Thursday, November 12, 2009


[Editor's note: I wrote this a few years ago and recently decided it could use some cleaning up. I've always wondered what happened to this guy.]

Keith Curley was a pizza delivery man in Pasadena, Maryland in the late-1990s, who moved into my friend Elliott's folks' bungalow down on Bodkin Creek the summer before our senior year of high school, which is how he came into our lives. He was a few years older than us, in his mid-twenties, tall and thin, with a nest of long red hair that was always hanging in one huge tangle on his shoulders. He wore baggy, drab clothes and sandals and smelled like patchouli and gangrenous feet. In short, he was like a posterchild for the burnouts who became labeled hippies, solely for convenience sake - the kind who solely refer to people as "brutha" and everything as "cool beans." The kind of guy who couldn't pick Timothy Leary out of a line-up but probably believed that Terrapin Station was a real place.

Keith fancied himself a big-time show promoter in the making, and the first we heard of him was when he delivered a pizza to Elliott's house while our old band was practicing. He offered his "services" to us, and without really knowing what he did, we took him up on his offer to have a sit down. We were 18 and didn't really know any better.

We met him at the bungalow, which he had only lived in a for a few weeks at that point, though he had already converted the hall closet to a greenhouse and there were dogshit stains everywhere, even on the kitchen floor. A filthy Lhasa Apso who smelled like a compost heap was tearing away at it's fur in the corner. "Althea!" he yelled, and the dog scurried away. I remember not wanting to touch anything.

Keith broke the ice by asking if any of us had ever taken a canoe across the creek, which of course none of us had. He proceeded to enlighten us.

"You go across there in daytime, man, it might take you an hour. But you go out in a thunderstorm, man, those waves are just like SLAMSLAMSLAM! SLAM! SLAMSLAMSLAMSLAMSLAM! SLAM! SLAAAAAM! ROCKIN' THE BOAT! SLAM! SLAM! It's some wild shit, brutha!"

From that moment on, Keith was known to us simply as "Slam."

Slam managed to get us a few decent shows in city bars that wouldn't normally deal with underage bands, and he always kept the money. Whenever we would come by the bungalow to collect the $60 or $80 he perpetually owed us, he would go to ridiculous lengths to pretend to not be home, even when both cars were in the driveway and we could hear him dropping things in the kitchen. Once, his girlfriend called for him to open the door while we were standing there knocking, and he simply refused to answer her. Finally, to settle the score, Elliott and Heath started going into the bungalow when Keith wasn't there - he never locked the door - and taking the loads of weed he left sitting out in the open. Keith never caught on. Later on, when Elliott would go through the charade of buying weed from him, Slam was always surprised by how little he had left. "Man, I could have sworn I had more in here yesterday - I must be getting burned out, brutha!"

One time Slam brought his best friend's band up from Annapolis to play a show with mine and Elliott's band in Pasadena. They jammed for an hour-and-a-half on what felt like the same chord, and then managed to convince Keith to give them nearly all of the money from the night because they were "going on tour" to Philadelphia the next night. While I was in the middle of a world-class conniption fit, the band's bassist ran in the hall with a terrified look on his face. "Keith, you gotta get out here - the cops are here!" I darted outside to see Keith's friends' band's van hooked up to a tow-truck, with half of the band in handcuffs on the ground outside a squad car. I was impressed at how quickly karma had acted. Turns out the local fuzz had made a sweep of the parking lot after the show and discovered some of the band smoking weed in their van - they arrested them and then had their van - and all their instruments - impounded. Looks like "tour" was being postponed! Keith was completely distraught as the van was towed out of sight. "Not cool, brutha - not cool" was all he could mumble to himself.

As the months went by and Slam made plans to move out and slowly stopped coming around, we would still occasionally run into him when we went drinking on Elliott's pier in front of the bungalow. One time, Kuhlman and I took Slam's canoe from beside the house and rode it across Bodkin Creek in the middle of the night. Every time the oars hit the water we'd yell, "SLAM! SLAMSLAMSLAM! SLAAAAAAAAM! ROCK THIS BOAT!" When we finally made it back, we were so tired that we simply left the canoe on the beach and walked away.

A few weeks later, we were drinking on the pier with my friend Dan, who decided in a drunken rage that Slam needed to be dealt with, for no real reason. He staggered onto Keith's deck and grabbed both of his trashcans and his recycling bin and threw them into the creek. Gathering steam, he then pissed inside Keith's grill and all over a pair of sandals he had left out on the porch before finally hurling a pair of Keith's shoes and a hackysack into the creek as well. Just as we were getting ready to bolt, Keith appeared out of nowhere, visibly upset.

"You guys happen to know who might have taken my canoe out last week?"

I prayed no one would sell me out.

"If I get my hands on that guy, there's gonna be some trouble. That asshole didn't even bring it back up off the beach, and high tide carried that motherfucker a mile downstream. I had to wade underneath some dude's pier to get it back."

We sat there in the dark trying not to laugh, watching Keith's trashcans float slowly up the creek.

"Anyway...anybody want some burgers?"