Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.
There were a lot of extra people around. Typical for a New York metro area show. The only thing that kept it down the day before was the stomach flu warnings, I guess.
That meant a lot of extra people distracting me before soundcheck, so that when soundcheck time came I was surprised by it. And a lot of extra people watching and listening to the soundcheck.
And the lounge act. “Who’s got our lounge act today?” I asked.
“I got one,” Martin said, standing up behind the drum kit. Flip appeared at his side, shades on, holding up a two guitars–clearly they’d planned this.
“Come on up,” I said, and ceded my mic.
The two of them came forward. Martin slung on one of the guitars and then hunched down to the mic, went into a chord and got the first couple of words out, then said, “jeez you’re a shrimp” while the entire band cracked up. He looked at Flip. “Forget the mic. Let’s try that again.”
This time there was no false start and they went into a rendition of an old blues tune that you may have heard George Thoroughgood do, only I think Thoroughgood swapped the words around. Martin sang it as “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer.” They got almost all the way through it, including a brief solo for Flip, but on what was probably the last go round for the refrain Martin got his chords mixed up and finished the song with a couple of full Pete-Townshend arm swings while shouting, “How! Do you guys! Sing! And play these things! At the same time!”
Needless to say it was a huge hit with the band, though probably somewhat puzzling to the spectators. We did four or five full songs in soundcheck–at Remo’s suggestion–to make up for it, I guess.
I was in a good mood. Matthew arrived and it was always good to see him. Flip and I talked his ear off about Guitar Craft for a while. Which reminded me that me and Flip hadn’t played around with Fripp tuning in a while and we really ought to since in the gear we had two guitar tuned that way just for that purpose. Between seeing friends and family, illness, parties, side shows, amusement parks, and everything else, we hadn’t had a chance.
The other thing I’d fallen off the wagon about was my vocal exercises and of course who do you think was going to be at the party that night? Priss. Not that I thought she would yank me out of the party to give me a test or something, but you know, you get traumatized enough in music school and the fear sticks with you. Well, I should say something about that. I was never particularly traumatized by being made to get up in front of the class and show my stuff because first of all I was a big practicer so I was rarely caught unprepared. But second of all, I was never afraid to get up and show people anything because I figured fucking up in front of these people would be nowhere near as bad as fucking it up in front of a full concert hall, where the pressure is really on. I said the other day that we fucked up a song in front of twenty thousand people and they loved it. The orchestra audience, on the other hand, is going there to see perfection. They expect perfection. That’s the bare minimum for them: after perfect comes sublime. Maybe that’s the reason I knew a career in classical music wasn’t for me. I wanted passion more than perfection in my music. Perfection is a trap.
Fripp said it at Guitar Craft camp, actually, and I was kind of shocked to hear him say it because I thin of him as a “perfectionist” and highly skilled player. But he equated what’s considered perfect in the western musical canon with conformity and made the important distinction that what’s important isn’t “conformity” but “harmony”–not in the musical sense of tones and intervals but in the spiritual sense of togetherness. When musicians coalesce spiritually, telepathically, whatever you want to call it, that’s perfection that incorporates the sublime rather than supersedes it.
Fripp’s whole point about perfecting the craft was basically in line with my own philosophy, which was just the whole reason you practice and train and work on your skills and ear and everything is so that when the time comes to express yourself you’re actually free to do it without your own limitations holding you back. Okay, sure, you have some limitations–you can’t play a thousand notes a minute or what have you–but within those human limits.
Wait, how did I get on this soap box and why? Oh yeah, the thing is, whatever your limitations are, the point is to use what you have in whatever way makes you the happiest. Make a joyous noise.
Anyway. That was actually all me getting off on a tangent because I’m procrastinating from telling you about how things blew up between me and Mel.
Soundcheck was over and we were in that gap of the day where you have to amuse yourself or go nuts, and I was kind of hiding from all the extra people who were around so I was in the bus. Things had gotten really discombobulated in the bus between everyone being sick, the entire thing having been cleaned and disinfected at some point, and us being in and out of hotels. It wasn’t like sometimes when we were in the bus every night and everyone settled into little territories and routines. In short, things in the bus were kind of chaotic.
