In The Van On Comeback Road

author: Nolan Whyte date: 02/18/2006 category: fiction
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The kid insists on driving. If he had any sense he would follow my advice and sit in the back of the van with me, running over the chords to the songs, since he still only half-knows them. Bobby could drive while I get our little would-be rock star ready for his first performance, but Bobby says he'd rather work. Since the kid keeps saying he wants to drive, I have to let him. Let them both do what they want, and I'll sit in the back and seethe. The worst thing is, we agreed there would be no smoking in the rental van, so I get tense, on edge. The kid is excited, constantly asking questions, wanting to talk about the rock and roll lifestyle he thinks he's now living, but I act aloof and give him the silent treatment. Bobby's trying to write in a little spiral notebook, and I can see that the kid's chatter is pissing him off. Bobby keeps giving him these horrible death stares, which doesn't bode well, since this is the first time the three of us have been in a vehicle together for a long drive. It irritates me that Bobby insists on working in the van. He's writing a science fiction novel, which is how he's been paying the bills since the band broke up. Fair enough; he's got to work, he's got to earn a living, but the fact that he insists on doing it here in the van, on the way to an out-of-town gig, just kind of rubs my face in the fact that he's only here for laughs. He's not taking this band really seriously. After all, he must have said ten times since I called him to get a three-piece group together, "I've got a new career now, Jerry." Well, f--k him and his new career. I want to make this comeback work, even if it is just a blatant attempt to make some cash out of whatever marketability our names might have. After all, we used to be the bedrock of a pretty well-known band, even though I was thrown out before they made it big. If we work hard, we should be able to get some good money for shows and make some good cash. I need it, too. I've got a divorce to pay for. The kid, who we chose for his youth and lack of experience, turns up the radio and starts singing along to Steppenwolf. Bobby and I figured that the less the kid knew, the less we would have to pay him. Not a bad idea, but it may be difficult to put up with his idiocy. I cringe as he strains to hit a high note. "Leave the singing to the singer," I mumble quietly, but he doesn't notice. All that really matters is that the kid can hold it together on stage, and we'll find out tonight whether he can or not. Even if he can't, Bobby and I will be able to hold the show together. Bobby's the best drummer that I've ever played with, and I can sing and thump along on a bass well enough to cover for the kid, as long as he doesn't mess up too badly. Hopefully he turns out to be a fast learner. I stare out the window at the southern Ontario landscape speeding past, and I think about what it means to make a comeback. This project can hardly be called a reunion, since Bobby and I only make up two-fifths of the old band. We aren't even going to play much of the old material-only the songs that I wrote or co-wrote with the other players. The rest of our set will be some new songs I've come up with, and a few classic covers to fill out the time. So many bigger stars have made big comebacks in the last few years, especially by making new bands with former members of other star groups... the expression 'super-group' is becoming vastly over-used. No one will apply that title to us. If anything, people will quickly see through what we're doing: hanging on, trying to make some money off the remains of our glory days. I'm okay with it, as long as the money we make is enough to pay my lawyer. I fumble with my pack of cigarettes and put them back in my coat pocket, wishing it was warm enough out to roll down the window and smoke. Instead I sit and stare, wondering what my soon-to-be-ex-wife is doing. Probably, she's at the gym trying to sweat off the pounds she needs to lose in order to pursue a comeback in her own field, which is exotic dancing. What a couple of washed up flakes, I think. We figured we were the perfect match: she was into rock stars and I was into strippers. We thought it would last forever. F--k it. Pick up the pieces and get back on the road. What else could make you forget your problems better than getting up on stage and pounding through an hour of rock and roll? That's what I'm here for, as much as the money. I've got to get my fix. My old drummer is with me, and we've got a young kid to teach the horrible ways of touring life. We are in the van on Comeback Road. -Nolan Whyte
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