No one said much of anything on that bus ride. Then again everyone was asleep for most of it. Everyone except me, anyway. I kept thinking things might get stressful and so I really ought to get as much rest as I could, and that just led to me worrying about not sleeping, and, well, not sleeping. So I rattled around alone in the back lounge for a couple of hours. I sat down and wrote a handful of crappy lyrics. None of them were going to make good songs, but maybe I could use the rhymes later.
I was just thinking about getting into my bunk and at least pretending I was sleeping when we pulled off the highway. It was about four in the morning, and I assumed this was just a pit stop. But the bus made a turn and went down a block, then another.
We pulled up outside something that looked to me like a government building, like the White House, or more likely an IRS office. I went forward to ask Marty what it was.
“Too early for coffee,” he said when I stuck my head forward, just as he was parking the bus at the curb.
“Yeah, I guess. Is this the place?”
“This is the place.” He turned off the main engine, but kept the generator running for the A/C. “Best get some shut eye.”
For a second I thought he was giving me advice, then I realized he meant for himself. “Right. Good idea.”
I climbed into my own bunk and shut the curtain. I surprised myself by actually falling asleep pretty quickly.
A couple of hours later I was woken by the sound of someone banging on the bus door. Carynne was first to get there. By the time I stuck my head out of my curtain, she was saying “All right, okay. When we pulled in there was no one to tell us. We didn’t know. We’ll move it right away.”
Apparently we weren’t supposed to park where we were parked. Marty was roused from his bottom-level cubby: I hadn’t realized that was his bunk down there. It had a sliding door instead of a curtain and I’d thought it was a storage cabinet. We pulled around the building to a dock where I saw our equipment truck. Another truck was next to it, presumably Megaton’s. No sign of their bus, though. I wondered if they had somewhere local to stay.
This time Marty looked at the bags under my eyes and said, “Coffee.”
I just nodded at him and followed him out of the bus.
We hoofed it several blocks and it wasn’t too stiflingly hot yet, only the high seventies. He led me to a big hotel, through the lobby, and into the hotel restaurant.
I had a plate of eggs with my coffee. Mediocre eggs, but I wasn’t really there for gourmet food. Marty had coffee with his coffee. I paid in cash and when we were getting up he added in another dollar in tip for the waitress above what I’d left.
We really didn’t talk, more like just made the occasional comment to each other. That suited me just fine and seemed to suit him as well.
Walking back to the venue, the heat had noticeably risen and the back of my shirt was soaked with sweat by the time I got back in the bus.
The next three hours were uneventful in that horrible way where I had nothing to do but was too restless to focus on doing something. It was too hot to want to walk around and explore the city, and I kept expecting they’d let us in to the building any minute.
It was noon when they let the crew in, and just when I was ready to investigate the building myself, Carynne reminded me a car was coming to take me and Ziggy to a radio station.
“Just us?” I asked. “Not all four?”
“Well, you can all go, but they only want to give two people microphones, so I told them it would be you two.”
“All right. You coming with?”
“I think I better stay here and keep a lid on the crews,” she said, pursing her lips. “Promise me you won’t get into any trouble, though, eh?”
“They’re bringing us right back here after, right?”
Ziggy shrugged. “I’ll be good.”
The car, when it came, was a white town car. As we rode through the streets, I said to Ziggy, “You look like you didn’t get any sleep either.”
“I slept fine until we got here. Then, I dunno. I guess I sleep better when the bus is moving.” He yawned. “Ended up writing a song about insomnia.”
I chuckled. “I wrote one the other night. I guess that’s why you don’t hear a lot of stories about how everyone gets a ton of sleep on tour.”
“Which is stupid, because there’s so much downtime, we might as well be sleeping.” He yawned again. “Maybe I’m just getting older. I used to be able to sleep anytime, anywhere.”
At the radio station it was only a half hour segment, and they played three songs, which meant there was really only like fifteen minutes to talk. Ziggy perked up for the DJ and did most of the talking, while I just put in two cents here and there, while staring at the walls of the studio which were floor to ceiling selves crammed with record albums. Which I thought was odd since every song they played had been redubbed onto a cartridge tape and was played off that. When we came out of the studio, the promo director of the station asked if we’d sign some stuff, and mentioned that they’d have a few winners of a contest coming by backstage tonight to meet us. He was a neatly groomed guy, with short, orange, steel-wool curly hair and a trimmed beard to match. He ushered us into a small conference room where there were several copies of the album and CD already sitting on the table, as well as a pair of T-shirts and the kind of spray-paint pen it takes to sign that sort of thing.
We sat down to start signing and another guy I didn’t know sat down with us. He had hair a lot like Colin’s when he was trying to look respectable. Short, with bangs, but too black to not be from a bottle.
“Hi,” he said. “I’m Phil Berkett, I write for the local paper.”
Ziggy shook his hand and gave me a sidelong glance.
I shook his hand, too. “Nice to meet you.”
“You guys mind if I ask some questions? I’ll be writing a piece and covering the concert tonight.”
I shrugged. “Our manager did tell us not to get in any trouble.”
“I promise. Nothing controversial. If you don’t like a question, just don’t answer it.”
“Sure, Phil,” Ziggy said. “Lay it on us.”
“Well, first of all, I’ve read the ‘origin story’ on the band but I wanted to hear it from you guys.”
Ziggy chuckled. “Origin story. I like that. We’re the only sons of Krypton or something like that, right?”
I blinked at him in confusion.
“Oh come on, didn’t you read Superman comics as a kid?” Ziggy asked me.
“I was already enough of a nerd without that,” I said. “Krypton. I get it now. Carry on.”
“You tell the story better than I do,” he said.
“I never get tired of hearing you tell it, anyway.”
I tried to look at Phil instead of at Zig, then. “I was busking in the park one day. Boston has this big park called the Boston Common and it’s kind of like Central Park in New York. Bart was there, too, playing the bongos.”
“Tell him how close you were to not making your rent payment that month.”
“Actually, I don’t think I needed the money that day. I was subletting and could let the rent slide for a week if I had to. I don’t remember. I had the job at Tower then, remember.”
“It’s a better story if you sound desperate, though.”
“I thought you said I told it better than you do?”
“Well, most of it.”
Phil looked amused but didn’t interrupt. So I went on. “Well, if we were desperate for anything, it was to find a front man. And suddenly, out of the crowd, leaps this figure out of nowhere, totally unexpected, who starts singing along. When we got to the end of the song, Bart and I were pretty sure we’d found a keeper. We made him come to one formal audition, though. Was it that night? Or the next night?”
“I don’t remember now. That same night, I think.” Ziggy shook the spray paint pen and started putting his name on things. “Or was it a couple of days later?”
“I think I didn’t want to wait. Afraid you’d get away.”
He snorted. “Well, I didn’t. Next question?”