Alpine Valley was nuts both nights in a row. These people brought the energy. It’s very very hard to hold back when 37,000 people are screaming at you. Which is to say we didn’t hold back and I was wrecked after both shows. After the second one my left thumb–that’s the hand that wasn’t in a splint–was in agony. Which goes to prove that Vitamin F wasn’t a painkiller (or that it had worn off by then, shhhh).
I must have been kind of cross-eyed in the bus–we were driving overnight to Kansas–because Flip parked himself next to me with a Look of Concern on his face. “What’s going on?”
“Stupid old injury.”
“It’ll be better soon.”
“No, not that one. I mean an old injury I got while being stupid.” I held up my left hand.
His hand was a lot larger than mine and he lifted mine on his like a swimmer on a rescue raft. “Jeez, this was where you got burned?”
I’d gotten so used to seeing the discolored places that were the burn scars that it took me a second to answer. “Oh, yeah, the explosion. Ziggy had it much worse because the nylon in his jacket cuffs melted onto his skin. But that’s not even the injury I’m talking about.”
“No?” He sounded worried.
“I jammed this thumb really badly in–shit, what year was that? 1987? ’88? Ziggy and I got into a fight and I think I hit a brick wall instead of him.”
Flip gave me that same look Carynne often gave me which we called the Hairy Eyeball. I have no idea why we call it that but you know what I mean, right? That special mixture of disbelief and disapproval. “And it still bothers you?”
“Only in the winter.”
“I mean, usually. I must’ve banged it on something. I should probably take some ibuprofen.”
“Vitamin I, coming up.” He went to get some, brought back two red pills and a yellow Gatorade, then went and got something else. A Ziploc bag full of cloudy-looking water.
My turn to give the Hairy Eyeball. “What’s that?”
“Epsom salts. Normally I’d give you a bucket to stick your hand in but the bus is swaying so much here’s a bag. Stick your hand in this. When you’re done you might as well stick the other hand in it, too.”
I started to laugh. I started to laugh so hard that tears came out of my eyes and my nose got snotty. I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t explain what was so funny or even take hold of the bag of water for a while. I eventually calmed down–after drawing some curious looks from the other guys in the band–and then stuck my hand in the bag.
“Okay, what’s so funny?”
“The one other time I’ve used epsom salts was one time in LA.” Okay, there was no way to explain to Flip why that was so funny. “I was living with my boyfriend in West Hollywood while he was trying to make it as a TV writer–”
“Wait, which lifetime was this?”
“You remember. You and I met at one of those parties in my LA period, in fact.”
“Oh man, I’d forgotten about that. I remember now! You let me talk your ear off about Guitar Craft.”
“Yeah. Anyway, I was living with Jonathan at the time, and I overdid it at a session where I played the same thing over and over for like ten hours or something, and when I got home my hand was a claw. And he had a box of epsom salts in the bathroom. And it was just funny that–” I broke off, trying to figure out what was funny.
“That I’m ten times as good looking as him?” Flip joked, fake-preening.
That made me snigger but I reined it in enough to say, “No. It was just funny to me somehow that I need a roadie more than a boyfriend.”
“Everybody needs somebody, sometime.”
“Isn’t that a song?”
That was where Fran and Clarice chimed in with the opening lines of Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometimes” which Flip answered with the blues classic “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” (you probably know the Rolling Stones version or The Blues Brothers). Amusingly enough we went back to singing the Dean Martin version, though, like it was some kind of a Christmas carol. Even Remo and Alex joined in.
Sometimes it’s hard to stop musicians from musicianing, you know? Although we broke it up after that, when Remo said, “You folks keep singing if you want but we old folks have to get our beauty sleep.”
Everyone took that as a cue to get some sleep, though. Except me. I sat there with my hand in a bag of water for another 20 minutes before I poured it out and got into my bunk.
I had the most fucked up dream somewhere around five in the morning that Ziggy and I were raising Janessa’s baby. I woke up in a panic, heart racing, and tried to sit up, which doesn’t work so well in a bunk like that, managed not to hit my head but in my flailing I bonked my hand. Right hand this time, I should say. Ow. If the adrenaline from the dream hadn’t woken me up completely, that would’ve.
I climbed out of the bunk and discovered we were pulling off at a truck stop so the driver either wanted a nap or some coffee.
It was the latter. I took the opportunity to go inside with him and take a piss where there was real running water. It wasn’t sunrise yet but there was that kind of pressure in the sky where the light starting to come up was imminent. I will always associate that kind of darkness with the sound of eighteen-wheeler air brakes on the highway.
I stared at myself in the mirror for a minute after I washed my hands, leaning on the sink. I already couldn’t remember the details of the dream, just the panic. Me and Ziggy raising Janessa’s baby: god, no. I looked pretty rough. My hair had been damp from my post-show shower when I’d gotten in my bunk and now it was a mess. There were still some red bits but I’d gotten used to them.
To other people the red streaks still looked outré, though. I got the Hairy Eyeball from a trucker and I gave him a frank stare right back. He hurried into a stall then rather than whip his dick out at a urinal in front of me, I guess.
“Where are we?” I asked the driver as we walked back to the bus.
“Border of Iowa and Missouri,” he said.
“Cool.” It wasn’t until I was trying to get back to sleep that I realized that answer, although perfectly valid, still didn’t tell me whether we were in Iowa or Missouri.
Also: Iowa borders Missouri? I seriously needed to study a map.
(Question for you all. What Christmas gift do you think Daron should give Ziggy? [He’s stumped.] To be fair, what do you think Ziggy is going to give Daron? Why no, I haven’t finished my holiday shopping yet, why do you ask? -ctan)
(Today’s song was written by Steve Winwood when he was with Blind Faith, but it’s been notably covered by a lot of folks including Bonnie Raitt, Alison Krauss, and basically a ton of other people. There’s video of the original album version but I thought this more recent live version where Winwood and Clapton reunited for some guitar festival would do for us. -d)