Jimi by Ron Kolm

I got a preview
Of where we’re at now
In this country
Many years ago,
Back in the 60s.

I was going to school
In Reading, Pennsylvania,
Trying to finish off
A college degree
And, at the same time,
Trying not to get drafted.

Anyway, a good friend,
Who lived his life for music,
Had moved to Reading
To hang out awhile
And got a job in a factory
To pay the rent and cover
His trips to Philadelphia
To see the bands he loved.
He would buy the tickets
And I would drive us down
In my Pontiac.

It was announced
That Jimi Hendrix would play
The Electric Factory
In February of ’68 and,
As he was our favorite musician,
We had no choice–we
Hopped in my car and headed
For the City of Brotherly Love.

Somewhat before that,
Frank Rizzo had become
The Commissioner of Police
In Philly, and he’d wasted no time
In putting his stamp on the force.
He was a racist bully,
Just like Donald Trump,
And his take no prisoners policy
Was wearing everyone down.
When we visited the city
A couple of weeks
Before the concert,
We noticed how grey
Everything had become.

We filed into the Factory
On what we expected to be
A historic evening, yet we
Both commented on how quiet
Everyone was; depressed even,
But I wasn’t going to let it affect me.
Axis Bold As Love had just dropped,
And the last track on the record
Had become my favorite song
For getting off—the music seems
To be fading, but then
Hendrix suddenly shifts gears
And comes blasting back in
As if he’s finally breaking free
Of these earthly bonds—
Of course I was hoping
He’d play it.

Hendrix kicked off his set
And I was aware of how passive
The audience remained—
He seemed aware, too.
As he played, I could almost
See what he was thinking.
When he got near the end,
The place where he’d usually
Smash his guitar into an amp,
Or bash it onto the floor, he
Paused, looked at his amp,
Then glanced at the audience.
He looked down at his guitar
Then back at us again,
And I could see the calculation:
We weren’t worth it—
The whole dismal city
Wasn’t worth it.
He laid his guitar down
And walked off the stage.

I was bitterly disappointed,
But I understood. My friend
And I split, and headed
For my ’64 Bonneville.
I pulled out, just making it
Though a yellow light
And was greeted by a siren
From an unmarked cruiser.
I rolled down my window and said
“But, sir, it hadn’t turned red yet.”
In return, I got a tongue lashing from
The nastiest cop I’d ever dealt with.

He gave me a ticket
With his other hand
On his holster.

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