(My brother Drew loved this story and I dedicate its retelling to his memory)
As you all know by now from reading my blog, I was a Philly Band Groupie. I say this proudly, because the Philly Band Groupie is different from your standard groupie. Philly Band Groupies are male and female, friends and family members and none of the above, people who hung with the band or wish they would have, people who slept with band members or wish they would have. It was our club night, our weekend plans in Philly, Jersey or Delaware (sometimes, rarely, Maryland, thank you Hammerjacks and Ocean City). It was called “the band scene” and it included the three cabarets, JC Dobb’s, the Empire, the 4 & 1, DJ Bananas and so many more. For about five or six years in the late eighties and early nineties, the Philly band scene was the happening scene. And it was in 1994, toward the end of its heyday, when I met Bob Bar in a Bag.
After The Hooters graduated to the national scene in 1985, Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers were being promoted as the next rock band to break into the Big Time. Chris Day was the lead guitarist. Shortly after recording their first album for Columbia, Chris left the band and started from scratch with his own band, the eponymously titled Chris Day. (I always found it confusing when he would announce from the stage, “We are Chris Day.” I guess calling themselves “Day” would have seemed clipped and boring, but the band wasn’t Eddie Van Halen. The band wasn’t Gunnar Nelson. Okay. Those are brother bands. The band wasn’t Chris Daughtry.) Anyway, in a karmic justice sort of situation, Chris went through several lead guitarists and one of them had a best friend who looked like Extreme lead singer Gary Cherone (Yes, most girls screamed for Nuno; I was a Gary fan). Dressed in black with long, dark curly hair flowing down his back, he first caught my eye one night at the club inside Tudor’s where Chris was playing. I thought maybe he was a member of the opening band from the way he was walking around and talking to people and the way people seemed to know him, but when the opening band came on, he was still in the crowd.
. “So who do you think that is?” I asked Lisa.
. We started making up stories about who he could possibly be, and I lent him many exotic names: Xavier, Shane, Stavros. (This was 1994; those names were exotic for a Northeast Philly girl). I settled on Bob. “I bet his name is Bob,” I said, explaining that someone who looked that fascinating probably had the most common name on the planet.
. Right before Chris went on stage Lisa decided to ask Barney (not his name), who worked for Chris and who Lisa was or was not dating (almost twenty-five years later and she still doesn’t know).
. “Why?” Barney asked. “Does Rachel like him?” This was why we were reluctant to ask him anything about anyone. He was so nosy and I wanted my conquests to remain under the radar. No self-respecting Philly Band Groupie wanted the objects of her affection to know who they were. Anyway, Barney told us he was Chris’ new guitarist’s bff. “I think his name is Bob.” Needless to say, I laughed so hard I cried.
. Turns out his name was actually something else, so where Barney got Bob from I still don’t know, maybe we were having telepathy or something. But to me he remained Bob, the ever elusive, un-netted social butterfly Bob, who I could never seem to pin down long enough to get eye contact, let alone introduce myself. (Turns out the lack of him being able to focus on me was from his being essentially toasted all the time, but how was I to know that then?)
. One night Chris Day was playing at JC Dobbs on South Street. Lisa and I were roaming around outside between sets, ducking in and out of stores and probably having ice cream or pizza, when who do we run into on the corner of third and South? Yes, Bob. He was carrying this black duffel bag and looked a little lost. Feeling a little bold (cruising South Street in a tight skirt among a bunch of misfit weirdos just like you will do that to a gal), Lisa and I saddled up to either side of him.
. “Where you going?” I asked.
. It took a while for him to focus his glassy eyes on me. I noticed all the little freckles on his face. He was either mulatto with weak pigmentation or Asian or Hispanic or some combination of all. He was so very interesting-looking. Except for the glassy-eyed thing.
. “Why?” he asked.
. “Because maybe we’ll go with you,” I said. I knew where he was going: JC Dobbs to watch his friend play guitar. Since we were going to the same spot, why not go together? Logical to me.
. “Do I know you?” he asked.
. Now this was just getting fun. “Do you want to?” I asked. Since he was clearly out of his mind, I was not intimidated at all. I could knock him over with a hip bump.
. He looked around, like he was scared, like we might kidnap him or something. “I’m waiting for my fans,” he said.
. “What do you do that warrants fans?” That from Lisa.
. “Why?” he asked. By now Lisa and I were laughing uncontrollably.
. “Because maybe we’ll become some,” Lisa answered. I pointed to the bag. “What you got in there?”
. At this he seemed to come alive. He slung the handles along one arm and opened the zipper a little with the other hand. “Everything I need,” he said. The whole bag was filled with booze. Full-size bottles, not the hotel mini bar kind, either. Bob stumbled a little. Lisa and I stared at each other. Maybe this wasn’t so funny anymore.
. “Should we take him home?” I asked her. “He might get hurt out here.”
