The Fishing Cats

(The Fall 2010 Blog Entries of James White) By James Whittingham
©2010 James Whittingham (All Rights Reserved.)

The Fishing Cats

-----------------------------------"Wanna confess my sins in the presence of my friends" -----------------------------------

The Blog: (entries undated) I’m Back After Being Moved by Something I Saw on the Web
The idea of being moved by art on the internet was all but dead to me when I happened upon something last night that seemed like it could change my life. The video link on my Facebook reappeared over and over on friend's walls and I finally gave in and watched. I'm so glad I did. Usually, I ignore such links, being old, cynical, and having a waning interest in music. The Wilderness Downtown makes use of the HTML 5, opening p multiple windows in your browser which show different video images with the music. But what moved me, what cut into my soul, was the surprising use of moving images from my childhood home and the street around it. You input your home address at the beginning and it incorporates Google Street view images from the address. The result is a personalized music video that connects on a uniquely personal level with the viewer.

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The music and images are mesmerizing. By the end, I felt spent. It was the first time in a long time I was strongly emotionally-impacted by art. It woke me up from a long sleep. It was inspiring and unsettling, because my childhood memories, like most people's, is full of heartbreak and turmoil. The video conjures up these feelings in a song about remembering your past. Where do I go from here? I don't know. I'm a lapsed filmmaker, blogger and everything else. I haven't amounted to much and I've been feeling like my life is slipping away as the time passes faster and faster with the same routine. I long for the days of romance, friendships and uncertainty. I wish I were a painter. I'd pick up a brush and start expressing the feelings this video stirred up. Now that I'm awake, I'm not sure what to do.

More on that Video
I watched the video a few more times and I'm starting to dig the song. It's by Arcade Fire, a band I haven't thought much about. I think I knew that they were Canadian but I'm not sure I've ever heard their music before. They released a new album earlier in August and a couple of my younger friends were mentioning them on Facebook, some in extremely positive ways.

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I showed a few people the video and watched their reactions. Intense! Problem is, many of my friends don't come from Regina or other bigger Canadian Cities, they come from small farming towns around Saskatchewan whose streets haven't been cataloged by Google Street View. Here's how Adverblog describes the video: Choreographed windows, interactive flocking, custom rendered maps, real-time compositing, procedural drawing, 3D canvas rendering... this Chrome Experiment has them all. "The Wilderness Downtown" is an interactive interpretation of Arcade Fire's song "We Used To Wait" and was built entirely with the latest open web technologies, including HTML5 video, audio, and canvas. Obviously, I can't get this out of my mind. I feel the blood flowing in my body for the first time in years. When I Like Something… I watched the video a few more times and I'm starting to dig the song. It's by Arcade Fire, a band I haven't thought much about. I think I knew that they were Canadian but I'm not sure I've ever heard their music before. They released a new album earlier in August and a couple of my younger friends were mentioning them on Facebook, some in extremely positive ways.

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I showed a few people the video and watched their reactions. Intense! Problem is, many of my friends don't come from Regina or other bigger Canadian Cities, they come from small farming towns around Saskatchewan whose streets haven't been cataloged by Google Street View. Here's how Adverblog describes the video: Choreographed windows, interactive flocking, custom rendered maps, real-time compositing, procedural drawing, 3D canvas rendering... this Chrome Experiment has them all. "The Wilderness Downtown" is an interactive interpretation of Arcade Fire's song "We Used To Wait" and was built entirely with the latest open web technologies, including HTML5 video, audio, and canvas. Obviously, I can't get this out of my mind. I feel the blood flowing in my body for the first time in years. Arcade Fire is Playing in Saskatoon I found out today that Arcade Fire is playing two hours north of me in Saskatoon in late September. I haven't been to a concert--a real concert--since Neil Young and Crazy Horse played the Agridome here in 1997. I had an out-of body experience at that concert during the onesong encore: Like a Hurricane. A small part of me is incredibly excited by this news, but

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the reality is that I'm far too cheap to go to concerts nowadays. They seem so expensive. I'm a guy who, if he's going to blow a hundred bucks, wants to have something to show for it. Something fun and gadgetty that can distract me from the boredom of everyday. I'm not sure if I even know anyone who'd be interested in going. It would be brutal, a man my age going to a rock concert alone. Arcade Fire's new album Suburbs is fantastic. Totally grew on me and I have a new favourite song every day it seems. I'm going to start listening to their first two records as well. I watched videos of them on Letterman and SNL. They seem very good live, with lots of energy and a wide variety of instruments. I love that they have violinists as regular members of their band. It makes for a great sound and a rare one in rock music. If only I was ten years younger and hadn't let my friends drift out of my highly-constrained life. Album: The Suburbs I wonder if the viral, experimental video (The Wilderness Downtown) has worked on other people as it has me. Suddenly I've downloaded my first new album in a couple of years and it's growing on me. I've read they like to record things on old-fashioned tape instead of digital. They're older than their years. Maybe I'm not too old to be seen in the same room as them. Not Looking Forward to September I turn 37 on September 23rd. I feel like I should have changed the world by now, or at least seen it. I've been to

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a few Canadian Cities and spent two and a half days in NYC (I couldn't wait to leave, my muscles were sore from how tense I was there.) The 100-year-old sky scrapers seemed to contain the souls of dead people. It was too big of a leap to go from a lifetime in a small prairie city (Pop. 200,000) to NYC. It seems way too late in life to do something new or move somewhere else. But should I just sit here and die a slow death? I can see my funeral on the horizon because there's nothing standing between me and it. I want to start living my life, but I'm so paralyzed by the thought of all the years I've wasted. And I fear change will lead to loneliness. If I could go back to the day I graduated from film school, I'd do everything differently. I would seek out fun at every turn and take risks. I would avoid the trap I'm in now.

Photo: The Suburbs at Night
I live in a perpetual suburb called Uplands. It was built in the last half of the 1970s on the north edge of Regina. However, nothing has been built beyond it since. I think they are reserving it for industrial development. It kind of feels like it might have when they built it. Yet the people who lived here then lived different lives, without so much technology. Children played outdoors and learned about the world real in hands-on ways. The blue lights in the distance are rows of big box stores lit by light bulbs of different gases than my street lights. I shot this long-exposure and color-corrected to make everything look normal, not orange like the street lights. I kinda like the effect. It's surreal because it seems like day but with pools of light and no one around. I'd like to do a

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photo essay with this look and include my childhood neighborhood. I had a dream once when I was a very young child that I've always remembered. I was walking home and it was nighttime but the street lights were off, yet you could see. This dream spurred a life-long interest in the surreal and influenced the films I made in film school. When I was younger, I poured my soul into exploring those feelings from my childhood and expressing them in art. I don't know when or why I stopped, but it's heartbreaking to think about. Photo: Box Stores Beyond Box Stores I was out trying to see if the Northern Lights were out tonight (they weren't) so I shot this from in front of my house. In this telephoto shot overlooking the highway, we see Walmart in the foreground and Home Depot beyond it, with all the assorted mini-box stores that fill in the gaps. The ghost is the strange lady who lives down the block roller blading on our smooth, newly-paved road. She wears a traffic vest. She's the one who returns my garbage bin from the street to my house after they pick up the trash. (It's for security reasons she says, something about making burglars think we're home.) Weird, but not as weird as the analogue clock she hangs in her front window for all to see. I wonder if it's a statement about how little time we have or if she's just trying to be helpful.

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Cha-Ching?
I dropped in on my elderly mother yesterday and she announced that she wanted me to go buy her an apartment-sized chest freezer, or "deep freeze" as my parents called them when I was growing up in the 1970s. I found one cheap this morning and installed it in her main floor spare room. She gave me my birthday card, as she does every year, a few days in advance of my birthday. I thanked her, she thanked me and I got the hell out of Dodge. I can take very little of that woman. When I got home I was surprised to see a C-note in the supposedly funny card. As a rule she gives out $35 to each child, daughter in-law and grandchild. (It started at $50 but had to go down as the family expanded.) I had been helping her a lot lately and this was her way of rewarding me without giving me the chance to turn down her compensation. But this means I could go to Arcade Fire in Saskatoon on the 25th, if I can resist the urge to blow the money on fun boy-toy things. A brief survey of UsedRegina.com revealed a few tickets selling at face value for the concert, but they are almost all in pairs. There is one single but it just seems awkward to go buy a ticket from someone and then see them again at the concert, ass cheek to ass cheek. I'd really rather go with someone, use their car, and split the gas.

