The show in Orlando was fun. I figured Remo needed to get his mind off his family angst so I pushed him to play with me a little on stage, turning one of my solos into a long jam that I threw to him and after burning through a round he threw back to me and I tried to throw it to Alex on keys and he shook his head and passed it but Remo was ready to jump back in. The audience absolutely roared in approval when he took up the solo again because it was unexpected. It was, as the term goes, “a moment.”
There was a moment in the second encore, too. At the very end of the first encore Martin had some kind of drum emergency–something happened along the lines of a cymbal fell and not only broke the head on the snare it managed to take out a foot pedal, too. The second encore was the point where we usually put a ballad in anyway, so I suggested Remo and I just go out there with two guitars and do it acoustic and he agreed immediately. With zeal, even.
I did most of the playing and he did all the singing and it was basically raw and beautiful. You should’ve heard the tone of the crowd when I played an intro that at first seemed unrecognizable and then Remo sang the first line. Delighted recognition, approval, you can hear people’s feelings in the way the cheers sound. And when we brought the song to a close it was that sound again but ten times louder.
It didn’t “fix” things between me and Remo, but a moment like that makes you willing to cut the other person some slack, anyway. Pretty much how it worked with me and Ziggy, too, if you’ll recall. I’m willing to cut people a lot of slack if the art is good.
And people are willing to cut me a lot of slack, too.
We had the day off again the next day and I went back to Disney with Flip and some of the crew. I stayed in the background. Just because I was the onstage talent didn’t make me any sort of a ringleader in this group. That was Flip. I went back to being my quiet unobtrusive self.
The thing that was interesting about that was that five years ago that would have been me trying to hide in plain sight, trying to be “just one of the guys.” Now, though, they all knew me. Or, at least, they knew about my sexuality and that I had a gold record and a song that went to No. 3 as well as the fact that I had been Remo’s protege when I was a kid, but they could forget all that because when we hung out I was just Daron. Does that make sense?
We went around Epcot Center, managing to drink quite a bit in the process because lots of countries in the World Showcase are showcasing their best alcohols, you know, and I made eye contact with Flip at one point as if to ask hey, you think this is okay? And he gave a bit of a shrug and nod like as long as I didn’t drink any more than the rest of the guys I was okay.
Um, roadies can drink a lot. They weren’t fall-down-and-puke excessive, though. If it matters, I didn’t drink anywhere near what they did.
As sundown came on, I got itchy to break away from the group, even though I was having a good time. I told Flip I was going back to the hotel.
“Are you sure?” He used the Concerned Voice.
“I’m not sneaking off to binge drink, if that’s what you’re thinking,” I said.
“Okay.” Having done his due diligence he saw me off with a shoulder pat and a smile.
I didn’t go back to the hotel. I didn’t drink any more, either. I rode the monorail back toward the Magic Kingdom and then got on the one that just goes around and around the lake and rode it for…an hour? At least.
And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, why? I imagine this in Carynne’s voice: Daron, what were you doing?
I wasn’t doing anything. I suppose you could say I was thinking but it wasn’t even like I was cogitating about something deep. If I was doing anything, you could say I was being just Daron.
The sky turned from sunset gold to dark purple and the train seemed to be getting more and more empty. And then as we turned around the bend I saw the fireworks had started.
I moved to the closer window. There were only a few other people in the compartment with me. Tears dripped down my cheeks, a quiet cry, gentle and silent. A mild sort of grieving, really. We lost sight of the sky as the train pulled into a hotel.
A young woman caught my eye as she paused at the door, identical tears on her cheeks. “Gets me every time,” she said with a self-deprecating laugh.
“Yeah, me too,” I said. My smile was sheepish.
She hesitated from getting off and I realized this was the moment when, if I was heterosexual, I might make a move. Instead I said, “Have a good night.”
“You too.” She smiled and got off. The door slid closed behind her.
Being alone is not the same as being lonely. I cherished the time alone, I realized. It was a kind of reboot for my soul.
After that I felt actually tired and I found my way to the place where I could get a taxi back to downtown Orlando and our hotel.
I ran into Jam in the lobby. “Hey.”
“Hey.” He made a toking motion with pinched fingers, asking me without words if I wanted to go get baked.
“Not tonight, man,” I told him.
I paged Ziggy from upstairs. He called back not long after.
“Are you in the bathtub this time?”
“No, lying on the bed. And not even drunk this time. Last drink I had was hours ago. How are you?”
“Exhausted. Remind me why I want to do six dance numbers on this tour again?”
“Because Madonna does her entire concert as a dance routine and you feel inadequate in the face of that.”
He laughed. “You got me. God. My ribs are sore, my lats are sore, my traps are sore…”
“I don’t even know which muscles the traps and lats are.”
“They’re the ones that hurt,” he whined.
“Well maybe you should get in the bathtub,” I pointed out. “With hot water in it.”
“Hm. You might be onto something there.”
But then we talked for like another half hour about nothing much in particular but this and that. Nothing memorable other than we did it. And then eventually I told him no really, go get in the tub and get off the phone so you don’t get it wet and all that.
“Where do you go next?” he asked, now that we had entered the “almost goodbye” stage of the conversation.
“St. Pete,” I said.
“I wonder if you’ll see that nurse.”
I tried to parse what he meant by that. Did we have a wild threesome with a nurse I didn’t remember or something? Haha, as if. “What nurse?”
He was silent a second, and then I realized he was struggling with the fact that I clearly really didn’t remember something that he did, and he didn’t know how to break it to me. “The… That was… the blond one with the CD.”
Blond one with the CD. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
He cleared his throat. “The discharge nurse. After the incident.”
The incident. “Oh.” The explosion. I’d forgotten that happened in St. Petersburg. “Oh.”
“Nomad doesn’t use any pyrotechnics, do they?”
“Okay, good. Call me after the show tomorrow, though, okay?”
“Ziggy. Nothing is going to happen to me.”
“But call me anyway, okay?”
“Okay. I think we’re rolling overnight, but I’ll try.”
“At least page me with a 777 if everything is fine and 911 if it isn’t, okay?”
“Okay. Look. I love you.”
“I love you, too. You know that, right?”
“I do. But I’m glad to hear it anyway, you know?”
“Even if it is on the phone,” he said.
“It was you who said we shouldn’t say it on the phone,” I pointed out.
“That was then,” he said. “This is now. This is us now.”
I wrote a song that night before Flip came in using the words “this is us now” as the refrain.
Just Daron and Ziggy.
(Today’s video was a minor hit in 1991 by The Golden Palominos. I’m not sure I can quite explain why they’re important. At the time they formed it was like you took all the eclectic music uber-nerds on the fringes of “alternative” and jazz put them in a band together: Anton Fier, Arto Lindsay, John Zorn, Bill Laswell, and Fred Frith. Over the course of a couple of albums in the alternative heyday they had everyone from Michael Stipe to Matthew Sweet guest vocal. They’ve morphed through a ton of lineup changes over the years. And of course Zorn, Laswell, and Frith are still pushing the envelope of experimental music today. Couldn’t find a video for this song, but it features Stipe on vocals and UK folk-rock legend Richard Thompson on guitar. -d)