Playing as an instrumental threesome felt distinctly weird. Like missing a limb, or something. We often played without Ziggy in rehearsal for a minute or two at a time, but to go a whole hour without him? It just felt strange. On the other hand I could hear things I normally couldn’t. Maybe because we were each trying to fill that missing space. Maybe because we were a little rusty. By the end of the hour it felt good, but it had sent my brain spinning in a way I hadn’t expected.
I didn’t expect to keep discovering new things in songs we’d written years ago and had played a million times. But somehow I did. We only played for an hour–didn’t want to overdo it. We headed back to town in the van and I hardly said a word the whole time.
Ziggy being absent worked out in an odd sort of way, then. For more than one reason. You see, after we got home I went straight back out again. I took Green Line into downtown Boston to meet Jonathan, who was coming in for the weekend on the train.
He was looking very Ivy League as he crossed the atrium at South Station, in pencil-thin corduroys and a blazer, carrying a brown overnight case. I saw him first. I was leaning against a column near the escalator down to the Red Line. The moment he saw me, he changed trajectory.
There was an awkward moment when he stepped close, where I think neither of us knew whether we should shake hands or hug or what. We settled for one of those stiff, one-armed hugs that was more a mutual pat on the back than a hug.
“You hungry? Want something to eat?” I asked.
“Nah, I ate on the train. What about you?”
“It’s early yet.” It was about 10 pm at that point. “Next question. You want to go back to the house, or head straight for Lansdowne Street?”
“Well, actually, there’s this band I’d love to check out tonight at the Middle East.” Jonathan looked a little sheepish and I didn’t know why.
“The Middle East it is, then. We can hop the Red Line right here.” I wondered if I should offer to carry his bag. “You can totally just check that there. They won’t care.”
He followed me down the escalator. I’d gotten tokens for both of us earlier and handed him one before I went through the turnstile myself.
It was noisy down on the platform with a big fan blowing air around, and then it was noisy on the train. He sat and I stood, holding onto the pole, not saying anything until we got to Central Square. I gestured we should get off.
Out on the street a light rain had started but it wasn’t far to the club. As we walked I asked, “So who are we seeing?”
“Have you heard of Garmarna?”
“Can’t say that I have.”
“They’re on Omnium, you know, the Boiled-in-Lead label? They’re sort of hurdy-gurdy black metal specializing in kind of Arctic Circle metal versions of Swedish murder ballads.”
“Really? I only understood half of what you just said and it sounds terrific.”
At the door, I got recognized. The bouncer checking IDs shuffled us out of line and inside. I felt guilty for not paying the cover so I bought the CDs of both bands from the merch table.
The opening band, as it turned out, was a duo from New York City called Basque. A woman with long blond hair singing ethereal lyrics–sometimes non-words in a sort of Cocteau Twins vein–while her partner played bass. I liked it a lot and was glad I’d bought the CD.
In the break between bands, we leaned our elbows on the bar. Jonathan ordered a scotch and soda. I ordered a beer and felt uncreative about it. One of these days I’d have to try more things until I figured out what I actually liked to drink.
“So how’s it been going with BNC?” he asked.
“Pretty good so far. I mean, they seem happy. Carynne told me the other day that ‘Welcome’ is climbing the European charts, and ‘Candlelight’ seems like it just keeps going. It’s weird–I heard it on a light rock station the other day. I don’t think of it as ‘light,’ but whatever.”
“That happens, you know. They program those stations with hits that are on the wane on purpose, looking for the stuff that had been hot enough to sound familiar to the listener and that isn’t too ‘hard’ really.” Jonathan sucked his cocktail through the tiny straw they’d given him, which I thought was cute.
“Makes sense. It’s the one station that doesn’t seem to care about genre, exactly, you know? Rock, pop, hip hop, r&b, alternative, they’re just looking for a certain sound, I guess.”
“Well, of course. Because light radio is supposed to be background music. So they don’t care if anyone identifies with the type of music or not. There’s no youth identity component, either.”
“Huh.” I hadn’t really thought about it that way. Part of me really liked the fact that “light” stations didn’t seem to give a damn what category the rest of the music industry wanted to shove something into, but then again I wasn’t thrilled about the idea that it was just glorified Muzak. I suppose people listen to music–or use it–for a lot of reasons.
I was spoiled. I had the riveted attention of a whole lot of people on my music just now. I wondered how long it was going to last.
The club wasn’t crowded, but there were a decent number of people there for the size of the place. Over a hundred, anyway. Which I supposed wasn’t bad for a band that it didn’t seem like that many people had heard of.
Garmarna had a blond chick singer, too. And a bald, tattooed musclepunk for a hurdy gurdy player. If you don’t know what a hurdy gurdy is, I don’t blame you. It’s a kind of wooden box that you can wear on a guitar strap to play. You crank a wheel with one hand and it makes the drone strings play kind of like a bow constantly bowing a violin. With the other hand there are piano-type keys that play notes. It sounds like a cat trapped in a box with a violin, but in a good way.
