Musical Family Tree

Spreading Indiana Music

Robbie Mullet. I hadn't thought about him for sometime. I was staring at the autographed drum cymbal, turning it over in my hands. It was still shiny, just a little tarnished around the edges, the writing in black, bold marker looked just like it was written yesterday; "To Jhonny, Luv your Zaaa-I broke me Cymbal cravin' it!! Luv ya! Robbie." Then; "P.S. Luv ya Babe!!!" Below that almost as an after thought he scrawled the name of his band, "TOXIN." The crack in the golden disk ran in a jagged arc through the middle of it for about five inches. It was still sharp. I smiled as I held the memento of my deranged, lunatic past life.

Rob had given the cracked cymbal to me for the wall of my restaurant. He wanted to be the first musician to donate something. He had an insatiable need for attention and strutted about like a Bantam Rooster instructing me where to attach the cymbal so it would get the most exposure. He pointed it out to everyone whenever he came in to see me. The most unforgettable memory I have of him though, took place years before I owned the Restaurant.

It was the sweltering Summer of 1989. The five of us sat in the living room of our house, "The Stud Barn", drinking beer and trying to stay cool before we had to go to work. The room was arranged into a large horseshoe shape consisting of two couches and two chairs. The couches were against the two side walls and the two chairs were sitting facing the front wall, so they could look out the large window that faced the street. A lot of good that did considering the window was so covered with grime that the outside world looked like a big animated smudge. Still, it allowed for the daylight to come in and the grime sure beat having to buy curtains. In the middle of this arrangement sat a crude coffee table made of cinder blocks and plywood. Posters and fliers were unceremoniously taped to the surrounding walls. The stereo in the corner was playing a Punk Rock mix tape. The Dead Kennedys were screaming, "Let's Lynch the Landlord.." A small black and white Zenith sat on an end table silhouetted against the dirty glass of the window. This is where we sat when the front door crashed to the floor.

"Oh shit, I broke the door!" came a familiar voice. Our visitor hadn't broke the door however, that accomplishment belonged to our roommate Maurice, who was sitting on the east couch, affixing a chrome spike to his black leather jacket. To open the door now we simply picked it up, moved it to the side, came inside and then picked it up and moved it back into place. Maurice had locked himself out two days before and just decided to kick it in. He told us he'd fix it before winter arrived.

"Yo guys?! Ouch!! Anyone here?" Came the voice again.

"We're in here Robbie!" said Kate who was on the west couch with Mike, her boyfriend; my roomate. Kate wasn't an official roomate but lived with Mike on a part time basis. The other half of their time together was spent at her house, affectionately known as "The House of Raging Women".

"Dude, put the door back!" John said from one of the chairs. He was tired from skating all morning and when John was tired, he could get a little moody.

"You didn't break it Rob, just lean it up against the frame." I said taking a drink from my St. Paulie Girl. I sat next to John, bored and waiting for the hour hand to move to 3 o' clock so I could go to work. My shift slinging pizzas at the Italian Villa started at 3:30 but first I needed to square things with the Boss. He was pissed at me for drinking beer before my shift was over the night before. An apology and promise to "try to restrain myself" was all that was needed to set things straight. I just wanted to get it over with.

"Hey you guys!" Rob said as he rounded the corner into the living room.

"Hey Rob!" We said in unison. All except Maurice, who looked up from what he was doing and did one of those reverse nod things he did. The greeting people do on the street to acknowledge each other by nodding up instead of down.

"Yo Rob, wa'sup?"

"Man you're not gonna believe what happened to me!" Rob said with his most serious voice. "It's fucking unbelievable man!"

"What happened Robbie?" Kate asked him already giggling. Rob hadn't even started being funny but she knew the madness was not far off. Robbie was anything but serious.She knew his demeanor was going to break any minute into some sort of twisted soliloquy.

Robbie Mullet was a rock 'n roller through and through. He was put on the Earth for one reason, and that was to have fun. He never had a job that I knew of, but moved from one girlfriend to the next, living off of their labors, until he got caught cheating or they got sick of his mooching. He always seemed to have a line on the next place to live so he was never homeless. His band 'Toxin' played at parties or streetdances from time to time, but never went anywhere. It seems they were too busy leading a Rock and Roll lifestyle to actually go out and earn one.

I first met Robbie when I was 16 years old. I was at a party having a good time when I started hearing a scream every few minutes. The basement was crowded so visibility was poor, but every once in a while a woman would scream. It would be a different voice at different locations, I thought it was just some weird shenanigans. Then I saw him; this lanky, wild eyed madman stalking through the crowd. He had perfectly coiffed, dirty blond hair that looked similar to the style Rod Stewart was wearing. His clothes consisted of matching leather pants and vest, no shirt, and snakeskin boots. He looked every bit the 80's rock star.

