561. I Go To Extremes

(News: On Monday we will start an “official” re-read of Daron’s Guitar Chronicles on Wattpad! Posts #1-30 are live already over there, people are leaving comments on those chapters, please join in! And on Sept 15, we’ll officially begin posting new chapters daily from #31 until we’re caught up! -ctan)

What ensued was a songwriting binge that went on for… I’m not sure how long. A couple of weeks? Remo was wrong about therapy putting a block on my creative energy. Instead, each session was like a Pandora’s box of (painful) song ideas. They would come flying out and I’d scramble to catch them all when I got back to the house. I figured I was not a great person to be around while wrestling with that shit, so other than George Joseph, the cleaning lady, and the pizza delivery guy, I didn’t much interact with humans.

The thing was, of course, I was working on this soundtrack which was all instrumental and which was going to be time-consuming and which I wanted to be all perfectionist about. But I’d get a little ways into it and then I could hear how this other song in my head should go, and I’d procrastinate on working on the soundtrack by obsessively writing (and recording) an entire song. I’ve never been a singer-songwriter type. I’d rather not be playing and singing at the same time, except for some choruses. But, you know, this was some deeply personal shit.

You’d think it would be enough to just write the lyrics for therapeutic purposes, right? Wrong. Maybe it’s just that who I was and how I felt was so wrapped up in being a professional rock musician, but I couldn’t leave one of these songs until I’d polished it and recorded a demo that I was happy with. Playing and singing and maybe even putting one or two overdubs on it.

Obsessive. Sometimes not eating, sometimes not sleeping, sometimes not doing the work I was being paid to do, but it felt like such an imperative to record these songs when they were bursting out of me. It felt good. I figured, well, it’s therapy. If it feels good it’s a good sign. And some of them were really good songs. I’d get one done, and then I’d be able to work on the soundtrack for a couple of hours or a couple of days, and then the next session would roll around and I’d crack my skull open and more stuff would pour out.

That description makes it sound exhausting, but it wasn’t. I was so energized that sometimes I had to sort of tire myself out before I could spend a couple of hours in front of the keyboard and computer fussing with them for the soundtrack. I took to swimming a lot and using the pull-up bar across the doorway to Remo’s bedroom. The pool was small, and I could swim underwater all the way from one end to the other on one breath, surface, and then go back under and swim back. I would lose count after about fifty of those. I had to be careful not to go into the studio while dripping wet. I could hear all kinds of music in my ears when I was underwater.

The only part that was exhausting were the nights when I couldn’t sleep because I was lonely or horny or self-flagellating. But since my time was my own, I mostly worked during them and then whenever I finally felt sleepy I could just lie the fuck down wherever I wanted and conk out. Like a cat or something. That probably wouldn’t work so well on a long term basis but for that stretch of weeks it worked perfectly well.

Counting it by therapy appointments, I must have been about six or seven weeks into my stay when Cray and Bart showed up to play on the score together. Then all three of us had a semblance of a schedule dictated by the work, but it wasn’t like we had to clock in nine to five, you know? We ate when we were hungry and otherwise–ha, literally–played it by ear.

We got Pike to come up and record some tracks with all three of us playing together, which was just easier than me doing it, and I learned some tricks from him about making Remo’s studio work for me. I’m a pretty good engineer, but the way you learn that is by watching other engineers. Pike had worked with some of the best in the business.

One morning after Cray had gone to bed, Bart and I had the following conversation:

Me: I’m glad you and Cray are getting along so good.
Bart: Were you worried we wouldn’t?
Me: Yeah. I pictured you two stalking around each other like territorial tomcats.
Bart (looking puzzled): Why?
Me: I don’t know.
Bart: Dar’, that’s you who gets weird around people, not me.
Me: Oh.

For what it’s worth, Cray and I got along fine. He was a lot calmer than the last time I saw him and I guess so was I. He left after a week. Bart stayed for a couple more days during which we went to a lot of shows and ate a lot. I think he was alarmed I was too skinny actually and felt it was his duty to fatten me up again while he was there, a vestige of our music school days when tuna from a can with a fork was all I could afford sometimes.

Then when Bart was due to leave the next day, in a moment of weakness–or strength, maybe–I played him a couple of the “therapy” tracks I’d been recording. Next thing you know I’d dubbed him a cassette of them all to “listen to on the plane” he said.

Don’t think I wasn’t aware that for two-plus months I wasn’t dealing with Ziggy. The thing is, in my mind, I was dealing with him every day. But I was dealing with the Ziggy in my own head–even more important, though, I was dealing with the Daron in my own head.