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Now to put out a Facebook feeler and see if any of my friends are into this band. Photo: Northern Lights I may live in Canada but it's still a rare treat to see the northern lights at my mid-latitude location. The nice thing about living in the 'burbs is only having to travel a few minutes get out of the city lights. I once took a photo of the northern lights from my innercity backyard in the early days of consumer digital cameras and they showed it on The Weather Network. The next Sunday afternoon my mother called me to tell me about all the church ladies who saw my name on TV and mentioned it to her. I later replicated the experience by taking a picture of a large, fallen tree branch in my front yard when a cold front blew through. These examples constitute highlights in my otherwise linear life during the last ten years. I should have been striving for far grander things than getting my name on the weather channel. At what point did I throw in the towel? What fork in the road did I take that I shouldn't have taken? My memory of that time is frustratingly blurred. Facebook Feeler In a Facebook status update, I asked simply if anyone was going to Arcade Fire in Saskatoon. I have a hundred and fifty friends and only one responded. "Yeah, I was going to go with Mike but I had to work,"

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wrote Lowell, a decent friend whose only a few years younger than me but seems a generation apart. So nothing there. Still a few tickets kicking around Kijiji and UsedRegina. In fact, Ticketmaster doesn't say anything about the concert being sold out on their site. I was Lowell's age when things went sour. I should warn him of the dangers, assuming they aren't utterly unavoidable. Commitment Pain From the same dude who can't go to the concert, today this was in his status update: "The Arcade Fire won't watch themselves this Saturday, people! Buy my ticket! Go with Mike. Or I will find a way to go myself and brag about the show 'til your ears bleed." Why didn't he offer me the ticket? LD's a good friend. Maybe he thought I was too old or that I couldn't afford it. I can't blame him, it's not like he's ever heard me talk about music or going to concerts. UPDATE: He says the ticket is $56, Mike would drive and would split the gas. DECISION TIME! Do I really want to do this? I barely, BARELY know Mike. In fact, I don't know Mike at all! He's almost old enough to be my son. Would he want to go with a middle-aged guy who's square as an old house? Do I want to spend the money? I mean, a month ago I

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didn't know who this band even was. Dammit!!!! It’s my birthday: Fuck it, I’m Going! My life has been lacking a lot lately. I haven't much to believe in or anything to hope for. It's a lot of money for me to spend and strange circumstances going with a stranger to something as intimate as a rock concert but what the hell? Mike sounds like a bit of a cold fish but LD tells me he's happy to have the ticket sold and not have to drive up alone. So, Saturday, September 25th I'm going to see these guys live at the Credit Union Center in Saskatoon. They just played Minneapolis and Winnipeg after arriving here from Europe, where they will return to after playing western North America. I know so much about these guys. I've read everything, watched every YouTube clip. Listened to every song over and over. It'll be weird to see them face to face. The tickets are not floor seats but they're not bad. You know what? If they were floor seats I would bring some ping-pong balls to throw on stage. I think Win, the lead singer, would find that funny since he's so into the whole table tennis thing on tour. Man, I feel like a kid again. Who is Mike?

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The Fishing Cats This Saturday I'll be traveling two and half hours north to Saskatoon to see The Arcade Fire concert with Mike. I don't know Mike. Mike is a friend of a friend. That friend had an extra concert ticket that he couldn't use, so that's where I come in. Here's what I know about Mike: 1) His musical tastes are similar to mine, and 2) Mike is a dancing machine. I know this because I've been out with Mike and have seen him dance the night away. That's another reason why I don't know Mike, you can't get to know someone if they're dancing all night. I'm not much of a dancer myself (old war injury and too many white genes), and even if I was, Mike and I probably wouldn't have talked much on the dance floor. I've already decided I can't pack a cooler with my favorite beverages and haul it along in Mike's car because, you never know, Mike might be a neat freak, and I'd like to get off to a good start with Mike. I've already erased any inner hope I have of stopping at the ice cream shop I like on the highway. Not only could Mike be a neat freak, but he could also hate ice cream. He's very thin. I don't know what kind of car Mike drives, but I hope it's not a Hummer, since I've agreed to pay half the gas. I also hope it's not one of those tiny Smart cars, since I'm a very large man who likes to stretch his legs. If Mike has a motorcycle of some sort, that might be interesting. 13

The Fishing Cats It would be especially interesting if Mike's motorcycle has one of those side compartments that I could ride in and not have to put my arms around Mike. Also, I would be more comfortable eating ice cream in the side compartment since it's its own compartment, kinda autonomous from the rest of the motorcycle. If Mike pulls up in a red sports car, which I think he will (he's young and single), I'll assume he's a fast and dangerous driver. In that case, I'll make sure my seat belt is done up tight against my pelvic bone and hope for the best while blowing extra kisses to my cat. If Mike's car is gray and practical, I'll assume he's a very nice person, without a temper. If it runs on diesel, I'll assume he smokes drugs and the night will be far more interesting than I first expected. If his car is an old beater and there's garbage strewn about the inside and it smells, I'm going to ask Mike if we can stop for ice cream. Road Update 1
So far Mike seems really cool. (His car is white, clean but has a fairly dusty dash so I know he's not too uptight.) When he mentioned he liked Neil Young's Prairie Wind album I looked at him in shock. "What???" he asked. "You don't like it, I take it?" On the contrary. It was one of those "If you had tits, I'd marry you" moments. I love that album and Mike was the first person I've ever come across that feels the same way.

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Early Arcade Fire is is being fed from his iPod Mini into the car stereo. We're pumped! Road Update 2: Bad Accident Out of nowhere, just around a slight curve, we came upon an accident. In our lane sits a truck upside down with debris strewn far and wide in all directions, like it was dropped out of an airplane. People are getting tended to on the side of the highway by civilians. Mike stopped, thinking the overturned truck has made the road impassable. We got out, parked behind five or six cars at the side of the road. It looks bad. Our hearts are pumping. An ambulance arrives, the first responders to the scene. The truck looks flattened, with the cab crushed in. This has to be a fatal accident, we were thinking. We got in Mike's car and left after we saw that other people were continuing on. I rolled down the window and pointed my cell at the truck to take a photo. A young teenaged girl looked up at me as I do so. She looks sad and disappointed in me. I felt like shit. Was she in the vehicle? Did she know the victims? Why does everyone feel it's their obligation to be a journalist these days? Mike looked away. He thought there would be dead or mangled bodies in the wreckage. There is not. Thank God. But what happened and why? There was no intersection at that part of the road, how could this happen? How could it be so violent? We both agreed that the guy must have been going very fast and cart-wheeled or became airborne. Mike and I talked for a half hour about it, speculating.

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We're they Arcade Fire fans heading to the same place we were? Are they people just like us, doing the same harmless thing (traveling down a four-lane highway on the flat prairies in summer) whose lives were ended or changed forever due to some unknowable split second mistake? It's amazing how a moment, an instant can change one's life forever. A cloud now hangs over our trip. We're shaken up but it could have been worse. We didn't see much of anything.

Road Update 3
Arcade Fire tunes have ended, all three albums played. Not much more to go. So Mike seems great. He's 26, an electrical engineering grad, a Buddhist in training, creative guy who likes the gadgets, just like me. But he's so calm and easy going. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the Buddhist thing because that's recent. The friends he knows who I know are all the same way. The next generation after me can't seem to get excited about anything, everything's a level smooth line of eventemperament. And they never talk about sex. They're not guy's guys. You know, pigs like me. Maybe I don't know them well enough for them to really let loose. I mean, would I if I were young and hanging out with an old man who I didn't know? That could be the problem: I forget that I'm old. One of my best friends recently spoke of his grandfather who had just passed away. He asked his grandpa how old he felt and his grandpa said, "Eighteen." He meant

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mentally, of course. This lead me to understand "dirty old men." Your sexuality doesn't disappear when you get old. None of your prime-of-life qualities do. I still look at eighteen year-old-chicks and forget that I could easily be their father. I've come to accept this and have invested in over-sized sunglasses to hide my gaze. I wonder if Mike is level-headed because his parents were quiet and didn't yell at him. I wonder if Mike is the new norm because his parents are probably my generation. A generation aware of the importance of being a good parent and having the means and time to do it.

Road Update 4
We're here! We're parking at the edge of the parking lot so we can get out fast, but it's still not much of a walk to the main entrance. The hockey arena is outside the city on the flat prairie surrounded by parking lots. It's in the middle of nowhere. The late September night is unusually warm and the sun is setting colorfully before our eyes. It's perfect. It's calm, surreal and room-temperature. The sun's orange rays paint the people and the white concrete arena. It's like Heaven. Either that, or it was us who died in that crash earlier and this is a strange death dream. I can feel just how perfect this is. All these like-minded people are converging here, I'm not used to being among like-minded people. It feels weird that I have something in common with all these strangers. They know it and I know it, yet we don't speak.

