Those of you who have read the book have already met this dashing helicopter pilot, commonly known as “Jess.” But what do you really know about him? You know he’s tall, handsome, and has black hair and blue eyes. You know he’s a Captain in the National Guard. You know he can fight; you know he’s compassionate and you know he’ll give his all for anyone under his command or in his care. But did you know he’s a big softie for dogs?
That’s right. The big tough hombre can’t help himself around a dog. He has to meet the owner, get permission to meet the dog and proceed to introduce himself to his new canine best friend. Just pray you’re not an animal abuser around James Becker. It’s not mentioned in the book, PRESENTING: THE AFTERMATH, but he can get close to John Wick levels of fury on any animal abuser he encounters. No joke. The man loves dogs.
That’s not all there is to big Jess. In high school he was a track star. James was also top of his class in ROTC. But the most fun he ever had in that school was as a stage hand in Drama Club. He never got a taste for the stage. Jess just liked being around, helping out, enjoying the performances (especially the musicals) and building the sets. Jess even got himself a few dates with hot actresses by pummeling grabby gawkers who snuck backstage during performances. But that’s not what he liked about Drama Club.
Jess is a huge fan of teamwork. Be it in the military or in live performance, James Becker is very much in his element being part of what makes things tick. He doesn’t have to be the leader. He’s definitely no blind follower, but he’s the one anyone can count on to do his part. He’ll go through the motions of rehearsal after rehearsal without a single complaint. In boot camp he ran the miles over and over again until he easily kept pace. He loves the symmetry exampled when people truly knuckle down, forget about themselves, and think of the greater good. IE: The performance or the mission.
Becker tried his hand at music when he was a freshman. Jess loves how dozens of instruments can come together in a cohesive symphonic musical arrangement. He thought drums would fit him. He just didn’t have the knack for it, so he contented himself to being an appreciator of the arts. After an honest attempt for 5 months Jess told the instructor, Mr Taylor, he’d help with setup and takedown until he could transfer to another class, so as not to waste the teacher’s time. Mr. Taylor liked the young Mr. Becker. No kid in that class appreciated the musical arts as much as James. Taylor also liked Jess’s direct approach, noticed how hard this freshman worked and sent him to directly to stagecraft. This is where Jess found his love for Drama, another art that required cooperation and synchronicity to execute well. He was hooked.
A lackluster band performance or a terribly executed play can’t hold James’s attention, nor does he suffer laziness from stage hands. But disciplined performers and efficient soldiers can easily gain his loyalty. -So can great stage directors and military strategists. He likes being a part of any well oiled human machine. James’s other interests include the CIV computer games, air soft & paintball tournaments and all forms of Star Trek. He also keeps bees at the family farm. Beings working together for a greater purpose really fulfills Captain Becker. It may explain why Jess prefers loyal canines to selfish felines. (He doesn’t hate cats. He’d just never own one by choice.) Dogs work with their masters. Cats… Well… It’s just the kind of man he is.
This brings us to James Becker’s favorite rock band of all time: THE AFTERMATH. Jess had never heard of them until he was flying missions over Afghanistan. His boys were going to the USO Show. James was completely exhausted after mission debriefings, but he needed to blow off steam. So he tagged along. Cameron drove, James napped on the way.
The bands were great at this USO show. Some big time rap artist bragged about what a huge deal he was to infectious beats, while tastefully dressed strippers danced around and threw money and gifts at their audience. Great eye candy. They were followed by a well appointed country artist’s heartfelt and patriotic performance. Another very talented country artist followed the first. The rapper and the two country artists jammed together while the strippers danced and shot more money through confetti cannons in a grand finalé. This was a much needed respite. James began to gather his things to leave since it was announced that this was the end of the show. Then, well after nightfall, THE AFTERMATH took the stage. They literally took over the stage! They were not on the bill. This was a surprise performance!
The rock band initially confused the crowd as they walked right through them up to the stage to setup their equipment as the headlining bands departed. Even the previously performing acts were dumbfounded. They had no clue what was going on. The performers just stood with the dancers, side stage, and watched as this perfectly calibrated team of musicians and stage hands were set up in all of 5 minutes. No sound check. The guitarist, who Becker later found out was called Chomo, simply raised his pick to the gods. With his other hand he began somehow producing feedback from his electric guitar. The band were statues during this opening part. This lasted one and a half minutes and was accompanied by perfect accents from his female drummer, Becky. When Chomo finally, dramatically, strummed his space ship looking guitar, two things happened: The first action was that the band literally jumped to life and began to play in a spirited blues-rock rhythm. The second action was the sound of a helicopter suddenly appearing above the stage.
