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.”

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.

The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 5

An interesting bar…

The term “nightclub” really is one of the most accurate word usages in the English language. The nightclub is a place where you come together with a bunch of other people and form, for a limited time anyway, a like-minded tribe of people—a club. And the “night” part, well, I have always believed that a nightclub can only really exist at night. Sure, the physical space which it inhabits exists during the daytime. Sure, a person can enter that space from the sunshine of the outside world just as I had done earlier today. But only at night can that space exist in that dimension known as a nightclub. During the daytime it is just a dingy, black-walled room. The magic trickles away to that faraway realm where magic goes when not in use. But once the daylight melts away, that little room becomes that sacred place: the nightclub. So into this splendidly transformed space stepped I, David Martinez, and looked around the room for the first time.

I must have arrived between sets. The music blaring from the speakers was Nirvana. And I’m sure that what with Kurt Cobain being dead and all they weren’t playing at this club tonight. On- stage, five young men criss-crossed the little area, pulling cables to the different microphones and instruments. These guys were setting up their equipment as simultaneously another group of young men removed their equipment. It was a sweet moment of chaos that I had seen a million times before. It was somewhat amazing that all of these people had been able to fit into that dinky stage area. But somehow they had. The transfer of equipment resembled a trail of ants passing crumbs down the line from one comrade to the next.

The stage area was only slightly raised, I would say maybe two feet above the rest of the floor. So it was quite easy for those transferring the equipment to step onto and off of the stage. Personally, I believe that the best height for a stage is about four feet. I have seen many clubs where the stage area wasn’t even elevated, it was just another section of the floor. I have also seen one stage in a

bar in L.A. which had to have been, I swear, twelve feet off the ground for a room that probably held, at max, 50 people—now that was a bizarre sight. But I think that four feet is the optimum stage height.

I had to admit that it was a pretty good crowd for a weeknight. I’ve been to clubs where only 4 or 5 people show up to see a band— which must be discouraging for the band even though it happens all the time. But here were, I would guess close to a hundred people scattered throughout this monstrous room. The place could obviously hold a lot more, but still for a weeknight in the middle of nowhere this was damned impressive. The majority of the crowd members appeared to most certainly be college kids, just as Samantha had said. Although a fair number of people I estimated to be in their mid- to late-twenties—that group which felt much more comfortable hanging out with the college crowd than with the ‘dinner-and-cards’ set from the office. The remaining handful consisted of straggling thirty and over types as well as one man in the corner who I would swear couldn’t have been a day younger than eighty.

In one corner near the stage I noticed a small cluster of kids who looked as if they had stepped out of London, circa 1975. They all had “punky” hair styles of every imaginable color and each one was dressed more wildly than the next. I had to wonder how that kind of look went down in a small city in Indiana.

I checked them out more closely. Now, being a journalist—or at least being perceived as such—does offer a person certain license that others do not have. The most important of which I think I’ve already mentioned: you feel completely well within your right to ask complete strangers the most unbelievably personal questions. Another is that you feel absolutely no guilt about staring at people. After all, you’re observing. So I observed the kids in the punk outfits. Each had the prerequisite strangely luminescent hair color—the entire rainbow was represented on the heads of those kids. Naturally an extreme hairstyle also requires an extreme wardrobe to match. From tattered leather jackets held together by safety pins to

phosphorescent green pants to who knows what else, these kids definitely stood out from the others in the club. And I found myself again wondering how these colorful young people were perceived in this Indiana town. Sure, you see these kinds of people in New York— you see pretty much every type that you can imagine in New York— but I would imagine that right at that moment I was looking at the entire punk population of Terre Haute, Indiana. I looked at them and found myself hoping that life wasn’t too hard for them.

But what the hell? If I was going to wish a relief from hardship for someone then why didn’t I wish it for myself? Certainly I deserved a break by now. Certainly I had been punished enough. Certainly it was time to pull my life out of the sludge into which it had fallen.

I stepped up to the bar and asked the bartender where I could find Samantha. He replied, “sound room” and pointed to a small booth in the back of the club. As I neared the sound room I could see that far from being a room, it was merely a partitioned space which housed the sound-mixing console. And sitting at the helm of the console was Samantha.

“Another of your duties?” I asked.

“Hi,” said Samantha, “Yeah. There’s not anyone else to do the job, so I’m it. Beside, I’m in debt up to my ears for this equipment — this stuff was the main cost of setting this place up — and I’m not about to let somebody who doesn’t know what he’s doing touch the damn thing.”

“How did you learn to do it?” I asked.

“It was either learn to do it or go bankrupt real quick. I’m sure that if nothing was coming out of the speakers, the club would lose some of its appeal.”

“I’d think so. So you’re self-taught then?”

