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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Day Warren Zevon Called My Bank

By Jen. All rights reserved.

Meters swum today: 1500
Playing on the iPod: Machine Love, "Olvine"

Just after I stopped being a lowlife college student and started being a lowlife clueless 20-something, I worked at Bank of America's Credit Card Service Center in glorious east Phoenix, Arizona. I was one of those annoying people that called you when you fell behind on your payments. If I ever called you, I apologize, but you have to admit I was a lot nicer than any of my colleagues. I never raised my voice. I never threatened to sue you, repossess your cats or paint "Cardholder X Is A Deadbeat" on the sidewalk in front of your son's school. (All of which is totally illegal but that doesn't mean it didn't happen.) I always believed everything you told me. If you said you couldn't make your payments because space aliens had abducted you and stolen your ATM card, I said, "I've heard that does happen, sir. Do you think they'll beam it back in time for you to send me ten dollars next week?" Seven-fifty an hour, in case you were wondering. We were supposed to get bonuses, but it never happened.

Anyway, when things were slow, we'd take regular customer service calls. We'd always ask the nice cardholder for his or her name, the last four digits of his or her Social Security number and one other thing - usually date of birth or amount of last payment. You'd be amazed how many folks didn't know either one. So one afternoon this guy called and gave me his last name as "Zevon". I pulled up his account and asked, "Uh, Warren Zevon." "Yes, ma'am." "Warren 'Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner' Zevon?" A pause. "Well, most people say 'Werewolves of London,' but, yeah. That's me." "I've always been a Roland kind of guy," I said, and he laughed. (Aside: The bad guy in Mindbender, the psychic psychotic assassin, is named Roland. Coincidence? Yeah, actually. I named him after a synthesizer.)

So I asked him what I could do for him, and he told me, and I did it, and he thanked me, and before he hung up I said, "Would you mind singing me the first verse of 'Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner'?" He said, "Sure. If I remember the words." He did, and for a second there we were off in Mombasa, battling the Bantu to their knees - to help out the Congolese.

I saw Warren "live" in 2001, just before he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was kicking off his world tour at a club in San Diego where I once saw the Chieftans. I remembered thinking that he and his band were a little off but they were obviously new to working with each other, and by the end of the tour they ought to be great and I couldn't wait to see him again. Unfortunately, that didn't happen (see above re: terminal cancer). Word of warning: If you're a singer/songwriter and I like you, expect to die young and tragically. Warren Zevon, Stuart Adamson, Gordon Lightfoot -- oh, wait, Gordo just died on stage. Well, it was tragic.


David Isaak said...

That's wonderful.

What club in San Diego, btw? (We used to live down there, and frequented 4th & B, Brick-by-Brick, Belly up, and a few other joints.)

Jen Ster said...

4th & B. Saw the Chieftans there, too, once. :)

David Isaak said...

4th & B is a very cool venue. Low-key and not full of itself.