I arrived in Massachusetts stubbornly clinging to the idea that I was going to be able to play the show that night even though in the very back of my mind–and probably in the front of the minds of everyone around me–there was a very real fear that my brain was going to explode.
I’ll be honest. I put my earplugs in before soundcheck and the pressure was uncomfortable in a way that was unusual.
Soundcheck, however went off without a hitch. Well, if you don’t count me still having to clutch a pick with the hand in a cast as a hitch. I was not dizzy and I didn’t have stabbing pains in my skull.
Ziggy had tagged along with me, Carynne had come, too, and as soon as I crossed state lines into Mass. I picked up another nursemaid in addition to Flip: Colin. Fortunately Flip and Colin seemed to team up more or less immediately instead of getting territorial. Add Remo and Louis being pseudoparental at me and I was starting to feel like all the attention was worse than the actual injuries.
But I managed not to snap at anyone trying to keep me in one piece. Even if what I really wanted was for all of them to just leave me the fuck alone for a while.
Remo and I hunkered down in a storage room in the back hallways of Great Woods after soundcheck to talk about me. “You’re sure you’re all right for tonight,” he pressed.
“I assume so,” I told him.
“Basically my concern is this. If we start the show with you and you keel over or something that’s going to freak out the audience. Is it better to sit it out and not take the risk?”
“This isn’t something that’s going to change if I sit out one show.” I sat on a stack of boxes of cleaning supplies. “I should either quit now and go on bed rest, or I should keep going until it’s proved that I can’t.”
He palmed his forehead like he was sweating, which he wasn’t. “What if I ordered you to go home?”
“Why the fuck would you do that?”
“For your own good? You’re a forty-minute drive from your own bed right now, kiddo. You’re not tempted?”
“Fuck no.” That was half true. Part of me was trying to justify just skipping tonight, holing up in my room, and pretending I’d magically emerge healed tomorrow. But that just wasn’t going to happen.
“Like it or not, I’m actually responsible for you out here,” Remo said.
“You’re actually not.” Man, that pissed me off. I have no idea why I felt as angry about it as I did, but suddenly I was ten times as angry with him as I’d been a few minutes before. Then again, I’d been having clashes with him over patriarchal crap for this entire tour and maybe burying the hatchet and glossing it over just wasn’t going to work anymore. “Not anymore than you are for Alan or Louis or anyone,” I said with vehemence.
“I’m actually responsible for all of them, too.”
Grrrr. “Except we’re all adults and actually we’re responsible for ourselves!”
“Well, okay, maybe, but the fact remains you got injured protecting my son from mayhem–!”
“–and you can’t ask me not to feel responsible for that!”
“Yes, I can! Not everything is about you!”
We stared at each other, both having one of those “oh shit when did we start shouting?” moments. I tried to snap out of it by repeating, much more quietly, “Not everything is about you.”
“Much as I might wish that were true, Dar’, it’s my name on the marquee, my name on the paychecks.”
“Okay, fine, but you being guilt-ridden about me has never been healthy for either of us, ever. So fucking stop it.” Now my head was starting to hurt. Dammit.
He sighed. “What do you want to do? I’ll support whatever decision you make.”
“I want to play. I want to keep going out there until I can’t anymore.”
“I just thought you said you’d support whatever decision I make?”
“I’m not arguing your reasons, I just want to know what they are.”
Oh. “A lot of reasons, Reem.” Oh, damn him for forcing me to examine it a little more closely. “If I don’t play this show, I’ll think there’s a jinx on this place.” This was the venue where Moondog Three would have played our last show if Ziggy hadn’t taken a dive off an unsecured PA tower. “Literally everyone I know is here tonight. So of course I don’t want to let them down.” Not that that was a good reason to jeopardize my health, but it was a factor. “And like I said, waiting till tomorrow, probably not going to make a difference. We should just find out if I can make it through or not.”
“Which brings me back to my original point.”
“If I feel dizzy or like my head’s going to explode, I’ll just step into the wings, okay?” God, I hated feeling like the whole audience was going to be waiting for me to faint any second. “How’s this. I’ll wear sunglasses so the lights don’t trigger anything. Give me a stool in case I need to sit down. I’ll have my earplugs in.”
“All right.” He gave me a pat on the shoulder and then pulled me into a hug. “You stubborn fuck.”
“Learned it from you, you ornery bastard,” I replied with affection.
So it was decided I was going to go for it. I felt, though, like I needed to hedge my bets a little. It seemed to me that what triggered my head exploding was, well, getting overexcited. Angry, happy, sad, aroused, whatever. It was like I just needed to stay calm.
I turned to Doctor Flip. I told him this in the men’s room. (I didn’t tell him about the orgasm in particular.)
He considered my case. “Hm. I think we should still keep you off booze, since that just opens up the blood vessels in your head.”
“And I really didn’t like Vicodin.”
“The right nursemaid for you might be Mary Jane, then.”
“Jam’s got a pre-show ritual you could tag along with, I’m sure.”
“In fact,” he checked his watch, “right about now would be the time to catch him.”
I followed Flip to the Happy Occident bus. Jam was in fact prepping a bong in the back lounge and was all too happy to share with me. “Medicinal purposes,” he kept repeating, and then chuckling. “Medicinal purposes.” Flip left us to it while he went to do other pre-show prep.
So I got lightly baked, mostly from ambient smoke but I took a few hits myself. No ill effects. Good.
But then it was time for Happy Occident to take the stage. Jam and I attempted to exit the bus at the same time, ended up tripping down the stairs, arms around each other, right into the laser beam glare of Ziggy. I can’t remember if Ziggy actually said “Oh, there you are,” or if he just had that look on his face like he’d been looking for me and wasn’t particularly pleased with where he found me.
It was so obvious that Jam laughed and gave me an exaggerated parodic smooch on the cheek–wet and noisy–and then jetted to the stage. I stood there, tongue-tied. Remember how weed makes me non-verbal? I stared at Zig trying to get the words to come but the longer my silence went on the more damning it seemed. Then again trying to say something about self-medicating with cannibis was going to sound like a weak excuse, too.
Right. I remembered there were a lot of reasons why the subject of Jam could be a landmine.
“He’s an asshole,” I said. “Ignore him.”
Ziggy’s eyes narrowed.
“There’s nothing going on between me and him, I mean. He’s just yanking your chain.”
“Mm-hm.” He put an arm around me and herded me back toward the green room. “Are you high?”
“Flip can explain,” I said, then realized Ziggy interrogating Flip about Jam might not be the best thing but it was too late to take it back. “Are you staying at my house tonight?”
“Do you want me to?”
“Yes, Ziggy, please. No excuses. Don’t overthink it. Just come home with me, okay?”
That seemed to settle him. “Okay.”
Talking about anything–or everything–was going to have to wait.
(Since today’s chapter name could be a classic rock band or a 1991 hit by Warrant, I decided to give you both. -d)