(Site glitches fixed! Turns out the disk in the web server was dying and that’s why new comments wouldn’t take. Please go back and comment now on Sanders’ brilliant Ziggy fic from last week: A Little Normal -ctan)
Apparently I get Tempe and Tucson mixed up. Tucson I had heard was an artsy little town up the mountains akin to Boulder, Colorado. Tempe, though? Tempe is basically Phoenix. I should have known that but, you know, travel around enough and it’s easy to get mixed up.
In Phoenix we stayed in the same hotel where Moondog Three had stayed when we filmed the “Why the Sky” video. I didn’t realize it until I found myself walking down a hallway to look for my room and I felt like I was finding loneliness and isolation in every doorway.
To combat the hovering darkness at the edges of my mood, I pushed us to rehearse Fran’s song and a couple of other things more. Everyone was fine with being pushed to rehearse more. I’m not sure if that made things better or worse.
Well, playing never makes anything worse, I know that much.
The phone in the bus had service in Phoenix. It rang when we were on our way to soundcheck.
It was Ziggy. Flip came to tell me.
The phone was all the way in the front of the bus, in the lounge directly behind the driver’s seat. I had been all the way in the back playing around with the chords for something that was still percolating in my mind, and I had to put the guitar in the case and walk all the way to the front of the bus, passing everyone on my way there. It was probably that my mood was fragile to begin with but it felt weird, like everyone was passing judgment on me and my relationship with Ziggy as I went by.
Which is stupid because most of them probably didn’t even know who was on the phone, now that I think about it. But at the time I didn’t realize that.
I tried to be casual. “Yellow.”
“Can you do morning drive tomorrow?”
“What?” Took me a second to catch up to what he was asking. “Do you mean can I be on a morning drive radio program with you in–” I checked the time. Three o’clock. “–sixteen hours?”
“K-Rock has a slot at 7:20 am.” He sounded like he was tamping down excitement. Or impatience. “That’s absolutely prime time for radio, you know.”
“We’re in Arizona tonight, playing a show. Hang on.” Martin was across the bus from me, reading a magazine. “How far is it to LA?”
“From here? Six-hour drive or so?”
I realized that wasn’t the question I meant to ask. “When are we getting in?”
He shrugged. “Crack of dawn?”
“Yeah, but how crack of dawn is the question.”
“Let me ask Randy.” He got up and leaned forward into the stairwell by the driver’s seat. I couldn’t hear what he was saying.
“I’m checking,” I told Ziggy.
Martin pulled himself back into the lounge. “We’re driving all night. Probably get in around five in the morning.”
I turned back to the phone. “Supposedly we’re getting in at five a.m. That might be cutting it close.”
“What about you?”
“Me?” He chuckled. “I’m already here.”
I felt a wave of relief and a crackle of annoyance at the same time. “You could have told me sooner,” I said.
“I would have told you sooner if I’d known for sure sooner and I was able to reach you,” he said.
“Okay. I know. I’m just on edge. Shit, I don’t even know why.”
“I know why. It’s because in thirteen hours you’re going to playing with me for the first time in–”
I snapped at him. “Don’t wind me up like that.”
“It’s the truth. You’d rather I told you a soothing lie?”
I saw a flash of red and heard a burst of static in my ears. I squeezed my eyes shut. Of course not, I thought, but I couldn’t make myself say it. I could only ride out the wave of emotion until it ebbed. It felt like he had found a way to jerk my chain by claiming he wasn’t jerking my chain…? Or was I just paranoid?
His voice was tinny and distant. “Daron?”
He sounded as needy a I felt. “Don’t lie to me. Don’t ever lie to me. I’d rather have my head fucked up by the truth than by bullshit.” I think I was squeezing the phone rather hard.
“Okay,” he said. “I’m really, really looking forward to seeing you.”
“How am I getting to the radio station?”
“I had Barrett premptively book us into the same hotel as you. Limo to the station leaves at 6:45.”
“Us, who’s us?”
“Tony, Barrett, a couple of other staff people: the usual entourage.”
Jeez. For some reason that sent my blood pressure through the roof, too. Not in anger, just in anxiety. I made myself blow a breath out slowly, like I was playing an invisible flute. “Okay. What happens if the bus breaks down or something and I can’t get there?”
“Then we cancel. Or maybe I go do it myself but I think the kick is that it’ll be us together.”
“Yeah. Some kick.” My head was spinning much more than a conversation about a gig should make. I took another deep breath. You’re going to see Ziggy no matter what, I told myself, like I was an overexcited five-year-old on the monorail toward Disney World. Just calm down.
I had to say goodbye to him then because we were at the venue. You might have noticed we didn’t get a chance to talk about what exactly we were going to do at this radio gig. I had noticed but I was trying not to think about it. What was done was done.