James was intensely impressed with how calculated this entrance was. The stage crew melted into the crowd without anyone but Jess noticing. How did they get clearance to use a Huey? – was James’s first thought as he heard the sound of the chopper above. The second thought was -How the hell did he land on the stage, on beat? This alien looking (the makeup this man wore gave him a truly alien appearance, something like early Bowie) mortal dropped from a line in the sky, waited 2 bars of music while staring at his platform boots, then looked at the audience and sang with a furious intensity.
During the two bars of music, Jess witnessed two things happen: The first thing was three stage hands efficiently appeared and mechanically released the singer from his harness, then disappeared. The second action was that of the helicopter quickly flying off in perfect rhythm with the music. The words the singer fired at the audience before springing yet another surprise upon everyone are as follows:
“Well, my band seemed depressed, I said now go get fancy dressed. They asked me What we gonna do? I said, I got a place ta take ya. Somewhere cool, somewhere dirty. Somewhere naked girls are flirty! It’s a monday afternoon! Ya, I’m thinkin’ of a champagne room! YA! We rolled out in the van. Got to the club. Paid the man. Saw the girls, mood elevated. Then, we separated. To the bar, to the cage, some to the table, I got the stage. And these girls had their bodies bumping cuz the music was pumping!”
At this point, while the band was singing the first chorus, “Take it off, girl! I see ya! Take it off, girl! I need ya! Take it off, girl!,” the lead singer smiled maniacally then used both hands with wiggling fingers and hips to greedily beckon the dancers from the rap portion of the show (who were standing side stage with the other previous performers) onto what was now his stage. To everyone’s (including James’s) shock, the girls started dancing in rhythm toward the singer as stripper poles rose from beneath the stage. This was planned! The formerly controlled and seated audience was now standing and rabid. 5 more words crossed Becker’s mind: Now this is a party!
Through the course of the song (that James would later find to be entitled Tag Team Stripper Party) the dancers threw the audience their formerly respectful dancing clothes, in favor of the pasties and shoe string outfits they’d secretly concealed beneath. The superstar rapper, standing to the side of the stage and watching things unfold, clearly had zero clue that the girls he brought with him were also commissioned for the amazing show this alien singer was putting on; he was just as wide eyed and amazed with each turn of events as the audience was. The rap artist was clapping wildly and throwing money from the side of the stage as soon as the dancers shed the outfits they’d worn for his segment of the show. Many members of the country acts respectfully departed the stage at this point, but for a few who grinned wide and clapped along.
THE AFTERMATH performed 5 songs that evening. The helicopter and stage hands reappeared to efficiently harness and lift the singer as the band played the raucous instrumental to their final musical offering. Two bars after the singer ascended into the black of night, fireworks ended the show along with guitar picks, tee-shirts, cds and drum sticks hurled to the audience by the band and dancers alike. James caught a tee-shirt that commemorated the best night of his entire deployment. The next day James went online to order everything THE AFTERMATH ever did. Boxes of the stuff awaited him when he returned stateside. Jess never wore the shirt. He folded it, brought it home, and hung it in an illuminated glass display that awaited his arrival along with the rest of his purchases.
James was determined to see THE AFTERMATH live again, and as many times as he could after. He never dreamed he’d meet his new hero because, in his research, he found that the band’s singer (Shannon Kelly) never partied with his fans, never did interviews, and was rarely even seen out of makeup or off stage. James genuinely wanted to talk to Shannon though. He wanted to know how he calibrated his shows so perfectly, wanted to know how he got all those people to work that harmoniously to create such spectacle.
Shortly after Becker returned home he found that THE AFTERMATH would be performing 2 nights in Buffalo, NY, at the brand new Code Red Convention Center. He and a few of his boys got front row VIP seats for the second night. Usually a penny pincher, Jess even paid the additional $400.00 for the after party so he could at least meet the band and ask his questions. If you’ve read the first chapter of the book, PRESENTING: THE AFTERMATH, you’ll realize that Jess Becker never got to see that show, or go to that after party he paid so much for. But, he did get to meet the band… and Shannon Kelly.
Well, that’s all for now! Thank you for reading! Be sure to check back periodically for more info about other characters featured in the aforementioned book! PEACE!