Saturday, November 28, 2009

driving mr. schneider: my day as a runner for the bob schneider band (part 2)

(continued from part 1)

I am sitting in the lobby of Bob Schneider’s hotel, waiting for my favorite rock star to finish showering and get back into my car. As I say this, I still can’t believe Bob Schneider was just in the front seat of my car! It’s even more surreal than the time I touched Kip Winger’s stomach. I look in the bathroom mirror at my face. It’s older than it was this morning, and I have a bunch more new silver hairs sprouting from my center part. But I don’t bother with refreshment makeup or my hat. I find a giant round ottoman close to the coffee bar and try to stretch my still-crippled back by lounging. I imagine I look like a black widow stricken with the Cruciatus Curse—or, worse, like one of those sit-com women who tries to seduce a man by splaying herself atop a bed, putting her body in several awkward positions, eventually giving up and doing something hideous, at which time the boyfriend comes into the room. I prop myself against a mirrored column and call a friend.

I’m a groupie. It doesn’t mean what you think: I am an appreciator, an aficionado, an enthusiast—at least when it comes to a few individual bands (most of whom are mentioned by name in the acknowledgments of The Book). I like seeing live bands more than I like food; indeed, I get through this entire day on a scrambled egg and some beer. I bask in the afterglow of sweaty rock stardom much the way Hendrix the Creature, our bearded dragon, basks on a rock: with his tongue out and a big snaggle-toothed grin.

It’s not celebrity. I wouldn’t wait in line for an actor’s autograph; would not seek out the artist at an opening; don’t care much to meet my favorite writers (I would have my books signed if the line is short). It’s not about sex, either—at least I don’t think it’s about that, though who has not imagined making out with an attractive, talented, famous person (Bruce Springsteen comes to mind—a lot). Hell, I’ve thought about making out with Brandi Carlile, and I don’t even swing that way.

It’s music. Music makes me swoon. Music and lust and love are intertwined in an intoxicating three-way.

Maybe I think that rubbing elbows with talented people will take me back to when I fronted a band and performed every weekend for dancing crowds who knew the pretentious words to my eighties band’s songs (a time before we had computers, sonny). Or maybe all this psychoanalysis of my musical motives is bullshit, and I’m just an old band whore with a solid moral center and a flabby self-image.

When Bob comes down from showering (does he look even better with wet hair?), I barely see him because I’m trying to catch the score of the Ravens game, out of bored curiosity rather than concern. And I think it’s the first time Bob even looks at me, though it may be with a little bit of annoyance—I can’t tell. I just smile.

We get in the car, and he wants to know about museums and galleries, and I give him as much of the scoop as I know about the Visionary and the probably-closed galleries up Charles Street, where I don’t take him, though I could easily have given him a brief tour. We had time. Instead, I turn down Light Street as he admires the bird skull I’d hung from the rearview—it replaced that awful blue and gold Goucher tassel. And now, because “where’d you get it?” inevitably leads to Marty, which leads to "what does he do," which leads to my humorous-but-misrepresentational answer, that “he's an atheist-communist teaching at a Catholic school,” I am sucked, and I mean shop-vac’d, into a discussion about God—or god, as it is in my case.

Oh, why couldn’t we be talking about his son’s little electric guitar or naming the album of songs left after my favorite ones were put on The Californian? (I suggest The Baltimorean, and he loves the sound of it, says it a couple of times, nods, “The Baltimorean, yeah!”)

Without turning his head, Bob asks how a person arrives at that—at atheism. “It’s just another brand,” he tells me. Perhaps it would be, I argue, if we actually celebrated or reveled in the atheism, but we don’t. I’m looking straight ahead, like a deer in the headlights, but with a view of the Maryland Science Center and encroaching traffic. If I crash, it will be God’s fault. “Every religion known to man, from the ancient Egyptians to the present-day religions, is founded on Do Unto Others, and I think we know that moral code from birth. It’s innate. It’s why we feel bad when we hurt someone’s feelings. And those who don’t have that conscience turn out to be psychopaths and sociopaths. I don’t think god can save those people,” I say in similar words.

Is Bob answering me? I don’t know. I am busy rambling about how ridiculous it is that people who treat others with cruelty get to accept Jesus on their death beds and go to heaven. I talk about how I’d rather think of the pretty trees—which change color, lose leaves, come back with a whole new sense of tree-ness—as miracles and everything else man’s fault. Otherwise, if we give credit to a god for the good things, we have to blame him for the Holocaust and kidnapping and rape.

