925. Tie Your Mother Down

So it turns out you don’t have to do a lot of drugs or have a lot of sex to have what I–and probably most people–would consider a rock star weekend. Magenta seemed determined to prove us “kids” weren’t going to outlast her and when you have three lead-singer types hanging out together, they will sort of compete with each other for the spotlight. Okay, maybe “compete” isn’t the right word, but whenever one would cede center stage, another one would step up. It meant things never got dull and I was content to be along for the ride.

Rocky Horror led to Limelight led to an after-hours rave at an industrial space in Brooklyn. But we were kind of danced-out by then, so we took the chance to move on when we ran into Marvelle and he invited us to some kind of a jam. Under Marvelle’s directions, Tony drove all of us to the back room of a restaurant in either Queens or elsewhere in Brooklyn, I’m not sure. The gig was apparently a semi-regular gathering where techno and hip hop guys would get together with reggae guys. I suppose what they played would technically be called “jazz” but it didn’t sound like anything a “jazz” fan would recognize. The banquet room was crammed, people in every seat and on the tables and standing anywhere there was space. Undoubtedly a fire code violation, but it was awesome, and Marvelle got up and played timbales.

We ended up going out to breakfast with him after the show broke up.

“World music is where it’s at,” Marvelle said, while we sat in a Dominican bakery that served breakfast. The sky wasn’t light yet, and everyone else eating in there was a blue collar worker of some kind either on their way to or from a shift. None of them paid us any attention.

Tony was there, too. “All music is world music, though, isn’t it?” he asked. “Rock and roll is built on Afro-Cuban traditions.”

“Now you sound like Daron,” Magenta said. “This thing I’m in the States to work on, it’s combining church plainsong, Icelandic sagas, Swedish folk music, and techno.”

Everybody techno,” Ziggy said, apparently feeling that additional words were unnecessary to get his meaning across.

I nursed a coffee thick with sweetened condensed milk and nibbled at some kind of a pastry. I wanted to hear this conversation because Madge was right, I usually had a lot to say on that type of subject. But I wasn’t really able to focus very well. Lack of sleep will do that. In particular, the voices speaking Spanish around me gave me a funny, time-travelly, deja-vu-ish feeling, like I’d landed back in Seville somehow.

My palms began to itch, not from injury, but from the sudden need to have a guitar in my hands. I could almost–ALMOST–hear a riff. A strum and a beat that would work for the song I had started writing today–yesterday, I guess, technically. But I needed to play a little to figure it out. I couldn’t quite grab onto what my brain was trying to imagine, what my ears were trying to hear.

I was the only one who heard the woman behind the counter say our eggs were ready, and I went and got the plates and thanked her in Castilian Spanish without realizing it until she gave me a funny look. I brought them over to the table and the conversation ceased while everyone’s mouths were busy.

Sarah ate the least and spoke first. “I never get to do this kind of thing unless I’m with you guys.”

“What kind of thing?” Ziggy asked.

“Eat in hole-in-the-wall places that my mother would have a heart attack if she knew about,” she said, taking a sip of her own coffee. “I mean, if she knew I was in them. She knows other people go to them, obviously.”

“Where are you from, again, dearie?” Magenta asked.

“The middle of nowhere,” Sarah replied.

“I think she means the Midwest,” Ziggy said, “which is rather large.”

“Doesn’t matter how far away from the city it is,” I said. “I grew up maybe an hour from here and there were people who would never set foot in the city. They wouldn’t let their kids come on a school field trip to see A Chorus Line on Broadway on a Wednesday afternoon because they were convinced we were going to be attacked by gangs and never get home alive.” I wasn’t exaggerating.

“You just gotta know how to stay out of trouble,” Marvelle said. “Or be with somebody who does.” He and Tony exchanged nods.

“Yeah, well, she is trouble,” Madge said, ribbing Sarah. “Tell your mum you’re coming to visit me in Manchester. You don’t have to tell her it’s not a posh part of the country.”

“Were you serious about that?”

