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.