Beach Stuff


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The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 9

What happens next…

“So tomorrow, after the piano thing, it’s the Terre Haute music scene’s only true claim to fame so far—this older guy named Phil D.”

Samantha was on a roll, telling me all about what was going on in the coming week, and she had yet to mention anything about last night’s incident. So I didn’t either.

“How is Phil D. famous?” I asked.

“Well, I guess that back in the old days before synthesizers and all, if you wanted a big sound you needed lots of musicians. And Phil says if you went on tour, it was cheaper to hire local musicians from the cities that you’re playing in instead of taking a whole bunch of musicians with you on the road.”

“Right. Contract musicians,” I said.
“Right. I knew there was a word for it. Contract musicians.” “They still do that, by the way.”
“Okay, whatever,” she said, “Well, anyway, when Elvis Presley

was on his final tour, he had that whole ‘2001’ thing going so he needed like a whole orchestra. And Phil D. was one of the contract musicians in the orchestra at Elvis’ show in Indianapolis, which just happened to be…”

“…The King’s final gig,” I interrupted, finishing her sentence. “Yeah. Forgot who I was talking to,” she said, “anyway, that’s

how Phil D. is famous. He was one of the musicians who played with Elvis at Elvis’ last concert.”

“Really? That’s true?”

“Absolutely. And for an old guy, he actually plays some cool music. He plays cello and sings, which is a weird enough combo in and of itself, but he does it with a backing band of distorted guitars. Crazy. But forget about Phil D. What I really want you to see is the last band of the evening. The last band is the highlight of the evening. It’s this great band called ‘That’s a Goooood Girl.’”

“‘That’s a Good Girl?’”

“No, no, no. ‘That’s a Goooood Girl.’ Goooood is in italics and has five O’s in it, and you have to say it like you were petting a dog or something; ‘That’s a Goooood Girl.’”

“‘That’s a Goooood Girl.’”

“They’re really picky about that. My friend Gina sings and plays guitar in that band. They’re great—one of the groups that’s gonna put us on the map.”

“Okay, I look forward to it.”

“Well, I hate to be rude,” said Samantha, “but I really do need to get this board straight before the next band comes on. Why don’t you go grab some coffee, on the house, and talk to some of the customers. You write stories, right? Well, there’s a whole room full of them right out there just waiting for you.”

“All right. I suppose if I can’t drink I might as well do my job,” I said as I ambled off toward the bar.

I suppose that at that point I really had no option but to go have some coffee—big thrill there; I could hardly contain myself—so I made my way back to the place which I would from then on call the Misnomer Bar. I climbed back up onto the non-bar stool which I had earlier relinquished and leaned my elbows on the un-bar rather dejectedly. Steve came over to me and said, “You look like you just came from a funeral.”

“I wish I were starring in a funeral,” I said, “but hey, on the bright side, she said I could have some coffee on the house.”

“All right. What kind?”

“Oh gee,” I said flatly, “Surprise me. Make this one a night to remember.”

Steve just laughed and went back to the coffee machines. I turned around and glanced about the club once more. The purple- haired kid from last night didn’t seem to be here. I found myself hoping that the events hadn’t been too much for him. But for whatever the reason, he wasn’t here.

I looked out at the people in the crowd. Here they were, one amalgamated mass, yet each one was an individual. Each one had his or her own little drama, his or her own little pains, his or her own

little pleasures. Even the lives which on the surface would seem uninteresting certainly had some elements that would make for interesting copy if one had the time and the patience to actually ferret out the good stuff from amidst the barrage of monotonous details.

I suppose that sifting through the monotonous details in order to find interesting items probably fell within the scope of my job description, although I had never really thought of it that way before. I’m sure that a good journalist should be able to scrounge around to find the story. But as I’ve said, I never really considered myself to be much of a journalist. I had always been fortunate enough to be able to interview people who had something interesting right out there in the open. Someone with a new album that’s been banned by every major retailer has something to talk about. Someone who’s won 15 Grammys has something to talk about. Someone who is touring the world has something to talk about. But someone who goes to school five days a week, works in a fast food joint and comes to a club a few nights a week? Well, that person probably has something as well. It just takes more effort to find it.

Steve came back and placed one of those huge soup-bowl-sized coffee cups in front of me. He said, “Now here’s a drink for you. That’ll put hair on your chest.”

