I debated whether to wear the brace for my hand to rehearsal. You know, have it on up until the last minute and then whip it off to actually play? I was debating whether it would be better to do that–and potentially have everyone treat me like glass, which might undermine my authority but might be better for my health–or to just leave it at home and try to pretend everything was normal.
Who was I kidding? The “pretend to be normal” thing never works out in the end, does it? Ever?
I had a vague hope that today I might discover it had healed enough that I could just play with my fingers the way I had originally intended to, but it was very vague. Fortunately Ziggy’s set wasn’t going to be as tricky to reformulate with pick-only as the Nomad stuff. The Star*Gaze stuff, on the other hand, I was not even thinking about or I was going to go bonkers. One thing at a time. Ziggy had to come first. And if I thought too much about how my hand was going to keep me from doing anything remotely like what I wanted to with Star*Gaze I might fall right down into a pit of despair and not come out. So I didn’t think about it.
The one thing I was sure of was that Bart and Chris would have my back. We’d think of something. Later.
When Tony dropped me and Ziggy off at the rehearsal space we found the choreographer and dance troupe in the middle of stepping through a routine. Since the last time I’d been there, a full stage had been built. I remembered the choreographer’s name was Josie but he’d changed his hair to a wet-look comb-down that was dark underneath with bleached highlights. Still tall and skinny as a rail, though.
Ziggy hopped up on the stage while I stayed standing on the floor, looking up at him exchanging cheek kisses with Josie. He was quickly surrounded by the whole troupe like a flock of birds around a piece of bread, peck, peck peck.
Then they all looked down at me. Ziggy was introducing me. I was glad that in the limo I had opted to wear the brace because I was suddenly meeting eight new people and this way I didn’t have to try to explain that I shouldn’t shake hands.
After the second one my ability to remember their names was overloaded, though, and my brain chucked them all under the heading of The Dancers. They were three men and five women and I would just have to try to learn who they were later.
The band began to arrive shortly thereafter and the dancers scattered for the rest of the day. We wouldn’t try to put them and the band together for at least another day or two.
I hated the fact that it was my injury that left us with so many questions about what we were going to do when. But no one else seemed bothered by having to play it by ear (figuratively) except me.
The first thing I wanted to do was work through the set from start to finish with the band, to reorient myself to the music and to start trying to figure out what I was going to have to change. The set was 90 minutes of music and normally I would have expected a first run-through after a layoff to be about three to four hours. But that would have been if I didn’t have to rework stuff and also if we were all equally rusty. We weren’t because they had all been practicing. Bart had made them get together a few times in the past two weeks and everyone was supposed to have been practicing on their own with the tapes.
Including me. As you know, though, between the norovirus, dramas, drugs, and other stresses of the Nomad tour, I’d had no room in my brain for anything else, and with the need to keep my hand as well-rested as possible, putting in an hour a day memorizing and practicing the Ziggy material while on the road was not in the cards.
So here I was with the band around me, trying to feel like a leader but mostly feeling like I hadn’t done my homework. I was going to be what handicapped them for a while and I said so as I tried to get our day started right. All the instruments were still set up in the second-floor control room and hadn’t been moved to the stage yet, so we were up there.
I held up my injured hand. “Hi.” I turned it forward and back. “Before you ask, it’s better, but it’s not all the way better. So I’m going to be limping a little.”
Man, they were serious. Not that I could blame them. That would have been the moment for someone besides me to lighten the mood with a joke about…violins, or masturbation, or something. But no one did. “My plan for today is just see how far I can go, working through the set, possibly in kind of rough fashion. Just start at the first song and plow ahead.”
No one said anything against that.
“Okay, so get tuned up and let’s get going.”
We were still in the middle of getting warmed up and tuned up though, when Mickey, the main stage manager, stuck his head in. “You need a tour of the stage setup,” he said, mostly to me, but the rest of the band apparently hadn’t yet been given the walkthrough either.
So we trooped back down to the main room of the rehearsal space and walked up onto the riser with Mickey while he explained what kind of tape marks he’d use and so on.
“Here’s the thing. Flying from country to country, no way are we bringing a whole stage with us the way we would for a US tour. Linn has grand plans for a completely custom setup but for this leg, no way to make it work. So we’ve planned for a setup that can be done completely with standard riser sections.” He proceeded to show us where the band should be… half of us on one riser on the far right in the back, and half on a matching riser all the way on the left.
I stared at it and blinked a few times. “You know the two drummers need to be next to each other, right?”
He looked at the two of them–Marvelle tall and black, Bradley small and white, both slope-shouldered and deadpan–like he couldn’t imagine them in the same room much less on the same side of the stage. “You sure about that?”
“Pretty sure.” I asked them for confirmation by raising my eyebrows. They replied with identical nods. “And the rest of the rhythm section really should be with them, too, so that’s keys and bass.”
