Discover more from a note to a friend
THE TOLERANCE WARS - 2
and her delusional light orchestra
until it’s done
begin at the beginning—chapter 1
thanks for reading
the tolerance wars
and her delusional light orchestra
like all concerned citizens who respond to a crisis by sifting through what they’ve learned from medical dramas on the soap-seller, the guys started making helpful suggestions.
“is she wearing one of those medical bracelet things?”
“should i go get a spoon?”
“aren’t we supposed to give her air or something?”
i was trying to remember what i’d learned as a not-very-decorated boy scout. feet elevated slightly, head not too high. i don’t think we were supposed to boil water.
despite all of our efforts, she started to come around. when she opened her eyes they lit on me first where i was standing at the end of the couch. “hi. you passed out for a minute. you’re backstage. should we call a medic?”
just for a second i thought i could see frightened in her eyes, then she closed them and shook her head. “no thank you. i’m sure i’ll be alright.”
mcshane was closest, “go tell jo to stand down wouldja?” “right,” and he was gone.
i’d exhausted my scout training. so i asked myself if i had a doctor what would she be saying right now? “you got a history of this kind of thing?”
“i don’t go to a lot of clubs.”
that pretty much stopped me dead. i looked at sparechange standing at the other end of the couch by the door. he shrugged. “figure we can take that for a no.”
“anything we can get you?” i remembered something about blood sugar, “orange juice?”
“did i fall?”
“no, buddy happened to be standing there and caught you on the way down.” i flipped my chin towards sparechange. the patient started to assume a seated position, all five of the rest of us moved towards her, then stopped ourselves. “i think i’m likely fine.” she finished the move without help, paused for a moment, then tried rolling her head and stretched her shoulders a little to check things out. “everything feels okay.” she looked up at sparechange and smiled, “nice catch, thanks.”
“not something i’d wanna have to get good at, but you’re welcome. anyway, you made it easy.”
“you’d been looking like something about to happen for a few minutes.”
“i hope i didn’t make anyone uncomfortable.”
“nah, everyone else was watchin’ the guys. you blended in fine.” he shrugged. “except you were the only one looked like you’d been whacked upside the head with something real hard.”
‘transfixed’ was what i’d been thinking back there when i’d flashed on her, but i decided not to mention it. lots of folks figure seeing a band’s like watching tv. they don’t realize it’s a little different, that we can actually see them too. some of ‘em get a little uncomfortable if you point it out to them.
i couldn’t help it, “a good thing in hard times.” i pitched it happy at sparechange.
“pardon me?” the lady looked at me, confused.
“just tweaking my friend there. from a conversation on the break. we’d been talking about why people do good things.”
“well, whatever the motivation i’m happy for the help.” she looked around the room. “all of you, thank you.”
typical, we all brushed it aside in our own way. “just glad you’re okay.” said tony. then “hi, i’m tony.” she held out her hand.
“archer.” she said, “and you sing wonderfully.” tony was never real good at compliments, “these guys make it happen,” she deflected. then she introduced us around.
we were all wondering, waits asked, “so what hit you?”
“oh,” she looked a little embarrassed, “nothing really. i’d just never heard anything quite like that.”
“knocked you off your feet. you an agent?” killer smiled as he said it, resisting the deadpan. waits and i laughed.
there it was again. i could swear it looked like frightened, then it passed. she shook her head, “no, i’m not the musical type.”
“everybody’s the musical type.” it was one of my favourite rides, but i let it drop. “except maybe agents.” i waited to get called, nobody bit. “and some publicists.” nothing. i guess we were among company. “what type are you?”
“you’re right, of course. i meant that i haven’t made a lot of room in my life for music.” she smiled easily, and looked like she meant it. it occurred to me that she hadn’t really answered the question. no big deal. “but that really was wonderful, the music you were playing.” she looked around the room to make sure everyone was included. “did you compose it yourselves?”
“not really. i mean yeah, we put things in some kind of order as we go…” tony stumbled, “it’s kinda hard to explain.”
i picked it up. “sometimes we’ll work off of tony’s words. but mostly we’re grabbing bits and pieces of stuff that’s already out there. it’s like you might do in a studio using a sample from an old recording to make something new. only this is live, no samples. and we try to pile ‘em up. dunno if that’s composing. arranging maybe. and it’s pretty much all improvised.”
“you make it up as you go along?”
“well, you end up remembering cool moves or combinations that really say something. but we try not to turn those into anything permanent. part of the thing is to do it fresh every time.”
“and that last song, the one about believing, where did it come from?”
“tony’s words, we pulled the rest out of here and now. when she’s in it, she’s aces. worked for you, eh?”
she looked at tony, “i’m afraid i had one of those moments you see in movies where art reflects the life of one of the characters. you started out as if you were talking directly to me then spoke with confidence as you deconstructed my life in the last few years, only you were singing. and there was a room full of people between us. it was as if you had looked inside me and were singing about what you found there.”
i snuck a look over at my friend the drummer, caught him flicking samewise at me, so we had to. came out together, the two of us, comes from working as a rhythm section. “call.” most of the room laughed. the lady looked around, clearly not sure what just happened.
“over the top.” killer smiled, “sorry, couldn’t help it.”
i explained, “it’s a thing some of us do. clichés, old jokes, overtaxed metaphors, if one raises an eyebrow they get called.”
“and i… oh, i see. should i apologize?”
“no big deal, we don’t take it too seriously. just a way of keeping things light, not too purple. you’ve got a choice. if you wanna play you can veer off, which is kinda like saying maybe you were a little over the top. or you can stick with it, which is what you’d do if you felt that what you said was a fair description.”
i could see her think about it for a beat. “no, i think i’d like to stick with it if you don’t mind.”
