We ended up staying in New York until Monday night (or maybe it was Tuesday, doesn’t matter). We stopped by the office before heading out of town so Ziggy could sign something (or meet someone or whatever, doesn’t matter).
Carynne was there and I sat down next to her desk and played with the Wonder Woman Barbie doll she had sitting on the tissue box. I asked Carynne about the “skinny white chicks with attitude” thing and she laughed. “Sarah has me so pegged,” she said. “Even if I’m not remotely skinny anymore.”
“You’re…” I hesitated, remembering that there’s some kind of etiquette around talking to women about their weight.
“Getting chunky,” Carynne said. “Eating on the road is hell on my waistline. I should join a gym. There’s one on the corner by my building but it’s all gay guys in there and I don’t think I’ll fit in.”
“You can’t seriously be telling me that being in an all-male environment bothers you.” The tissue box was gray with a geometric pattern on it like a modernist skyscraper.
“Oh, you mean like the music business?”
“And tour buses and–”
“It’s not that they’re guys, or even gay–heck, that’a a plus because then they won’t all be hitting on me when I’m trying to just jog on the treadmill–it’s that they’re all so perfectly well-groomed. If I go to the gym it’ll be at the crack of dawn and I’ll have no makeup on and my grungiest sweatpants.” She blew her overlong bangs out of her eyes as she poked at her computer keyboard.
“Why would they care what you look like? If they’re gay, they’re not looking to date you.”
“But they clearly care a lot about appearances. God. You look in the window and it’s like a Herb Ritts photo spread in there. I don’t want to be judged for my appearance when I’m sweaty and crying from doing too many sit-ups.” She gave up whatever she was trying to do at the computer and looked at me. “And, you know, maybe most of them are gay and not interested in me, but probably not all of them? And I don’t have to look good to everyone, just to Mr. Right, right?”
I suddenly felt I was in rocky territory as I remembered Carynne once lamenting that I wasn’t straight or at least a little bi. “You’ll find him.” And it won’t be because you’re skinny or chunky or whatever, I thought, but didn’t say. “Or he’ll find you, or whatever. It’ll just happen.”
“You really believe that?”
“You can’t write love songs without believing it, I think.” I shrugged. “That song I wrote about Jonathan, ‘Blue Sky,’ that’s what the song doesn’t come out and say but is implying. That it comes out of the blue.”
Her mouth hung open slightly. “I never realized that. I’ve heard that song a million times.”
“Well, it’s supposed to be kind of subtle. You know I don’t like to come right out and say things in songs.”
“Yeah, but I felt like that one was about as close to being direct in a song as you get, and that’s why people liked it.”
I was pretty sure the reason people liked it was the peppy melody and also that Sarah recorded a charming, winsome, palatable performance of it, but what do I know. “Sometimes I don’t realize the second or third layer of meaning until later.” Sometimes I knew it was there, and I wrote and built the lyrics specifically to give clues to that underlayer without revealing it completely. But other times, even when I thought I was writing something simple, it always turned out to have depths underneath. It’s Daron all the way down, I guess.
The sound of Ziggy’s laughter from Barrett’s office nearby turned my head.
“You guys must be doing okay,” she said.
“You’re both looking a lot healthier than you did in September.”
“Both of us, really?”
“Really. I think Ziggy does better when you do better. It’s hard to explain.”
“Is that what codependent means?”
“Um, no, not exactly. Ask your therapist about that.”
Her phone rang then, and she picked it up. I decided I should wander out to find Ziggy and leave her alone to take the call. I left Wonder Woman standing next to the tissue box with her arms raised in triumph, but somehow it just made her look like she was about to do a cartwheel.
I didn’t get far before I heard her say Remo’s name, though. I stopped outside her office door and listened, even if that was probably rude. The conversation was short, though, and when she hung up I stuck my head back in. “What’s up?”
She shrugged. “That was Remo. He…kind of seemed like maybe he was trying to ask about your availability for a gig without coming right out and asking. Like, he wanted to know how your rehab is going but you know how he is. He won’t push.”
A pang of guilt itched at the back of my throat. “I owe him a call. I haven’t caught up with him in a while.”
“Oh. No wonder he was so cagey. Although you’d think he would know by now to just say hey, tell Daron to get off his ass and call me. You want to call him back now?”
I checked the time. “Nah. We’re supposed to catch a train in a little while. I’ll call him when I get home tonight.”
“He’s on the road. Here’s the number.” She tore a piece of notepaper off a pad and handed it to me. I folded it up and put it in my leather jacket breast pocket.
Ziggy and I left for Penn Station a little while later. The afternoon commute hadn’t really heated up yet, but Penn Station was always busy. Ziggy was in his stealth mode, wearing a black baseball cap slightly sideways, the lightest amount of eyeliner possible, and a gray hoodie under his leather jacket. As we took seats in the Amtrak waiting area, Ziggy looked around like a skittish cat.
“I still think we could have taken a limo.”
“For what the train costs for the two of us, the limo wouldn’t even get us to the Connecticut border,” I said. I felt weird not carrying a guitar. I kept having these little moments of panic that I had laid it down somewhere and forgotten it, so I was a little nervous-feeling, too, but not for the same reason.
“We’re only saving like two hundred, two fifty? I can afford that, dear one.”
“I know you can. But that’s two hundred and fifty bucks we could spend on something else. Hell, that buys a nice second-hand guitar.”
He smiled, holding in a snicker. “That’s the Daron measure of currency. How many guitars can it buy?”
We got onto the train without incident. The ride through Connecticut was pretty. Winter was about to arrive but some colorful leaves were still clinging to the trees, and the train line goes right along the beaches and shore a few places. Around New Haven it started to snow. Ziggy fell asleep with his head on my shoulder and I spent an hour or so just watching out the window at the scenery going by, hearing the soundtrack in my head. Today it was playing I Advance Masked by Robert Fripp and Andy Summers. I had pretty well burned it into my memory note for note by hundreds of repeated listenings when it first came out.
It was one of the few things I knew that well and that I also had never tried to play. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the skill: it’s that those performances of improvised guitar duets really can’t be recreated. It’s impossible to tell on I Advanced Masked which parts were improvised and which were composed, which were played together and which were overdubs on separate tracks. It’s incredibly complex music sonically, and yet it’s built on “simple” parts and rhythms, layered on.
I was getting the itch to play around with notes again, to find riffs and put them together. To write music. Okay. I guess I did miss it. I guess I hadn’t lost the urge completely. My muse wasn’t dead.
Good. That was a relief. I started doing my finger exercises against the window as some snow began to fall. It was a quiet moment of peace in the world and in my soul.
Which was good, because given what was about to come down the pike at us, I was going to need to hang onto that nugget of centered calm for as long as I could.
(One of the rare chapters where the best title for it was the song mentioned in it. Apparently there are only grainy versions of this video available. Even Andy Summers’ official channel doesn’t have a good copy…)