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Beach Stuff

Tester

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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.

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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.

Categories
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.

On.
Off.
On.
Off.
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.

Categories
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.”

“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.

Categories
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

word.
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?”

“‘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:

“OUR MISSION IS TO BRING GREAT ORIGINAL MUSIC TO THIS CITY. HAVE FUN. ENJOY THE MUSIC, BUT PLEASE DON’T SNEAK DRINKS IN HERE. IF YOU SUCCEED, YOU WILL ONLY SUCCEED IN GETTING US PUT OUT OF BUSINESS. AND THEN, THE MUSIC WILL DIE — THE MANAGEMENT.”

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

Categories
The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 4

Postering…

Though it had been years since I had engaged in the quasi- acceptable form of vandalism known as postering, I found that the smell of glue hadn’t changed. And the disgusting feeling of having the fingers of one’s hand webbed together with the sticky stuff. But there was that main difference: when we had done this in our youth we had struck in the night—on the lookout for cops, as if we had been thieves—whereas this young woman felt perfectly at ease performing this deed in broad daylight.

Perhaps she was a fixture in the community. Or perhaps she just had balls of steel.

I glanced up at the poster which I had just plastered, crookedly, to the side of the building. The posters were in the typical “underground” style I had seen so much of in the past. Photocopied photos, splashed over with intentionally blotchy writing. This particular blotchy writing announced something called “Hautean Night.”

“What’s ‘Hautean Night?’” I asked, pointing toward the mysterious announcement.

Hautean,” she replied, correcting my pronunciation, “It sounds like ‘ocean’ only with an ‘h’ in front. Like Haute sounds like ‘oat’ with an ‘h’ in front.”

“My apologies. Hautean, then. And what exactly is Hautean Night?”

“Petty vengeance. That’s all. Petty vengeance.” She unrolled another poster and slapped it up expertly with a splash of glue. “You see, the college kids just love to call us Hauteans—those of us who happen to be sub-human enough to live in this town that they’re just passing through. Now that I’m older it doesn’t really bother me, but when I was a teenager and I heard a college kid say the word Hautean, it royally pissed me off. I mean, just who did these people think they were? I imagine it’s the same with any other college town —but of course, that didn’t make it any easier to take.”

“And ‘Hautean Night’ is your vengeance for that label?’”

“Yup. Growing up in a college town not only do you have the college kids thinking that they’re a lot better than you, you’ve also got all of your own businesses sucking up to them. Of course it’s understandable, because the college kids’ bucks keep a lot of the businesses around here afloat. Hell, I’ll admit it: the club is one of those businesses; it wouldn’t be possible without that college within walking distance. But still, when you’re growing up around it, it gets really annoying when you go into, say, a pizza joint, and you see a big sign offering ‘student discounts with ID.’ It makes you kind of feel like scum. So that’s why I created Hautean Night at Seattle. If you’ve got a Terre Haute address on your driver’s license, well look, it says right here on the poster ‘Show a driver’s license with a Terre Haute address, get in for $1 every Wednesday.”

“That sounds fair to me,” I said.

“Actually, it’s pretty childish. But I still think it’s funny. Plus a lot of people show up.”

“So,” she continued, “what famous people do you know?” “Famous people? Oh, I’ve met a few. No big deal.”
“No big deal? How many famous people have you

interviewed?”
“I really couldn’t say.”
“That many, huh? That sounds like a bunch to me.”
“Yeah, I guess that ‘a bunch’ would be a fair approximation.” “You make it sound boring. I mean, with all the people that

you’ve interviewed, no one has ever impressed you?… Jesus, and I thought I was bad…You mean not one person has impressed you?”

I glanced down at my shoes and smiled sheepishly. “O.K.,” I admitted, “there was one person.”

“Who?”

“James Brown,” I said admiringly, “Jesus, I could have sat and listened to that man talk for weeks. Nothing like what you would expect. And one hell of an interesting guy.”

I set my glue-covered brush down by the side of the road. I was sure that it would pick up loads of dirt which would then be

transferred to whatever surface I slopped with glue, but I wasn’t particularly concerned about it. After all, what were a few little pebbles on a poster advertising Hautean Night? I reached into my breast pocket with careful fingers in an attempt to minimize the amount of glue adhering to my shirt, and pulled out my cigarettes.