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I have to get out more! Inside the Arena We're in Sask. Place. The Roughrider football game is playing on screens throughout the concourse. Mike's a CFL fan too, I just discovered. I forgot the Facebook pics posted of him appearing quite clearly on the national TV broadcast of last year's Grey Cup game from Calgary. There's a minute left in the game and the 'Riders are trying to prevent Hamilton from tying it up with a long drive and a touchdown. Everyone, young and old has stopped to watch the game because football is the biggest and only thing around here. The game gets tense as Hamilton reaches to our ten yard line. Then, without notice, the lights went out and Calexico started. Don't they know where they are? A province of one million people ALL 'Rider fans. No one flinches as there's time for one more play on the clock. A huge roar comes from way down the concourse. They must have the TV feed five seconds before we do. Someone points out, "We must have won!" Our TV catches up: it's an interception in the end zone and we win. A huge cheer, a moment of celebration, then we found our seats. Calexico Warms the Crowd Mike's heard great things about Calexico from a concert he was at last night in Regina. He's buddies with and fans of the band Rah, Rah, a local indie band who is well-

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respected but hasn't quite caught on enough for it to be a full time job. I got an aisle seat which I am thankful for. I didn't want to be wedged between Mike and some hot, whored up co-ed who would spend the concert cringing at being next to an old man like me. All the women are hot here. Don't ugly people go to concerts? The women are hot by default because they're under thirty. At my age, everyone under thirty looks hot. And I don't get out much, I can't emphasize that enough. Getting the aisle seat will help me relax. I can stretch out into the aisle and not have to force my knees together to make room. It's like Christmas when I do that: a lot of nut-cracking. Good News! Mike spotted Dan, a man my age who manages to be cool, two rows in front of us. I've worked with Dan but don't really know him. Anyhoo, Dan just got to town, probably an hour behind us and said there was no longer any carnage on the highway. The police are always there for hours afterward if someone dies. Or if they suspect someone might die or be seriously injured in an accident. So that's a relief. Those people are fucking lucky. I hope they know how lucky they are and smarten the hell up. I'm starving. I haven't eaten since 3 PM. Mike, that skinny bastard has not mentioned the subject. It's going on 8:30

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and I don't want to spend my first concert fainting from low blood sugar. Food! Mike got a call on his cell and went down to floor level to wait for a friend. Sam is a member of Rah, Rah and somehow knows the current tour manager for Arcade Fire, which is why he's on the floor and has back stage passes. I'm full of envy. I asked Mike to kill him and take his backstage pass. He's considering it. I ducked out to get as much nutrition as I could. I wolfed down a gross charcoaled burger and inhaled two draft beers. I hate draft beers. It tastes like carbonated piss, but tonight I needed the relaxation and the filling. I kept thinking about the beer slogan "Less filling" and how I needed "more filling" on this night. I'm a cheep date at the best of times, but beer on an empty stomach makes me one fast drunk. I always tell everyone it's allergies and most people seem to believe me. Can’t Believe I’m Here I can see the stage clearly from our seats in the stands. Every seat in the house must be pretty decent. The stage is halfway up so it's a half circle of stadium seats and general admission on the floor. Speaking of which, Mike's still waiting for his friend down by the floor. I don't get it why it's worth waiting so long, but I'm starting to feel the beer and the electricity. It hit me a minute ago that some people might think I'm

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Mike's dad. I'm still horrified. More beer! Have to loosen up. OMFG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! wE'RE ON THE floor! Mike's friend had the road manger lady with him and we're waveed in like it was nuthing! May even get back stage afer show!!!! FUCK ME!! arCade Fire just about to take the stage amazingggggggggggggg!!! sound is surprisingly great!!! In the middle of fllor crowd, guy smoking joint beside me. I actually asked him to share. That's soo not like me. the shit these kids smoke these days! doing sprawl part two, lovit! I’M IN CALGARY It's Sunday morning, I'm in Calgary, in the bowels of Saddledome. I wish I could push a button and print out everything that happened last night but I can't. I'll spend the rest of my life writing it out, figuring it out. And I'm not sure I even remember every minute of it. I NEVER blackout. Not for a second. I'm aware of everything that's ever happened to me except a few hours when I was put under by my dentist to have four impacted molars removed. I woke up in my bed, thanks to my girlfriend. I still marvel at that. We actually got back stage last night and met most of the band briefly. For some reason Rah, Rah Sam knew one of the violin players. I have to call her Jenny and not use her

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real name. I know Jenny is as stupid name, but she reminds me of a Jenny I once knew. Anyway, the band had to pack up and head to Calgary right away and the party was cut short but continued on the bus with me smoking up with some people. Here's the thing: Jenny kissed me. Full on the lips, grasping my ears gently. It didn't seem like a joke, but that was it. I was subtly ogling her all night, I'm sure, so she probably wanted to give me a thrill or something, give a dork like me something to remember. Didn't seem like a pity kiss though. Regardless that was it for the physical contact. Maybe I reminded her of someone. Maybe she's insane. I don't know her from hole in the ground, but she sure seems nice. Needless to say, I'm all warm and fuzzy inside. It's stupid, I know, a cute woman says "Hi" and I'm in lust. I'm an idiot that way--pathological--always have been. It's a serious problem with me. I'm a perfectly normal functioning human being, but with women, I'm mentally-ill. A woman musician (a rock star of sorts to boot) has never so much as spoken my name before. I didn't dare think it when I was twenty, why would I now with me starting to get out of shape, old, with thinning hair...no purpose in life, nothing to define me or for me to be proud of? I guess I'm not totally useless. I beat Win in table tennis. That is to say: Win did not win. Crew were waiting to take down the table. Jokes were flying around and it came up that I played as a kid and as young man. I don't know how I did it, if Will only pretended to give a shit and it was a big joke to the band, I don't know. And I was high. I've struggled with anxiety all my life and I wonder if I turned into Superman--me reaching the limits of potential--just

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because I was relaxed for once. When I was a kid, we had a small pool table in the rumpus room. My dad would play slow and methodologically and would always beat me. I was all about the adrenaline and having fun. I just took my shot without much care and waited and waited for him to take his. He threw off the fast rhythm that I had kicking my friends' asses. One time, my parents had a party and the neighbourhood alpha males where playing pool. After they got a few games out of their system, they invited me to the table. I cleared the table, shot after shot with my own fast-paced, devil-may-care rhythm. Each and every shot went in and they thought always it was a fluke. They just laughed at me. Even at the end, on the last ball confidently slamming into the hole, they assumed it was luck and laughed it off. Fuck you, I thought. I wiped my friends' asses the same way, this was nothing new for me. Last night the planets aligned and everything I ever knew about ping pong came back to me and inhabited my body. It was like the party night in my parent's basement. Maybe I need a party atmosphere to thrive at recroom sports. Regardless, it made me the toast of the postconcert gathering. They found out I could take pictures too. The northern lights came up and I showed them some of my Flickr pics. Then I they saw my 'suburb nightfor-day' shots and the husband and wife lead singers, Win and Régine, got all interested in me for a few minutes. Régine invited me to Calgary and entrusted me with her DSLR camera, retrieved from the belly of one of the buses. Her cousin was taking photos on the tour but she got unexpectedly bumped up in an adoption cue and left after the second Minneapolis show. It's not crucial but they like to have someone taking photos, their life is like a

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bar mitzvah or something. I don't get paid, but I get a healthy per diem (almost enough to call it pay for me) and a plane ticket back home. I think it's coming out of the band's pocket. The tour manager's assistant gave me 75 bucks out of petty cash to buy a jacket and a lens hood for the camera. I insisted on a lens hood for the stage shots because of all the lights that would cause lens flare. I was just trying to assert myself, though. I really don't know what I'm doing, film school or not. It's cold. I'm cold. I'm taking a taxi somewhere to buy a jacket. I only know how to shop at Walmart but I'll have to figure out how to find something (in the wilderness) downtown. What the hell have I gotten myself into? More, asap. I Hate Calgary It's so fucking big and pointless. Kinda like me. I made it back for the sound check and no one was talking to me. Thank Christ for my credentials or I'd be stranded in Calgary. I guess I could sell Régine's camera on the street and find a bus but I've never taken a bus on the highway (too many decapitations.) I was thinking I shouldn't be here. I was thinking last night was a fleeting, "Oh cute, James can take creative pictures, let's bring him along." I was thinking I can't socialize with these successful rich people at the top of their game. I'm an unsuccessful poor person precisely at

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the bottom of my game. Nor am I young and good-looking like everyone seems to be. I'm not completely new to musicians and concerts. In a past life I produced a show on a community access TV channel in Regina. I was in my late twenties at the time, and already feeling very old. You can't imagine how I feel now. For three years it was my job to "hire" volunteers (university students who wanted to see themselves on TV) and do a show on local entertainment. I developed a relationship with the local record company reps who wanted to show the suits in Toronto they were promoting their acts. And I needed to fill thirty minutes of no-budget schlock TV every week. I did a good job of it, especially with the editing and the photography, so much so, the reps were comfortable with me doing pieces on their bigger bands even though it was community television. BB King and Neil Young (no interview with the latter) were examples. I did get back stage with Neil Young's show beforehand and met their crew who grew to trust me. I had a sound feed right off the board (a good one, which was rare) and a place to shoot on their sound platform. They made me physically power off the camera every time they touched me on the shoulder to prevent a bootleg video from getting out. But they let me do most of Hey, Hey, My, My and it was awesome. Had YouTube existed in 1996, it would have been very tempting! Other than that, I was shooting small touring bands at the local clubs every Thursday night and some weekends. I hated the late hours, the drunk people and the phoniness of musicians who seemed in it just to get laid. It wasn't long before I saw right through the whole thing and

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became disillusioned with music. I eventually got volunteers to do the shooting and I stopped showing up for the concerts. I know, based on what I've read, that Arcade Fire tries to exist outside the music industry, but everything seems cold and corporate today. There aren't many weasels walking around, just people doing their jobs, however it still seems like a large money-making machine on the move, dragging me along with it. Falling Off the Saddle The Calgary stadium, much larger than the one in Saskatoon, is filling with people. People that are brighteyed and bushy-tailed, eager to see Arcade Fire. They were me twenty-four hours ago in my home province. I wonder where the bright-eyed, enthusiastic James went to. Was he left on the highway at three in the morning when we stopped at a Husky for someone to defecate? (Number two is not allowed on the buses.) Did my soul leave me at that point, waiting for the first opportunity to ditch me and fly away? Justin is with the tour manager, I think he's an assistant. He and the tour publicist took me aside this afternoon. They gave me a four-Gigabyte camera card professionally labeled to indicate that it is their property. I am to turn the card in and exchange it for another one whenever mine's full. At no time am I to load photos on my computer or anyone else's. They're not my photos. Needless to say, I feel like dirt. I feel like I've been treated like a criminal even though they (maybe not all) asked me to do it. Maybe they've changed their minds. It's okay if they did. Just say so and I'll head home.

