(Quick update! Donations trigger another bonus post today! Meanwhile in the bonus story poll, Colin is only $28 short of guaranteeing a story from his point of view! Not only that, but that same $28 more would trigger a Saturday post next week, too! So if you’ve been thinking about putting in a dollar or two, just ten Colin fans at $3 each would push him over the top? The poll and the “lobbying donations button” is back at Liner Note #24! Poll is open until Jan 15th! -ctan)
We had played Pittsburgh once before, a dance club of some kind, but I don’t think we were anywhere near it this time.
Syria Mosque was in an area that was part residential and part university. The building wasn’t a mosque. It was owned by the Shriners, I was told, and was quite historic.
We had sold out two nights in a row. Like I was saying earlier, usually you’d rather play one big 7,000 seat venue and move on the next night rather than two nights at half that, but maybe it was a blessing in disguise to play such a great acoustic space where Zig wouldn’t be likely to hurt himself.
We arrived somewhat later than planned, and there was some kind of mixup as to whether the bus was taking us right to the venue or dropping us off at a motel first, but by the time I found out about it they had figured it out.
The crew had been there since the day before, of course, so our being late-ish didn’t really hurt anything other than narrowing our window for sound check. Another thing: some of the buildings in the neighborhood were part of some med school. This somehow led to Ziggy going off to see a specialist. Or, well, for the specialist to see him and his vocal cords. In fact, he missed soundcheck on the first day because of it, and so Topher got up and did a pretty hilarious impression of Ziggy in his place.
I am pretty sure no one told Ziggy about it, though.
He came back with the news he was okay to perform but was still under cautions to take it easy and to be checked again tomorrow.
At least now it appeared he could talk a little. He pulled me into the men’s room to do a warmup.
“You doing all right?” he asked me, before we started.
It was the first real conversation we’d had in days. Or would’ve been. I flubbed it, of course, brushing him off. “Um, a little wiped out,” I said, remembering how Bart had said I looked.
Zig chewed his lip and looked right through me, but didn’t push me on anything like he could have. “You sleeping all right?”
“I finally get used to sleeping in the bus, and then there we are in a hotel for three nights,” I said, shaking my head. “I almost want to sleep in the bus tonight, except we’re paying for rooms.” We had a bunch of rooms at a motel a few blocks away, much cheaper than the hotel in Cleveland had been. The entire crew was at the same motel and we’d be there for two nights. I predicted a party.
“I know what you mean,” he said. “I think I do sleep better in a bed though. Even if they are all different. How do the bands that tour year-round do it?”
“I won’t laugh the next time I read about somebody who brings their dietician and aerobics instructor with them,” I said. “Or guru.”
“Or guru,” he agreed. “Chris seems to have calmed down.”
“I’m pretty sure he got a ‘prescription.'”
“Ahh. And we’ll all see our real doctors when we get back, is that the way it works?” He put his hand on his throat as he swallowed delicately, but I knew it wasn’t the throat doctor he was thinking of.
“If we can make it through one more week, we’ve made it,” I said, as much to convince myself as him.
“We’ll make it, Daron. We’ll make it.” I think he wanted to hug me then, but I had the Ovation strapped on.
Don’t think for one second that I had put what had happened the night before out of my mind, or that I thought there wouldn’t be some kind of consequences. But when you’re on the road, when you’re shoulder to shoulder with the same people in a bus for hours… sometimes everything is put on hold. You just go. You just do. So does everyone else. I don’t know if it’s like that for all bands, but that’s what it was like for us.
Ziggy and I may have been on autopilot, but at least our autopilot didn’t seem automatically set to crash and burn like it used to.
I picked out the note for us to start the warmups on. We went through it, singing through the notes, working our way up, then working our way down. Okay, I lied again. By the time we were done with that I actually HAD put all of yesterday out of my mind, temporarily. It was like the warmups almost hypnotized me, floating me along until the show.
