It had been years since I had engaged in the quasi-acceptable form of vandalism known as postering. But I found that the smell of glue hadn't changed. And the disgusting feeling of having the fingers of one's hand webbed together with the sticky stuff. But there was that main difference: we had struck in the night--on the lookout for cops, as if we had been thieves--whereas this young woman felt perfectly at ease performing this deed in broad daylight.
Perhaps she was a fixture in the community.
Samantha seemed to be practiced at this art. She quickly slapped the poster up, whacked it with the glue brush, then smoothed it out in one quick motion. I on the other hand was a complete clod with this operation. I hung my poster crooked and left glue dripping out the bottom and oozing down the wall. Despite all that practice years ago, I had yet to master the fine art of postering. Samantha didn't seem to feel the need to talk to me while we were going about this task. It was as if it were an everyday occurrence: journalists dropped by and were handed glue and posters all the time. No big thing.
So I watched her as she worked. She seemed to have incredible energy. She glued and moved in one seamless motion. I doubted that she was likely to stop for a breather, which would be a problem because I would definitely need one soon. And as I watched her, again I was impressed with the aura that she seemed to project. Even here, covered in glue, performing menial tasks in the middle of a barely known city, you could sense that here was a person who had it. Had "it." And as I watched her, another thought came to mind:
"Are you doing this for my benefit?" I asked as I dipped my brush into a thick glob of glue.
"Doing what for your benefit?"
"This. The whole poster thing. Do you usually go out and do this thrilling work yourself? Or are you doing it for my benefit? I mean, you are the owner of the club aren't you?"
"Well common wisdom would have it that club owners don't usually go out and get themselves covered in glue promoting their clubs."
She smiled. It was a smile of patience. A smile that said "I will take the time to explain to you that which should be perfectly obvious." As she slapped up another poster with that smooth, expert motion she said, "Well, in case you hadn't noticed, this isn't LA or New York. This is Terre Haute. Things are a little different here." She stepped back from the wall in order to check her handiwork, "Besides, I enjoy doing all my own dirty work."
"Like making phone calls to the editors of music magazines?"
There was that flash again. That look upon her face that told me that she was smart enough to know that she had won the important early rounds but that the fight was far from over. For a moment she made no reply. Just looked at me. She seemed to be sizing me up, trying to decide what sort of person I was, what I was "made of" as they say. After a moment she smirked and pointed a gluey brush at me, "They told you about the phone calls huh?"
"Yeah. I think that everybody in the industry has heard about your phone calls. You've become a bit of well-circulated gossip."
"Well, it's their own fault," she replied with a grin, "If they had given me an interview the first time I called, it would have saved them a lot of pain. They've gotta get their butts out here because Terre Haute's gonna be the next Seattle."
I smiled and said, "that was even sooner than your dad predicted."
"He said that if I stuck around for a few days, I'd here you say that Terre Haute will be the next Seattle."
"Damn straight," she said, "And you magazine types may as well accept that you're gonna be making a lot of trips out here. The Terre Haute scene is gonna be legendary."
She smiled with gusto and I laughed along. I had to admit that the thought of what she had done so far filled me with a childish glee. I guess that because of my own situation—after what they had done to me—I found it even more amusing. The big boys just crushed me and flicked my remains from their desktops, yet here before me stood someone who could get to them. This young woman from Nowheres-ville USA had managed to put the editorial offices of a multinational music magazine into a tizzy. And I had to admit that I loved it.
"So," I said, "rumor has it that you called the offices. . . a few times."
"Four hundred thirty seven," she replied, "In the last six weeks, four hundred thirty seven times. Its my new lucky number. 4 - 3 -7...I should go buy a lottery ticket today and say gimme 4 - 3 - 7."
"Yeah, well rumor also has it that they got a little tired of you calling."
"Yeah, they mentioned that a few times. They also mentioned lawyers...But hey, you're here aren't you?"
"Yes, I suppose that I am."
"If I had it to do again, I'd do it again. You bet your freakin' butt. It's all for the Terre Haute music scene."
"Well, sure," I said flippantly, "what wouldn't you do for a legend?"
"You know," she said," Terre Haute's already part of music history, but most people just don't know it."
I was momentarily puzzled. "Columbia House?," I said, "You mean the ‘10 records for a penny' people?"
"What about them?"
"Yeah. They're out there on Fruitridge Avenue."