“Well, the guys who sold it to me — they were these Christian metal guys who had been touring with this board for years — they installed it and gave me a crash course. And a Bible. The rest I figured out as I went. “

I glanced over at the band setting up its equipment on the stage. The band was a group of spiky-haired kids with large metal racks of old synthesizers and drum machines. They pretty much looked like The Cars. And for these kids, this was most certainly a retro-fashion statement.

“This next band up, ‘The PDQs’, this is only their second gig, so they’re still trying to find out what they’re all about.”

I left Samantha there in the sound room and made my way back through the crowd toward the bar. Several more people had come in during the time that I had been talking to Samantha and again I was impressed by the size of the weeknight crowd.

The bartender looked up at me and said, “Hey, you’re that journalist, aren’t you?”

“Yes. And you’re the bartender aren’t you?”
“Steve,” said the bartender with a laugh.
“David,” I answered back. “Jesus I feel like I must be on a

wanted poster or something. Everybody seems to know who I am.” “Well, the boss has been talking about this for a long time.” “She’s persistent?”
“You could say that,” replied Steve, “What can I get you?” “Scotch,” I said.

“Well… no scotch.”
“No Scotch?” I asked.
“No Scotch.”
Well, all right,” I mumbled, “I guess I’ll just have a beer.”
I was at a bit of a loss to decipher the expression that came over

Steve’s face just then. It seemed as though he was worried about something. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what might worry a bartender about being asked for a beer. It wasn’t as though I had just asked for some obscure drink that he wouldn’t know how to mix. Maybe he just hadn’t heard me and for some reason he was embarrassed to ask me to repeat myself. So I repeated myself.

“A beer,” I said.

Still Steve appeared to be worried. “Um, okay,” he stammered, “um, I guess she didn’t explain that to you. We don’t have any alcohol here.”

“What do you mean?”
“I mean we don’t have any alcohol.”
Now I felt as though I must be the one who hadn’t heard. “No

alcohol?” I asked, “I don’t think I understand. Did you lose your liquor license?”

“We don’t have a liquor license.”
“Yet? Is that what you mean? That you don’t have one yet?” “I mean that we don’t have one, period.”
“But,” I mumbled, lost, “but this is a bar. You can’t have a bar

without alcohol.”
“It’s not a bar, it’s a club.”
“You can’t have a club without alcohol either. I’ve been doing

this since you were in diapers and I’m here to tell you that clubs serve alcohol. It’s an association that goes all the way back to the beginning of time: People listen to music; they drink.”

“That’s not what we’re about.”

“Not what you’re about?” I fairly shrieked, “Not what you’re about?”

“Um. No.”

I really could not believe what I was hearing here. A nightclub without alcohol was an oxymoron. Now if they had told me that they were running a coffee house I would have said “fine.” But Seattle had always been referred to as a club. And clubs have alcohol dammit.

“Look,” I shouted to Steve above the noise of the blasting music, “I don’t mean to sound rude, but I need some booze, man!”

And in one of those moments of coincidence which seem to be so perfect as to have been divinely planned, Samantha had chosen that exact moment to cut out the music from the CD and open up her mic to introduce the band which was about to perform. She didn’t fade out the music, rather she just abruptly cut it off, which meant that

the overall volume of the club dropped significantly just at the precise moment that I was shouting, “ I need some booze, man!”

This, of course, was followed by that inevitable moment in which I felt that everyone in the club, hell everyone in the entire world turned to look at me. Without turning to acknowledge their stares, I merely raised my hand as if to admit that, yes, I was the guilty party.

Samantha missed only a beat, then she introduced the PDQs and life went back to the way it had been meant to be in this place at this time. The band came on-stage and I sat staring at the bar, afraid to turn around lest somebody was still looking my way.

Eventually I did turn around in order that I might check out the PDQs. I could see what Samantha had meant when she had said that they were still trying to find out who they were. The keyboard player seemed to be a fairly talented fellow, but the rest of the band didn’t seem to quite be with him. They didn’t have that “tight” thing that every good band has to have. Plus the lead singer didn’t seem to know what to do with his hands as he sang. He couldn’t seem to make up his mind whether to hold the microphone or put his hands to the side or wave them in the air or what. So, as had been foretold to me, the PDQs still needed some work. Or maybe I was being unfairly critical due to my frustration at the lack of alcohol. Looking back on it now, I’m not really sure which it was.

As I sat playing a game with myself of trying to guess the next moves of the lead singer’s hands, the unmistakable flash of a camera bathed the room in instant light. I looked to my left in order to ascertain the identity of the photographer, and who else should I see wielding the camera but Samantha. I looked back toward the sound room and saw that nobody was manning the console. Now, I’ll admit that during the perhaps 20 or 30 seconds that Samantha was away it would be highly unlikely for some incredible audio catastrophe to occur, but you never know. At any rate, she snapped a few photos using a rather impressive-looking 35 mm camera then dashed back to her station at the sound board.

