RAY NEADES by Pete Cassani

There are hundreds of stories about
Ray, but he was a way better storyteller than me, and he remembered
! The way Ray told a story it was always very funny and
put you in a good light.

It's summer 1990. My band, the Velcro
Peasants, is playing a gig at some club in Northampton that has since
closed. I'm drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, but not drinking. There's
maybe 30 people in the place and this big, fat, drunk guy (Ray) comes
up and starts talking about the Replacements, who I love. He says he
can hear an influence, blah, blah, blah, but I'm so stark raving sober
that he's pissing me off and I don't want anything to do with him. I
give him my card.

This was during the only time we had
a manager, who was trying to book us shows. Ray called him a few times,
trying to get us on a bill in western MA with some indie bands touring
the USA at the time. He told Ray we would need thousands of dollars,
a high-quality PA, and God knows what else. Ray gave up. The manager
eventually went on a drinking binge and stole money from us. It ended
badly. I didn't see Ray again until ten years later at an AA meeting
in Cambridge. Though it was tattered and dirty, Ray still had the card
I gave him. We were destined to become friends. I just didn't know it
in 1990.

Probably the best story I have is when
Ray was working at Guitar Center, selling guitars to Berklee kids. A
soul-killing job for anyone, but Ray loved guitars, and could talk about
them all day long. After a long day trying to sell guitars between constant
phones ringing and 10 kids wanking on guitars at the same time, Ray
hopped in my Subaru and we drove for three hours, to a gig in Vermont.
We're at the gig and playing away. Ray is trying to play Peasants songs,
which he doesn't know terribly well, so we start doing covers: Ozzy,
Beatles, Stones, Dylan, whatever. It's a long night, but we have a blast.

Now it's 2:30 am and time to go home,
and there's a foot of snow on the ground. No big deal, but we're hungry.
We stop at a convenience store and get a bunch of snacks for the ride.
The dashboard is covered with food as I swerve out of the lot and onto
the road. A cruiser laying in wait for closing-time drunks pulls us

"Pulled you over for swerving,"
cop says.

"Sorry Officer. Must've been grabbing
a cupcake. Got a long ride ahead, we just stopped for some snacks."

"When was your last drink?"

"July 5, 1989."

"Okay, be careful," cop says.

We drive on laughing. It was the truth.
I'd been sober since July of '89. We get stopped by another cop car.
I don't remember why, but we didn't get a ticket then either. Ray is
amazed that though I drive like a maniac I never get ticketed. We’re
almost home, and run out of gas on 93 South, on the Malden/ Medford
exit. It's 5:45 am. We push the car to a gas station that doesn't open
until 6:00.

We get the gas and head to Brighton,
where we both live. Ray has to work at 10:00. Less than a block from
home, the car slides on the fresh snow. Life goes into slow motion as
my Subaru Legacy sedan plows into a brand new Dodge Neon. The Neon rises
into the air upon impact, comes down and crumbles outward before our
eyes. The Subaru, still full of momentum, bounces off the Neon and plows
into the car parked behind it, a Ford sedan, jamming the wheel well
into the wheel. That Ford is not going anywhere. Ray, a svelte 375 lbs.,
hits his knee on the dashboard. It promptly swells up and he can barely
walk. I am unscathed. Getting out, I see my only damage is a bent bumper.
I bend it back as best I can. We’re both shocked, exhausted, and lucky
to be alive. Ray's weight, together with the snow and my crazy driving,
made this accident inevitable. That we were less than a block from home
just made it ridiculous but isn't that always the way?

I put my phone number on both cars
I destroyed, and drive home around the block. It’s about 7:00 am.
I had Ray sit down while I brought him ice for his knee, which was now
very swollen. He then tried to call in sick at Guitar Center. Now think
about it, Ray hasn't slept in 24 hours, has driven six hours, played
a few sets, pushed my car through the snow and had his knee smashed
up. So when they insisted he come in, he relented. After dozing a few
hours, he went to work. What a fuckin’ trooper!

That day, Steve Hart, a drummer friend
of ours, went there to buy sticks. He saw Ray and said hello. Ray, exhausted
and hungry, was limping to the back with a pizza. He tripped over an
amplifier, and dropped the pizza upside down on the floor. He then got
up and said, "That's It! I quit! I'm outta here! I've HAD it!"
When Ray got home, he was very worried about bills, rent, everything.
I said, "Ray, that job sucked! You'll get a better job. Don't worry
about the bills. I'll cover you." And that was just one day in
our lives. He lived with me altogether about a year. I miss Ray so much.

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