I walked into the hospitality suite looking for Flip when it turned out I had, in fact, managed to not bring the charger for my pager. There I didn’t find Flip but I did find Waldo, Martin, and Charlie the flugelhorn player. Charlie’s iron-gray hair was slicked back against his head into a stubby pony tail but that only emphasized the kind of Ichabod Crane look to him: hooked nose, skinny limbs, long fingers.
“Where and when can we rehearse tomorrow?” I asked Waldo, thinking it was a no-brainer kind of question.
“Tomorrow? Tomorrow’s packed,” he said, chewing gum and rubbing his jaw with one meaty hand.
“Is it? What’s happening tomorrow?” Martin asked, curious/incredulous.
“Not for you, but Reem’s booked with press commitments.” Waldo dug out his dog-eared daybook and flipped through it.
“Not for nothing but Remo’s the one person we could rehearse without,” I said. “If we had to.”
“Is it worth doing?” Waldo asked. “You can’t just grab some time before soundcheck? I can make sure we’ve got a little extra time then.”
“I want that time, too,” I said. “Especially if we’re rehearsing without him tomorrow.”
Waldo let loose a string of mild obscenities, which was his usual reaction to most things so I didn’t take it personally. “Yeah, I guess…If you don’t mind doing it in one of the side rooms at the venue. I’ll have to see what we can get.”
Remo waltzed in at that point and we gave each other backslappy hellos and I half-jokingly said, “I hear you’re ditching rehearsal to talk to the press.”
“Rehearsal?” he said, half-jokingly back. But he was serious when he asked, “You think we need a rehearsal?”
Waldo jumped in. “Come on, kid, these guys are solid gold. They’re not some rookies who haven’t been around the block before.”
I probably should have backed down at that point for the sake of maintaining familial harmony…? And maybe I was forgetting a little bit that having been made the defacto band leader here wasn’t quite the same as being hired as musical director of a group I put together myself…?
Fill in any other second-guessing you want to here, but I did not back down. “I don’t give a fuck if they’ve each got a mantelpiece buried in Grammys. I’m not in the habit of sounding like dog crap on the stage and I’m not about to start.”
“Fuck me,” Waldo said. “How much time do you need?”
“At least two hours if we’re going to do a full dry run-through,” I said. “Which is what I want.”
Waldo appealed to Martin and Charlie by rolling his eyes in their direction and they both gave him shrugs like “don’t look at us.”
“What do you think, Reem,” he then said.
Remo was patting the pockets of his denim jacket like he was looking for something. “What do I think? I think Daron’s in charge of the band and if he wants a rehearsal, he’ll get a rehearsal.”
Waldo took a stubby pencil out of the back pocket in the daybook and grumbled and sighed audibly while he flipped back and forth through a couple of pages. “Coulda told me sooner.”
“Hadn’t occurred to me I’d have to fight you for it,” I said.
“Rehearsal room’s not on the rider.”
“Well, next time we go out, if I’m in charge of the band, make sure that it is,” I said, and he gave me a death glare like you wouldn’t believe. “If we have to rent a room here at the hotel that would work, too.”
“No. Too much work to move all the equipment you’d need. The drums alone… no.” Waldo scrubbed his forehead and almost poked himself in the eye with the eraser of the pencil. “Let me make a call right now before it gets too late.”
While he went off to do that, I got a Coke from the fridge and sat down in the suite and Remo asked me how everyone was. I told him everyone was peachy and that we had a nice picnic at Bart’s on the Fourth. “How about you? How’s Melissa and the baby?”
“Fine, fine,” he said quickly. Then, “I spent most of the break in Atlanta with her family.” He shook his head slowly. “Nice people, but…”
“But for example they make your family look functional by comparison.” He puffed his cheeks. “I tellya it makes me want to just bring her and the kid with me everywhere.”
“Yeah. I don’t want Ford to grow up in a toxic environment. But in LA she’s lonely if I’m not there.”
“Aren’t you both going to head back there as soon as this tour’s done? Won’t you be home for months at least at that point?”
He got himself a beer and sat down across from me in an armchair. “Yeah, yeah, true. Anyway, heads up about her folks. Who are with us for the next week or so.”
