Bat Country

I slumped onto the couch with my coffee, still groggy from bourbon and sleep medication. My curtains were drawn, filtering gauzy light into my recently rearranged living room. I clicked on the TV and rattled the thumb wheel on my coffee table. The Big Man’s e-mail popped up on the screen.

Did you pick up ‘Genexus’ yet?

I rubbed my eyes and banged on my keyboard. I knew Fear Factory was working on a new album. I hadn’t been paying attention. I pulled up YouTube and clicked on the first track . . . they had me at the 0:20 mark

An hour later I had a plane ticket to Las Vegas.

How long had it been since I’d been out of my cave? There was that Prohibition-style act in a basement speakeasy in New York. They were good, but I was there for the hooch. It didn’t count.

There was a time when I’d sleep in my car for the opportunity to see live music. I realized that I’d spent most of the last few years hiding behind my curtains. Emerging only when necessary . . . or wandering down to the pub once the sun was down.

Metallica was the first. At an outdoor ampitheater in the late ’90s. It was life-altering. The crowd all but destroyed the place. I narrowly avoided getting knocked out by security after destroying a fence and rushing the stage.

It set the bar so high that even Tool seemed underwhelming by comparison.

I saw MegaDeth in a bar. For free. Tickets I won by accident. Alice ‘n Chains. Tickets I won in another bar.

Pantera. Black Sabbath. Clutch . . . 

The list was too long to remember. Every obscure metal band, every local hardcore act . . . even New York Hardcore giants Madball.

. . . But none of them held a candle to Fear Factory. A show so violent I limped home. I couldn’t turn my head for four days afterward.

It had been thirteen years . . . and I was going to see them alone, in Vegas, in a bowling alley. I hadn’t been there in a decade. I had a fresh liver then. It was four days on the ragged edge of a blackout from the moment I arrived until the minute I left.

No good can come from this, I realized.

I wasn’t checking a bag. I decided to bring the polymer knife instead.