Poor Bob. He might as well be a member of my family now; he can’t get a word in edgewise. He tries to clarify that he’s against organized religion, that it’s just another “brand,” too; he is struggling not to be misunderstood. Or maybe he is listening and thinking. I can’t tell. I am absorbed in making the case for atheism, practically turning it into the irreligious conviction I had previously denied.

By the time we are at the venue, the conversation comes to a halt with the car, and I practically shove him out the door—“Out you go!” or “Well, here you are!”—and go to a bar to drink with the Raven maniacs.

Not exactly. First I make friends with a football-fan-hating cop, who allows me to park with my rear end hanging past the sign. Then I run into Harmoni while strolling back past the club. “There’s so much cool stuff,” she tells me while looking through a store window. She’s lamenting all the money she spends in cities before shows, and I ask what she can do besides shop. “I will sometimes go to a park and take pictures,” she says, and I tell her about the view from Federal Hill, about overlooking the Visionary Arts museum. I’m attempting to walk her out the door, maybe go with her to the hill, but she’s hinting that she’s a solo flyer, so I point in the general vicinity and take my cue to duck into the bar.

I am on duty, but I’m waiting for sound check, which I expect to be between 4:30 and 5:00 and take about an hour. So a 3:00-ish Sierra Nevada is not irresponsible. I’d rather be eating sushi with the guitarist or on the hill with the bassist. After my beer, I charge my phone in the car, and talk to Marty and my sister, who wonders if Bob'll do "Titty Bangin'" tonight, as if I could gauge that by our god discussion. I get Ted's text, and I'm off to sound check.

It’s uneventful at first—a lot of nnns and uuuuhs and “more monitor” and wire detanglement and cord arrangement, but eventually it’s time for drums, and Conrad Choucroun takes his spot at the kit. He looks up and sees me on the second floor. He waves. “Hi, Leslie!”

The whole world stops. Nothing else is happening. At all. (Hint to men: women like this.)

In a few minutes, I’m (mostly) over the flattery and taking pictures and even secretly, guiltily filming a little of the sound check. An hour later, when it’s all over, my handshake to Conrad is replied with a hug. Bob asks for dining advice, and Harmoni worries about time and a shower. Both she and Conrad walk to my car for a lift.

"So what are you working on now," Conrad asks. "Another book?" I'm surprised. I didn't tell anyone about the book—not Ted, not Bob. Perhaps they looked me up on Ted's laptop, or maybe he looked over the summer, when I added him as a My Space "friend." He wants to know if it's a food book, but I say I'm over that and working on a book about going to rock and roll camp. I tell them how hot Kip Winger is in person, and then we segue to crime, and they want to know if it's really like The Wire. I get graphic with my tale of the guy who died on my corner, how I watched the last blood gurgle from a murdered gang banger’s mouth on the corner of my street. I was robbed at gunpoint. And my parents were mugged and my mother beaten up in front of her house. And my sister was robbed at gunpoint at work. "But it’s not
so bad."

I write my cell phone number on Conrad’s key envelope (he still hasn’t called), and I start the driving race—home to pick up Marty and Serena, to my mom’s to drop off Serena, back to the hotel to pick up Conrad and Harmoni. Uptown, across town, and downtown across town. I am there in 43 minutes, despite having to turn around to get Marty's show ticket. I'm three minutes shy of my 7:00 promise, but my charges had only just come outside. When they get in, I apologize for scaring them out of their wits, and they both laugh, somewhat relieved; I might have really worried them. Then Marty does all the talking for the rest of the drive, asking the questions I should’ve asked—how long they’ve been playing, whether they like being in Bob’s band, where they live. Back at the 8x10, I get an excellent parking space, find my name on the guest list, and go inside to drink. I deserve it.

The show’s opening act, One Eskimo, is like a slowed-down Phil Collins with one long, ethereal song performed by not one but four Eskimos with unusual hair. I drink two pints of ale during their short set (and get a third once Bob’s band comes out). Meanwhile, Marty is flirting with two blonds. He picks them up by telling them his wife drove Bob Schneider around all day, and one of them, the drunk dumb one who's my new best friend, says he must really trust me to let me—his hot, young wife—do that.

