The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 13

The truck / the van…

As I sat on my non-bar stool wondering what, pray tell, this evening at the club Seattle in Terre Haute, Indiana might have in store for me, someone tapped me on the shoulder.

“Excuse me,” said a female voice from behind me. As I turned around I was nearly poked in the eye by one spike of a massive orange hairdo.

“Whoa!” I cried and as I jerked back I damned near fell off of my stool. Only my catlike reflexes saved me. Oh, all right, it was Steve reaching out and grabbing my shoulder that saved me.

“Oh geez, I’m sorry,” said the girl who was attached to the orange hair.

“It’s okay,” I said, “catlike reflexes you know.”
“Nothing. What’s up?”
The girl seemed somewhat nervous for some reason or another.

It was strange to see such a sheepish expression on the face of someone who sported spiky orange hair, a nose-ring and a tattoo of a lizard winding its way down her arm. But the nervousness definitely was there. She cleared her throat and then said in a voice that was quite quiet for a nightclub, “You’re the writer, right?”

“Writer Right. That’s me,” I said and held out my hand, “David.”

As she raised her hand to shake mine I could see that she was actually trembling slightly. “Lisa,” she said, “Um, I was wondering… actually my friends and I were wondering… how did you manage to get ahead like that?”

At first I was puzzled by her question. It took me a moment before realizing that she was talking about my working for a major magazine. I almost laughed aloud at the thought that this girl was under the impression that I had somehow “gotten ahead.” Perhaps I should have told her that I was probably the least ahead person in this room. Instead I opted for my usual sort of reply. “Well, I’ll tell

you,” I said, “I had to sleep with an awful lot of people. Some of them I didn’t mind but the publisher is this hairy old guy and that just wasn’t enjoyable.”

I don’t know. Maybe it’s my delivery. Many times I say things and people don’t seem to know if I’m being serious or funny. Or creepy. I don’t know. To me I seem to possess perfect comedic timing. But I suppose that I must not possess perfect comedic timing because it seemed to take this girl a moment to realize that I was joking. Once she did realize then she, of course, did laugh. Too much. Then she said, “No. Really.”

“‘Really?’ Well ‘really’ I’m not exactly sure. I got my first fake I.D. when I was 16 and my friends and I used to hit every bar in L.A. that we could get into.”

“L.A., wow,” she said enviously.

“Yeah, ‘L.A. wow.’ I just got hooked on the whole nightclub lifestyle. We’d see a dozen different bands a week and we became experts on the whole music scene. So it just made sense for me to start writing about it. One gig lead to another which lead to another until I reached the pinnacle of my profession, said pinnacle at which you now see me.”

“Wow,” she said.

“Wow,” I echoed. I lit up a new cigarette and waited for her to say something. If you wait long enough, they always do.

“You know,” she began, “I’ve always wanted to do what you do.”

“Chain smoke?”

“No, not that. I’ve always wanted to write for a music magazine.”

“Can you write?” I asked.

“Yeah. At least I think I can. I get As in English. I know what a gerund is.”

“What’s a gerund?” I asked.

She laughed. Odd thing that. Because when asking this question I actually was serious. I remember that a gerund has something to do with grammar but exactly what I couldn’t tell you. Don’t hold it

against me. Remember I said right from the start that my career had been just one successful scam.

“So, are you still in school?” I asked. “I’m a freshman,” she said.
“At ISU,” she added.

“ISU. Of course,” I said, “and what’s your major there?”
“I’m undeclared so far,” she said. “Any suggestions?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve always been fond of plastics fabrication

myself.” “What?”

“Nothing,” I said. “You know, I couldn’t really recommend any course for you to study. I wouldn’t want to do that. What if I suggested something, you did it and then it turned out to be completely wrong for you? A few years from now you might come hunting me down with a shotgun.”

“But what did you major in?”

“I didn’t major in anything. Like I said, I started in this when I was a teenager. Assignments and bars just kind of bled together until I ended up where I am now. I never had the time to go to college. I was too busy working.”

“How can that be?”

“Be? I’m a music journalist. If I were a real journalist then yes, I’m sure that lack of education would probably make it hard for me to get anywhere, but I write about the music industry. So the entrance requirements are a bit more lax.

“Oh,” she said.

“I’ll tell you what though. I’m collecting stories about Terre Haute,” I said as I picked up a pen from atop the bar. “Why don’t you tell me a story, then you can see how a professional writes it up.”

“No. No, I don’t know any stories,” she said.

“You don’t really have to ‘know stories.’ Just tell me a bit about yourself. Tell me something interesting that has happened to you.”