I laughed again and a wave of nostalgia came over me at the memory of all of those "10 records for a penny" offers which seemed to be advertised everywhere--spilling out of every magazine and newspaper you laid your hands on. "Wow, I didn't know that," I said. "But you're right, that is definitely an important part of music history. Hell, practically everyone in this country has been a member of that place at one time or another. I remember when I got my ten for a penny. They even gave me the penny. It was taped onto the offer. I definitely remember that."
"Me too," she said, "And, since they have that big pressing plant out there, when CDs were first invented Sony made a deal with them and the first CD factory in the country was in Terre Haute--the only CD factory in the country for a long time. So see, we're already in the music history books. Now it's time to claim the big prize."
As I watched her, I couldn't help but notice her seemingly boundless amount of energy. She exuded it. Energy seemed to seep from her pores. Not that she seemed hyperactive or anything like that. On the contrary, unlike hyperactive people, who seem to burn energy in every conceivable direction, she was focused. And I guess in her focus she was energetic. And definitely in control.
I glanced up at the poster which I had just plastered, crookedly, to the side of the building. The posters were in the typical "underground" style I had seen so much of in the past. Photocopied photos, splashed over with intentionally blotchy writing. This particular blotchy writing announced something called "Hautean Night."
"What's ‘Hautean Night?'" I asked, pointing toward the mysterious announcement.
"Hautean," she replied, correcting my pronunciation, "It sounds like ‘ocean' only with an ‘h' in front. Like Haute sounds like ‘oat' with an ‘h' in front."
"My apologies. Hautean, then. And what exactly is Hautean Night?"
"Petty vengeance. That's all. Petty vengeance." She unrolled another poster and slapped it up expertly with a splash of glue. "You see, the college kids just love to call us Hauteans—those of us who happen to be sub-human enough to live in this town that they're just passing through. Now that I'm older it doesn't really bother me, but when I was a teenager and I heard a college kid say the word Hautean, it royally pissed me off. I mean, just who did these people think they were? They thought they were better than us? That they could, right out in the open like that, insult us? And in our own home, the place where they were just visitors? I imagine it's the same with any other college town—but of course, that didn't make it any easier to take."
"And ‘Hautean Night' is your petty vengeance for that label?'"
"Yup. Growing up in a college town not only do you have the college kids thinking that they're a lot better than you, you've also got all of your own businesses sucking up to them. Of course it's understandable, because the college kids' bucks keep a lot of the businesses around here afloat. Hell, I'll admit it: the club is one of those businesses; it wouldn't be possible without that college within walking distance. But still, when you're growing up around it, it gets really frustrating when you go into, say, a pizza joint, and you see a big sign offering ‘student discounts with ID.' It makes you kind of feel like scum. So that's why I created Hautean Night at Seattle. If you've got a Terre Haute address on your driver's license, well look, it says right here on the poster ‘Show a driver's license with a Terre Haute address, get in for $1 every Wednesday."
"That sounds fair to me," I said.
"Actually, it's pretty childish. But I still think it's funny."
I set down my glue-covered brush by the side of the road. I was sure that it would pick up loads of dirt which would then be transferred to whatever surface I slopped with glue, but I wasn't particularly concerned about it. After all, what were a few little pebbles on a poster advertising Hautean Night? I reached into my breast pocket with careful fingers in an attempt to minimize the amount of glue adhering to my shirt, and pulled out my cigarettes.
As I pulled the sticky cigarette up to my mouth, Samantha laughed at me. "Don't you think that's pretty desperate? I mean, look at what you're going through there for that thing."
"Addiction is a powerful thing my dear," I said as I rolled the flint of my now equally sticky lighter. Somehow, despite the layer of goop caked upon it, the lighter managed to fire up.
"You know," said Samantha, "this glue's fairly flammable stuff, and you're covered in it. You could be making yourself into a pretty good bonfire there."
"Them's the risks you've gotta take," I replied as I drew a deep drag from the cigarette. "If I were covered in gasoline I would probably still feel inclined to light that sucker up. It's the old question of ‘are you riding the horse, or is the horse riding you?' Well, I can tell you that horsey's got the definite upper hand with me."
Samantha shrugged and slapped another poster up on the wall. I found myself watching her again, amazed by her. Generally, interview subjects tried to be on their best behavior when around a journalist. And critiquing someone about his smoking habit most definitely was not the best way to get on a journalist's good side. I had to wonder if she did it because she was unintimidated by me, or if, since she had never been interviewed before, perhaps she just didn't know any better.