Marty sits on a stool against the wall with his bleary eyes closed most of the night. I’m on the side of the stage with a couple of friends and have a good view of everyone except Harmoni and Ollie Steck, the horn player. Only once during the show does the front man look my way, and when he does, there’s a slight smile of recognition. Bob is Bob. He sings great, cusses, gets crude, and peforms what I call “The Pussy Song.” I don't like it, but it dispels any rumors that he’s really become Daddy Man, making his songs and shows safe for Rachel Ray’s viewers. Actually, Bob's usual audience is probably those very same viewers—women who love it when someone talks dirty to them. The men love him, too, for getting to say all the things they'd like to but would get slapped for. And he warms up their females. A Bob Schneider show is all the foreplay most people need.

I don’t get a chance to shout out my favorite song, “Game Plan,” and that’s OK because Bob plays “The Hulk.” I yell a thank-you afterward, as if my liking the song in the car that afternoon reminded him to play it.

The show lasts about two hours, by which time I’ve had three pints of beer and leave without my Frunk or any goodbyes, except a text to Teddy asking him to save me a CD of the show. Marty drives us home, and we both agree it was one of Bob Schneider’s best, most hard-rocking shows. That’s all we say to each other. And while my husband is upstairs asleep at midnight, I eat leftover lasagna and think of all the things I should’ve done differently—from my fashion choices to the quality and quantity of my conversation. My biggest regret is not getting any casual, daylight, non-concert photos, for fear I’d look like a fan instead of a professional rock ‘n’ roll driver.

I also regret not using this perfect reply when Bob asked what my husband did for a living: "Oh, he's a titty banger from way back."

32 caws:

Beth said... Best Blogger Tips

You are such a fabulous writer. I love reading your stuff. Makes me even more sad I missed his show. Why wouldn't anyone remember you? The impact you leave on people?? You should send this to Bob!

Sarah said... Best Blogger Tips

So psyched you got to experience all that. I think they were lucky to have you as a driver that day and I'm pretty sure Bob will remember you from now on. :)

talktomarie said... Best Blogger Tips

beth is right - you are a fabulous writer. this was a day in your life you will never forget and i doubt bob and his band will ever forget you. i believe you just went up the coolness scale a little bit more!

your thoughts on atheism were dead on for me. the closest i came to believing there truly is a 'god' was when i walked into zion canyon in utah. there was something about the spirituality and essence of that place that made me believe there must be someone, something bigger than us all. he/she must live in zion canyon because when i returned to the 'real world', that feeling left me. perhaps that's why i feel compelled to return. or maybe i just love the outdoors and beautiful scenery and long hikes through canyons. i dunno.

keep up the great blog!

Leslie F. Miller said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks, ladies. Wanted to say to Marie--Zion Canyon IS the place where god lives. In fact, Serena is named for it--Serena Joy Utah Miller. If she'd been a boy, she'd have been Alexander Zion. Yeah.

If there's a god, that's where. Nowhere else.

marie said... Best Blogger Tips

serena has the coolest name evah! i remember reading that the indians and mormons believed that god lived there. once you've been there, it's undeniable. i'm making plans to hike the narrows next year. i went in may and it was too early to do it then so i must go back! have you guys done that?

Leslie F. Miller said... Best Blogger Tips

It's fabulous. I haven't for awhile, but Marty and Serena did this summer!

Brownie said... Best Blogger Tips

Bob will remember. I'm thrilled that you were able to hang with Bob! Very cool.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm glad you got to do this. I can sense your disappointment at the lack of "magic." Unfortunately, people are people and never the superheroes we want them to be.

robin, the boy wonder

Jennifer Konig said... Best Blogger Tips

it's the little things that blow me away about your writing -- "shop-vac’d into a discussion about God" was my favorite here. as always, brilliant writing. and i love how i can picture you now, from when you called me. :-)

Anton said... Best Blogger Tips

Yep!

Kim Hosey said... Best Blogger Tips

I've been a lousy blog friend. I've read this two and a half times at least but I've been out of it and offline and stuff, and I just kept meaning to comment but not managing to come up with anything worthwhile to say. Other than: What they all said. Fabulous experience, great writing, all that. In spades. The little stuff -- that's always the best stuff, definitely.

Your thoughts on faith are almost mine exactly too. Atheism is a religion the same way not collecting stamps is a hobby, I think the saying goes.

For someone who really only gets to know you online and isn't at all into this kind of scene, you made me love the experience, and especially you, a whole heck of a lot. This one was even better than the first installment.

There. I didn't have much to say, and I still took several paragraphs to say it. That's what you do to me.

jodi said... Best Blogger Tips

what an awesome experience!

patrick said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi, Leslie!

