Remo and I had a fight, but I’m not even going to tell you the details because they don’t matter. We were only fighting because of how raw and easily upset we both were, not because of any real issues between us. But it made me feel like I should wait until a better time to ask him if he’d ever had writers block–or whatever this was I was going through where I couldn’t come up with an idea for a song.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I came up with some terrible ideas. Pull my finger any day of the week and I can spit out a song idea, it just won’t be any good. Death metal cover of Howard Jones’ “No One Is to Blame.” See, there’s an idea. It’s just an awful one. For this, anyway. I needed a viable idea.
One afternoon Ziggy and I left the hospital together–I think because we were planning to go to a convenience store or something–and both of our pagers started going off the second we stepped outside. Signal didn’t get through inside the hospital most of the time which made me wonder how the doctors–who all had pagers–dealt with it. I guess they stepped outside every so often?
He looked at his. “Barrett.”
I looked at mine. “Carynne. Coincidence?”
“Probably not. I’ve owed him a call for a couple of days.”
“Let’s go back to the hotel and call from there,” he suggested. Sounded like a reasonable plan. Turned out no one else was sleeping in the other room right then, so we each got on the phone separately so neither of us would have to wait.
I sat down on the couch and dialed Carynne’s office number.
She picked up right away. “WTA. Carynne speaking.”
“Daron speaking. You rang?”
“Jeez. I’ve been trying not to nag you but do you know how many messages I’ve left you?”
“Never mind. I’m glad you called. Now, promise me you won’t get mad when I ask this; You know I have to ask this.”
She paused to take a breath. “Is there any chance Claire’s on a bit of an upswing or something so that there might be a chance to pry you and Ziggy away just for a day or two?”
I understood why she asked it like that. “No,” I said, and not because I didn’t want to go to New York to deal with whatever she was trying to summon us for. “She’s not on an upswing. She quit eating last week.”
“Oh. Damn. I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to be sorry for asking.”
“I meant, I’m sorry in the condolences sense, not the apology sense.”
“Oh. Why? I mean, why do they want us in New York?”
“Just, a lot of stuff is moving kind of fast, a lot of things in flux, and if you were both here, that might help nail it down,” she said, which was really vague, but maybe that was appropriate to a vague situation. She did get pointed about one thing. “I think it would be really much better for you and for everyone if it were both of you, and not just Ziggy.”
“Oh?” Now my curiosity was piqued. “Why is that?”
“Because you don’t like it when he makes decisions without you.”
“No no, I mean why should we be going to New York anyway? Who would we be meeting?”
“Wow, you sound so negative. Not Mills, if that’s what you’re worrying about. We’re not meeting with anyone we’re currently involved in a lawsuit with.”
I got the feeling I wasn’t going to get any more details out of her. And I didn’t need to anyway, since I wasn’t going. Not right now, anyway. “It’s really, truly a bad time for me to leave.”
“All right. How are you doing otherwise?”
I was always pretty open with Carynne, of course. “Terrible, but pretty good all things considered? I don’t know what scale to measure this on. It’s great having Zig here, though. That really helps.”
“But I’m having a hell of a time with this song I’m trying to write for her funeral.”
“Yeah. I’m like… having this total creative block about it. I mean, I was already having this block but this feels worse, somehow. It shouldn’t be that hard to write one little song. Have I done this before?”
“Had writers block? Did I go through this before but I don’t remember?”
“I don’t think so, honeybunch.”
“Okay, just checking. I was kind of hoping you’d be like, oh yeah, this totally happened in 1988 and then you did the following thing to break out of it.”
“Is that what you’re trying to do?”
“Is what what I’m trying to do?”
“Break out of it.”
“Well, yeah, of course I’m trying to break out of it. It sucks.”
“I’m sure it does,” she said, but her tone struck me as odd. “But there’s no need to drive yourself crazy.”
“I’m not any crazier just because I want to write a song.”
“D, listen to me, I don’t think you’re necessarily the best judge of how crazy your mother makes you. Even if she wasn’t dying, but she is, so, you know. Take that into account.”
Somehow her advice was rubbing me completely the wrong way. “Yeah, right. Because I obviously thought having a dying relative would be terrific for my mental health.”
“Well, your sense of sarcasm is still working,” she said. “But honestly, why put so much pressure on yourself? Unless it’s because you think it’s going to help you break through?”
“I’m not putting pressure on myself. It’s just… tricky when the deadline is unknown. Oh man, I used the word deadline, didn’t I.”
She may have yawned to hide her laugh. “You did. And sure you don’t know when she’s going to actually go, but then don’t you have like three days before the vigil? Write the song then.”
“Um.” She had a point.
“Unless you are trying to play it for her in order to force some kind of acknowledgement or reconciliation?”
“Oh, jeez, no. Nothing like that.”
“Then why are you so fixated on it?”
I was exasperated with her questions. “Is it so wrong to want to fulfill someone’s dying wish? Ziggy keeps saying I shouldn’t stress because by the time I actually play the song, she won’t be around to hear it anyway. But she asked.”
“Ohhhhh,” Carynne sounded like she had just smacked herself in the forehead. “I thought it was your idea to write her a funeral song. If it was her idea… that’s different. Yeah, okay, I can see why you’re fixated.”
“How can I be so fixated and yet I can’t come up with a single decent idea?”
“Maybe it’s because you’re so fixated,” she quipped.
“Easy for you to say.” Though part of me wondered, was she right? “Even Ziggy being here isn’t helping. I think he’s moping a little now because that puts a hole in his theory that he’s my muse.”
“Have you tried to write a song for or about him since the block started?”
“Then maybe he’s still your muse. It’s just that you’re ignoring him.”
“I’m definitely not ignoring him.”
“Okay, well, my suggestion is try to write something else for a while, and then go back to the song for your mom after. Change it up a little. While you’re working on one, ideas for the other might come to you. Capeesh?”
“Sure, yeah. Thanks. I’ll think about that.” And I did think about that. Just long enough to decide it wasn’t going to work and I should get back to obsessing about the song for Claire.
(There are a ton of reasons this song fits this chapter besides the 1992 release date. It’s nominally bluegrass, and we’re in Tennessee. Then there’s the subject and the mood, and the title of the album it’s from. If you don’t know about Allison Kraus, you might want to look her up. She got signed even younger than me, was one of the youngest artists to win a Grammy at the time, and has since gone on to win the most Grammys by a female artist of all time, I think? She has something like forty nominations. Yeah. Enjoy the song. -d)