What a difference 24 hours can make....slippin' in and out of different worlds at breakneck speed.
There is no such thing as different realities, I think. I've got enough philosophy behind me to argue the point, after a bit of a warm up. Reality is what it is. It is the same for all of us. I think that what is commonly referred to as a difference in realities, is actually the difference in how we choose to conduct ourselves within that reality. There are so many things to do.
I stood on the corner at Peachtree Rd. at the Swissotel (don't ever stay there if you value things like phone messages or wake-up calls) yesterday afternoon at about 4:20 pm. We'd just ridden in from Philadelphia, and I was ready to be home...even if for only 12 -16 hours.
I was going to celebrate the second birthday of my twin nieces, Emily and Hillary. I brought them stuffed Dalmatians from the Disney store at Lenox.
This was exactly the sort of thing that I needed to get me into a home groove. Normally, after a bus trip home, the easiest thing for me to do is to fall down. I can sleep for a long time after coming home from a last gig. However, I didn't want to get into that. I couldn't: I had things I wanted to do with my time home.
As soon as Bryan's car came into sight, I looked for the child seats in the back. I saw them almost a half-block away, and I couldn't wait to get a hug from those little arms...to see how much further they'd reach around my neck, and much tighter they'd squeeze me since the last time I was home. As they pulled up, I could see that I wouldn't get what I wanted: they were each nodded out in their seats. I mean, they were out cold. They didn't flinch when I threw my stuff in the trunk, and I didn't feel like waking them up. I know what it's like when somebody wakes me up from a nap, prematurely.
It was good to see Bryan, though. He's been out with Barbara Mandrell, which has turned into a real tour this year instead of the Nashville trademark "weekend warrior" drag of playing 60-75 shows over the whole year; 2-3 shows on weekends with liberal breaks thrown in 2 or 3 times a year. Now, they're doing 5 and 6 weeks straight, with 4-7 days off...through the end of the year. The last quarter has been wild, after a scary first two. Bryan has been out more than I have, but we've only spent about a week (total) in each others' company in the past 3 months.
It had been a while since I'd seen my younger brother, who had since attended the birth of his first son. This event had occurred during a surprise 4-day break, which he had come home for, unannounced. He got home one day. Ethan Joseph Beck was born the next.
Jill (Ethan's mother) had called me in Charlotte. I had only called home once since my departure for L.A. However, Ethan wasn't due until the 21st. Well, he surprised Jill as much as Bryan did, and I didn't know what was going on until Jill tracked me down 3 days later.
Things have been going real fast lately.
Yesterday, though, I was on my way home to meet this kid.
As Bryan and I rode home, we talked shop inevitably and briskly. We compared rigs and crews and itineraries and venues. I love talking gear with Bryan. He has a sharp mind for his business and we see things the same sort of way.
This effect has been called "the Beck Thing" for several years now among R.A. Roth crews. It was a bit disdainful at first. After all, this is a proud bunch of people, with a lot of history behind them. We were new guys to them. It wasn't long, though, before the appellation of "a Beck thing" wasn't so derisive. Hardware hacks and road chops bore us out. Bryan and I sort of grew up together in clubs. One's style becomes initialized in clubs. Ours is natural to us, and different from most of the people we work with. Now, however, if someone works up a piece of hardware with a particular look and function to it or, perhaps, a cleanly wired piece of electronics, etc., it is sometimes said to look like "a Beck thing". It is almost like a badge.
Bryan and I run down the Beck Thing often, when we first get together. It's a wonderful thing to me.
We unloaded the kids in the driveway...little waffleheads waking up with stoopid hair. They rubbed and blinked their eyes at me, and smiled tired, angelic smiles. Mommy and Daddy whisked them straight upstairs for a bath before dressing for the party. I tossed my bags and went downstairs to take a rag to the Harley. What a cool thing, to be home.
By 6:15, the place was jammed with friends and their kids: half a dozen of 'em, under 5 years old. It thrilled me to watch the kids run around, and to cruise among the adults, collecting handshakes and hugs. We sat the girls down in front of a terribly indulgent pile of presents which delighted them endlessly, starting with my Dalmatians. The laughter in that room, young and old alike, was worth any journey to enjoy.
At odd moments, I drifted down to the garage to tweak the Harley. I tensioned and lubed the chain and put the dual seat on the back. I didn't change the oil. Oh well, another 100 or so miles on a 3500 mile change was within limits.
