write.

Rich and I were sitting in my basement one day, just talking about things, sort of wistfully, recalling some of the things that had happened over the years, from Death Train Motor Man to Dromedary Records, to Indier Than Thou!, To Razortone.  He was undergoing his treatments and didn’t have much time to move forward with anything Razortone-related; it was sort of unspoken between us that the whole thing would be put on hold until his treatments were done and he was able to get his shit together.  It was tough for him to go through the treatments and still work, but it was necessary, and so he dealt with it as well as could be expected.

While we were talking, though, we both remarked about how funny – or how odd – it was that so many of the things that had aggravated us while we were in the middle of it no longer seemed to matter much.  The things that were lasting in our memories were the funny stories – stuff like Officer Friendly, or the day Rich stole our first package, or the release party for Elizabeth.

“Man, there are some great stories,” I said.

He got serious.  “Do you think you’re ever going to revive Dromedary?”

That was a touchy subject for me.  My shitty dayjob had somehow evolved into a pretty fulfilling career.  I had a house and a family.  Dromedary took a lot of time.

At the same time, every issue of Magnet that I received in the mail seemed to have one or two fewer bands or labels that I knew inside it, and every column I wrote for Jersey Beat began to feel more and more forced.  I hated the idea that somehow I was outgrowing indie rock.

“I don’t know,” I finally responded.  “I’d like to think so.”

“At the very least, you’ve got to write this shit down,” he said.  “This is a story that’s worth telling, and I’ll bet that there are people who would read it.”

That had never occurred to me.  But he was right.  All those stories weren’t funny or interesting because they happened to us; they were funny or interesting because they just were.

Rich spent a lot of time working on his music.  He had picked up some digital recording equipment, and some effects units, and one day at my house he produced a catalog and pointed to a few black boxes.

“You need to get this, and this, and this,” he said.

“What the hell for?” I asked.

“Because I need help recording.  I can’t play keyboards as well as you.”

“I don’t play much anymore,” I said.  “I think the last time I played anything was at your wedding.”

“Well, you’re going to start again.  You’re getting too complacent.  You’re forgetting about what you love.”

So I made plans to do it.  It was a few hundred dollars, the equipment he wanted me to get, and I just couldn’t justify the expense.  So eventually, he bought it for me.  And then he said he would send me some digital files.

We spent a lot of time just sitting around in 2000.  Our house had a three-season porch that was a nice room to sit in; Sandy and I had installed a nice Pergo floor and outfitted the room with a space heater, so it was a fun place to be.  While he was undergoing his treatments, he had actually put on a bunch of weight, and that made him lethargic.  He had lost much of his desire to hang out and party – something he never did much of anyway – so we would just sit around and chat about current events, politics, music.

“Do you think Frank knows I’m sick?” he asked me one night.

“How could he?” I asked in return.  We hadn’t spoken with Frank in five years; the last time I’d seen or heard from him was at Brad’s wedding party back in the summer of 1995, before Ryan was born.

“Would you find him and tell him?” he asked.

So I tried.  I stalked him online and got a few email addresses for him, and sent him a couple of emails.  At first they were “Hey, how are you?” emails, but they didn’t get a response.  I didn’t know, at this point, if he was pissed at me and ignoring my emails, or if I was just using bad, old email addresses.

Eventually Rich found a phone number, and with that, got an address.  One night, he drove past his house.  “It was definitely his house,” he told me.  “There were motorcycles everywhere.”

We thought that was funny, but Rich also realized that if the house was the right house, then the phone number must be right, too.  So one night, on my porch, we called him.

The phone rang and rang.  Nobody ever picked up.  We decided to let it ring 50 times.

“What kind of techie guy doesn’t have a fucking answering machine?” Rich asked.

We could imagine Frank, sitting in his room at 2AM, staring at the phone, waiting for whoever was calling to finally give up and hang up the damn phone.  Frank always had an iron will.  He never picked up.  We did it two or three more times, on other days, and still – he never picked up the phone.  On our end, though, we laughed.

That whole year was sort of a bittersweet fog for me.  Family-wise and career-wise, things for us were moving forward quite nicely.  The kids were getting older and reaching their milestones, progressing incredibly in the way that amazes you when you’re a parent and everything is so new.  I received a few promotions at work and eventually became the Director of Marketing, thanks to an incredible boss – the first incredible boss (and the only incredible boss) I ever had.  He mentored me and tutored me, helped me turn into a strong manager with a knowledge of both marketing and finance, and over the years those things became important to me.

He also recognized how much my fear of flying had cut into my ability to enjoy my career, and eventually agreed: I would no longer have to fly.  If there was a trip necessary on the east coast, I could travel by car, or by first class rail.  If it was on the west coast, he would go in my place.  That was an unbelievably cool thing for him to do, and in addition to dramatically reducing my stress level, it also enabled me to see parts of the country that most people never see – the parts that are sliced in half by ages-old rail lines, or broken-down highways.  I developed an appreciation for truckstop culture that persists to this day, and rekindled my desire to drive cross-country someday.

And, of course, my salary continued to increase to the point where I was actually earning what I would call decent money.  We made some major renovations on our house and began socking money away into savings, hoping to build the stash of “fuck you money” that I promised myself I’d have one day, so I’d never have to go through a work situation like I had at my previous job.

At the same time, the sting of my previous job, and the enormous blows it rained down on my self-confidence, had virtually disappeared, to the point where the events that happened there were nothing more than anecdotes that I could drag out whenever I needed to tell a coworker “You think you have it bad?  Well, listen to this story.”

One by one, the Razortone bands stopped reaching out to see what was happening, and I gradually stopped participating in all the indie rock mailing lists and message boards to which I belonged.  Slowly but surely, all the indie folks disappeared from my life.  And as much as I missed it, there were plenty of other things to occupy my time.

At the same time, there was always this nagging element of seriousness following me around, in the knowledge that my best friend was undergoing some pretty serious medical treatments to get rid of the same disease that had taken his mother at such a young age.

I didn’t realize how much his illness had impacted me until the day he called me to tell me he’d gotten the “all clear” from his doctors.  I answered the phone that time, and listened to him as he told me that there was no sign of cancer, and that he had received a clean bill of health.

After he was done telling me the fantastic news, I handed the phone to Sandy so that he could tell her.  And then I broke down and cried, and it felt like I was a thousand pounds lighter; a thousand pounds of weight I didn’t even know I was carrying.

~ by Al on December 8, 2009.

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