“Great. There’s nothing I’ve ever wanted more than to have a hairy chest,” I replied and took a drink of Steve’s mystery brew. I suppose that it tasted good. I don’t know. Personally, I have never gotten into the coffee craze. I drink the stuff when I feel that I need a nice jolt of caffeine. Need to stay up a few more hours? Have some coffee. Want to speed up your mind so that you can get to work on that article that’s due in a few hours? Have a cup of joe. But I don’t drink it for the taste, which has always seemed to me to be akin to bitter chalk dust. Nonetheless, I suppose that in the world of the coffee connoisseur the cup that Steve handed me would be considered premium brew. So I smiled and gave Steve a “thumbs up” sign and more than a touch of a sarcastic smile.

“Have you got tonight’s program?” he asked.

I reached into my back pocket, pulled out a folded piece of paper and held it up for him to see. “Got it right here,” I said, “keeping it close to my heart.”

“Great,” Steve replied. My favorite local band is playing tonight.

“Oh really,” I said as I unfolded the program, “And which of these fine performers might that be?”

“Insomniac Trash,” he replied, “they’re on at 10:00. They’re pretty cool.”

“Look forward to it,” I said as I spread the flyer out flat on the Misnomer Bar. I was having a bit of trouble reading the thing. I think the difficulty was because it was a blurry photocopy, but it may have been that I had consumed quite a bit of alcohol before Mr. Ketchum had driven me over here.

The fact that there was an actual program was something of a nice touch. Apparently for each night’s show Samantha created a short program. The interesting thing is that along with the band names and showtimes there were band photos and short bios. I had often seen bands create this kind of a piece for themselves, but for a club to do so for all of its acts each night was something of a unique thing. I had no idea whether the Terre Haute music scene was going to work out, but I certainly was struck by the fact that Samantha really was trying her damnedest to make it happen. I mean, where on earth did she find time to put together a program every single night?

At any rate, I looked through tonight’s program and saw that we were scheduled to hear four different bands on this fine evening. There in the 10:00 slot, just as Steve has said, was a band called Insomniac Trash. According to the bio this particular band was born out of a certain amount of frustration at being a cover band. Apparently the members of this group were also in a cover band (which remained nameless) that did a fairly good trade in wedding gigs. But their real passion was for what they called “the good ol’ dirty bar blues.” So in their spare time away from rehearsals for their paying gigs, they began to write and play their own music. And out

of this was born Insomniac Trash. As I read the bio I could clearly see the hand of Samantha in it. It just sounded like her.

“So Steve, what’s the mood in here tonight after all of that stuff last night?”

“It seems weird to me, but everything basically feels the same.” “Has she said anything about it?”
“Not to me. I know that the cops came by again before opening

and asked her some more questions, but other than that everything seems normal,” said Steve, “Oh, and when I was walking over here I walked past city hall and that jerkwad councilman was giving a press conference. I only caught the end of it, but it was obvious that he was blasting the club. When I told Samantha, she didn’t say a thing.”

“Hmmm,” I murmured.

“Do you think it’s weird that she hasn’t said anything about anything?”

“I don’t know.”

It’s always difficult to sort out what might be going through someone else’s head. So, I leaned back now and just tried to let the music in, let it hit me in the chest. That’s where you feel it, in the chest. Especially the bass. It’s like when a good friend gives you a hearty slap on the back. That feels good in the same way that the music bounces off the walls and slaps you in the front. That thumping has been as constant in my chest as my own heartbeat. In and out of one bar after another after another after another, the chest slap is as welcome as the slap from a friend.

I looked up from the Misnomer Bar and saw a guy sort of bouncing to the rhythm of the music that was bouncing off the walls. He was a dreadlocked white guy doing the dreadlocked white guy bounce to the rhythm. Not dancing, not exactly, but bobbing to the beat—more or less to the beat. It made me feel a little better to watch somebody grooving to the music. I have never actually been that sort of person myself. Millions of bars on millions of nights, but I don’t dance.

Anyway, as I sat there upon my non-barstool wishing there was some actual alcohol in this place I took a good look around Seattle. The bar itself was one of those big old wooden deals—an actual, real bar-type bar, although now it certainly was no real bar. There was just enough light that I was able to take a close look at the wood. Don’t ask me why I did that. I don’t have a wood fetish or anything like that. It was just that something about the wood seized my attention. The wood of the bar had that worn, polished look that only very old wood can have. I guess that was why I had noticed it. Something about that old wood in this new place kind of caught my eye.