“there’s a small penalty. before you can go on you have to come up with a name for a band that doesn’t yet exist, but might. or should.”
“is this some sort of hazing ritual?”
“nah, just helps keep us awake on slow nights. killer here’s probably got a couple already thought up that he can loan you.” my drumming buddy blinked. gotcha. “or we can give you a pass ‘cause you’re not from around here.”
“is there some special formula or incantation?” i shook my head, and noticed everybody else in the room did too. i had no idea the game was so popular among people who didn’t play themselves. making it a spectator sport. yeah, life’s too weird. “alright then.” she smiled, “how about archer capgras and her delusional light orchestra?”
i looked at killer, he shrugged. “works for me, though i wouldn’t wanna hafta lay out the posters.”
“doesn’t always have to be so grand, but a great first hit.” she wasn’t slow, this archer woman. game too. she’s alright. “so anyway, go on with what you were saying about having a soundtrack moment.”
“you’re right, it was quite a cliché. which added to the surreal nature of the experience. i suppose a poet would say that i was overcome with the synchronicity of it all. i think i might simply say that being a little over-worked and under-rested i was startled to hear an artist dealing with concepts so close to my present experience where i had expected a pleasant diversion. and maybe i was holding my breath a little too long. does that explain things well enough?”
“works for me.” i checked the room, no objections. “we hauled off the medics anyway. with any luck the beer fairy will be around in a minute.” tony lowered herself onto a section of couch, the boys hit the two stuffed chairs, sparechange crosslegged on the floor and i grabbed the straightback by the door. the greenroom had ugly for a decorator, but you could make it comfy. we usually ended up chilling back here for a few minutes afterwards.
“thank you again for your concern. i’m quite alright now.” she meant it again, we all made polite noises again. then she turned back to tony, “that was a beautiful performance. but you know, what i was taken with was not just you singing that believing is hard, but that we must. because i’ve begun to think that in fact we must believe.”
“sounds like a lot of late night close the bar conversations to me” i couldn’t help it, she’d played the game. and it had just occurred to me that this is how stalkers are born. tony could look after herself, but friends look out for friends.
“strangely enough, i’m talking about this on a professional level.”
“i knew it, you are a publicist.”
she smiled again and shook her head. “i’d probably make more money. in my work i deal with the brain, or the mind. sometimes both. i’m a researcher, primarily working in what’s sometimes called cognitive science. basically i’m exploring how we think.”
wonder boy came back in with a bunch of beer and passed it around. archer took a bottle of water, tony and i did the same. we filled buddy in on what’s up. waits finished it, “turns out the lady’s a scientist, and she knows you got to believe. ain’t that something?”
“yeah that’d freak me out.” mcshane nodded towards archer from the arm of the couch where he was perched beside tony.
“you hear things all the time whether it’s in art or the papers, things that are about the same stuff you’re dealing with in your own life. that’s part of the whole point in the tunes, isn’t it?” i didn’t see anything freaky in that.
he had a swallow of his beer while i was talking, then he shook his head. “no, that’s cool. it was knowing that you got to believe. i mean, reading the manual, opening up the hood and looking at the parts and saying, yup that’s the machine, it’s got to believe. that’d freak me out. cause if you didn’t already, you’d be waiting for it to happen.” he took another hit of his beer.
i blinked. that’s mcshane, the distance between two notes. hadn’t occurred to me, for someone who didn’t believe in anything, discovering and confirming that in a way they have no choice, that they’re hard-wired to believe… at the very least it’d be unsettling.
“i don’t actually open up the hood, as you say. that would most likely be a cognitive neurosurgeon, and i’m not. but you’re right, there can be a certain amount of discomfort in knowing that there is a mechanism involved in believing. i think i was just surprised to hear it come from someone else.” she looked at me, “although i think you’re right that perhaps there was no reason to be surprised, that music was simply serving its role.”
i shrugged, “you gotta figure too that if you been thinking about something, someone out there somewhere’s been thinking about the same thing. at least if you believe in evolution, it’s pretty much gotta be so.”
“so in a way, music is kind of inevitable?” tony drifted that out into the air, no one moved.
“only if you think all music is about believing.” i finished my water and chucked the bottle at the bin. missed. “so you’re a scientist.” i said, “so this is field work?”
she laughed. “no, i took the night off. although as long as i’m thinking, it’s a working day.”
“you know, they got a twelve-step program for that now.” killer offered, finishing his brew.
i bounced it, “for workaholics, or scientists? i can just see it now, ‘hi my name is archer, i’m a scientist.’ it’s good, although they keep having trouble with that higher power stuff. so where you been working?”
“i was in montréal, toronto before that. now i’m in town up at the university for i don’t know how long. and where i’m off to after that, i really don’t know.”
i was starting to think about the gear, “you need a ride home?”
“i walked here, i think i can make it home. if not i can hail a cab.”
“not when they’re busy hauling the kids home from the party zone you can’t. hey tony, you got plans, or you wanna take her home in the wagon when it suits? we can do the strike while they’re still up dancing and have us all meet before last call. unless miz archer wants to party hearty tonight. say?”
we figured it, mcshane and waits sorted out the instruments, killer went for another round, sparechange and i hit the alley for a butt. division of labour. tony and archer looked like staying back and rapping. by the end of the night we had it packed and stowed, the scientist lady was safely home, and i figured tony had a whole bunch of new lines to spin.
yeah, i guess it was a good night.
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