MoreCowgirl said... Best Blogger Tips

I adore Bob and am a budding atheist! Fun blog, I learned things I didn't know about him. I just saw him last night in San Diego. I'm from Texas and have seen him in Austin and the DFW area a lot. Seeing him in other cities is a treat, becase we tend to think of him as belonging to US, The Texans, and it's great to see crowds singing along elsewhere. You're such a big fan, you owe it yourself to see him in Austin if you haven't already. It's all the religious experience I need.

MassTwingles said... Best Blogger Tips

This is a pretty late comment but nonetheless, I want to say that I really love your style of writing. While reading this, one feels like one is right there in the front seat with you when you are running Bob and his band around town.

I especially love your comment that "music makes me swoon." That statement resonated with me as I feel the same way! Like you, I could care less about celebrities but to meet the person who has created a piece of art (in this case, music) that really speaks to you and makes you FEEL something emotionally is such a special experience.

Although these experiences are fleeting, they are something to be celebrated in this crazy, mixed-up world of ours. Your writing illuminated in vivid detail the unique honor of "driving Mr. Schneider" and for that I thank you.

Leslie F. Miller said... Best Blogger Tips

Hey, everyone. Thanks for the lovely words. I appreciate it.

Gaëlle said... Best Blogger Tips

Hello, I love Bob Schneider, his music, his spirit and sense of derision. I’ve never experienced such a truly fabulous insight of “just a day in the life of Bob Schneider on tour”. You’re the first person I know who’d done it on the net for everyone to share, so thank you. Must have been quite a day! I live in France but I’ll be in London on Saturday to see Bob on stage. I can hardly believe my luck. Finally, after 10 long years of waiting....BOB IS HERE IN EUROPE. Gaelle.

Leslie F. Miller said... Best Blogger Tips

Congratulations! It is an experience like no other. It's why, after all these years, I see him every time he comes to town. Thanks for stopping by!

MusicLovinLady said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you so much for describing your day with Bob and band. I had heard that he has runners, but have always wondered how one gets that gig. How'd you finagle that??

Leslie F. Miller said... Best Blogger Tips

@MusicLovinLady You can go to his FB fan page and press the LIKE button. Every so often, when they need a runner in your town, they'll post a request on the fan page.

I actually belonged to a street team at the time they asked me, and Jessica had my email address.

If you're interested in doing it, please email me at dogfaceboy@gmail.com, and let me know your city. I'll forward it to Jessica.

Leslie F. Miller said... Best Blogger Tips

@MassTwinglesThank you so much for your kind words.

KP said... Best Blogger Tips

Leslie, this was an amazing blog post!

I just discovered Bob after moving to Austin back in May and your blog pretty much sums up my adoration for him (except stated much more eloquently and less stalkerish). I recently met him after a show and instead of complimenting his performance, thanking him for playing Peaches, saying anything cool at all, I may have inadvertantly made fun of his (always awesome) hair . . . and then confessed to having seen him just 2 days earlier at the same venue (in my defense, I won tickets to his second show, and while I have been known to make some bad decisions in the past, you don't pass up free tickets to Bob . . . ever).

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I loved your blog posts, especially your definition of a groupie. Keep up the great work and if you're ever in Austin and need a place to stay, we have a guest room a mile from the Saxon Pub with your name on it. That is if Bob or Conrad don't extend some Texas hospitality to you first . . .

Leslie F. Miller said... Best Blogger Tips

@KPOK! I'll take you up on that! I'm coming to SXSW next year. :-D But you'll have to email me: dogfaceboy@gmail.com.

raquel said... Best Blogger Tips

Just stumbled on this while I was googling names of various members of Lonelyland. What an awesome experience, I also got all excited because I've actually been to the 8x10 following one of my favorite bands for four shows on the East Coast. Bob is fantastic and while I'm a newer fan I've been pretty obsessed with him lately.

Leslie F. Miller said... Best Blogger Tips

@raquelWhich band?!

Nancy Davis Kho said... Best Blogger Tips

A year late and a dollar short - but I have to tell you how much I enjoyed this day-in-the-life view of your Bob adventure. Glad you stopped by my blog and led me here...

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm sorry, but I don't agree with everyone on here thinking this is such an amazing article. I found it to be pretty droll and groupie-ish...and not in a good way. I know Bob and I can tell you right now he could sense that you probably have some sort of mild obsession with him. It seems as though he probably said about 5 sentences (at best) to you. He's actually pretty talkative if you can hold a conversation. I'm not implying you can't, I'm just observing. He can also be a tremendous dick, too, when he so chooses. However, I do agree with you that Billy Harvey should never have left the band. He was great.

