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.”
“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
“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.