fastlane.

Eventually we started to calculate what a “safe” date to have the baby would be.  Sandy was going insane, cooped up in bed all day, and it was tough to blame her.  When July gave way to August the only thing that changed was the calendar; it was still miserably hot, and the heat rose to the second floor of our apartment, overwhelming the tiny air conditioner we had in the window.  It was, to say the least, uncomfortable.

Eventually I started coming home from work and noticing a few more boxes were packed than when I left that morning; Sandy was clearly getting out of bed and coming downstairs.  At first I’d yell, thinking that the yelling would actually convince her to stay in bed.  But one Saturday afternoon, I was in the living room watching the Yankees, when I saw Sandy’s feet at the top of the stairs.

She stood there for a minute, and then started walking downstairs.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Fuck it.  I can’t stand it anymore.  I’m not staying in bed – it’s close enough to the due date.  If I have the baby, I have the baby.  I want to have the baby.  I want to do jumping jacks.  I want to go run a mile.  Whatever it takes to get this baby out of me.  I’m done.”

It was tough to argue with that.  So we did what any other married couple would do, were they in our position.

We went to see cuppa joe at the Fastlane.

The Fastlane was a big club in Asbury Park.  They booked two different types of bands there: national acts that would draw hundreds of paying customers, and local acts that would generate some income inbetween the national acts.  Eventually, every local band played the Fastlane, and it was cuppa joe’s turn.

I was scared shitless that night, worrying that Sandy would go into labor and have the baby right there on the floor of the club.  Asbury Park was a good hour and a half away from our apartment, and our apartment was twenty minutes from the hospital we had chosen, so if she went into labor, I was going to have a long drive in our little car.

Plus I was worried that loud music and cigarette smoke would hurt the baby.  And what if I got into a fight?  I’d never gotten into a fight in a club before, but what if this was the night?  What if Sandy got caught in a mosh pit?  It didn’t matter that this was cuppa joe, and the crowd was more likely to spontaneously cuddle than they were to start slamdancing – I was worried about it anyway.  And what if we got carjacked in the shithole that was Asbury Park in 1995?  Then what? 

But we got our acts together and drove down the shore, hoping that we’d have a good time.

On the way down, Sandy looked at me and asked “Do you think people are going to judge me, being a pregnant lady in a club?”

“Not if you’re not guzzling beers and smoking cigarettes,” I said.  “I think people will think it’s cool.  Plus, we’re never going to see most of these people again anyway – who cares what they think?”

That’s always been my mantra when it came time to do something stupid in a place far away from home:  It doesn’t matter – I’m never going to see any of these people again.

The first thing I noticed when we walked into the club: it was cool.  Not “cool” in the figurative, hip sense, but cool, in the “not too hot to breathe” sense.  Really cool.  Unbelievably comfortable and absolutely wonderful to just stand still in one place, letting the cold air wash over us.  We found an empty space in the club and just stood there.  It would have been fine if there was no band playing, it was so cool in that club.  We would have paid a cover charge just to stand there.

Eventually I went to the bar and ordered a beer for me and a water for Sandy.  And we stood there, feeling totally out of place.

I don’t think the guys in cuppa joe expected to see us at the show, and I don’t remember how they handled the issue of Rick being at the club and still being underage.  What I do remember was that the band was great that night.  The sound system was fantastic, and the band was tight.  The sound was mixed perfectly, and the band blew through their set, including staples like “bottlerocket” and “swinging on your gate” while mixing in new songs I hadn’t heard (but probably owned, on one of doug’s many four-track cassettes).

A few times during their set, Sandy and I just looked at each other and smiled.  It had been a while since I’d felt that sort of pride that you feel when a band you’ve worked so hard with gets up and just kills onstage, and it was a pleasure to feel like we were a part of indie rock again.  

The band’s new music was great.  Doug’s songwriting had really taken yet another step or two forward, and I think the band was really starting to master this process whereby doug would present them with the demo and then the band would work on a fresh arrangement.  It was as if there were two different versions of each song, and the band’s ability to morph these home-made, personal pieces of music into songs that sounded as if the band had written it together was really beginning to grow.

We had a great time at the show, and Sandy didn’t give birth on the floor of the club.  We made it all the way home without any events, talking the whole time about how much fun we’d had.

The band was outstanding, but I think Sandy had the most fun, finally being able to go somewhere and stand upright.