As I stood smoking, she picked up her can of glue and stack of posters and moved down to the next telephone pole. Clumsily, I picked up my own glue and posters--being careful no to let the dangling cigarette come too close to the glue--and walked over to where she stood.
"You're really the one who usually performs this tremendously exciting task?" I asked.
"Well, there's not really anyone else to do it," she replied, "I can't afford to quit my day job, let alone hire somebody to come put these things up for me."
"You have a day job?"
"Part-time, yeah," she said, "the club isn't up to the ol' break-even point yet--although it's getting closer now--so I've gotta keep chugging away to support it."
"But I've got faith in it, you know? We keep picking up speed here. Every day we get new bands being formed. You've got people who've played in cover bands trying to write their own stuff. You've got people whose parents made them learn an instrument now deciding that they really do want to play that instrument. You've go people who've never picked up an instrument in their lives picking up instruments. It's amazing. And I know that at some point this whole town is just gonna explode in music. I'm not blowing smoke when I tell people that Terre Haute is gonna be the next Seattle."
"You believe it."
"I believe it to the depths of my very soul. The ball has started rolling. There's no way to stop it now. It's inevitable," she said and paused.
"You don't think," I said, "that this has happened other places? Scenes start up. Scenes die. What makes you think this is going to go anywhere?"
She fixed me with a serious look, then replied, "Terre Haute is different. There's something going on here. This place has a certain energy, you know? A certain. . . I hate to use the word ‘magical,' but I think that's what it is."
I tried to suppress a laugh at that comment, but my lips must have curled upward as I said, "Magical?"
"Don't laugh at me you asshole," she laughed, "Yeah. ‘Magical.' There's something different working its way around here. And at some point it's gonna explode. It's got to."
If only I had brought my tape recorder. Naturally, I hadn't expected her to start off just like this. But now that she had, I found myself wishing that the tape were rolling so that I could get some of these quotes down exactly. I caught myself, and realized that there was no real need for me to take notes here. Still, I supposed that I could write them down when I got back to my hotel room, if that's what I really wanted to do. Once I figured out where that hotel room was.
"Oh, I meant to ask your dad when we were in the car, but I didn't. I'm a little confused about where I'm staying."
"You can crash with Dad and me if you want."
"No, no, that's okay. That's not what I meant. They booked me at a place, I'm just confused about where it is," I said, then rummaged my mind for the name of the place, "Do you know of a place called ‘Early Bird's' or something like that? "
"Something like that. I couldn't really understand Grace's voice mail. At first I thought she said ‘Larry Bird's."
"That's probably what she did say. You're probably staying at his place."
"Staying at Larry Bird's place? Larry Bird is from Terre Haute?"
She gave me a bemused look. "Not much of a sports fan are you?" she asked.
"Not really. No."
"He went to college at ISU."
"ISU is the college you were talking about earlier?
"Yeah. Indiana State University."
"Okay. But back to this Larry Bird thing. Are you trying to tell me that Terre Haute is such a magical place that even legendary basketball players open up their doors? Maybe let you sleep on their couches?"
Samantha glanced up at me with a look that seemed to transmit the thought that I had just said something incredibly stupid. "First off," she said, "Terre Haute's a city not a town. Second, you're not staying at Larry Bird's house. You're staying at his hotel. He doesn't actually live here. He just owns some stuff here." She reached down for another poster, "But if you're lucky, though, you might see him. He comes around every now and then."
I nodded, and looked off into the distance as if I weren't embarrassed about not thinking of the fact that an ex-NBA star probably had a few investments such as hotels. I took a final drag from my cigarette, tossed it into the gutter, and smashed it out with my heel.
"Oh," she said, "I suppose that a guy who's interviewed tons of famous people wouldn't be surprised to be staying at the home of Larry Bird."
"Oh, famous people are all just people. No big deal."
"No big deal? How many famous people have you interviewed?"
"I really couldn't say."
"That many, huh? That sounds like a bunch to me."
"Yeah, I guess that ‘a bunch' would be a fair approximation."
"And with all the people that you've interviewed, no one has ever impressed you?...Well, talk about Mister Cynical. Jesus, and I thought I was bad...You mean not one person has impressed you?"
I glanced down at my shoes and smiled sheepishly. "O.K.," I admitted, "there was one person."
"James Brown," I said admiringly, "Jesus, I could have sat and listened to that man talk for weeks. Hell of an interesting guy."