Under the Bridge

(Happy Christmas Eve, folks!)

Ziggy and I had a surprisingly nice dinner for being cooked in the mini-kitchen of the extended stay place. Ha! That tells you how my standards had changed. This “mini” kitchen was easily twice the size of the one in the Fenway studio I used to live in. Somewhere along the way Ziggy had bought some packaged “fresh” ravioli and sauce, and a chunk of parmesan to grate over it, and some farmstand tomatoes and… wait a second…

I think that was the night he tried to make a tomato-cucumber salad, but the cucumber he’d bought at a farmstand on the side of the road was actually a zucchini. It wasn’t bad, actually, sliced thin with salad dressing, just hilarious. At first he tried to pretend it was intentional, except once I started kind of giggling about it, he ended up laughing his head off, too.

Not quite as funny as coyotes stealing the Christmas turkey off the back porch, but, you know. Still funny. As we sat there after eating, it felt for a minute like we’d recaptured the feel of our stay in the Back Bay apartment, our little experiment in domestic couplehood.

I suddenly wished we were back there, back then, maybe. Even though our time there had never been angst free. I had been recovering from everything in South America, and reeling from the whole left turn the music industry took into grunge, and I remembered sharply finding out that Freddie Mercury had died.

But that had been when Jordan was still alive. And before we knew Claire would soon not be.

Ziggy reached for my hands across the corner of the little dining table, and kissed my wedding ring (partner ring? what the heck was the right word for it?) and then my various scars. “What are you thinking about?”

“Why, do I look thinky?”

“Pensive, yeah.”

“Just thinking about how I felt different about life and death before Jordan.” I didn’t have to specify what about Jordan. Not saying it made it clear.

“And how do you feel now?”

“Oh, you want me to put words to it? Jeez.” I wasn’t joking. I kissed his hands in return and tried to articulate it. “I’ll tell you how I want to feel about it. I want to feel like I’ll feel better about life once I figure out how to feel about death. But death sucks.”

He looked like he was holding in a laugh. In my head I imagined a cover of J. Geils “Love Stinks” except with “Death Sucks” as the lyrics. Yeah, that felt about right.

“Okay, so you want to feel like all this death is going to result in you feeling better about life and being alive?” He said it slowly, like he was trying to follow my logic, or lack thereof. “But you’re not sure it will?”

“Basically. What if it just makes me feel like everything sucks and is pointless because we’re all going to die anyway?”

“That, dear one, is called existential angst, and you’ve already gone through that.”

I think he meant in the water tank. Right. “I want to believe that when this is done, I’m going to have an unshakeable appreciation for every sweet moment in life.”

“That sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy if I ever heard one,” he said, standing up to take the dishes to the sink. “Or at least like a song idea.”

I slumped. “Song idea. Yeah. About that.”

Before I could say more, though, the phone rang. Ziggy picked up the extension on the kitchenette counter. “Hello? Oh, hi, Patty. Sure, I’ve got a minute to talk.” He gave me a look, like, well, this is unexpected. And motioned me toward the bedroom phone. “Daron’s here, too. Should we put you on speaker?”

I couldn’t hear what she said of course, but he waved more urgently toward the other phone, so I picked it up. She was in mid-diatribe already by the time I did.

“–really what you want, then you better listen to me. Unless you want to get railroaded into something. And nobody wants that.”

“Patty,” Ziggy said, and the tone of his voice sounded to me like he was about to say: what the hell are you talking about? But he didn’t. He said, “Could you be more specific? Is there something we need to be filled in on? Because–”

“I don’t know anything you don’t know, but I see it from a different vantage point. Well, no. There’s one thing I don’t know. Not really. Only you can tell me. What do you want? What do you really really want?”

My skin prickled. Barrett had asked that, too, but it felt very different to me coming from a manager who worked for us versus coming from someone who could make or break us in so many ways. Neither me nor Ziggy said anything.

