds acceptance there. I've felt that contentment for some time."

"But I could ..."

"You can do nothing," I said, perhaps with more emphasis than intended. "The county once had a psychiatric ICU facility and suicide prevention hot line, but the funding was cut apparently to build the President's wall. Even the closest doctor is a good 40 minute drive."

She looked confused, still fixated on the multi-track recorder's display.

"Have you ever heard of Donald Cammel?" I asked. "English director. From what I've heard, realizing his career was at an end, made a study of human anatomy and one night, gathered his closest friends at his house, hours from any medical facility. Shot himself where he knew he would have sufficient time to say his goodbyes and reminisce about the old times. Lasted forty-five minutes, lucid most of that time. A good way to die."

She tried arguing my plan, seeming to go through all sorts of 'what-ifs' in her mind.

"But you're a clever one," I said, noticing her annoying never-say-die attitude. "No, just expect to wake up some morning and find I've passed on -- no rude surprises or shock, I promise. I'll not go like my drummer, sprawled on his bathroom floor; puking, pissing and shitting himself after the wrong mix of pills and booze. Finally, writhing in agony from his misadventure, he took this elaborate dagger he'd purchased in Singapore and made an effective if imprecise incision, severed his trachea and several important blood vessels. No, my death will be a very calm affair. I do apologize in advance for the inevitable stink."

* * *

He walked toward the door. "I do need to revise my will," he said, winking at me.

This was not going to happen, I decided checking his facts on my computer. "Kevin Morelli: Time of Birth, about 2AM. Mick Barker: Time of Death: Midnight to 4AM (approx.) Cause of Death: Suicide by kris during violent alcohol/amphetamine interaction. I clicked the link. Kris or Keris; Javanese dagger most often having a wavy blade. The picture suggested slashing one's own throat with such a weapon would be very painful. I read the rest of Mick Barker's biography and realized he was an intelligent, capable musician who simply liked to mix pills with his liquor and sometimes shove his bandmates through hotel walls.

Now, I'd spend the next few days pretending not to know what the Internet told me, dressing as I knew he liked, making mental notes and downloading instructional videos. I never locked my bedroom door, but he was still the English gentleman; ever polite -- even in his planned self-destruction.

But I'd outlined a very complete biography which meant I always had enough questions not to give him much free time. We went over his poor but happy childhood in postwar England. His adolescence and first bands. But for every two questions I had for him, he had one for me. When I asked him about a teenage encounter with his guitarist, mentioned in one of the British music magazines, he asked, "You went to college," he said laughing. "Never even a brief dalliance with a room mate?"

I blushed.

"Come on!" he said, still laughing. "I told you all about me and Alan -- and mind you, back then, buggery was still a crime in the UK. When you went to college, wasn't it expected?"

I smiled and shook my head. "Not expected, but not surprising either. There was this girl in my fourth year journalism class. Sara. She was so incredibly open about it all," I admitted. "Her boyfriends and girlfriends. Her vacations in Jamaica for her and a female lover. How they would dance together and walk hand-in-hand to the beach, not caring what anyone thought. I was tired of being alone. I was tired of being seen as so innocent ... so unreachable. I wanted to feel that freedom she felt. So after a long talk over a few glasses of wine, she agreed to give me a try. I did feel I'd accomplished something amazing, but my life didn't change that much. It was fun and something I had to experience."

"So what happened to her?"

"Ugh!" I said, the memory still painful. "After years of being too open, she got a job teaching fifth grade English. Then she started getting paranoid. Storing canned goods in her basement, buying guns, having her car packed and ready to leave at a moment's notice. Afraid someone was going to blackmail her. She distanced herself from everyone involved in her past. That hurt. By this time, my curiosity was satisfied and I'd moved on to guys -- but it still hurt."

"Losing a friend. I was lucky, for me it was about sex -- never emotional."

I looked down. No, Sara and I were sex-buddies, but never truly lovers. I missed her as the sexy, fun blonde she'd once been. But what about your first wife?" I asked, changing the subject. "The model."

"Nikki?" he asked. "Unwritten rule -- models have at least two husbands. The nice guy first and then the bad boy. Even in the swinging sixties, I was always a gentleman. Nikki left me for a bad boy. He eventually left her for a bustier model, and she married another bad boy -- one half her age."