She blushed a deep crimson blush and said, “No. I couldn’t” “Sure you could.”

“No. No, I couldn’t” she stammered, “I’ve gotta go. Thanks for talking to me.”

Then she sheepishly turned away and walked back to her group. I shrugged, dropped the pen back on the table and settled into my buzz.

As I sat there, just me and my buzz, Steve the non-bartender and another man came up to me. The man with Steve had the BA/BG Syndrome—he had both big arms and a big gut. His upper body strength was immediately obvious, yet so was his protruding belly. I’ve never understood these guys. I mean, why spend all that time building up your arms if you’ve still got the gut thing going? Why not sacrifice some of your arm workout time in trade for treadmill time? At any rate, the man with Steve had that look. He was not very tall and the lack of height made his stoutness seem even more pronounced. Steve introduced this BA/BG man as John. Steve then went on to tell me that John was the guitarist for his favorite band, Insomniac Trash. This surprised me a bit because John looked as though he was probably closer to my age than the college age of most of the other musicians I had seen here.

John smiled as we shook hands, his big meaty one practically swallowing my stick-figure hand. He said, “Steve here tells me that you and me got something in common.”

“Is that right?” I asked.
“Come on out to my truck and I’ll show you.”
Now, “come on out to my truck” is not a phrase that one hears

very often in New York. So I chuckled to myself at what, no doubt, no one else in the room would have found funny. “Out to your truck?” I asked.

“Yeah. Come on.”

So, I got up and followed John out to the parking lot. As I followed, I could see that John’s close-cropped brown hair was starting to go there at the back of his crown. Luckily, that pain hasn’t yet come to me, but I dread the day that it does. My heart always goes out to any man who has been its victim. Other than impotence,

I can’t think of a worse thing that could happen to a man. And at least impotence is a private thing. Hair loss is right out there in the open for all the world to see.

We arrived at a shiny blue van. John reached up and opened the unlocked door. The van had that “well-kept-vehicle” look. I’m sure that it was not a new van, but it sure did look like a new van.

“Wait,” I said, “this is a van.”
“In my mind there’s a difference between a van and a truck.” “That’s funny,” he said, “my wife says that to me all the time.

‘It’s a vaaaan,’ she says.”
John then climbed into the van, which actually bounced a bit

from the weight of his entry. I could see that John was headed toward a small refrigerator in the back.

He stopped before the refrigerator, then said to me, “Um, you’re gonna have to step in.”

So I stepped into the van, which did not move an inch when I did so, and closed the door behind me.” When I turned back toward John he held a bottle of beer in each hand. I looked at the little drops of condensation sparkling on the outside of the bottle and, I have to say, I loved the man.

John said, “see, I told ya we had something in common.”

“First time we played here I drove my car. I didn’t know this place was dry. Hell, I’m used to playing weddings and parties and shit where the booze just flows. That first gig here about drove me crazy. So from then on I always make sure that I bring the truck and that the fridge is full of beer.”

“Resourceful,” I said as I took a nice cold swig of beer.

“Damn straight,” he replied, “But hey, don’t tell that girl who runs this place, okay? I don’t think she’d take it too good.”

“You have my solemn word John. I won’t tell on you if you won’t tell on me,” I said as I pulled the little flask from my pocket. “Ha!” exclaimed John as he slapped his knee, “I knew we was

the same. I just knew it.”

So there we were, me and my newfound friend John, sipping beer in the back of a van like two teenagers hoping not to get caught.

The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 12


Turns out that Steve had been right about the jerkwad councilman. Mr. Ketchum dropped me off behind the club, as he always did, and as I walked around to the front of the club I noticed that the aforementioned jerkwad had obviously arranged for a protest against the club. I assume that he saw it as a way to get some political attention.

The amusing thing here is that either people really didn’t care, or the councilman wasn’t much for organization, because his protest group was small and rather sad-looking. The group consisted of a few rather lethargic looking older folks holding signs. The signs even looked sad, like they were leftovers from some other protest. Maybe they couldn’t be bothered with actually making good signs.

Not that the pathetic nature of the protest would matter — the fact that there was a protest at all could be made into something which actually sounded like news. Even though it wasn’t.

As I walked toward the front door, I saw Samantha being interviewed by a TV crew. She was holding herself in exactly the manner that I had recommended to her. Actually, it was eerie how practiced she seemed at this.

“Well,” she said to the interviewer, “as I’ve said before, it was a minor incident, and it was caused by people who only came here to cause trouble. We don’t condone it.”

