In the morning, the rock doc came. He didn’t look like any doctor I’d ever met before. Well, maybe he did, I mean, what did doctor’s wear under those white coats? I never really noticed. This guy was slicker-looking than I expected, though, very country club, Rolex watch and all. He didn’t carry a “little black bag” either, but a leather briefcase you could imagine a guy carrying on Wall Street. At least, that’s what it looked like on the outside. He opened it up on the back dinette, though, and inside was a whole pharmacy.
He gave me the creeps.
Carynne and he and Ziggy pow-wowed for a while, and I hovered at the edge of the lounge enough to catch glimpses of him looking into Ziggy’s mouth with a flashlight and of a syringe being prepared. I didn’t really feel up to testing if I was or wasn’t squeamish about seeing someone else get a shot. I went out of the bus and discovered Marty sitting on a road case. He handed me a styrofoam cup with a lid on it. Coffee. Just the way I liked it. I have no idea where he got it and I didn’t ask. We sat there scalding our tongues in companionable silence.
Carynne stuck her head out a few minutes later. “Daron, c’mere.”
I climbed back up the bus steps. “Yeah?”
“He wants to talk to you.”
“The doctor. Come on.” She led the way to the back again. Ziggy was in the head.
I couldn’t resist. “What’s up, doc?”
He cracked a grin. “So whatta you need.”
“No secrets, sonny. Valium? You have panic attacks? Don’t try to be a hero or get macho with me. Those burns still hurt? You have trouble sleeping?”
“No, no-no-and-no,” I said automatically. “My burns are pretty much down to itching. I sleep fine when there’s time. And I get stressed sometimes but you know, it’s a stressful job. Nothing a beer can’t fix.” Or a good cry… Shut up, Daron.
He looked at Carynne. “Take a couple of Valium with you just in case. Someone’s bound to need ’em.”
I went back outside while they talked. Toph gestured me to come onto their bus.
Their bus was similar but with a different configuration from ours. The front lounge was about the same size, but had a tiny countertop with a microwave oven, then there were bunks stacked to sleep fourteen plus two drawer bays, and the back lounge was smaller so there was still room for two phone-booth type restrooms.
“Is he going to be all right?” one of the Blissmen asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “The guy gave him a shot. That’s all I know right now.”
They seemed like they couldn’t decide whether to be grim and sympathetic about it or jocular and lighthearted, which made for a kind of odd mood, but everyone was pleasant enough I guess. I didn’t say much, just hung around and ate one of the donuts someone had brought.
“Yeah, so, Detroit,” Madge finally asked me. “What’s it like? All I know is that Bowie song and that’s science fiction, innit?”
“I have no idea,” I said, trying to remember if we’d played there before. “It’s an industrial town, that much I know. And in the dumps, everyone says.”
“Like Manchester?” one of them joked, and they laughed. I didn’t really get the joke but I supposed that meant Manchester was another place that people in England dumped on.
One of the other guys from Wednesday’s Child, I didn’t have his name either, was keen on Detroit being Motown and talked about that for a bit. I hadn’t really thought of Motown as being quintessentially American but they were very interested in it being “authentic” somehow. This led to one of the oddest conversations I’d ever overheard. I can’t really say I participated in it, since I mostly just sat there and listened, trying to figure out what to say and failing.
See, it was basically a bunch of Brits debating the authenticity of American “roots music,” especially the blues. I suppose that being American, and being a guitar player, I pretty much grew up without any question of my right to play the blues. I’m sure Remo never questioned his right to it, either. The whole concept struck me as ridiculous. But then one of the guys was trying to say that only the black underclasses had a right to it. Magenta jumped down his throat, asking if that meant if a poor, black blues singer got rich, did he lose the right to it? No? Did his children have no right to it if they didn’t grow up underprivileged? No? Okay, then where did it stop?
Eventually she turned to me and said, “What about you, Daron? What do you think?”
There were… six? seven?… people there, all staring at me. I shifted on the banquette seat. “I haven’t thought about it super deeply, but I think part of the whole point of music is that everyone has a right to it. All music to all people.”
There were blinks.
“I mean, do I have a right to say only I can play in a genre or a style? What kind of asshole would I be if I did that?”
“Huh, never thought of it that way,” Magenta said.
“I mean, it’s not like Robert Johnson says white people shouldn’t play the blues. And if he did, would that also mean only German orchestras can play Beethoven? That’d mean only white people could be in orchestras, too. Pretty sure that’s not something Robert Johnson’s going to say.”
One of the guys piped up weakly from the back. “Who’s Robert Johnson?” Which started a cascade of ragging on him from his fellows, which pretty much ended the serious part of the conversation. Glad to see I’m not the only one who was lost for a lot of the conversation.
For the record, Robert Johnson was a blues guitarist, one of the legends. What’s funny is that I meant to say Robert ICray, who is also a blues guitarist, but who’s still alive. I guess it got the point across, anyway. Coming so close on the heels of my talk with Antonio’s little brother, it got me thinking.
Carynne came down the aisle then. “How are you doing? Everybody good?” she was saying to various people until she got to me. “We need to vacate the premises.”
For a moment I thought she was commenting that I should get off the bus, but then I realized she meant we had to get our vehicles off the lot. “To Detroit?” I asked.
“Let’s talk about it.”
I followed her out of the bus, waving goodbye to the folks there. They seemed pretty jolly, overall, and I left with the feeling they liked me. No one should take that feeling for granted. We should all have a right to it, but it felt like a privilege at the time.
If you haven’t voted in the DGC Reader Poll for who you want the next bonus story to be about, it’s in Saturday’s liner notes post, back here: https://daron.ceciliatan.com/archives/1904 As of yesterday night, Ziggy had pulled into a slight lead over Colin…