I recognized him from a street dance earlier in the evening. He was the drummer for the heavy metal band, Toxin. They had brought the street dance to an end when their equipment overpowered the p.a. system, causing it to burst into flames. It was spectacular and I wanted to tell him so.

I started to walk towards him and stopped when I saw him get on his knees in back of Kate. She was busy talking to someone and neither of them saw Rob. I watched in amazement as he leaned forward and bit her in the ass! She jumped a few inches in the air like she had been stung by a bee. He was up and moving as Kate whirled around. He started walking fast in my direction. Kate saw him.

"Robbie! You BASTARD!!" She shrieked and came after him.

"Dude! Block for me!" He said as he began to run past.

I stepped out and Kate's eyes focused on me. She was furious, if laser beams had shot from her eyeballs right then, I would not have been surprised in the least. She didn't have to say a word to me, I stepped back and let her through. I heard more screams but these were different. They were coming from the mouth of the psuedo-rock star who had just fled upstairs. Kate caught him and she wasn't giggling.

The drummer caught me later by the shoulder and said, "Man, you were supposed to block for me."

I looked at his face, he had an angry welp under his left eye. His hair was mussed and his vest was ripped at the neck line. I laughed, "Dude, look at yourself! I wasn't gonna get my ass kicked because you bit the wrong butt!"

"Yeah, I wouldn't have blocked for you either. It was worth it though. Hey you gotta smoke I could bum? It's the least you could do." Rob was eyeing the pack in my shirt pocket. I gave him the Camel and we were friends from that day on.

This was the guy standing in my living room on that hot, humid summer day. His normally perfect Levis were ripped at the knee and he was kind of walking bowlegged. He grimaced as he took the last few steps so he could become part of the imaginary circle we had arranged ourselves into. He still wasn't smiling.

"So what's up Robbie? Sit down dude." John said a little tersely.

"I can't sit down, man! I'm crippled!" Robbie said with more than a little acrimony. He turned to me, "Burd, you got any pain pills? Dilaudid, Darvocet, Morphine, Something?"

"What do I look like Robbie? A pharmacy?" I said, surprised he was asking.

"Didn't you have some Valium last week? I'd take some of those." He countered.

"Dude, I got those from Jeremy. He stole them from his Mom."

"Could I at least have a beer? Ouch!! I'm dying here man!" Robbie winced again.

"In the fridge Rob, and don't touch the St. Paulie Girl that's mine. Take one of the Rolling Rocks, those are the communal beers." I instructed.

"Hey man while you're going that way..?" Maurice asked, making it clear he wanted Rob to get him one too.

"Me too!" called Kate.

"Me also!" called Mike smiling. Mike was always smiling. His mouth seemed to naturally turn up at the corners. Though I never saw him mad, I bet he smiled then as well.

Rob sighed and hobbled into the kitchen at the back of the house, "oohing" and "ouching" all the way. We could hear the fridge open and the clink of bottles as he freed them from the carton. The door shut and then there was a few seconds of silence.

"Where's the opener? You wankers!" Rob called in his best, fake English accent.

"In the freezer Rob, under the bat!" John called out.

"What bat..? Oh Jesus! Shit man!" Rob said from the kitchen.

"That Bat!" John smiled at everyone in the living room.

"That is pretty gross, you guys!" Kate told us.

The dead brown bat in the freezer was a trophy that our cat; Yang, had brought us a couple of days before. We decided that it would make the best hiding place for our new bottle opener. Bottle openers seemed to be the only utensils that were stolen everytime we had a party and we were sick of opening our beers in unconventional ways. We figured no one would touch the dead bat in the freezer so that would be the best place to hide it. The next party would be the first trial run of our hypothesis.

Rob hobbled back into the living room and passed out the beers. He stood between me and John, and took a long deep drink of his Rolling Rock. He made a face and then opened his mouth and let out a long, loud belch.

"If I catch rabies from this beer, I'm gonna sue all of you. Ouch!" Rob buckled over and grabbed his groin.

"Never thought about rabies." John said concerned. He looked at his beer and then wiped off the lip of the bottle on his dirty, Vision Skateboards shirt.

"What happened Robbie?" Kate asked for the second time.

"I just came back from the Hospital, Kate." Rob answered gesturing to the front of the house. Bloomington Hospital was located just across the street.

"Dude, what did you do?" Mike asked.

"I wrecked my bike, man."

"Wow, where's your bike Robbie?" Maurice spoke up.

