Long Cold Winter: Chapter One

Burnout. It was the sign of having been on one too many tours and in one too many rehearsal halls and recording studios. Too much booze and too many drugs had a lot to do with it as well. As did one too many women.

He’d been married more times than should be allowed, but long years on the road always won. And women need more than five days out of 365 to feel loved. Not that he hadn’t loved them, but the road was a demanding mistress and the fans always came before his love life. Always.

Though some married him for the fame, the fame got old. And for those who’d married him for money, money couldn’t buy love and was an empty bed partner. The new soon wore off and loneliness crept in when he wasn’t there to fill the empty spot in the full-sized bed.

In the end, they took with them only what they brought into the relationship. And the clothes. Not that he didn’t know a few cross-dressing performers or have any gay friends. He did.

He just never had the time or the inclination to hold a fitting for any of them. besides, most were extremely picky and probably would have taken hours just to settle on a dozen outfits. Hell. He rarely had the time, then, to spend by himself.

But, then, he was Matt Morrow. And he was in high demand. He was too versatile for his own good. The Super Voice they called him.

He could country. Hell, that was where he got his start! It had also been where he started smoking. And light drinking. His choice, then, was beer. And lots of it.

He could sing jazz. Smooth and soft, he was almost as good as the greats. He’d been compared to Sinatra, Crosby, Martin, and even Nat “King” Cole. He bet that, had he been able to play a trumpet or saxophone, he would have even been compared to Armstrong or Prima. Or any of the others who could play an instrument and sang their own songs.

As a jazz singer, he learned to love his mixed drinks. The Black Russians. The Martinis. The Tom Collins. The Long Island Iced Teas. The list was endless.

He could sing the blues. That was where he began to drink straight whiskey. Of course, it was where he also discovered his depression. He had learned to live the blues.

It was not a far stretch for him to go into R&B. And he learned a deep appreciation of women there. And he met his first wife. It only lasted a year, like his stint as an R&B singer.

From R&B, he entered pop. And there were even more women to enjoy the company of. And another marriage to last only a year. Sex and money. He had to laugh. But he hadn’t burned out yet.

From pop, he made a temporary foray into rap. Here, he noticed the diversity of women. But a woman was still only a woman. It didn’t matter what color.

Techno, like rap, was only temporary. It gave him headaches. Migraines. The high pitched tones did a number on his equilibrium. So he left it like he had entered, through the proverbial door.

But during his pop, rap and techno gigs, he began noticing strippers. They were the perfect eye candy for a rising star, just as the porn queens were. Though their beauty was manufactured with implants, for the most part, he didn’t care.

But he excelled at rock. Metal. Blues-metal. Hard rock. Classic. Thrash. New Age.

With his progression through these, he began to learn of the excesses. Pot. Cocaine. Heroin. Speed.

And women. Super models. Famous actresses. Aspiring starlets.

Even those obscure has-beens who had a career, but was dumped by Hollywood for one supposed reason or another. But they returned to fame as his girlfriends and temporary wives. He considered them temporary because he knew that they would leave. Sooner or later, they would tire of it and go.

Still, super models and porn queens remained a major addiction. Even though neither relationship was a healthy one, he could not shake them. On the one hand, he was afraid that he would walk in and find the woman either puking her guts up or half starved, trying to remain super skinny for their career while being afraid-on the other-of catching some sexually transmitted disease. He didn’t want that.

When he decided to settle, he had decided that he wanted someone outside fame. Someone who didn’t come from money. Someone who didn’t care about money or fame. Someone who would love him for who he was, not what he had.

He’d done his two decades of decadence, though the first was barely what he would call decadent. By the middle of the second, he was ready to clean up. What he’d started in the 70s, he wound down in the 80s. And he spent the 90s as clean as he would ever be. Still, he couldn’t give up the booze or the cigarettes.

He did, however, ease up on the drinking. He sang at every show sober, only getting drunk at the after parties. When he was married and happy, he remained sober at home while off the road as well. But he drank heavily when he was alone. And he was alone often.

It was lonely at the top. The only company you had were the others who had made it to the pinnacles of their success. But it was a known fact that you could easily be pushed off. And many found themselves spiraling into obscurity in the 90s. But he remained. The Golden Boy.

He was an institution. A legend. Once he got away from the drugs, he found a clarity. But never peace. And peace was what he yearned for the most.

An end to the road he’d been on for so long. A road he’d forgotten why he had started in the first place. A road he was tired of. He wanted off.

***

He was now faced with reality. He was getting old. Too old for this life he’d chosen so long ago. But reality had been something he had run from for so long. Too long.

He’d started running in his younger years, before he even began. During his wasted youth. And he had to admit that it had all been wasted. Wasted on running. Wasted on hiding. And on this ride he’d called a career.

Even booze couldn’t hide him from the fact that he had wasted too many years. Even though his legacy would likely go on, he would not live forever. Not that he wanted to, but his lifestyle had seen to it that he would only live a possible twenty years more. Not that he cared.

When he started, he had wanted to make his mark. Somewhere along the way, he’d stopped caring. It had become more work and less fun. By the time it all snowballed, it was too late to stop.

And he felt as if the mark had faded to a mere smudge. To him, that smudge no longer mattered. Why even worry about it? Why even care?

Gold and platinum records lined his halls. Records he’d been a part of. But they didn’t mean a thing. They were just memories. And memories, sometimes, needed to be forgotten.

But damned if some memories didn’t refuse to be forgotten. And these refused to go away. No matter how hard he tried to drink them away, they were still there. Even the drugs had failed to get rid of them.

Sometimes, suicide sounded so good. He had to admit it, But damn if it didn’t take too much effort. He must be getting lazy. Out of shape. Everything seemed like too much effort.

Sitting at the piano, He smiled. He may be drunk, but he was still sober enough to play. He thought back. It had been the first instrument he had learned. It had been insisted upon by his mother. Not that his father had cared.

He began going through the scales. One by one, he pounded them out. picking up speed, he slid into Chopsticks and slowly transitioned into Fur Elise. From there, he easily slid into a jazzy improv.

Too bad there was no one there to hear him. Maybe he was in the wrong place. Maybe he needed to go to The Rainbow Room. They’d enjoy his jazz improv.

He struck a chord and suddenly found himself drifting away. Time seemed to stop, then reverse. Space seemed to swallow him. Everything went black. The world around him vanished.

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