I was really enjoying myself, but I was watching the clock, too. Still on tour, I was keenly aware of every passing minute, and figuring what best to spend it on. At about 8:30, I was ready to blast off. I'd promised Tina, the wardrobe girl on the tour, a ride.
I left the house and cruised my normal route into town; down Scott Blvd. and East Ponce to Peachtree St., then up to Buckhead. It was very relaxing to be on the bike and loping easily through my home town.
When I got to the hotel, Tina was pacing in the lobby, ready to go. She jumped on the back, and we went to R. Thomas Cafe for dinner. We had a nice conversation about children. I took her back to the hotel and dropped her off before turning for home. She really enjoyed herself, and I was happy to have been able to make her evening off in Atlanta a bit special. We'd been talking about a ride on the bike ever since L.A.
I got home and did some laundry, played my guitar, and generally relaxed around the house.
Ethan was parked on the couch in his little carrier, fast asleep. I watched him. The kid is authentic Beck, first male of his generation. The name goes on, and we are all very proud of him. It is an amazing thing to consider; the future of a newborn child. I looked at him with a very vivid sensation of looking at the future in human form. I'd felt this when the twins were born, and it doesn't get old with repetition.
Even though he really isn't mine, I felt like I had even more to come home to than ever before.
I awoke at 7:00 am this morning, for an 8:00 am call at the Fox. I planned to ride the Sportster downtown. I would send my bags, which I'd repacked, down to the theater on a Roth truck which was bringing us some extra gear in the afternoon. I would sling my computer bag over my shoulder. After a quick shower and a brief tussle with the twins, I left the house, looking forward to a good day.
Traffic was heavy but not unbearable on the way down Rt. 78 to Scott Blvd. As I neared town I checked my time, and figured I was just going to make it.
It was just as I neared the city limits that the clutch cable snapped.
I couldn't believe it. Immediately, implications whacked me in the head like a stiff drink: operating a motorcycle in morning rush hour traffic without a clutch? No way.
I pulled over and looked at it. I could see that the cable had severed itself from the little button which held it in the lever on the left hand grip. There was about 1/2 an inch of the cable sticking out of the jacket, and there was not the slightest hope that I could re-attach it. I sat there looking at it, figuring.
That lever delivers a surprising amount of torque in foot-pounds in order to pull that cable. There really is no way to operate that clutch without it. I took the only device I had with me (channel-lock pliers) and tried to get a grip on the end of the cable. No joy in Mudville.
Finally, with time running out, I decided to simply carry on...without stopping. It was ten minutes after 8:00. I could imagine what was going on at the stage. Duck was in the back of the truck. Rigging cases were making their way onto the stage. Rob was probably directing the first placements, getting the motor cases in position for the uprig. Trusses would be rolling off shortly, ready to be unstacked and assembled.
I looked at the lines of traffic at the nearest stoplight. "Oh, man..."
I rolled the bike down a gentle grade and kicked it into gear, and I didn't stop until I hit the theater. I mangled untold traffic laws, always watching for the least possible disruption of life around me: my day was headed for the dumper (so far), but my desperation to recover it was no reason to wreck anybody else's day.
I made it by watching traffic signals, and taking advantage of parking lots and other off-the-street areas where I could loiter until traffic flow permitted me to head toward the theater. I finally made it at about 8:30, after taking numerous detours which had me, at one point, far out of my way 4 blocks downtown of the Fox.
I walked onto the stage to find Duck directing the assembly of two trusses at once; mine and his. I could tell he was worried about me. "You need to call Bryan and Jill," he said. "I thought you simply overslept, so I called them. They said that you were wrestling with the kids this morning before you left, and you wouldn't do that if you were running late. That was the last anybody saw of you, and we've been sort of wondering..."
Bill Reeves strolled by and said, "Good morning, Mr. Beck. So, uh, what happened?"
I explained, as I pointed out the pre-stress hardware to a stagehand. After hearing my story, he just rolled his eyes. "Welcome home, huh? I'm sure that you couldn't wait to get here and have your bike break down."
"Let this be a lesson," he said, paraphrasing from "Apocalypse Now": "Never get off of the bus."
It was a typical Fox load in. These people know R.A. Roth gear quite well, and the result is that, often, the Fox can be one of the most relaxed dates on any tour for us. The gear seems to put itself together. I had the mid-truss off the deck by 11:15, a record on this tour. Bernie had the set wall up by 1:00, and by 2:00, I had AC and data lines run out to my floor shots. I was ready to focus.
