What book is it that has that “best of times, worst of times” line? I hope it’s a good one because I’m going to rip it off and it’s best to steal from the best. It was the worst show ever and the best show ever.
I was not ready to go out there and give a polished performance of most of the material. That might have been fine in, I don’t know, a theater in San Francisco, where you can jazz it up. But for Japan? I was under the impression they liked their concerts technically clean and hewing close to the recorded album. So I was nervous as hell when the crowd was so quiet during the first song.
The venue was a place listed on our day sheet as “Yoyogi Olympic Pool.” Another memo from the driving company called it “Tokyo Swimming Auditorium Hall.” I had no idea what to expect. I was kind of picturing the YMCA pool when I was a kid, with a stage at one end and people sitting in the bleachers on the side. I mean, what would you picture?
I was not prepared for a super-futuristic UFO looking building. I know I said some of the venues in the States looked like UFOs. This one took the cake and flew off with it to Mars. I’d read Neuromancer when Matthew lent it to me, around the time everyone in America was reading it, and now I understood why it started in Tokyo. Didn’t it? Man, that’s two literary references in a row I probably blew and this chapter’s barely started. Anyway. The place was silver, with swoopy curves all over, and looked like it might get up and turn into a giant robot unicycle and wheel away when we weren’t looking.
I watched a lot of Godzilla movies as a kid. They would show up randomly on Saturdays on channel 9, which was one of the second rate channels from New York. Digger liked them, too. We sometimes sat in the kitchen and watched them together on the crappy little black and white TV on the counter because my mom or sisters had the color TV in the living room monopolized. For sports, Digger took over the living room, but I guess for B-grade sci-fi he didn’t have the clout.
I don’t know why I’m telling you that. Oh, right. Tokyo. I wasn’t afraid Godzilla’s foot was going to come through the roof, which looked like a suspension bridge inside, but I was afraid that the total lack of reaction from the audience during the opening song was somehow my fault. When you’re used to the way American audiences scream and cheer all the time, the quiet feels like disapproval. The opening song was one of Nomad’s best-known songs, kind of their theme song, I guess: Traveling True. It was one of the ones I knew, but I kept thinking shit, they don’t like it, they don’t like the way I do it.
Then the song ended and they went absolutely nuts and I realized they weren’t sitting on their hands because they disapproved. They were being polite. It was more like a jazz or classical concert in that way.
Realizing it and feeling it were two different things, though. It was hard to get used to. One thing that always got a huge cheer was whenever Remo tried to say anything at all in Japanese. All he really knew how to say was “hello” and “thank you” but that was all right, it seemed.
The details of what else went on during the show are fuzzy. Anxiety wiped most of them from my mind, I guess. I played a stilted solo in “Moonrise” and missed my cue in “Sonny’s Song,” but they got me back on track pretty well. I remember the deep stab of mortification I felt when I realized I’d missed it, though. I mean, when was the last time I made an actual mistake? Musically, I mean. That hissing sound you hear is my overbuilt sense of self deflating. When did I start thinking of myself as perfect? Several songs later it still stung and that made it hard to concentrate on what I needed to, my mind dwelling on it terribly.
When Remo introduced the band one by one in the encore, I was a little stunned by the ferocity of the cheer that hit me. There was such a disconnect between how much the audience liked me and how much I hated the performance I’d given, I couldn’t absorb it at first.
Remo and I both had the shakes afterward. He communicated to the translator who finally explained what he needed and someone brought him a big bag of ice that he could stick his entire arm, cast and all, into. I sat down next to him.
“Sorry about that,” I said.
“Wasn’t your best,” he agreed. “But pretty good on short notice.”
“I’m trying to play like you.”
“I’d rather you played like you,” he answered.
“If I don’t learn your way first, I won’t know what the hell I’m doing, though.”
“Fair enough. Don’t beat yourself up, Sundog.”
“That my new nickname?”
“I’m trying it out. It fit?”
