4: The Missing Walls.
On my way out of the store Robert handed me a paper bag about a ½ foot wide and said, “I hope this helps. Sorry about earlier.” I nodded, but decided to give him a little more of the silent treatment, and walked out the store. I didn’t see Sam anywhere, and it was probably better I didn’t distract myself with more of her before I got my head together. I sat down in the driver’s seat of my car and situated myself, tossing everything I’d accumulated into the passenger seat so I could take it all in.
I rolled down the windows and up a cigarette, and pondered the inevitable traffic snarl that was ahead of me. It was getting on into the early afternoon, and I needed a place that I would be left alone where I could sip on my flask reflectively. It was a bit out of the way, but it seemed as if Sauvie Island was out of the way enough, uninhabited enough, and removed enough from the action that I could engage in some high-level meta bullshit. It was also just far enough away that I could try to absorb some music in the event there was enough call for a spell or two later.
I started the car and KLOW came back to life, “The Diamond Hour with Frankie Diamond” still on, the title clearly a misnomer considering how long ago I last tuned in. He was in the middle of a particularly long glam rock track that smelled of cocaine and innocence, and I drew on it for a moment before pulling out my phone and texting Sam, “Where are we meeting again?” I pulled out of the lot and was fortunate enough to get immediately stuck behind a Subaru Outback with a Star Trek insignia in the bottom right corner.
My mind kept turning to Angie in Johnny’s old office, and while I quite liked what I remembered, I puzzled over who it might have been with her in there. It seemed as if that might be a lead that could pay off, and if I can’t crack the case, at least I could maybe enjoy some eavesdropping to tide me over on those particularly lonely nights. I have a few thoughts who “A T” might be, but I had a feeling that the identity of the woman was probably going to be a little more useful in making sense of what that was all about. Robert seemed like a moody kid, and if I had to hazard a guess as to what his role in everything was, I would just have to take it back later. Still it seemed as if so much of what I saw was a show, like some bizarre Muppet Show backstage performance that was meant to confuse me more than lead me in the right direction.
It’s funny how you can look at something and read it 900 different ways. I replayed my trip to the store a few times in my head, crimson & clover, in some sort of ocd attempt to plumb it for further secrets, but if any were there to be found, they were certainly not presenting themselves in this traffic! [honk] My phone buzzed, and my thoughts immediately went to Sam, trying to figure her out. It feels like she’s playing me, but how? And why? Her act seemed fairly rehearsed, but I can only imagine if you worked in a Record Store like that and you had a figure like her’s you’d be used to having to say the same thing over and over to every Creep who wants her to touch his Radiohead.
The song came to an end and after in interminable number of commercials, a voice broke through the din, “This Is Frankie Diamond, boys and girls, slammin’ and glammin’ my way through the early afternoon rush hour that never stops in the city of Blazers, and I think there’s even a sports team with that name, too.” The sound of a bong ripped through the radio. “But seriously folks, we’re pussy-footin’ our way to the prime-time drive-time five-time blast, with the five least requested songs to make that drive home that much more annoying. You’ll see, when Frankie Dee laughs with glee!” I shook my head. This guy was so annoying that I almost changed the channel, but then I heard, “but let’s stop foreshadowing the evening, because we have a little something for Robert the lonely Hearted. Frankie and all of us a K L O W want to wish you the best of luck. Know that you can count on KLOW when you are Low, K? Hahahahah, bring me The Cure, and ‘Boys Don’t Cry,’ that’s for sure!” Then a woman’s voice came on and sang, “K L O W!” before the familiar guitar part kicked in.
I reached for the bag Robert had handed me in the store, but thought better of opening it while I was driving. I left it on top of the pile in the passenger seat, and focused on driving. But now it seemed that perhaps Frank might be my next interview. He sure seemed to be closely in tune with You Spin Me Right Round Records, and while there could be any number of reasons for this, it was worth checking out and besides, I hadn’t been in a radio station for quite some time. It would be worth it to sneak a peek at their records, anyway. Besides, it was possible I might know someone there, with the number of years I used to spend in the business. However “The Diamond” is involved, I can only imagine that it is unsavory merely by the way he talks on the air.
My phone buzzed again and I got the kind of jolt you feel when you think it might be a date. Stupid fuckin’ traffic. [Honk.]
I had to put up with two more Frank Diamond voice overs, another commercial block with the same ones I’d heard previously (just in a different order), and an interminable King Crimson song that was going to run into “Billy The Mountain,” but fortunately I had arrived at my destination. Sauvie Island is not too far away from civilization, the the number of farms, unpaved roads, nude beaches, and secluded areas where all you can hear are the birds and the crickets make it a perfect place for reflection. All it required was a nice place to sit and hang your mirror.