“Yeah. We hit Orlando next, you know, so we’re going to do a day at Disney on the day off, and then back to Atlanta, which is their turf, and then we’ll leave them there.”
“Okay.” I had managed to steer clear of Melissa’s family drama our last time through Atlanta and I figured I’d try to do the same this time, but then Remo said:
“I figure the kid’s too young to remember anything but it’s like some kind of American pilgrimage to take him to Walt Disney World and as his godfather you ought to be there.”
I think I actually said, “What?” because it took me a second to catch up to “his godfather” meaning me, and then I saw the look on Remo’s face which was a mix of sort of panic and disappointment so I quickly followed it with, “Oh, of course.”
“It’ll be on the day sheet,” Remo said, as if my reluctance might be based on logistics or something.
Waldo came back in then with an annoyed look on his face. “Two o’clock. You can have two to four in the auxiliary team locker room at the arena tomorrow. Assuming I can get word to George about moving the gear.” Then he sighed heavily as the phone rang. “Hang on.”
He went to answer it and I turned back to Remo. “I was serious what I said about next time. If you want me to actually be in charge of this I need to actually be in on planning this kind of shit.”
Remo patted the air in front of him. “Yeah. I mean, we don’t know when that’ll be, if we’re not making a record this year, if we’ll go out next summer or what, I just don’t know. But, you’re right.”
The truth of the matter was that at that point in my life I didn’t actually know how to be a musical director. I was making it up as I went along, too. But what I’d learned up to that point between making it up as I went along with Nomad and what I’d done with Ziggy so far was coalescing into an idea in my head of what was supposed to happen, and how, and when. And if other people did it differently, well, good for them, but I had a pretty clear idea of what my goals and responsibilities were as a band leader and I was going to be adamant about meeting them.
Waldo came back in. “Shit on a stick,” he said and pointed at me. “Musician wants to talk to you, too. And so does Rolling Stone. And those are the two afternoon interviews.”
My inclination was to say fuck them, they don’t need to talk to me, except of course I knew in the back of my head we were trying to sell Star*Gaze to someone and the higher my profile in the music press the better. Right? “Didn’t we already talk to those guys in New York?”
“You didn’t,” Remo brought up.
“All right, fine. Can we move the rehearsal time?”
“Can’t do earlier, venue unavailable. Later, maybe. Checking.” Waldo stormed back into the other room. He was so surly now full sentences were beyond him.
In the end we had to do it from seven to nine at night, which fucked up the dinner plans of a couple of band members who were meeting their families, but they at least understood and for the most part were able to deal. Fran and Clarice had an aunt (I forget which one of them) who was ancient and frail and who they ended up having lunch with instead.
We were playing three nights in a row at Miami Arena, which meant we were booked into a hotel for an extended stay. I had a room to myself. I ended up retreating there to have dinner from room service and then called Ziggy and left him a voice mail describing the room to him. I don’t know why. That was just what I did.
Then I went in the bathroom and did my vocal exercises and then I channel surfed until late at night when I fell asleep in my clothes. Starting a tour off right, in other words.
Okay, I know we’ve got a fanworks challenge going on, but I’ve been exchanging messages with a lot of you this week. I still haven’t absorbed Orlando. Maybe it’s going to be like 9/11 which took me until, well, last year to not feel like I have to hide for the entire day. This was like a distilled personal smartbomb version of 9/11 for someone like me who spent a lot of my time in my 20s at gay bars and clubs like Pulse. So please please do write, draw, etc. your fanworks, but I’m also adding one more action item for the DGC community to potentially participate in, and that’s a donation drive. Here’s how it’s going to work. You make an online donation to one of these three tax-deductible charities:
Equality Florida is a 501(c)(4) non-profit LGBT advocacy organization and this link goes to their specific fund for the victims, survivors, & families of those in the Pulse shooting. They’re trying to raise $7 million to pay for funerals, counseling, and much more. They’re at close to $6 million right now.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence was begun by Sarah Brady after her husband Jim, President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, was shot during an assassination attempt on Reagan. Jim was paralyzed for life. It took three more presidencies before the “Brady Bill” to limit handgun sales was passed and the Brady Campaign to this day still works to change gun laws in the United States. Their current fundraising campaign, simply called “#ENOUGH” is taking donations at this link. They are a 501(c)(3).
