I didn’t doze off until we were in the bus, stuck in traffic on the Garden State Parkway, north of the interchange to the Turnpike.
What woke me was Courtney’s laugh, when she pointed out “our exit” to Ziggy.
When I first got to Rhode Island for music school other students thought it was somehow A) hilarious and B) acceptable to respond to the news I was from New Jersey with the words “What exit?” This was stupid as a joke because it’s not actually a joke: tell someone from New Jersey which exit off either the GSP or the Turnpike you lived and chances are they’ll know where you’re talking about. And it was stupid because half of them couldn’t then understand the answer, because they didn’t know enough to know there are two major highways that run the length of the state.
No, I’m not going to tell you what exit.
What I will tell you is how weird it felt to be driving past it. I hadn’t laid eyes on that spot in how many years? Five? It felt more like fifty. It felt like I was looking back in time at a place that shouldn’t even exist anymore, like some time travel movie. That place was erased.
We also passed the exit for the Garden State Arts Center, where we’d be playing tomorrow. But today, we blew right past it on the way to Philly.
It took a while for that to sink in. I finally asked Carynne. “Um, why are we going down the Parkway if we’re going to Philadelphia? Shouldn’t we be on the Turnpike?”
“We’re going around the massive traffic,” she said.
I didn’t argue. If my mental map of New Jersey was right, we were going way out of our way, but then again, you probably couldn’t just take a bus like this on any back road. Marty seemed to know where he was going.
Meanwhile, Ziggy was avoiding me. It was okay, though. I knew how he felt. He felt weird about having said some things that seemed strange in the light of day, and also about how I obviously hadn’t slept. I’d tried to tell him in the morning that it was okay. But it had been a rushed morning getting us into the bus and on the road.
I gave him space. I know it sounds weird: how do you avoid someone in a bus? Or give them space, for that matter? All I can say is you just do.
That’s probably what brought me into Christian’s orbit, though. He was sitting in the front lounge, reading a magazine. He gestured to me like he wanted me to come see something in it.
I sat down next to him. “How are you?”
“Hangin’ in,” he said. “You look tired.”
“I am.” I didn’t explain why. Let him think I partied all night, not lay there wondering about every possible thing that could be wrong. “Nothing a nap and a can of Coke won’t fix.”
“So this place we’re playing. It’s legendary,” he said.
“You say that about all the places we play.”
“And it’s been true for every one. Can you deny it?”
“Well, no.” I slid over to get a can of Coke from the small fridge and handed him a Slice as well. “So what’s so legendary about this one?”
“This is the place where they shot Roger Waters up with painkillers so he could go on stage, only they wore off partway through the show and he had to be carried off.”
“And later wrote ‘Comfortably Numb’ about it.”
“Double shit. Okay, that is legendary.” I tried to imagine letting Ziggy perform when without drugs he’d have to be carried off by medics. I told myself I’d never let it happen. Then I thought about what we had just been through–were still going through, really. “Why was he in so much pain?”
“I have no idea. It wasn’t, like, psychic pain, though. Something was really wrong with him. Appendicitis or something like that.” Chris took a long pull on the can of soda.
“What did they do after the EMTs took him away?”
“Played an encore without him, if I remember the story right.” Chris burped. “I heard this all from Louis, by the way. If you ever want story time, he’s your man.”
“Louis has been on the road longer than all of us put together,” I said.
“Yeah. He’s a good guy.” Chris closed his eyes for a second. “I thought you should know, by the way, that I have a thing set up.”
“A meeting. An appointment or whatever they call it. Evaluation.”
Oh. “You mean, for when we get back?”
“Yeah. Louis called his old lady, who called the person who helped them kick. Who’s in Boston. Works out.” He wasn’t meeting my eyes, but that couldn’t have been easy to say.
“Yeah, that’s good.” Small world. I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me to know that Louis and Sheree had been hooked, either. Happens to a lot of people in the life, right? I was beginning to see why some of the “straight edge” nuts were so militant. “Do me a favor, would you?”
“Sure, D. Anything.”
“Don’t tell Ziggy about the Roger Waters thing.”
Generally speaking, that was a pretty good conversation with Chris. I went to dig out my notebook and Chris went back to reading. I ended up writing down some of the thoughts in my head that were still hanging on from my sleepless night. Not the crap. The stuff that was about watching your lover sleep. That thing I’d started in Pittsburgh? I worked on it.
It was Bart who came over and put a hand on my shoulder. “You must be writing some kind of angst-fest,” he said.
“Why, do I look it?”
“You look it.”
“It’s just a song,” I said, and closed the notebook. “And not a very good one.”
“Worry about whether it’s good later.” He rubbed the heel of his hand between my shoulder blades, where it felt like my spine was a two-by-four. “Tell me about this plan you have for the Ritz?’
“It’s not a plan yet, just an idea. Ziggy’s idea.”
“Yeah, he said. Like the two of you unplugged for a while and then we do the regular set?”
“Something like that. I haven’t floated this past Chris, yet.”
“I’ll bring it up at soundcheck if you don’t.”
For the record, I later found out that what Roger Waters had in Philadelphia wasn’t appendicitis but hepatitis. And also that “Comfortably Numb” was the last song he and David Gilmour wrote together before Pink Floyd split up and the rest of the band carried on without him. Maybe the night that they played the encore without him planted a seed in their minds about how it could be.
That night, Waters went to sleep and never woke up.