Next I noticed how the bar fit, or rather didn’t fit into its allotted space. The bar curved in a lazy “L” shape along a wall which was not lazy “L” shaped. I could also see minor gaps in the surface, sharp little gaps in the otherwise worn wood. Obviously the bar had been moved from somewhere else, probably somewhere that it had quietly dwelled since as long as anybody could remember. I imagined that in its former life, in its former location, that this bar had proudly functioned as a bar. Yet here it was now, torn apart, pulled from its home and transported here only to serve coffee. It was so sad that I felt like crying.

I was at the corner of that poor, humiliated bar, right next to the wall. I looked up at the wall, that black cinder block so dear to my heart. Along the wall was the sort of bar/shelf type deal that you often see in clubs. This was a place to set your drink—although nothing more dangerous than a mean cappuccino in this case—while you stood listening to the band. Above the bar/shelf was a long mirror, the corner of which reflected the pitiful, wretched, skinny, black-haired thing that was your humble narrator.

Where the mirror stopped, a few posters and photos decorated the wall. The first that caught my eye seemed an odd choice for a place like this: it was a poster-sized version of the cover of John Mellencamp’s “Lonesome Jubilee” album. Although I knew the photo well enough to recognize it on sight, I had never really examined it before. As I did so now, I realized that it actually was a

very interesting photograph. It’s a black and white shot, seemingly candid, of Mellencamp and some other guy sitting at a bar. The shot is very dark, very moody and very beautiful. I stared at the photo for probably close to two songs. Lonesome Jubilee. Is that what life is?

Then something came to me: I was in Indiana wasn’t I? John Mellencamp was from Indiana. That was why his photo was in a musical establishment, but more importantly that was the accent, wasn’t it? I had heard it before after all. The people here all sounded like John Mellencamp.

At any rate, I sat at the non-bar listening to bands play for the entire evening. My favorite was Undercurrent of Distress — they had some pretty clever lyrics, though they still needed some work.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened. Maybe nothing more would.

The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 8

The media, the media…

The next day I actually woke up before noon. Crazy, I know. So I went down to the lobby of the hotel to pick up a copy of the local paper. As expected, what in a big city would be considered little more than a typical bar fight was in Terre Haute a front-page story which looked to have the scale of the Hindenburg disaster. The front page also sported a small item about the President ordering some troops to some small African country, but that was small potatoes compared to the utter horror of the night at Seattle.

From the story the scale of the conflict sounded, of course, monumental. They listed the number of police who had responded and even said that off-duty policemen were roused from their beds and called onto active emergency duty, the overtime hours of whom, said one city councilman, should be footed by the club’s owners.

There were several less-than-action-packed photos of the club and the customers. If you looked carefully at the background of the photo of the police chief arriving on the scene the observant eye could spot a thin, black-haired man calmly smoking a cigarette.

The story did feature a fair amount of club-bashing by some of those who were quoted, most notably the aforementioned councilman, who was quoted as saying “A place like that doesn’t belong in our city.” Exactly what he meant by “a place like that” wasn’t really made clear. Must have been an election year.

I was glad to see that the reporter seemed to be taking a neutral stand on the club itself. Samantha was presented in an objective light with a few paragraphs even seeming to support her quote that: “The guys who started this aren’t regulars. They’re the kind of guys who like to start fights. They didn’t come here to listen to music. They came here to start a fight.”

The reporter had also managed to track down the thug who had started it, one Thomas R. Harris who, obviously not coached in the proper way to talk to reporters, was referred to thusly:

When asked if he was a regular at Seattle, Harris angrily replied, “I don’t hang around with those q***r f*****s” When asked why he was at the nightclub, Harris refused to comment.

So the first day’s press after such an affair was not bad. On the negative side the event was portrayed as a near-riot, which made the club perhaps seem like a bad place full of bad people. Also negative were all of the councilman’s quotes which virtually screamed that Seattle should be closed immediately. On the neutral side there were “conflicting reports” as to what started the whole mess. On the positive side Samantha had not come across as evil and the article was not slanted as to lay the blame on the club. And on the really positive side the guy who had started the whole fiasco came across looking like an utter moron.

I had to wonder what would happen at the club next.

The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 7

Blinking… Blinking… Blinking…

I nearly slipped on my way out of the shower, but laid the blame more on my own lack of attention than on any fault of the hotel. With a towel slung around my non-existent waist, I walked over to the bed and sat down on the edge. As I reached for my cigarettes on the nightstand, I glanced down at my hands. I had managed to peel away a good deal of the glue from my hands, but a fair amount of it remained in the cracks and crevices. I noted that my nails seemed to possess two cuticles, the natural set and an artificial set made from glue.

