Dallas was still really far away when I woke up. Marty didn’t nap. Or maybe I slept through that part. I don’t know. It kind of blurs together.
We stopped at a rest area at one point, though, and Carynne got on a pay phone to check her beeper messages. When she got back to the bus she didn’t look happy.
“What is it?” I asked. I was standing outside the bus, stretching a little.
She looked inside and waved me in to follow her. Everyone else was still in the rest room or grabbing some snacks. We sat down at the front dinette.
“Paco’s not coming back,” she said.
“Ouch. Is his ankle that bad?”
She shook her head. “He got caught trying to steal painkillers in the hospital. Well, I mean, if he was on crutches or whatever we’d have to replace him anyway, since he’s sure as hell not going to do his job like that. But… no way.”
“That’s the way it was described to me,” she said. “He’s been bailed out, but we’re not taking him back, if you see what I mean.”
I didn’t ask who bailed him out or how much it had cost. “Does Digger know about this?”
“He’s the one who told me. He was handling the follow-up with the hospital, and, well, yeah.” She shook her head again sadly. “Stupid motherfucker. Do you want to tell Chris or should I?”
“You better,” I said. “Chris and I are… I don’t know.”
She frowned. “Anything I should know about?”
“He’s just been acting really touchy lately. He told me last night he’s having trouble sleeping. Maybe that’s making him grouchy.”
“Maybe.” She stood up. “I’ll tell everyone, but I figure he should be the next to hear it. And then we’ll figure out what to do.”
I went to hide in my bunk then, but she must’ve told him before they got on the bus. Once we got rolling again, she closed the pocket door between Marty’s driving compartment and the rest of the bus and convened a meeting.
“Paco’s out,” she said simply. “And I left a message for Petey and the crew to see if there’s someone there who can step up or if we need to find somebody.”
I waited for someone to ask what happened to him or for her to tell them the details, but neither of those things happened.
Colin raised his hand like we were in school and Carynne called on him just like a schoolteacher. “Yes?”
“Could I learn to do drums as well as guitars? And if I did, do I qualify for double pay?” He ducked his head a little. “I mean, not that I wouldn’t do it anyway, just to help out, and not like I’m trying to be greedy, but if it’s in the budget…” He coughed. “I owe you both money, too. I don’t care if you pay me more so I have it to pay you with or if you just deduct it against what I owe.”
“You’re only a month behind on rent,” I said.
“Two months,” Christian corrected.
“How is it two?” I asked.
“June also,” Chris said.
“How can we charge him rent when he won’t even be there all month because he’s on tour with us?”
“How can we not? Just because someone goes on vacation doesn’t mean they don’t have to pay their rent.”
“This isn’t a vacation and we aren’t regular slumlords,” I insisted.
Carynne put a stop to the argument right there, though. “Colin. Have you ever done drum tech before?”
“Not really. I’ve carried them and I used to help Lars set up, but nothing like this.”
Chris ran a hand through his hair. “It’s not that hard. Just a lot of parts to remember.”
“It’s going to ultimately be up to you,” Carynne told Chris. “We might have some experience in the regular road crew.”
“Then let’s wait until we get to Dallas to figure it out,” Chris said. “Alright?”
“Alright.” Carynne flipped over a page in her daybook. “While I have you all here, some reminders.” She recited off what the eight dates were coming up, all with Megaton as our opening act. Dallas, Houston, two nights in Austin because we’d sold out the first night so fast, New Orleans, Pensacola, Atlanta, Charlotte.
“Did Digger say anything more about New Orleans?” I asked.
“Studio time is booked. That’s all I know.”
“A producer, too, presumably?”
“Presumably.” She shrugged. “I’ll check next time I talk to anyone.”
Ziggy yawned and turned to me. “Speaking of which, you want to work on it?”
Carynne waved us all away from her as her way of adjourning the meeting and Zig and I went to the front lounge. Colin came, too.
