Los Angeles California – March 1980
“I don’t care what you have to do Dan. I’m not getting on that plane.”
“Jon, quit being such a fucking pussy over it. It’s just a plane.”
“Look, I’m just saying, I’m not getting on it. I hate planes. Nothing good ever happens to a rock star when they get into a plane.”
“You are too. We are not waiting two weeks for you to take a boat over to the UK. You’re either going to get on that plane one way or another. I don’t care if I have to pay Mike to hold you down and shove the valium down your throat.”
“I don’t quite see why we have to do a UK tour anyway. Not like we’re huge over there.”
“For Christ’s sake, we’ve been booked over there, and one of the places they want you to go is Oxford. If nothing else it should give you and Chris the time to see your families there.”
“Whatever. I’m going for a smoke.”
The arguing voices stopped, and a tall blond emerged from inside the offices. I’d been sitting outside in the drizzle, just watching traffic go by. I didn’t feel like going in and getting into the argument between Dan and Jon. There was no point. The two of them would argue the point until they were both sick of butting heads. Then Jon would eventually give in to being medicated and the whole thing would be forgotten like yesterday’s news.
He took a seat on the stairs next to me, and looked over.
“What’s up with you today kiddo?” He said, lighting the cigarette that he had in hand.
“Don’t call me kiddo.”
I wasn’t in a good mood. I hadn’t been all day. I’d just found out my wife was pregnant, we were headed out on tour in a couple of weeks, and it just pissed me off. Ninteen, married and in a rock band. People would probably love to change places with me. I had fame, fortune – my name in lights. I was doing what I’d dreamed of in those spare moments at school. Why the hell did I feel like crap?
Steel blue eyes met mine resignedly.
“Sorry Ry. Keep forgetting that you hate that.”
I snorted. Jon was always forgetful lately. Then again, Jon was usually higher than hell lately. Considering the bitch of a wife he had, I couldnt really blame him for trying to get away from it.
“It’s nothing Jon. Don’t worry about me.”
I looked away. The world was grayer than usual today, and the fine mist that had been tiddling down all morning made it near on impossible to see. Taking off my glasses I cleaned them on my shirt and put them back on. Didn’t make any difference – just moved the water around.
“Ryan, I always worry about you for fuck’s sake. You’re like my little brother.”
I’m everyone’s little brother. I’m sick of being treated like a kid. Damn it I’m going to have one of my own in six months. I’m going to be twenty in less than that. Yet I’m still the fucking kid to everyone.
I sighed and stood up. What little wind there was blowing was whipping my hair into my face. Yet another thing to annoy me. Why did it have to be me in the family that inherited the red hair? No one else had it, save a few aunts and uncles randomly scattered in the family tree. Maybe once we headed overseas, in between being the guardian for a strung out Jon, I’d finally do something about it.
“You looking forward to getting on the road again?” the familiar Oxford accented voice said.
“Nah. Not this time. I had some news this morning that really makes me want to stay here this time around.”
He cocked an eyebrow, and with one last drag off the cigarette, flicked the butt out into the sidewalk.
“You going to tell me or do I have to beat it out of you?” he said jokingly.
“Look, no telling the guys. Last thing I need is for everyone to find out and start…” treating me more like a god damn kid “Freaking out if something goes wrong.”
“Oh.” He opened the door to the offices, and motioned me in out of the elements.
“Heather’s pregnant. Due in November. Just got the test results back from the doctor’s yesterday night.” I said quietly as I ducked in under his arm, hitting my head on it in the process.
He stopped still and looked at me.
“You happy about that?” he said, trying to gage my enthusiasm for his response.
“Hell yeah. Not like we were trying, but…” I shrugged.
“Well, congrats man. You and Heather’ll make great parents.”
We walked back down the hall to the offices, where we were wrapping up the details for this tour. Once the door opened and Jon saw Chris standing there, there was almost a palpable anger in the air. The two of them had been so close not that long ago. Everyone was pretty damned sure that Jon’s wife was screwing around with Chris, but no one could prove anything. She and Chris had always been close, so them going out for coffee and meeting up with each other every now and then wasn’t out of the ordinary.
Jon pushed past Chris and took a seat on the opposite side of the room. Our drummer – Mike was sitting with Chris, and was tapping his fingers on the desk impatiently. Normally the incessant tapping wouldn’t drive me nuts, but today….
“Mike must you always be drumming on every damned surface you can find?” I snapped as I sat down on Jon’s side of the room.
It was like a war in there. Everyone on their own sides. I wasn’t sure how much longer this group could keep itself together without someone going nuts or an actual phsyical fight breaking out.
Mike looked up with surprise, as did Chris and Jon.
“Woah. The kid finally found some balls.” Chris remarked and I turned a glare on him.
Dan looked at everyone and then resumed talking about the tour. I tried to tune him out.
Two Weeks Later – LAX
Jon was laid out on a chair, contented and well, rather stoned. At least it was better than him going freaky about planes. You’d think that the world would end if he set foot on a plane. In five years I’d never been able to pry from him what caused his fear of planes and flying. We were awaiting boarding on the plane. First class to Heathrow. It was the first time I’d been overseas, and I was feeling a little worried about it. Firstly the health issues were on my mind, and I was worried about Heather and a million other things.
