Before I could clear my throat–or think of what to say–Ziggy speared a snail on a miniature devil fork and said, “There is nothing I love more in this world than making music with this man.”
I might have said “same” or maybe I just nodded while I coughed a bit.
“Excellent. And here I worried this might be a hard sell.” She grinned. “Here’s what I have in mind. I want a repeat of the previous stunt.”
“Which stunt, darling?” Ziggy asked, wiping up oil and snail juice with the bread.
“The ‘Breaking Chains’ stunt.”
“Hasn’t that bullet already left the gun?” He had olive oil dripping down his chin. Before I could say something about it, his tongue snaked out and cleaned it.
“I think it could go even bigger if we try it with a new song. A different song, I mean, although maybe a new recording. It’s so pop heavy, I don’t think just a new mix is going to do it.” She looked at me, one eyebrow twitching. “You know what it needs.”
“I mean, you are what it needs.” She made a motion that for a moment looked to me like whacking off, then I realized it was supposed to be a hand moving up and down a guitar neck because her other hand was curled around her butter knife.
Thinking back on it now, though, maybe my first impression was right. “Wait, what what needs?” I was wondering if I missed something.
“‘Into the Night,'” she said, looking at me oddly, like I’d blanked out. Maybe I had.
“You know, we played that one a lot in South America,” Ziggy said. “Not the pop version. An arena-sized version.”
“Oh, really,” she said, but she didn’t sound surprised to me at all. “Then it should really be a piece of cake. Oh, I’m so glad we had this talk.”
We weren’t even drinking champagne but I felt a little dizzy, like things were just moving way faster than my seatbelts were rated for. “Hang on, hang on, what are we doing? When?”
“We are dreaming of greatness,” she said with a wink, and toasted me with Perrier. “One thing at a time, though, one thing at a time. The music business is a long game, a very long game, when played right. If you just go chasing this hit or that hit, well, the record company can make a lot of money, but you can also waste a lot of money, too. If you invest in artists’ careers for the long term, though, you ultimately get a better return on investment. I’m not asking you to jump into the studio next week.”
She patted my arm. “You looked a little worried.”
“Um, yeah.” What was I supposed to say to that?
“We’ll have to find the right producer, of course.” She paused as the waiter swooped in to take the appetizer plates away and deposit entrees in front of each of us. “Have you worked with Mutt Lange before?”
I shook my head no. Ziggy snorted. “Last time around I think they made me work with almost everyone but! The only producer I ever really got along with was, well.” He paused and picked up his knife and fork. It was like he wasn’t going to say Jordan’s name. He started to cut into his steak and I realized he actually wasn’t going to say his name.
I wasn’t hungry. I found myself pushing my frites back and forth with my fork, frowning and trying not to think about Jordan, and that just made me think about him more. What was it going to be like to work with someone new? I had worked with dozens of producers when I was doing gigs in LA, but none of those were my songs, my music.
She threw around some other big names. Rick Rubin. Daniel Lanois. I was listening but I had withdrawn from the conversation into my own little spiral of Jordan-regrets. What if we hadn’t gone to Tennessee for Christmas? Would we have been in New York with him and would he be alive today if we had? Why hadn’t I ever asked him for copies of the things we recorded together? Why hadn’t I learned more from him when I had the chance?
I felt a hand on my arm. I looked up and saw it was Patty, not Ziggy, giving me a gentle squeeze. “I know.” She shook her head sadly. “Everyone misses him. Everybody loved Trav.”
I wondered what he thought of her. What advice he’d give now if I told him what was going on.
I eventually did eat some, but I mostly ended up with it packed to go. I’m sure the food was good, but it was like eating cardboard to me. The conversation had backed off of important career and industry topics and onto more general things. Patty and Ziggy talked about books and movies and politics and all kinds of stuff while I just sat there feeling weighed down by the loss of Jordan Travers. I guess that was survivor’s guilt?
One kind of guilt led to another, and my anxiety started to creep up my back like a hungry ghoul. We’d been away from the hospital for how long…?
I said no to dessert, thinking it would speed up our departure, but then they offered coffee and I thought, okay, I should have that before I drive, just because my sleep has been so fragmentary lately… and the temptation of really good coffee was too good to pass up. The waiter bent down to hear what Ziggy was asking for as I got up to visit the men’s room.
I never did have that coffee. While I was washing my hands, my pager went off. I recognized the number of the hospital. That couldn’t be good.
Ziggy came rushing in, then, his own pager in his hand. “Mine’s from your sister,” he said. “And it says 911.”
“Shit later,” he said, pulling me by the sleeve. “We gotta run.”