"You're an idiot, Terry." Bobby Metronome pours a bit more rye whiskey into his coke. "I thought you were past this amateur shit, you know? This is what teenagers do. It's okay for kids, man, because they're just figuring it out, but you man? Shit, how old are you, thirty-seven? Why are doing this to yourself?"
We're sitting in my apartment. He swishes the booze around in his glass and takes a sip. I don't say anything. I sit with my arms folded, watching him through angry slits of eyes.
"What's the point man?" he continues. "I don't see the point of anything you're trying to do. You're totally putting the cart before the horse. You want to record your second gig with these kids? Then take them on a cross-Canada tour? What are you trying to prove? It's not going to do you any good, man. You're just going to burn money and make a fool out of yourself doing it."
He waves his arm, gesturing to my small, dirty apartment. "I mean, look at this place. You've got to get your life together. No shit, no word of a lie, you'd be better off getting a job in a shoe store or Seven Eleven or something like that than trying to make it like this. At least then you'd be getting five or six hundred bucks a week. You know you're not going to get any money on tour. You're going to waste money, and it's pretty clear you don't have much of it to throw around.
"This is all about Sheila, isn't it?" He looks at me, waiting for me to respond, but I just sit, waiting for him to get on with his rambling assault on my life and schemes. He shakes his head. "I'm serious, Terry. I know it sounds shitty, but this really is pretty transparent. You and Sheila split up, and you revert to this spoiled kid, who just wants to walk at the door and become a star or something. It's like you want to turn your life around so you have something to shove in her face, like 'Hey Sheila, look at me, I'm a big star now, and you were the one holding me back! Aren't you stupid for dumping me? I'm Terry Wilson. I'm the singer for The Clutch Dogs!' Man, you're clutching at straws."
I light a cigarette, but I still don't say anything.
Bobby takes a deep breath and slows down a bit. "Okay, look man, I'm sorry," he says. "I don't mean to just shit on everything. But you've got to give this whole thing some more thought. You guys aren't ready. You aren't ready to go on a big tour like this. You've got to spend some time gigging, getting your act really tight and building up some kind of name. You're going to go on this tour and nobody's going to know who the hell you are. Worse yet, you're the opening act for a bunch of nobodies. Do you think anyone outside of a couple of bars in Toronto knows who Machine Within a Machine is?"
He shakes his head. "I think you were better off before, when you were just playing in the cover bands, man. At least then you were getting paid. I know it was nothing big, but you were getting some income off it. I'm surprised you're not starving right now.
"The worst thing is," he continues, "is I feel like I encouraged you by going on tour with you last time. I was just doing it for a goof, you know? I thought it would be a laugh. Have a good time, relive the old days a bit. I didn't think you were really going to keep at this like you are now." He takes another drink and looks at me. "Jesus, Terry. Aren't you going to say anything?"
I shrug and take a drag on the cigarette. "I don't know, Bobby," I say, exhaling the smoke. "I can't disagree with anything you've said. You're right. You're the one who knows all about making it big. You've made it so big you can afford the luxury of sitting in your big house that's paid for, playing rock and roll when you feel like it. You can sit and write stories about space-men and monsters and shit and pretend to take yourself seriously."
I look around my little apartment "What about me? You're right, I'm in my thirties and I'm still living out the adolescent fantasy of being a star in a rock band. And yeah, I am going to take a couple of young guys on the road across the country. You're right, nobody will know who we are, and you're right, we probably won't make any money. And maybe I could make better cash working in a shoe store. But do you know what? I don't want to work in a shoe store. I want to play in a band. And I'm going to do it, even if I end up falling flat on my face, completely broke. A couple of months from now I might be banging on your door asking to sleep in your heated garage. How will you like that?
"But I'm doing it anyway, Bobby. I guess it was foolish to invite you over here to ask for your help or your advice. Maybe I'd be better off without you, trying to do this on my own. You don't seem to be very interested in helping me out, except to tell me my head's up my ass. Well, it smells better up my own ass than it does in the real world, so I'm just gonna keep my head up there."
Bobby nods, looking humble from my speech. "You do what you have to do," he says. "I'll help you if I can, just tell me what you need. I just don't want to see you any worse off than you are now. Seriously Terry, you've got to think like a grown up. If you keep going the way you're going, what's going to happen? Are you going to lose your apartment because you can't make rent? Are you going to end up in the street? You should think about that, man. If you're doing this to try and show up Sheila, think about how it'll look if you end up in rags."
Two and a half weeks later, Mark, Jason, Bobby and I are at The Strathmore. We're scheduled to be the second band. Another group of relative unknowns (to me anyway) are opening, then The Clutch Dogs, then some locals heavyweights called Fledgling. I arranged it with the bar to have Leo, my friend from the guitar store run the sound board for us instead of their own guy. Leo sets it up to record us. It all looks set.
Jason, Mark and I are wired tight. We rehearsed the hell out of our set and got as solid as we could. We got what we thought was a great set ready, including our new songs: the song of Jason's for him and me to sing together, as well as the one that I would play on guitar with Jason playing bass. We feel ready for it. After Jason had a couple more practices on the bass he really picked it up and got tight on it fast. He can only play the one song, but he can play it well.
