I was so on edge that moment before we stepped on the stage. And then we went out into the lights and… I know it’s a cliche to say it’s a different world. But it is. It’s like going into an aquarium, I think. From the outside everyone can see you, but as far as the fish is concerned, what’s in there is the entire world.
I don’t think I’ve done a good job of describing how energetic we are on stage. Remember the time Ziggy climbed the sound system in back to sing at the people sitting behind us? He wasn’t the only one who sometimes got on top of equipment or got creative with where he was going. I’ve been known to walk on the wall of the security pit like it was a balance beam or something, except at the time I didn’t have to think about keeping my balance. In fact, if I had thought about it, I probably would have fucked it up.
When you’re performing, so many parts of your brain are working simultaneously. I could think about one thing and be forgetting it at the same time.
At one point in the show at Garden State Arts I jumped up, which wasn’t unusual at all. What was unusual was how hard I landed. I don’t know if the stage was uneven in that one spot or what, but I landed so hard my ankle went numb. I don’t think I actually turned my ankle but maybe I did. At the time it just felt like a jolt of pins and needles, and then I limped for the rest of the song.
My hands are working completely independently of my feet when I’m running around onstage, of course.
I wondered if I knew a lot of people in the audience, or at least how many in the audience knew me–or claimed to. There had been a feature in the Asbury Park Press that week about us, about me in particular. I hadn’t seen it yet. I expected it would be a sort of “hometown boy makes good” kind of thing and mostly I just hoped they used a decent photograph of me.
I think Louis outdid himself on lights. Maybe the setup was particularly nice there. I don’t know. I noticed them for the first time in a while. All the same cues were there, but everything looked beautiful.
No, I was not on drugs.
Maybe the lights were just brighter. Ziggy, I noticed, sang a lot with his eyes shut that night. At one point I even had to herd him back from the edge of the stage if he was going to be doing that but not standing still.
But enough about what the show was like. It was what happened after the show that was the interesting part.
The backstage cocktail party, as far as I could tell, had never really stopped. Maybe it died down a little while we were on the stage, but maybe not. After the last encore, we headed back, and I got sucked into a conversation with someone before I managed to get out of my sweaty stage clothes. Colin eventually rescued me, interrupting me to say they needed me urgently, and then pulling me into the side dressing room and pointing me at the shower facilities.
“You’re a lifesaver,” I told him.
“Of course I am,” he said with a wry smirk. “That’s a sherpa’s job.”
I emerged as quickly as I could, clean, my wet hair combed, wearing one of our tour T-shirts and my denim jacket. Matthew applauded and told me the show had been well worth leaving Manhattan for.
“Have you gone that much native New Yorker?” I asked him.
“Absolutely. My kind are witches and we don’t cross running water without a good reason,” he joked.
Behind him I could see Ziggy talking to Jonathan. They were both smiling and I was intensely curious to know what they were talking about. Colin crossed my field of vision then, too.
Remember before when I said my brain should’ve exploded? Well ,that time it did. The fact that I’d slept with four of the men in the room was rather unprecedented. I felt deeply uncomfortable in that moment. Maybe it was something about being with Matthew, too. I remembered sharply how young and stupid I’d been when he’d first met me.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said, and patted me on the shoulder.
Then I saw Colin gesturing to me again. What now? I ducked my head into the dressing room once more.
Jonathan and Ziggy were standing there together.
“I promised I’d show you my new car,” J. said. “Ziggy’s going to come, too.”
My eyebrows probably showed I was surprised, but you know, I tried to act cool about it. “Sure thing.” If we were just driving back to the city then I supposed it didn’t matter. If J. wanted to catch up we could do it once we got there.
So, we skipped out. They assured me Carynne knew J. was driving us, so I didn’t worry about trying to find her to tell her myself.
J. proved he was a native New Jerseyan, taking us out the back way and onto one of the hundreds of two-lane highways criss-crossing the county and the state. He had the windows down and the radio on WDHA and I started to laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Ziggy hung between the two front seats.
“It’s that… Man. It feels like we just left a concert at the Garden State Arts Center, that’s all.” I turned to look at him. “That’s the place I went to so many concerts as a teenager. I dunno how it was out there tonight, but five or six years ago nobody gave a shit about people drinking in the parking lot unless you made a nuisance of yourselves. So that was basically the place to go and hang out and drink on weekend nights.”
“Weeknights, too, in the summer. It was that or the Shore.”
Ziggy cracked up at that point. “Oh my god. I’ve never heard the New Jersey in your accent before.”
“What New Jersey in my accent?”
He cracked up again and even Jonathan was smiling.
“I can’t believe you didn’t hear it before,” I said. “When Courtney showed up I started to revert.”
He nodded. “Now that you say that, I know what you mean. It’s not all the time, but when you say ‘Shore’ it really comes out.”
“That’s because there’s a difference between any old shore and The Shore,” I said.
“Wait wait, let me try it. Shore. Shore. Dammit.”
Jonathan and I both laughed.
“Crap,” Ziggy said. “It’s subtle. It’s… it’s a little bit like Brooklyn, only not as heavy.”
“It’s the Italian you’re hearing,” Jonathan said. “Same influence, but it comes through a little differently here. In Brooklyn you have ‘ah fuggedabout dem bums.’ Here it’s more like…” He paused to rack his brain for a suitably New Jerseyan phrase.
“How do you empty out a bar in New Jersey?” I asked.
“Wait, you’ve told me this one before,” Ziggy said. “Except I can’t remember the punch line.”
“It’s: Hey Vinny! Your Camaro’s on fire!” It came out “fiyah” of course. Except I’d lived in Boston so long at that point it came out more like the Southie Irish “fiyah” than the New Jersey guido version. Ziggy got the point anyway. I went on to explain, “So the interesting thing is that ‘guidos’ aren’t just Italian. Not anymore, anyway.”
“It’s more of a working class thing,” Jonathan said.
“Shut your mouth, Ivy League,” I joked. “I will slap you upside the head if you use the word socioeconomic.”
Jonathan sniggered and swerved a little, not too badly though. I put my eyes back on the road then, and got a sudden run of goosebumps up my arms. “Oh shit. Where are you taking us?”
“I thought you might like to see the old place.”
“Which old place? Fucking hell, J.”
“Madison’s. It’s still there.”
Okay, that piqued my interest. “No shit? Really?” Except, of course Maddie’s was still there. Nothing ever changed at that place.
“They’re in the phone book anyway. If you’re really not up for a drive-by, we can head north until we meet up with the Parkway again.”
I looked at Ziggy. Ziggy gave me a shrug, but I could tell he was pretty curious.
“Wait a second. You two planned this,” I said.
“We talked about it while you were busy,” Ziggy answered. “I want to see it. The place you played when you were twelve.”
“Until I was about fourteen,” I felt the need to say.
They both nodded like they were humoring me. That’s because they were. The bastards.
(Phew, correct song finally restored! Enjoy…)