There's a line early on in the film Apocalypse Now where Captain Willard tells us: Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission. And for my sins they gave me one. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over I'd never want another.
Willard means that you should be careful what you wish for, and I agree with him. It happens often enough that you ask for something and get more than you bargained for, and it was starting to feel that way with Riot Band.
I'm not trying to say that being in Riot Band was like being in a Cambodian temple-fortress surrounded by severed heads, naked warriors and a fat, insane Marlon Brando, All the same, I was getting more that I expected. When Ryan talked me into forming a band with him, I figured it would be a good way to get out of the house, make some friends and maybe meet some chicks. Well, I was getting all of that in spades, and a lot faster than I expected.
There was Jasmine, who was the total opposite of Sash, the ex I'd been trying to get over. Where Sash was frilly and girly and flighty, Jasmine was intense and ironic. She was more my style, but I was already wondering if she might end up being too much for me. And as for Jed and Ryan, I could see that after only a few weeks the band had taken over my life.
After Wednesday night's song-writing session with Jed, and before Friday night's full band practice, I had to squeeze in Thursday. Ryan wanted to hang out, talk, and maybe play some tunes. So we met at The Market, the University of Garrison Valley students' union lounge.
I was doing some reading for English class, my bass resting in its bag next to me, when Ryan arrived. He had his guitar with him. Hey, dude, he said You want to stay here or take off? There's a place downtown that does an all day breakfast for $3.95.
I hadn't eaten since my morning bowl of cereal, so I said yes to the breakfast and we went outside to catch a bus. As we rode the bus downtown, I filled Ryan in on the day I'd spent with Jasmine. I avoided mentioning the session with Jed, however.
So she's nuts, is she? Ryan asked. I warned you. She looked nuts from the get-go.
No, she's not nuts, I said. She's just a bit...full on, you know? She's unpredictable. She's definitely horny, and I dig that. I'm just worried she might get too attached. Hell, she might be too attached already.
Ryan shrugged. Right, right. Well, she's a sexy girl, and if she's horny then you should ride that as long as you can, right? And if it falls apart later, deal with it then. Cross yon bridge when ye come to it. Sew thy fields while ye may. He smiled at his wordplay.
I guess. I mean, I do like her. She's a cool girl. She likes to drink, which is good, because I like to drink.
He laughed. Yeah, nothing bad could possibly come from two drunks hooking up.
We got off the bus and walked to the restaurant. It was on another tough street. The area looked shabby, but we went into the place called Jake's. It was dim inside, with stained glass windows and wood paneling. We took a seat in a booth.
You enroll in fall classes yet? Ryan asked me.
I'm not eligible until Tuesday, I said. I'm in first year, remember?
Right. Do you know what you want to take?
I shook my head. I don't know. To be honest, I don't even know if I want to do another year. I still haven't picked a program, which makes it hard to choose classes. I don't want to just come here and dick around for another year. It all seems kind of pointless if I'm not working toward an actual degree.
I guess, he said. But you're having fun here, right? I mean, it's worth coming back if you're, you know, meeting people and having a good time.
Sure, but twelve grand a year is a lot of money just to meet people and have fun.
He rapped his knuckles against the table with a rapid tap-tap-tap-tapping. Okay, he said. But what about the band?
I looked at him, and I could see how nervous he'd gotten at the idea that I wouldn't be back in the fall. Shit, talk about getting attached. Calm down, dude. I didn't say for sure I wasn't coming back. I haven't made up my mind yet.
Yeah, but even if you don't come back to school, you'll still stick around in Garrison Valley, right? I mean, you're not just gonna go back to Rose Creek.
Oh, of course, I said in a sarcastic voice. After the bright lights and fast pace of a huge city like Garrison Valley I could never live anywhere else. Shit, dude, relax, okay? I'll probably end up coming back, just because I don't know what the hell else I want to do. You're right. I don't want to just sit around Rose Creek. But I don't know. This year has been a very strange experience. That fucked up apartment I live in sure hasn't helped.
You're moving out of there, right?
Definitely, I said, as soon as I finish my last exam. I'll head home and visit my folks for a couple of weeks. After that, I don't know. Maybe get a summer job around Rose Creek. Maybe come back here and look for a job.
A guy came around to our booth. He was the only one working at the time, but even so, I don't know why it took so long for us to be served. The only other customers were a couple old men sipping bottles of beer at the bar.
Hello gentlemen, he said. He was about forty, wearing a black T-shirt with Same shirt, different day' written across the front. What can I get you?
We each ordered the all day breakfast with coffee, and the guy left us alone again. There was an awkward silence between us. I think Ryan was trying to come up with something to convince me to come back so we could carry on with the band. And I wanted to carry on with the band. I just didn't know if that was enough of a reason to stay at university.
To change the subject, I looked around the room. We should play here, I said.
Ha! Sure. We'd have a dozen teeth between all the members of the audience.
We would have to advertise. Bring our own crowd.
He gave me a look, somewhere between amusement and confusion. Are you serious?