“’Course I’m serious. Nobody gives a flying fuck who you are there, either, so no need for a bodyguard. Although, Tony, don’t let that stop you if the boys want to bring you along.”

They must have discussed this earlier when I wasn’t paying attention. Ziggy made noises about having to check our schedules, but he sounded excited and pleased by the idea.

I fell asleep in my chair leaning against the wall of the bakery. So I don’t know whose idea it was to go home, unless you count it as mine. I fell asleep again in the car, even though it was full on morning by the time we left Brooklyn (or was it Queens…), the sun up and the weekend traffic starting. I had one of those weird dreams where reality flips inside out: I dreamed I was asleep in the car on the way home from Thanksgiving dinner at some distant relative’s house (distant in both how not-closely related we were and in how far we went to get there) and while I was asleep in that car I had a dream about growing up and being a successful rock musician and hanging out with a bunch of fabulously famous people I loved and who loved me. And then in the dream I woke up to find out that the rock star dream was just a dream and I was totally gutted.

And then I woke up for real with my face against Ziggy’s chest and breathed a sigh of intense relief, then went back to sleep.

When I later woke up at Ziggy’s I expected to find just the two of us there. But although Magenta had finally called it quits and retreated to her hotel, Sarah was still with us. I’d apparently slept through at attempt to drop her off at home. Her mother had been patrolling the lobby of her building, obviously waiting to ambush her and Sarah wanted no part of it. Tony and Ziggy had decided the better plan would be to whisk her away, which I agreed with, even if it was slightly startling to see her sitting on the couch, reading my backlog issues of SPIN and Rolling Stone. She was freshly showered and wearing Ziggy’s clothes, which was only fair since he was wearing her clothes–or he had been the night before. When I woke up he wasn’t wearing anything except a corner of the duvet. I was the one, actually, still wearing a shirt of Sarah’s.

I sat bolt upright in bed suddenly. “Shit.”

Ziggy had been reading a book in bed next to me, holding it carefully by one arm so not to disturb me while I’d slept. He let it droop. “What is it, dear one?”

“A song idea. I was trying to… I mean, I could almost hear how it went. Yesterday. Or this morning. Whenever the hell that was.”

“That’s wonderful…?” Ziggy said cautiously, letting a hand slide soothingly over my back.

“Except now I’ve lost it. Whatever the idea was. Poof. Gone.”

“Didn’t you write it down?”

“The lyrics, yeah, but the musical idea…” I let my eyes unfocus and tried to strain to hear something that didn’t exist. “It’s gone.”

“Well, I’m just excited you had an idea, even if it slipped away,” he said. “It means your wheels are starting to turn.”

“I guess.” I lay back heavily.

Sarah came and sat on the corner of the bed. “It’ll come, D. Don’t push.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

She patted Ziggy on his foot, which stuck out from under the covers. “Hey, how’s this for a change of pace. You guys want to help me with my vocal exercises?”

Ziggy chuckled. “What does Priss have you doing?”

“More of the same, probably. Come on. It’ll be fun. And then I can tell my mother I was practicing.”

That idea struck my funny bone and I started to laugh.


  • sanders says:

    Oh, I’ve missed Sarah. It feels like such an indulgence to have her around for so many posts, and Magenta is just extra awesome.

    As a side thought, since they were talking about Manchester and it made me think of Cornwall, can I put in a request for some Tori Amos in the chapter titles? I feel like you’ve used her before, Cecilia, but more Tori is always a good thing, and I always imagine Sarah as being something like her (or that she would be if not for her mother and Mills).

    • ctan says:

      I haven’t used any Tori Amos yet because Little Earthquakes didn’t come out until January 1992. So it’s coming.

      Daron can’t wait. He is there for all the latter day Kate Bushes and fierce women singers of the 90s.

      • sanders says:

        I always think that album is older than it is. I’m definitely curious to see which track(s) you use and which videos you pick. I suspect Daron would like her live because she so clearly throws everything she has and is into every song she plays.

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