858. Guns and Roses

The restaurant. Normally when one describes a restaurant it’s about the décor and the food, right? Um, I’ll say it was beautiful and romantic and great because that’s what it was supposed to be but I don’t actually remember what the food was like or how it was decorated. I mostly remember the obsequious service.

Maybe it wasn’t more obsequious than usual, but all I wanted to do was be left alone and instead people were nonstop checking on us, telling us things about the food, asking if we wanted more of this or that, you name it. They weren’t being unprofessional–it wasn’t like they were taking our pictures or asking us for autographs–but it was like every person who worked there wanted to make sure they got to serve us.

Maybe they were ensuring that no one from the general public would think we were unsupervised? I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. We were watched by some tables but unmolested by the public otherwise. The overattentive staff more than made up for it.

Maybe I was just cranky.

We were seated in one corner with Ziggy and me with our backs to the walls with the two women facing us. The table was round which meant he and I weren’t that close to each other–not close enough to hold Ziggy’s hand under the table for long, anyway. There was room behind us for servers to pass.

Since it wasn’t like Ziggy and I could really have much of a private conversation, I let Carynne carry the chatter for most of the meal, and did learn some things. Like the fact that Ziggy’s album was certified gold here and was probably going to cross platinum by the time we left.

“Just out of curiosity,” I asked, “how did 1989 do here?”

“Negligibly,” she said. “It did well in Argentina, though. I should say, gold is only like ten thousand sales here, and I think platinum is twenty thousand, but it equates.”

Stella had been pretty much silent except when asked a direct question up until then, but she piped up with, “What does that mean, ‘equates?'”

“That it’s as hard to get to twenty thousand sales here as it is to a million back home?” I guessed.

“Pretty much.” Carynne waved her hands like she was showing us an invisible volleyball and an invisible softball. “It’s a much smaller country with a smaller population. It’s proportional.”

“And the rest of the continent?” Ziggy asked.

“Barrett has the details, but from what I heard the record is blowing up in Argentina and Brazil, which are the two biggest markets.”

“I’ll ask him later,” Ziggy said, eyes scanning the room.

Barrett and Tony were seated at a table for two halfway across the restaurant from us, looking slightly apprehensive and yet bored at the same time. I leaned over to Ziggy and said, “They look like they’re on the worst blind date ever.”

That made him laugh. It started as a crinkling of his eyes, but the more he tried to keep it down the funnier it got, and he had to let it out.

“What’s so funny?” Carynne asked. I leaned over to tell her and Ziggy told Stella while another server came and made sure the wine bottle had been emptied into our glasses. Honestly, why do that? I was happy with the half-glass I had left and didn’t really want more. I resolved to not drink it, which wasn’t hard since it tasted sort of like gasoline to me. Seconds later a wine steward or host of some kind came and asked if we were liking the wine and wanted another bottle and I just smiled and nodded while he went on and on to Ziggy in English about some vintage or another.

Ziggy finally beckoned the man to lean close… closer… even closer, until he could say something directly into the guy’s ear.

I don’t know what he said, but the guy turned beet red, apologized profusely, and a little while after that one of the constant stream of servers took Ziggy and my wine glasses away without comment.

They finally left us alone after dessert, when we sat with our coffee. I guess coffee-time is sacrosanct in Colombia.

“Where are we going next?” I asked, more for the sake of conversation than because I needed to know.

“Tomorrow we’re here again,” Carynne said, “and then Chile.”

“I’ve been to Chile,” Stella piped up. “I was in a dance troupe in college that went there for a thing.”

“Is it nice?” Carynne asked.

“It’s pretty cool,” Stella said with a shrug. “It was a cultural exchange thing so they dragged us around to some museums and things.”

She was sitting right across from me. “Dancing’s what you’ve always wanted to do?”

“Pretty much.” She shrugged again. “And I was good at it, so that worked out.”

Well, I could certainly identify with that. “It’s your first big tour?”

“Yeah. I mean, this is about the top level gig short of Broadway, you know? Once you get off the ballet track, I mean.”

I had never really thought about that before. “Going into ballet’s like going into the orchestra, I guess.”

“I guess,” she agreed. “A tour like this is a good gig for a young person. Everyone tells me when I get older I won’t be able to do what I do now.”

“How old are you, again?” Carynne asked.