It was head bangingly good, so much so that I spent most of the show on the floor in a pseudo mosh pit and discovered later, in the scary pizza place around the corner, that my neck was stiff.
Okay, I suppose I have to explain the “scary pizza” comment. Honestly, compared to pretty much anywhere in New York, Hi Fi Pizza isn’t scary. But for Boston I guess people considered it kind of rough. There were always some sketchy-looking black dudes hanging around in there. I presumed they were dealing drugs because they were rarely eating. Once or twice I saw fights break out. The cops stopped by regularly. But the place was open until 3am, which made it popular with clubgoers.
The pizza was kind of crummy, actually. But you take what you can get and you may feel free to ignore the opinions of the person who grew up eating New York style pizza and so has strong opinions about how mediocre the pizza is in New England. Ahem.
J. agreed with me on this point, however, which warmed my heart.
Okay, maybe there were other things feeling a bit warm at that point. I expounded for a while on what I thought of the bands that night. “It’s a shame, though, I just can’t see a way that a band like either of them really can break into the mainstream. Unless they do a soundtrack song and it somehow catches on. But I don’t see Hollywood film companies really going out on limbs there.”
“It’s funny, isn’t it?” he said, wiping a thin string of cheese from his chin. “Why the hell did it take them so long to catch onto the idea of soundtrack albums, though? It wasn’t that long ago that there was one, maybe two, pop songs on a soundtrack and the rest was all orchestral score. Now they’re starting to sell two albums for every blockbuster, one of score and one of all the songs. It’s practically its own product placement.”
“The one that got me was Batman, where Elfman did the orchestral score and Prince did all the pop songs. But it didn’t sell, did it? I got it at Tower out of the bargain bin.”
“The one in the black movie tin case?”
“Yeah.” I had only listened to it once or twice and it hadn’t left an impression. Cool package, though. “Then again, maybe with Prince the problem is that everyone wants another Purple Rain and he’s probably never doing that again.”
“Too true. So, speaking of flamboyant, enigmatic front men, how’s Ziggy?”
I laughed. “Nice segue. I have no idea, since he’s doing his movie thing and I haven’t heard from him. He’s supposed to come back Monday.”
“Ah.” J. had a little smile on his face. “Are they actually filming now or is it something else?”
“I think the filming’s done. He’s actually in New York now on a press junket or he was supposed to be back by now.”
“And supposedly, as soon as we get off the road, he’ll go back. To LA, I mean. For post-production. I always thought for some reason that movies took a long time to make, but it all seems to be happening really fast.”
“Yeah, that’s how it goes. Once they get the green light, then they make them in a hurry. And the actual filming part is pretty short, usually, less than a month, and the rest is all post.”
I nodded. I didn’t really want to talk about Ziggy. “Should we head back to the house?”
“Oh, I, uh, I didn’t want to impose. I booked a room at the Sheraton.”
“Yeah, I used frequent flyer points. Is that all right? I can always cancel it…”
“Well, it’s up to you. We do have a sort of guest room right now, so it’s not like you have to crash on the couch.”
“It’s all right, D. I don’t want to be underfoot 24-7. Plus I’m sure I’ll be up before you and get some writing done. At the hotel they’ll bring me breakfast and everything. And you… you need your space.”
He smiled. “You do. But if you want to go back to the house and hang out a bit, I’ll come with, and then grab a cab back to the hotel later.”
“Nah, that’s backwards. Let’s go to your hotel and I’ll catch the cab from there to the house.”
We tossed our greasy paper plates into the garbage can and went out to hail a cab.
Neither of us said anything on the ride to the hotel. I hung back while he checked in, then rode up in the elevator with him to the room.
When we got up there, he set his bag down on the desk, tossed his blazer onto one of the beds, and then turned to say something.
I probably should have let him, but I didn’t want to lose my nerve. I pulled him into a kiss.
He was taller than me and tasted like scotch, his lips slightly chapped against mine.
When we broke apart, he had his hands on the collar of my denim jacket.
“What changed?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said. “Is this a bad idea?”
“It’s too late to ask that.”
“Okay, then.” I kissed him again. He had a bit of tawny stubble on his chin that I liked the feel of. My jacket joined his.
I never did catch a cab back to the house that night.
(BONUS SCENE #3:To keep DGC from being graphically explicit, our next post will pick up with the next morning. However as has become traditional, I will write the “X” rated account of what transpires as a “bonus chapter” and send it to anyone over the age of 18 who puts a tip of any amount from $1 or up into the Tip Jar! Remember to include your “18 years of age or older” age statement in the Paypal comments!
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