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I've been waiting to take pictures. I've got nothing so far. Roadies setting up, sound check guys doing their thing. The sound check itself wasn't supposed to be filmed. So what's left? I have to have something to show for my presence. I really dread being exposed as an idiot in front of these people. I'm going to hit the corridors and see if I can find any interesting fans. The band is not here. They've skipped the catering and went out for supper. There are moments when I get the impression they don't give a shit about their audience or even that they take them for granted. What can I tell you? I'm thinking about Jenny and why she kissed me. It's an escape from the loneliness, isolation and boredom I suddenly find myself in. Even though I know the Jenny thing is non-existent, I'm using it to purposely get lost in fantasy. I don't even know if she's single. And even if she is, I'd doubt we'll even so much as shake hands again. But I wish she was my friend. Especially right now. Got a text from Mike. He headed home at 2 AM with Sam in tow. They were going to crash in a hotel. I don't know why they didn't. I wish I went with them. Calgary Concert On! Jaded or not, I'm thinking tonight's show was even better than last night's. The crowd was even more into it tonight. I have a theory about this. There's many times more people in Calgary so more of them here are die-hard Arcade Fire fans and fewer are general music lovers or hangers-on.

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I may have made a friend in Justin, the tour manager's assistant, after all. He said they were looking for me to go to supper with the band. Apparently, that's one of the types of things they wanted me to shoot. I don't recall that from last night when I was told what I can and cannot shoot. Anyway, he seems sympathetic towards me and that's something I needed. Jenny smiled and said, "Hi you!" before the show. "High James," would have been better. And tearing her shirt open and throwing her arms around me would have topped that. Hopefully the band warms up to me after the show. Justin's going to get back to me about transportation home. He didn't seem worried, which reassured me. Got a half-interesting shot of Win at the microphone completely out of focus with the crowd brightly lit in the background, completely in focus. Kinda liking G's camera. Guess What? I'm going to Vancouver. No one really thought I could stick around for this show and catch a midnight flight to Regina. There are no midnight flights to Regina. Regina's so small, we're lucky there are any flights to Regina. I photographed the band after the show back stage, talking to some lucky fans and it worked out great. The ISO on this camera is amazing and I only used the faintest of flashes. I caught some genuine moments of starstruckedness from fans and happiness from the band. The band seems to really like each other. The trip will be two days on a bus. I'll probably be stuck

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out of sight somewhere in a corner. Some of the members of the band are off to catch a band playing a local club before we leave town. Enough people have talked to me tonight that I feel like I'm not dead. Win even teased me about ping-pong, something about grassing my ass next time. I think I'm actually glad to be here again. On the Road to Vancouver Departed Calgary, heading to Vancouver: 3 AM Upcoming: two days on a bus with strangers and there seems to be less of a party atmosphere this time. I have to sleep in a chair. I'm not good at that. I'm going to be a zombie by the time Vancouver comes. I think there are sleeping pills available. If I could 'score' one, I'd do it, even though it's totally out of character for me to dabble in prescriptions. Guaranteed sleep would keep my head above water. I've never been to Vancouver. I know lots of people who've moved there. It's a beautiful city, they say, but it's cloudy and rainy all too often. Coming from one of the sunniest, driest places in North American, it's a real downer for Saskatchewanians to be in Van. Forecast is for sunshine though. I heard that the fall is nicer than summer on the B.C. west coast. So, unless they kick me off the bus, I'll get to finally see Vancouver. The mountains are out my window, but I can't see them. I know they're there, I know they're large, but it's night. I've been to the mountains many times. They make a prairie boy feel claustrophobic sometimes. But as

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much as I feel spiritual standing alone on a rural prairie road, with the blue sky wrapping me in its warmth from horizon to horizon, so to do the mountains. There's something definitely spiritual about them. The band travels at night all the time when on tour. I'd doubt they see much of anything on their tours other than arenas. I don't see the appeal. When the Rolling Stones played in Regina (the first huge outdoor rock concert in my hometown), they flew in on a private plane. They played two concerts in town with one day off. One of them flew back to England on a private jet on the day off just for the hell of it. People might say Arcade Fire is big, but this tour bus thing really isn't the "Big Time." (I think the Stones charged three times as much for the tickets and sold five times as many as the AF Saskatoon show.) If it was me, I'd be tempted to fly from place to place and earn less money. But then you'd have to have extra staff to take your gack up to the hotel room, check in for you, get you to the airport...it's all so complicated. I can see why this is the only way for a superstar indie band, given the hassle of flying. Most everyone else is sleeping, most on bunk beds with little curtains drawn for privacy. I still hear the odd iPod headphones going but I'm not sure if the ears they are over are awake or asleep. Mountains Beyond Mountains (I talk to Win) B.C. Interior, Noonish The front man of the band, Win, talked to me for forty minutes last night. Someone in the San Francisco press dissed Arcade Fire. Although Win says he wasn't

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bothered, he was up responding to it on his iPhone with friends. Then he couldn't sleep and spotted me writing on my laptop. He's surprisingly quiet and awkward for a rock star millionaire (I presume) who has everything going for him. But then Neil Young is downright reclusive and there's no doubt he's a genius. Win's not THAT different from me in a lot of ways. If we grew up in the same place at the same time, we'd be 80% alike. But he's the toast of the world and I'm a squashed insect stuck to his shoe. It's a fine line what can happen to someone who's shy and awkward. You can thrive and believe in yourself, or you can believe your own doubt and fall into a giant hole and never get out. I think his upbringing, although strict, was more stable than mine, yet you can sense pain in him. You certainly feel that in his music, which I and so many other people so easily identify with. Maybe I was doomed for a life of mediocrity due only to a fragile self-esteem, permanently damaged in my childhood by the adults in my life. Win and I talked Neil Young. He can talk about Neil Young and articulate things I have felt, but could never put into words. It's easier for me to talk technical things so the conversation got into Young mastering an album at CD quality at the height of the CD craze, then flip flopping in later years and realizing that CD quality is actually crap. He filled me in on his recording philosophy (the latest album was mastered on a vinyl record then transferred to digital). I wanted to know more but I sensed he's talked about this far too often in the past and had no desire to get into it with me, a music-outsider. I got the sense that the real Win is not-so-present when on tour. It's just not a natural life. He said he likes his life

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in Montreal because no one bothers him, he pretty much blends in most of the time. We talked about fame and loss of anonymity. It's something I have experience with. Yes, me, shy, humble, can't do anything James. I once was famous on a small but intense scale. I told him the story about leaving finishing film school and not having any money so I agreed to do a comedy show with my friend on access cable. It wasn't long before everyone in the city was watching our show and I couldn't walk out my front door without someone gawking at me or trying to talk to me. Win also used to be interested in photography and filmmaking. I have difficulty talking film-as-art. I'm not well-educated (although I have a four year degree in it, I've forgotten most of the film history stuff). I'm more of a good Hollywood film kind of a guy. I like stuff that's highly reviewed. I rarely get into things too off the mainstream or foreign language films. We did have a few films in common but who doesn't? Win also knows a lot of photographers. "Have you heard of _____________?" The answer was always no. I'd think for a moment, desperate to be able to say something other than "no" but but that was always my answer. It almost always is to those kind of questions. There are going be not one, but two real photographers in Vancouver. One's a pro who's a friend of Jenny's (of course) and another dude who has connections with the band whose shots may be used in tour promotion overseas later this year. I'm going to try my best not be seen. I guess I'm more of a guy-taking-pictures-so-theband-doesn't-have-to guy. Win's a regular guy, not all that different from me, who's rubbed elbows with many of the legends and icons of my generation. He has, perhaps, millions of people who adore

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him the world over. Yet tonight he is just a guy, who can't sleep, on a bus rolling through the Rocky Mountains of Canada with a very unlikely passenger: Me. “Stand on a Cliff and Look Down There” Music Video: Electrolyte (R.E.M.) This one is from a band I like: R.E.M. The song has particular meaning for me. I incorporated the song into a community TV show I was editing, a show where twentyyear-olds talked about being twenty-year-olds. I allowed the subjects to drink alcohol during the show. I drank too. I think I wanted to be fired. The song was probably too old for them. Even back then, I'm sure they thought it was too VH1 for their tastes. Including the song was a homage to them, how young and alive they made me feel. A few weeks later I got an incredible, prestigious acting job came my way that would define me for years to come. In my life, it was the time I was most on top of the world, as the members of Arcade Fire are today. I was ready to move to the big city, leave my life behind and never look back. Obviously, it didn't work out. My life has been downhill since that summer. Every time I hit the bottom, the bottom falls out from underneath me again, and I continue falling further. Will the bottom fall out of this bus? "Do I have further to go?" is the question I keep asking myself.

