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
“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.”
“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. The whole poster thing. Do you usually go out and do this
thrilling work yourself? Or are you doing it for my benefit? I mean, you are the owner of the club aren’t you?”
“Well common wisdom would have it that club owners don’t usually go out and get themselves covered in glue promoting their clubs.”
She smiled. It was a smile of patience. A smile that said “I will take the time to explain to you that which should be perfectly obvious.” As she slapped up another poster with that smooth, expert motion she said, “Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, this isn’t LA or New York. This is Terre Haute. Things are a little different here.” She stepped back from the wall in order to check her handiwork, “Besides, I enjoy doing all my own dirty work.”
“Like making phone calls to the editors of music magazines?”
There was that flash again. That look upon her face that told me that she was smart enough to know that she had won the important early rounds but that the fight was far from over. For a moment she made no reply. Just looked at me. She seemed to be sizing me up, trying to decide what sort of person I was, what I was “made of” as they say. After a moment she smirked and pointed a gluey brush at me, “They told you about the phone calls huh?”
“Yeah. I think that everybody in the industry has heard about your phone calls. You’ve become a bit of well-circulated gossip. 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.”
“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.”