I found a spot and pulled off, throwing everything into my bag and getting out to hoof it bit. Through a small path that seemed well-worn, I popped out on a secluded stretch of beach that I had brought a date to before, and through another pair of bushes I was well-off the beaten path. I sat down, lit one of the joints Miles had given me, and began to rummage through my bag until I found the package that Robert had given me. It was in a paper bag with nothing written on it. I pulled a CD out of the package, and found an album by Crispin Glover. “The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be.” A hint, or a message from Robert? I opened the disc, but aside from the regular packaging I couldn’t see anything different about this any any other album. It appeared that the back cover had been marked up with a pen, and I thought I could make out the letters “N P” on it. I put the disc back in the package, and into my bag.
I picked up my phone and was shocked to see that I not only got reception, but that there were two messages from Sam. The first the photo of her upraised middle finger and the message, “Wrong Number, Asshole!” Then, the second message, 15 minutes later, “You can’t take a joke, can you?”
I took a few puffs, then snapped a photo of the view and sent it to her with the message, “I was driving. What’s your excuse?”
I pulled out the bag she had given to me that was supposed to go to our friend Marcus Little. He should be getting to the store in a couple hours, and unless Miles had another copy of this squirreled away in that disaster of an office of his, there is going to be a very uncomfortable conversation this afternoon. I pulled the tape out and immediately felt my phone vibrate. I laughed, and ignored it for a moment. While I’d never seen the tape before, it didn’t look unusual in anyway. Opened up the packaging, and a slip of paper fell out. It was printed on thermal paper, and looked like a receipt, but not for You Spin Me Right Round Records. This place merely had an address, some charged for “items,” a total, and a QR code at the bottom. I almost threw it away, but suddenly a little story was developing: someone bought this from this address, sold it to You Spin Me Right Round, and Miles never found it, and put it back on the shelf. I chuckled. I put the receipt back in the case for the tape, and put the whole thing back in my bag.
“I was a little worked up, so I had to go work out,” was the message she sent back. I took another puff and decided to wait before responding. I was certainly in the mood for what she was sending signals about, but my mind was turning over the morning, and a few different images were starting to form in my mind’s eye. I thumbed my phone for a bit, and called up the most recent episode of “The Record Hop” and instead listened to her talk about the Unwound boxed set on Numero Group’s label. I sat on the beach, and for a few moments felt nothing, as I let her voice carry me off to a mindlessness that felt as if everything was “right” for a few minutes.
I stubbed out what was left of the joint, and laid back to enjoy the scenery for what felt like two hours, but was most likely a few minutes. I took a nip off my flask and reached for my Index Cards. They were all a mess, so I began to sort through them, discarding the crap, re-transcribing the other ones, and assembling the notes into a pair of condensed notes. I found one that said, “photograph?” but I had no memory of writing it, or what it was in reference to. I went through my phone to see if there were any pictures I’d taken, but couldn’t find anything to connect with it. On a lark I snapped a pic of it, and stared at this meta image that only existed on my phone. I almost sent it to Sam, but I suspected it could be misinterpreted, and I wasn’t ready for that yet.
I finished her podcast, then texted back, “I’m still waiting for the Long Hind Legs boxed set.”
I decided that the best course of action would be to hit up the radio station next. Music was clearly at the center of all of this, and I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to meet the most annoying DJ I’ve ever heard, as my fist had something to say on the subject. It was clear that something wasn’t adding up, and there was more than likely something going on that was much bigger than what I was aware of. It was best to proceed with caution, and try not to move too fast.
My phone buzzed, “5 PM.”
I typed, “So soon? That barely gives me time to pre-funk.”
“The way you smelled earlier, you probably don’t need to.”
“I would have split my flask with you if I thought Miles wouldn’t mind.”
“That’s the problem; he wouldn’t have.”
“Next time, then.”
“You could come meet me out here on the beach.”
“I’m not that easy. Come to Shanghai Tunnel.”
“That’s a bit out of the way. I can meet you anywhere, if you’d like.”
“Good, because I want to meet you there.”
“The drinks are stiff and there’s great mood lighting.”
“I’m not sure I’ll have any problem with either stiffness or mood.”
A picture of her in an extremely flattering pose popped on my screen that immediately caused me to be both. “That’s what I’m counting on.”
“I might need a nap before we meet up.”
“Sleep Well, Little guy.” Followed by a picture of her blowing a kiss.
Hadn’t she ever heard of hard to get?