Have you ever had a connection to someone where it was like you had the same sense of humor so you didn’t have to explain a lot to them, like you can get halfway through, or even give no explanation at all and they just click with you? I’m doing a terrible job of explaining it because, well, I don’t click with that many people. I mean, it’s like music, sometimes you just go the same place without discussing it: it just happens.
Maybe I should give an example. The escalator at Penn Station was broken and I was in a crush of people climbing up the steps to the main waiting area. I can be tough to pick out of a crowd because of my height… unless I have a gig bag on my back, which I did. Sarah picked me out of the throng at the same moment I picked her out of the people waiting. She threw open her arms like a movie starlet in some kind of fifties Hollywood epic welcoming her soldier boy home from the front, and we stage-ran across the floor into each other’s arms, quickly collapsing into ugly-snort kind of laughter.
She took a deep breath and deadpanned, “How was your trip?”
“The short one or the long one?”
“Both. Come on. The car’s outside.” She took off for the escalator to street level.
“Well, you’ve learned to walk like a New Yorker,” I said, when I caught up. “The city treating you well?”
“Pretty well. I mean, it’s weird though. Like everyone here knows who I am, but they want to act real cool, like it’s no big deal I was in the top ten.” She made a hair-fluffing motion on her otherwise spaghetti-straight hair. “If someone stops me for an autograph, it’s always a tourist.”
Her driver saw us coming, hopped out of the car and opened the trunk. He tried to take the guitar but I put my backpack into the trunk and then brought the guitar into the back seat with us. Too many bad things can happen to a guitar in the trunk of a car, especially in the soft gig bag I had it in.
“Daron, this is Ray,” Sarah said. I shook Ray’s hand. He was wearing a polo shirt and sunglasses and looked to be in his mid-thirties, his brown, cop-short hair starting to grow out on top.
In the back seat we picked up where we left off. “What’s weird about that?” I asked.
“Weird about what?”
“About New Yorkers not asking for your autograph.”
“Isn’t that weird? I mean, it’s like the more famous I get, the more disdainful they get.”
“Is it disdain? Or is it just a total lack of fawning? New Yorkers couldn’t give a fuck who you are, no matter who you are. I kind of like that.”
“I guess it’s just different from everywhere else,” she said. “I mean, L.A. is a little like that, too, except not.”
“LA is at the opposite end of the fawning scale. There, once people figure out you’re ‘somebody’ they fall all over themselves.” I shook my head. “God, I really hated it there.”
“I liked the weather.”
“I’m not an outdoorsy person. I could give a fuck about the weather.” A thought occurred to me then. “It’s like New York all one giant backstage party. Broadway’s here, everywhere that isn’t the stage is backstage.”
“Except that’s true in L.A., too. Everyone either works in the business or could.”
“Maybe it’s just that New York and L.A. take totally different approaches to the strategy fake it till you make it. New York is all about showing up and paying your dues. That’s how you become a New Yorker. Everyone here came from somewhere else–or your parents did.”
“You’re from here, aren’t you.”
“Yeah. I guess. New Jersey anyway, but as they say, the ‘New York metro area.'” I hadn’t thought about it before but probably where I was born wasn’t any farther from Manhattan than Simi Valley or Long Beach was from Hollywood, but people there still said they were from “Los Angeles.”
“But you grew up here.”
“So you can show me all the cool places.”
I chuckled. “I don’t know about that. But if you want to go out clubbing I should call Tony and see if he can hook us up at Danceteria.”
“One of our security detail on the last tour. He used to be a bouncer there and still has a lot of friends working there. Or at least he did last year.”
“Cool, check this out, use the phone.” She opened a compartment between the two front seats and pulled out a phone handset. We were in a town car that was limo-like without being an actual “stretch” limousine.
She handed me the handset, which had number buttons in the handle, and I dug my notebook out of the Velcro pocket on the gig bag and paged through looking for Tony’s number. There it was. On the same page with an angsty scrap of junk lyrics about Ziggy. Sigh.
I called him, reached his mother who gave me another number to try. I wrote that down and tried that number, and with amazingly good luck, reached him.
“Who’s this?” he said suspiciously.
I busted his chops a little “Don’t you talk to me like that. Your mother gave me this number. It’s Daron Moondog.”
“Daron! How you doing, man?”
“Not bad. I’m in town.”
“Well, that is righteous. What can I do for you?”
“How do you know I’m not just calling to say hello?”