You should’ve seen Carynne with Ford. It was like holding a baby turned her into a person I didn’t even recognize. Like, who are you and where is the real Carynne Handley? Check if there’s a pod in the basement. She made goo-goo cooing noises at him and held him by his hands and made him laugh. Like I said before, Ford had a lot of personality even if he couldn’t talk yet. He had this way of staring at you with his immense-looking eyes that would make you swear he was reading your mind and trying to telepathically beam you messages. But that wouldn’t make me act like a blithering idiot, you know?
I don’t know. Maybe the reason I’m like that isn’t because I’m superior in some way, but because I’m broken. You know, maybe my mother didn’t goo-goo and babytalk at me because she didn’t want me or whatever and this has fundamentally broken my ability to relate to children. But I don’t think so. I think I related to Ford as an infant just fine. And yeah, my relationship with my mother was completely broken but that didn’t mean I was broken.
“He’s getting so big!” Carynne cooed.
“Isn’t he, though?” Mel said. They were sitting side by side on the banquette bench in the front lounge. “And you won’t believe what he just figured out how to do.”
“Crawl. All the books say it happens between seven and ten months and it was like the day he turned seven months, boom, off to the races.” Mel shook her head. “Like one day he just figured out, hey, if I can make each individual arm or leg move, what happens if I move them together?”
“Amazing.” Carynne bounced him on her knee and he gurgled.
Mel yawned then—a huge, over-tired, under-slept mother of a seven-month-old yawn—and Carynne gave her back the baby so they could go lie down in the back lounge together and take a nap. The back lounge in this bus had a kind of Murphy bed that folded down and it was already set up for this purpose.
Carynne and I stayed up front and got into a quiet but absorbing discussion about my career and money and that sort of thing. The bus AC was running which meant a nice blanket of white noise in the background that would mask our voices.
You know what else it would mask the noise of? A baby crawling around where he didn’t belong. Before you start getting anxious I’ll tell you right off, Ford was fine. He didn’t get cut or injured or hit his head or anything like that.
You know how they say musicians who play instruments like me supposedly have off-the-charts hand-eye coordination? Our reflexes are pretty good, too. Ford managed to crawl to the kitchenette section of the front lounge without us noticing, and pull open a storage compartment. This was the compartment that held a small cutting board, a big knife, two limes, some shot glasses, and a bottle of tequila. The small cutting board was the thing on the bottom of the compartment that Ford grabbed onto to try to pull himself up. I looked up and saw his little hand reaching for it.
The cutting board became like a small catapult that launched everything else right at Ford’s face. I must have already launched myself in his direction the second I saw him reach up, because before anything could hit him, I was making a dive. Ford did not get hit with the knife. He did not get hit in the head with the bottle of tequila. None of the shot glasses broke. He might’ve been hit by the limes, harmlessly.
Me, on the other hand, landed on the far side of him having hit my head on the rounded edge of the countertop that stuck out, which made me scream, or maybe Carynne had already screamed, which made Ford scream, which woke up Melissa, who started to scream, too. She was screaming at me about what the fuck I was doing and how I didn’t know how to handle a baby and what the fuck was Remo thinking making us godparents and what else did she expect from a…and this part I remember clearly…drunken godless faggot bastard child.
I believe I screamed back some very choice equally terrible words back at her though I am not really sure what I was saying since I had just hit my head and my outrage exploded. I had just saved said baby from certain maiming, giving the baby a bottle of tequila had not been my idea, et cetera.
Oh and by the way you probably want to know where the knife ended up when I grabbed it.
I find myself unable to write the words to describe it. Let’s say instead where I ended up. My least favorite place. The emergency room.
My thought as I realized what had happened was that it was a good thing the band had just recently worked out how to play a show without me. Because right then I wasn’t at all confident that I was going to make it to the stage that night. I wasn’t going to let myself think beyond that. Just looking at the amount of blood, though, I figured probably I might be looking at sitting this one out.
Drunken Godless Faggot Bastard Child, by the way, would have to be the name of my next band. Don’t you think?
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