268. Walk of Life

(Don’t forget tonight 5pm – 7pm Eastern: Google Hangout! DGC video chat, should be viewable to all here: https://plus.google.com/106322465979385944906/posts?hl=en)

So the stupid part about being on a bus overnight that was built to sleep eight people was that we really didn’t sleep.

Bart got into his bunk but didn’t end up staying there. No one really felt like settling down; it was like a sleepover party. Colin had a nap and then got back up, and Chris never even got in bed, I don’t think. People had quiet conversations, or read a little, and checked out the various parts of the bus all over again.

It took me a little while to figure out why there were holes in all the tables. As soon as someone stuck a Coke can into one it was obvious, though. There were two toilets, one in each “lounge” area. The one in back was tiled and had gold-tone fixtures. (“Crap. This is nicer than the bathroom we have at home,” Chris joked.) The front lounge had a door that could shut us off from the driver completely, but there was a phone Marty could use to call us or vice versa. The front lounge was just a lounge, with a TV set in one corner and a VCR, while in the back the corners held some kitchen stuff, a microwave, coffee maker, freezer and so on. Ten people could comfortably hang around in the back, twelve if you were friendly. The banquette-type seats that lined it had drawers under them. There were also storage drawers under the double bunks that could be pulled out so that instead of eight bunks, you could sleep twelve.

The shower really seemed like something from the set of a science fiction movie. The entire interior was a uniform beige color and it was like it had been molded from a single piece of plastic, which I guess it was. When Chris got in I seriously wondered how he’d wash the lower half of himself since there wasn’t room for him to bend over. Those of us of the smaller species of human had a lot less trouble. Chris said he planned to shower at the venues whenever he could, which got a thumbs up from Carynne.

Looking down the list I could see we were going to be playing some pretty varied places. The sports arenas where we’d been so far almost always had full shower setups because they had locker rooms and stuff. The locker rooms were off limits if there were sports teams playing there, but there were always showers. With the smaller theaters and amphitheaters, sometimes you didn’t know what kind of facilities would be there. I had heard some stories that at outdoor festivals you might be lucky to have flush toilets.

I felt too good to really be worrying about all that, exactly. There’s a difference between thinking and worrying.

I fell asleep as the sky was lightening. The windows in the back lounge were tinted, but I could make out stuff along the side of the road as the blackness lifted. I didn’t actually get into my bunk. One minute I was staring out the window, the next, I was out cold with my face against the top of the bench-type seat.

When someone woke me, it was full morning, and the bus was parked behind a sand-colored building inside a fenced in area.

The someone was the bus driver, a short, olive-skinned man named Marty. “You’ll get a crick,” he said, and jerked his thumb toward the bunks.

“What time is it?”

“You get a couple more hours sleep. I’m getting breakfast.” He shuffled up the aisle toward the front.

I was wide awake by the time I stood up. “I’ll come with you.”

He looked back at me like I said I was going to get a second head attached.

“Um, unless you don’t want company.”

He broke into a crooked smile. “You’re a good kid. Come on. But bring a jacket.”

I grabbed my denim jacket and I followed him out into what was clearly a production parking lot. I saw our equipment truck. A soft drink delivery truck was backed into the loading dock and someone was whistling.

“You been here before?” Marty asked.

“No. Well, Arizona once. To film a video. Never played a show here, though.”

“This place is nice,” he said. When he said that I suddenly recognized his New York accent.

The sun was blindingly bright and I was glad to find a pair of sunglasses in the pocket of my jacket. He brought me around the building and I realized it was the stage itself, all one big structure. In the front was a sculpted lawn, bright green, sloping up in elegant tiers. Looked like a fabulous place to see a show.

“This place is nice,” I agreed.

He took me out the front of the place, and then we walked. He wasn’t a tall man, and he had a bit of a hunch, so I had no trouble keeping up.

