Opening night we played to a packed house of 7500 people at a music hall in San Diego. Remo told me we would be playing mostly venues that size or smaller. This was what they called a “warm up tour,” to let the band break in new material in front of smaller audiences. In a few months, after the new album was released, they would hit the road again to play major arenas. This tour was ten cities in all, starting in LA and working through the Midwest to finish in Boston. With so many miles between cities and some shows on consecutive days, we would be flying to all but the last three dates. That night, we went straight from the stage to catch the air shuttle to San Francisco.
When we arrived at the airport hotel I was still crusted with sweat and shaking with the aftereffects of an adrenalin high like no other–playing in the clubs was one thing, and this was similar, and yet, so much more. I’d felt the same click as I let the music take over and the energy from the crowd carry me, but man, what energy. I lay my head against the window of the airport van and smiled, thinking I wouldn’t mind feeling this way every night for the rest of my life. Martin rubbed me on the shoulder. “Have a good time tonight?”
“The best.” The first hour of the set had been sheer hell, as I waited backstage for my cue to come on. But the last half hour more than made up for it. I looked out the window at the hotel entrance. “What are we sitting here for?”
“What do you think this is, a family vacation? We’ll go in when we’re sure they’re ready for us.” He rubbed his hands and bugged his eyes like a maniac. “Waldo’s getting the keys now.” Martin, at ten years older than me, was the youngest in Nomad and had always liked having me around back in Jersey. Some of the times I’d decided not to go home I’d ended up crashed on his couch and most of what I knew about drums I knew from him.
Waldo and Remo emerged from the revolving doors and hurried over to us. Waldo stuck his head in the driver’s door window and cracked his gum. “They’ve mixed up our reservations. Everyone head for the third floor and we’ll pass out keys there.”
We piled out of the hired vans, shaking and stretching like cats. A few bellmen handled the bags, while Matthew supervised the two man road crew moving the instruments. Carynne crowded me into the elevator. Waldo was arguing with Remo when the doors opened. They were knee-deep in luggage.
Waldo was shaking his hands like they were wet. “I just don’t get it. We confirmed the rooms this morning and now, this.”
“What’s the big deal?” Remo said. “We’ve got an even number, six double rooms should be enough for tonight. I don’t mind doubling up.”
Waldo shook his head and stuffed a bunch of plastic keycards into Remo’s hands. “Well, then you figure out how to pair it. They promised me at least three singles, and a suite…”
Remo took stock of the crowd that had formed in front of the elevators. “OK, Alex and Alan.”
Alan took the key from him. “Check.”
“Dolette and Janice.” He handed one to the backup singers. I still didn’t know which one was which. “Martin, you’re with me. And John and Dave, you guys okay?”
“Sure, road crew ought to stick together.” Dave took a key.
That left me, Waldo, Matthew and Carynne.
Carynne plucked a key out of Remo’s hand. “Daron can stay with me.”
Waldo grabbed her hand, pulling the key free. “Pick up your bags,” he growled, glaring. “You stay with me.” He began dragging her down the hall.
“But you snore! And you always leave the seat up…” She complained all the way to the room and then Waldo shut the door behind them.
Matthew took the last key from Remo. “That leaves you and me kid.”
“See you in the morning,” Remo said as he picked up his bag from the pile the bellhops had left.
The room was typical: two double beds, TV, postcards. The fact that it was my first time staying in a hotel without my family didn’t make the room any more exciting, though I did sort of have an urge to look through all the drawers in the place–for what, I don’t know. Matthew lay his jacket onto the bed near the window and immediately lay down next to it. He took a paperback out of the breast pocket and started to read. I sat on the edge of the other bed and took off my shoes. Earlier that day, while we were laying out cables during soundcheck, I had noticed how long his hands were. They looked dignified to me, like they should be holding a pipe and a cane. His mustache, trimmed and sandy, lined his dry, thin lips. His hair was short, but a little overgrown in the back, stray wisps of it curling over his collar. I realized I was staring at him.
He looked up from the book.
I folded my hands in my lap and looked at them instead. “Is it always like this?”
“Like what?” He rolled onto his stomach and propped himself up on his elbows. I watched the arch of his back. “This confused?”
I shrugged. “Remo and Waldo seem to argue about everything.”
He smiled, tiny crow’s feet creasing the edges of his eyes. “Remo likes to feel that everything is under control. And he’s a fanatic about keeping expenses down. I wouldn’t be surprised if Remo changed the reservations himself and just didn’t tell Waldo about it.” He indicated the room with a nod. “Nomad is the lightest traveling band I’ve ever worked with. And Remo, he just doesn’t trust managers. He’d do everything himself, if he could. But he can’t.”
“He used to,” I said. “But it was a lot less to deal with.”
Matthew sat up, interested. “Was he always like this?”
“I guess.” I shrugged again, shaken by his sudden attention. “He was always laid back on the outside but kind of frantic underneath. He just wanted to make it so badly. I’d think that now he could relax a little.”
He nodded. “Do you have recordings of when you played with him?”
“No.” I regretted it. “But Remo must. He may travel light, but he never throws anything away.”
We both smiled and were quiet for a while. I wanted to hear him talk more, but I couldn’t get myself started again. He looked at the book in his hand, and opened his mouth to speak. He hesitated a moment before saying “I get a lot of reading done on these trips.” I just watched as he scratched his short sandy hair. “I’m just not the rowdy type.” I still hadn’t thought of anything to say, so he went on. “Do you want to watch some TV?”
I shook my head.
“Do you want to borrow a book?”
The offer was too generous for me to refuse. “Sure.” He went to his bag and pulled out a murder mystery called Death for Credit. I lay down with it and he returned to his bed. But after a chapter or two I was looking at him again. His socks made his feet into sculpted curves. I guessed he must be around thirty-five, but it was hard to tell. Eventually, I interrupted him again. “Matthew?”
“Can I room with you again tomorrow?”
He graced me with another crinkled, mustache-y smile. “Sure. Sleepy?”
I was. He put down his book and went into the bathroom. I could hear the water running. I hurried to undress and slid under the covers. I was asleep before he came back out.