"I left it parked in front of the Hospital, man. It's all fucked up! Had to drive it there from Kirkwood with the handle bars all crooked." Robbie winced again.

"Did you rack yourself?" John asked.

"Worse dude, I'm driving up Kirkwood and this big truck just stops right in front of me!" He holds his two hands in the air the way he would as though he was holding the handlebars of his motorcycle. Everyone in the room knew how Robbie drove his motorcycle. It was the same way he lived his life; hard and fast. I know without
confirming it that we were all thinking the same thing; "Sure, it was the truck's fault."

He went on, "so I had to slam on the brake and try to keep upright. Man, dude, I hit the back of that motherfucker going at least 40!” (The speed limit on Kirkwood Avenue was 25 miles per hour.) “The goddamn handle bars went like this;" he moved his left hand up and out and his right hand down and towards his crotch, simulating the way the handlebars turned on him. It was apparent to me then, why Rob was walking bowlegged.

"It mashed my BALLS man!" Rob bellowed. He was getting more animated now. He took a long swallow of beer and a deep breath. "My forks are all bent man! What the hell am I gonna do? I don't have the cash to fix it. We have a gig next week in Indy! I don't know how I'm gonna get there." He looked forlorn in a way.

"Why don't you get your rich girlfriend to pay for it Robbie?" Kate asked him

"Why don't you ride in the truck with Mel?" Asked John, getting a disgusted look from Rob. Mel was the guitarist of the band and a rather swarthy character. Robbie would just as soon hitch-hiked as sit next to Mel for an hour.

"Why'd you have to go to the Hospital?? I asked.

"Because I smashed my nuts, dude." Rob said with impatience.

"What can the Hospital do about that?" John inquired, confused.

"Man, the Nurses in the Emergency Room patched 'em up real good. I had to do a little screaming. They wouldn't give me any drugs though." Rob said with a little bitterness.

"Patched them up how, Robbie?" Kate was starting to giggle uncontrollably now.

"They wrapped 'em up and kind of made like a splint, whatever you call it." Rob said looking down at the crotch of his Levi's.

"Do you mean a sling, Robbie?" Mike asked incredulously.

"Yeah, dude you could say that." Robbie said. "Like if your arm was broken or something."

"You don't mean..." My voice trailed off.

"Say it." Maurice was starting to snicker.

"Robbie, are your balls in a sling?" I asked taking a swig of beer.

The room exploded. Kate and Mike hit the floor consumed with raucous laughter. Maurice started laughing silently and dabbing at his eyes with a bandana. Big deep gullets of chuckles, like giant sobs were coming from John as he held his belly in pain, trying to catch his breath. I couldn't help it either, I felt the beer I had just put in my mouth come out of my nose. I don't know how long the laughter lasted, but it was hard to stop.

"It's not funny you bastards!!" Rob screamed over the din. "My jewels have been pulverized!" He had a serious look on his face but the twinkle in Rob's eyes told me he was digging the attention.

"Dude, you mean that's not just an expression? Nooo waay!" I couldn't believe it.

"You don't believe me?" Robbie challenged.

"Show us Rob!" Kate cheered.

"Alright then." Robbie put the beer down and started unbuckling his jeans. His mouth was twisting into a crooked smile. Determined to prove the extent of his injuries he fumbled momentarily with the button fly and then peeled his jeans to his knees in one quick movement.

"Nice panties!" Mike said laughing a high pitched squeal.

Rob was wearing bright red leopard print bikini briefs. White medical tape was showing near the waistband. If there had been total darkness his underwear would have glowed. He showed no embarrassment about his choice of undergarments however.

"Dude, it's a rock 'n roll thing, you wouldn't understand." He said casually. "Now, check this out!" He pulled down his underwear.

There was a stunned silence.

The Ramones playing from the stereo sang, "Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock 'n roll high school..."

"Oh my God..." John said in a whisper.

Then the room erupted again. Beers hit the floor, we were slapping our knees. Maurice had his head in his hands, tears pouring down his cheeks again. John ran out of the room and fell into the front hall by the door. Kate and Mike were holding each other cackling like hyenas. I was paralyzed, laughing so hard it hurt. We didn't stop for at least a full five minutes.

When Rob pulled down his Red Leopard bikinis he lifted his flacid manhood to show us his testicles. To this day I can only imagine how the nurses came up with such an imaginative application of their medical skills. My guess is that they were desperate to get rid of this Maniac, who showed up in their Emergency Room, holding his crotch and
yowling like a mule. Rob's testicles had been wrapped in gauze over which medical tape had been gingerly applied. It appeared that they had been wrapped in a figure eight pattern; first around the testes a couple of times, then around the leg and over the hip back past Rob's buttock, then around his jewels one more time and up over the other hip and back, which did indeed, form a cradle of sorts. Rob's balls were, for lack of a better description, in a sling.