I needed to end the conversation. I couldn't get my mind off Sara, how badly I missed that ditzy, flaky old friend and wondered how she could have changed so much. How she came to distrust people who would never betray her trust. How she could close off her world to those who'd be happy just to see her smile.

I sat on my bed, laptop on, looking at the video on computer screen. An Englishman about my age sounding like a DJ was beginning Lesson One. Poor paranoid Sara, I thought. She taught me a lesson one, and lessons two, three, four, and five, at that.

* * *

The bloody Internet was too good at providing information. Sixty ways to painlessly kill yourself. Even Paul Simon only found fifty ways to leave one of his lovers. Now which method would be the most "me?" I already had all my needed supplies when this annoyingly cheery Kristi person asked for an interview. The hour approached. If midnight was the Witching Hour, 2am was considered by some to be the Demon's Hour. I remembered touring the US in the late '60s and watching a rather gothic soap opera. One character, badly wounded in a duel, died at 2 am, paying a very brief, ghostly visit to his fiancee at the moment of death. Mick saw that episode. I wondered if that influenced his substance-addled brain fifteen years later.

I decided to give the house one last walk-through -- like Nelson before Trafalgar or Picard before facing the Borg. I was impressed with what I'd accomplished with the place. Imagination and enough money to hire most of the town's craftsmen made for a magnificent dwelling. Leaving my bedroom, I walked through both storage rooms. Goodbye violin that I never figured out. Goodbye teal spandex pants I wore in '78. Goodbye books I'd planned to read and records I'd planned to listen to. Goodbye various kits, bought but never built.

As I got back to my bedroom, I could hear something coming from the basement. I needed to investigate.

As I got closer, I could hear music -- my comeback song. But now it had vocals. Clear female vocals free of digital enhancement with just the slightest hint of vocal fry. I ignored my red neon "DO NOT ENTER" sign and rushed inside. Kristi was holding the microphone, looking at the lyric sheet I'd shown her, but edited in her handwriting with all the lines that never came to me. I was in awe, hearing the emotion in her voice. It was perfect.

She reached over to the recorder and pressed Stop. "What do you think?" she asked.

"How did you figure it?" was all I could say.

"I remembered an interview you gave one of the British papers where you claimed to do your best recording when naked."

Now it may have been from being around too many naked women in my 55 years as a musician that I had failed to notice the unbuttoned blue plaid flannel shirt was all she was wearing.

"The words came to me, standing here, exposing myself to your creative energy. Got too cold for total nudity." She turned around. "Like what you see?"

"My God!" I said, tongue-tied by the totality of the situation -- her voice, my song, her reading my thoughts and turning them into lyrics, her very appealing body. I mumbled something, indecipherable, even to me.

"What?" she asked, giggling.

"Uh, better than Viagra," I said, although I have to figure an explanation was unnecessary.

Suddenly we were both naked. Suddenly we were both on my bed having sex. Suddenly it was sunrise and suicide furthest from my thoughts. I looked at Kristi and realized I had found something very special: a protege, a collaborator, and a lover and a friend. Someone I could help become a star and steer away from any of the professional hazards that ended so many promising careers. In short, she'd given me a reason for living.

* * *

"Who is Kevin Morelli, you may ask. This old geezer whose bed I usually share? My producer, manager, and PR guy? The guy my parents can't get over the fact that I'm involved with? Yes. And much more.

Everyone asks about our vast age difference and the likeliness I'll outlive him. I already have. He meant to die a while ago, but I got in the way.

But what about Mick Barker? A man who lived his life by his own rules. It ultimately caught up with him, but from all I've heard and read, there's no doubt he truly enjoyed life. On the other hand is Sara who sacrificed so much to live her life by other people's rules. Happiness for safety. Friendships for respectability. Love for? Not a reasonable trade-off. Not at all.

Maybe we've all been living on borrowed time from the moment we took our first breaths, our expiration dates things we keep pushing forward. Oh, it will happen, but it isn't the number of those moments but how well we spend them.

I seem to be getting more philosophical the older I get. I blame Kevin!

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2018-11-12
Image(s) © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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