The interview went on for a while, we signed all the things, shook hands with some more radio personnel, and then the car took us back to the venue. The place was the Sam Houston Coliseum and the limo driver, who said he used to work as a tour guide, told us the Beatles and Elvis had both played there. “And Frank Zappa, too, ’bout five years ago, best show I ever saw there!” he said. “You guys know Frank Zappa?”
“Not personally,” Ziggy said.
“Just his music,” I added. “‘My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Momma,’ and ‘White Port and Lemon Juice,’ that stuff.” A reviewer last year had compared me to Steve Vai, which had prompted me to go back and listen to some. Remo had a bunch of Zappa in his album library when I was a kid, but I had absorbed it sponge-like and hadn’t really thought about it again since.
The limo driver began singing a song, which I supposed was Zappa, but I didn’t recognize it. He dropped us off at a side door. The venue still didn’t look like the arenas we were used to. Actually, it was a nice change. Ziggy thanked the driver and we walked toward the door.
Carynne burst out the building looking like she was ready to murder someone.
“What is it now?” I asked.
She gritted her teeth and shook her fists for a couple of seconds like she was so angry should couldn’t even get words out. So it wasn’t surprising when the first thing she said was, “Motherfuckers!”
Zig and I shared a glance while waiting to hear the rest.
When it came, it came in a torrent. “Oh my god, you won’t believe these idiots. On Louis’s case all the time, now they’re trying to change the stage set, their drummer has more equipment than god, he claims he needs a higher riser, Louis is ready to hire a pit bull and booby trap the light board to keep them from messing with it, they’re a bunch of paranoid freaks who are completely sure that we’ve got the bigger dressing room, the better food, you name it, and what the hell, we’re the headliner, we’re supposed to have the bigger dressing room! But you can’t tell these people anything!” She punctuated the speech with a kind of strangled cry of frustration that I can’t imitate or spell.
I patted her on the back and Ziggy rubbed her shoulder.
She opened her mouth to say something and then her pager beeped. She sighed and pulled it out of her jeans pocket. “Thank god, it’s your father,” she said. “And I never thought I’d say that.”
“I’m calling him and telling him to get his ass out here.”
“Is that really necessary?” I was surprised.
“Yes. We need someone who can really be a dick.”
“Car’, we don’t need him. I can handle it.”
That prompted a snort from Ziggy. “No offense, Dar’, but you’re not cut out to play the heavy. In fact, please take it as a compliment.”
“He’s right,” Carynne said. “You’ve got enough to worry about.”
I winced. “Yeah, but…”
“I know you aren’t thrilled about being stuck with him, but…”
“It’s not that. It’s…” I tried to think of how to put it so it wouldn’t sound insulting or stupid. “It’s, you know, I hate for it to seem like you couldn’t handle the job yourself. I know you can…”
“Daron. Dear.” She put a hand on my shoulder. I was sweating from standing out there in the midday heat and her hand felt hot. “There’s no disgrace in me deciding your dad’s a bigger asshole than I am.”
“Look, this isn’t about my feelings. This is about getting the fucking job done. And if it means someone has to get back on the horn to BNC, or whomever, Digger’s the one to do that, not me.” She handed me the pager. “Unless you want to call and tell him what’s been going on.”
I handed it back. “No, no. You go ahead. You’re right. Now can we get out of the heat?”
“Sure.” She took a deep breath and blew it out. “Try to stay away from them if you can. Just… just don’t engage.”
We went in together and it took my eyes a while to adjust to the darkness in the hallway. One of these days I’ll remember sunglasses.
I went with her to the production office while Ziggy peeled off to the green room. But she shooed me away as she was dialing. I squeezed her arm and left her alone.
I went to find Louis. He was taking a nap behind the light board. Or pretending to. He cracked an eye open as I approached and sat up.
“You want me to take a turn ‘on watch'” I asked.
“Nah, not necessary,” he said. “It’s not like there’s anything they can do to change what we’ve hung. I’ve made friends with venue security, though, by the way. Just in case.”
“Are you serious?”
“I am serious. And let me tell you frankly, Daron, we’re underbudgeted on security for a tour of this size.”
“You think so?”
“First you had the screaming chickadees, now we’ve got the rugby match every night… you’re just one tick under needing your own security.”
“But I thought we had security with the crew.”
“Yeah, yeah, George and Dave are great, but they’re really looking out for the equipment. I’m saying you’re close to needing personal security.”
“Jeez. I don’t even want to think about that.”
“Price of fame, my boy,” Louis said.
“Are we really getting that… big?”
He kind of nodded at me with his eyebrows. “Besides, these megashits already have it.”
“I’ve never been one for keeping up with the Joneses.”
“I know. I told Carynne, too.” He took out a cigarette and tapped it against his leg, then looked up guiltily. “Don’t tell Shiree I’m being a bad boy.”
“Ha. I never tell anyone anything.”
“It’s one of the reasons we love ya,” Louis said. Then his gaze slid past me to someone coming up the aisle. “I think someone’s looking for you.”
It was Colin. “Lesson time?”