I spent most of the next two weeks in and around Nomad’s rehearsal studio, getting reacquainted with the music, learning their set up, and getting to know the guys all over again. Years had passed since I’d last seen any of them, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw them again, or more precisely, when they saw me, I should say. I shouldn’t have worried. Martin, the drummer, with his giant hands and deep set eyes had wrapped his long arms around me, crushing me tight like I was a long lost cousin rescued from a shipwreck. The Mazel brothers, Alex and Alan, settled for a handshake apiece. By the third or fourth day, when Remo brought in two backup singers to flesh out the lineup, I felt almost like we’d never been apart.
The only person I wasn’t sure about was Waldo, the road manager. Waldo was a heavy man with uneven sideburns whose constant vice was chewing gum. Remo had introduced me to him with the vague title of “the new guy.” Waldo took him aside, like I wasn’t standing right there listening.
“He’s how old? Nineteen? Jeezus, Remo, has he got insurance? And I don’t suppose he’s union, no of course not. What do I look like, a babysitter?”
Remo put a firm hand on his shoulder. “Waldo, he’s on my payroll. My payroll. Just see to it he gets a per diem and that you’ve got room for one extra covered in all the reservations.” I didn’t believe for a second that they hadn’t discussed this ten times before. Waldo nodded, but that suspicious look crept into his eye whenever he looked at me.
The hardest part about being with them was knowing what to do when. Matthew, as it turned out, was Remo’s full-time guitar tech, and until we got on the road there wasn’t a lot I could do to assist him but once in a while wind strings or tune. Remo arranged the set with me playing on three songs near the end, and the encore pieces. He said there wasn’t time to learn more. But he was wrong. I could have learned the whole set in two weeks without straining myself. But it was Remo’s show and I was grateful for what chance I was given. So, I spent a lot of time sitting on my ass, not sure what to do with myself. I ended up hanging around a lot with Waldo’s assistant and niece, Carynne.
She had wire-straight red hair and cultivated this sort of hippie look with long strings of beads and vests. She latched onto me the first day Waldo had brought her up to rehearsal. Nomad rehearsed in a gigantic studio tucked in the back of an industrial park outside the city. (Actually, I was never sure where the city began and ended; it was kind of all one big sprawl.) The place was like a home away from home for the band, complete with kitchenette, fold-out couches, and an armed guard at the door. Carynne showed me around the building while she told me about other bands she and Waldo had toured with.
“All those bands from the seventies that are trying to make big comebacks now, they’re all pigs. Rowdy, obnoxious, and smelly. Although I hear Aerosmith are really nice, now.” The guard at the main door waved as we went out into the parking lot. “Robert Plant was okay, too. British guys are very polite and all. He always said ‘thank you.'”
I didn’t know whether to believe her and I wasn’t that interested. I wanted to know what day to day on the road was going to be like. But Carynne didn’t want to talk about the work. She wanted to know all about me. We were sitting in the grass outside, enjoying the sun. The sky here was a different kind of blue than we get in the northeast, more uniform. She leaned back on her elbows and squinted. “So how did you get hooked up with Nomad?”
I thought about that. I didn’t want to bring up Digger so I settled for, “Remo and me used to play together, before he got famous.”
“Cool. Are you going to join Nomad after the tour’s done?”
“I doubt it!” I hadn’t even considered it. “I’ve got to go back to school in September.”
“Oh. What are you studying?”
“Music.” I rested my elbows on my knees.
“Oh, right. Wow, that’s great.” She rolled onto her side to face me. “You’re pretty talented, then.”
I shrugged. Her ability to state the obvious and to hold a conversation without any real content amazed me. She put her white arms behind her head and smiled.
“You know who I like? Steve Vai. I’d really love to work with him someday.” She nudged me. “Wouldn’t you?”
“Yeah, I guess.” I lied. I didn’t really have a burning desire to work with anyone legendary, except maybe Remo. What would they need me around for? “Maybe Robert Fripp,” I added.
She gave me a blank look. When I didn’t offer any explanation she nudged me again, then said in a low voice. “I’m really glad you’re coming along on this trip.” She moved on the grass so when I looked down her face was upside down. “Those old guys can get kind of boring. Waldo never gets jobs with cool bands like REM or Depeche Mode.”
I shrugged again, looking out over the parking lot. In the distance I could see the yellow haze of Los Angeles proper.
She touched my chin.
“You look a little like Paul Simon.” She turned my face to hers. “No, no you don’t. He’s short like you, though. You look more like…” Her voice became breathy. “Oh, I don’t know.” She leaned forward to kiss me, her eyes half-closed, her lips parted.
I pulled back. “Carynne…” What was I supposed to say? I stood up. “I think we better go back inside.”
She stayed on the ground. “They don’t need us. I’ve got the keys to Waldo’s van.”
I searched for any excuse and blurted out a safe truth. “This is kind of sudden.”
She smiled, glancing down at my feet. “I knew you were the gentlemanly type,” she drawled, her cheeks coloring. She got up, her smile getting wider as she rubbed her neck. “We’ll have plenty of time later.” Her hand brushed under my chin as she stepped back from me.
I pushed my hands into my pockets.
“Daron!” Martin shouted from the doorway. “We want to run through that blues thing! You want to join in?”
I was already running for the door.