Leslie F. Miller said... Best Blogger Tips

@Anonymous What an astute reader you are: "groupie-ish...and not in a good way." Thanks for your insight.

feloneouscat said... Best Blogger Tips

@Anonymous wrote: "I know Bob and I can tell you right now he could sense that you probably have some sort of mild obsession with him. It seems as though he probably said about 5 sentences (at best) to you."

Unless you are Bob Schneider, you have absolutely no idea what he thought or what kind of conversation went on. Unless you know Leslie, you are not capable of making any analysis, much less pseudo-pop-psych.

I would, in fact, argue that it is Anonymous who is the groupie for talking this way. I know quite a few Austin musicians, although I cannot claim Mr. Schneider as a close personal friend.

Let me clarify, anonymous, you KNOW of Schneider, but you are not a friend of Bob's. You want to defend YOUR view of Schneider because that is what groupies do.

Let me clarify, anonymous, it is not unusual to want to impress people you like. But it's fucking creepy when you pretend you can read their minds.

To me, Leslie is a rock star, famous for her writing.

Anonymous, other than post creepy groupie writing, what are you famous for? Stalking? That's observing, too.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Just a few comments/questions for the anonymous Bob-knower:

First, it's a blog post, not an article.

Second, you know Bob? Did you talk to him about his day with Leslie? Did he give you insight as to how he thought she was groupie-ish? Did he inform you that he only spoke "5 sentences" to her? Did he tell you he would have preferred being talkative but, Leslie's groupie-ish-ness creeped him out? Did he tell you about these magical "senses" he has? Or, are you just a fan of Bob who is projecting your own view of what he is onto him? I'll give you two guesses as to which is most probable.

Third, for someone making an observation, you're not very observant.

Fourth, droll? Really?

In conclusion, Leslie rocks, Bob rocks and, you suck! :)

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Okay, since some people can't take criticism, good or bad, I'll just say this:

I met Bob when I was 20 and we remained good friends for a few years. Was I a groupie? No. He approached me after his first show here and gave me his phone number and we would often talk until he came back through town again, at which point we would spend the day together. So I guess you could say I was his driver, too. I worked at the local concert house so I've seen my fair share of groupies. I've been approached by a lot of musicians but it doesn't mean I immediately go sleep with them in their hotel room. No, Bob would hang out at my house and we went to the museums here. It was nice. As far as the "5 sentences" thing, that's really all she alluded to. It could've been more. And when you've known someone like Bob like I have, you kind of know how they are around certain people. He was never without things to say when we were hanging out. And why is everyone taking this so personal? Sheesh. Learn to take some bad with the good. "Macigal senses"? No, it's called common sense when someone isn't exactly being very chatty. And è says in the "blog" (excuse my horrible blunder) that he acted that way. Shit, take down my comment if it's SO offensive to everyone who clearly knows him and wasn't posting "I wish I was there!" or "You're so lucky!" stuff. I'm 31 now, so if I WERE to meet him for the first time at this age, I wouldn't have been as naïve as I was at 20. Do I regret it? No, absolutely not. Get a grip, ladies.

Leslie F. Miller said... Best Blogger Tips

@Anonymous I think it was your snotty accusation.

You don't have to love what I wrote. You could just pass it by; no law says you have to share an unkind opinion. "I found it to be pretty droll and groupie-ish." You want to correct a misperception? You can do that without accusation or insult.

I've never been a groupie—not once. I wasn't at 47 when I wrote this, and I'm not now, at 51. I'm just a fan (and not a very good one at that).

People don't always hit it off. You and Bob did. I guess you get whatever prize there is to get. And though it's a general human desire to want to be liked, I have no need to be Bob's friend. I signed up to drive him around because the idea of it made me giddy and because I like experiences I can write about. (I'm a writer, see.)

A couple kind people came to my defense because they sensed I was being attacked by someone. (Not sure why, five years after the fact, this crossed your radar.) But it's lovely to have loyal friends.

But back to the point: you can defend someone's honor (if saying someone can be a dick is defending him) without offending another person. Maybe that comes in your forties. I seem to recall the 30s being the growing-into-your-own-woman phase, which is often marked by pissing on your territory.

Have a good one—whatever one you have.