Then came the day Carynne faxed me some papers to sign, making the buyout official from our end.

Remo’s fax machine was one of those ones that used a roll of thermal paper. So I took the faxes down to the nearest copy machine, which was a self-serve machine at a drug store down the hill. I copied the pages so I could read them without getting them all smudgy from my hot fingertips.

Later, I had a phone call with Carynne that went like this:

Me: Hey, so, you’re 100% behind me signing these, right?
Her: Yes, why?
Me: I want to sign them without reading them.
Her: Why?
Me: Because reading them is making my head hurt…?
Her: Are you at a pay phone?
Me: … Maybe.
Her: Daron, are you all right?
Me: I’m fine.
Her: Have you been drinking?
Me: A little. It’s okay, that’s why I pulled over in this parking lot until I sober up. Which is why I’m calling you from a pay phone. I’m being responsible.
Her: That’s not reassuring.
Me: I promise I won’t go anywhere until I sober up.
Her: No wonder your head hurts.
Me: Well actually I didn’t even try to read past the first sentence.
Her: Daron. This is really for the best, you know.
Me: Is it?
Her: I’m not saying don’t be upset. You have every right to be upset. But… but you’re getting paid for not lifting a finger.
Me: For my life’s work.
Her: Listen to yourself. You’re twenty-four years old–
Me: Twenty-three.
Her: –Even worse. You’re only twenty-three and you’re calling two albums and an EP your life’s work?
Me: Okay, I misspoke. Life’s work is… I can’t explain it.
Her: I can. You wrapped a huge amount of your ego and your self-esteem and your identity in the band. Come on. Isn’t it obvious? You named the band after your persona. But maybe it’s time to stop mixing up the band and you.
Me: …
Her: Daron? Are you there?
Me: … you… In eight seconds you just explained more about what’s going on with me than eight weeks of therapy.
Her: Have you talked to him yet?
Me: I do every Tuesday.
Her: Not the therapist. Ziggy.
Me: Is he here?
Her: There’s a thing called the phone, you know.
Me: But I don’t know his–

Ice water. Panic. Nausea. I was such a stupid fuck. I could call him. I had a pager number for him. One he said he only gave to me. What the fucking fuck was wrong with me? Remember when I said I was stupid–like really REALLY stupid? This was what I was talking about. For two-something months I had forgotten I had a way to call him. I had no excuse. I was Just. Plain. Stupid. I have no way to make it sound better than it was. I can justify it in hindsight as maybe kinda good because of how much I wrote, how much I did, during those very intensely productive two months but… but that’s a retrofit.

Carynne: Daron, are you there?
Me: …
Her: Daron? You’re freaking me out.
Me: Um.
Her: …
Me: I’m going to call him right now.
Her: Right now?
Me: I gotta go.

Later she would tell me maybe I didn’t “forget.” Maybe I was subconsciously protecting myself until I was ready to talk to him. Yeah, and maybe Carynne was trying to put a good spin on my stupidity.

I searched around to make sure the phone I was at took incoming calls. It did. I called the number I’d memorized and then input the pay phone number.

And then I sat there for an hour, getting sober and feeling like if I drove away, the second I did he was going to call, and then if it rang and rang he’d think I was yanking his chain and oh fuck me why didn’t I wait until I went back to Remo’s to call him from there? Stupid.

It wasn’t quite the level of suffering as that drive back from Betty Ford the time I gave myself heatstroke. But I was desperate enough to piss behind a dumpster so the phone was in earshot. I think I was there for about four hours? I suck at estimating time, but I was there long enough that I got offered drugs three separate times as well as two different blow jobs–one from a woman, one from a man–and was panhandled four or five times, too. Which felt pretty much like a microcosm of everything I hated about the entertainment industry, you know? I said no to all of them, of course.

Maybe the reason it felt like a microcosm of the business, though, is that the business is just a microcosm of everything I hate about human nature.

Here’s the kicker: I could have been perfectly content to stand outdoors next to that damn phone for four hours if I had a guitar with me. Why did I even leave the house without one? Oh right, I had just gone to make photocopies and somehow that led to me stopping off somewhere for a drink… and it was the bar’s parking lot I was in.

A police cruiser trawled by slower than the speed of traffic. I took it as a sign. I got in the car and left before I could get arrested for vagrancy or some equally bullshit thing.

Good thing I did.


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