I pulled out the book I’d been trying to read – The Stand – and started reading again. If nothing else, Jon was quiet when he was sedated. At least for the first bit. Once he fell asleep on the plane, I’d end up being scared out of my skin by him jumping randomly and scaring me. Evidently Valium gave him some horrible nightmares, which was why he preferred to deal with the phobia head on.
I could hear the comments from Mike and Dan about me being the bookworm in the group.
Fine, I’m the bookworm. The kid, the bookworm, the klutz. Why can’t they just call me Ryan for once. After all, they wanted me in this damned band.
The boarding call was made and I put the book away. Jon was still in his seat, pretty much drooling.
“How many Valium did you give him?” I asked Dan as I struggled to pull Jon to his feet.
“Two. Just in case the first one doesn’t work.”
“Holy shit Dan. One would’ve done it.”
Jon may have had the physique of a hockey player and been well over six feet tall… but two Valium for him was a bit overkill. I pulled him up out of the chair, and tried my best to balance his weight across my shoulders. He was able to stand, but his head lolled like it was on strings and he could barely keep conscious.
Chris started to move to my side. “I can move him.” I said as I valiantly tried to drag Jon along with me.
He weighed what felt like a ton, and barely could drag his feet onto the plane. Dan had luckily handed over the boarding passes for all of us together, so all I had to do was drag him down the jetway, onto the plane and then load him in his seat.
Everyone looked at me, and I was sure it was a sight to behold. Compared to Jon’s muscular physique I was a slight person, and though I’d finally hit six feet tall in the last year, it was very much of the ox versus the beanpole.
Finally I managed to get him onto the plane. He’d looked at me and smiled at one point, just before I got him into his seat on the plane.
“I love ya Ry..” he’d slurred and completely passed out, luckily in the seat. I climbed over him and was thankful that for once Dan had given me a window seat with Jon alone, rather than between Jon and Chris or Jon and Mike. He took the seat with Mike and Chris, and that made me insanely happy.
Pulling out my novel again, I dropped back into reading and lost all track of time
* * *
Hours later, we finally landed in Heathrow and deplaned. Jon was starting to come around again, and this time was able to walk on his own, though he was rather worn out looking and acted like he was moving through molasses.
In the drive to the hotel, Dan handed out the room assignments. I was with Jon, which was no shock or suprise to me. Making sure Jon made it to the hotel room and passed out asleep on the bed, I checked my watch, and made the decision that the next day before sound check, things were going to change.
I changed and climbed into bed to try and get some sleep. Being over eight hours difference was fucking with my brain, and I needed to recharge for at least a few hours before heading out.
The Next Day
I’d gotten up early and had gone out on my own. Navigating London all on my own was fun to say the least. I’d gotten lost a few times, but had finally made it to where I wanted to go. I’d come out an hour later, just in time to catch a taxi to the arena and make it in time for the sound check.
Chris was, as usual, flirting and trying to charm the pants off one of the local girls, and from the looks of it, was succeeding. Jon was out in the backstage area, looking rather hung over, and Mike was doing some yoga moves it seemed on the floor beside him, and was bent into a very difficult looking pose. When I came into the room, Mike looked up and with a loud “Thud” landed on the floor in a heap.
Jon looked at him crossly, and then looked up at me.
“Ry, what the fuck did you do?”
“Something that I’ve wanted to do forever.”
He got up from the chair and came over unsteadily.
“Like I said the other day, it’s time for a change. I think it makes me look older.”
Jon laughed and shook his head.
“Yeah it does kiddo, yeah it does. Dan’s going to shit, you know that.”
It was my turn to laugh and shake my head. Dan definitely would throw a fit as I’d just made hundreds, if not thousands of advertising dollars for naught.
I wandered out onto the stage area and met up with my bass tech, who gave me a look after doing a double take. We spoke for a few minutes and then he headed out back and I stayed out front, waiting for the rest of the guys and Dan to show up.
Once they did, and Chris fell over his own two feet in shock… Dan just looked at me and shook his head.
“Looks good on you Ryan, but the next time you decide to do something like that, please let someone know ahead of time?”
“Sure Dan. Just getting tired of everyone calling me kid around here. Figured you’d all get the clue once I stopped looking like a kid.”
Chris looked up at him. “Ryan, you could’ve just said something. You didn’t have to take such drastic measures. I don’t like it.”
Jon came up beside me again as Chris stalked off.
“Don’t shit over him Ry. It looks good.”
He reached up and tousled my now short hair.
“Damn that’s going to take a bit of getting used to.”
We started walking onstage slowly.
“Ry, you know I call you kiddo because I care, right? I’m not trying to make you feel like a kid. If you don’t want me to anymore, I’ll try to stop.”
He looked seriously concerned.
“S’okay Jon. You’re like my big brother here. Call me whatever you like. Well, not shithead… that’s Chris’ name.”
He laughed and grabbed me under one arm and dragged me, laughing as well, out onto the stage. I think I’ll let my hair grow back again, but I wish I’d had a camera…