We arrived in Athens close to ten o’clock, too late to see anything that night but the little restaurant and bar adjacent to the motel. The only thing any of us knew about Athens was that this was where REM, the B52s, and Love Tractor were from.
As it turned out, the clerk working the night shift was a Love Tractor fan and I sat in the lobby talking to him until well after midnight. I was staggered by the number of clubs and music halls in this one town, college town or no. I didn’t think I could name as many places in Boston. We were booked into a place called the Atomic Music Hall. I wrote the kid’s name down (Jim Calandra) and told him we’d put him on the guest list. He seemed to appreciate that and said to call him at the desk if we needed anything.
With Carynne gone we needed one fewer room, so I dropped it from our reservation and thought maybe tomorrow I’d call ahead to confirm our other ones and drop it on those, too. This, however, landed Ziggy and I back together, like the rest of the band decided to see what would happen… or maybe they really hadn’t noticed exactly who was rooming with whom recently. Whatever.
Zig and I stayed up until two or three watching cable (they had a real cable feed at this place, not a pared down “hotel” service), passing the remote back and forth whenever one of us would get up to piss or something. We could watch a minimum of four channels at once, following a movie, a rerun, a documentary, and MTV at the same time, switching every time a commercial came on or something got dull. I must have fallen asleep before he did since when I woke up some time later all the lights and the TV had been turned off, which I didn’t remember either of us doing.
In other words, we didn’t talk, we didn’t fight, we didn’t antagonize each other, and we sure as hell didn’t fuck.
No blood was shed; I considered it a good night.
So, Athens. I was pleasantly surprised to find a lively downtown area near the club, warm but not hot weather, sun and outdoor cafes, free newspapers–most of the comforts of home and then some. The six of us stuck together for the most part that day, doing some used record shopping, and wandering around what was kind of hallowed ground in indie rock.
I mailed postcards to Remo and Digger, and thought about sending one to Car’ but wasn’t sure that would be in good taste. She had apologized ten million times for leaving and had several times changed her mind about it, arguing with herself that she wanted nothing more in the world than to be doing this, but in the end had gone. (“I’m a big girl and this is my problem to deal with,” she said at one point. “So I’m choosing to deal with it later.” I supported that choice.)
Ziggy seemed unaffected by her absence. He came up to me while we were sitting around backstage, shortly before we went on, and said, with a fake punch to my arm, “Hey, let’s make it good tonight.”
How could it not be? We had a crowd who knew all the old songs and had learned half the words to the new ones before we were done. I had a strong feeling bootleg tapes were being made but I didn’t care. We were on, and I made it through another night without an anxiety attack or mishap. After the show someone told me one of the guys in Love Tractor was there and wanted to know if we’d be sticking around for a few days and if we could jam. (It was too bad we had to be on the road in the morning because those guys can really play.)
After the show the town was still awake and Bart and Ziggy and I had dinner in a brew pub. Toward the end, Bart went off to the men’s room, and Ziggy leaned in close to me. “How are you?”
“You seem a little more relaxed.”
“It’s easier with Digger not around,” I said, not sure if I was tossing that off as an excuse or if it was partly true. The feeling was less one of something being wrong than there being a lack of something at all, like it had all been a mirage that disappeared the closer you came to it.
Disappeared. I looked at him and I felt nothing. Not an ache, not a pang. It was an odd feeling. It was like somewhere along the way, I’d had my fill of him. I’d stopped needing him like a drug.
As we left the restaurant I detached myself from the two of them and headed off on my own. I ended up at a gay bar/dance club called Boneshakers and tried hard not to think of whether the awful pun was intended or not.
And of course I thought of Z. and C. while I got down in the men’s room with a new friend and a rubber dispensed not from a machine but from a basket on the bar next to the tip jar. If anyone recognized me, they didn’t say anything, probably pegged me for a UGA student, and I was back at the motel watching cable by 2am.