Rock the Vote is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan non-profit whose goal is simple: get more young people to vote. They provide information on how to register to vote, run voter reg drives, and other great programs to increase voter participation because they know that the more people vote the stronger our democracy is and the better it reflects the actual country. You can give at this link.
After you make your donation of any amount, even just $5, email a copy of your receipt/confirmation (either a screencap or a PDF or your paypal confirmation) to daron.moondog @ gmail along with your mailing address, and I’ll email you back the bonus story I’m about to write. (Haven’t written it yet, but I will! All I know right now is it’s going to be from Ziggy’s point of view.) If your donation is $25 or more I’ll send you some additional DGC stickers/tattoos (send me your mailing address). If your donation is $50 or more I’ll send you one of the remaining DGC red notebooks while supplies last. (After Kickstarter rewards are fulfilled I have a few dozen extra.)
Please help me do something good in this world and I think we’ll all feel less helpless. You are all heroes in your own lives already when you fight for inclusion, equality, and tolerance among your family, friends, and social circles. Please join me if you’re financially able in this step toward bettering the larger world, too.
This campaign will run through July and in the first week of August I’ll report the total amount raised, sound good? Thank you.
Hey Daron, guess what? No one knows what the fuck they’re doing! We’re all making it up as we go along. For the record, it looks like you’re doing a good job. I love it when you take charge and stand your ground.
My cousin held a fundraiser and donated $300 to the Equality Florida Go Fund Me page. I sent her some money, but it’s a good cause so I’ll make a separate donation for a Ziggy chapter. I wish there was more I could do, not just for this incident, but for all the other horrible things that happen in this world every day.
I’m pretty sure some people know what they’re doing. (and the key to succeeding in this biz seems to be to surround yourself with them)
If someone knows what they are doing, it’s because they’ve already btdt. That’s why life is about the journey. You live, you learn. In the meantime, you make shit up and if it works, great. If it doesn’t, well, hopefully you’re smart enough to not make the same mistake twice. That whole ‘if at first you don’t succeed’ thing…
My mentor upon graduating from vet school told me I couldn’t possibly make a mistake that he hadn’t already made. I’m sure I proved him wrong, but it was a valuable lesson to learn that I am human, and I won’t get everything right the first time, no matter how good my education was.
You, my friend, have good instincts where music is concerned, and yes, having people that have experience you can draw on will help you go far. You just have to trust yourself.
Please trust yourself half as much as those you are leading trust you.
I hope you wake up, get out of bed, and call Ziggy just to say “Hey.” And I hope you do that every day of the tour. Reminding one another of who you are is even better than sex. Sometimes.
Reminding one another of who you are is even better than sex.
Daron, I love how self-assured you are when it comes to what you want in music. You walked in there and laid it down! I love it.
Part of me’s thinking next time they had better put me in charge of this stuff so I can just make sure it’s all arranged from the beginning, you know? Seriously.
You know, when I lived in the south for 2-3 years, in Mississippi and Texas, I was still in ‘going to bars’ mode. Then, in sippi there were a bunch of targeted bashings, and in the place I lived in Texas, someone tossed a molotov cocktail into the one gay bar in town. That was in, uh, 1999-2000. I actually stopped going to bars THEN, because of that. So while I found the Orlando attack to be shocking, horrifying, miserable and devastating, it has not incapacitated me. I’ve already seen this kind of behavior and really the scale of it only makes it worse in some ways, to me. That guy was no different than whoever threw a bomb into a Texas gay bar. We are not safe, period, even in the gayborhood in the gayest towns in 2016. I was saddened and horrified but hardly surprised. So I’ve been able to absorb it and move on. Sad commentary huh?
For me I think it’s something about this moment, coming at the time when mass shootings are being debated endlessly on the news but nothing’s being done about them that gets me. It’s like you say, I expect people to hate us and any one of us could be the next Matthew Shepard. But this was too much of a perfect storm for me. Still processing it really.