Adam Fieled (Editor, Philadelphia, USA): from "Chimes"


Our dinner with the enchantress had the feel of a covert operation. We snuck out when no one was looking. It was a brisk night in early autumn; all light had vanished as we pulled into the parking lot of a Friday’s-type joint. By this time, I had been allotted the role of father to my father; I was to oversee his actions, approve them, endure his impetuosity and confer forbearance on his enterprise. She was there; a slight, pretty lady in her early thirties. Her mouth, I noticed immediately, never closed; not because she was talking, but because she was perpetually startled, innocently shocked by everything. Just as I was overseeing Dad, he was overseeing her; manipulating her innocence into compliance, overwhelming her insecurities with certitude. He sat in the booth next to her, rather than across from her, and his hands weaved a determined path over all her pliant skin. He was playing to win.


Now all pretences of normalcy and calm were dropped. Once I had conferred my (suddenly papal) blessing, my father’s dynamism was terrific. We would move, he and I, into a new house with the enchantress and her two kids. Before I knew it the thing was arranged; a new house was waiting, of the same design, and right around the corner from the old one. The enchantress left her husband and my dad left his wife and their baby. This cyclone of activity insured that Dad and the enchantress never really got to know each other. The enchantress and I barely spoke at all. She was not bright; her lure was all physical. She was afraid of me like she was afraid of everything else. Dad held me to my paternal role. He professed to need me and I rationalized everything. Festive had given way to festering.


In the new house I had two small rooms: a bedroom and a “playroom” that I used for music. I had a Les Paul and insomnia and I would pace and play with no amp into the wee hours. It became known at Cheltenham that I was a guitar player and soon older kids were interested in me. Before long I was in a band. The other guys were older and had cars. I was a freshman and looked even younger. Yet I became more or less the leader. We had to pick songs that we could sing: Smithereens, After Midnight (the real, fast version, not the beer commercial), but I had to convince them I could sing Whipping Post. As with Ted, I became the Quixote, mad musical scientist. This was my first band but I knew instinctively our time together wouldn’t be long. I learned that not everyone who plays has any real commitment to playing; some just do it to be cool, or because it’s there, or to feel special. So I decided to give them only half of me; that’s what I did.


A sense of things not being right manifested in the new house immediately. I had nothing to say to the enchantress or her children; they had nothing to say to me. Dad’s gaiety became shrill and forced. I had no good advice for him; he had given me a role I could not begin to fulfill. Within six weeks, the enchantress and her children were gone, back to the husband and father they had abandoned. Dad and I were alone in a creepy house, a shadow of the one we had so lately left. Dad’s reaction to this stunning failure was to ape superiority; that though everything had gone wrong it was not his responsibility. Others had let him down. He had always been flinty; he became flintier. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of having been involved in a spectacular mess; I felt and shared Dad’s criminality, which he himself had (to and for himself) abjured. I bore the burdens that he would not.


Ted and I went to see Dead Again in Jenkintown. Continuance had been broken; we were in high school and had no classes together and did not see each other every weekend. Dad picked us up from the theater and tried to establish some of the old master/slave rapport with Ted. It didn’t work; Ted played along, but the charm of the festive house had been overtaken by general creepiness and the feeling wasn’t the same. Once we were home for the night I could see that Ted wanted to leave. There were ghosts and echoes here but not like Mill Road; these were ghosts created by lust, inconsideration, precipitance, and madness. Dad’s new thing was to posit the whole experience as having been “no big deal”; he had no notion that others had been forced to experience anguish, on his behalf and at his behest.


Dad had a brother who was not significant, to him or me. He would show up for short periods of time: six months here, a year there, and then disappear again. However, he came to the new house with a prophecy. He had been to a psychic; the psychic had guessed my name, and predicted that I would soon reject Dad forever, and that if he wanted to salvage anything, he had better hurry up. It took a lot of nerve for my uncle to say this with both Dad and I sitting right there, but he did. Dad shrugged; I said it was bullshit; but it hit too close to home, and I made quick to leave the kitchen. I went down to my room and turned on the radio; I heard Great Gig in the Sky, at the exact moment where a voice says, if you can hear me say whisper, you’re dying. It was New Year’s Eve, 1991.

c Adam Fieled 2008