. She rolled her eyes at me. Okay, yes, my motives were selfish. I saw the morning, me making Bob eggs and coffee, he being so grateful that I saved him from wandering the city and perhaps getting jumped or worse. But I was also genuinely concerned.
. “Are you okay?” I asked him and he just stared at me.
. “Okay,” I said, taking his hand. “Come with us.”
. Lisa’s protests and declarations of “Oh My God, what are you doing?” were short-lived. As we were crossing the street to the parking lot where my car was parked, Barney’s sister came upon us.
. “Jason,” she said, using his real name (which is not his real name). “What are you doing out here?”
. “He’s really messed up,” Lisa said to her. “We’re getting him home.”
. “I’ll take care of him,” sis said, taking his arm from me.
. “Where are you taking him?” I asked.
. “He can sleep it off backstage,” she said. Although I didn’t think this was a good idea, and I also wanted to tell her to back off, I saw him first, I had no idea where he lived or even if he’d be able to tell me. So against my better judgment I released my bounty and watched her walk him back to Dobb’s. Shortly thereafter Chris also fired this guitar player, and I never saw Jason again, whom Lisa and I had re-named Bob Bar in a Bag.
About a year later one hit wonder Joan Osborne was all over the airwaves, MTV rotation and music magazines (remember when those mattered to a musician’s career?) thanks to Philly God Eric Bazilian’s composition, “One of Us.” In one of the magazines I was flipping through in my hairdresser’s reception area (I think it was Spin), there was an article on Joan, who was also promoting her next single and video, “St. Teresa.” She tells the interviewer that she has a pair of dirty panties stuffed in her purse from last night’s tryst, whom she just left to get to this interview on time. Can I just stay here for a minute? You know how much I love dissecting the constant cry of certain women and how they want to be seen as equals to men in enjoying sex and being okay with parading around about how much they get and how they’re not whores, just having casual sex like their male counterparts, who instead of getting shamed get high-fived and slapped on the back. If I were reading an interview with Richard Ashcroft (who was also featured in the issue of this magazine) and he said he had his dirty underwear in his guitar case because he was fresh from screwing somebody and hadn’t thought to bring a fresh pair, I’d be thinking the same thing about him that I thought of Joan: ew. TMI. Oh, I want to be known for my music, but let’s start off the interview talking about my cheesy cum crotch. Oh, and I know I sing about God and someone I call St. Teresa,” who sounds like a nun, really I’m a naughty, raunchy girl. Thank God for Lilith Fair, or we may never have heard from Joan and her panties again. Actually, where are the women of Lilith Fair? All of them. The performers and the audience who failed to keep them making music. Off in some angry corner, I suppose. Hopefully Joan is at home with a tub fool of Woolite. Anyway, I am going somewhere with this.
After reading the article, I did think it was a good idea to always be prepared with fresh panties and a toothbrush. I thought of Bob Bar in a Bag, and how he was always ready with what mattered to him. Wherever he went, however long he stayed within a twenty-four to forty-eight hour period, he had the essentials. So instead of just panties and a toothbrush stuffed into my purse—which sometimes when clubbing was only big enough for ID, cards, cash and a lipstick—I decided on an overnight bag of sorts that I would keep in my trunk. No ghetto survival kit for me. This girl needed more than panties and a toothbrush. I decided to also include pajamas, fresh stretchies (what they were called before someone thought “yoga pants” sounded more sophisticated, even if you bought them at Bradlees) and an oversized t-shirt. Makeup remover pads and moisturizer. Deodorant. A book, in case I left my car at the club and it was a long train ride back. Oh, okay, in case the book was more fascinating than he was or if he drank too much, whatever, I go everywhere with a book, don’t judge (ironic, since I’ve basically Hot Benched Joan Osborne all over this bitch). And this was my emergency plan, packed away in a Mickey Mouse duffel I kept in my trunk. My next birthday, Lisa upgraded me to the black bag in the picture, just like Bob’s, only smaller.
Now that my Bob Bar in a Bag days are officially over (I’m so not spur of the moment, and never have been, actually. Never used the contents of the BBB in any official capacity. Okay, I may have changed into the stretchies after bleeding on my car seat during a heavy period) I’ve decided to take it on this road trip home to Philly with me and leave it in the hotel room. It’s in excellent condition. Maybe someone out there will take it and, in essence, pick up the torch. Maybe I’ll even get it started for her. Panties and lotion from Victoria’s Secret, a toothbrush and a travel sized paste, some Yes grapefruit facial wipes and moisturizer. A few tampons and a book, something by Liane Moriarty. A $10 gift card to Chik-Fil-A (hopefully she won’t get the after-naughty hungers on a Sunday). And a note from me. And Joan Osborne. Okay, Eric Bazilian:
. What if God was one of us?
. Just a slob like one of us?
. Just a stranger on a bus
. Tryin’ to make his way home?
Wouldn’t He need this bag?