So I rode to Ann Arbor with Digger. Hey, I thought, he’s my dad, I ought to be able to spend an hour with him.
We were both still a bit hungover, and opted to keep the radio off as we left the parking lot. I fell asleep for I don’t know how long with my head against the window. When I woke up, we were driving into a heavy overcast. The van was in front of us, the truck behind, and I could see Bart sleeping with his feet up in the back seat. The car’s interior was plush, plum-colored, and smelled new. I was thirsty and wondered if I’d been sleeping with my mouth open.
“So this place, it’s some kind of a disco.”
“Wake up, lazybones, I’m talking to you. The Pittsburgh place.”
“Carynne mentioned they’d moved us to a bigger venue?”
“That’s what I’m telling you, the bigger place is this dance club type thing. Pittsburgh’s all converted industrial space, you know.” He drummed on the steering wheel as if he wished the radio were on. I switched it on to hear the last power chords of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”
“We’ll see it when we get there,” I said in a resigned voice.
Digger barked out a laugh. “Listen to you, Mister Jaded, tour weary already?”
“I’ve learned not to get too hopeful or pessimistic about these things.” Did I inherit the use of the word “Mister” from him, I wondered? I didn’t remember him saying it when I was a kid, and yet it seemed more likely that I’d picked it up from him than vice versa. I was trying to remember if Remo said it, too.
“Yeah, yeah. Look kid, there’s a couple of things I gotta tellya. Just speaking as an older individual here, now…”
Meaning what, not speaking as my parent or manager?
“…speaking as someone who has been around the block…”
Which I couldn’t help but hear as “The” Block…
“…you’ve got to accept the fact that there are some things you can’t really have wisdom about, can’t really be wise about, until you get older. No matter how much talent or skill or smarts you have, you have to accept the fact that there’s just shit beyond your understanding.”
“Uh huh.” I was trying to figure out what I’d just said that brought this little speech on, or if this was something he’d been working up to for a while.
Digger was wearing chinos and what I thought of as an ‘alligator shirt’ (which would have been brand name Izod? LaCoste? something like that) but was actually a Polo shirt, as in capital P Polo for Ralph Lauren, with a little polo player embroidered over his heart. I kind of wondered when he’d started dressing like this. When I was a kid he was always either in his salesman suit or a pair of faded jeans and a T-shirt. The suits looked basically the same, only better, now, but I wondered when the preppie casual wear came into play. He was still talking.
“I wish there was some way I could just transmit to you the experiences I’ve built up over the years, you know, without you having to go through them yourself. I mean, I can talk and talk but I can only hope that some smidgen of it all will sink in, enough to get you through, come what may.”
Digger, whether he’d been drinking or not, used to sometimes get up in front of the guys and pontificate in this kind of low but bombastic way, not unlike he was doing now. So he’d say things like “you know” and “whatevah” but punch it up with phrases like “come what may.” I wondered if he knew he did that, if it was some artifact of his own aborted schooling, or what. He’d had two years of college before he was either expelled, dropped out, or took a better opportunity, depending on who you talked to about it and what kind of mood they were in. I was still never clear on how he’d met Claire and ended up married to her, managing her father’s shoe store. That might explain the better shoes he wore now, though.
He was still talking.
“So that’s why I’m telling you all this now, just hoping it’ll help. You know I have your best interest at heart. You know I do. So don’t think I’m saying this out of some kind of obligation.”
I’m not sure he was aware that he hadn’t imparted any actual advice yet.
“So do you understand what I mean? Or am I wasting my breath, here?”
“I gotcha,” I said, figuring that no, he wasn’t aware of it, and there was no way I could tell him. It was funny, though, there was a kind of approval in his voice I didn’t often hear. Which seemed counter to what I expected, having practically run screaming from the stage the night before–I’d expected to be chewed out about it, in fact.
Then a horrible thought struck me. I’d slept with Carynne, just like he’d told me to. And earned his approval. I suppressed an actual shudder and wished I could go back to sleep, or at least pretend to. I refrained from asking how much farther we had to go, and we lapsed into silence. Apparently he felt he had made his point… or had given up trying to make it. I don’t know which.
A while later he said, “So I’ve been thinking about breaking off from WTA.”
“Technically, you know, I’m managing you guys freelance. I’m not really an agent there. I’m thinking of starting my own agency. Things wouldn’t change between us, of course. But I think a couple of other WTA clients might come with me.”
“No kidding, like who?”
“Mostly movie talent. The Hollywood connection is where the most dough is. Remo makes a ton just doing quickie film scores, but there’s so much more. The real trend is for radio-ready songs to be in soundtracks now.”
“Is that so?” I wondered if that was something he actually knew or if he’d just heard someone say it, or read it in a magazine. It sounded like something I might have heard Remo say, actually, but I wasn’t sure. “Nice work if you can get it…”
He drummed his hands on the wheel to Creedence Clearwater Revival. “It’s exciting to be a part of it, isn’t it?”
“Hey, has Ziggy done any acting?”
“Haven’t the foggiest.”
He looked like he was about to say something more about that, but then his mouth kind of went slack, as if he’d just thought of something unbelievable. Something amazing. “You know, you could really be a big part of it all.”
“Look, I don’t want to go into a lot of dry financial detail, but, you know it’s going to take a fair chunk of change to start my own company.”
“I would bet.”
“And well, there’s basically three ways to get the money needed.”
“Adventure capital, you mean?”
He chuckled and then slapped his knee like I’d told a good one. “Ven-ture capital, kiddo. Venture capital. Well, that’s one way, you go to these adventurous investors, who put up a lot of dough, but who… well, let’s just say that we also call them ‘vulture’ capitalists. Then there’s taking out a loan from a bank, which of course you gotta pay back, and which takes a lot of convincing to get. And then there’s something that is better than both of them put together.”
“Trusted friends and relatives buy into the company. They each own a piece of it. And their collective worth looks good to a bank, so a generous line of credit can be established so cash flow won’t run short. It’s the best of both worlds.”
I think I see where this is going. I would have said it but I didn’t trust my voice.
“Whadda ya think? Wanna be a V.P. in my new company?”
“Digger, I’m not really executive material.”
“C’mon, that’s not what I mean. I mean, have a real piece of the action. Partners.” He was nodding his head in time with Led Zeppelin now, his hangover gone or forgotten. “You know the kind of money we’re talking about here? I don’t mean like the peanuts BNC gave you. I mean, serious money, like ten to a hundred times that. I’m talking about you being set for life from one year’s earnings, if we hit it big.”
I’m pretty sure at that point I made a non-committal grunt, or some kind of non-committal statement. I am fairly certain I did not say “Yeah, sure,” or anything that a reasonable person would construe as endorsement. But since when was Digger reasonable?
That was the end of the discussion, though, as we pulled off the highway and concentrated on following the van closely.
Anyway, maybe it was a good idea–the whole keeping me and Ziggy apart all day and ignoring each other on stage, I mean–because the Ann Arbor show went off without a hitch.
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