As I pulled the sticky cigarette up to my mouth, Samantha laughed at me. “Don’t you think that’s pretty desperate? I mean, look at what you’re going through there for that thing.”

“Addiction is a powerful thing my dear,” I said as I rolled the flint of my now equally sticky lighter. Somehow, despite the layer of goop caked upon it, the lighter managed to fire up.

“You know,” said Samantha, “this glue’s fairly flammable stuff, and you’re covered in it. You could be making yourself into a pretty good bonfire there.”

“Them’s the risks you’ve gotta take,” I replied as I drew a deep drag from the cigarette. “If I were covered in gasoline I would probably still feel inclined to light that sucker up. It’s the old question of ‘are you riding the horse, or is the horse riding you?’ Well, I can tell you that horsey’s got the definite upper hand with me.”

As I stood smoking, she picked up her can of glue and stack of posters and moved down to the next telephone pole.

“Are you doing this for my benefit?” I asked as I dipped my brush into a thick glob of glue.

“Doing what for your benefit?”
“This.”
“‘This’ what?”
“This. The whole poster thing. Do you usually go out and do this

thrilling work yourself? Or are you doing it for my benefit? I mean, you are the owner of the club aren’t you?”

“Yeah”

“Well common wisdom would have it that club owners don’t usually go out and get themselves covered in glue promoting their clubs.”

She smiled. It was a smile of patience. A smile that said “I will take the time to explain to you that which should be perfectly obvious.” As she slapped up another poster with that smooth, expert motion she said, “Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, this isn’t LA or New York. This is Terre Haute. Things are a little different here.” She stepped back from the wall in order to check her handiwork, “Besides, I enjoy doing all my own dirty work.”

“Like making phone calls to the editors of music magazines?”

There was that flash again. That look upon her face that told me that she was smart enough to know that she had won the important early rounds but that the fight was far from over. For a moment she made no reply. Just looked at me. She seemed to be sizing me up, trying to decide what sort of person I was, what I was “made of” as they say. After a moment she smirked and pointed a gluey brush at me, “They told you about the phone calls huh?”

“Yeah. I think that everybody in the industry has heard about your phone calls. You’ve become a bit of well-circulated gossip. How many times did you call?”

“Four hundred thirty seven,” she replied, “I counted. Four hundred thirty seven times. It’s my new lucky number. 4 – 3 -7…I should go buy a lottery ticket today and say gimme 4 – 3 – 7.”

“Yeah, well rumor also has it that they got a little tired of you calling.”

“Yeah, they mentioned that a few times. They also mentioned lawyers…But hey, you’re here aren’t you?”

“Yes, I suppose that I am.”

“You industry people need to realize what’s going on here. Every day we get new bands being formed. You’ve got people who’ve played in cover bands trying to write their own stuff. You’ve got people whose parents made them learn an instrument now deciding that they really do want to play that instrument. You’ve got people who’ve never picked up an instrument in their lives picking up instruments. It’s amazing. And I know that at some point this whole town is just gonna explode in music. That Terre Haute’s gonna be the next Seattle.”

I smiled and laughed. “Well,” I said, “that was even sooner than your dad predicted.”

“What?”

“He said that if I stuck around for a few days, I’d hear you say that Terre Haute will be the next Seattle. That took less than an hour.”

Categories
The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 3

Black cinder blocks…

Loud music echoed through the air as Mr. Ketchum and I stepped into the club Seattle on Third Street in downtown Terre Haute. The club was pretty much the same as the thousands of other clubs that I had seen during my “illustrious” career. Set in an older brick building, the inside of the club carried the familiar motif: cinder block painted black. Ah, the black cinder block—a welcome sight indeed. That was my element. I had spent most of my life in places like this. Spent countless after-midnight hours bouncing from one set of black cinder blocks to another, refreshing my buzz with a new round of drinks at each stop. So to see that such a place existed in Terre Haute, Indiana meant that they had gotten at least one thing right. I had my doubts about the legitimacy of the other facets of this alleged music scene, but at least they had gotten the black cinder block right.

I actually felt a little better.