A few songs into the PDQs set I again motioned for Steve. “Are you sure,” I began, “that you don’t have anything alcoholic in this place? Maybe a bottle that you keep stashed behind the counter just for really special guests? In case the President drops by or something?”

“I’m sorry,” Steve replied.
“You’re sure? You’re absolutely sure?”
He nodded his head and walked away.
“Damn,” I mumbled. Had I known that this place was going to

be dry I would have stopped at the hotel bar before walking out the door.

I called Steve over yet again. “Steve, is there anywhere around here where I could get a drink?”

“Well,” he said, “Yeah.”
“Anyplace within walking distance?”
“Well, not really. I guess that you could walk but the nearest bar

would be a pretty good walk.
“All right,” I said forlornly, “Forget I asked.”
I turned around and watched the rest of the PDQs set without a

The moment that the lead singer said “Thanks and goodnight.” I

got up from my barstool—which didn’t deserve the title of barstool because this place wasn’t really a bar—and made my way back to the sound room.

“Okay,” I said as I approached Samantha, “this is quite some practical joke you’ve got going here but let’s end it.”

Samantha didn’t even look up at me. She just continued plugging and unplugging cables in preparation for the next band. “Practical joke?” she asked.

“Yeah, this thing with the no alcohol. Steve over there tells me he makes a mean cappuccino but that he doesn’t have any liquor. You’re really not telling me that is seriously the case are you?”

“This is not a bar,” she replied, “it’s a club.”

“Yes, it’s a nightclub and nightclubs have booze. If you don’t have booze you’re a coffeehouse.”

“It can still be a nightclub.”
“No. It can’t.”
“What is that word?” she began as she finally looked up at me,

“That word for when you argue about the exact meaning of a word instead of just taking it as it was meant?”

“Do you mean ‘semantics?’”

“‘Semantics,’ yeah that’s the word I was looking for. Gina would have known that right off the bat by the way.”

“I don’t care what Gina would have known,” I said, “and I don’t care about semantics either. My question is ‘how in the world do you expect to keep a nightclub going without selling alcohol? You can’t do it.”

“Wait a minute,” she said. She looked up at me and smiled. “Are you really mad or are you just pretending to be mad? ‘Cause I don’t know you well enough to know.”

“Well, I’m. . . annoyed,” I said. And then I began to smile as well, “Since we’re talking semantically, I’m probably not literally ‘mad,’ but still, I don’t understand how you expect to keep this going without selling alcohol. It’s a combination that goes back to the beginning of time: people listen to music; they drink.”

“That’s not true.”
“It is true.”
“No,” she said, “What about in your car? You listen to music in

your car. Are you slamming down a sixer at the same time?” “But that’s in a car.”
“But you’re listening to music.”
“Okay fine. But it’s not live music. When you go to hear live

music, when you actually see musicians standing before you, making music with their own hands and voiceboxes, you want to be drinking. You want to listen to the band and cradle a nice bottle in your hand.”

“What about the symphony?”
“Live rock music.”
“What about in an arena?” she countered. “Well,” I stammered, “that’s. . . that’s different.”


“‘Why?’ Because you’ve got a large percentage of minors in the audience.”

“Exactly!” she shouted, “Exactly!”
“‘Exactly!’ what?” I asked.
“People get into music when they’re teenagers, then stop being

into it when they grow up. I’ve got an uncle who has this huge record collection. Unbelievable. It takes up an entire wall of one room. And he bought most of it while he was a teenager. The newest record he’s got is from 1982. He told me that was the last one he ever bought and he bought it when he was 26 years old.”

“There you go. 26.”

“But that was the last one. Here this guy was an absolute fanatic, he bought more records than anybody else he ever knew, but he stopped completely at 26,” she said. “Look, I’ve gotta get ready for the next band here. So, real quick: remember how I told you that we were geared toward the college kids? Well, college kids are between the ages of 18 and 22. The drinking age is 21. If I sold alcohol, then I’d be turning away three fourths of my audience. So I don’t do that. I want to reach people with music. I want kids to be able to go someplace and see a band doing original music, to see a band that just might someday end up being famous. That’s the whole point here. That’s what we’re about. Didn’t you see the sign?” she asked.

Following her finger to the far wall, I noticed a large hand lettered sign. I wondered how in the world I had missed it before. It took up a huge portion of the wall, and screamed out in big, bold orange letters:


I looked at the sign. I shook my head. Two words came out of my mouth: “Oh, Jesus…”