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Rock Tales #357-Jay Vaquer

This tale took place in the early to mid 1980’s. It has served as the paramount graphic example of betrayal and revenge ever since I crossed paths with singer/musician Caroline Aiken.  I had been playing guitar and living on the west coast for the past few years when I decided to return to Columbus, Georgia for a visit. My mother and 2 sisters were teaching for the Muscogee County School system where Dr Hiawatha Covington was the superintendent. They told me there had been an inordinately high number of flu cases among the school’s faculty for that year. They asked if I would put my college education to work and help out as a supply teacher while home visiting.   The day I put my name on the substitute list I started getting calls. The teachers would either call the night before or at 6 am to give me the details on where to go and what to do. After the first week of getting up so early, for a musician accustomed to keeping late hours, and dealing with wild kids and stuffy adults, I needed to go clubbing on the weekend. I walked into the bar and there was this very attractive young blond girl playing decent guitar and more importantly singing in key with a warm and powerful voice. I introduced myself during one of her breaks and she asked me to play a song for her on her guitar. I played a ripping Tom Jobim samba with about 30 dissonant chord positions and a dissonant melody. The notes in the vocal line are usually outside of the chord so there’s no faking it. She tripped out and appreciated the music. She invited me to her show in Atlanta the following weekend. She was doing a solo act in an experimental theatre where she recited poetry, did mime, played guitar, played piano, sang, and danced. An excellent show and I was so pleased when she invited me to her apartment after the show. There we began a friendship, musical partnership, and naturally, both of us being healthy heterosexuals, a romance. Caroline had a show coming up at a popular coffee- house in Atlanta and she was going to bill the show, “ Caroline Aiken featuring Jay Vaquer”. She gave me a list of her repertoire with keys and we planned a rehearsal for the following weekend at her mother’s home in St. Simon’s Island. The weekend seemed a million miles away and the days seemed even longer since teaching everyday gave me less time to work on the music. Friday finally came and Caroline picked me up in her van. Her mother’s house was big and beautiful on a cul du sac against a vast marsh on the Georgia coastal island. We practiced in an isolated enclosed deck.  I had just bought a Roland programmable drummer so I would show Caroline the vocal harmony parts and chords to one of my songs, then program A and B parts on the drum machine. After getting down the basic arrangement I would create parts giving us a  full spectrum colorful sound for a duo. Alternating songs, Caroline would play one of her songs and I would go through the process again. We had a positive chemistry for making the music sound good and we had true enjoyment from our work and our experiences. Her mother and friends were Georgia Bulldog fans, it was Saturday, Georgia was going to be the number one college team and it was Hershal Walker this and “go dawgs” that for a few hours after the game ended. Nice people and genuine Southern hospitality made it the perfect weekend. We planned to return to St. Simons in two weeks to rehearse while her mom was going to be out of town. When we returned to Columbus Sunday night I had a message to call Ann Woodall who was the physical education teacher at Spencer High School. She said she was going to a conference and needed me to take her classes until Wednesday. I got to school around 7:30, met the principal Mr. Douglas, then I went to the teachers lounge to smoke a cigarette and organize my schedule for the day.  After home room I went to the gym and took role for the first class. All the students who were not dressed out for PE took a seat on the bleachers. I divided up teams and sent one group to play half court and I decided to play with the other group to even out the number of players. Some of the players were on Spencer’s winning varsity basketball team so the game was intense and I tired quickly. I was trying not to show how out of shape I was when I got the ball and drove it in for a lay up. As the ball went through the net I was about three feet above the floor. I felt a relief and relaxed my body. When I came down to the floor my foot was angled inward. All my weight came down twisting my foot to the inside and snapping two ligaments. I heard loud pops and then my body was consumed with the most intense pain I had ever experienced. I fell to floor cursing like a sailor. Some students brought the nurse to the gym to check me out. She said I had probably sprained my ankle and assigned a student aide and a wheel chair for me. It was hurting but I had to stay there all day or I would not get paid. At the end of the day the nurse gave me some crutches to use. When I realized I would not be able to drive my car since the clutch was hard to press and the damage was done to the left foot, I sent for my neighbor, friend, and student at Spencer, Kate Ames. I asked her to drive me home, take the car to her house for the night and pick me up in the morning for school. Kate’s dad was a retired Chief Warrant Officer like my dad and her mom was a teacher like my mom and even though I was around 10 years older we had a common headspace. Kate was 18, a senior, strikingly beautiful, low key personality, intelligent wit, long legs, long beautiful blond hair, natural aqua-blue eyes and hung out with what her mother termed “undesirables”.  The next morning Kate picked me up. The nurse looked at my ankle, which was still swollen black and blue and still hurt like hell, and assigned her aide to wheel me around again and apply ice. Kate took me home after school and picked me up the next morning. When the nurse saw I had made no improvement she told me the school’s insurance would pay all the medical expenses.  