He unlocked the car, a twelve-year-old Nova in babyshit green, and stowed his guitar in the back seat. The vintage V8 roared into life as he turned the key, without depressing the gas pedal. He placed the cassette of the new song on the passenger seat with his cigarettes and turned on the radio. Phil Collins was singing the title tune to a movie and he didn’t care for that tune, so he hit the preset for WGN and listened to the end of the Cubs game as he drove.
“That’ll work,” he said. “Maybe I’ll get lucky and the game will take a while. I don’t hear Harry so it must be the seventh or eighth inning.”
Turning onto 171, he negotiated the onramp to I-55 and headed toward the lake. Traffic wasn’t bad at all on his side-the other side was jampacked with people trying to head west. He was able to do at least the speed limit all the way to his exit. Taking the back way, he turned just past the Dan Ryan exit and drove down Clark past Roosevelt, took a right there and got onto lower Wacker Drive. That way he was able to avoid the early evening traffic on Lake Shore Drive. A complicated series of turns brought him to the Belmont exit from the Drive, and he headed west a few blocks.
The rehearsal space was in a warehouse on Belmont, with a private parking lot. He turned into the fenced-in lot, thanking his lucky stars that the game had run long and he was able to avoid postgame traffic.
He pulled in next to John’s AMC Hornet and parked, pulling his guitar out of the back.
Using his key, he went in through the back door and rode the freight elevator to the third floor, which was where the jam room was. The band owned the building, and rented out the other five floors to businesses.
The lights were out again in the foyer. He put down the guitar and unlocked the storage room, getting bulbs. The other band members were not very good about things like that. He could tell by the noise that at least two of them were already there. John, obviously, since he had seen his car, and could hear his bass rumbling, and Dan, since he could hear the thwack of his drums. They were playing the rhythm parts for an old Deep Purple tune, warming up.
With the lights replaced, Roger moved down the hall, taking a right at the water cooler and entering the rehearsal room. He made a left turn toward the replay equipment, inserted his cassette in the machine, and waved to John, who was looking curiously at him from under his mop of black curls. John turned down his Fender and set it on the stand. Dan kept playing, experimentally alternating the high hat and the ride cymbal.
Roger walked over to the riser, set his guitar case down, went back to the cassette player. John joined him there.
“Hey Roger,” he said. “Whatcha got there?” He shook a cigarette out of the pack in his front shirt pocket, lit it, and ducked his head away from the smoke.
“Evenin’, John. Got a new tune for us, just finished it. I think you’ll like this one.” Roger lit up a smoke as well and went over to adjust the equalizer. The double cassette deck was part of a new Fisher modular system that the band had chipped in on after hearing Roger’s home system, which was the same. Top of the line sound, top of the line price, but worth it. The band didn’t care much for reel-to-reel tape, which had a tendency to unspool at the worst possible moment, and had embraced the cassette revolution wholeheartedly. Roger thumbed the mic-live button on the mixer. “Hey Dan!” He shouted over the din of the drums. “Come on over here!” His voice echoed in the sudden silence. He shut off the reverb.
Dan climbed down from the drum stool and jumped heavily off the riser-he was a big guy and clumsy unless he was behind his kit.
“Hey Roger,” he said. “What’s up?” He went to the fridge and got a couple of beers, handing them around. “Dave and Paul should be here in a few minutes. I saw them at the coffee shop on the way over.”
Dan, Dave and Paul all lived near the rehearsal space, there in Wrigleyville.
The sound of the elevator coming up alerted them all to the fact that those worthies were indeed arriving. Roger took a pull off of his Old Style. “I have a new tune,” he informed Dan. “Just finished it.”
Dan nodded, his moustache bobbing. “Good deal. We need some new stuff. I think Paul has one too. Or at least most of one.”
The other two band members entered. Dave was a tall skinny drink of water with red hair, wearing a checked flannel shirt and carrying his Ibanez in his left hand, a gigantic paper cup of coffee in his right. Paul was an athletic type with shoulder-length blond curls in a jean jacket and jeans, his leisure suit. He too had a giant coffee cup.
In the middle of the room was a conversation-pit style living room set that they had scavenged from somewhere. John went over to that area and sat down, putting his worn Converses up on the coffee table. “Play it,” he said.
Everyone else trooped over as Roger cued up the tape. After a couple of listens, Dave and Roger grabbed their acoustic guitars and started working out their parts. Roger gave Paul a sheet of paper with the lyrics on it and he sang along. Dan rapped out the drum parts on the table with his hands, and John grabbed his bass and played along. A half hour later, the band went up on the riser and started working on the track, playing it over and over, smoothing out the rough spots, working out the solos and harmonies. By ten, they had recorded a rough version, and jammed for a bit on some blues before calling it a night.
Roger and Dave were the only members that didn’t have day jobs, and they headed out for a drink. The others went home after agreeing to meet again two days later, on Friday, when they could spend more time playing. The following weekend, they had a show, and thought it would be a good idea to debut the new piece then.
“Better lock the place up good,” Dave said, mindful of leaving his prized guitar behind.
“Don’t we always?” Asked Roger, locking the three bolts. “That’s our lives in there. Let’s go somewhere close. I don’t feel like driving.”
Dave grunted in answer and they took the stairs down, exiting through the front door and locking it behind them. The others would lock the back, the separate exits being a custom they had long held to keep the building secure.
There was a little bar and grill down the block, and they made their way there. A meal and some beers later, they were back on the street. Roger decided to stay the night at Dave’s rather than drive home in that condition, and they tottered down to Clark and made their way up to his apartment, where they had a couple more beers and played some old songs on Dave’s acoustic guitars before Roger passed out on the couch.
The next morning, they went out for breakfast…there was a Greek diner just down the street from Wrigley that had the best skirt steak in the universe and coffee to match. Dave opined over their eggs that they should catch the game later, as the Cubs had a new left-fielder and center-fielder that he hadn’t yet seen play in Cubbie blue.
Roger agreed, and they hoofed it over to the ticket office, getting right-field bleacher seats so they could sit in the sun. It was a warm day by Chicago April standards.
They passed the time before the game by wandering in and out of the many shops there, taking the most time in the pawnshops where one could sometimes find bargain gear. Not this time, though.
A quick beer at the Cubby Bear and it was gametime.
The bleacher creatures were in full force on this spring afternoon. Guys were getting loaded and heckling the right fielder, who had been a catcher the year before. He was able to catch any ball he could get to, and had a cannon of an arm, but was slow afoot as catchers were. Since the center fielder was fleet and had good range, the right fielder stayed closer to the wall, letting the other man cover a good deal of right center.
Dave enjoyed the fact that the right fielder had red hair like his, and the man’s responses to the peanut gallery. He was as quick-witted as he was tardy on his dogs. Roger enjoyed the three hits including a home run, and especially enjoyed the young second baseman beating the Pirates with a walk-off homer. He also enjoyed the gait of the third baseman, whose legs seemed too short for his body and caused him to waddle.
After the game, they had a little of the good smoke back at Dave’s condo, and Roger drove home feeling good.