“And the protesters?” asked the reporter.

“Well, this is America and they have the right to protest as long as they don’t hurt anybody or try to physically keep people out of the club. That’s their right. I personally don’t think that there’s anything to protest though. And if they want to come in and listen to a few bands, then they’re more than welcome to do so.”

And at that, she nodded to the reporter and walked toward the front door of the club. You’d think that she had spoken to the press a million times.

“I was looking through a bunch of back issues of the magazine this morning,” said Samantha as she unlocked the front door of Seattle and escorted me inside, “and I haven’t seen your name in the last several issues. I had to go back almost a year before I saw your name.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” I replied, “I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus.” “But you’re back in the saddle now?”
“Well, I’m sort of climbing back in I guess. So, what about what

just happened?”
“What about what just happened?”
“Well, you’ve got a bunch of protesters outside your business

and a news crew is here filming them. You think they’ll be trouble?” Samantha chuckled, “Trouble? Did you see them? They’ll all be

in bed by 9. I can’t see them being a problem.”
I surveyed the empty room. I was feeling pretty good, though a

bit “fuzzy.” Before coming here today, I had taken the precaution of slamming back several drinks in the hotel bar before Mr. Ketchum’s scheduled pickup time.

I joined in to help as Samantha began taking the chairs from atop the tables.

“So, how do they pick who gets what story?” she asked as she flipped a chair down onto its feet, “how did it end up being you?”

“Why? You got a problem with me?”
“No, no. I just wonder how come you got picked to come here.” I grinned. “Punishment,” I said.
“Well,” I laughed, “you’re not exactly their favorite person.” “I’m not?” she asked sarcastically.
“Well, the thing is, neither am I,” I said, “so that’s why they sent

me to you. Rumor has it that they couldn’t figure out if the best way to stop you was with a restraining order or to give up and send somebody out here. ‘Hey we’ve got this screwup David, let’s send him!’”

We finished the chairs and I leaned back against the Misnomer Bar.

“So, you’re appeasing me?” she asked.

“Hey, I would’ve voted for the restraining order myself. But it wasn’t up to me.”

“Thanks, I appreciate that.”

Samantha smiled. She then walked over to where I was, right next to me in fact. Just as I was wondering what in the world she was about to do, she leaned over the bar and grabbed something—I couldn’t see what—from behind the counter. As she did so, she was very close to me; apparently close enough to give away my little secret.

“Have you been drinking?” she asked.
“Not here,” I replied.
Samantha rolled her eyes and then once again leaned over and

replaced the unknown something behind the bar.
We finished with the chairs and Samantha went to the sound

room, where she flipped a switch causing dozens of electronic components to whir into life. “You know,” said Samantha, “I’ve been thinking about your article. And I’ve been thinking that…well, what do you think about the idea of a book?”

“A book? You mean writing one?”
“Yeah, I mean writing one.”
“Instead of an article?”
“No, not instead of an article. God, no. You write the article, but

you also write the book, see? I mean, if you think about it, this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. You’re here at the beginning of all of this—well, not quite the beginning, you’ve missed the very beginning, but close enough to the beginning since we’re not famous yet. This is an amazing opportunity. Once the Terre Haute scene explodes, then this book will be hot. And you’ll have the jump on everybody. You’re already here. I’ve got pictures of every single set of every single band that has ever played here. So that would help. You just interview everybody. You know, do that whole scene.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” I said. “You have pictures of every single band that’s ever played here?”

“Every single set even. I take a couple pictures of every set that’s played. It started on opening night. I just brought the camera and took pictures of everybody because it was opening night. Then I thought, ‘why not do that every night?’ So I have.”

I looked at her, examining her, admiring her. “Man, I wish that I could be as driven as you are.”

“You could be. Just stick around Terre Haute a while and I’ll help you,” she said. “Have you ever written a book?”

“No. I tried to write a novel once, but it never got finished. It’s been twelve years, so I don’t think chances are very good for it getting finished. Like I said, I don’t have that drive. How do you do it?”

“All you’ve gotta do is look around and see what miserable stuff happens to people when they don’t do what they feel,” she said, “It’s like my friend Monica—she’s miserable. And God, that just makes me so mad. I see her in the supermarket the other day, and she’s draggin’ her two kids around and she looks like she’d rather be anywhere else in the world. And she’s married to a real scum—I see him here at the club sometimes, trying to pick up college girls, and he knows that I see him, and he knows that I tell her, but he just doesn’t give a shit. So, here’s this good woman who’s wasting away because she was too afraid to pick up and go. Instead, she got married, had a few kids and ‘settled down.’ And now she’s too afraid to just dump that jerk and go at it on her own. It makes me so mad and it’s not even my life, you know? So, if I want motivation, all I have to do is think of her.”

