It didn't quite work out that way. Pete, a part-time drummer who is pursuing a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Texas, says Jeff found Austin's open-stage scene less inviting than Denver's, in part because the competition was more daunting. He eventually hooked up with Big Ed, a band that had been around for a while. He opened shows for the band a few times, but his primary role was as sound man. Jeff performed these tasks passably, but he didn't like being in the background.

Another of Pete's brothers, John, sometimes hired Jeff to do odd jobs. But Jeff spent most of his time on Pete's couch, smoking marijuana and watching television with the volume turned up to the pain threshold. He suffered from a chronic smoker's hack (he often had to suck on an asthma inhaler to catch his breath between puffs of pot), and his stomach was giving him problems. He munched Rolaids like candy and guzzled gallons of milk, but nothing seemed to help. These difficulties shortened his temper. Pete says he'd blow up at the littlest thing and storm out of the house, vowing never to return. Ten minutes, an hour or a day later, he'd casually offer his apologies and flop in front of Pete's TV again.

Even so, Pete liked having Jeff around and expected that he would return to Austin after a holiday season trek to Denver to attend the wedding of Babihed's Mark D'Agostino. But someone prevented his immediate return: Michelle Fox.

Michelle, a bright young woman with a graphic-design business she runs from her Lakewood duplex, wasn't exactly a Babihed groupie, but she was certainly a fan. She seldom missed a show and had become close enough friends with the musicians that no one was surprised to see her at D'Agostino's wedding reception, held at the Brown Palace Hotel. Jeff drove with Bill straight from Austin to the bash, and he immediately took to Michelle.

Gary, Jeff's self-appointed guardian angel, was worried by her attraction to his friend; he figured that Jeff would fall hard for her, only to be shattered when Michelle realized that he wasn't a routine date. What Gary hadn't counted on, though, was that Michelle was as interested in Jeff as he was in her. "Jeff was just as crazy as I was, which I thought was good," she says. "I like people who are nuts, and he certainly proved to be that." Jeff and Michelle spent the reception talking about music (they both admired Robert Johnson) and a potpourri of other topics, and when Jeff invited her to watch him play at an open stage the next night, she agreed. While Michelle admits to being a bit perplexed by the entire display, it didn't scare her off; in retrospect, she believes that Jeff tempered his performance somewhat knowing that she was in the audience. In the days that followed, Michelle actively pursued Jeff by concocting a story about a tape he'd left in her car and tacking a note with her phone number on the door at Gary's place, where Jeff was staying. Jeff called her immediately, and they arranged to go out the next night. The next thing anyone knew, they'd decided to marry.

Jeff's friends were agog--even Bill Houston, who'd gladly played the matchmaker at the D'Agostino reception. He huddled with Michelle, advising her to slow down, because she didn't understand what she was getting into. But she and Jeff were smitten. Eleven days after they met, they went to an area courthouse, sans witnesses, and exchanged their vows.

end of part 2

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