Nights in the Attic
Professing the blues as my religion in 1993, I would drive my 1959, Edsel, Villager Station-wagon down to The Attic Bar in Hamtramk, Michigan every Thursday night to witness, Jeff Maylin (A.K.A. “Detroit Slim” at the time) herald the 12 bar sweetness, for a select crowd. At that time, Jeff was a 40s something legend of the Detroit blues scene. The Attic venue on Thursday nights was an especially good setting because it was a rather cozy and intimate place. I would leave work, after shift, from the door factory and drive down interstate 75 south to the Caniff exit. It would take me twenty minutes to get there if traffic was light from the Troy sub-urbs.
I was an under-age drinker at age 19, but I quickly became assimilated into the regular crew of drunks and my double, Black Jack was usually waiting on the bar by the time I sat down. I always tipped like the bar was going out of business tomorrow. Some friends of mine from the factory introduced me to the bartender, Paul. Paul and I became friends, or as friendly as we would be able to become.
“Double Black Jack and Coke, Paul” I stated walking through the door on no particular Thursday night.
“Sure thing, Jared” Paul replied.
I sucked down the first series of drinks as if they were a diamond mine, hoarding each one, and eager for the next strike. The rapid succession lent itself well to the chain-smoking out of my box of Marlboro Reds.
“Woooo! All Right! All Right!” I shouted, clapping my hands with much ruckus and bravado. Exhausting cigarette smoke through my nose, my leather jacket became a smoke infused garment of armor. Between the jacket, the boots and the 50s Detroit steel I was driving; “Hood” was the only term to call to mind in defining my appearance, demeanor and characterization.
The Attic itself was an antiquated bar, probably built in the 20s. It was three separate rooms with two rest rooms in the middle on the main room or bar, along the back wall. The pool room was off to the left and the stage and main dining area were off to the right. The pool room housed two, 6 foot, bar tables that were as uneven as the power structure of Detroit. The rails were equally as crooked. The pool room was lit with fluorescent overheads and darkness dwelled within, most times. The main bar was brightly lit with antique fixtures and you could see the lights reflection in Paul's bald top all the time. The stage was well lit, but main dining was as dark a peep show movie theater, and just as dirty.
During intermission, Carlos and I would disappear out to the Edsel to smoke some marijuana. Jeff never did smoke pot, nor drink but man that coffee mug and perpetually burning cigarette were in his hands, sure as taxes.
One note about the Attic. In the apartments above lived the “Skyscrapers” of the blues; The Butler Twins. They were also a gas to see live and I did on Friday nights there.
The pot and the Double Jacks had increased my buzzing and I was ready for the second set, or was it the third? I decided to move into the main cathedral of the Attic. The stage was Jeff's “Altar” with just three notes he was able to elevate the consciousness, heighten brain-wave activity and depress the clutch; making the shift from mind, to heart, to soul using an 80s, white, Squire Strat. Cigarette dangling from the corner mouth, Jeff took the stage, and by took it, he ascended to it in the most deliberate fashion. He wore black pants, and a white t-shirt with the sleeves cut off of it. He was about 6',1” tall, lean and full of raw energy. His expression could go from happy-go-lucky to menacing, clouded-dark, ending in lizard-creature in just about two bad words.
I struck a flame to a fresh Marlboro, just to and in honor of the ceremony. Taking a gingerly contemplated sip off the Black Jack, I was ready to be blown back 40 years. Jeff began to play, a slow blues building in crescendo over the measures. It heightened my buzz for some unknown reason, I was awe-struck.
“The blues is the best drinking music” I muttered to myself.
I had the feeling that I had transcended time and space, I was back in the 40s or 50s in every possible way. Jeff wailed on the Squire, showing it no quarter. Notes that had not yet been transcribed seem to be issuing forth from the Peavy tube. A chorus of angel-demons was warming up somewhere above. The music kept spiraling me out further and further, like a planet on the outer most ring of it's elliptical orbit. Color, sound, light, darkness, shape, feeling and emotion fused under the smoke and dimness. I thundered applause as Zeus would hurl lightening bolts in fury. My cheers that issued forth were proportionate to my level of intoxication. The energy flowed through Jeff into my being.
Promptly at 2am, Bad Passion began to break down and benedict out. I headed home gently, and felt good for the next two days. In my thoughts, I could not wait till the next Thursday. Next Thursday. . ..