I glanced around the room to see if there were any of those evil “NO SMOKING” signs here, to see if I was committing some mortal sin of etiquette as I popped another cigarette into my mouth and lit up. I walked over to the window and pulled the shades open to reveal the night skyline of Terre Haute, Indiana. I could see the old- fashioned dome of City Hall from this vantage point. Beyond City Hall I could see what I had been told were the rising towers of the dormitories of the university—an island within the city, where 95% of the population was between the ages of 18 and 22, and where the outer city’s inhabitants were referred to as Hauteans.

To the East I could see what appeared to be either television or radio towers. It was interesting, I thought, that I could see all the way across the city to where the towers broke through the night sky. I had spent most of my life in big cities and it always surprised me whenever I found myself in a small city, a city which I could look out across its entirety. And looking out across the entirety of Terre Haute filled me with a strange sensation that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

As I gazed out across the cool, dull hue of the city, my thoughts began to drift, thinking about my life. About the sad, miserable sequence of events that made up my life. Made up my adult life, I should say. As a child I had shown a good deal of promise. But somewhere between point “A” back there in, say, the 6th grade and

point “B” in the here and now, somebody had thrown a whole lot of broken glass in the road. And now here I was. And here my thoughts finally came to rest on the details of the job at hand. And the thought of the job at hand now made my stomach churn, and an acidic/mint taste form at the back of my tongue—like sticking my tongue on a battery’s terminals. God, how had my life come to this point at which my publisher’s rotten deal had sounded like a step up?

I let my eyes wander to the blinking lights of the TV/radio towers. And I let the thoughts drain from my head as I watched the tower lights blink on and off, on and off, on and off, in a slow, hypnotic fashion.

It was hypnotic. Perhaps Samantha had been right. Perhaps

there was something about this city by the Wabash River. “Magical,” I mumbled to no one in particular.

The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 6

Purple Hair (or Six-Foot Munchkins)…

I’m not sure why it happened or how exactly it happened. But it happened.

I had sat there, alcohol-less, watching the first few bands play — one was a female acoustic duo with an Indigo Girls sort of vibe, the second was a fabulous disaster of something disco-esque — and was now on the third act of the evening when I noticed a strange undercurrent generating around my end of the room. Due to the fact that I’ve basically lived in bars since I was a teenager, I’ve learned to be on the alert for this particular undercurrent. I’ve felt it many times before, so it was with a cautious alertness that I swiveled around my non-barstool to see if I could casually ascertain just where the fight was about to take place. I noticed that it was coming from near the stage area where stood the group of the punk-dressed kids. But they weren’t the problem. I later learned that they were actually some pretty nice kids. They weren’t the problem, but the problem was being directed at them. For coming at them was a group of guys who were, I don’t know, what should we call them? I suppose that the nicest, profanity-free thing to call them would be “thugs.”

Above the noise of a band named Six-Foot Munchkins, I could barely hear the lead thug as he shouted to a particular purple-haired young man, “you’re a freak! A good-for-nothing freak!

So, here we go I suppose. Let me say for the record that I have never understood why men, young men especially, feel the need to solve their differences using testosterone. From the small-scale conflicts such as this, to large-scale, full-blown wars we as a gender seem never to learn that the expression “might makes right” is a complete load of shit.

The purple-haired young man seemed at a loss as to what to do. Obviously, he had been singled out because he was small and skinny. The troublemaker on the other hand was a “big strappin’ lad” as

they say. And like a typical bully, he had decided to pick on the weakest-looking kid in the joint. Not only did the purple-haired kid have to face this thug, but behind the thug was a group of his thuggy friends.

“You’re a fag aren’t you?” I heard the young thug yell. I couldn’t hear the purple-haired kid’s response but he was shaking his head in an obvious denial. “You are! You’re a fag! And you’re here with all your little fag friends. Look at you all dressed up like a bunch of freaks. You make me sick!”

This must have been the purple-haired kid’s first such confrontation (though if he continued to dress like that, it would surely not be his last) and he was obviously frightened and unsure as to what to do. I could tell that he seemed merely to be weakly protesting the homosexual label in what I would bet was a frightened tone of voice that gives bullies a thrill to hear.

