It’s the tenth anniversary of Daron’s Guitar Chronicles! Holy cats, ten years? Yep. Join us Wednesday night for a livestream celebration! Tomorrow (Wednesday November 6th 2019) 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm eastern US time, via Facebook Live and YouTube Live!
And now, today’s chapter…
Ziggy and Court went back to the hotel later that day while Remo and I hung around. Remo looked like he he hadn’t shaved in several days and had a genuine beard starting. It was the most gray hair I’d seen on him yet.
“You keep going like that and you’ll be Santa Claus soon,” I told him.
“Heh. Maybe I want to be Santa Claus.”
Claire chuckled. “Long as you’re not giving candy to little girls.”
She grinned wickedly. Her face looked sallow, but her smile was bright. “Daron, dear, are all the cupcakes gone?”
I checked in the paper bag next to the bed that Ziggy had used as an improvised cake carrier. “One left. You want it?”
“Please.” She could just reach the little rolling tray and pulled it over to herself. I put a napkin onto the tray and then the cupcake into the center of it. Claire meticulously picked the paper off the bottom and then pulled the cupcake apart into bite sized pieces. You’d think it was a dinner roll at the Ritz.
“Is it very hot outside now?” she asked. Weather talk was always polite conversation.
“Not too bad yet.” I had taken my leather jacket off when I was outside, but I’d put it back on inside the hospital. It always felt too cold to me in there. How was that healthy? “I heard the staff say it’s cooler than usual for this time of year.”
“That won’t last,” Remo said.
“Have you read the paper today?” She was done with the cupcake and was wiping each finger with the napkin. Magically, there were no crumbs. “I heard the nurses going on about this Clinton fellow like he’s John Kennedy.”
“Well, he’s about the same age,” Remo said, “I mean, same age Kennedy was when he was elected.”
“And he plays the saxophone,” I said.
“Does he, now?”
“Yeah, we saw him play it on a late night talk show.”
“A man of many talents, I suppose.” Claire took a sip from the water cup beside her bed. “This country could use another man like Kennedy. Such a tragedy, gunned down like that?” She looked around. “I was in a room a lot like this when it happened.”
“Were you?” I asked.
“Yes. I was still in the hospital after Jan was born. We should have gone home by then but there was some kind of complication and they didn’t want to let me go. It all worked out in the end.”
“Not for Kennedy,” I said without really meaning to, but the gallows humor cracked all three of us up.
A nurse came in then to check on something and smiled. “Glad to see you three are jolly today.”
Maybe she knew better than to ask about what we were laughing about.
Claire fell back to sleep shortly after that, as she often did after she ate anything, as if even a chocolate cupcake took so much energy to digest that the rest of her systems had to shut down. Remo and I moved over by the window and talked in low voices.
“So how’d your conference calls go?”
I grimaced. “BNC is still wishy washy on releasing Ziggy’s album here. Sounds to me like they pushed him to make a dance-pop record and so he did, and now they’ve decided a rock record would be more marketable, but that isn’t what they have.”
“Court was telling me some of it. None of that should matter, though, when it comes to the money they owe you.”
“True. That really didn’t come up.”
He looked at me like two million dollars would have been the first thing he brought up, but… you know.
“They want me to be part of any rock makeover that happens,” I said. “Presumably they’ll pay up because I won’t go along with it if they don’t.”
“Just don’t get yourself into the position of doing something for them for money they already owe you anyway.” He scratched his beard. “You don’t look happy.”
I gestured at Claire’s lightly snoring form as if that explained it, even though I knew there was more to it. “I’m feeling very… off my game. My hands are a wreck, I can’t come up with a song idea, I’m afraid if I hit the road with Ziggy it’ll all go to shit again, and I’m… I’m… just…” I threw up my hands.
“Seems to me your confidence is shot.”
I looked at my fingertips. “Yeah, I guess it is.”
“It’s a little weird to see you like this.” Remo looked at my fingertips, too, but that’s not what he was talking about. “You’re normally so confident about anything musical, you’ll dive into stuff that’s way over your head and you still don’t sink.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean from the first day you stepped on stage with us at age, what, twelve? There were no lights too bright for you.” He turned in his seat to look at me full on. “I don’t know if you remember, but you were kind of a shrinking violet as a kid.”