I was very happy that the day had gone so smoothly, so far. I wanted to be able to pay special attention to every detail of the show. There would be special people here tonight. Of course, this implies that there are times when I might let certain details slide, and sometimes it goes that way. I've had days on this tour when I couldn't begin to focus until 4:00 or 4:30. On a day like that, I can only hit the most focus-critical stuff, and let the rest of it take care of itself. However, today wasn't one of those days, and I intended to take full advantage of the fact.
The depth of the stage at the Fox is only 36 feet from edge to upstage wall. This is a bit cramped for us. Our show is happiest when it has at least 40 feet to play in. Our last show was Philadelphia, where the stage depth was virtually unlimited for our purposes. As a result, the I-Beam focus stored in memory was far too deep for the Fox.
I started going through it methodically, cue to cue. I was able to enjoy the luxury of turning stage work lights off, and working in comparative darkness. Duck was shooting the conventional instruments at the same time, but they weren't getting in my way.
I was about half done when Annette appeared.
It is difficult for me to render the importance of this moment without delving into years of my personal romantic history. It must suffice, here, to say that I love her deeply. She is the brightest star in my firmament, which could logically lead to the question that Duck and I kick around in more reflective moments: Is it possible for a single man to be in love with two women at once? More and more I am beginning to conclude that it is not, and this is not to say that I would have it otherwise. My own character tends to devotion. It is the agonized process of value selection (and the pain it has caused myself and others) that brings the question in this context.
When she came down the aisle of the theater, I had goose bumps. I greeted her warmly and found her a seat nearby so she could observe while I finished my work. She has always been a keen observer and interested in watching me work. She is fascinated by the process of a show's development.
It was wonderful to have her there watching while I did what I do. She has seen the L.A. series of articles concerning the rehearsal of this tour, and I was excited to have her there seeing what Duck and I have been breaking our necks to knock down. We've been doing good work on a premier project of the season. I couldn't wait to show it off.
I got my focus in the bag, and it was time to take a break. The R.A. Roth truck had arrived. However, my bags were not on it. I had taken them home in order to take care of my laundry and tweak my load a bit. I had had them taken to the shop so that the guys over there could put them on the truck for delivery at the theater. Well, they are ass-deep in the KISS prep, and my bags were forgotten.
After slamming hardware all day long, I was filthy as a dirt road, and anxious to change into something clean and neat for the show. So, we loaded the Sportster on the truck and sent it home. Then I jumped into Annette's pickup with her and drove up to Tucker. I snagged my gear from the shop, observing that I was fortunate not to be home for the KISS thing: the shop kidz were not having fun. They greeted me warmly, and it was good to see them. I didn't mention the AC jumper which had failed me in Tampa.
Annette and I zipped around the corner to my house, where I introduced her to Ethan. She chatted with Jill and played with the kids while I got squared away.
I came downstairs comfortably ready for the evening; black silk shirt, an old favorite pair of jeans, and my elkskin boots. Annette was dazzling in black, with knee-high boots. Her long brown hair held her unforgettable face in a frame which was perfectly lovely to me. No matter whatever else was going on in our lives, tonight she was with me.
I said good-byes to all. It was my last moment home for another 4 weeks or so. I held Ethan up and looked into his 2 week old eyes, thinking, "It won't be long kid...before you and I can't wait for the end of a tour so we can throw a baseball to each other. You've got some growing to do, but that's your job. Right now, I've got to go out and do mine." Emily and Hillary are getting accustomed to seeing Bryan and I come and go. They take it in stride. At the moment of my leaving, Hill had gone out to the grocery store with Dad. Emily was policing up her toys in the living room. "Bye-bye!", she waved as I headed for the door. She was back in her game before I was out the door. Which is good, I think.
We arrived at the theater at about 7:30. We parked the truck in the alley behind the theater. (Look out!)
We checked in on the stage, and got Annette squared away with a pass so security wouldn't hassle her at every move. Assured that everything was cool, we wandered out to get something to eat.
It was so important for me to have her here tonight.
I've reached a point in my life and career where I don't care to do this strictly for myself anymore. When I first started working in rock and roll lights, I didn't care about anything but my own rush. The kick that I got out of being at the lights desk was the whole kick, and nothing but the kick. Now, the moments at the desk, during the show, are very important to me. There is nothing like that feeling of being in the action, in real time. However, years of experience have taught me to appreciate the transcendental satisfaction of achievement found in building something from scratch, and then taking it out on the road. This is one of those shows. We are getting excellent reviews everywhere we play. It is a show that people will remember. We knew that before we took it out of L.A. We are proud of it.