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Mountains II The mountains are beautiful now that I can see them in the daylight. You can just sit back and stare. I'm dying to get more familiar with Arcade Fire's first two albums but I don't dare play their music here, even quietly on my headphones. I'd look like an idiot. A nice moment this aft was when there were short bursts of sing-alongs of mountain songs, a la Almost Famous (this bus is MUCH nicer.) Songs about mountains, including Neil Young's Sugar Mountain, a song that I had only become familiar with a few years ago. Everyone keeps to themselves a lot. I'm already sick of hearing certain people's voices. I don't know how they put up with each other for a year or more on end. Darkness coming...looking forward to talking to someone when the drinks start flowing. Wake Up Will, Win's brother, came and talked to me after supper as the sun disappeared behind the mountains. I like him. He's this guy who could be any guy's friend. He's more intense and funny than his brother, but hey, so am I. It's freaky hearing him talk about Canada as an outsider. But the Canada he knows (mostly Montreal) is vastly different than my forgotten small-city-on-the-prairies Canada. What there is to know about my part of the world is not something people push on big-city people because metropolitan types are not interested or they think it's boring.

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Will is the one of the looser people on this boat. He immediately sensed my uptightedlyness and commanded drinks be sent my way. It doesn't take much, as I've said before, I'm a very cheap date. But aside from me being more outgoing and relaxed, the end result was me falling into a deep, much-needed sleep. I'm a horrible snorer. The worst. I can hear myself snoring in my dreams but I hadn't thought about my snoring on this bus because I was focusing only on catching a few Zs whenever possible. I woke up to find Jenny sitting beside me. "We were trying to figure out a way to use your snoring on stage if you think you could sleep through a performance." she deadpanned as I searched for a Kleenex to wipe the drool form my cheek. "You mean like you?" I quipped. It got a big laugh from the curious rock star onlookers. James has a sense of humor! Win pointed out, "He used to be a comedian." Everyone got curious. I was no comedian, I was a short-lived comic actor who just got lucky for a few minutes in his life. It's a long awkward story to tell these people, all of whom are thriving in their careers and are at the upper echelons of their industry, light years beyond my best day. I woke up because Jenny had put her fingers on my nostrils and lips, trying to turn me into a human musical instrument whose snores could be manipulated. "We could call him a snorophone and patent him!" someone said to laughter. Win's comedian reference was a conversation starter

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between me and Jenny, who I think was preparing to leave after she woke me up. She asked me if I wanted another beer or if it was going to put me to sleep again. I accepted. God knows I needed it. Jenny and I talked for two hours. She went from being completely evasive for what seemed like days to using me as someone to throw herself at emotionally. She knows most people on the bus very well, but I'm the new guy from nowhere who was tossed into the mix. The rest are like family, she needed an outsider to attach herself to and make a connection. It didn't hurt that I am smitten with her and drank in her every word. Sucker-Punched Hours East of Vancouver Someone named Terry just informed me I'm not to take any photos in Vancouver because there are already two people--pros--shooting. The band even has a promotional shoot arranged near the venue to do some outdoor shots of the band. The band members will have make up done by pros, wardrobe and everything. I'm not to get in the way. SO WHY AM I GOING TO VANCOUVER??? I feel like I'm being held hostage in this bus. I crave fresh underwear and a hot shower that would last for an hour if I could stand up that long. And home-made food. And my bed, my wonderful bed. I should have packed it. I don't mind being on a bus with one of the best rock bands in the world, I just feel like a super-dork being here without any purpose. I can't equal the cool, the talent, the

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world-experience of anyone on this bus, even the driver. I mean, he's been places! The interesting places I've been to I could count on my genitals. I've been little more than a shut-in for the last decade. It's a struggle just to maintain a conversation here. I like it best when someone I'm talking to has had a couple of drinks. I drink whenever I get the chance, without being conspicuous. I'm desperate to relax. Every conversation has the tension of a job interview; I'm really worried that the other person is going to find out I'm a fraud and suddenly walk away from me (it's happened already I think.) Having a purpose, as loosely-defined as taking candid pictures for the band's own purposes is, it still meant I have a right to be here. Now I feel like I should quietly slip out the door at the next stop and not even bother people to say goodbye. My bonding with "Jenny" counteracts all that somewhat. I feel, in some small way, like I was some benefit to her. Breaking Bread Jenny ate with me at a chain breakfast restaurant when we stopped for chow. One of the guitar techs sat with us too, but he soon fled to another table. It's interesting that he fled when Jenny started getting personal. She's freaking FROM Vancouver. I had no idea. She's got family there, including a younger sister. I'm getting to know her. I don't know if I'm projecting onto her what I want her to be or if she's just so freaking cool in every way that I, or anyone, can't help but be enthralled with her.

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Her parents split when she was ten. That's one of the worst times in a kid's life for a divorce. It's young enough to be extremely fragile and needing of both of your parents and family togetherness, but old enough to understand--sorta--what's going on. It scars people for life. It's scarred her, I can tell. Her younger sister is like a twin to her. They're very close and it hasn't been much fun living on opposite ends of the country for the last decade. Jenny's "people" are going to be around the show in Vancouver. I've already begun to plan where I'll hide. No one will think to look for me UNDER the stage. There's a good three feet there for me to lay down and have a nap before, during and after the show, if necessary. Jenny loves Montreal but Vancouver is home. It's in her molecules, she says. I guess the moment we hit the mountains things got weird for her. As much as the west coast is her home, it's also home to all her demons. Every young heart break, every school yard insult, every painful family memory growing up in a broken home resides at our destination. A Stranger to Dinner Jenny wants me to join her, her mom and Tom for dinner. Tom is her mom's second husband. It occurs to me that I might be on a reality hidden camera TV show. I'm pretty good at spotting cameras, but technology has come so far that I don't trust the head of a pin anymore. I'm kidding. I think. I did sign a confidentially agreement before I got on the bus. I didn't read it, of course.

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In simple terms, I'm there as a buffer between Jen and her step dad, whom she's not a big fan of. But I'm also kinda feeling like a stray cat she's picked up from a dark street. There's no way this successful rock musician is attracted to me, a schmuck from Saskatchewan with an empty life. She'd have to have the most bizarre dork fetish in the world to be attracted to me. I'm no cat. She's buying dinner, and she promised me that I will get a chance to buy some clean clothes. She even promised me a shower. I like it when chicks promise me a shower. Didn't say that that though, we don't know each other well enough for that kind of flirting. My insecurity about day trips saved my ass: I took a handbag to Saskatoon with an extra shirt and deodorant in case my armpits turned on me along the way. People have called me neurotic for doing this in the past. Who's laughing now? Standing on the Highest Peak of the Highest Mountain The outer, outer, outer suburbs of Vancouver (Calgary?) Exurbs, I think they call them (that's a new term for me) We got off the bus to eat breakfast in a restaurant and I wandered from the crowd, fascinated with something. No one could figure out what I was up to. Everyone thought I had lost it, or had popped something from the roadies. What I saw was new construction next to the restaurant that went on for blocks and blocks. There were all these surveyed spots marked with little wooden stakes that had translucent, fluorescent red plastic ribbons tied to

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them. It's a hugely little thing, but these little red ribbons, an inch wide, reminded me so much of my childhood. I had to feel one in my fingers, and look at it up close. "James is on acid," was the common refrain. "Who gave James acid?" "Do not give James acid." "What color was the acid, James? Was it the brown acid?" For a moment, I paused to think if it were possible I was on acid (never done it.) When I was a kid, we moved to the suburbs of Regina. Our house bordered a wheat field, as all the sprawling new subdivision houses do in my town to this day. I was three, four and five years old and all these little stakes of wood with red ribbons were everywhere. Naturally, I collected them and used them for various play things. I hadn't seen one, nor thought about one in over 30 years, but here they were. Suddenly a little piece of ribbon brought me back to feelings of childhood in the early 1970s. It seemed so fitting for me, after walking away from my life and searching for something new, that I would find a vivid connection to my earliest years. I began to think more strongly about leaving everything behind and starting again. I broke off the plastic ribbon and put it on my pocket. I was ready to be shat upon and ridiculed by my intimidating new friends. Instead everyone dug my explanation and my need to take the ribbon with me. They started coming up with their own small, seemingly inconsequential things from their childhoods. All the

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band members took their own piece of red ribbon from the stakes and tied it around their fingers during lunch, in honor of lost childhood innocence. It was an unexpected moment of bonding and acceptance. I don't know if it was sheer exhaustion, the gravity of the people involved, or some crack that formed in the spacechildhood continuum, but I've never in my life had to fight back tears with such ferocity and determination. I lost. My eyes were watery. Calm came over me because I knew there was no turning back; nothing I could do to undo the sudden disintegration of the wall that shields me. I batted my eyelids to let the rest of the tears in my eyes stream down my cheek. Jen came over to me and wrapped her arms around me. Everyone understood. My fellow travelers all got it. Not only the ribbon I needed to have and why I needed to have it, but the importance of me feeling accepted by the band considering the circumstances I was in. They knew I was running away from something and we understood each other. Jesus, I was home for the first time in my life. I never wanted to step outside the Arcade Fire bubble. I have never been lifted so high up, never felt so suddenlyincluded, never felt so...OK. Oh Lowell My last Facebook post. Had to be a joke, right? 'Cept no one's heard from me since. Mike knows and things are starting to spread around. I've put my Facebook account on 'vacation hold' to avoid controversy and any embarrassment to the band.