For some reason I was sort of surprised to find we were smack dab in the middle of a city. I guess I always think of these shed venues as being in the middle of nowhere. Mesa wasn’t as densely packed as an East Coast city, but it was definitely a city.

By the second block, I was starting to feel very thirsty and hot. “Last time we were here, it was a hundred degrees,” I said.

He nodded. “Not today. Maybe ninety. We’re lucky.”

“Yeah.” I wondered why he’d told me to bring a jacket. Marty himself was wearing a kind of bus driver uniform. Baggy, navy blue pants and vest over a light blue, button-down shirt. He was carrying a blue jacket over one arm.

I understood why when we got where we were going. He led me into an aggressively colorful coffee shop and it was like walking into a refrigerator. The place was crowded and we got in line to place an order.

“Brunch,” he said with a knowing nod.

“Is it Sunday?” I asked.

He nodded again.

We didn’t say much while we ate. Marty was a man of few words, which suited me just fine. We had a good laugh, though, when a waitress asked if we were father and son. I paid for both of us, and he bought a couple of cups of coffee to go. I didn’t know if he was bringing them for other folks or if they were all for him.

We were just walking back into the heat when he said to me, “This is good.”

“What’s good?”

“You’re not crazy.”

“I’m not?”

“Nah. And since you’re not crazy, they don’t go crazy.” He waved back at the restaurant.

“I think they just don’t recognize me.”

“It’s not just that. You don’t have the crazy hair. You don’t have the crazy clothes. You don’t have the crazy face.” He squinted at me. I probably still had a smudge of eyeliner but maybe it had finally sweated off.

“Um, thanks?”

He grinned. It was like parts of his face had sagged over the years and smiling only lifted up some of the parts. His explanation: “It’s not every guy I can walk to breakfast with.”

“Oh. Well, thanks.”

Back at the venue, Carynne introduced me to another young woman who showed us backstage. There were two fully decked out dressing rooms, the kind lined with makeup tables and mirrors with round lights, a small production office Carynne had already moved into, and check it out: a fully functional shower. Three guitar cases were already lined up next to one of the dressing tables.

I went and sat down in Carynne’s temporary office. She had a bunch of papers spread out on the desk and was staring at them. She looked up at me. “Everything okay?”

“Everything’s great,” I said. “Marty’s a gem.”

“Isn’t he, though? He’s a find. Where’d you guys go?”

“He took me to get breakfast. I’m just checking in with you since how am I supposed to know where to be if there was no schedule under my door this morning?”

“Hah. But, you have a point. I’ll post it on the bus door each morning. Starting tomorrow. Today’s check is at one-thirty. Spread the word.”

“That early?”

“Because the show starts early, doofus. Five p.m.”

“Ohh, right. It’s Sunday. How many does this place seat?”

“Five K. Doors open at three.”

“And we have the day off tomorrow…?”

“Well, sort of. It’s a fourteen hour drive to Denver.”

“Holy crap.” I went on a fourteen-hour bus trip once, before I quit high school band, to a competition. At the time it hadn’t even occurred to me that the bus drivers didn’t get much of a rest that whole trip. I supposed Marty was a pro, maybe fourteen hours was nothing to him.

“Then it’s another fourteen hours to Dallas from Denver,” Carynne said with a yawn. “But it’ll be worth it. If you think this place is beautiful, wait till you see Red Rocks.”

I’ll admit it, I got a little goosebumpy when she said “Red Rocks.” I’m the one who wore out the tape of the U2 concert from there, after all.

“Money’s better there, too,” she said, no romance in her voice at all. “Seats twice what they do here, and the expenses are lower.”

I took a cue from Marty and just nodded.

(Kickstarter update: We hit our goal last night!! Yes, we’re fully funded! You’ve still got 6 days, though, to order an autographed book or other swag. Don’t forget tonight 5pm – 7pm Eastern: Google Hangout! DGC video chat, should be viewable to all here: https://plus.google.com/106322465979385944906/posts?hl=en)


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