Mickey scratched his head. “I guess if we put the backup singers and the horns on the other side that’ll be four and four, except where will you go?”
” I need to be with the main section of the band. It doesn’t make sense for me to be on the side with the singers and horns, does it?”
“You’re right, no, it doesn’t, but that means the five people with the most equipment will all be crammed onto one platform…I’ve got to get Linn to look at this.”
“Speaking of which,” Barrett said from the foot of the stage, “you’ve all got hair appointments day after tomorrow.” He went around to the ramp leading up to the main riser and walked up it. He was wearing a sport jacket, no tie. “Good to see you, Mickey. You sticking around?”
“Naw. Now that I’ve shown these guys the ropes, I’m done until Linn comes in tomorrow. Unless you need me for something,” he replied.
“Not that I can think of,” Barrett said.
“Excellent. Then it is cigar o’clock for me.” He gave us all a wave goodbye and headed for the loading dock.
I herded the musicians back to our rehearsal area but we still hadn’t gotten going when I overheard Barrett and Carynne, in the break room which was directly under us, arguing. Well, not arguing since they agreed with each other, but their voices were a little bit raised.
Barrett: “What’s this I hear about a tour bus of Japanese schoolgirls accosting Ziggy and Daron last night?”
Carynne: “What? Where?”
I exchanged a glance with Ziggy but got the band started by telling them to play through the first song without me or him, just to get the ball rolling and see how they sounded. I didn’t let them finish. They sounded fine. Now to see if it all went to hell when I tried to join in.
Well, okay, it didn’t go to hell but there was some halting, stopping and starting, and I felt awkward, but they all knew I was just roughing it.
Carynne came up and put a stopwatch down in front of me, her way of saying she was going to force me to take a break every thirty minutes. Fine. When we got to thirty we were still messing around with that first song, which didn’t bode well for my plan to get through everything in under two days, but I dutifully took a break.
I went down to the break room and poured myself some muddy coffee. I guess I was more on edge than I realized, feeling the enormity of the work ahead and the pressure to adapt, because when Barrett made a pretty mild-mannered comment it felt like a slap.
“I thought you were supposed to be the responsible one,” he said.
I stared at him, tongue-tied and stricken, the coffee in my left hand. Among the things competing to come out of my mouth: of course I’m the responsible one, have you seen what Ziggy gets up to without supervision? versus what, me? no, I can’t even be responsible for my own health much less his… versus don’t overreact to a situation you didn’t see. We were fine. Grabbing dinner together shouldn’t turn into a federal case.
He seemed to realize he’d hit a nerve, and backpedaled after several agonizingly long seconds. “I mean, sure, you couldn’t have predicted a tour group, but…notify me next time, at least.”
“Did Tony tell you?” I managed to say.
“Ziggy told me,” he said, “because he knew Tony would, anyway. Was it your idea? You need a plan for executing anything public with Ziggy.”
“Chinatown? Was Ziggy’s idea. Mostly.”
Barrett gave me the closest thing to a disapproving look I’d seen from him yet. “Look. I need you to be the responsible one, because Ziggy is only ever going to manage it for short bursts.”
“I’ll try.” It was a generic answer, but at least it was positive, right?
“Now tell me whose idea getting hitched was.”
I suddenly felt a pang of anxiety and guilt. “Mine.”
Barrett sighed. “You know the press is going to be all over this like flypaper.”
That was the point where Carynne came in, presumably to tell me the allotted break time was over. But she heard us talking about me and Ziggy and jumped in. “I tried to tell him the same thing.”
I was feeling off-balance and my thoughts were jumbled. “It’s just a ring,” I said. “I mean, to me and Ziggy it isn’t, but in the grand scheme of things. Right?”
“Are you prepared to be asked about it constantly?” she pressed.
“No one pays attention to me.”
“But they do to Ziggy,” Barrett jumped in. “You can wander the streets without creating an incident. He can’t. He’s going to be the one asked constantly about it.”
“And I’ll stonewall them,” Ziggy said, from the far side of the supply cabinet where he had clearly been standing out of sight for a while, waiting for the right moment to jump to my defense. “No pun intended. I’ll stonewall them until they stop asking because they won’t get blood from a stone. Or make it a rule. Anyone who wants to interview me, no questions about my mother, my religion, or my ring.”
“Your religion?” Barrett said, sounding surprised.
Ziggy clucked his tongue. “Didn’t I just say no questions about that?”
“Okay, but seriously,” Carynne said. “People are going to see your rings and they are going to talk. You have to be ready with a response of some kind.”
“Yes, we do,” Ziggy said. “But that’s not what we’re here for today. Come on, dear one.” He took a sip of my coffee and then handed it back to me. “Let’s get back to it.”
I followed him back up the stairs, trying to pretend I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed.