You’re All I’ve Got Tonight

Back at the hotel the others were feeling dinnerish and plans were tossed about for going here, doing that, seeing this… while people wandered in and out of the main suite and got dressed and so on.

I changed my shirt and hustled Jonathan to an elevator before anyone noticed we were gone. Once we were on the street and moving toward the Metro I said “Sorry to be so James Bond, but I had to get away from them for a while.”

“Understandable,” he said and nodded. “So where are we going?”

Hmm, so I was in the proverbial driver’s seat, even though we took public transit. I didn’t know much about DC but the guidance of some freebie papers (one of them perhaps the one we’d be appearing in) got us to a college-y area and I was sure we could find amusement and food here.

“Reminds me of the Hill,” Jonathan said as we weaved through Walkmanned women and men, past bookstores, record shops, a Native American trinkets store, the front of a cafe.

“Only bigger,” I replied. The interesting part of College Hill in Providence was essentially three blocks long, with nothing on the side streets to speak of. “What school’s here?”

“Georgetown is the main one, plus there are some others.” His path took him closer to me and I swear he started to reach for my hand, but maybe that was my imagination. “Do you ever think about going back to school?”

“Not for music, I don’t. That’s for sure.”

“But, for a regular bachelor’s degree?”

As evening came on, summery heat rose up from the sidewalk and I had the urge to lie down on it. “I don’t see what would be the point.”

“I don’t know about that. Did you have good grades in school?”

“Good enough, I guess. I wasn’t an overachiever, let’s put it that way. But come on, Jonathan, can you picture me now, reading a lot of books and writing term papers and stuff?”

His hands were in the pockets of his faded jacket. “No, I guess not. I guess I’m having trouble thinking that it’s possible to go through life without a college education, but that’s because I have one, I guess.”

I laughed. “And people say I think too much? Hah! But think, J, if I had gone to college, I’d only be what, a junior now?”

“Something like that.”

“Besides, a music school education isn’t like a regular college. Shit, if anything I’d know even less about the world than I do now.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, come on, J. If I’ve got four classes in a semester, it’s four classes that have to do with music. Conducting, theory, advanced composition, orchestra, even at a diddly school like the Conservatory, it’s music music music. Composers of the romantic era. Wind ensemble. Ear training.” I shook my head suddenly, like I was trying to wake myself up from one of those dreams where you find yourself in a classroom taking a test, but it’s not a class you’ve ever taken and for some reason the test is in Swahili or something. “I mean, did I really need to learn conducting? Could I have spent that time better reading Moby Dick or running white rats through a maze? I don’t know.”

“I’m trying to imagine you as a conductor.”

I patted at the air in four-four and growled out a few loudening bars of Ride of the Valkyrie, my gestures becoming more emphatic until I almost poked him in the nose as we walked. “I got a B and got to keep the baton.”

“You think you’ll ever use any of that stuff?”

“The baton?”

“The classes, the stuff you had to learn.”

I shrugged. “I might end up writing movie soundtracks. Everyone else does. And then there’s stuff like Paul McCartney composing for the London Philharmonic. Which seems downright silly to me, but, hey, maybe when I’m pushing fifty it’ll seem like a great idea. And at least I’ll actually know what I’m doing.” Then I decided I was being an ass. “Well, partly anyway. I mean, I was only there eighteen fucking months before I booked out of there.”

He slowed down a bit. “So where are we going?”

We were coming to the end of the interesting-looking stores. “Wherever I damn well feel like,” I said. “And tonight I’m paying for dinner.”

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