At this point in my life, when I am this proud of something, I need to share it with someone intimately. It is a strange thing...the sort of romantic intimacy between (to me) a man and a woman. It is difficult for me to describe, this natural urge inside me, which has grown of its own accord over many years...unseen, in reclusive stages until it has reached its flowering in very recent times, manifested in the subliminal but very powerful urge to... John Hiatt said it very well in a line from one of his songs: "To know that I'm good enough for love to walk beside me."
This is what had me so very excited tonight as I stepped up to my controller and saddled up. Headset plugged to the lights net, cues booted into WordPerfect, standby's checked and locked to cue #1...I was ready to go on a Hometown Night.
Several people from the office were there. R.A. was there with his Nikon. We had a couple of rows of close friends behind us, and Annette was right beside me. Duck went through the pre-show spotlight warm-up. Soon, there was nothing to do but wait for house lights to black. Duck and I shook hands in a silent affirmation of pride and confidence in each other. R.A. might own the gear, some of the people with us might depend on us for various reason both business and personal but, at the green flag moment, it was he and I in the drivers' seats.
It was one of those nights for us. The crowd was wildly enthusiastic. The band and the Divas were sensational. And, Duck and I were never more in tune with each other.
We have reached the point where the show is in the bag now, and a natural, thoughtful evolution of its look is taking place, under our fingertips. We each know very well what the other is doing, and we both engage a conscientious effort to enhance the look of the show, honestly, with due consideration of each others' talents and skills. Thus, when Duck, in the middle of "Free Your Mind", throws his crowd-burners for accent on a particular snare drum shot during the chorus in time with my I-Beam splash in the house, I have to cheer over the headset. Dino is gone. Bill is far too busy to do much more than watch occasionally. This show is ours; we have been entrusted with it, and are carefully conservative of that trust.
Sometimes, I would glance at Annette, and note the look of wonder on her face. I've been looking at this thing for several weeks now, and it can be easy to lose perspective; "How good is it?" However, there can be no doubt when I see the eyes of someone like her (she knows what she's looking at) and see the...magic, reflected in them.
I couldn't help it: at that moment, I loved her more than ever. She understands, up and down, in and out, what I'm doing. Her ability to see is a large part of why I love her.
When the show ended, Duck and I took our headsets off and looked at each other with a feeling of deep satisfaction. This was the best show of the tour, so far. It happened in front of the home fans. R.A. was later quoted as saying that it looked so good that he could barely focus his camera to shoot it; he was that excited. I'd have to run down his resume here in order to convey the importance of that remark. The office girls were gushing. Our friends were very warm in their praise of our efforts. Annette and Duck's lady, Anna, hung close to us: they've seen this film before, and they knew what was coming.
The first thing to do was to find a quiet place where we could relax and gather our thoughts. There is a period of decompression required after every show. Directing a show is a very demanding piece of real-time management of events. The challenges run from second to second without letup. Even only 90 minutes of this sort of thing can be very exhausting, and there is no question of simply strolling onto the stage and unplugging dimmer racks.
I took Annette by the hand and headed for the bus.
On our way out the stage door, I looked out into the alley. Her truck was not there. It had been towed away.
This really irritated me. I knew what was coming, and was ready to do the right thing. However, I had parked her truck there twice in the previous 6 months without a problem, and couldn't understand why this had to happen tonight. Annette was anxious, but I was able to calm her with my assurance that everything would be alright.
In the end, it was. The money didn't mean anything to me, next to making certain that she would be okay. I had to remote control the affair. After all, I was still on tour. It went by the numbers, however.
As I put her in the taxi, I knew that I was simply taking another course in the reality that is the same for all of us. There is so much to do...
I held her close to me and told her how much I loved her. She didn't look at me as I closed the door.
Walking down the block to the backstage door, I realized that, for the first time in 15 years, I felt a serious pain in my heart due to leaving home. It compelled me to consider giving up my beloved road. I would not do it unless she and I could work out a plan for a life together: I would not trade my road for anything which was not at least as real. However... I've never had that particular feeling before. It happened to me tonight, after one of the best shows I ever worked on.
I'm going to St. Louis tomorrow. However...
I think that I'll look over my shoulder, and consider what I am to do within this reality of ours known as human life.
September 22, 1992
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