The thing about nicknames, at least tour nicknames, is that one of two things makes them stick. One is they’re so fitting that everyone starts using them immediately, like you know who’s being talked about before anyone tells you. The other thing is if the person being nicknamed doesn’t like the name, and the rest of the group picks up on it, and they’ll use it just to make fun of you and there isn’t anything you can do about it. Nicknames are a consensus sort of thing. You rarely get to pick your own unless you already have one. Like Flip. Flip both seemed to fit and had an obvious connection to his name, Philip.
Sometimes a group of people will all decide on nicknames together, like you know, three of you watched a movie on videotape in the bus and decided to start calling each other Luke, Han, and Chewie. But that’s rare. Usually people will just try stuff on you until something sticks.
I didn’t get a tour nickname on the last tour I think for the same reason I never got pranked by the road crew. No one wanted to give me a hard time–in a good natured way–when they knew I was having an actual hard time because of assholes.
I wanted a nickname this time. I wanted the guys to not give a fuck about that kind of stuff. And I didn’t want them feeling like they had to treat me like a kid or like someone who needed help. Does that make sense?
“Earth to Daron.”
“Hm?” I realized Remo was still sitting next to me. “Your arm getting cold?”
“I was going to say got a timer you can set for five minutes? I’ll pull it out then.”
“No, but I’ll keep an eye on the clock over there.” I could see a digital clock on the wall, red. At least the numbers worked mostly the same here as in the States. The clock was on military time, but that wouldn’t keep me from tracking five minutes. “Are you taking anything for the pain?”
“No. Not even Tylenol.”
“Doctor told me if I want to drink, don’t take Tylenol, or I’ll end up with a liver like your old man’s.”
“Yep. So whiskey will have to be my tranquilizer. And ice. Fuck this is cold.”
“Are you going to make it through three more shows in a row before a day off?”
He didn’t answer right away. “I better. It’s not bad enough to justify a cancellation.”
“Don’t look at me. I’m the one who wore an eyepatch and bandages for ten days last summer and thought I was going to break my neck from misjudging the distance to the edge of the stage every night.” I put my hand over my eye. It was kind of fun to make the world go flat and two-dimensional when the effect was easily reversed. “But that’s what got Ziggy hooked on painkillers.”
“He doesn’t do anything by half, does he.”
“Still no word from him?”
We set in silence for a full minute then, while I waited for the numbers to change.
Before we got to five minutes, though, a promoter or something–I was unclear exactly who worked for whom in the Japanese system–came up to talk to “Remo-san” and very apologetically asked him, in somewhat halting English, if he could beg a favor.
“Jiro-san, of course, I would love to do whatever you need, but I am kind of stuck here for a little while,” Remo explained, sloshing his arm in the ice.
“Oh, so sorry, I should explain. With your permission. We have special person want to meet you.” He turned and pointed at me.
“Me? What kind of special person?”
“Daughter of high-ranking official.”
“Sure. I’ll go. I don’t look my best right now.”
“Is fine, is fine! Please!” He seemed very excited that I had agreed. “She will be very happy.”
“Should I sign something?” I asked as I stood up and looked around.
“Please?” He looked confused.
“Autograph,” I tried.
“Oh yes please. She give me this to find you in case you would only autograph.” He held up his clipboard and I saw a magazine was folded open to a pinup photo of me and Ziggy. Ziggy was hanging on one of my shoulders giving a sideways, bedroom-eyes look to the camera. I was just standing there, looking straight into the lens. It was an old photo, and for a second I couldn’t even think when we would have taken one, just the two of us? Not the whole band? And I didn’t remember doing that style of pinup. The background was kind of funky, surely if we went to a photo studio with a setup like that I would remember it.
Then I remembered. Los Angeles. The day after we’d had sex for the first time. Sightseeing.
For a second I couldn’t breathe. It hit me as a feeling and as a thought at the same time. The feeling of missing him, of a moment in time, of everything from then to now, all hitting me at once, and the thought that… waitasecond… my photo was in Japanese magazines?
Which made me wonder, what were album sales like here? Mills had never mentioned it.
Anyway, I followed the guy through the place to a reception room of some kind where my appearance produced the same kind of high pitched shrieks I was used to in America. I guess some things really are the same.
(You knew this song was coming of course…)
(Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!)