“Come on, guys,” Patty said. “I don’t mean in a business-to-business sense. I mean, what’s in your heart? What would light you on fire? What would you like more than anything else in the world?”

Ziggy spoke tentatively. “You mean, like…”

“Anything. Toss something out there. Duet with Elton John. Grammy statuette handed to you by Jimmy Page. Whatever. Realistic, unrealistic, go on.”

Ziggy chuckled. “I want to do the next Purple Rain, huge movie success and huge album success, just lay it all out there.”

“That’s what I’m talking about!” She sounded like she was banging on her desk, or table or whatever. I wondered if she was in the office or what. It was like eight or nine o’clock, I think. “Daron, your turn.”

“Me?”

“Yeah, you, big guy.”

Ha. What a weird thing to call me. And what a thing to ask. “I want to know why you want to know now.”

“I need to know at some point. It seems better for all concerned if I know sooner than later.”

That seemed logical. I thought back to my teenage dreams of starting a band, of doing what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to just make a living playing the guitar. I wanted to be in the biggest band in the world. I wanted to be the next U2 or The Police.

There was no harm in telling her that, I supposed. Even if it made me sound like I was fifteen again. Right? I could see Ziggy through the open doorway, looking at me. It looked like he was holding his breath.

Here’s what I said. “I want to shoot the moon.”

“Yeah? What does that mean?”

“That means… do it all. Do everything right. All the cards fall your way.”

She chuckled. “I know what it means. I meant, to you. What would your definition of that kind of success be.”

Why the hell not. “Moondog Three back together. Album blowing away the critics and selling like Nevermind.” My voice got stronger as I went on: “Digger out of the picture forever. Selling out Madison Square Garden multiple nights and living to tell the tale. Nobody in rehab and everybody happy. Ziggy and me on the cover of Rolling Stone.

“Not SPIN?” Ziggy asked with a sly look.

“Been there, done that,” I said, shooting him a look in return. “I want it to be like things never went wrong with BNC in the first place.”

Patty had a throaty chuckle. “A lot of things have to go right for that.”

“I know. That’s why it’s shooting the moon. And maybe it can never happen, but… you asked.”

“I did. So I did. Oh, shit, just realized the time. I gotta run. Supposed to be downtown for a showcase… fifteen minutes ago. Ah well. Either they’ll wait for me or they won’t. We’ll talk more… tomorrow? Next week?”

Ziggy filled the silence when I couldn’t figure out how to answer that. “This is going to be a rough week around here, we think.”

“Next week might be rougher,” I finally said.

“Okay. Talk to you soon.” She hung up.

We did the same and Ziggy came into the bedroom. “Like it never went wrong, huh?” He sat down next to me on the bed.

“Did that sound hopelessly naive?”

“You mean, is it just the nature of the industry to chew up artists an spit them out and so it wasn’t ‘wrong’ so much as business as usual?” He drew back as I gave him the hairy eyeball. “Sorry, was that too far in the other direction?”

“I wasn’t expecting you to be quite such a pessimist.”

“I’m not pessimistic. Just jaded.” He kissed me on the cheek. “Someone has to shoot the moon. Why not us?”

I put my arms around him. “While we’re at it, how about a Grammy and an Academy Award for you, too.”

“Just for me? Not for you?”

“I think you enjoy awards ceremonies a lot more than me.”

“Ha, true.” He nuzzled me. “Let’s get in bed and have a little nap. I know you’re going to end up overnight in the hospital again.”

“Yeah, most likely.” We got half undressed (I shed my jeans) and got under the covers.

But then neither of us was very sleepy. And we started to talk more, about some things I hadn’t thought about in a long time.


(Hey guys, how about this? For Christmas, I’m going to post Thursday’s chapter on Wednesday instead, so if you need to come get a fix of the guys after you overdose on family stress or whatever, Daron and Ziggy’ll be here for you? All right? See you tomorrow. -ctan)

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