“But once we put a guitar in your hands you were like a different person. When you got on the stage, it was like this completely different personality came through. It didn’t matter if there were ten people in the audience or a thousand, you just… rose to the occasion. We never knew what to expect. It was like once we wound you up and let you go, we never knew how the show was going to go. But it always went great.” He chuckled. “And that just kept happening. Do you know how many twenty-year-olds would be too intimidated to get on the stage at Madison Square Garden? Or that documentary you scored. You never even did anything remotely like that before and you had what, three weeks to get it done? And then what you did turned out great, too. An SSDA nomination and everything. Chernwick is still crowing about you.”
I shrugged. “He needed something done in a hurry.”
“You were like a rabbit he pulled out of his hat when he didn’t even have a hat,” Remo said. “Should I go on? You saved my ass in Japan and stole the show there.”
“I did not steal the show.”
“I don’t mean that in a bad way. You elevated the whole thing to another level. And on what, one week of rehearsal? You did it again on the US tour. And then you rearranged the entire production for Ziggy’s tour and directed the band? Where’d you learn to arrange and direct?”
“Conservatory,” I said, but he was right. One 12-week course in string quartet arrangement isn’t the same as being a career bandleader. On the other hand, it’s not rocket science. “I knew I could do it.”
“Exactly.” He pointed at me like he could make the word sink in like an arrow in my chest. “You knew you could do it, so you did. All your successes, you had that confidence. You. Made. Things. Happen.”
“You’re saying it wasn’t my talent or my know-how that made me successful as much as my belief that I would succeed? Like a self-fulfulling prophecy?”
“No. It was your talent and know-how and your belief in yourself. You need all those things. Right now, you’ve got just as much talent and know-how as you used to–in fact you’ve got more–but you’re too worried.”
“Well, maybe I know better now what to be worried about. I mean, I leapt into some of those situations without any regard for what could go wrong because I didn’t really know. Now I do.”
He shrugged. “If you have a Ferrari in the garage, but you never ever drive because you’re too afraid of car accidents, they call you crazy.”
“You think I’m a chicken.”
He started to raise his voice a little. “That is not what I said. This is not some bullshit about being man enough. You are having a crisis because you think your talent has deserted you. I’m telling you it isn’t your talent that’s gone. Just your confidence.”
“Well, shit.” I looked at my hands. “It’s hard to be confident when lawyers can eat me alive.”
“That’s exactly when you should be confident, though. What’s that they say about dogs don’t attack you unless you show fear?”
“Yeah, yeah, true.” I started to gnaw on a newly formed callus, then stuffed my fist into my jacket pocket. “The question is… Was I actually confident or was I just too naive to know better?” I thought about how I’d insisted on negotiating that first contract with Mills myself. So naive. But I’d done a decent job of it, ultimately. “And how do I get it back?”
“You never get your innocence back,” Remo said, rubbing his chin like maybe the beard was starting to bother him. “But confidence, I think, you build that up from feedback. When was the last time you were in front of an audience?”
“Last year?” Right? Brazil was in the autumn. It was now summer.
“Think about it. You get that infusion of energy from the people you play for. You feel what you do go out and reflect right back.”
“You feel like you’re not alone,” I said, without really thinking about how that would sound. But it was true. “I hear what you’re saying.”
“I think you need to get out there in front of some people, somehow, some way, to build yourself up again.”
I nodded. “That sounds reasonable.” But that vise-grip on my heart tightened a fraction. “A sold-out show at Budokan is probably not the right way to ease myself back in, though.”
“I know they want to book a tour for Ziggy of Japan. I know they’ve been waiting for me to get my act together to do it. I told them I was in no shape to.” What I’d actually told Ziggy about why I couldn’t/wouldn’t do it was a little more dramatic than that, but maybe that’s all it was: drama.
“So come up with something on a smaller scale than an international arena tour,” Remo said reasonably. “Do a residency at a small club, maybe. Sit in at The Cat Club for a couple of weeks. Something.”
I was nodding my head. He was right. There had to be something. I would probably have thought of it myself if I’d been able to think of anything other than medical crises for the past six months.
My gaze drifted back to Claire, asleep, just a few feet away. I couldn’t really make plans until her “situation resolved.” And there was nothing I could really do about that without being a cold-hearted bastard. Which I wasn’t going to do. Turning myself into a stone-cold ghoul was an even better way to wreck my career and future happiness than taking a year off to be by her bedside, I thought.
And that was true.
(Can’t believe I haven’t gotten to this song yet, but apparently not? -d)