Like in many a small club, the furniture consisted of a bunch of mismatched tables and chairs that looked as though they had been purchased at garage sales. Above the bar, I noticed the logo for the club. I liked it. The logo looked as though it had been created by a psychopath and depicted a scene of an exploding Space Needle with shards of shrapnel coming together to form the word ‘Seattle.’ I glanced about the rest of the room. There was no real theme to the club. No neon lights. Only a few photos on the wall. No fake Tiki statues. Just the black cinder block walls and a bunch of mismatched furniture. Your basic no-frills club which, incidentally, is exactly the way that I like it.

At the far end of the club was a small raised stage which contained barely enough room for a band to squeeze together upon (I thought to myself that it was fortunate the nobody played piano in bands anymore, because a piano wouldn’t have fit in that area which passed for a stage). Along the side wall was the most important element of any nightclub: the bar. This was the key to any club’s

operation. It was a time-honored formula: people come to see bands; they drink. A club-owner judges a band’s success strictly by the take at the bar. If a band brings in big crowds, then that adds up to a lot of alcohol-purchasing bodies. If a band doesn’t bring in a lot of drinkers, then that band will not get the prime weekend gigs. It’s as simple as that. So in a roundabout way, every successful band started out as liquor salesmen. The best liquor salesmen get the best gigs. The best gigs are the ones which attract the Suits from the record labels who, impressed by the large crowd of slobbering drunks, give the band a label deal. All this attention by the record company catches the attention of radio stations who play the liquor salesmen’s record which catches the public’s attention and millions of dollars are made for everybody. The good liquor salesman is now a household name.

A few rows of tables were positioned close to the stage, and at one of these tables a young woman sat listening to the auditioning band. I could immediately tell that this was my subject, Samantha. She was just one of those people who you automatically know is the one in charge. The young woman had the same sturdy look as the man who had picked me up at the airport. She appeared to be somewhere in her mid-twenties, a little on the heavy side, though not terribly so, with mid-length auburn hair and dressed like a musician. She didn’t seem to notice that we had entered, although this was not surprising, as the sound of the music effectively crushed any sounds we may have made upon entering. I doubt that anything short of a firing squad or an airplane crashing into the building could have penetrated the wall of noise generated by those four young men on stage at that moment.

I decided that I would hold off on lighting up my next cigarette until after I had been introduced to this woman.

When the song ended, Mr. Ketchum called out, “Hey Sam” to his daughter. Samantha turned, got up from the chair and walked toward us.

She casually looked me over. “You’re older than I imagined,” she said dryly. And that was all she said. She threw out that nice little

tidbit, then let the air just hang there, waiting, I suppose, for me to fill it in.

So I filled it in.

“Yeah, I’m a lot older than I imagine too,” I said. “In my imagination I’m a lithe 20-year-old running through a field of daisies without a care in the world. I’m also 6’2”, rippling with muscles and hung like a rhinoceros.”

She smiled.
Then in the pause that followed I noticed for the first time that

the members of the auditioning band were merely standing on the stage looking at us. As I looked up at the stage, the lead singer said, “Yo, do we get the gig or not?”

“Well,” said Samantha, “that depends. I’m hoping that comment about bringing homemade pyrotechnics was a joke?”

“What? Oh, yeah. Of course.”

“Because if you bring so much as a match to that stage, not one of you will ever play here again. Understand me Mike?”

“Swear. It was a joke.”

Samantha turned back toward the stage and said, “Then yeah, I guess so.” The band jumped in excitement and Samantha had to raise her voice above their happy howls, “we’ll try you out on next Tuesday’s opening slot. It’s the worst time to be playing. Bring enough friends to see you and maybe we’ll move you to a better slot.”

“No problem,” said the lead singer.

Samantha turned her attention back to me. She extended her hand. “I guess I should introduce myself. I’m Samantha,” she said.

“David.”
“Nice to meet you David.”
“Same here,” I said, noticing her surprisingly firm handshake “Well,” she said, “here you are.”
“Yeah,” I sighed, “Here I am.”
We stood there for a moment in the strange silence of two people

who are basically sizing one another up. I have no idea what she was thinking when confronted with the sight of an emaciated-looking,

long-haired, nose-pierced, older-than-she-had-imagined music journalist.