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Vancouver What a weird vibe I get from this city. I've never been to a West Coast city before. It's big, it's intense, it's somewhat stinky, but it sure is different from Toronto. My initial sense is that its inhabitants are friendlier than Torontonians, but these are early hours, my friends. It is sunny here now, I have a feeling it's a different place when it's cloudy and rainy for weeks on end. Our bus pulled into one of the few Walmarts they have in Vancouver to stock up on essentials. When I noticed the driver was going to be parking among the RVs and trailers that adorn all Walmart parking lots, I had an idea, grabbed my camera and hurried to the door to exit first. I had recently read about "Boondocking." That's RVers who overnight at Walmart parking lots with the company's blessing. They huddle close together for security, and, of course, they're mostly seniors and middle-aged people even more square than me. I thought it'd make a great picture: the weary rock 'n' rollers and their associates departing a tour bus in the middle of a Walmart RV cluster. It was! It was freaking Beatles Abbey Road but with a state of the art tour bus, a groggy and blinded indie supergroup stepping into an unlikely parking lot among RVs and confused--even slightly frightened--gray-haired people. Only thing is, the band didn't want to be photographed at a Walmart. I understand that, I really do, but it is a great shot. Maybe someone will see irony or cultural contrast in it someday and use it for something for the band. (I doubt they'll remember to whom to give credit, however.)

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I did it, I did something great. I'm not a professional photographer but I used my sense, my instinct of what would make a great picture and I'm happy with it, even if no one else is because of the location. Anyhoo, I've never been so happy to be in a Walmart. I bought bulk underwear, bulk socks, a sports bag to put them in, old guy T-shirts, breath mints, bulk tooth brushes, mouthwash, extra deodorant, travel shampoo, my favorite razor blades, my brand of aerosol shaving cream and a pair of jeans (I've been wearing the same pair of cargo shorts since Regina.) I am human once again! The new, non-homeless-person James appeared at the sound check clean and fresh and feeling pretty good about himself. This was it. A flight home had been booked for me as the band heads to Seattle tonight and every trace of marijuana will be vacuumed and wiped off the tour's vehicles for the pass through the U.S. border. I'm exuberant and not really thinking about the goodbyes because still to come is a quick dinner (post-sound check, pre-show) with Jenny and her family (her sister is now joining her mom and step dad), plus one more huge concert with a group of people I admire for every reason imaginable, now that I've connected with them personally. I stop myself the instant I imagine myself getting on that plane alone late tonight and heading back to a life that I have not the slightest desire to return to. I stop myself when I start to think that the band--including Jenny--will probably remember me only for weeks or months before I'm completely gone from their brain cells. They all have so many great new memories with which to replace the old ones every hour of every day. My life is so stagnant

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and predictable, I could live ten thousand years and still remember every moment of my time with Arcade Fire. The sound check was longer than Calgary. I think they just liked the chance to play after two days on the road. I watched from the wings. Jenny rocked the empty house. She's amazing, as they all are. I'm just going to come out and say it: I want to be a rock star!!! The Big Dinner with Jenny Amid the vast concrete under the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver stood Jenny, looking completely different than what I had become accustomed to. I might not have recognized her if it weren't for her limited stature. She's a very beautiful woman without dolling herself up, but after some seriously professional going-over for a promotional photo shoot earlier in the day, she went from girl next door to Vogue cover girl. The intimidation factor over having a rushed, but highly important, supper with her and her family in her childhood hometown just got more intimidating. "Come, I want you to meet some people." She waved me over to a bench holding her mom, Iris, and Tom, her step dad. Her sister Linda was plugging a vending machine within ear-shot and we caught up to her down the curved concrete corridor. "This is James. We found him in Saskatchewan and he seemed lonely so we took him in." "Meow?" was the first thing I said to Linda, a younger and

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equally-attractive version of Jen. We dined at a French restaurant near the Coliseum. I don't normally do ethnic food, I'm too poor and I--well, I live in a small city, but I guess that's no excuse. My friends dine out doing Thai, Indian, Japanese, Afgan, Red Lobster, etc. I horde my money and eat where the Jerry Springer set dines. Fast food dives and the occasional Denny's. This night, I was definitely out of my element. I mostly remained quiet but I was smooth and immediate with some gap-filling, in service of Jenny. But the inevitable happened and I was asked about me. "Are you a musician? Do you play an instrument?" Tom asked, somewhat judgmentally, as if to placate a scary artistic type he felt threatened and mystified by. "No," I laughed. I skillfully steered the conversation toward a pointless, diverting story. "I took a few accordion lessons as a kid but I ran away from that." "Oh, so did Jennifer," Iris laughed. "I'm still running away from it," added Jenny. I told them the stupid accordion was the size of a house and the only reason my parents suggested I learn it was because of the A-plus-plus student at my school whom they knew through their church. His name is Brian, works at Nortel now. Doubt he plays the accordion much. I was above average with the recorder in grade school. Being the tallest kid in the class, I was given the only tenor recorder, but the slightly taller Debbie Long Legs got the bass. I so wanted her dead. If she disappeared, I'd

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be the bass. Who knows how my life would have went if Debbie Long Legs had fallen off the face of the Earth. "Everyone has their Debbie Long Legs," Jen said, putting her hand on mine like we were a couple, or at least good friends. I've spent a total of four hours talking to her prior to this. There had been a few moments of bonding, which can take months or years in some friendships, but still, we were--on most levels--nothing more than new acquaintances. And the body language of the hand on hand was performed in front of mom et al. If I didn't feel like I was under the microscope before, with Jen's family, I did now. Suddenly I was conscious of what I was wearing and wishing I wasn't so damned cheap by trying to stretch out the time between haircuts. I could feel everyone at the table looking at my stupid hair, which needed cutting a month ago. Jen's mom seemed pleasant, if not a little too formal during a dinner with her two kids. A darkness was there, from time to time, though, and I began to think that Jen's need to express herself and heal herself through music/art had a little to do with the type of person her mom is and not just from dealing with her parents' divorce at a delicate age. Tom was a write-off. He didn't want to be there. He's a small business owner and thinks artists and musicians are a different species of people. You'd think he'd muster some respect for his step daughter, whom he first met when she was an adult, because she's financially well off entirely from her own efforts. I pointed out to Tom that Jen is in a way a kind of a small business owner too, "an extremely successful one." I added. "She answers to no one, and frankly, sales are through the roof this quarter!"

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Tom seemed impressed with my analogy and praised Jen. Jen's eyes looked at me like she had just found Jesus. I knew then, that THIS was why I was asked to dinner. I'm starting to get things right, starting to feel better about myself, ten years too late.

Bombshells
Linda's a hottie, her name doesn't do her justice. Jen's younger sister is in her mid-twenties and--if I had been sexually active in my early-teens--almost young enough to be my daughter. I struggle awkwardly around her when we're not talking about the band or Jenny (like I know anything about Jenny.) She assumes I know Jen better than I do. Linda and I spent time together before the Vancouver concert and then on the floor for the show itself. She'd say things like, "But you know how Jenny is." I just nodded my head and smiled. I was actually learning things about Jen left and right that I didn't know from my four hours and a dinner spent with her. The bombshell dropped by Linda is that Jenny is not happy these days. She's tired of touring and not looking forward to another year on the road. That news sent shock-waves through me. It was like hearing Santa didn't exist. I assumed she loved performing and accepted the rigors of touring because she's been in this racket for years. I don't know how much the not looking forward to touring has to do with her unhappiness, but I'm pretty sure it's just part of the picture. Could it have been a devastating

