Okay, so, you know how I thought rock formations were really neat in New Mexico? Now imagine a stage nestled between them. That’s Red Rocks. You’ve probably seen the U2 concert video from there so I probably can shut up about it now. I’ll just add it’s even better in real life.
We had left Mesa before the crew, but our jaunt to the cliff dwellings had let them catch up. Marty was in CB radio contact with their van and the equipment truck apparently, and so we ended up with all our vehicles arriving at Red Rocks at the same time that night.
The dressing rooms were like something from Disney World, with real rock faces for walls some of the time. They were less like dressing rooms and more like hotel suites. There was a full kitchen, too. All built into the levels under the stage.
The first people I saw, I totally didn’t expect, but familiar faces are always good to see. First was Dave, the guy who had been the stage manager at the Fox in Boulder when we’d played there. I was just walking up to him to shake his hand when Jason came out of nowhere shouting “Duuuuude!” and we ended up in a loose three-way hug.
Jason from Stumblefish, the band we’d billed with last time through, too.
“What are you guys doing here?” I asked. “Are you our local act?”
“Nope. Working tech,” Jason said, “for Dave here.”
Dave shrugged. “I do a lot of hours in the summer over here.”
“So you’re still in Boulder…?”
“Yep, there, too. Man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”
Jason wasn’t done greeting me yet, and drew me into a fancy handshake of some kind. “It’s awesome to see you again.”
“Yeah, likewise. How’s Stumblefish?”
“Eh. On hiatus. Which is a nice was to say we broke up, but with a bunch of flakes like us that might not be permanent.” He spun in a circle. “Tell me everything.”
“Everything? I don’t think there’s time for that.”
“Okay, well, how about everything since I last saw you. Come on, there’s leftover beer in the kitchen.”
I followed him to the kitchen. Amusingly enough, though he’d demanded I tell him everything, he talked a mile a minute as we went. I had the distinct impression he was high, but not unusually so.
We ended up carrying a partial six pack outdoors and sitting on some rocks where we were within earshot of the stage but facing the other way. There was enough light to see by from the back loading dock, where the crew was moving stuff in and out, but we sat in the shadow.
Above us the sky was clear and there were so many stars…
“Hey,” he said. And then that question again. “You okay?”
No, I’m not okay, I thought. Looking up at one of the most stunningly beautiful sights only reminded me of Ziggy. And how we were doomed. Wasn’t that what his song was about? He was already writing songs about how he was just milking what was left.
“I don’t know, man,” is what I said.
“You sound like you’re missing somebody,” he said. “How long you been on the road?”
I shook my head. “Like two weeks. It’s…” But it was like I was missing somebody. The way you miss people when they’re gone.
But he’s right there, I told myself.
Except he’s not. He’s already moving on. And it’s because you forced him to…
“Daron,” Jason said.
“You look way more stressed than a guy in your shoes oughta.” He looked at me sideways when he said it. He’d changed his hair since I last saw him. Now he had one long sort of tail down the back with beads in it, but the rest was a short mop. His chin looked extra pointy with just a stripe of blondish beard down the center.
“I should try to enjoy it more, is that what you’re saying? Success, I mean?”
“Yeah, I guess. If you can’t enjoy the ride, what’s the point trying to get somewhere? You’re not playing music for a living because you want to set up a nice 401K plan.”
I only had a vague idea what a 401K was, but I got his point. “Yeah. You’re right. And the shows have been awesome. And we’ve got another single hitting radio now, did I mention?”
“Heard it,” he said.
“So, yeah, I should be enjoying myself more. I’m doing what I dreamed of doing. The music’s good. The crew’s great.” Then why did I feel like right then I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out? I rubbed my chest where it felt like there was a bruise. “I’m just having… mood swings,” I said, as if that explained it.
“Huh. You taking uppers or downers?” Jason asked, as breezy as if I’d told him I had allergies.
“Neither. A little booze.” I held up the half bottle of beer still in my hand. “Got drunk one night in LA, but I was the lightweight of the group. I’ve been staying away from weed.”
“No kidding? And here I was gonna ask if you wanted to partake.”
“Feel free, but none for me right now.” I sighed. “Weed used to always turn me into a paranoid little fucker. That stopped for a while, but right now…”
“You have way too much going on in your head,” Jason pronounced, while he took a baggy from the pocket of his cargo shorts. “You ever do psychedelics? Mushrooms? Ecstasy?”
