If you know me and you know Remo by now you can guess that the next day no one said anything about the night before, and we didn’t treat each other any differently than usual, except maybe slightly less ball-busting. This time, though, I could see the effort that went into Remo maintaining an even keel.
I still couldn’t figure out why it felt okay for me and Remo not to talk about our shit whereas it had felt weirdly oppressive the way my family didn’t talk about our shit. Maybe it was because it wasn’t the first time we were pissed off at each other and we’d always worked it out before whereas my family never fucking worked out anything, ever.
Plus I figured if I could put up with my family for years on end, putting up with being angry at Remo for six weeks wouldn’t be that hard. Right?
That afternoon after soundcheck, Flip sat me down in a far corner of the arena while Happy Occident were getting ready to do theirs. “This guy Jam, you know him from before?”
“He seems like a decent guy but I wanted to hear from you if there’s anything I should know.”
“You know, cokehead, kleptomaniac, whatever.” Flip was sitting on the back of a seat with his feet on the folded down part of the one behind it, and I was stiting in the one behind that. “Reason I ask is because every now and then you just look at him like…like he’s one of those things.”
My mouth hung open a little. “Um. Nothing worth noting, really, I mean, typical weed use, typical tour doings. Shenanigans.”
He didn’t give me an outright skeptical look but he did sort of wait for me to say more. I decided Flip didn’t need to know the whole story and then I realized yes he did if he was coming on tour with me and Ziggy next.
“Okay, it’s this. We were the openers on the western leg of the MNB tour while BNC were courting us. Ziggy brought a girl with him and next thing you know she jumped ship from Ziggy to Jam and Ziggy took it really personally.”
“Huh.” Flip looked like that didn’t totally add up.
Of course it didn’t. “Um, and while Ziggy was flipping out about that is when he and I, you know.” Two little words “you know” but they mean so much when you really do know.
Now it was Flip’s mouth that hung open. “Huh. No shit. I thought for sure you were going to say it was something about drugs.”
“Why, you think he has a drug problem?”
“Well, I guess it depends what you mean by problem. I mean, as long as it doesn’t interfere with him doing what he’s supposed to, then it’s not a quote-unquote problem.” Flip had shaved his head down and it had grown in to the stage where he was rubbing his own head with his palms all the time. “You know, Remo and his bandmates and the industry will be like, ripshit, or at least really disappointed, if he flakes out.”
“I don’t know him well enough to know if he’s going to flake out.” I jerked my chin toward the stage where Jay–I mean Jam–had just taken his mark at the mic stand. “So far so good, though.”
“So far so good,” Flip said with a solemn nod, looking at me and not at the stage. He again did that thing of waiting for me to say something.
I blinked. Wait. “Oh, come on, Flip. Don’t tell me that was all a way to get me to admit I have a drinking problem.”
He lifted his hands. “I didn’t say it, you did. And we just agreed it’s not a problem unless you make it a problem.”
My anxiety spiked then and I had to force myself to take a slow breath and blink my eyes. “What brought this on?”
“Oh, little things like finding you so drunk you thought it made sense to be naked in the bathtub.”
“It did make sense! It still makes sense even though I’m sober now.” I could see, however, that no matter how I argued I was going to lose that one.
“How many drinks have you already had today?”
“None. But I was just wishing I had gotten a beer before we came up here.” I held up my own hands. “Look, I know. I used to have a rule about not drinking before a show, and then I used to have a rule about not drinking before soundcheck, and I know I’ve been ignoring them for a while now. It’s stressful. This situation is just…stressful.”
“I’m here to help you, you know, that’s why I’m saying this.”
I had an idea, or maybe I finally got the idea. “You want to help me stick to my rule?”
“Which rule, though?”
“Keep me from drinking before soundcheck, and let me have one beer before the show–or during. I’m liking that solo where I used the bottle as a slide the other night. I was going to talk to Remo about making that a regular thing.”
“I can do that,” Flip said. “What about after?”
“After really depends on what’s going on. What’s the drinking situation, I mean. Is it a party, are we on the bus, that kind of thing.”
He didn’t press me on how much I planned to drink in any of those situations, and I took that as a sign of victory. Victory? I’m not sure what I was trying to win. Flip and I had the same goal, I think, which wasn’t to get me to stop drinking, but just to get it under control enough to make sure it didn’t fuck up my performance. That seemed totally reasonable and like something I could get behind.
“Did you actually want to know anything about Jam?” I then asked. “Or was that just a fake-out to get me onto the subject?”
“It was just a fake-out,” he admitted. “He seems like an okay guy to me. I didn’t peg him for a sleaze.”
“Yeah, seems pretty relaxed. I don’t even think he really remembers the drama from that tour. In fact I’m not even sure he realized Ziggy’s girlfriend came attached to someone else.” I shrugged.
Happy Occident started their soundcheck at that point and we decided to go somewhere quieter.
Backstage Flip got sidetracked into some other errand and I decided to have a snack and hold off on having my pre-show beer for a while, like that proved something. Thus I was eating salami with my fingers off a plastic plate when Remo came in carrying Ford.
“You want to go visit Uncle Daron?” he asked the baby.
“Technically I’m not his uncle, am I?” I said as they came closer.
“What, you want to be called Don Corleone? The Godfather?” Remo said as he hooked a folding chair with one foot and dragged it over to the sunken in couch where I was sitting. He plopped himself down and bounced the baby on his knee.
“How about just Daron? Do I have to have a title?”
“Is this like how Digger wouldn’t let you call him Dad?”
“No, this is nothing like that. I’m not his Uncle, don’t call me uncle.” I shrugged. Seemed obvious to me.
“Here, hold him while I get some food.”
He handed me the baby who didn’t seem to mind one bit that my fingers were covered in salami grease. I sat him on my lap so he was facing the same direction as me and then he held onto my fingers like handlebars of a bike. He seemed content to just stare around.
When Remo came back I asked. “Okay, so what is it with the bouncing of the baby? I’m not bouncing him and he seems fine. Is that wrong?”
“When you’re holding him and he starts to cry, and you bounce him and he stops, you bounce him a lot.”
“But you don’t wait until he starts to cry. You bounce him constantly.”
Remo shrugged. “It’s just a thing you do.”
I figured I’d start bouncing the baby when he started crying. So far so good, though.
Then Melissa came in. “There you are,” she said in a sing-songy voice that made it obvious she was talking to Ford and not me or Remo.
“Mel, I told you, I’ve got him. I thought you and your mom were going for a nail appointment.”
She picked Ford up under his arms and he made a noise like he was starting to cry and she immediately began bouncing him and he stopped. I guess they knew what they were doing in that department.
Having been relieved of the baby I went back to the buffet table to get some more food, and I managed to miss what started the argument, but when I heard Melissa fairly shout, “I’m tired of you being more interested in being Ford’s father than my wife!” I took my plate of cold cuts and a beer from the cooler and high-tailed it to the loading dock. So much for somewhere quieter.
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(Another 1991 hit. Respect to Alice Cooper. -d)