Puddle of Mudd

February 14, 2003 – Galveston, Texas

The first time I ever saw boobs was on the streets of Galveston during Mardi Gras. Puddle of Mudd was playing on the Strand and my parents thought twelve was old enough to brave that chaos to see them, even though none of us were particularly fans of Puddle of Mudd, aside from my mom’s friend Lisa, who always went to Mardi Gras with us. I knew the song “She Hates Me” from the radio, but I don’t think I even realized this was the band that played that song until I was standing on the street corner of Moody Park and they started the guitar came in.

My first concerts were all at the Houston rodeo—Alan Jackson, Alabama, Sammy Kershaw—or seeing my uncle do country covers at some dive bars that were fine letting my parents drag a child along. That night was the first time I saw a rock band, the first time I’d ever stood up to see a band, been outside to see a band. I remember the faces more than I remember anything else about the show, all the people around me who I didn’t know, mouthing along to the words while a bitter wind blew across the park.

 

My father’s visiting me in Iowa, his first time meeting my child. We’re sitting on the sofa at this wine bar in West Des Moines, he and his new wife and my wife sharing a bottle while I drink a Bourbon County. The baby’s strapped to my chest. He starts talking about how when I was a baby, my parents took me everything, how I wasn’t even a year old when I first attended Mardi Gras in a stroller. Naturally, that leads him to the Puddle of Mudd concert, to me seeing a stranger flashing for beads.

“You turned to me,” he said, “and told me you were ready to go home.”

I don’t remember those words, but I remember the sentiment. I think there’s this idea that the first time you see boobs in real life is magical, this grand awakening, but it’s not always like that—you think it’ll be like Phoebe Cates getting out of the pool in Fast Times, but even as a pre-teen, I could sense this wasn’t that, that something was off about how I saw the boobs, that there was something predatory there—men circling women, cameras out, using beads as leverage.

 

For Mother’s Day in 2003, my father and I went out on a quest to find a Puddle of Mudd CD. Walmart didn’t have it. Hastings didn’t either. We finally found a copy at Target.

Most holidays, my family gave each other CDs, and often the giving served as a vehicle for us to acquire a CD we, ourselves, wanted, like the Christmas Eve when, an hour before we were supposed to be at my grandmother’s house, my mother and I went to Walmart and I bought my father Top of the World Tour: Live by the Dixie Chicks.

Which is to say that it wasn’t long before the Puddle of Mudd CD wound up with me, a common presence in my Walkman, an eventual part of the 100-CD case in my first car. Where it is now, I don’t know—after the divorce, a lot of things disappeared.

 

When we pulled into a parking lot on the Strand, the sound of a Beatles cover band was echoing off the buildings. We had to go through this line and get our bags checked, after which we stepped into the gated-off street festival of Galveston Mardi Gras. The first thing I saw there was a clown in a dunking booth, shouting insults at the people walking past, taunting us, asking us to give him money and throw a ball at a button that most people would ultimately miss. He said something to me, but I don’t remember what it was.

 

I’ve always been fascinated by bands with only a single original member. Puddle of Mudd is one of those, Wes Scantlin the only person who’s been there since the beginning. Even all those years ago, seeing the band on that street corner, he was already the only one left.

I used to think it was admirable, to soldier on despite change, but now I see it’s more about the ego, or maybe it’s more about the capitalist need to keep the money flowing, or maybe it’s somewhere in between. When I started going to see local metal bands in high school, the bands felt like these organisms, and any time one piece of that organism left, the whole thing died.

Puddle of Mudd put out an album in 2023. There isn’t even a Wikipedia page for it. That’s how you know a band, an artist, has completed its slow death—when the link for that last album is red, not blue.

 

A few weeks after I saw Puddle of Mudd, Josh and I are sitting on the back patio of my parents’ house and I tell him, tentatively, about the boobs, how weird it was, how it should have been this great moment in my life but instead felt tainted. I’m not sure he understood that feeling—maybe it was one of those things you have to be there for. Maybe only the one telling the story can understand the whole scope of the story. Like when a group of boys gathers to hear one of them talk about finding a box full of porn out in the woods—the one telling it knows the trauma of it all, bears that mark forever, while the others are just aural voyeurs. I wonder, if I texted him now about it, if Josh would even remember this story at all.

 

Lisa died a few years ago. I don’t know what happened, though I’ve heard rumors. Her and Billy Ray lived out in this trailer that always felt like it was on the verge of falling down with more pets than a person can legally have. After Harvey hit, she went missing for a few days, Facebook full of posts asking if anyone had heard from her. I shared one of them. Two days later, she commented on it:

Justin Thank You so much for helping locate me myself .its been a night mare. But God is Good im safe in W.C.Western Motel all i got left. Hells Acreage. Is gone. The waterrose up to ac unit so far water flowed threw iv lost all my memories in boxes. Im really sick over the loss. Our well water tank anhead pump is gone. All i can do is Thank God he was with me while i took 6 pupdogs with me a rabbit an my chicken threw thewaters on 1301in the gold z71 an made it to W.C .3am tuesday morning i thank my lord Jesus for being with me .an i thankyou all for prayers. May God be with Us All

That was, I believe, the last time I interacted with her. When I heard she passed away, a year and a half after the hurricane, after she’d gone missing, I didn’t think about the Puddle of Mudd concert—not then, at least. I thought about how we’d go fishing out in Matagorda Bay and we’d tie our boat to her and Billy Ray’s boat. I thought about how she would leave her family sometimes to follow Kid Rock around the country, how she had him autograph her arm and then she went straight to a tattoo parlor so she’d never lose it. I thought about how she was always so late to everything—how she’d tell us she was coming over in an hour and how, four hours later, she’d finally pull her Camaro into the driveway. I thought about her and my mother’s under-the-table house cleaning business, how sometimes they’d bring me along and I’d play with some other kid’s Batman toys.

But now, the first thing I think of is Puddle of Mudd on that Galveston street corner.

For so many years, my memory of that night was that circle of men, the woman pulling her shirt up, the beads crashing down from the sky, the grossness of the whole thing. But everything’s got a lot of sides, and one night can mean so many things. Now, I think of the joy on Lisa’s face as the music started. I think of how, later that night, she crawled under a car to get a nice pair of beads that someone had dropped. I think about how cold the wind was.

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