I didn’t hear until after the show, but the word was that the St. Louis Arena had sold out, so I guess the national anthem thing worked out. The band was in the bus and rolling out of there before midnight. It was a long overnight drive to NOLA, and we weren’t sleepy right away, so me and Remo and Flip sat in the back lounge and passed a bottle of whiskey and played guitar for a while.
When I woke up it was well into the morning and we weren’t there yet, and I had slept six or seven hours. I brushed my teeth again and went back to my bunk and slept again, probably two more hours? Until we arrived. It felt like a lot of sleep.
We were at a big hotel on Canal Street, at one edge of the French Quarter, where I’d stayed at least one other time. We got checked in pretty easily and then Remo asked me if I could amuse myself until sundown while he took care of some business. I told him of course I could: me and Charlie could rehearse. We agreed to meet for an early dinner.
Charlie and I rehearsed for about an hour and then he wanted a nap. I went out and found myself some lunch in the French Quarter and wandered around listening to street musicians. The temperature was perfect, in the high seventies and not too humid.
It was late afternoon when I made my way down to the gay end of Bourbon Street and got a drink at one of the bars there. I cruised by sitting still at one of the upper level bars and making eye contact with people–men–as they went by. When I’m on a bar stool you can’t tell at first glance how short or how nervous I am.
I was trying to take Colin’s advice seriously. Ziggy’s advice, too. If I didn’t get my balls emptied on something like a regular basis, I would wind up until I snapped. The bus was not a good place to wank, and neither was the bathroom if Flip was in the bed a few feet away.
Did you know that about 98 percent of oral sex feels exactly the same with a condom on? At least when you’re the one getting blown it does. At least on my dick. Giving head to someone wearing a condom, on the other hand, feels really different to me than when they’re not.
And I’m bringing this up now because? Oh, no reason.
I was in a knickknack shop, working my way back across the Quarter to meet Remo for dinner, when Ziggy’s song came on the radio. “People can NOT get enough of this song!” the deejay said. “Maybe that’s because you can’t buy it, can’t get it on CD, album, or tape. It literally arrived in our office on a reel with a ransom-style note attached to it, but it’s pretty obvious who this is. Heck, we don’t even know the title of the song, so we’re calling it ‘Breaking Chains.'”
Why it took until that moment for me to grasp what the stunt was about, I don’t know. But I suddenly realized the song wasn’t about Ziggy breaking free from me, it was about record company control. Maybe it was even about breaking free of genre. And it was a brilliant stunt because they got all this buzz, all these radio stations playing it, and people calling up and requesting it, specifically because it was something they couldn’t sell.
And the reason they couldn’t sell it was because presumably you couldn’t put me and Ziggy together on a record at BNC right now without someone in the legal department having a conniption.
Remo and me and Alan and George met two musician friends of Remo’s and we all ate in a little private dining room at one of the really fancy-schmancy places, but I guess because we were in a private room we didn’t have to have jackets and ties on. We stuffed ourselves quite well and then the two friends–who it turned out were a banjo player and a percussionist Remo knew from folk festivals– took us around to some clubs to hear music.
We hit three different places, and each place had a two-drink minimum, which probably didn’t apply to us “guests” but I wanted to respect the rules, you know? And then we ended up back at the hotel playing music ourselves and you know, I’m at my most whole and functional with a guitar in my hands, so I think I made a good impression on Remo’s friends even if I was pretty drunk by then.
And then I paged Ziggy and fell asleep.
When I woke up my eyes felt like they were full of burning sand. Then I realized I had opened them because the phone was ringing. I picked it up and covered them with my other hand. “Hello?”
Ziggy. God. Ziggy. “Holy shit I miss you,” I said.
“Are you even awake yet?”
“No. Which is how you know it’s the truth. Actually can you hang on a second?” I put the phone down and went to the bathroom because my bladder was dangerously full. Then I drank a little water and puked it up immediately because it was too cold. One thing at a time, I guess. I brushed my teeth carefully, then had a tiny sip of water and it was okay. Okay.
I went back to the phone. “Still there?”
“How’d you guess?”
“This is a New Orleans phone number, you know.” He chuckled.
“Yeah, it is.” I sat on the edge of the bed. The other bed wasn’t slept in and I wondered where Flip had spent the night. “This is the same hotel where you and I had an epic epic epic fight a couple of years ago.”
“Our first epic fight? Okay, to be clear, our first epic fight that wasn’t about music. I mean, that was about…us.”
I lay back on the bed. “I’m a moron. I actually didn’t call to tell you that. I don’t know why I brought it up.”
“Because, deep down, you’re still mad about it?”
“No. I don’t think I am. I just…it was a coincidence, and I just can’t keep my mouth shut. Anyway. The reason I called.”
“You just wanted to hear my voice?”
“Yes, but also because I have been hearing your voice. All over the freaking place.”
He didn’t say anything but I could hear rustling sounds that I could easily picture were Ziggy doing a victory dance.
“I miss you.”
“I miss you, too, asshole.”
There really wasn’t anything important to say after that.