Our hotel was in a part of Tokyo that was kind of like Times Square: a really busy area with lots of tourists and commerce and neon. Only not as sleazy as Times Square. Since I felt like I didn’t have to spend every waking minute rehearsing or learning–only three hours this time with Alex and Alan and a spare guitar and a portable Casio mini keyboard–I went out and wandered around a little with Martin. There was enough English on signs that we could feed ourselves if we weren’t too finicky.
Turns out one thing you can get just about everywhere is fried octopus balls.
Stop snickering, that’s not what I mean. They’re sort of like a ball of fried dough the size of a golf ball with a chunk of octopus meat in the middle. One shop we passed by had a huge griddle for making them, pocked with half-sphere indentations. The cook would put a piece of octopus into each one, then ladle in the batter, and then flip them over with a long utensil, kind of like long metal chopsticks. He could do like two hundred of these at a time. They sell them like donut holes, in a boxes of a dozen or more. We burned our tongues tearing through a box with disposable chopsticks.
The thing I was looking for was a newsstand, though, curious if I could find a copy of the magazine that the girl I’d autographed for the other night at the Olympic Pool. I’d tried to ask her about it, like, was it recent or had she had it a while, but the language barrier was too much, as was her giggling. It had been her and three friends and I couldn’t tell for sure but I think they were really excited that I was their height. “Cute” was a word I heard a lot.
I don’t think I’m that cute. Especially not with my hair that long and sweat soaked from performing. But maybe the definition of “cute” is a little different here.
Anyway. We ended up in what was more like a bookstore than a newsstand, but where they had a large number of magazines. Many of them were in plastic bags, which made it difficult to look through them. Some had headlines in English, others didn’t. It was kind of fascinating but frustrating at the same time.
And I couldn’t help but think, pretty much everywhere we went, oh, Jonathan would like that, or Jonathan would know what to do with that. It was like I was imagining what Jonathan would think about everything if he was there to see it. Which was actually really annoying. I did not need to be seeing Japan through Jonathan-colored glasses.
After wandering the bookstore, which was massive, for nearly an hour, Martin suggested we give up and ask our translator for advice on where to look.
While we were walking back to the hotel I finally asked, “Hey, is Cray kind of a dickhead or is it just me?”
“My impression is he’s kind of a surly loner. He did the US tour with us two summers ago, and was in Europe this year. Why, he giving you trouble?”
“All kinds of attitude. I don’t get it.” The sidewalk was crowded but no one was really paying attention to us. It was kind of like New York that way, too.
“Nobody needs that. You want me to talk to him?”
“You think that’ll help? I feel like he’s staring daggers at me whenever my back is turned.”
“Huh. Wonder what wild hair he got across his ass.” Martin shoved his hands under his armpits while we walked. It was a tad on the chilly side. I had a hooded sweatshirt on under my leather jacket and wasn’t feeling that cold but Martin was just wearing a pullover sweatshirt with the Nomad logo embroidered on the chest. “He’s a solid player, I mean, probably one of the top lap steel players in the country, you know?”
“How’d Remo find him?”
“For a while Remo was slumming around folk festivals and stuff, remember? It didn’t hurt that his girlfriend at the time was a singer in a bluegrass group. I think Cray’s from that same group? I figure Reem wouldn’t have picked him up if he wasn’t good. Overall he’s been professional so I guess if he’s a pill I can live with it.”
“I still can’t figure out how Remo does relationships.”
“Yeah, me either. I mean, I kind of can but he’s on a different part of the spectrum.”
“Okay, you know, a spectrum.” He held out his arms, which were quite long, as if measuring a big fish with his hands. He made a chopping motion with his left hand. “At this end you have the one-night stands and fucking groupies by the dozen without even getting their names, and at the other end,” he waved his right hand, “you have monogamous marriage.”
“And I’m right about here.” He moved his left hand toward the middle. “Once in a while a one-night stand but it’s mostly flings.”
“What’s your definition of a fling?”
“You know. It lasts maybe a week or even a couple of months depending on the circumstances, but I know it’s a fling, she knows it’s a fling, and we just have fun. If it’s not fun, it’s not a fling.”
“All right. And where’s Remo on the scale?”
“He’s about here.” He moved his right hand toward the middle. “Like he has these serious relationships, these deep love relationships that run anywhere from six months to a couple of years. But even when they’re pretty serious he ends up moving on.”
“Like a nomad?” I joked.
“Quit that. But yeah. I don’t think he has an actual objection to settling down. He hasn’t met the right one yet. It’d have to be someone who could put up with all the travel and everything. He needs a June Carter type.”
“June Carter Cash, I should say. Johnny Cash’s wife? They’re like, made for each other. But they didn’t get it right the first time. They each married other people first and then were sorry. But they got it right in the end.”
“Okay.” I had no idea how Martin knew so much about Johnny Cash’s private life but then again maybe it was a commonly known story and I just didn’t know it. That was likely. “Has he got anyone right now?”
“Don’t think so. He was pretty active in Europe, a bunch of different women a week or two at a time. Remo really likes European women. Then again, they’re easy to like.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” I wondered if Japanese women were different. Or if having a broken wrist was putting a damper on Remo’s extracurricular activities. Broken? Sprained? I had never gotten the full medical description.
“Which reminds me, I’ve got to see if I can get a ticket for Svetlana tonight.”
“The woman I met in the bar last night. She’s in town for another couple of days, Coincidentally, so are we.” He grinned. “Perfect fling!”
I chuckled at him. Martin was so gleeful about his partners it was hard not to be happy for him.
It wasn’t until later, in that dull gap between soundcheck and the show, that I got to thinking about myself, though. I was making the assumption that I was going to be celibate for a while. Partly because having gotten untangled from Jonathan I knew I didn’t want to get into another relationship right away, and partly because I assumed that trying to pick up gay sex partners in a foreign country was a non-starter. Seriously, though, a couple of weeks without sex shouldn’t be a big deal.
That’s easy to say in theory. In practice? Our second night at Budokan went well and the audience seemed more responsive. I wonder if a lot of them were the same people coming back again, and knowing what to expect they were a little looser on the second go-round? I’m not sure. The band were pretty much ready to take their cues from me right from the start. The whole show was smoother and with such a talented group it was fun to improvise and one-up each other and see how high we could take it. Pretty high. Cray and Alex got into a thing trading a lick back and forth between the pedal steel and the piano. The pedal steel was up on a riser at the same level with the keyboards so they were eye to eye. It was grand.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: playing a hot show pumps the juices. I’m not the only one who has that reaction, I know. So what do you do when you just rocked a city of 13 million people and your dick is hard and you have nowhere to stick it?
Hello washcloth my old friend.
(You guys made me reconsider my antipathy toward Morrissey. I think he’s still a dick but maybe I’ll use some more of his songs. -d)