Bart and I went and played a session together before he left. I had actually turned down a job knowing he was going to be there, something Chernwick wanted done really quickly, but I guess things didn’t happen as quickly as he thought, or maybe they got someone they didn’t like. I don’t know. Guitar session players, even really good ones, weren’t exactly in short supply in Los Angeles.
Chernwick called again, though, a week later, said they were really hot to trot about me in particular, which probably wasn’t true so much as it was him stroking my ego thinking that would work. The thing about playing sessions, though, is that you have to leave ego at the door. He told me they’d up my fee. I told him it was only a deal if they’d put that additional money toward hiring Bart, too. Oh, and renting a vintage Rickenbacker for him to play. Honestly I did it just to yank Chernwick’s chain a little, but he agreed, so the next thing you know, Bart and I were on our way to a studio instead of to comb some used record store or whatever else we might have done that day.
When I told him his reaction was, “Wait, you got us a gig?”
“You mean we’re playing a session tomorrow.”
“Yeah. What, did I speak in tongue or something?”
“No, it’s just unexpected is all.”
“If you don’t want to do it, I’ll call back and say forget it.”
“I didn’t say that! I’d love to go play a session! Hot diggety. Although you know I don’t have a bass with me.”
That’s when I told him about the Rickenbacker and also, hey, it was about time I paid him back for all the times he’d talked guys in Boston into pulling me into sessions. Everything I know about session playing I learned from Bart, pretty much.
That was how we ended up playing a session in the bottom of an empty swimming pool in the backyard of some executive, for a girl singer who was so strung out on drugs we never made eye contact the whole day. Nice voice, though. They were trying to make something really experimental and sixties throwback, I think. Bart and I both wore earplugs to do the playing, which had us each with pretty large amps in the bottom of the pool, and multiple microphones set all over the place, some close to the amps, some far.
Why the hell not, right? Maybe it would be a stroke of genius. Maybe it would be just a mess. It wasn’t my place to judge.
On the way home we had the windows rolled up against the smog, which was bad that day, and the radio on, though not very loud. Our ears had taken enough of a beating.
“Convenience store,” Bart said.
“Sure. You want the kind that sells Slurpee, Icee, or Slush Puppy?”
“See, the thing is, Frozen Coke is so superior to anything Slush Puppy could ever do,” he said. “But that’s not why I want to stop.”
“I don’t know if they sell Yoo Hoo out here.”
“It’s not that either.”
I glanced away from the traffic to see what his facial expression was. Halfway between bemused and serious. He held up something small and white.
“What is that?”
He squinted at it. “Supposedly it’s cocaine.”
“Producer gave it to me. Like a tip, I guess.” He shook the baggie and frowned at it.
“Um, okay,” I said, trying to figure out where the convenience store came into the picture. I gave up trying to figure it out. “So where’s the convenience store come into the picture?”
“I figure there’s no way in hell you or Jonathan want it, and I sure as hell am not getting on a plane while carrying it.”
“I have zero desire to try cocaine. You don’t either?”
“Tried it. I’ve decided it’s really not a good idea.”
“Wait, when did you try it?”
“Don’t you remember that party we had after filming the Wonderland video? That whole crew was coke heads.”
“Right. I left early.” In fact Ziggy and I had left together. “But… you still haven’t explained the convenience store.”
“I don’t even want to bring it into your house. I’m thinking I’ll just toss it in a trash can. I suppose I could give it to some bum, make his night…?”
“But what if it’s bad or he overdoses and dies or something?” I felt like Nancy Reagan was sitting on my shoulder shaking her wicked-witch fingernail at me.
“Yeah, wouldn’t want to be responsible for that. I’ll just toss it.”
“OK. I’ll get off the highway. There’s always something. Should we go in and buy something? Like will it look too suspicious if we just pull up and you throw something away and then we drive away?”
“I don’t think anyone’s going to be paying that much attention to us.” Bart sighed. “I should’ve just waited to tell you after I tossed it.”
“Why bother to tell me at all, then?”
“Just relax, Daron. There’s a Circle K up there.” He rummaged around in the footwell of the car and came up with some other garbage to toss out, a bag from In-and-Out Burger, some candy wrappers, etc. “See. Perfectly plausible we wanted to dump our garbage.”
I pulled up next to the dumpster on the side of the building. Bart got out and tossed the stuff in, looking perfectly casual about it. He got back in and I drove away.
“You still seem really nervous,” Bart said, as I looked for a place to turn around to go back to the highway.
“I’m fine. Drugs just make me antsy. I mean, come on. Look at what’s going on with the other half of the band.”
“I totally agree. It’s just… it’s okay, you know. I only took it to be polite. He was handing it to me like it was no big deal, like it was totally expected.”
“It is totally expected, which is why so many people in this damn industry are hooked.”
The next place we came to with Frozen Coke, I stopped and went in and got one, because I’d been craving one ever since he mentioned it. So had he. Coke heads, haha.