That day, after school, Kate took me to see an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Stevenson. After the stress X-ray he said I had torn two ligaments from the ankle and if I wanted my foot to be right I would require surgery. I was kind of freaked out about having to go into the hospital. Not only did I not trust anyone associated with the medical profession but I had never been hospitalized for any reason up to that point in my life. The option, limping for the rest of my life, was not appealing.  The next day I was admitted to the hospital and prepped for surgery. When I awoke the following morning they gave me that morphine knock out shot and repaired the torn ligaments. I came out of the anestesia in recovery and my foot was hurting. They said there were no complications and my foot would be even stronger than before the surgery. I would have to deal with the pain, the discomfort of using crutches for a while and then therapy but hey- I was still alive and determined to return to normalicy. The morning after surgery my foot was hurting way more than it should have even with the narcotic pain relievers. The nurses called Dr. Stevenson back and he cut the cast open to relieve the pressure from my excessively swollen ankle. After that I was greatly relieved and the following morning discharged. Sunday night I got a phone call from Mr. Douglas, the principal of Spenser High School.  He said the American Political Processes and Personal Economics teacher had run off with a rich woman to Florida and was not coming back. He wanted to know if I would take the class for the remainder of the school year.  Since I was looking at a minimum of four months recovery time for my foot, I accepted the job.  Kate picked me up Monday morning and helped me get situated. Kate brought a big pillow and put it on the desk in the classroom to keep my foot elevated and most of the girls autographed my cast. The students were surprised to learn that I was their new teacher. One student told me he did not think hippies like me were allowed to graduate from college. I looked more like a student than a teacher, what with my long hair, ripped blue jeans, and Kiss tee shirt. Kate stayed at my house after school and helped me grading papers while I studied the lesson plan and the information I had to lecture on. I was really grateful to Kate for helping me out since normal activities became strenuous on crutches. Like getting a glass of water and trying to bring it back to your room becomes a major task. Kate’s mother came over to see me and told me she was happy to have Kate spending her free time with me rather than hanging out with her drop- out loser friends. Being the matchmaker she was, she told me it would be fine with her if I wanted to date her daughter since she knew I was respectable, educated, single and available. After she left I told Kate what she said. Kate said every time we were together it was like a date and she didn’t know what her mother was talking about since she did what she wanted anyway. That week Kate and I became very close. Friday night the doorbell rang and Kate answered it. Caroline was surprised to see Kate answer the door. Kate did not possess one tenth of the musical talents of Caroline but she was about a foot taller than Caroline, younger and prettier. Since Caroline had never seen her before and had no clue as to why she was answering my door or why she was there, Caroline greeted me with a kiss and a “oh poor baby pity hug”. Caroline was quite astute and perceived from Kate’s interaction with me, that there was something going on between us. Kate packed my equipment into Caroline’s van and stayed at my house after we drove off. On the four-hour drive to St. Simon’s Island, Caroline did not say too much. She was very pensive and occasionally would ask me something, but her facial expressions and attitude could not hide the underlying feelings of betrayal. Her instincts told her that I had started a new relationship and dreams of a profound relationship and of “Caroline Aiken featuring Jay Vaquer” had become ephemeral. As we got closer to her mother’s house her silence was beginning to worry me, after all I did not know her very well and was not sure of her reactions. We arrived at her mothers and she told me to go to the practice room to spend the night so I would not have to deal with the stairs, which led to her bedroom. She unpacked my things then got in her van and left. As I lay on the sofa I began to wonder what she was doing. Like was she going to put a hit man on me or have some guy come over and beak my legs, or just leave me there and go back to Atlanta? About an hour later she returned and had some guy with her. They went straight upstairs to her bedroom. After about five minutes I begin to hear moans and groans, the mattress squeaking, and the bed board banging against the wall. They were having awesome sex judging by those familiar sounds. Sounds that I would have been making instead of listening to, had I not been such a whore. This was the dreaded revenge I had feared. After imagining a sociopathic response, her actions were lamentable, yet, tolerable. To be sure I understood, she and her lover did round two to wake me up in the morning. I didn’t see him when he left since my room faced the back of the house, but when Caroline came into the practice room she was beside herself. Proud of her course of action and with a forced indifference attitude she would twist the proverbial knife deeper into my heart at each opportunity. After a fruitful practice, she left the house for the night, only returning the next morning to take me back to Columbus.

The following weekend we successfully played the gig in Atlanta to a packed house, but that would be our first and last collaboration and the end of Caroline and Jay.

Rock Lesson # 357 – “Hell hath no fury like that of a woman’s scorn”






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