May, 1977, Miami, FL

May, 1977.
Although it’s early May and it’s not quite noon yet, it’s already blisteringly hot.
In a second floor room of a run-down Holiday Inn worn thin by too many spring-breakers from the snowy north and rock bands touring the southern circuit, Tom twists in a shabby, hard arm-chair wedged into the corner of the room. He fingers the dials on his Canon TX SLR camera.
The two double-beds in the room have had their mattresses moved off the box springs and placed on the floor to make 4 double beds.
Enough room for six, rather large, African-American men and one skinny, soon-to-be-diabetic, 20-year-old white man to sleep.
Outside, the Florida sun bakes the stairwell, parking lot and the beach beyond. It must be 95 degrees with 95% humidity out there.
Inside the room, it’s worse.The air is dead still and heavy and reeks of every imaginable human scent. The heat seems to intensify the smell of sweat, methane, socks and Afro Sheen.
All seven men are out cold, as if in self-induced comas. Their mouths gaping wide, they sweat and snore.
There is enough room for another person to lay down among all this, but even though he’s only slept a few hours in the past week, crawling up in the middle of all that snoring and sweating and hair curlers doesn’t have much appeal to Tom.
Besides, being somewhat of an insomniac anyway, he knows he could never fall asleep in the midst of that cacophony of snoring and soggy bedspreads.
He peers through the camera viewfinder at one end of the room where Brian, his best friend since high school, is having no problem fitting into this rather absurd scene. Still fully-dressed in jeans and a t-shirt Brian is snoring the loudest.
Framing the unlikely image he releases the shutter, advances the film and snaps another. He laments that this is the best shot he’s got so far on this trip. Eight weeks into a year-long tour with an up-and-coming, inner-city funk band and this semi-amusing image is the best thing he’s seen so far.
And this is what he’d come for. Back in February, when he was offered a job as a roady he figured there would be plenty of opportunities to get some pretty amazing images.
It clearly wasn’t about the money. Even by 1977 standards $80 a week plus $10 per day meal allowance wasn’t going to go very far.
The band, called “Shotgun,” had just released their second album on ABC records and the album was doing well in the south and on the East Coast. The band’s manager, Al Nalli Music in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was financing the tour and providing a new Ford Club van, a 32-foot equipment truck, an Electrovoice PA system and all the mics, stands and other hardware needed to set-up and play any gig where a PA was not provided. A fully self-contained entertainment system, packed with electrified funk and two skinny white boys to do the lifting.
These amenities felt comfortable, even extravagant to a band that had spent most of the previous five years playing the same handful of clubs in and around the roughest parts of Cincinnati, Ohio, struggling to get to gigs in one, rusted out Cadillac de Ville.
At 21, Tom didn’t have many other prospects, or income, and it seemed as though this job may lead to any number of other opportunities and may even help pave the way to his dream of being a rock & roll photographer.
And then, there was always the chicks.
Thirty years later, when Tom was a senior editor overseeing the visuals at a metropolitan newspaper in Los Angeles and Brian was a pile of dust in a box tucked away in a cemetery in Ventura, that image, that moment, would come back to him again and again. Little did he know that that moment, in that Holiday Inn would shape his life and that he would return to it over and over.
But now, all he knew was that driving all night from Jacksonville felt like a lifetime and if he didn’t get some sleep he would be a useless zombie in a few hours when Shotgun was scheduled to open for the Commodores and the Crusaders at the Miami Jai Lai.
Then there would be the stage gear to tear down and pack back into the truck, followed by another overnight drive to Atlanta.
He threw his legs over the arm of the tattered, too-small chair, leaned his head against the stained wallpaper, and slept.

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