"See!! I'm not lying! I've been seriously injured man!" Rob screamed over the laughter which was dying down.

"I'll be back. Stay right there Robbie." Kate said as she ran back to Mike's room off the kitchen. She returned in moments with a Polaroid. "Everyone squeeze in for a picture with Rob's balls." She waved us over.

"Ummm..." John was saying. "I'm not entirely comfortable with this."

"Dude, this is like having your picture taken with Bigfoot or Martians. You are witness to something special right here, if you don't get in the picture, nobody will ever believe you were there." I implored him.

"O.K. but I want to be on the outside. You keep those things away from me, Robbie." John cautioned. He was wary but moved in next to Maurice and we all knelt down so everybody was in the picture. Robbie, smirking, remained standing so only his waist and ruined bollocks were in the frame.

"Say Nuts!" Kate yelled. She snapped the picture before we could say it and started giggling again.

"Dude, I am in some serious pain. They wouldn't even give me an aspirin over there." Rob was pulling up his briefs. The show was over it was back to the serious matter of pain management now.

"Would you like another beer Robbie?" John asked as we moved back to our respective places.

"Owwch! Yeah, John that would be great man. Could you walk to the kitchen this time dude. My 'nads' are dyin' over here." Rob had pulled up his underwear, his jeans were still around his knees.

"Sure Rob. Anyone else?" John took the orders and went to the kitchen.

"Why are the communal beers 'Rolling Rock?' What happened to Pabst?" Rob inquired.

"Deer Hunter." Maurice and Mike answered at once.

"Oh." Rob said nodding. He brought his jeans up but left them unbuttoned.

If we saw a movie we liked a lot, we would buy the beer the characters in the film drank. Three weeks previously the movie was Blue Velvet, so we drank Pabst Blue Ribbon and Heineken. The worst was after watching Repo Man when we drank generic "Beer" for 5 days. After that I started buying a 12 pack of St. Pauli Girl for myself as well as contributing to the 'communal beers'.

John came back, "Burd, it's almost time for work, dude." He handed out the beers.

"Damn." I lit a cigarette and got up from my chair.

"Burd, man, are you sure you don't have any good pharmaceuticals in your room? I can't live like this man! Ouch!! Really dude, I'm not gonna make it! Pleeease!" He was laying it on thick now. I was getting annoyed. Somehow he was managing to call into question my word, without calling me a 'liar' outright.

John answered for me, "What part of no don't you understand Rob?"

"Dude, I'm dyin'. What part of crippled don't you understand?" Robbie retorted.

"Asshole." John answered.

I could see where this was going but continued to my room to get my work clothes. My room was next to the front door and across from the living room. I gathered my clothes put them in my pack and grabbed my bicycle. I wheeled the bike out to the foyer and moved the front door out of the way. I turned to shut and lock my door when I saw the small octagonal jar with an oriental tiger on the lid. I grabbed it and headed out the bedroom door.

"... wasn't calling him a liar. I'm just not thinking clearly." In the living room the conversation was still going when I interrupted. "I'm in agony, you Motherfu...Burd! I wasn't calling you a liar, man I was.." Robbie started to tell me.

"Try this Robbie." I threw him the jar before he could finish.

"Tiger Balm?" Rob read the label out loud.

Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at Rob. Maurice chuckled. Kate gave Mike a nudge and motioned his attention to Robbie. John let go a "HA!" and I put my index finger to my pursed lips, standing behind Rob quietly as he turned the jar around to read the label. I didn't want them to give it away.

"The rest is in Japanese or somethin'. What's in this stuff?" Rob asked unscrewing the lid.

"It's Chinese Robbie." I told him.

"It's like Icy Hot Robbie." John said. I winced, he was going to give away the prank.

"No man, it's not like Icy Hot. It's like Ben Gay. It's soothing to your muscles Robbie." Maurice saw what I was trying to do and attempted a save.

"I don't think I want anything named: 'Gay' on my jewels Bro!" Rob said.

"Dude, my girlfriend rubs it on my back all the time. It feels good." I interjected.

"O.K. so what do I do?" Rob smelled the ointment inside the jar. The menthol like aroma was already wafting up into the room.

"Well, take a bunch of it and rub it into the sore spot. Within seconds you'll feel relief. If you want a more intense effect use more." I said as I walked back to the entry way and mounted my bicycle, pointing it toward the open door.

Rob smelled the vaseline like substance and gave me a sideways glance, brow furrowed, still unsure.