As I said, I had felt the trouble before I had seen it, and now I was seeing the form that the trouble was taking. And the purple- haired kid was unfortunately playing into their hands. I wish that I could have told him the secret of such situations—although maybe he would learn it tonight—is that if you are going to be different, then be proud to be different. Be damned proud of your uniqueness. You have every right to dye your hair purple if you want to and if some thick-headed guy has a problem with it then you simply don’t care. Most of the time bullies are not actually looking to start a physical fight. They merely want for you to cower under so that they win by default. But if you act like they aren’t worth your time, the whole thing will often end right there. And if the person really is itching for a fistfight, then it will happen whether you cower under or not. So why cower under? As Mahatma Gandhi had learned, standing up for what you believe is right quite often means getting the shit kicked out of you. But no matter how badly you are beaten physically—even to the point of death—the bully never wins if you do not cower.

I really wish more people would read Gandhi. He actually was much more badass than most people realize.

Perhaps I should have said something to that effect to the purple-haired kid but there really wasn’t the time. And besides, I was hoping that it was a lesson that he would figure out on his own here in the next few minutes. But he didn’t.

The big guy was definitely coursing with testosterone and I couldn’t really tell if he was going to turn violent, or if he just wanted to rant. “Why don’t you people go get jobs?” the troublemaker screamed, obviously operating under a strange form of logic that assumed that anyone who looked different would never stoop to earning a living, “instead of hanging out here in your fruity clothes? You’re all a bunch of freaks!”

As he yelled the word “freaks” his fiery gaze happened to meet mine. I laughed and exhaled a puff of smoke.

He looked away.
“A bunch of freaks!” he shouted.
Just then a young woman with a shaved head chose to speak up

in her friend’s defense. I managed to hear her shrill voice proclaim, “We can dress however we want to. This is America.”

Nice line I thought, but the delivery was lacking. Her voice sounded too fearful and challenging. It was a matter of fact that this was America. And yes it was clear that choice of apparel is protected under the Constitution of the United States. If she had said so confidently and calmly, then she would have, I believe, gained the upper hand. But alas, she was whining and that simply does not work with bullies.

The bully just laughed and mimicked her whine, “We can dress however we waaaaant. Every time I drive down this street anymore, I have to see you faggots parading around outside this place like a bunch of…” he stalled, seemed unable to come up with another appropriately vile insult from his obviously extensive vocabulary, so finished his sentence with, “…faggots!

Now up until this point everything was staying within the strict confines of the established bullying paradigm. There was shouting, there was cowering, and that was about it. And that was likely where it was destined to remain. However at that moment I

happened to notice the bass guitarist from Six-Foot Munchkins. As they were playing on the stage, and as this confrontation was taking place near the stage, the bass guitarist had noticed it going on. I could see in his eyes that he was on the side of the purple-haired kid, and I could also see in his eyes that he meant to do the absolute wrong thing about it.

Gandhi, dammit!

At this new development I glanced toward the sound room to see if Samantha was aware of what was transpiring under her roof. She was deeply into the workings of the audio board and there was no way that she could have heard anything above the band.

I turned my attention back toward the bass guitarist and waited for what was to come. Because it was obviously coming.

The bass guitarist had worked his way to the edge of the stage and called out to the thug, “Hey Harris, you redneck piece of shit!”

As Harris turned toward the bass guitarist, the bass guitarist cocked his head back and then spat down into Harris’ face.

I don’t suppose that I need to tell you what happened next. Harris leapt up onto the stage and took a powerful swing at the bass guitarist. The bass guitarist apparently had good reflexes and turned his head away so that the blow just glanced the side of his nose. But Harris’ follow-up swing did connect, hard, and sent the bass guitarist cantilevering backward into the drum set, which abruptly ended the song.

The ending of a song in this fashion really is a strange thing. One moment you’ve got this huge noise blaring at you, then in an instant every member of the band hits a wrong note, the drummer’s cymbals crash, a short feedback screeches out and the song stops dead, leaving the voices of the humans in the audience exposed. It’s such a weird aural phenomenon that I wish that I could better explain it. It’s like the noise is just sucked out of the room.

At any rate, as the bass guitarist crashed into the drum set Harris rushed at him. And in that moment Harris the thug learned one lesson: when fighting with a musician, always remember that they are carrying weapons with them on-stage. Do you have any idea

how much a bass guitar weighs? As Harris rushed at him the bass guitarist swung his bass guitar. A loud “BONG” sound echoed out the speakers as the bass guitar made contact with Harris’ left arm. The follow-through swept him clear off the stage.

