Public Service Announcement With Guitar: Happy US Election Day! If you’re in the USA, please vote in the presidential election today! If you’re not in the USA, how about a vote for your favorite web serial over at Top Web Fiction?
That bottle of wine had been seven hours ago, but somehow we got giddy in the van ride over to the party. I think Rol started it, but it’s hard to be sure since I still wasn’t sure half the time what he was saying. It was like we started the party before we even got there. None of us were on drugs as far as I knew.
The party was at the MuchMusic headquarters, which was this ornate box of a building in the middle of downtown Toronto. The fact that it was on Queen Street struck me as funny, and that struck Ziggy as funny, though I was thinking of the band and he was thinking of something else entirely. Then again, given what I know now about Freddie Mercury, maybe we were thinking of the same thing–I just didn’t track on it at the time.
The sidewalk around the building was packed with cheering people. I wasn’t expecting that. I wondered if Wednesday’s Child and the Blissmen were much more popular here than I knew. The cheering got louder as Magenta climbed out of the van.
It got much, much louder, though, when Ziggy hopped out.
So, when they have barriers up to hold back the crowds and a walkway for the famous people–whoever they are–to get from their limo to the doorway of wherever they are going, have you ever wondered why the famous people hurry past the screaming fans instead of pausing to sign autographs or whatever? It’s because a crowd of screaming people can be kind of intimidating, if not downright terrifying. No security guard wants to be the one to screw it up and lose his job, so they want to rush you through as quickly as possible, just in case. At the very least, it’s an adrenaline rush.
They rushed us through. I held the guitar case with two hands. Ziggy high-fived as many people as he could on the way by. Next thing I knew we were in an elevator.
The party was in a large room with a high ceiling set up with catering stations interspersed with the occasional camera-with-backdrop set ups, and some smaller rooms off the sides. I would have almost called it a lobby, except it was on an upper floor. One whole side of the floor was floor-to-ceiling windows. Music was pumping loud, the Pixies, a song I hadn’t heard before. We’d been on the road a month and I wasn’t keeping up with what was coming out on the radio or on video.
There was no introduction of us to the assembled crowd or anything. They just let us loose in the room. Someone who looked sort of official grabbed Ziggy right away and steered him to a camera and he was closely followed by a knot of people, most of them female.
I was suddenly wishing that Carynne, or Courtney, had come with us. There was a moment where I didn’t know what to do with myself, who to talk to, or what to say. Then I remembered I was carrying a guitar. Duh. It was supposed to be for filming a segment later, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t play it now, did it?
I went and sat down with it at one of the stations where there were three chairs behind a small coffee table, a big, unmanned camera on a tripod pointed at the seats. There was no backdrop here, just the windows overlooking Toronto behind me.
I tuned the guitar, which was a little bit of a challenge, given the noise level, both the music and the chatter. But the Ovation has such a bright high end, it cuts through everything like a piccolo. (I was going to say “cuts like a fife,” until I realized that’s a pun.)
The next song to come on was something industrial I didn’t recognize. KMFDM, maybe? (Possibly More and Faster.“) That was interesting to play along with, because the last thing you’d think would mesh easily with a song like that was the Ov. Which was what made it fun. Making it work. Industrial is so minimal in its way, though, it’s really easy to improvise on top of, too.
Haha, then came the Cure, “Lullaby,” which I’d heard a lot on the radio in the weeks before we hit the road. Smith’s guitar parts are so spare, I always feel like’s he’s writing half a duet and someone else ought to write the other half. Very easy to play along with.
It probably will come as no surprise that I attracted a crowd, and eventually a camera man came to protect his big camera, and instead he turned it on. So somewhere there’s this footage of me playing along while a crowd of mostly women around me sings “Love Shack” at the tops of their lungs.
Then Antonia came to give me a message and introduce me to some bigwig, and several photographers took shots of us shaking hands and then posing together. The crowd wandered off. The message was from Carynne: they’d crossed the lake on the ferry and were on the road and everything was fine. Then Antonia asked if I was thirsty, and actually I was, and so I left the Ov leaning against the chair and went with her to get something to drink.
I downed a bottle of water, thinking Colin would have wanted me to, and then got a glass of seltzer with a splash of cranberry in it. No vodka. It looked like a cocktail but it wasn’t.
Then I ducked into one of the side rooms and found Christian looking at the art on the walls and drinking a beer from the bottle.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey. Nice party, huh?” I looked up at the wall. Someone had made a collage mural out of rock posters and album covers, but many of them were just a sliver or one element from the cover. Must have been like a thousand records and bands represented.
“Nice party,” he said.
“You doing all right?”
“Yeah. It’s getting kind of throngy out there, though.”
“I think they gave away VIP passes to this party through some contest, so that’s why there are so may fans here, not just industry people. A lotta industry and press here, though, too.”
“Yeah.” I sipped my fizzy water and worked on getting up the nerve to go out there and talk to people I didn’t know. I didn’t really want to talk to any of the reporters I’d already given interviews to, though at least I’d know them a little, and I didn’t want to attach myself to Chris or Bart since they had to put up with me all day every day as it was. “I got a message from Carynne. They’re on the way.”
“They really took a boat?”
“Yeah, something called the S.S. Badger, huge cargo ferry that crosses Lake Michigan every day.”
“Crazy. But as long as they get here.”
It was almost like a normal conversation between us. But then we had kind of run out of band small talk for the moment, and I felt the tension rising.
Chris put down his beer bottle. “Hey, would you do me a favor?”
“Sure, what is it?”
He took a couple of seconds to start talking again, and I realized whatever he was going to say was probably why he was so tense. I hoped whatever it was wouldn’t be too bad.
“Come with me to the men’s room,” he said. He went on quickly before I could react to that. “Just, go in ahead of me and check it out.” He huffed a nervous breath. “Make sure there’s no one doing lines or shooting up in there before I go in.”
“Sure thing, man, of course.” Jeez, I wondered how long he’d been standing there waiting to see someone he could ask that of. And I wondered how hard it was to ask. I wondered if it was harder because it was me, or easier. “Of course. Lead the way.”
He gave me a grateful half-smile and we headed out into the main party room again. I hadn’t realized but the side room we were in was just over from the hallway that led to the restrooms.
We paused at the men’s room door, and I went in first. There were two guys who looked like film school types smoking cigarettes and talking animatedly to each other by the sinks. No signs of drugs that I could see. Another guy went into a stall just in front of me, while another was just finishing at the urinal before going to wash his hands.
The very last stall, though, I could see two pairs of boots under the door. And there was a moment when my vision went white, before I forced myself to take a closer look. At first I had thought one of them was Ziggy. But although the boots were similar, they weren’t his. And he was wearing clingy, black stretch pants tonight, not jeans. Right.
The two of them were doing something you’re not supposed to in a bathroom stall, but by the sound of it, it wasn’t drugs. I went back out.
“All clear?” Chris asked.
“Kind of,” I said. “No drugs, but there are two guys getting it on in the handicapped stall.”
“Oh, for pete’s sake, you’re kidding right?”
“Not kidding. They’re being pretty quiet about it, but I thought I should warn you.”
“Thanks.” He shook his head. “It’s not like they’re going to bite me and make me one of them.”
“Yeah, or like junkies, for that matter.” He pushed open the door.
I ended up using the facilities myself after a minute or two, and I couldn’t help wondering who was in that stall. Probably nobody I knew.
When we came out, Antonia snagged me by the sleeve. “How soon can you be ready to play a little?” she asked.
“I’m ready now,” I said.
“Great. Let’s go.”
P.S. Has anyone listened to the audiobooks over at Audible.com yet? What did you think?