I had a really good view of the Blissmen’s set from one of the balconies and I realized, from my detached view, that they were actually doing some interesting things musically, overlaying Beatles references and dance beats and chord changes, but it was so slickly packaged it might as well have been bubble-gum. I supposed that was what BNC was looking for, something that would sell to the mainstream regardless of what level of musicianship or complexity was going on underneath.
The show was good. We kept Grenadier and Why the Sky out of the set, and let a couple of the instrumental breaks get longer. As you can imagine, Bart and I had no trouble with that, especially not as I slipped easily into the groove.
I had a thought while we were on stage. I wondered if Ziggy had not gotten sick if by now we’d have worked our new song into the set. I suddenly wanted to work on it but I knew I shouldn’t be making him sing when we weren’t on stage. He needed to save his voice for when we needed it most.
I wanted a lot of things I shouldn’t have, though. This wasn’t that different. Yet another feeling I stuck in my back pocket for later.
We kept the plan that included the encore with the other bands, too. The inevitably result of that, though is that everyone had a performance high at the same time. Which inevitably led, in a situation like this, to the party I had predicted.
I was really, really, really not up to a night of partying. I still felt foggy, and I figured what I should do to keep up appearances would be to pass through, down a shot as I did so, and then climb in bed to pass out. That would be the quickest way to get through it.
Best laid plans.
The motel had exterior hallways, but two of the rooms connected with an inner door between them and those two rooms became our party central. I made the smallest of small talk as I poured myself a splash of Jack Daniels in a plastic cup, asking Antonio what he thought of the show and Topher how their drive was. I knocked the liquor back quickly–I think it was already starting to eat the cup–and then picked up a can of orange Slice and carried that with me out of the room.
Courtney was leaning against the railing, finishing a can of Coke. I planned to go past her without saying much.
She followed me to the door of my room, though. I looked back at her. “You need something?”
She looked back and forth as if making sure no one was listening. “Can we talk?”
“I’m really wiped.”
“It’ll be quick,” she said.
Okay… I wondered what could be so important, but also quick. We went in and I reminded myself to drink the soda in my hand before I lay back on the bed.
She didn’t sit down. She crossed her arms, then uncrossed them as if she didn’t want to look too mean or confrontational.
“Spit it out, Court,” I said, and I got what I asked for.
“So,” she said, “that rule was because of you.”
“About nobody sleeping with anyone. You made that rule not because you were afraid I’d do it, but because you were afraid you’d do it.” She had a bit of a smug look, even though she was trying to hide it.
Once upon a time, a statement like that would’ve been a big revelation to me. This one, though, wasn’t. “Well, duh.”
She frowned. “So does that mean the rule’s lifted? Or just that Colin’s off limits now, too?”
“Hang on, back up, is that how these rules work?” I honestly wasn’t feeling the Jack. Either it hadn’t hit me yet or a shot wasn’t enough to affect me anymore. “I… I’m still not comfortable with… everything. I mean, a rock band on tour, I get it. There’s going to be sex. But… I guess I always imagined it was mostly groupie sex and not…” I groped for a word and made one up. “Inter-entourage. It’s a recipe for trouble.”
“But groupies aren’t an option for you.” She snapped it off in an argumentative way, which is probably what provoked me to snap back.
“They were yesterday,” I said. “For me and Col, both.”
Her eyes widened. I’d scored a big argument point and shocked her at the same time. “You can’t.”
“I can’t what?”
“But you’re gay.” She stopped short of pointing at me.
“Yes, I am,” I said. Yes, just like that.
“But, but Daron! What the hell were you thinking?”
At that point I had no idea what the hell SHE was thinking, but I swear it was like some kind of genetic sibling-argument thing hadn’t kicked in where neither of us were actually defending our positions so much as trying to “win” the fight somehow. Here’s what I argued back.