“Just turned twenty-one.” She sank down in her chair a little. “I’m not even the youngest, though.”

Ziggy looked like he was holding in a chuckle.

“I mean, look at Linn and Josie. The two of them can do all the choreography–once. They couldn’t do it night after night after night.”

“Actually, I’m sure Josie could.” Ziggy set one manicured nail against his chin. “He’s our backup if anyone goes down, after all.”

“Okay, sure, but he’s like twice our age, and Linn’s older than that,” Stella said.

“Fifty-two or fifty-three, I think,” Ziggy said.

“I didn’t know Linn could dance no matter what age she is,” I said. “I thought she was a fashion designer.”

“Gotta do something when your knees give out.” Stella shrugged again.

“What are you going to do when yours give out?” Ziggy asked.

When Stella didn’t answer, Carynne jumped in. “That probably depends on whether you meet someone and have their babies or something.”

“Yeah.” Stella shrank down in her chair again, and given how petite she already was, that was something. “I’m just trying to experience life right now and see what comes my way. Which was another reason to want to do a tour like this instead of something on Broadway.”

I looked up to find Barrett wending his way toward us. When he got there he leaned over the back of Carynne’s chair. “Looks like we’ve got a bit of a situation at the hotel.”

“What sort of situation?” Carynne asked.

“The fan situation has escalated.” He glanced back toward Tony. “And possibly there’s a drug cartel turf war going on but here’s hoping that we’re not mixed up in that.”

“Jeezus, Barrett.”

“Yeah, I know.” He sighed. “Anyway. Don’t be alarmed but we’re going to have an armed escort back to the hotel.”

That was how I learned machine guns make me nervous. Really nervous.


  • sanders says:

    I can’t stop giggling because I imagine Barrett just slipping in the drug cartel turf war casually, as one does with Very Alarming Developments.

    I like Stella. She seems like she could be interesting for Daron to talk to since they’ve taken some similar steps in leaving the expected career paths.

    • daron says:

      He’s very implacable, which makes him good for Ziggy I think.

      I still don’t know what to think of Stella. I never know what to think of women, though. Do I? at first, anyway.

  • s says:

    I know none of you would dream of getting hurt and proving Mills right. Right?

    • daron says:

      You know part of me is thinking, if 20,000 albums sold here is platinum, and say a dollar’s worth of revenue goes back to the states per sale, and Ziggy gets what, ten percent of that ultimately? He’s here for $2,000? (Not counting what he might be making from the concerts, but still, ostensibly the reason for the concerts is to promote the album.) Is two grand worth getting shot in a turf war between drug lords? (I know, I know, the concert money is undoubtedly in the five figures but still…!)

      • Tim says:

        That’s why Eddie Vedder started the great rebellion against the industry though, isn’t it. People said he was crazy to sell Pearl Jam diredt to the public on the internet in the mid 90s…hahahah guess he had the last laugh.

        • daron says:

          Oh there’s no doubt too much money ends up in other people’s hands at all stages of this industry. Even when you’re collecting direct, though, overhead is huge.

  • Bill Heath says:

    Gunfire in Bogota was unremarkable in 1980. We had it in our front yard, just a routine kidnapping of a neighbor’s kid for ransom. Passengers on busetas (small bus in Colombia; obscene term for vagina in Brazil) would routinely shoot at one another’s buses when vying for the right of way.

    Most nights we could hear explosions as the paid neighborhood guard threw live ammunition into his fire because he was bored. I only experienced four terrorist gunfights, and in only two of them were they shooting at me. I shot back when a terrorist group tried invading the embassy. Yes, I hit him. And the next two. I gave orders to shoot to maim, but if a terrorist died I would take no action. The three I shot disappeared. I hope they survived; since the first two were shot in the head, I’m not real hopeful.

    Drug cartels shot at least one police officer or soldier every day; only saw it three to five times. Held at gunpoint maybe two dozen times at police road blocks. Shot at by unknown groups maybe three times in the countryside; guns were plentiful, marksmanship not so much. Drug cartels rarely shot at anyone but security forces and one another. Given the poor state of marksmanship, I probably would have been safer as the target.

    Were I Tony, I would have had Ziggy and Stella exchange clothes. Tony escorts “Stella” into the hotel; Barret throws “Ziggy” under the bus if necessary.

    I’m heartless. So, sue me.

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