“Or your mom?”

Samantha stopped dead in her tracks. The emotion drained from her face like water swirling down the drain of a bathtub. She slowly looked up toward me, and when finally she spoke, her voice faltered, seemed to lose some of its cherished self-confidence. “Dad told you?” she murmured, “Or did…did someone else?”

“Your dad told me.”

Samantha seemed to loosen a bit with relief. “Yeah,” she said softly, “Yeah, I do sometimes think about her. When I’m really in

need of motivation.” A bit of the confidence came back into her face and she began to walk again. “Thank God I seldom need motivation that badly. And neither should you, young man.”

“Well,” I said, “we can’t all be fearless now can we? Some of us have to be the ones who just go wherever we’re told to go, doing whatever we’re told to do. Sometimes,” I said, “you’ve got no choice.”

“Is that what you are? The guy who does what he’s told?” “Absolutely.”
“So then why are you being punished, if you’re the guy who always does what he’s told?”
“Well I used to be the guy who was the tremendous pain in the

ass. But I’ve been, shall we say, shown the error of my ways.” “So what did you do?”
“Oh God, let’s please change the subject.”
“What did you do?”

“I don’t remember.”
“What was it?”
“Oh look,” I said, pointing to two kids approaching the front door, “Customers.”

The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 11

The Quad…

I was awakened the next morning at the ungodly hour of 10:45, yanked into consciousness by the sound of the telephone ringing. The voice on the other end of the phone turned out to be Mr. Ketchum, who naturally had no way of knowing that I had not made it to bed until close to 6:00 a.m. Mr. Ketchum offered to take me to lunch at his favorite restaurant and for a tour of Terre Haute.

I mumbled my acceptance, dragged myself into the shower and met Mr. Ketchum in the lobby at noon.

After a very tasty but, I’m quite sure, artery-clogging lunch at Mr. Ketchum’s favorite restaurant we walked about the campus of Indiana State University. “All of this has been built up pretty much in the last few years,” said Mr. Ketchum, pointing to the area which he said was called The Quad, which was where we now strolled, “all of this stuff wasn’t even here before. Well, I mean there’s always been buildings and the like here, but all of those additions you see there are fairly new. The place looked pretty much the same for as long as anyone could remember, then a few years ago they up and decided that they just had to build some stuff. Looks a lot different now.”

“They’ve got a pretty good library too. What do ya say I show it to you?” he said as we turned to exit the Quad. “I spend more time reading than I used to now that I sold my business and ‘retired.’” We walked on for a bit in silence. And as we walked, I once again couldn’t help feeling that something was creeping into my system.

I liked Mr. Ketchum — and his daughter, I suppose. I had spent my entire life pushing people away, and now I felt as though I was being pulled in. Mr. Ketchum was a naturally likable guy. I had discovered that he had been an insurance salesman. Looking at his build, I had assumed he did something physical for a living, but no, he somehow managed to be both desk-bound and strong. Strange. But, I’m sure that this likable personality helped in his line of work. And Samantha? Well, if for nothing else I liked her for getting on the

nerves of the magazine’s management which had come down upon me with such a force of righteousness. It gave me a slight thrill of delight to see this young woman who had put me to shame as the thorn in their side.

“She’s so much like her mom it’s scary,” said Mr. Ketchum. “And is that good or is that bad?” I asked.
“Well, I guess it’s a little of both—like most things in this life. A

little of good. A little of bad. That adds up to life.” Mr. Ketchum paused, looking up at one of the towering sycamore trees. “Her mother wanted to be a singer.”

“A singer? Really?”

“Yep. She wanted to be a singer. She had the talent; she had the voice; she had the personality. But…” Mr. Ketchum trailed off, his eyes refracting sunlight in a way that said that his thoughts were somewhere else. Suddenly he snapped back to where he was, “She wanted to go to San Francisco. Of course, that’s where it was all happening at that time, San Francisco, that whole “Summer of Love” silliness,” he said, “We got married right out of high school and I went to work selling insurance for old man Henderson. I had worked for Henderson close to a decade when he asked me if when he did retire, would I be interested in buying the business from him? I was 27 and here was this great plan that had dropped right in front of me and I couldn’t see just chucking it all and heading out to San Francisco.”

“I suppose it would have been hard.”