“What was I thinking? You want a list? Here you go, here’s a complete inventory of all the shit that went through my mind! Man, these girls throw themselves at me everywhere I go, Ziggy and Bart are both banging some of them right this second, probably Chris too though I didn’t go to find out, and shit, I bet Colin would probably like a piece of that action, he’s 90 percent straight he told me, and fucking shit I would really like to get laid right now, maybe I should ask him if he’d like to spend the night with me, oh god that sounds stupid and like I’m asking too much and I don’t even think he really has that crush anymore because we’ve been spending so much time together, no I’m sure he doesn’t, and what if I ask him and he says no? That’ll fuck things up between us worse than us having sex, and Ziggy doesn’t care, he’s having a good time, why shouldn’t I try it? Why can’t I be normal for once? Why can’t I do what other people do? I don’t know how to talk to women, though, but Colin does, what would happen if I ask him to go and find someone? Maybe he comes back emptyhanded and one thing leads to another and it works out. Or maybe he comes back with some wild girls who will make our night. Maybe if I’m lucky he’ll hang around after. At least I won’t be alone. Fuck, last night, I remember how his hands felt on my face when he was helping me. I want him and I’m too chickenshit to just ask. I’ll ask for this crazy thing instead and then if he says no, I won’t be too surprised. Holy shit he said yes, now what am I going to do?”
Court sat down on the corner of the bed. I took that to be a sign I’d won the argument. She had a hand on her cheek. “And what did you do?”
I wasn’t prepared to actually win the argument. “Um…” No snappy comeback this time, just the truth. “I went through with it.”
“So you had a foursome with you and Colin and two girls?” Her voice went up a little incredulously.
“Well, I thought it was going to be two twosomes, but the girls wanted to trade.” Okay, now I was feeling either the alcohol or somewhat embarrassed to be talking about this with my little sister. But she asked!
“Well, of course they did,” Courtney said reasonably. “You’re the star, they both wanted to be able to have you and stay friends after.”
“I guess that makes sense. It meant we went through a pile of condoms…”
“Okay, that,” she said, standing up suddenly, “was too much information.”
I had to chuckle at that. She was the one who pried, seriously.
“I should tell you, I looked at the rooming list in Carynne’s notebook,” she said. “She’s put Colin in here with you tonight.”
“Carynne is a meddler whether she knows or not.”
Courtney walked to the window and peeking through the curtains. We were several doors down from the party rooms and I couldn’t hear anything. “She thinks you’d be good together, you know.”
So did Ziggy. I remembered him telling me in San Francisco I ought to think about giving Colin a try. I also remember thinking at the time that was a terrible idea. From the waist down I thought it was a great idea, but it seemed like asking for trouble.
Then again, Colin had been completely perfect today. He acted completely normal, which was the best possible thing I could imagine. I hadn’t made it weird between us by doing what I did last night. It had been kind of fun, at least until the pathetic bit at the end when I was so certain the world was going to come crashing down on me for it.
The world hadn’t crashed down. Neither god nor the people I’d had sex with were punishing me today. Not even Ziggy was punishing me today. The only person beating me up today was… me. And Courtney, somewhat. In fact, there she was, giving me that really skeptical look again.
She crossed her arms this time. “But you’re still gay.”
“Yes, Court. I’m gay.”
“Doesn’t this make you bisexual?”
“Does eating a piece of bacon once make someone not a vegetarian anymore?”
“Hm, point.” But she was frowning.
“Seriously, Courtney, is something really bothering you about this? I know it’s weird and hard to understand, but I think, actually, now having tried real actual ‘recreational sex’ with women, it only makes me even more certain they’re not for me.”
“But you could lead a normal life…” she said.
I walked right into that one. “No, I couldn’t! It’d be pretending and a lie and I’m trying to make it as a performer anyway and so there is no such thing as normal life anyway even without the gay thing!”
And she smirked at me. “Just making sure.”
“Seriously, oh my god, kiddo, there is no way I am marrying someone and settling down to have two-point-five kids and a two-car garage. No way no how.” It felt exhilarating to speak so much truth in one sitting. If I was high now, it was on that.
Courtney pursed her lips, crossed her arms, and frowned anew. “Don’t call me ‘kiddo,'” she said.