Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Jon rounded into the studio downtown and grinned when one of his longest friends came into view. “How ya doin’, Rich.”
Richie slapped his arm. “I’m balls deep in the studio instead of a woman. What’s that tell you?”
“Mine’s red tape and locker rooms. I think you win,” he laughed and followed him inside. The last few years had drawn them closer than ever before. It was funny how an arrest, a pair of divorces and a custody battle could form a bond that transcended twenty-five years of employer/employee strife. He and Richie had always been close, but they’d always had differing opinions on what music and business meant. The Have a Nice Day album had broken through the walls there. Letting go of the gloss of the everyman and finding the five of them had connected them.
He’d never known quite how important it was to Richie that the band songs be their songs. Letting the public into their inner circle of pain had been a gamble. He liked to keep people out of his head, letting just a slice of him flavor the songs. The last two albums had been personal in a way he wasn’t sure he’d have had the balls to go for if Richie hadn’t pressed him. He’d been arrogant enough to believe a good song was good enough. He wasn’t sure why he’d been stupid for so long. “I needed to see a familiar face.”
“Well my ugly mug will do, huh?” Richie motioned for Jon to sit as he dropped into the control board’s swivel chair. “What’s up?”
“Eh, I gotta cut a new kid from the roster already.” He leaned back in the overstuffed leather club chair kicking his feet out. “This kid has so much raw talent, I just know we can mold him into a great quarterback. I hate leaving so much on Matt’s shoulders all the time, you know?”
Richie swung around to face Jon. “They why the hell did you let him go?”
Jon stretched his arm over his head and drilled his fingers into his hair. “Fucking gang shit, man. I just can’t jeopardize everything, even for this kid.”
“Maybe he’s trying to get out of the life. It’d be a good way to do it. A lot of NFL guys have done the same thing, you know that.”
“Yeah, but their big brother doesn’t run the south Philly sector of the Bloods.”
Richie swore. He wasn’t as invested in the team as Jon was, but he had a soft spot for the players and the families that filled the Wachovia during the season. The Bloods was beyond petty school shit. That was serious. “Jesus, Jonny.”
“I know. I’m just starting to clean up Philly with all our programs. I can’t undermine all of that for one kid. No matter how good he is.” He bumped his head back against the cushioning. He’d been making the hard decisions for most of his life, but this one just hurt. He liked the damn kid. “Take my mind off this stupid shit. And Ms Cooper. Tell me what’s been going on in Samboraland.”
Richie laughed. “Was is working with me again. We’re about four solid songs into the record at this point with a dozen other contenders tossed in the mix.”
Jon leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Yeah?” He nodded toward the soundboard. “Give me something.”
“You sure, man?” At Jon’s bland look, Richie laughed. “All right, All right. Just don’t want to talk shop if you’re in businessman mode.”
“Hell, you know the damn suit comes off just like your pants for a pretty blonde.”
Richie’s laugh filled the control room. “Here’s my current favorite.” He didn’t say anymore, wanting to the true reaction out him. Flicking a button, he piped the song through the control room.
Jon sat back, eyes closed to listen without Richie’s expectant look ruining the effect. His eyebrows rose as the melody layered in with Richie’s bluesy voice. Complicated, yet simple as only Richie knew how to writem, the song resonated with a pain that even a layman could find. It didn’t clobber you with the emotion, just teased and lured you in until his voice went harsh and guttural with the lyric. The guitars were as masterful as he’d ever heard out of Richie. It fucking hurt to listen to it.
Instead of opening his eyes, he simply asked for another listen.
Richie tugged at the fraying ends of one of his bracelets as he watched Jon’s reaction. Again and again, the centre of the song made him flinch. He was too close to the song. It was everything that he’d locked up in his gut for so long, right there in the open. “Too much?” he finally asked as the song died out.
Jon opened his eyes. “Christ, Rich. What the hell did that woman do to you?” The question came out before he could take it back. There was plenty he didn’t know about Heather and their fated marriage. He’d never held back in his dislike for the woman, but he’d managed to stay civil to her for Richie’s sake. Maybe if he’d pushed earlier…
“Pain Where There Was Once a Heart is the working title,” Richie said in answer.
