I woke up in the morning still in my clothes, and from the way my arm felt and the depth of the wrinkles from my sleeve on my face, it appeared I hadn’t moved all night. I put myself into a steamy shower on the theory that if it got wrinkles out of clothes, it might work on me, too. I felt lucky I hadn’t slept on my bad hand.
When I came out Flip was there with coffee and… some kind of custard? Maybe it was yogurt? I didn’t ask. I just ate it and then sat there staring into space while waiting for the coffee to kick in.
“Earth to Daron. Earth to Daron. A couple of us are going to go out sightseeing in about an hour if you want to…?”
I looked up at Flip and it took longer than usual for an answer to filter through. “Oh. What are the sights in Santiago, Chile?”
“Probably some more churches and religious statues?” Flip shrugged. “I figure the point is to go out and see what there is to be seen.”
“What’s Ziggy doing?”
“Not sure. A TV show and some other things? Keeping track of him isn’t my job.”
Keeping track of me was. “Um. I think maybe I should just hang out here and not tax myself.”
“Okay. You’ve got an hour to get bored and change your mind.” He left then, and I realized I had only had maybe a third of the coffee and perhaps I should finish it and then my brain would start to function.
I decided the best thing I could do was work out the kinks in my hand. So I sat by the window and methodically rubbed the thumb of my left hand into the alarmingly crunchy palm of my right.
While I was doing that I got to thinking. Where’s the line between a symbol and reality? A relationship is something in our minds, an idea. Stories and fantasies are ideas, too, but what makes them into something real? Can they ever truly be real?
I was staring at my hands, of course, during all this, which meant I was staring at the ring on my finger. Is that what the ring was? I’d taken an idea–a committed relationship with Ziggy–and turned it into a reality?
Except the ring was a symbol. It was still a symbol. It wasn’t like I could control the power of Middle Earth with it or something. There’s real, and then there’s really real.
Jonathan had been big on signs and symbols. I wondered what he’d make of this show. In South America they called him Ziggy Moondog, and at the peak of the show he and I stood at center stage with me in my black suit jacket outfit and him all in white, looking like we belonged on the top of a wedding cake.
I had a sudden, terrible thought. The show design had been Linn’s. What if Ziggy had thought I had taken it as a big hint? What if when I sprung the proposal and ring on him he thought, oh no, Daron thinks I’ve been hinting to him that I want this, and now I feel like I can’t turn him down?
I had that icicle-through-the-heart feeling, followed by an uncomfortable fizz of panic.
Don’t be stupid, I told myself. Isn’t it more likely that it actually WAS him hinting?
Well, but if that’s true, was it actually my idea to give him a ring or was I super-subtly manipulated into it?
Then I felt nauseous.
This is your brain on drugs, I told myself. Even though you’re not on any drugs at the moment.
I wondered how expensive it would be to call Jonathan, though. He was always good at talking this kind of thing through…
I decided the last thing I wanted Ziggy to see, though, was a massively expensive long-distance call to my ex. So instead I pretended I was talking to him. What would Jonathan say?
He’d say I was spinning my wheels and that none of it was true, and I should chill out. I should have a proper brunch before getting into deep relationship processing.
That’s the power of ideas and imagination right there. I felt better, almost like I’d actually talked to him.
I went out to find brunch.
(I complain a lot about how extremely bland and overproduced and awful pop music was in the US from 1988-1991 with a few exceptions, but I haven’t said much about how crucial that time period was for rap breaking out into the mainstream. Record companies were making millions on various rap acts they “took chances” on–as if they were somehow brave and righteous for exploiting rap the same way they exploited white artists–but they didn’t really understand it. I don’t know as much about it since I wasn’t in that world, but it looked to me like the record companies wanted to make the money but not “legitimize” rap. I’m sure that was for racist reasons, but look at how “legitimizing” punk and alternative meant sanitizing it and recycling it and making it toothless and safe. No corporation has solved this puzzle yet of how to take something from outside the “mainstream” and how to mainstream it without ruining it. Maybe that’s because corporations can’t. In the Internet age I think it’s possible that could change, because of the power of people to access things without a corporate power putting it into people’s reach. Um, this wasn’t supposed to be a rant about capitalism. I was supposed to just say, hey, enjoy this 1991 rap. There was a lot going on in rap at that time. -d)
I think being able to talk yourself out of a downward spiral is a good sign. Definitely personal growth.
I’ve lost track of the date a little bit. We’re in the second half of 1991, right?
Sometime in late September, I think. The Nomad tour was over the summer, a few weeks to prep for South America, and then the tour’s been going for about a week. So maybe early October?
I think it’s Sept 20th but I have to check. I’m sure there’s a T-shirt in my closet with the dates on it somewhere.
Yeah. It’s mid-September 1991. I turned 23 in February. And here’s hoping I can keep talking myself out of this kind of thing!
Thank you, Imaginary Jonathan, for talking some sense into him. Jeez, Daron, Ziggy literally just told you that your relationship was the only thing *not* wrong right now. I know it’s hard when you want to spend time with him so badly and can’t but let’s not sabotage the thing, yeah?
Thank you, s. You saved me from saying the same thing. You have enough issues, Daron my love, without making up more. Ziggy was genuinely happy that day and so were you, so don’t cheapen it. It’s really one of the best and last really warm fuzzy moments I’ve had with you two.
But if everything’s great between me and him why do I feel like shit so much? (Oh right, injury, uncertainty about career, axiery over creative goals, etc etc…)
I know I know
I think the industry sort of went the other way with rap, in not sanitizing it, but playing up the “gritty” side of it instead in certain instances. Sure the late 80s/early 90s gave us Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, but it also made space for Public Enemy to end up on MTV and 2 Live Crew to build a legacy. If the PMRC hadn’t fought so hard against them, most of us probably would have never heard of them. So in a way the push toward making music “safe” backfired and drove white kids who wanted to rebel toward NWA, Ice Cube, Dre, and Snoop. That, in turn, spotlighted a whole different set of problems, capitalism turning black experiences into a commodity for white people without requiring any interactions with actual black people or having any obligation to confront the systems that created the things reflected on the albums.
That is far too big a topic to delve into while I have a cold and haven’t had coffee yet, but I wanted to put it out as food for thought anyway. I’m grappling with the question of what it means to have rappers still calling society to the carpet for the ugliest, toughest questions while profiting from it at the same time, and what does that say about the audiences and the industry? A lot of the rappers whose careers have endured, they’ve never really watered down their messages, but they’ve also built systems outside of mainstream labels out of necessity that nurture and promote newer talent in a way I’ve not seen in other genres. Again, big topic, and one I’m thinking about a lot these days.
Yeah, all this. All this.