The kind of dumb thing about the next day was we took the train almost all the way back to Tokyo, to do a show in Yokohama. I guess since it only takes a hundred minutes by train, it didn’t matter that much, but in my mind that was like playing a show in Boston, then New York City, and then Great Woods in Mansfield, Mass. Then again, I know there were tours set up like that so maybe I should just enjoy the fact that for the most part Moondog Three’s last tour had so few switchbacks in it. How much of that was clout and how much was simply Carynne bullying the hell out of the venues, I don’t know.
The kind of cool–yet disturbing–thing about the next day was the venue, which was brand new, not even a full year old, but which was remarkably similar to Madison Square Garden inside. A little smaller, but it was like the same architect must have done it. It felt a little like time-traveling to when the Garden was new.
Who am I kidding. It felt a lot like time-traveling to the last big show we did as a band. For the first time that trip I felt less haunted by Jonathan and more haunted by Ziggy.
This meant at various times throughout the afternoon, before, during, and after soundcheck, I would space out, my mind drifting back to various memories that felt particularly vivid. It wasn’t just that this place resembled MSG. It sounded like it.
It was in one of those moments–not the one where I was re-living him collapsing in my arms–the one where I was remembering meeting his mother, that I got goosebumps and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I’d realized quite suddenly that she was in an old folks home of some sort, right? Would Ziggy have told her where he had gone? Would he have left his physically ill mother with no contact for months? He was paying for her care, so that meant…
Damn it. That meant Digger knew where she was. Was I desperate enough to try to contact her that I’d call Digger and eat crow?
For that matter, Digger might flat out know his whereabouts. He might. But what were the chances he’d tell me? Or that he’d extort something from me in exchange for the information. No. Not happening. I felt a little queasy from the mere thought of capitulating.
The only way to clear all the crap out of my head was to focus on music. Remo razzed me a little for being a space case toward the end of soundcheck. “Okay, Sundog, come down out of orbit now.”
“Sorry.” My cheeks flared red. “My head is in the fog today.”
“Two suggestions,” he said. “One, lay off the drinking tonight. Two, I think we should add a real jam to the set tonight.”
So just like that we ballooned a song in the encore to a twelve minute epic round of jazz-style solos. It still wasn’t what it was like when Remo and I could jam with each other, tossing stuff back and forth all throughout the set, but that was all right.
Two days later we were in Osaka, to play at the Osaka Castle Hall. Osaka Castle Hall was not at nor in Osaka Castle, but we got to see that on our day off so that was okay. The main memorable thing for me about the show, though is that Remo did it again: threw a suggestion out to the band that we took as a direct order. This time he told us to add a jam to something in the main set and he basically said me and Cray should volleyball it.
I think he had been wanting us to do that all along, but he wasn’t blind, he saw we weren’t getting along at first, plus I had so much to learn anyway. But I’m sure he was aware that we were at least in some kind of a truce by then, too. He had waited until we had a chance to succeed at working together that closely before asking us to.
It takes a certain kind of trust and a certain kind of knowing each other to go out on a limb together musically.
I sometimes wonder. Did the people who were at that charity show in New York, the one where Ziggy fell, understand how before that happened they were witnessing an extraordinary performance, a one of a kind performance that we couldn’t have recreated if we wanted to? Improvisation never goes the same way twice.
Improvising with Cray was actually easier in some ways because two stringed instruments can mesh together in ways that a guitar and a human voice just can’t. But we weren’t ready to take big chances. That was okay, though. Little leaps, little risks, they’re fun, too.
Remo liked it. I couldn’t help but notice Cray and I had basically the same reaction to Remo trying to get effusive about it, which was to shrug and act like it was no big deal. Piece of cake. Which it was, partly because that was how we acted about it.
That night after the show was over, Cray and I shared a cab back to the hotel. “Hey, I have an idea,” he said.
“Is it a good idea?”
“Well, let me describe it and you tell me. I want to ask if you’ll come work on turning my version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps into a duet.”
“Work on sounds like you want to do more than have a song you can play at parties.”
“Yeah. I think we could do a thing in the show. Remo would let us. Just the two of us. And it’d give me a chance to get downstage.”
“And play the guitar.” He opened his mouth, but before he could say anything I continued with, “And yes you’re plenty good enough to play with me. But let’s practice it.”
We stayed up most of the night working on it, actually, only getting a few hours sleep after sunrise. That meant I slept most of the train trip from Osaka to Kanazawa the next day. It was only a three hour trip, up the western coast of Japan, so really only good for a nap. Cray and I didn’t have a chance to work on the song that day at all. We didn’t discuss it specifically, but I think there was an unspoken understand between us that we weren’t going to rehearse it with other people listening. We’d let them hear it when we’d worked it all out.
Cray was still a moody bastard, and seemed to be fighting himself all the time, but he had given me the perfect distraction from my other obsessions.