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breakup? I was afraid to ask (terrified, actually). Mental health issues? Didn't feel like I could go there. But it does help me understand our relationship better. It would take a pretty distraught woman to throw herself at me that first night, to take me on as a project, as I seem to be. Part of me thought, "Hey, if she leaves the tour, maybe we'd develop some sort of intimately close friendship or who knows?" I'm certain that I'll be forgotten by her in the near future. Maybe a phone call down the road. Maybe a post card from the Eiffel Tower. If it weren't for how dinner went today, I wouldn't have even hoped for any post-bus contact. Another part of me wants her to stay put and be happy and content, like a kid hoping desperately that his parents work through their problems and stay together. AF is like a family, that's a cliché, I know, but I'm feeling that way and I'm feeling the love of family acceptance. I kind of feel like it's my family now too and Jenny bailing gives me the same feeling when I hear about friends ending their marriages. It's a sad, dark feeling that makes me despair and mourn. I kept Linda company on the floor in front of the stage while her mom and Tom watched from the seats with industrial strength ear plugs stuffed in their ears. I must have been the saddest person on the floor. I watched Jenny dance around the stage, sing and play and I just wanted to get some lumber and build a church to worship her in. She's glowing and charismatic, and I'm dying to be be close to her. I played through different scenarios of why or how she'd ever want to leave this. What could be going on? I imagined over and over again meeting her back stage after the show and comforting her, but I couldn't imagine

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my words, because I don't know what the problem is. My knees don't seem to bend. I'm an idiot at concerts nowadays, my body old and broken from having it's youthfulness transforming into middle age. The best I can do is clap and holler. Linda's five and a half foot height had her seeing very little. I put her on my shoulders for the last four songs and the encore. And the agonizing time between the last song and the encore. Jenny pointed and mouthed, "That's my sister!" more than once. Jenny smiled at me too. I think she was thrilled I helped her sister have fun at the show. God, if I could bottle some of the looks Jen's given me lately. I knotted a muscle in my back, the same one that always knots. The same one my mother, the retired nurse, has claimed is actually my gal bladder acting up. I drank several cups of draft to dull the pain. It's the first time I've drank alcohol to dull pain. Physical pain, anyway. Keep the Car Running Post Concert: Vancouver The band is in a large dressing room meeting, discussing something. Vancouver security apes stood outside the door and I heard someone crying. "It's Jenny," said Linda matter-of-factly, as her fingers tapped texts on her cell phone. My body took me toward the door but Linda grabbed my arm. "It's not that big a deal. I'd know if it was." she advised. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. The apes gave me a "back-off" look. My new primary purpose in life had become being the support person for a

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violin-playing rock star angel. I wasn't presumptuous enough to think she'd want me to run to her, but I at least thought I should be in the same room. Linda assured me that someone in a band like this having a "moment" wasn't anything new and it wasn't the end of the world. An half hour passed, I had time to let thoughts of my early morning flight to Regina seep into my mind. It was set for 5:30 AM. The bus would have Jenny and the band well into the States by then. I wasn't planning on sleeping. A staff person from the coliseum wheeled a cart of bottled beer on ice-filled trays past security. I thought he'd be turned away. The band must have drank what was already laid out for the post-concert spread and sent for more. Another half hour passed. I didn't envision not spending this time with Jenny and the rest of the guys. A male assistant from the tour stopped by our neighboring dressing room where Linda, I and other hangers on were waiting. He came up to me and said, "I hear you threw out your back. Here." He handed me a small white paper drugstore bag with over-thecounter muscle relaxants in it. I had used these pills many times before. About once every two or three years for the same knot-prone muscle in my shoulder blade. The pills had just been purchased. He must have made a special trip for me. "How the hell did you know?" I asked. "Jenny told me." My mouth gaped. I was dazed, temporarily. Then I looked down at Linda's cell phone. She had been texting all night, what mid-twenties hot chick wouldn't be? It hadn't

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occurred to me that she could be texting with Jenny and didn't say anything. That was probably also how she knew the earlier drama was no big deal. Linda is as cool as cucumber. I like that in hot chicks. Régine from the band appeared in our open doorway. "How's your back?" she asked me. I told her I'd live. I asked if they were done being sequestered. "In a minute. Listen, I want to talk to you about something." I thought it was about her camera. I presented the camera bag to her and thanked her for the opportunity and the amazing experience I would never forget. "You better not forget," she teased. "We don't just pick up anyone on the street and take them with us, you know." She sat beside me and quietly and softly asked, "James we'd like if you could stay with us a little longer, through the rest of the U.S. leg if you can." I was confused. I wasn't sure that I had done anything of use for the band the whole time I was with them. The one great shot I took was poo-pooed by the band for political reasons. And why would she ask me in such a serious manner? It seemed important to her. "Of course. Of course," I said, eyes wide. She thanked me and left. I would have done anything for Régine. I would have killed for her, practically. If she had said, "James, I want you to kill a homeless man for my amusement," my

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answer would have been the same. I'm kidding, of course. Régine is the kindest, most caring person ever created. More than anything, though, she's full of integrity and there's nothing I admire more in a person. If she weren't married, I'd be in puppy love with her. She's the type of person you'd want to sell your soul for just to be around. Linda and I continued to wait. Non-band members were getting on the buses already. The tour manager stuck her head in the door and looked at me. "You know we can't pay you without a green card and that would take a long time to set up. Not to mention it would cost me a lot of money. I'll make sure we take care of you though. Just don't tell anyone you're working for us." "Cool," I was thinking. "This is about Jenny," Linda said. "They want you around for Jenny." I didn't believe her. But then it started to make sense. More sense than the band wanting me around as a photographer that doesn't take any pictures. I filled with anxiety, not knowing what it all meant. But I also was very excited and relieved. Relieved that I would not be saying any goodbyes tonight. Relieved I would have more time to get to know Jenny and others. And relieved that I was wanted! Knowing that is a huge burden lifted from me. Knowing that they wanted me there, even needed me there, meant I would feel like I was fitting in, and that's huge. Giddy-up! Devastation

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Vancouver, fucking Vancouver. It's noon and I'm at Linda's condo. The band is in Seattle. Jenny is with them. I am not. The way my life works is: something good happens, you have hope, you scream, "Finally, I knew this day would come!" and then you're sucker-punched by a wrecking ball. Jenny's mom and Tom met with Linda and I back stage and we visited with the band last night after the show. It was rushed, due to the long meeting and the necessity to hit the border fast in case there were unseen complications getting through with such a large contingent. I was on the bus before the band. A few people were holding a checklist for Customs. On that checklist was, "Have your passport ready." I don't have a passport. Why would I? It takes like a month to get one and you now need one to cross the U.S. border. And I assumed wrongly that the U.S. tour was going to go on forever, since they had only played in Minnesota thus far before doing Western Canada. It's only a few days on the U.S. west coast before they go to Mexico and then Europe until at least Christmas. That doesn't give me any time to catch up with them again because a passport could take weeks. You can't imagine how I feel. I'd throw myself off the nearest bridge if I knew how to get to one. But Linda wouldn't let me do that. She's been so understanding and attentive to me since I hugged everyone good bye on the darkened bus last night. I sense there's a lot of the good aspects of her sister in her. I'm not sure where they inherited that from, her mom seems kinda off. Her step

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dad's a douche and Jen didn't know him growing up anyway. Linda and Jenny have been texting. Jenny's trying to get people who know about this stuff on the tour to look into loop holes or any way to get me into the States on short notice. An "emergency visa" has been discussed. My anxiety level is off the charts. I'm going to take a bath. “Our Bodies Get Bigger But Our Hearts Get Torn Up” I have never in my life wanted/needed a bath so badly. I actually fell asleep in the tub for the first time ever. The hot water relaxed me. I was wound up so tight I felt like a big spring that was about to explode and unravel. My body was shriveled up like a prune by the end, but not for a moment did I see that as a bad thing. I feel like I've been camping for a month, and I'm no camper. Linda's been incredibly sweet to me. She was a cold fish at first, but now she's been so supportive and understanding. She gets how I feel and she's doing everything she can do to help. Right now she's having lunch with her "newish" boy friend and I'm alone on the couch in her condo. I tried going for a walk, it's a sunny day, but I couldn't do it. I'm exhausted and my mind is scrambled. I didn't want to get lost or be away from the condo, lest the phone rang with news, or Linda returned home. What's happened to me the last few days is surreal. I'm too tense right now to let the dust settle and figure out what it all means. I fear the band will forget about me or

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change their minds about wanting me along. I think about and dread the phone call that says, "You know what, we're okay, don't bother, James, we'll be fine. We'll say 'hi' next time we're through Saskatchewan ten years from now." And that would be that. Linda is a waitress at a mid-level restaurant. Like all hot waitresses, she's done a little modeling. Usually people like her are scared of me. I'm impressed that she lacks the prejudices models generally have for desperate, aging men. Maybe it's a West Coast thing. I suspect, perhaps cynically, that she's waiting for a good-looking rich guy to appear and sweep her off her feet. She has a three-year visual art degree but doesn't seem that motivated. (I should talk.) It was after 1 AM last night that she drove me home in her brand new Pontiac G3. Pontiac is no more so she got it really cheap. She's only paying $115 a month for 83 months. Even I could afford that. But the car is tiny and has no business having four doors. It's white with green and pink detailing. I could picture it back home in a used car ad boasting it was lady-driven. I pushed the seat back so far that if there was someone in the back seat I would have broken their legs. The whole trip, I wanted to vomit. I've just never been put through a blender like this before. My head was spinning and my heart torn up, to say the least. Linda forced me--she had to--to stop at her restaurant and have a drink with her at the bar. She knew what I needed, and she's a bit of a lush herself. Turns out she's pretty funny, too, when she's in her own element. Mid-twenties restaurant workers seem like such lost people to me. They're young, they're beautiful but they're there until late at night with just each other.