“Nope.” I shook my head. “I’ve never really thought about… no, that’s not true. Chris and I thought we’d get around to tripping at some point, but we never did.” I sat up straight suddenly. “Hang on a sec…”
I reached into one of the chest pockets of my denim jacket. Jason watched in amusement as I slowly emptied out my pockets. The jacket has six of them, two on the inside, two on either side of the chest, and two at the waist. When I was done I had easily three hundred dollars in cash from unspent per diems I’d been shoving into my pockets day after day, and some guitar picks, and a business card for someone I didn’t remember.
And a tiny square of foil. “Holy crap, I’ve been carrying this since Christmas.”
“That’s not that long.”
“No, since Christmas 1987.”
That set him to laughing hard enough that he lost his toke and ended up having a small coughing fit.
When he calmed down, he held out his hand and I gave him the foil. He unfolded it carefully, then whistled appreciatively. “There’s four… no wait, eight hits here.”
“You think they’re still good?”
“Probably. Acid breaks down over time but it’s also true that in one little bit of blotter you probably get more than you strictly need.” He folded it closed again and handed it back. “The extra just gets flushed out by your system, so it’s good to make it strong.”
He pushed himself up looking over the edge of the ridge toward the building. “When do you play? Tomorrow?”
“Hm, this probably wouldn’t be the best time to try it, then. It lasts twelve hours at least. You’d be just coming down when you’d need to start your soundcheck, and you won’t have slept.” He leaned back against the rock. “And I wouldn’t advise playing a show while tripping until you’ve dropped a few times.”
“Have you played a show while tripping?”
“Oh, yeah, couple of times. It’s surreal. But then again, that’s the point.” He waved his wands like a belly dancer, which I suppose was to indicate the waviness of melted clocks. “You should try it, though. Acid will clean out your brain.”
“When you’re tripping, it’s like your brain moves at its best speed, and all the bullcrap that’s weighing you down just can’t hang on. It gets sloughed off like a snake skin and you emerge all shiny.”
“Shiny like a snake?” I said, skeptically, and partly laughing.
“Shit, man, yeah. Take the stuff and then you can make your own analogies. Shee-it.” He laughed, too. “The one piece of advice I’ll give though, is… tunafish sandwich.”
“When you come down, you’ll be needing vitamin B. I think it’s B, isn’t it? Whatever it is, it’s in tunafish. So eat a tuna salad sandwich, or if you’re lazy, just eat it out of the can, whatever, but do it and you’ll feel great.”
“Sounds like it’s going to take some planning.”
“It is. Because it’s like a vacation for your brain. To another planet.”
“Got it.” That brought me back to thinking about me and Ziggy being star-crossed. Is that really what it is? I’m trying too hard to be down to Earth, and he’s from another planet.
I tucked the foil back into the pocket where it had been, and transferred the majority of the cash into the front pockets of my jeans. Vacation to another planet, eh? I wondered if I’d like it.
“You seem a little cheered up,” Jason said.
“I told you, mood swings.” I shrugged. “Has to swing back the other way sometime. Besides, it’s cool to see you.”
“So tell me more about this crazy tour bus of yours.”
“Why don’t I just show it to you? Come on, my butt’s getting sore from sitting on rocks.” I stood up. “And judging from all the laughing I can hear, no one’s going to sleep yet.” We’d all napped mightily during the drive, after all.
Down at the bus I introduced him to Colin. They hit it off immediately and got talking about video games. I think I’d caught just enough of Jason’s secondhand smoke that I went quiet, so it was just as well they could talk to each other. There was a game system hooked up to the TV in the bus, which I hadn’t realized. They didn’t play anything but did explore the options.
While they talked tech I sat with them like I was just one of the guys. But my head decided to go off and imagine what a three-way would be like. I assumed Jason was straight but that didn’t affect his role in my rather vivid, sordid fantasy. We wandered back into the building and the porno film I was imagining in my head just shifted settings.
Eventually Jas’ left, though, and it was time to get some sleep. When I got back to the bus, the curtain to Bart’s bunk was already pulled shut. So was Carynne’s.
It’d been a long time since I’d had to keep quiet while jerking off. Nice to know I hadn’t lost the knack.