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Entry date: 7-14-2022 - Rye's Above part 5 - Things I made up

Dear Friends,

Here is part five of Rye’s Above. It is getting harder and harder to decide what story to focus on. I feel like they all need to be fed and there is only so much time in the day.


It was still light when he walked outside. Summer in Phoenix was like that. It occurred to him it would be sunset when they played on Saturday and hot as fuck, but it wasn’t his first rodeo. The guys at Alwun House did cool things for the scene and he was happy to pitch in.

He ambled over to where his truck was parked behind M.E.C. and thought about what to do for dinner. Easy Street was closed by this time, but he could hit Ham’s for some cheap grub and a few more beers. That sounded like a plan.

He liked Ham’s a lot. It was a neighborhood joint across the street from a flag store and a dry cleaner and the best thing about going to Ham’s was that it made him feel young. When he got there, he was probably the youngest person there by twenty years or more and here he was pushing thirty.

“Hey, Ben. You hungry?” said a voice from behind the bar.

“You bet, John. How about a cheeseburger, fries, a bud?”

“You got it,” said John Murphy as he stood up and wrote down Ben’s order.

Ben grabbed a spot at the bar and before he could say thank you, a frosty glass of Budweiser was in front of him. When his food came out about ten minutes later, Ben was on his second beer. The glasses weren’t huge at Ham’s, but they were cheap.

He’d been coming in here since before he was old enough to legally buy alcohol. In fact, John sold him one of his first legal drinks after he turned 19. One of his old bandmates, Steve Fujikowa, had told him about the cheap food and reasonably lenient carding practices at Ham’s after a Speds practice. Steve and Ben had met during their sophomore at Camelback High School and by middle of the next year, they had formed Speds.

As high school bands went in the mid-70s, Speds were not very good. Ben’s guitar skills were pretty basic, and Steve’s lack of drumming prowess was painful to watch, especially for people who actually knew how drums should be played, but they had a lot of fun. Steve was blissfully ignorant of the purpose of the snare drum, so many of the early Speds beats were almost entirely made up of drum fills.

Their bass player was a strange dude that Steve knew because he bought weed from him. Everybody called him “Grover” because he could imitate the lovable character from Sesame Street eerily well. He even kind of looked like him. Later in life, Ben would think that Grover would have been a great lead singer for one of those Cookie Monster sounding metal bands if he wasn’t in prison.

Grover had gotten busted in the summer of 1977, about a month after Ben and Steve graduated, driving a car with a trunk full of Maui Wowee. Thanks to some stringent Arizona marijuana laws, he got sentenced to 25 years in prison, thanks to the shot gun and scale in the back seat.

Speds also suffered from a lack of cohesive vision when it came to a sound. Ben was developing a pretty good ear for melody and his songwriting was a bit more developed than his ability to play his guitar, so he struggled to share the ideas that were bopping around his head. Steve wanted to play stuff that sounded like his favorite band, Led Zeppelin, and Grover, well, he was high.

The revolving door of lead singers during the almost two years of their existence was almost comical. When Spinal Tap came out in 1984, Ben saw a connection between Speds singers and Tap drummers. Nobody blew up, but in the eighteen or nineteen months Speds lasted, they had thirteen lead singers. The number of singers exceeded the number of public performances by Speds by exactly five.

At one Halloween party they played off Stanford and 35th street where the rich folks lived in 1976, a former lead singer, Drew Ballard, took a swing at the current singer, Randy McCubbin, and a huge fight broke out. Grover had made a homemade costume to look like his namesake Muppet and ended up getting pushed into the pool, turning the water a dark blue in the process.

The blue pool party became legendary and was remembered long after even the best Speds song was forgotten.

Ben hadn’t thought about these events for a long time, but over his cheeseburger and beers at Ham’s, he just had to smile. He had lost track of Steve a long time ago. Every once in a while, in the early 80s he would pop up when one of Ben’s bands were playing, but that was that. He had met a girl and realized that drums were not going to pay any bills.

Much to his chagrin, Ben had never met “that” girl. He remembered talking to Steve a few months after Speds broke up and wondering how a girl could make you want to stop playing music. Sure, Steve was definitely one of those musicians who liked the idea of being in a band more than needing to playing music, but still. Ben didn’t understand at all when his friend told him he was selling his kit and wanted to know if he knew anyone looking for something to beat on.

Ben had thought long and hard about buying Steve’s drums. He figured a drum kit would be a good thing to have, just in case, but he didn’t have the dough to make Steve a fair offer. Steve probably would have let him make payments, but that was like borrowing money from a friend and it was something Ben would never do. He had made the mistake making a few loans in the past that never got paid back and it clouded, and then usually ended, friendships.

“Fuckin’ Speds,” Ben said aloud to no one in particular.

He paid his tab, said goodnight to John, and headed home thinking about what John had told him about the where they got the hamburger buns.

Barb’s Bakery.

See you tomorrow.

Stolen from the internet. Couldn't find a picture of Ham's, which is sad.

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