After that, all bets were off.  I found Sandy standing on chairs, pulling curtain rods off the wall.  I found her pulling things off the top shelves in our closets.  I found her carrying boxes down the stairs.  

The doctor told her to knock it off, but she basically told the doctor to fuck herself; she was ready.

I was not.

~ by Al on September 5, 2009.

5 Responses to “fastlane.”

  1. Wow, I’m totally embarrassed to say it, but I don’t remember you guys there at all. Sorry – that’s especially bad considering the pregnancy situation.

    My memory of that night is different – I don’t remember how well we played, but I was pissed: we got there hours early, but they wouldn’t let us soundcheck until the “headliner”, The Barleycorns, showed up. That band was hours late, and we never got to do a sound check – the sound guy was smoking a joint on the front stoop when I went out to get him, and he said we didn’t need to worry about it – “Your first song will be your sound check.” Nice, after getting there so extra early.

    I think Rick was 16 at that point, which means you can sign some document that basically says, “I’m under age, but I’m here as a hired performer.” I think he was 15 (maybe) at the Stevie G’s show where he had to play outside, and because he was under 16 then (some kind of minimum age for the performer sign-up sheet, I think) he couldn’t even do that. But he was legit at The Fastlane.

    Also, the venue told us, “You gotta buy tickets and everyone who you bring – you buddy carrying your guitar case, your girlfriend – everybody’s gotta have a ticket.” We bought something like 30 tickets and had to resell them, and of course we fell short. But the kicker was, we were all sitting in the bleachers before we went on (waiting for that sound check) and the bouncer came around to collect tickets. He took them from the girls who were with us, then he came up to me and asked for my ticket. “Oh, I’m in one of the bands, “I said. He didn’t budge – “We told you on the phone – EVERYBODY’s gotta have a ticket!” Yes, they weren’t kidding – the band actually had to pay to perform that night. I hate that fucking place. I hope they’re closed now – I think they are.

    When the last song ended, I spun my mic back – too far. It went into the stack of speakers and created the loudest feedback I’ve ever heard. I saw the wasted sound guy jump – I think he thought I did it on purpose. I didn’t, but I was happy. That move may have lead to what happened next though…

    This also contributes to the hatred: when we were leaving, someone threw an M-80 at us from across the street. My memory is a blur, but this was during our load-out, and I think someone called us over from the side door (where our cars were) to the front, just in time for the bomb to fly. It was shocking, I think the employees standing around laughed and said something about the kids in town doing that all the time. It was only the next day that Doug realized someone (probably a club employee) had stolen one of his guitars. This is also why it seemed planned out – the timing was just too perfect. Plus, our music never really seemed to inspire us being assaulted by fireworks – even in Asbury Park.

    This may give you a new view of that show. I laughed at the spontaneous cuddling line, by the way.

    Anyway, thanks for coming to our show! I’m glad we were good, because it was a nasty experience I’m sure I’ll never forget.

  2. Fastlane sucked big time. The scary crack-lady with the trench coat did too. “You boys like to party?” ha ha ha She actually came up in conversation this weekend. Ralph & I passed on her offer. Rico, the jury is still out.

  3. And with that, we have broken a record today for most views in a day on this blog.

  4. Well, it was a holiday.

    It looks like my first comment is nearly as long as your post. Glad to see others didn’t like that place either (though I don’t remember the crack lady). That place really gets me riled up when I think about it. We did a lot of smaller shows after that, in firehouses or other places that Doug would set up – probably not an accident.

  5. I do remember you guys being there. You sat way up in the corner on stage left.

    To this day, I still have residual guilt about being in possession of Rick’s guitar when it got jacked. The parking situation was lousy there, and we had to basically haul our gear across the parking lot because we couldn’t get near the door. That was the beginning of a rather bad week for me, all around, I recall, only to be redeemed later by a fractals conference I attended the following week.

    What playing the Fastlane did for me was to decide that, no, it was not okay to play anyplace that would book you. The past four years, playing in various bands, eventually hooking up with Steve and Diz and Rick, we were desperate to not play in a basement or attic, and essentially suffer any indignity as long as we were playing out somewhere. This was the end of that, and the Springsteeny sheen was off good old Asbury Park once and for all (but not the afterglow of playing with Crowded House a few blocks away in 1991!)

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