His name is Victor Manuel Vera González and Ché is short for Pinche. Mexican slang. His buddies gave him that handle which is akin to a word from one of his songs, “Alice? Alice? Who the Fu*k is Alice.”
He and his fellow musicians Ricardo, Reyes and Gilberto form The Gecko Band. And they are awesome. They know thousands of songs. Millions. The only song they don’t know is some obscure Doors thing. The original bootleg version of People are Strange. They just never liked that version.
Victor really puts on a show when he performs. Like a modern day version of James Brown, ‘The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.’ When I first saw him it seemed a bit odd that he constantly kept a white towel near at hand. But I have learned over time that with the amount of energy he puts into every performance the towel makes perfect sense.
He also has something in common with Elvis Presley. Elvis didn’t have just one towel though. He usually had at least a dozen close at hand. The women would toss their underwear onto the stage and Elvis would toss out a towel. At Christmas time Victor often asks his lovely wife, Rosy Vera, for more white towels. But Rosy is rather astute. No more white towels at Christmas. At laundry time she counts them carefully. And she also makes it clear to everyone in Mexico. No more white towels for my husband. Or else!
Victor likes to count. Well, I don’t know if he actually ‘likes’ to count, but he does it anyway. He has this mild OCD thing. People like Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Radcliffe also have OCD. I’m sure some of Victor’s friends in Saskatchewan have it too. But they keep bringing him white towels when they visit Vallarta. Victor visits them too, in Canada. He really likes to travel. He even dreams about travelling.
There was this time when the Pope was taking a break from his endless duties. He was bored. And he said to his assistant, Bertolini, who he called Bert, “You know, I still miss that opportunity I had to meet Jim Morrison. I had always wanted to sit with him, have pizza and beer and discuss the nature of the world. He was different.” And Bert replied, as always, “Yes, your Holiness.”
But this time his Holiness looked deeply into Bert’s eyes and said, “My faithful servant, is it possible to find someone out there, in this vast world, who might be a bit like Jim Morrison. Someone I could really talk to?”
And Bert, who liked his cushy job said, “We could try.” And so, plans were made and emissaries were sent into all the corners of the world and they interviewed thousands of people. Millions. And they reported back to Bert. He and his team of bishops analysed the data and then presented it to their master. Bert told him that they had found such a man. In Puerto Vallarta of all places. His Holiness asked, “What is his name?”
Bert said, “Ché Victor.”
The Pope asked what Ché stood for. And Bert, who was very polished at diplomacy, side-stepped the question and said that this man was available, to come to Rome and meet with them.
Arrangements were made. A private jet carried the band to Rome and they met the Pope. He decided to give Victor a private tour of the city. But first he dressed up in a costume, ensuring his anonymity. He didn’t feel much like kissing babies and stuff like that. He wanted to spend quality time with this musician. And they wandered through the city. His Holiness would point out various important buildings and monuments. Occasionally they would pass a curious group of onlookers who would ask each other, “Who is that guy with Ché Victor?”
And inevitably someone would speculate that it might be Bob Dylan or perhaps Keith Richards. When they started climbing the Spanish Stairs the Pope was surprised to hear Victor begin, “Uno, Dos, Tres, Quattro…” He was going to ask Victor what he was doing but thought the better of it. After all, musicians were weird anyway.
That night the band performed privately for his Holiness and lots of pious types. And lots of beautiful Italian women as well. When Victor peeked through the curtains he formulated a plan. Because Victor liked to perform in front of beautiful women.
But Rosy Vera knew her husband very well. And she understood how to maintain a successful musician husband as well as a successful marriage. She had already sent in her demands, through the proper Papal channels. “Niente asciugamani bianchi for my husband. Or else!” And unbeknownst to everyone, the Swiss Guard was monitoring the situation very carefully.
The Pope was enjoying the music. And then he remembered that elusive Morrison tune that he had loved so much, many years ago. And he whispered to Bert who immediately went down to talk to the band. They had just began one of their five minute Mexican breaks. Victor was hell bent to sneak over to a nearby Bed Bath and Beyond store when Bert intercepted them. “There is only one song that his Holiness would like to hear. People are Strange. The original bootleg version.” And the band whispered, “Oh, Shit.”
They explained and Bert went back to the Pope. Quite sheepishly he said, “Your Holiness, Alas….”
And before he could continue his master howled, “Alice? Alice?”
And this is where Victor would wake up.
In a cold sweat. Every time.
And he would reach for his ever-present white towel.
Dreams are great. And they can be associated with ambitions. To do more. To help others. Victor and his band are very active in supporting social programs. They often take the lead in efforts that really make a difference around here.
Occasionally, late at night, when Victor and Rosy Vera are sitting in front of the fire, and she is knitting socks for the grandchildren, and he is sipping on a rather large glass of Jack Daniels, he will say, “Rosy, my dear, sometimes this being a musician thing is too much for me. Maybe I should become a policeman.” And she, in her knowing, affectionate way says, “Victor, my love, don’t throw in the towel.”
By Toots Gabriel