“Moondog, you are not the type to jaw on the phone. Am I right?”
“You’re right. Okay, but it is nice to talk to you.”
“Nice to talk to you, too.”
“So, do you still have connections at Danceteria?”
“I do. You looking to party?”
“Yeah. You know Sarah Rogue?”
“I know the name. You want I can reserve you a little party nook. How many?”
“Her and me and…?” I looked at Sarah questioningly.
“Um, do we need an entourage?” she asked. “What am I saying, of course we do. Tell him and three or four others and we’ll see what we can do.”
“I heard her,” Tony said. “Tonight?”
“Early or late?”
“Late. Um, she’s going for maximum exposure.” I wasn’t sure how to explain that this was more than just a night on the town.
“Oh, I get you. Publicity impact.”
“Not a problem. I’ll put the guys on alert for paparazzi. You know we can’t let ’em in.”
“Crowd to get in should be good and thick by about 10, 10:30. Come then.”
“You got it. Okay, last question. Can I hire you for the night, too?”
“You don’t have to do that. This is a favor for you,” Tony explained.
“I know. But anyway.”
“As it so happens, I am free tonight. I’m booked tomorrow and through the weekend, though, so you know.”
“Got it. See you tonight.”
I figured out which button to press to cut the call off, and stuck it back in the arm rest.
Ray spoke up. “What was that about? Did you just hire a bodyguard?”
“Yeah. I figured you’d be more comfortable if we had someone official on the inside.”
“Smart man. Sarah, where’d you find this guy?”
“The cover of Billboard. Don’t start with me, Ray.”
“Oh, sorry.” He cleared his throat and went on in a Jeeves-like voice. “Will the lady and her gentleman caller be dining out tonight?”
“Yes, but drop us by the apartment so I can get changed.”
I had only been vaguely paying attention to where we had been going but I had the feeling we were on the Upper West Side. Ray dropped us off at a building where a uniformed door man welcomed us in, and up we went in a small but fairly fast elevator.
Inside the apartment the entry hall was narrow and lined with bookshelves, floor to ceiling, all completely full.
“Do you read a lot?” I asked.
She laughed. “I’m subletting. The place came completely furnished, including books, knick knacks, and shower curtain.”
Said curtain was clear plastic except for a giant opaque silhouette of Albert Einstein’s head. The place managed to be bohemian and upscale at the same time. I followed her into the somewhat more spacious living room and a fluffy gray cat wandered out from behind the couch and rubbed against my leg. “Your cat or the apartment’s?”
“Next door neighbor’s, but I take care of him when he’s away. He’s a show promoter at Radio City Music Hall, but he goes to Puerto Rico three or four times a year for business.”
“What was I saying about everywhere in New York is backstage?”
“Yeah yeah.” She poured beer into mismatched glasses and handed me one. “So where should we have dinner?”
“Well, we could go down to the Indian restaurants on Sixth Street–”
“Did you say restaurants, plural?”
“Yeah, it’s a whole block. I don’t know why there are so many of them there, but there are. Then there’s–”
“I have a lot to learn about this city,” she said. “Will we be seen there?”
“No. Let’s have an actual dinner without publicity. Tomorrow let’s do something fancy-ish in midtown. Wherever the A-list are seen. That’ll give them a night to come up with a table for us.”
While Sarah set the rest of the wheels in motion and did her makeup, I looked through the magazines on her coffee table. And finished drinking my beer while petting the cat.
We were in the elevator on the way down to the car when I said to Sarah, “Antonio knows I’m gay.”
“How demonstrative should we be in public?”
“You mean like should you kiss me or something?” She seemed to be considering it seriously. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Daron, but if you try to kiss me I will black your eye.”
“Good. I’m not sure I could make it the slightest bit convincing.”
“Your arm around my shoulder is a good look, though.”
“As long as we’re sitting down. When we’re standing up you’re too tall for that.”
“Ugh, you’re right. Maybe I should go change into flats–”
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” I said. “Besides, you’ll still be taller. What about hand-holding?”
“Holding hands is good, too. In fact…” She laced her fingers in mine. “Sometimes there are photographers hiding in the garbage cans of the building across the street.”
So we exited her building, the doorman holding the door for us, with my fingers getting a little sweaty in hers but hopefully looking sufficiently smitten with each other. The doorman certainly gave me an approving nod behind her back. I wondered if Chris had gotten affirmations like that when he had dated Lacey. Undoubtedly.