Jon sighed. Richie’s smile was sad, and it was enough to tell him all he needed to know. She’d done her damndest to destroy him, but the redemption was sitting there in the healing heart of his friend. He could see it finally start to happen. And if this was the way he needed to get it out, then he’d support every painful note. “It was power and hope, love and loss.” Jon smirked. “Redemption in a guitar was always what you did best, man.”
Richie let out a sigh of relief. “It’s what I was going for,” he said simply. Even now without saying a word, Jon got it. He stood and clasped a hand on Jon’s shoulder. “Thanks.” He shut off the sounding board. “Now let’s get some fuckin’ food, all that emotion made me hungry.”
Jon laughed. “Thai?”
Richie nodded. “Thank God you didn’t say sushi. I’m fuckin’ starving.” He locked up and followed Jon out the door. Jon knew the area better than he did, so he let Jon lead the way as he was prone to do anyway. He headed for one of the small off streets until they came to a hole in the wall restaurant. Taking a back table he ordered an Iced Chai.
“Mind if I get wine?”
“Nah,” Richie said and played with his water glass. The drinking thing had been difficult at first. His friends were social drinkers and he was a social guy, but his kid and the future meant more to him than a shot these days. “You should come back in a few days.”
“Oh yeah?” Jon took a sip from his water. “Got more magic for me?”
Richie snorted, “Yeah maybe.” Truth be told, it felt Jon to be around when he was recording. It seemed right. He raised his eyebrow at Jon, he knew him too well that the constant fiddling with the knife and fork meant he was mulling over something.
Jon looked up and was about to say nothing, but instead he laughed. Richie knew him well, too damn well at times. “I was just thinking about the PI I got to look into the gang business.”
Richie leaned back and stretched his legs. “And? She’s hot?”
Jon felt his dick twitch, but ignored it.
“Well, she was just working for me. Not like I’m ready to get into her pants or anything.” Jon sipped his wine. “I don’t know how to define her. Ball buster, maybe?”
Richie. “Now I definitely have to meet her, did you ask her out?”
Jon winced and remembered how she closed off so damn quick to a casual invite to a football game. Jesus. He was so out of touch with this sort of shit.
Richie slapped the table and his eyes lit up. “She said no, didn’t she?”
Jon rolled his eyes, “shut up asshole.” Christ, it wasn’t like he’d asked anyone out on a date lately. He knew he’d crossed the line suggesting it to her. “She was different, she’s an ex-cop, marine. But gorgeous.”
Richie shifted forward and mouthed, “are you sure she’s into guys?”
Jon snorted, “Christ Richie. It’s no big deal, probably for the best. I don’t have time for that sort of thing at the moment.”
“Who said it has to be a thing? Some sex could do you good at the moment.”
Jon quickly tried to quash the image from his head of Mackenzie wrapped naked around him, but it was too late. Was she limber as she looked? Fuck.
“Totally pictured it, didn’t you?”
“You going to order, or just talk smack to me?” Jon flipped open the menu, he needed to erase any thoughts of MacKenzie and naked from his head. Immediately.
Richie’s laugh echoed through the booth. Typical Jon, always kept things close to his chest but Richie knew better. He secretly liked that he knew his friend a little too well, and that pissed Jon on. That’s why it was so fun.
“Sure we are. Just keeping you on your toes.”
Jon shook his head, and reached for his phone that buzzed on his hip. The text from Jerry confirmed they’d dropped Wes from any interest from the Soul. He knew it was the best for the Soul and to protect his interests, but damn the kid could throw.
He waved the waitress over and they gave their orders. ““I’ll stop by the studo in a few days. I’ve got meetings that pass even your late evening recording sessions.”
“Fuck off man, I play when the mood strikes you know that.”
“Believe me,” Jon took a deep slug of the white wine. “I’ve felt the pain of your muse at three in the morning, you shit.”
Richie just tipped his head back. “Lucky dog, you don’t get to see that side of me until next year.”
Jon grinned and held up his glass. “Lookin’ forward to it.”