But I can tell you what I saw when I looked at her. I saw determination. There are just some people who, when you look at them, you see that they have it. And I am convinced that this quality, above all else, is what makes the “successful” people successful. An unusual facet of my profession is that I tend to meet a lot of people who have come from nowhere and made it to the top of their professions. Unlike other occupations which you can be born into or educated into or fraternitied into, every successful band starts out as a bunch of dirt-poor nobodies. All of them. They are not born into this business, they fight their way into it. And one difference that I have seen between the million-sellers and the thousands of bands that go nowhere is that the top people radiate determination.

That’s not to say that they are necessarily good people, or intelligent people, or talented people, or even sane people (although neither are they necessarily not any of those things), but the one thing that most “successful” people I’ve met have in common is determination. That’s what makes them persevere through all of the bad things that would make others, like me and like most of the world, give up. That is what makes them not take “no” for an answer. That’s what allows them to shrug off rejection after rejection until they get a “yes.” That, above all else is why they succeed. And this young woman had it.

Around us the band was packing its equipment away and I noticed that the guy Samantha had been talking to was staring at me. He bounded up to us and asked Samantha, “Is this the guy?”

I looked at him, “The guy?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “this is the guy. Leave him alone Mike.” “Dude,” said Mike, “you gotta come by and see us on… what

night was it?”
“I believe she said next Tuesday.”
“Right! Tuesday. Dude, you have to come!” Samantha looked at him: “Goodbye Mike.” “Oh right. Bye.”

And as Mike walked back to his bandmates Samantha turned and walked toward the bar. She reached behind the bar and pulled out a stack of posters. Then she looked down at my feet.

“Good,” she said, “you’ve got tennis shoes on. Wanna come help me put up posters?”

“Well, I haven’t even checked into my hotel yet…”

“Oh come on.” She smiled as she pulled out a can of glue and a few stiff brushes, “I’ve got a big, gluey paint brush with your name on it.”

“Well,” I said, “how could I possibly refuse an offer like that?”

I looked at the big stiff paintbrush and the stack of club posters and the sight brought the memories flooding back to me. There were those nights, eons ago it now seemed, when I had helped my friend Paul and the other members of Paul’s band plaster the streets of Los Angeles. As was the custom among bands, we would slap a poster upon anything that didn’t move.

My God, how long ago had that been? Thirty years? More? My God.

Categories
The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 2

June 17, 1997… Sunny

The Next Seattle

So, crashing the rental car… that was not my fault.
Not my goddamned fault.
I blame the crash of the rental car on New York. I’ve lived in the

city for so long that I haven’t driven in more than 20 years. But here I had found myself out in this dinky place in the Midwest and I assume that they don’t have taxis out here. Do they? I really doubt it.

At any rate, I assumed that they didn’t, so I booked myself a rental car. Although I hadn’t driven in a few decades I assumed that driving was one of those skills that you really don’t forget.

I was wrong. Oh so wrong.

I didn’t even make it out of the rental lot. I backed right into the driver’s side door of a parked rental car. And that was that. The pimply-faced kid at the rental counter actually physically took the car keys from my hand. The little prick.

So, long story short, I ended up getting a ride from the father of the young woman I was in Terre Haute to interview.

Yeah, it was kind of embarrassing.

Plus, it was sunny that June day in 1997. It was sunny and I had left my sunglasses in New York. The only positive thing to happen thus far on this assignment was that when my “chauffeur” pulled up he was smoking a cigarette. So as soon as my butt hit the passenger’s seat, I fired up a smoke myself.

“So you’re from the Big Apple, huh?” asked Mr. Ketchum as I squinted to see him in the horribly bright daylight.

“Yeah,” I said, “but I’m originally from Los Angeles.“

“Ah, ‘The Land of Fruits and Nuts,’” said Mr. Ketchum good- naturedly.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that said,” I replied, “ but now I live in New York.”

I didn’t add that I lived alone in New York. Pathetically alone. Not the kind of alone of a person who wants to be alone, but the alone of a person who has screwed up every relationship with every

good woman he has ever known; has alienated every person, of either sex, who it would be worthwhile to call a friend; has fallen to a pathetic level of existence on this planet. That was the type of alone that we’re talking about here. But, as I said, I didn’t mention that.

“Which edge of the country do you like the best?” he asked.

“Well, except for the fact that the weather is quite often a bitch, I much prefer the East Coast to the West.”