“And besides, all of the pictures of those people I had seen—they looked like a real bunch of weirdos to me. All that hippie stuff.”

I began to laugh. Mark smiled and continued, “I see you laughing there David. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m a fairly tolerant man—live and let live. I got nothing particularly against weirdoes. As long as they ain’t hurting anybody I say ‘if you wanna be a weirdo, by all means have a ball.’ But what I’m saying is that I didn’t want to become one. I didn’t want to go live with a bunch of them. I couldn’t see dropping my sensible business in the town where I had

grown up to go off and join some hippie weirdoes. I just couldn’t see it.”

“But your wife could see it.”

“Yep. She could see it all right. It was all she could see. It was her dream.” Mr. Ketchum paused as if his awareness had just gone off somewhere else, somewhen else. “It was her dream.”

Out of respect for what seemed to be a bit of a personal moment, I said nothing as we walked along. Eventually, we arrived at the library building. In the grass before it was a large, modern metal sculpture that was supposed to be God-only-knows what. We stopped and I pretended to look at the sculpture.

After a moment, Mr. Ketchum looked up at me. He fixed me with the kind of gaze that only the wise can master and calmly said, “There’s something fishy going on here, isn’t there?”

I flinched. “Fishy?”

“You. Something about you and this thing you’re doing. Something feels not right.”

After a moment to regain my composure, I looked back at Mr. Ketchum and said, “What makes you say that Mark?”

“A hunch,” he replied, “A hunch.”

The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 10

The Dog Theory…

Two-thirty a.m. found me back in Mr. Ketchum’s car, being taxied back to my hotel. Apparently, Mr. Ketchum, excuse me, Mark, picked up Samantha every night after the close of the club. I had been able to get through the evening without alcohol, but now I felt pretty darned sleepy. I must have been zoning out a bit because I was startled when Samantha suddenly called out to me from the back seat.

“The record companies… It was those types who missed out on what was going on in Seattle—I mean the city Seattle. They thought the whole scene was a hopeless bunch of amateurs until it became something so big that they couldn’t ignore it anymore. Then suddenly it was the greatest thing since sliced tomatoes.”

“That’s true,” I admitted. I wasn’t sure where that conversation thread had come from and I wasn’t sure what she was expecting me to say. I suppose that I could have told her that I didn’t think that anyone in the music business could tell you what was good or what was bad. What they are looking for is “star quality,” — not actual quality, but the ability to have people clamor after you.

You see, I’ve studied this rock star thing. Some people study chemistry. Some people study philosophy. Some people study Italian. I’ve studied the rock star thing. I listen to the stars and I listen to those who make them stars. I suppose now would be as good a time as any to go into my “dog theory,” so here it goes: I have this theory about the business people in the record companies. They’re like dogs. A dog doesn’t know the difference between a good person or a bad person. Hitler had a dog. All the dog knows is which one of those people goes, ‘Here boy!’ That’s all it knows. And the people at the record companies are like that dog. They wouldn’t know a good band from a bad band to save their lives, but they take notice of whoever stands up and loudly calls out, “Here boy!”

“So,” I said, coming back to Samantha, “you think that like Seattle, Terre Haute is just waiting for the record companies to wake up?”

“Well, for someone to wake them up,” she answered, “Now that’s where I see myself as coming in. The bands, they shouldn’t be worried about promotion and all of that other crap. They should be concentrating on becoming the best bands that they can become. I see it as my job—my destiny—to be the one who stands up and shouts to get everybody’s attention.”

“Funny, I thought that’s what managers and publicists were for,” I said.

“We don’t have a lot of those in town yet. But somebody’s still gotta do that stuff.”

I laughed and said, “So armed with a telephone with automatic re-dial, Samantha sets out to conquer the world.” I sat for a moment and that one thought led me to another: “So that’s why I’m here?” I asked.

“Well… yeah,” she said smiling, “But that’s not so different from what the record companies do with you, is it? They don’t give you interviews with musicians and stuff because they think it would be a swell thing to do. They do it because they hope that the publicity will sell records. I’m doing it because I hope that the publicity will sell these bands and sell the whole Terre Haute music scene.”

I turned to Mr. Ketchum, who had been driving along Ohio Avenue without making the slightest contribution to the conversation. “And what do you think of that Mark?”

“What I think,” said Mr. Ketchum, “is that she’s just like her mom was at her age. Tenacious and driven as all hell.” Mr. Ketchum quickly glanced at his daughter, then quickly brought his gaze back to the road, “and I hope to God she doesn’t let anybody ever talk her out of that.”