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"I'm not here to promote or glorify violence," says singer-songwriter Dave Stanger.
The front man for the Sweet Release Project puts his hands in his pockets and turns to push open the glass Bank of America door with his back. He is an unimposing man in a blue gas station jacket with the name Hal on his chest. His hair hangs over his eyes.
"I'm here to rob this bank," he finishes. He smiles quickly. He pulls the hair out of his eyes with long fingers. He is a disarming man. He looks as if he needs emotional help.
"I'm a Lennon follower, really," he tells me as we wait in line. "But, you know, happiness is a warm gun."
Stanger jumps between ideas loosely. His music moves like his leaps of thought. In one line he's exploring a lover's body - the next he's extolling the virtues of chicken pot pie, accompanied by the winding chords of his acoustic guitar. An artist with pop culture for finger paints, he's been described in other music magazines as Beck on a lot more weed.
He adds: "Not that I'm into guns. I'm not into armed robbery. I do it with my head, you know? It's like love, like sex. Yeah. I do it with the brain. Besides, if you use a weapon or even threaten, man, threaten use of a weapon, that's like life, man."
Choosing a withdrawal slip, he tells me as he scribbles on its face: "I'm looking for that real emotion, you know?"
The slim man seems out of place in the cool artificial surroundings of this suburban bank branch. He stands with his hands in his pockets, leaning slightly back, looking slowly around himself. He catches a teenage girl watching him and he smiles shyly for her. He's just too funky for Bank of America.
When we reach the teller, he hands his slip over wordlessly. When she looks up at him in surprise he says in a low voice,
"Yeah, I called you fat. Look at me, I'm skinny. That never stopped me from getting busy. Now give me all the fucking money in your drawer. Don't look around. Just take it out and count it out to me. Good."
He glances at me. "Touring money, man."
The teller raises her helpless eyes to mine.
"I'm a journalist," I explain. "This is my subject. You're taking part in an interview event. It's okay."
She blinks. "Really? What magazine?"
I tell her. She nods. Then she glances around, leaning closer to us. "I haven't pressed the alarm yet. If you write something nice about me, I won't tell."
Stanger counts the cash quickly and taps it into a neat block on the counter.
"Go ahead," he says.
(I couldn't understand Stanger's earlier Humpty-Hump reference. She was really a beautiful woman, with an experienced depth in her eyes when she smiled. I reached across the counter and put my hand on her round cheek, and she tilted her head slightly, her skin warm against mine.
"When do you get off?" I said.
"Now," she said. "Come on." She went to get her purse.
"I'll send you a copy of the magazine, man," I told Stanger. "This shit happens to me all the time. I'll be reading poetry to her all night."
"Good." He nodded. "And don't forget the pot pie. Chicks love good pot pie."
She appeared from a door near a fake plastic tree, her blue polyester slacks shiny under the florescent lights. She had freshened her pink lipstick.
But something must have tipped the fuzz. A sixteen year-old security guard tried to stop us, a .45 in his trembling hands.
It happened fast. She threw herself between us, took the bullet just beneath her left breast. She slid to the floor in my arms. I held up a hand smeared with blood to the horrified branch manager, who blinked, pushed up his glasses, mouthed air like a goldfish.
"I loved her," he said.
She was leaving with me, I nearly told him. But didn't. She was gone.)
"We need some beer, man," Stanger says outside. "I always say cool shit when I'm wasted. And we got the money."
"Yes, we do."
I always forget to flip tapes on my recorder when I'm hammered. But that's all right. I just make the rest up anyway.
. . .
"Dude," Stanger sobs later, soaked in Pabst Blue Ribbon. "I don't wanna be a rock star."
James Stegall should write more of this stuff