I crashed at Ryan's that night and we talked about the gig, and what we wanted to do with Riot Band. And we quickly agreed that we never wanted to play a gig like that again: unprepared, under-manned, and under-equipped.
Sure, we played some songs, and we played them well, but what was the point of playing a gig if everyone who sees you gets a half-assed impression? Anyone watching would either forget you completely or remember you as the weakest band on the bill.
As we sat up half the night drinking beers and talking it all over, we made some straightforward plans. First, we were going to have to get some better equipment. Just having little practice amps would never get us anywhere. We would need solid, proper gear that we could use on a moment's notice. And that went for Jed too. He would need to get his own drum kit, whether it was hauled down from his parents' place or purchased new. No more borrowing equipment.
Second, we would spend some serious time writing new songs. The two and three chord songs we'd used so far would have to get phased out. They were getting boring for us to play, and were probably boring to listen to more than once or twice. We wouldn't need big, complex songs, but we would definitely need to evolve and learn more about song-writing. And we would learn by doing.
Third, we would put off performing again until Jed got back. No matter how Ryan and I played on our own, we would never come close to what we were able to do with our drummer. We were simply too weak without Jed, and we didn't want to be sound weak, ever. Nothing half-assed, was going to be our motto.
We finished up the beers, and Ryan grabbed an extra blanket from his room so I could stretch out and sleep on the couch. He tossed it down beside me and then paused thoughtfully.
Eric, are we kidding ourselves? he asked. I mean, truth be told, neither of us have that much talent. Are we in this just as a game, or a hobby, or what? Because if this is all going to end up as just a spare-time band, we might be taking ourselves a bit too seriously.
I shook out the blanket. I don't know, man. After that show at Jake's, I thought we could do something real with this. But I guess it's up to us, right? If we don't take it seriously, then it definitely won't go anywhere.
Of course, he said. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't want us to act like psycho-serious hard-asses, when we're really just not that good. You know what I mean? We would look like assholes.
Yeah. I grinned. We could make it part of our show. Be super-serious all the time. That could be funny.
Maybe. Goodnight, man.
* * * *
I slept fine on the couch, and in the morning the living room was flooded with light from the big windows. The sound of a door opening woke me up. From where I was lying I could see down the hall as Minako, Ryan's Japanese film student roommate, stepped out of her room and padded silently across the hall into the bathroom.
My eyes were barely open, but I could see she was wearing a little T-shirt and black underpants. It was shocking for me to see her like that, since the few other times I'd seen her she'd been completely covered from neck to toe.
The bathroom door closed, and I slowly sat up. I was still wearing my clothes from the night before. With the exception of my bass and amp, all my stuff was at Nick's place. I scratched, yawned and stretched. I felt a vague yearning, and I knew it was from seeing Minako walking around in her panties. I wasn't interested in Minako specifically, but the female form was something I'd been missing.
I had to be crazy. Girls had caused me nothing but suffering since I'd come to Garrison Valley, and all it took was the sight of a pair of legs for me to start wanting one again. If I had any sense I would spend a good long time not thinking about women at all, and focus on just getting my affairs in order. After all, I was unemployed and only a short notch above homeless. But no matter what the situation, how the hell could a nineteen year old guy stop thinking about girls?
The coffee maker was on the counter and I put on a pot. The aroma of fresh java brought Ryan stumbling out of his room. He looked like scruffy shit, with his curly blond hair sticking out at ridiculous angles. I poured him a cup.
We hung out for a while, but didn't have much to say. Ryan had to work at his gas station job that evening, starting at three and pumping gas until eleven thirty.
Does it suck? I asked him.
Yeah, a bit, he said. But you know, what the hell, right? A job is a job. You've got to do something. You should come by sometime. The place is on a strip mall with a bunch of shitty little businesses. You could probably get a job at one of them.
I nodded. Yeah. Maybe.
He wrote down the address and I left. Minako was in the shower, so I didn't get a second look at her in her little black panties. I thought about picking up a dirty magazine or something. That would have to tide me over, at least until I earned enough to buy a computer.
I headed back to Nick's place and tried to renegotiate with him about the unused bedroom. Their third roommate, the grad student they called Bertrand, would be in Vancouver until the fall semester started and his room was unoccupied until then. But apparently he'd left it locked, and Nick swore up and down he didn't have a key for it.
The door didn't look very solid, and I gently put forward the idea that I could kick it open and just pay to replace it at the end of summer.
Nick snickered at the idea. You probably could, Eric, he said. But that might be more expensive than you think. We have a damage deposit on this place as well, and we'd like to see it back when we leave. Plus, Bertrand would probably be confused why his key doesn't work when he gets back.
I glared at the door. This sucks, dude, I said. I'm not interested in sleeping in the basement.
It won't be so bad, he said. We got a little table for you, and there's a chair. All you need to do is figure out something for a bed, and you'd have to do that sooner or later anyway.
Right. Except you guys are going to need to do your laundry down there. It's not going to be exactly private, you know what I mean? And what about spiders?
He looked confused. What about spiders?
Yeah. These old houses always have spiders and centipedes and stuff like that in the basement. I can't stand centipedes, man. I'll freak out.
Um, I've never seen any down there. He scratched his head. No offence, Eric, but aren't you from a farm? I'm surprised you're afraid of bugs.
