I would have gone home, but then, that's the guy I've always been.
Not that I didn't want to stay, that I would have turned down a chance to hang with the band. A possibility like that just never would occur to me. I'd seen the show that my ticket had paid for and now it was time to go home. Had I been on my own, I would have done just that.
I'd always been smart enough, however, consciously or unconsciously, to surround myself with people who hold to other expectations.
It was Jon who got us on the tour bus.
Wednesday, May 3, 2000. The Intersection in Grand Rapids.
The old Intersection, that wonderful venue shaped like a storage dock; long, deep, and dark. Flyers and namecards from entertainers who had graced the stage were plastered haphazardly on the upper walls from end to end. There were couches and lounge chairs of questionable cleanliness crammed into an awkward sitting area. The floor looked like that of your dad's old garage and something on it stuck to your feet as you moved about. Corrugated sheet metal covered the bathroom walls.
A ragged movie screen (usually playing anime) was the prelude to the stage. And then there it was. That wonderful stage. Not eight inches off the floor, crammed into the back corner like an afterthought, that weird metal rod, where the guy from Mustard Plug used to hang while singing, sticking out from the rafters above it. There were only a handful of tables set far back from the stage, leaving an uncomfortable standing area that had little distinction from the stage itself.
It was there I stood for two hours of magic, Louise Post in her recently reformed Veruca Salt inches from my face, so close we could banter between songs.
That night, we rocked to Veruca Salt, reformed with a new line-up out of the ashes of a band I was sure I'd never see again.
That night, instead of heading to our car after the show, the evening already turning to memory in my mind, Jon turned us down the alley behind the Intersection. Behind the scenes. The tour bus. The band.
"Are we allowed? Can we do this?"
And we made friends. Hanging on the tour bus. Autographs and guitar picks. Photo ops. Sitting crossed legged on the asphalt discussing life with bassist Suzanne Sokol.
And my shoes. They signed my shoes. I'd taken, in those days, to drawing outwardly directed smiley faces on the toes of my Chuck Taylors. Miss Sokol so enjoyed them that she demanded she sign her autograph on my shoes. It seemed only fitting to ask the rest of the band to do the same.
The bus driver and the band were kind enough to put up with our fandom for hours. They even put us on a guest list for the next night's show in Detroit.
I was still in high school at that point and I remember rolling in at some ridiculous hour on a school night, it having been exempted from curfew rules due to pre-concert clearance with the parents. I remember, at that late hour, excitedly recapping the evening to my mother, my enthusiasm somehow convincing her to allow me to do the same the next evening, another school night, in a city even further away than the last. "But only if you show up to school on time and your work is complete." She worked in that very school, so there was no getting out of it.
I remember the streak of shows that would follow. Jon and I would finish our school day, hop in his truck and head off to the next Midwest Veruca Salt show, making it back each night for just a little sleep, the day's classes, and another show after that. The only way we survived our morning speech class each day was by twisting every single topic, creating some relevance between that day's speech and the concert adventure we'd had the night before.
Oh, the shows we saw. Over thirty-seven hours on the road. 1850 miles traveled.
And I still have those shoes.