“Hmm,” murmured Mr. Ketchum, “Never been to either coast myself. We go up to Canada for a fishing trip every few years, but that’s about the extent of my traveling. Maybe one of these days.”

Soon, we were passing through signs of civilization—a small shopping center, then on through mainly residential areas. I could see a few taller buildings sprouting above the treetops and guessed that we must be nearing this alleged city. Now, coming as I had from New York, I had the New Yorker’s tendency to view any city that didn’t have gigantic buildings stacked one against the other as being, shall we say, nowhere. But I had to keep in mind that even in these days of exploding populations and paving over forests to build condos, America is still a nation of small towns. Take a cross-country drive sometime and this becomes readily apparent. America is mostly gaps, huge expanses of land punctuated by tiny clusters of people.

“So who’s your daughter auditioning?” I asked.

“Hell if I know. Probably called The Skinsuckers, or something like that. They all sound the same to me,” said Mr. Ketchum, “But she’s convinced she’s gonna find the next big band, and that Terre Haute’s gonna be the next Seattle. Stick around very long and you’ll hear her say that damned phrase at least once or twice. ‘Terre Haute’s gonna be the next Seattle.’”

“‘The next Seattle, huh?’ What do you think about that?” I asked.

“I don’t know that much about it myself. It’s all a little over my head.”

I can tell you one thing. The “next Seattle” claim was one that I had heard laid on more than one musical city over the last few years, but I have yet to see a phenomenon like that work itself out again.

And to tell you the truth, I’m not sure that it ever will. The whole Seattle scene was quite a unique little period in music history. A place and a time that a bunch of scruffy non-conformists made the industry come to them. I couldn’t see something like that being repeated again, much less out here in a small city in the middle of the country.

As Mr. Ketchum drove, he glanced over at me and said good- naturedly, “Damn. You sure are a skinny one aren’t ya? We’ll see if we can put some pounds on ya while you’re here,” he said with a laugh. “You’re not one of those vegetarians, are you?”

“No sir.” “Good.”

Categories
The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 1

Untitled

I’m not French. I’ve never been to France or even to any French- speaking country. For that reason I really couldn’t tell you whether it’s true that the name Terre Haute is French for “high ground.” That’s just what some musician told me. I talk to a lot of musicians. That’s what I do for a living. And this musician said that Terre Haute was French for “high ground.” At the time I was ordered to fly to Terre Haute to report on their supposed burgeoning music scene I was in such a God-awful pathetic state that I never got over to the Research Department to find out even the most basic details about the place to which I had been sentenced.

Whatever.

But if there’s one thing I can tell you it’s this: if Terre Haute does mean “high ground” then somebody screwed up. Durango, Colorado: That’s high ground. Not this place. Not only that, but I haven’t seen a single Frenchman the entire time I’ve been here.

I suppose that I could do my journalistic duty and actually do some research. But truth be told, I’m not really much of a journalist. Although I’ve managed to make a living writing for rock music publications since I was 25, it has really all been just one incredibly successful scam. I always liked music, I seem to be able to keep tons of music trivia in my head (do you know the date of The Doors’ first gig? I do.) and I read enough music magazines when I was a kid to be able to mimic what a big-time rock journalist is supposed to sound like.

I could mimic the writing style, but to tell the truth I’ve never really understood the reason for that style, this pompous style in which music journalists are expected to write. Basically the goal is to come off sounding like an intellectual who happens to curse like a sailor. Scribble brainy sounding, but basically meaningless phrases

such as “socio-cultural milieu,” toss in a few instances of the F-word and you’re set.

Well, screw that. I’ve been faking it that way for more than 20 years and I’m done.

I’m not sure that I even like music anymore. I’m pushing 50. And the one glimmer of hope for something worthwhile in music put a shotgun to his head 3 years ago.

At any rate, supposedly there was a burgeoning music scene in Terre Haute, Indiana and supposedly that was why I came here. It should be noted that I did not volunteer for this assignment nor did I want it. It was punishment for a stupid thing that happened with a stupid, spoiled brat at the White House.

Though in my own defense, on the long plane ride out I had convinced myself to try to approach this assignment, as pointless as it was, the way that I had approached assignments when I actually used to give a shit. I was really going to try. But you need to know that through no fault of Terre Haute’s, I was disliking the place even before I knew where it was on a map.

God, I need a cigarette.