Speaking of being prepared or unprepared, there were some sound problems happening at the venue, which affected our soundcheck, and I didn’t get to do the run-through of Fran’s song through the PA that I wanted to. She told me it was no big deal: we’d do it tomorrow before the actual show when it would be performed. I wasn’t worried. Even without that we were probably going to blow it out of the water. We worked on it backstage instead, but it helps to hear things through the big PA and the crew needed to know how it would go, too.
I had a beer after soundcheck was over and found myself sitting with it behind the light board with Louis. “You heading back to Boston during the break?” he asked me.
“Not right away,” I said, though I still wasn’t sure exactly where Artie was sending me to promo the solo album. “But eventually. Why, you thinking about coming to visit Shiree and the kids?”
“Yep. One of ’em fell off a bicycle this week and somehow ended up with a leg bone broken in two places.” He shook his head. “Not that it would have happened differently if I’d been there, but eh, I dunno, the older I get the more fragile life seems to be, you know?”
I made a non-commital noise of agreement as I sucked on my beer, and he whapped me lovingly on the shoulder. “You’re what, twenty-something now? Too young to feel it. Maybe it’s not the age, it’s the wear and tear.”
“You sound like some old Viet Nam war medic.”
He snorted. “Like you should talk. You and your eye patch and the stage blowing up like a landmine in your face.”
“It all worked out okay.”
Louis doesn’t get angry often. The only time I remember him being genuinely pissed off was around Megaton and all the bullshit that went on with them. But he shouted at me right then. “Goddammit, Daron!”
I shrank down, cradling my beer. “What? What’d I say?”
“It sure as hell did not work out okay! That’s how Ziggy got hooked on painkillers and why we almost lost him for good!” He hadn’t stood up but he’d turned to face me in his chair and stabbed at me with a finger. “Don’t you fucking take all this for granted. Your life, your health, the people around you, life is fucking fragile and I’ll be damned if—” He cut himself off then, rubbing his eyes and shaking his head, his unkempt salt and pepper hair flying.
I turned the empty beer bottle in my fingers. “I didn’t know you felt so strongly about Ziggy.”
“And you. Come on, Daron, play dumb. I haven’t known you as long as Remo but I was on that B tour where he brought you along like a mascot and you ended up stealing the show.”
“I did not steal the show.”
“Suit yourself.” He shrugged like that only proved what he was saying.
“Okay, but seriously, you can’t compare me to your own kids–”
“Yes, I can. Old fucks like me may have seen it all and be jaded as shit, but you, Ziggy, maybe you don’t realize how young you are.”
“And being young earns us extra awwww-points from jaded old fucks like you?” I asked. “I’m not being argumentative, by the way, I’m really trying to understand this.”
Louis looked at me and nodded. “Yes.”
“Yes. You being young, talented little shits gets jaded old fucks like me going. I didn’t sleep right for a month after that last tour ended like it did.”
“Wow. I didn’t realize.” I knew I had been a wreck after everything that had happened and then the sudden way things got cut off, but it hadn’t occurred to me that Louis or anyone else had felt that way. “I’m sorry. I guess…everybody was really affected by it.”
“I didn’t mean to say the explosion wasn’t bad, or that we just laughed it off.” I looked toward the stage, the instruments and risers sitting alone and empty. “I guess what I mean is…I hope someday I can laugh it off. That put me on a pretty crappy spiral downward. But maybe…maybe it’ll be over soon.”
“Maybe what’ll be over soon?” Louis looked at me, puzzled.
I really couldn’t tell him that I didn’t know if this was going to be yet another brief interlude in the otherwise “Era of Being Apart from Ziggy” or if this was really a step toward some kind of actual reunion of some kind. I didn’t know and I didn’t even know what I wanted to think at that point. So I just explained the details:
“I’m supposed to do some kind of guerilla publicity strike on an LA radio station with Ziggy at seven in the morning tomorrow.” I shrugged. “Assuming we make it to LA by then.”
“Ahhh.” Louis stood up. “Does Waldo or George know about this?”
“Okay, that’s probably good enough. But I’d make sure Waldo’s taken it into account.”
I stood up, too. “I’ll go look for him now.”
“Attaboy. Hey, sorry I got a little intense on your ass there.”
“No problem, Louis. I know it’s because you care.” I patted him on the arm/shoulder and he patted me back.
“I’m rooting for you, man. I’m rooting for you.”
I went to look for Waldo.
(Reminder! DGC ebook volume 7 launches NEXT WEEK! August 4th! Pre-order it on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and elsewhere. And RSVP on Facebook for the online launch chat: 8-9pm Daron and me in the chat room here, and then 9-10pm live video hangout on YouTube. (Yes, the video URL will be https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ERP2sOWXqk) Post your chat questions on FB or here! -ctan)