The rest of the troublemaking boys, at seeing their leader rebuffed leapt onto the stage with fists blazing. At this point a full- blown melee broke out. The whole place suddenly looked like something out of an old Western movie, with simply everybody fighting everybody else.

I stayed where I was, calmly smoking but keeping a lookout lest the fighting should migrate my way. I’m supposed to be a journalist after all, and we don’t get involved in things like this. We just watch. Have you ever seen a nature special in which the film crew stops the lion from eating the antelope? Doesn’t happen.

Now as with most fights, the whole thing was over almost as quickly as it had begun, but in a moment of panic someone had called the police. So after the place had already settled down, in rushed several carloads of police apparently expecting to face something like the L.A. riots.

Instead they spent the next hour or so asking questions and writing things down. They detained practically everybody except, of course, the thugs who had started it. As soon as the pause in the fighting had come the thugs had proudly marched out the door, hurling epithets behind them. But those suspicious-looking characters, i.e. the ones who had been picked on, were questioned extensively.

The odd thing is that I just sat there smoking at the bar-that- wasn’t-really-a-bar and nobody asked me a damn thing. Maybe it was because I was the only one who didn’t seem agitated by the situation. Perhaps they thought that I must have missed the whole thing if I was able to remain so calm.

In addition to the police I also saw some reporters crawling around asking questions, but not of me of course. I also saw a few TV camera crews. Terre Haute had a few television stations and I’m sure that nightclub riots made for big news in a place like this. I saw

camera crews getting shots of the whole club but I never saw them point a camera in my boring direction. Maybe I wasn’t really there. I laughed at the thought that maybe I had been killed in the confrontation but didn’t know it. So naturally nobody noticed me, although some may have gotten cold chills at the sight of a strange cloud hovering at the bar, as if an invisible person were smoking cigarettes.

The only person who did seem to see me was Samantha. After the police were done questioning her the reporters were eager to have a go at her. But for the moment the police were still restricting the reporters to a fairly small area. So Samantha ducked them and came over to me. I sensed a certain amount of anger coming from her as she said to me, “I need some advice.”

“Yeah. You’re a reporter, how do I avoid reporters?”
I smiled. “You don’t,” I said.
Samantha didn’t seem at all satisfied with that answer so I

continued, “Look, this is a big story for a place like Terre Haute. It’ll be the front-page story in the newspaper for at least a week, so you’ve just got to live with it. And since it happened in your establishment these reporters will not rest until they get you to talk. If you try to duck them they’ll take pictures of you ducking them, they’ll write about you in a bad light and you’ll be screwed.”

“Great. Thanks a lot for the help,” she said sharply as she started to walk away.

“Wait,” I called to her. She stopped. “What I’m saying is that if you duck them you lose by default. They’ll make you look like the scourge of Terre Haute. But if you go out there and talk to them then you have a chance. They might just screw you anyway, but they might not. It all depends on what you say to them. If you talk to them the right way you might come out of this looking all right. But if you go out there all pissed off then the result will be the same as if you ducked them. Maybe worse.”

She paused. I could see that mysterious quality of determination begin to assert itself. You could see it in her eyes. She was strong and she was going to make this work for her.

Damn, I admired this girl.
She asked, “so what’s the right way to talk to them?”
“Well,” I said, “First you need to sit down for a second and relax.

Because calm is the key. You go out there and talk to them calmly,” I said calmly, “You smile. Not a big grin like ‘ain’t this fun’ but a small smile that conveys that you have nothing to hide, and that this whole situation was not a big deal—although you absolutely don’t say that. Remember, you’re the one who’s responsible for this club. Your tone conveys that you are taking everything seriously but at the same time it is not something that should send the populace of Terre Haute fleeing the city.”

She stretched her arms and took a few calming breaths as she listened to me. “How,” she asked, “do I answer the questions?”

“Honestly,” I replied. “You didn’t do anything wrong. You have nothing to hide. Be honest. But speak in short, calm sentences. And above all, leave out the sarcasm. Try to imagine how the CEO of some giant company would answer hostile questions and you’ll be seen in that same sort of light—a mature person who is in control of the situation.”

“Right,” she murmured, “‘Mature.’ That sounds like the thing to me. I’m a business-owner. I’m a member of the Chamber of Commerce. I pay my taxes. I’m not some stupid kid.”

“Good plan,” I said as Steve handed her a bottle of water. She sat thinking, drinking her water and calming down considerably. When she finally got up and headed toward the reporters I knew that she was going to be all right out there.