Jonathan called a little while later. I took it on the kitchen phone and Remo made himself scarce.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey. I…” He cleared his throat. “I wanted to check in.”
I kept it light. “Like to a hotel?”
He let out a little huff of breath and I knew he was smiling, though he hadn’t gotten all the way to a laugh. “You want to come get some lunch down here? I’m at the place down the hill.”
“Why, so I won’t yell at you like I did last night?” Well, so much for light.
He paused a moment. Then, “You’re right. If you’re ready to talk let’s not do it anywhere you might feel like you have to censor yourself.”
“Sounds like you’re ready to talk, anyway…”
“I am, but don’t let that rush you, Daron.” He started out sounding all reasonable and calm, like he always did. But the panic was starting to set in as he dug himself a hole: “You want to stay there tonight? Or for a couple of days? I’ll head back to town. I’ll come get you anytime you want. If you want. That is, assuming, you might want…”
“Jonathan. It’s all right. Come get me tomorrow around dinner time, okay?”
Shit. It was breaking my heart to hear how panicky he sounded. “I’m not trying to hurt you, you know.”
“I know. It’s okay, Daron. This is good. Clear our heads.”
“Yeah. Exactly. I promise we’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Okay. Call me at home later, though, if you decide you can’t wait.”
“Unlikely but noted.”
I hung up and went to see where Remo was hiding and let him know it was okay to come out. He was changing a light fixture in the master bathroom.
“Do you think Eric Clapton puts up his own fixtures or does he get an electrician?” I wondered aloud.
“Trying to get an electrician to come on a holiday weekend because it’s the only time I’m home is a lot more trouble than doing it myself,” he said. He was up on a stepladder with a screwdriver, fiddling with something. “I bought this fixture, what, a year ago?”
“You’re asking me like I know.”
“I figured I’ll get it done before we hit the road. I’ve got a laundry list of dinky things I’ve been meaning to do.”
“You want help?”
So I spent the afternoon helping Remo do some stuff like change the weatherstripping on the front door. I’m not even sure why they have weatherstripping on doors in L.A. Habit, maybe. We put up another shelf on the wall in the office, then did the same in the studio. I learned some things about walls I didn’t know.
We also added something crucial to the studio equipment: beverage holders.
When we got tired we ordered a pizza. Remo had rented a couple of movies for the weekend so we had a stack to choose from. Martin came back from his windsurfing adventure to eat a little pizza and get his stuff and then off he went again to meet a girl. The same girl, I think, but I didn’t ask. While he was there, though, and we were sitting around the coffee table with the pizza, I told him how we’d spent the afternoon.
Martin’s response: “Remo never did learn to start acting like a millionaire.”
“Nope, started too late,” Remo said. “And since I want to stay a millionaire, I’m not big on wasting it on hookers and blow.”
I tried to do the math in my head. “So, wait, you’re 49 now?”
“No, but I will be on my next birthday. And you know what happens in three years?”
“You’ll be 52?”
He nodded. “And you’ll be the age I was when you were born.”
“Shit, that hardly seems real.” It really didn’t. In my mind, Remo was sort of perpetually in his mid- to late-thirties. Possibly in Remo’s mind that was the case, too.
“We should do something special when you turn 50,” Martin said to Remo. “Have a party. Something.”
After Martin left and a movie was watched we did what I think we’d both been kind of expecting to do but neither of us really wanted to be the one to bring up, I guess, which is play around in the studio. That we were hesitant at all was what was weird. I mean, since when was it a big deal to sit down and jam together? But I was sort of thinking maybe he saw the time off before going on the road as an actual vacation, and so he might not want to play, so I’d gotten all second-guess-y and tentative about it. And he’d sensed I was tentative but thought I had some reason for it, so he didn’t want to impose.
Which just goes to show if two old friends who have no real communication issues can almost fail to do the thing they enjoy doing most together because of imaginary concerns… well, just imagine what happens to lovers around issues that are actually fraught with emotional danger.
We played for a couple of hours. He taught me one of their recent songs. I taught him a thing I’d started to work out but hadn’t firmed up completely.
And after THAT my head finally felt clear enough to vent to him some more about the legal stuff and my name and my fears that my career was actually kind of over already, it was just taking the rest of the world a while to catch up to that fact.
We were sitting in the studio, trying out the newly installed beverage holders. I finished my rant/worry-fest.
Remo waited until I was good and done. Then he said, “Your career’ll never be over so long as I’m around.”
Sometimes I’m thick. I mean really, really thick.
“I’ve said it before, but maybe it hasn’t really sunk in, or maybe it was never the right time.” He was sitting on a stool, had put his guitar down, and was leaning toward me, resting his arms on his knees and interlacing his fingers. “There is always, always, always an open invitation for you to join Nomad.”
Talk about something that gave me a complicated mix of feelings. Most of them good. “I… Thanks. I didn’t want to assume.”
“And I didn’t want to assume you want to. Or want you to feel pressured to. Roll your own, Daron. You decide. If you just want to tour, or just record but not tour, or just for a year, or just until this thing with BNC plays out… we’re flexible. Well, up to a point. You know we’re barbecue.”
We laughed a little. He was referring to an interview I did once, where I said Moondog Three was a buffet and Nomad was barbecue. And I liked barbecue but didn’t necessarily want to have it all the time. “I’ll think about it.”
Come to think of it, it was the SPIN interview I did with Jonathan. A million years ago.
“Now that we’ve got that clear, give me some relationship advice,” I said.
“What kind of advice?”
“How do I leave him without breaking his heart?”
“Whew. That’s a tough one.” He stretched. “I find that if I’m on the road enough, they move on on their own. Because inevitably they meet someone while I’m gone, someone who meets their needs better, and so there it goes. Thing is, if they’re fine with me being gone most of the time, and taking care of themselves, then there’s no incentive for me to try to leave, either, if you see what I mean?”
“Unless you’re not in love?”
“You’re telling me you’re not in love with Jonathan?”
“Not as in love with him as he is with me.”
“Ah. You love him enough that you don’t want to trample him on the way out the door. But you really want to make a break for the door.”
“Yeah. And I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have probably brought him here and introduced him to everyone and got everyone invested in a relationship of mine that I’m not even invested in.”
Remo looked for a second like he was going to laugh, but he stopped himself. “You should stop apologizing. Don’t feel like you need to stay with him on our account. Jeez. It’s not like you got married and made us all send you gifts and start calling you a different name.” Then he paused and said, “Check that. Even when someone gets married, their family’s reaction to their divorce should not play a part in the decision whether to divorce. You’ve got to do what’s best for you.”
“All right. I’m still trying not to hurt him, though.”
“I’ve stayed friends with a lot of exes. I think it helps to be honest about what you want and if you both agree like mature adults that you can’t give each other what each other wants, then moving on is the best thing for both of you. I try to date level-headed realists. It takes the passion down a notch but is made up for by longevity and the plus of staying friends.”
He’d said something similar to me once before, but you know, sometimes I have to hear things more than once for them to sink in.
The thing is, there was a level-headed realist in my love life already. Named Jonathan.
Stop the merry-go-round. I want to get off.
(Been a while since we had a hair-metal power ballad. God, this one’s bland. It was in the Top 40 in 1989 but I don’t even remember it…)