“Do you still want to do the ‘milking it’ song?” I asked as I settled the Ovation in my lap and started tuning it. “Wait, here, you do this.” I handed the guitar and the pick to Colin who looked panicked for a second until I said, “Just relative tuning. Tune it to itself.”
“Oh, okay.” He bent his head to the task and I looked back at Ziggy.
He was in an oversized blue button down shirt, like a car mechanic’s shirt, except so big as to be blousy and therefore almost feminine on him, the long sleeves buttoned tight at his wrists. He was looking at me curiously. “Did you not like it?”
“I did. I just… making sure you didn’t change your mind or think of something better.” Just making sure you weren’t singing that song just to yank my chain that day.
“No, that’s probably the best one. Unless you’ve got something?”
“I’ve got bunches of fragments, but it’s your movie, it should be one of your songs. What’s the movie about, anyway?”
“The usual. Boy meets girl. Boy gets corrupted by fame and loses girl. Boy gets head out of ass and gets her back.” He shrugged.
Oh. A sense of relief swept over me. Maybe the song wasn’t about us breaking up, then. Or whatever we were. I took the guitar back from Colin and the neck was warm where he’d been holding it. I started to play a progression, Travis picking so that the changes came more subtly than with a power chord, then stopped and said, “Sing. I’ll figure out the chords as we go along.”
“And here I was going to say ‘play, and I’ll figure out the melody as we go along.'” He grinned.
I switched to just a simple strum and lightly sang what words I could remember, which was enough to get him going. We did the verse a couple of times; each time he made a rolling motion with his hand to mean “again.”
Somehow having Colin there watching made me self-conscious in a way I usually wasn’t while we were figuring stuff out. This wasn’t the first time Ziggy and I had worked out a piece this way. But I felt weird about it.
The weird feeling didn’t stick, though. Because once we got really into it, I forgot Colin was even there. I forgot we were in a bus going through Texas. I forgot everything but sound and maybe Ziggy’s face, and the way his fingers looked long and brown as he gestured along with the lyrics. The lyrics stopped meaning anything, they were just sound. Words were sounds with special shapes and textures. Ziggy sang quietly, just loud enough to be heard over the sound of the bus, playing around with going from his lower register to his upper like a jazz saxophonist.
When we ran out of ways to play with that song, we just moved on to playing with our regular material, just jamming, find rabbit holes in the songs we already knew and going down them.
We played all the way to the next truck stop, when we had to gas up. As the bus slowed and took the off ramp, reality flooded back.
Ziggy lay back on the bench-like seat. “Whew. I’m beat. I shouldn’t sing so much without drinking something.”
“You nut. The fridge is packed full of drinks.” I got up and pulled out a Gatorade for him.
He sat up to take it. “Didn’t realize how thirsty I was until we stopped.” He was looking at me, though, like it wasn’t a drink he was thirsty for.
“Stop it. Save it for the stage,” I said.
He dropped his head. “Busted. Okay. Sorry.”
Marty opened the door and I hopped down into the parking lot, into heat and humidity that hugged like a fat, overzealous aunt.
“Five minutes!” Carynne was shouting. “Five and that’s it.”
I walked to the building where the restrooms and convenience store was, trying to uncramp my fingers. We had to have played for more than two hours. In the convenience store it was as cold as a giant refrigerator. I walked up and down the aisles and ended up buying a bunch of things that would be fun to eat when bored. Because there were still hours to go before we got there.
(This video just hit Youtube two days ago, don’t know how long it will last before it gets squelched for copyright infringing, but it’s BonJovi concert footage from July 1989, so I thought it would be extra fitting. Maybe it’s just me, but the duet with Sebastian Bach seems sort of bromantic. Or maybe it’s that Sebastian is wearing next to nothing. Jon is 27 in this video, Sebastian is 21. And Richie Sambora is 30, as evidenced by the cake… -ctan)