Jason and I were also all over each other and all over Mark about staying as clean as we could. No drinking before the show, and we picked up Mark early in the afternoon so we could keep him from smoking half a bushel of weed like he did at our first show.
The other thing I did was call up everyone I know, whether I liked them or not, and asked them to come down to the show. Since we were recording it, I wanted a good crowd that was on our side. I even called a lot of the people that I hung around with when Sheila and I were together.
Bobby, who didn't know Mark at all, let the Scottish kid use a spare drum kit that he had at home. I honestly don't know how much money Bobby made when he was with Tremors of Intent for all those years, but I guess he's got enough money that he has a couple complete drum kits. I guess he's doing pretty well for himself, anyway.
The four of us are sitting in the long, narrow front area of the bar, which is more like a restaurant. In the big back room the openers are playing, and people are drifting in that we know. Mark's girlfriend, the redhead named Sarah arrives with a bunch of his other friends, plus his druggie friends from the flophouse where he lives. A bunch of Jason's buddies show up. I figure his mom is bound to put in an appearance as well.
Bobby and I stay at the table while Jason and Mark socialize with their cronies. We managed to put our spat behind us, like we always do sooner or later, and he's being very supportive. He hasn't heard us play, but he picks up on my positive vibe and figures everything will go well. I'm laughing and having a good time until some of my own 'friends' start to show up.
The first to arrive is Beth, a girl that Sheila used to dance with. It wouldn't take a genius to peg her as a stripper, or a former stripper at least. She's tall and statuesque, with long brown hair, a perfect face and big boobies (fake-looking, but in a good way). When she sees me she comes up and gives me a big hug.
"How have you been Terry?"
"Good," I tell her. "I've been real busy, you know, trying to get this band together for the last while."
"That's great," she says. "So, have you talked to Sheila lately?"
"No, not really. I talked to her on the phone a few weeks ago, but it's usually just business when we talk, you know what I mean? Just trying to settle things." I have to be careful what comes out of my mouth, since I figure everything I say will go straight back to Sheila.
"Did she tell you she's dancing again?" Beth asks.
"No, but I figured she would be. She said as much at some point, I think."
Beth nods. "Yeah, she's dancing at The Bronze Room. I guess she's doing some other stuff too, but I'm not sure if I'm supposed to talk about."
"Okay, well, don't talk about it then."
She laughs, and after some other empty chit-chat, she gets up to get a drink. It's only a few minutes before another 'dear old friend' shows up at my table. This time it's a sleazy fucker named Billy. I never liked Billy, but I called him and invited him out anyway, because I figured I needed to fill the room with bodies. I wouldn't mind it if Billy was a dead body though.
"Hey, Terry you old bastard, what's happening?"
I make pleasantries, but it takes the guy no time at all to start spreading the shit about Sheila again, just like Beth.
"Hey, did you hear Sheila's doing some movies now?" he says. "She's doing like, internet videos. You know, porn stuff."
"What?" I look at the guy like I want to wrap my hands around his throat for telling me this, but he keeps talking anyway.
"Yeah, I guess there's a demand for hot women around her age for like, MILF videos and stuff like that. I guess she's just doing it all too, like hardcore and everything. I downloaded some of them, just because I couldn't believe it, but there she was, you know, just getting nailed all over the place by these?"
I get up so fast I almost knock the table over. "Billy, what the fuck are you telling me this shit for? Do you think I want to hear this shit? Jesus Christ, I've got to play a show in half and hour and you're telling me this shit?"
He backs up. "Whoa, Terry man, I figured you'd want to know! You know, if my wife was doing all that stuff, I'd want to know about it."
"What the fuck are you thinking, you asshole? She's not my fucking wife anymore! And if I hear you say one more goddamn word?"
"Hey, calm down man. If she's not your wife anymore, why get upset about it? Shit man, you should check it out, anyway. She's really doing some heavy stuff man, and it's pretty hot."
I reach to grab the front of his shirt but Bobby grabs me and holds me back. "Come on man, let it go," he says to me. "Let's go outside for a few minutes." He almost has to pick me up to move me, but he gets me to the door. I keep staring back at Billy, who acts really nonchalant, like he can't figure out why I'm mad.
"I swear to got that I'm going to jam a broken bottle in that prick's face before the night is over," I tell Bobby.
"Forget it man," Bobby says. "This is your life now. You're not with Sheila, anyway. You'll have to deal with this stuff, so just start dealing. Don't let that idiot ruin your show. Just think about the show."
I light a cigarette. My hands are shaking I'm so pissed off.
"Just remember," Bobby says to me. "People will tell you what Sheila is doing. But when they tell her what you're doing, make sure they tell her you're in a great fucking rock and roll band. That's what you have to focus on right now. Playing great rock and roll."
I nod. "Yeah. Thanks Bobby." I take a deep breath. "We're gonna blow the roof of this fucking place."
2006 Nolan Whyte