As hard as it is for those who know me best to believe, I spent last Sunday afternoon in a borrowed pickup truck with no air conditioning in 100-degree heat, driving to Konocti Harbor Resort, a venue three hours to the north of San Francisco, to see Ted Nugent in concert.
Known for hosting concerts in dinner-theater style by giants of the late '70s and '80s, such as Pat Benatar, REO Speedwagon and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Konocti is where rock dinosaurs go to die.
The plan was to go catch "The Nuge," as I like to call him, writhing in pain on that very stage -- just a wisp of the guitar god he once was. It sounded like a good way to spend the afternoon; a few laughs at The Nuge's expense.
Besides, I couldn't think of anything better to do.
Most of my friends will tell you I'm a pretty lazy guy. I like my food delivered and try my damnedest to confine any and all social activity to a few fine watering holes, located, at the most, a convenient couple of blocks from my house, and I'm not at all prone to three-hour trips into the wilds of Northern California.
Clearly, I'm not a fan of The Nuge's work. Although hearing "Cat Scratch Fever" on the radio never fails to draw a smile from me, it's not really my thing and if it were anyone else, I probably would have stayed home. Guitar heroes lived and died in the '70s and I'd just as soon keep it that way.
Still, I learned something that afternoon that made me feel forever indebted to the man.
The thing about The Nuge, for me, isn't really musical. The guy has something most of today's cookie-cutter bands lack: personality. He's got it in his flowing long hair and flavor-saver beard. He's got it when he's wearing a red- white-and-blue T-shirt with his own picture on it in concert. And he had it Sunday when, mid-interview, Nugent leapt on a coffee table in the dressing room of Konocti Harbor and drew a gun, a 10mm Glock, to be specific.
It might make me seem bland, but I have to confess that he's the first person I've interviewed to pluck a gun out of his pocket and aim it like he knew what he was doing. And I'm sure he did, in more than one way.
On the one hand, he demonstrated his point in the context of our conversation, which he had turned from a discussion of his radio show to a potent visualization of how he'd bring a crazed gun-wielding madman -- threatening the lives of U.S. citizens -- into submission.
The Nuge, a staunch right-wing supporter of a person's right to bear arms, asserted quite clearly how he'd have dealt with the situation, yelling things such as "Code Red, motherfucker," leaping in the air and, faster than I could blink, pulling a gun out of his right-hand pocket.
When he finished screaming, he stepped down from the table and sat back down next to me on the couch. I blurted out the only thing I could think of, which at the time was, "You got the job, you got the job."
Clearly, Ted had secured the room.
And he had done something more.
He had proven to me that he is more than just a right-wing rocker. I can guarantee from the first second when he walked in, wearing his camouflage snakeskin vest and jeans, he was sizing me up -- middle-class, college graduate, politics locked somewhere left of the dial.
He knew in a few minutes what I'd only partially realized before.
I wanted him to be the "wild card." I wanted to hear him spout off about hunting and threatening the IRS. I wanted to hear him talk about being militantly anti-drug, as much as I wanted to hear him describe his "Ted Nugent Gonzo Meat Biltong" -- which is his line of cured meat, by the way.
And I wanted him to do something legitimately crazy like whip out a gun and aim at a mirror over my head, so I'd have stories to tell.
Now I do.