"If you want man, you can have the rest. I'll have to buy more, but since you're in pain...," I feigned, then added; "What are Bros for?"

This seemed to be all the reassurance Rob needed. He was getting something that was obviously valuable. My sacrifice shouldn't be questioned lest I refuse to make another on his behalf. It would be like complaining that the cigarettes he was bumming constantly were not his brand. In the world of mooching you take what is available or you risk losing useful sources of free stuff. That was the case here. Rob put two fingers into the jar and scooped out a huge dollop. Then he pulled his jeans down a little with his other hand and pulled the elastic band on his underwear out so his medicated hand could gain access to his injured nether region.

"Rub it in real good Robbie." I said putting my launch foot on the bike's pedal. I looked around. Everyone was waiting, holding their breath. Kate was clutching Mike's arm, eyes wide.

Robbie fumbled carefully inside his underwear for a moment, moving some of the gauze out of the way and then he started gently applying the ointment. The room was silent, only the noise of the traffic outside and the drone of the stereo could be heard. The sound of the Chicago band, Big Black wailing; "...never anything to do in this town. Never anything but dump kerosene..." Rob removed his hand, his fingers were clean, not even a smudge of the silver dollar sized glob remained.

"Ahhhh..." Rob let out a long breath and closed his eyes. He put his beer up to his lips and started drinking. Then his eyes opened, narrowed and then shot wide.

"Robbie?" Kate said starting to giggle.

His head spun around and his eyes locked on mine. The smile on my face probably gave away my treachery. The tiger balm was starting to heat up and infiltrate the delicate pores of his scrotum. There was no stopping the inevitable effect of the chemicals. Rob was in for a rough ride.

"Buuurrrddd!!!" He started shrieking. "It buuurrnsssss..."

Kate started laughing, then Maurice, John and Mike.

"Ahhhh!!!" Robbie poured the remainder of his beer on his crotch. Pulling the underwear down to his knees again. Then grabbing John's beer out of his hand and pouring it on his exposed bandages.

"Hey," John protested, still smiling.

"I'll see you later Robbie!" I called, foot tensing on the pedal, my muscles tightening.

Robbie Mullet threw the bottle to the side, turned and started to walk towards me. I saw him start to fall with the jeans around his ankles as I launched myself. The sound of his body hitting the floor and the effusion of more laughter followed me out the door and into the heat.

"I'll get you for this Burd!!" Robbie screamed from inside the house. "This Shit won't stand, Motherfucker!!

I smiled all the way to work and all the rest of that night. Robbie got his revenge by sleeping with my ex-girlfriend and we remained great friends. In another year the Eighties would be over and shortly after that, Robbie would be dead. He was killed in a motorcycle wreck on a Los Angeles freeway. He had gone out there to 'make it big' as a rock 'n roll hero. His death, though tragic, was strangely reminiscent of many of the rock gods he worshipped. He burned bright and hard, and left too soon.

"Daddy!" the voice of my Daughter wakes me from my musings.

I hang the drum cymbal back on the nail where it was suspended and I search around for the book I was supposed to be getting. I look at the picture of the bright-eyed boy on the cover of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. I feel a tear run down my cheek, as my own Peter Pan; Christopher Robin Mullet, is tucked away in the corner of my heart once again. He's drinking my beer and bumming my smokes. He’s leaning against the doorway of my brain, crooked smile, twinkle in his eye. He's telling me, "It's all good Dude! It's a rock n' roll thing ya know?"

I gently close the book of memories and remember to put it on the shelf in my mind where it will get the most exposure. I brush the wetness from my cheek, then I walk upstairs and read to my daughter the story of a boy who never grew up.

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Comment by mike whybark on February 11, 2009 at 12:32pm
Burd sent this to me - you know, like, in the mail - what, five years ago? Really? Anyway, the first inkling I had of his writerly brilliance. I laughed until my sides hurt, and actually ended up getting tears from lauging so on the cover (which is the image up top).

Robby was a kick-ass pal for getting in trouble. He was also one of my bridges between Indy and Bloomington. I have no idea how he did it, but I ran into him at as many parties in Indy as I did in Bloomington. His garrolousness meant he knew everybody. i -think- he may have introduced me to Marvin!
Comment by John P. Strohm on February 11, 2009 at 11:07am
Great tags! I enjoyed reading this. I always regarded Robbie as the ultimate local ass clown (in a town full of ass clowns) - nice to see him portrayed in this way.
Comment by BURD on February 11, 2009 at 6:05am
I wrote this about 5 years ago-my first story. Everything in this story is true-maybe not factual, but true.

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