I pointed over my shoulder to the end of the room, where the floor was raised two steps. There were a few small tables up there. Over there, I said. That looks like it could be a stage.
But there's no sound system, Ryan said. They obviously don't have bands play here.
All the more reason we should use this place, I said. If it's not a regular venue, then that takes the pressure off us.
The server came back around with coffee and filled small cups for Ryan and me. I smiled up at him. Is the manager in today? I asked.
You're looking at him, he said.
Cool. Um, do you guys ever have bands play here?
I think they had country bands in here back in the Seventies, he said. There's never been anything while I've been here. We're not really set up for it.
What would you need?
Well, he said, looking back toward the end of the room where the raised area was, I guess if anyone wanted to play here, and I'm not saying I'm interested, there would have to be a P.A. system and lights. He paused and looked down at us, and at the guitars we were carrying. Then he repeated, Not that I'm interested.
I nodded. Okay, fair enough I said. Just asking. Out of curiosity though, how much would you make here on an average Tuesday night?
He shrugged. I'm not going to say a number.
I understand. I gestured to Ryan. My associate and I are in a band. The other night we had eighty people come to a party and pay to watch us play. Do you think it would be worth while for you to have eighty people in here buying beers on a Tuesday night?
Sure it would, he said. But I doubt very much you guys would get eighty people in here. Probably you would just piss off the regulars. Thanks anyway. He turned and walked back to the bar.
Eric, Ryan said, leaning across the table. What the hell are you doing? We can't play a gig now anyway. No drums, remember? And I thought we were supposed to be getting ready for exams.
Right. I poured sugar into my coffee. Look, I said. If I don't come back to Garrison Valley, then we've already played our last show and there's no real point in continuing to jam. If I do come back, then this could be a way for us to keep going, you know? Build on what we've done. And if we get the gig, I'm sure we'll figure something out for gear.
I got up from the table and walked over to the bar. The manager was standing there reading the newspaper. I sat down on a stool in front of him.
I'll tell you what, I said. You let us play here. Pick your deadest night of the week and we'll bring the crowd. We'll bring our own P.A. and whatever else we need, so it costs you nothing.
I won't let you charge a cover, if that's what you've got in mind, he said.
Fair enough, I said. Okay, you figure out what you would usually expect to take in on the night in question. Add ten percent. If we don't exceed that, you pay us nothing. But whatever you sell over that amount, we split fifty-fifty.
Then I'm losing money on the sales, he said. He started at me with steely eyes. Eighty-twenty.
We wouldn't make anything then, would we? I said with a grin.
You could if you bring as many people as you say you will.
He smiled. I would have to run some numbers.
I smiled. That's cool. I hopped off the stool and strolled back over to Ryan.
Well? What did he say?
We might have a gig, I said. If a lot of people turn up and buy beers, we might make some money.
How much did he offer?
Um, kind of a revenue-sharing thing. Part of the bar sales.
Ryan's face fell. Dude, look at this place. It's empty. We're going to get like, two bucks each.
We'll just have to pack the place.
He looked exasperated. And how the hell are we supposed to do that?
I shrugged. Leave that to the manager. Nick can figure it out. But we'll have to rent a P.A. and mikes and all that crap. Maybe some lights. And we'll have to figure out the drums. And we'll have to add more songs to our list so we can do a full set.
Jeebuz freaking hell, Ryan muttered, sipping his coffee.
The guy came back over and set our breakfasts down in front of us: bacon, two eggs, toast, slice of orange. In this day and age it was a hell of a deal for $3.95. The owner is away right now, the guy said. I want to do this before he comes back. Second Tuesday of April cool for you?
That gave us just over two weeks. I looked at Ryan. No problem, I said.
Okay. Let's say, whatever I make over eight hundred dollars after eight o'clock, we split seventy-thirty.
So, I said, trying to do the mental math, if you make a grand we would get...
I looked at Ryan. He shrugged.
Deal, I said. I'm Eric, and this is Ryan.
Keith, he said. What's the name of your band, anyway?
Riot Band, Ryan said.
Never heard of you.
That's okay, Ryan said. Nobody has.
Keith went back to the bar and Ryan and I got to work on our late afternoon breakfasts. This is insane, Ryan said after about five bites.
What, the eggs? Mine are okay.
No, you idiot. This gig. Only two weeks to get ready, at the busiest time of the academic year. That's the first week of exams, you know. Plus we'll have to double our set list and rent a heap of equipment. How much is that going to cost? I mean, I'm all for playing gigs, but dude, this is crazy. I think this might be a big mistake.
I carefully chewed a piece of bacon. He was right. It was a reckless piece of business I had just set up, and there was no way to back out now without looking like a total light-weight. A fake.
I washed down the bacon with a gulp of coffee. It began to dawn on me that I had, once again, asked for something I probably didn't want. Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a gig, and for my sins, they gave me one. And when it was over, would I ever want another?
We'll be fine, I said. He chewed angrily on his toast.
2009 Nolan Whyte