I stared him down. You ever have centipedes in your bed?
Well, no, but--
Okay then. Since there seemed to be nothing else I could do, I took my stuff downstairs. There was a folding chair and a little coffee table. I dropped my stuff and tried to make it feel like home. I had my foam mat and sleeping bag, and I rolled them out onto the concrete. I could see there would be a lot of sleepless nights ahead.
* * * *
I took Ryan's advice and went down to his gas station that afternoon. It was in an older part of town, on a little strip mall with the usual lame shops: corner store, flower shop, coffee shop, and a spaghetti place. Ryan took his break, and he and I walked off the lot so he could smoke a cigarette away from the pumps.
I think the corner store would be your best bet, he said. They have a bunch of students working there. Young girls mostly, but they have a help wanted sign in the window sometimes. Even if they don't hire you right away, I bet you'd hear from them within a few weeks.
I looked at the shop. It was called Sally's. The sign above the door was faded and old, with an advertisement for Trident gum that was barely readable. Man. Depressing.
Since I didn't know a tulip from a twat I decided there would be no point in applying at the flower shop, but I decided to drop off resumes at the other three places. I had a stack of them that I'd printed off on Dad's computer before I came back to the city, with Nick's address and phone number under my name at the top.
The Italian restaurant was nearest. I took a drag off Ryan's cigarette, gave him a high-five, and walked over. I was wearing a tidy collared shirt and nice black pants. It wasn't a fancy outfit, but I looked respectable. Nice enough for a sketchy old diner, anyway.
The place was drab inside. I stood at the entrance for a moment, next to the Please Wait to be Seated' sign, and a girl came over. She looked around eighteen, on the heavy side, and exhausted. No way was she Italian, though. Maybe Pakistani or Indian.
Table? she said.
No. Actually, I wanted to drop off a resume. Is there a manager available?
They're not here right now. I can take it. She looked around to see if anyone was near enough to overhear her, then leaned forward. You don't want to work here. They're horrible.
Oh. Um, okay. Well, I'll leave the resume anyway. I need a job.
She nodded and took the single sheet of paper into the back room. I went back out. I bypassed the flower shop and popped into the coffee shop. It was a simple place, with a counter full of baked goods, and simple wooden chairs around square tables. This was a place I could work.
The old fellow behind the counter took my resume with a polite smile, and I walked back out. Sally's was the last place on the strip.
I looked back toward the Gas-And-Go station. Ryan was standing there in his grey coveralls, looking my way. I waved. He waved back.
A little bell dingled as I opened the door. It looked like a typical private convenience store. Narrow aisles, disorganized products, glaring lights and dirty floors.
I came around to the counter. There was a kid behind there, going through some junk underneath. I stood and waited a minute, and he finally stood up.
And I knew him. It was James, the bass player from Seriosity.
Holy shit! he said when he saw me. Oh, wow, man, Eric. He reached across the counter to shake my hand. How's it going? How's Riot Band?
Good, good, man. I laughed. Damn, I didn't expect to see you in here.
I know, I know, he said. I haven't seen you since we took your guitars hostage. Man, that whole thing was so crazy. Looking back it's like, man, I can't even believe that shit went on, you know?
Yeah, I nodded. It was a crazy night. So, are you guys still playing?
James scratched his chin. Yeah. Well, no. Kind of. Doug left.
Right, Doug, I said. The dickhead.
Yeah, James said. Yeah, he was a dickhead. But he was going away for the summer, so we decided we would break up the band, and then the rest of us got back together as soon as he left town. So now we're a new band, with Kyle, Randy and me. And we got a great singer, too. More of a rapper, really.
Cool. So you're a surf-thrash-rap-metal band?
He laughed. Not really. Doug really guided us toward that sound before. We're way funkier without him, way more loose. You know, he really dominated every aspect of the band. The name, the sound, how we practiced everything. It was just too much. Like, we were all good musicians, and we all took the band seriously, but he was just like, waaaaah. He gestured wildly, I guess indicating that Doug was too serious. We're way better off without Captain Psycho.
I nodded, suddenly thinking about the conversation Ryan and I had had the night before. Right, I said. So, are you still called Seriosity then?
No. We're still thinking about a new name. We've got a few possibilities, but we can't decide. It's going to be The Throbbing Urges, The Biological Urges, or The Throbbing Biological Urges.
Weird. That sounds familiar.
James laughed. Yeah! From The Simpsons!
Cool. I leaned forward. Dude, I'm looking for a job. Do you think this place is okay?
He grinned. Yeah, man, this place is okay. Do you have a resume or anything? I could totally get you a spot here, man. They always need people.
Awesome, man. I handed over the piece of paper. Hey, I said, did you know that our guitar player Ryan works at the gas station out there?
No. I haven't seen him. But I only work a couple days a week.
Right. Well, I hope I hear from you guys.
You will, buddy.
We shook hands again and I left. Outside the sun was just dipping behind the tops of the houses. I felt like I'd won a small victory, and maybe made a new friend. Ryan was working until almost midnight, but I figured I could wander downtown and find somewhere to go on my own. For obvious reasons, I wasn't eager to head home to the basement. Hell, there had to be something going on in this town on a Sunday night.
2009, Nolan Whyte