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They've always seemed lonely to me, just kinda waiting for something to happen that will take them away from there. I guess that's what happened to me when got on the bus of Arcade Fire in Saskatoon. But now I've been deposited into a dumpster in Vancouver and left for dead. Linda says she'd kill to go on tour with AF, even for a city or two but she's never been asked. My confidence was boosted slightly. I felt privileged and held hope that I was meant to be on that bus. In spite of all the encouragement I received from the band, my self-doubt had been making a comeback. By the end of the night, Linda was very touchy-feely. I needed that. I needed verbal and physical affection. Sometimes, it seems, angels take the form of an attractive mid-twenties model/waitress. I did not see that coming. “Someone Told Me Not to Cry” Linda worked a short shift over supper and came home with a box of wine and some pasta for us. You'd never know this little vixen is a Mother Teresa, but she's sure looking after me, considering she met me just twenty-four hours ago. Of course, she only dates assholes, from what I gather. Big surprise. Why can't attractive women get turned on by nice guys who don't need fixing? That's not me, of course. I'm not a nice guy and I need a world of fixing. But at least I'm not a total meathead. As night falls, there are no texts or phone calls from the

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tour. Hope is fading for me at this point. We eat and laugh. Linda makes me tense and selfloathing, so wine really is a savior for me on this night. I don't know why she gives me the time of day, but that's also the big question with her sister too. She made plans with her boyfriend for late, after he gets off work, so we spent the evening talking. It's so weird to have people like me as easily as Linda has. West Cost people and I seem to hit it off. I'm thinking about moving out here. Be damned with the months of rain, I'm likable here! There's something about highly attractive women, who know they're highly attractive women. They seem rigid. It's like they're always on the defensive in case everyone might fall in love with them if they show tenderness. I thought that about Linda at first, but I think it's just he way she carries herself, with great confidence. If I looked like her, I guess I'd have had a lifetime of being confident too, and would have grown into unshakable selfassuredness. I have a history of not finding attractive women attractive when they're not sweet or outwardly "feminine." I fancy myself a feminist and I know this runs contrary to my beliefs of what a woman should aspire to be and should be regarded. It's a personal preference that I can't help. For Linda, her sternness and formality seems to be a bit of a wall around her. I wonder what the demons are that inhabit her and Jenny. I can be overly direct sometimes, even without wine in my veins. I asked her about the divorce and she said she was too young to understand. A broken family is all she knows, yadda, yadda, yadda. Fail! I'll have to try again another time.

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After a few drinks, Linda revealed that she is not an Arcade Fire fan! It's just not her thing. Naturally I tried to find out if she had any jealousy issues with her sister. She seems to be proud and happy for Jenny so I think I was barking up the wrong tree. I think she's just a more mainstream pop kind of girl. With much of the box gone I was starting to make an ass of myself. Linda has a much more efficient liver than mine. We pondered the time and figured AF was going to take the stage soon in Seattle. And that's when the phone rang. Jenny talked to Linda for five minutes while I squirmed on my chair, not knowing if she had news or if she was even thinking of me. And then the words I was praying for: "Sure, he's right here." I gathered myself, ashamed of my drunkenness, although the prospect of talking to her was sobering, actually. I didn't know whether this would be the last time I'd talk to Jenny. "I understand you're having a pretty good time with my sister," said Jen over the phone. "She's pretty isn't she?" "I guess, if you're into that sort of thing," I smirked. It was so nice to hear her voice. "What sort of thing?" she laughed. And that's when the booze, anxiety and desperation suddenly shattered all my inhibition. My voice broke and got quiet against my will. "Are you okay?"

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Silence. Then: "I miss you." I lost it. Everything came to a head at that point. My drunken ass got weepy and I had to put the phone down on my thigh to cover the mic. I couldn't help myself. I'm not an emotional basket case by trade, but it was all too much, the past few days. All the ups and downs, the stress, the sleep deprivation and the not knowing. Linda embraced me, as her sister did two days before, and took the phone out of my grasp. She didn't quite know what to say, so she said coyly, as one sister might to another, "One moment, please." I took the phone from Linda and put it up to my face. I tried desperately not to look like a pathetic drunk, but all I could muster was, "Thank you." Jen had to go. Drive! Linda snapped after seeing me lose it in front of her. She took it upon herself to get me to Seattle. She says she has friends who work across the border and come and go without passports. I'm certain they have some sort of permit though, some sort of frequent crosser speed pass. She can be a bit ditsy at times and I'm doubting her story, frankly. But here I am at midnight in her tiny car racing towards the wall that is the U.S. border. We'll be there in an hour and I'm really hoping we don't die. I can't tell if she's drunk but she's consumed more than I'm comfortable with. It occurs to me that I might have a death wish. And what do border guards say about drunk people? Fortunately my man-bag contains copious

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amounts of breath mints and travel sized mouthwash bottles. Linda and I pass the time talking about sex. I'm a big sex conversationalist. I'm not a sex expert (sexpert) but I can carry a conversation on the topic because I'm such a shameless fan of the act. We definitely come at the topic from two different points of view: her a hottie who walks down the street and a wave of sex thoughts sweeps over all the men within sight of her, and me, a thirty-seven year old boring dude with nothing going for him in his life. It's easy for people like me to envy people like her, we think she has it so easy, we think we'd give anything to not have to worry about attracting people. But she's had stockers, not people she's dated but mentally-askew customers at work, and even creeps on the street who harass her for her phone number then follow her home. I'm blunt with her. "I wish I had half your looks and a quarter of your composure." She reminded me that I'm funny and not all that bad looking for a man of my advanced age. (Love the west coast!) I've been a clown all my life, even professionally funny but it's never gotten me in someone's pants, I pointed out. I conceded that without a sense of humor, I'd have nothing at all going for me and probably would still be a virgin. "Wouldn't you eventually go to a hooker?" she asked. "Have you seen the hookers in Regina?" I got an unexpectedly big laugh out of her. I'm quick at feeling out a person's sense of humor but Linda is not a quick study. Maybe she's got a blue collar sense of humor. She's not all that intellectual.

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"All the hot hookers go the big city. It's like if you're a band from Regina and you're really good, you don't stay there. Same for actors, models and mathematicians." Another big laugh. Hmmm. Maybe it's the booze and now isn't a good time for my humor tricorder to take an accurate reading. Cruise Control We're at a rest stop near the U.S. border. Linda is sleeping in the passenger seat, I'm waiting anxiously for her to wake. Shortly after my last post, Linda asked me to drive. Not because she was drunk, but because she wanted to drink more. She brought a bottle of wine with her in the back seat and decided she needed to drink it. I drove and the party continued. Linda had driven perfectly or I would have called a stop to it right away. I can't hold my booze that well so I was easily sober by the time I took the wheel. Linda was date raped when she was twenty. When that came out, I lost all judgment I had about her and I completely filled with empathy. She was a stranger to me, more or less, but I wanted to comfort her. I sensed she hadn't really told this story before. I teared up listening to it and she saw me. I must seem incredibly unmanly to her. But I'm not myself out here, I'm a man teetering on the abyss and sometimes not caring whether he might fall in. We bonded, Linda and I. When I met her, I would have not imagined us bonding if we were stuck on a small desert island together for a year. But now, she was leaning

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on me, exposing herself to a middle-aged man from a place she'd barely heard of. And for me, she was a princess in shining armor, trying to do something incredibly important for me, trying to save me from myself. After much of the bottle disappeared, we stopped and she peed in the bushes off a side road. She insisted I come with her. Not only was she scared of what lay beyond in the darkness, she also had me hold her hand so she could squat down far enough not to pee on the pants around her ankles. I've now shared more intimacy with her than with her sister. I'm liking Linda a lot. Back in the car she announced she was going to take a nap. She fidgeted in her seat and couldn't sleep. Then her boyfriend phoned, she had forgotten all about him. He put her down for being a drunk, hung up on her and she cried. We didn't speak for a few minutes as she tried to sleep. She then put her seat back upright and then said, "I can't sleep, can I lean on you?" I put my arm around her and she leaned into me. Then she put her head on my lap and used my lap as a pillow. I started thinking of dead puppies. That wasn't working so I tried to think of what else to think of. My whole body became moist in nervous perspiration. I was hoping, praying "it" didn't move. I'm bad for that, not having gotten out of the house much. A woman whom I like, whom I'm attracted to, who gets at all intimate with me invariably sets off Mr. Happy to unfurling. There could be no good thing come of my losing control of my favorite organ on this night. Two things could have happened: A) The porn version ("Oh my, what's this...")

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which I didn't want. I thought sisters often don't have secrets when it comes to this sort of thing. And B) The Linda flying off me screaming that I'm a creep and all the bonding and trust between us gets thrown out the window scenario. Not to mention her desire to help me get back to the Arcade Fire tour would be lost. I fought it with everything I had and lost. I threw in the towel and the damned thing just took off on me. The problem is, a man can never get "Scenario A" out of his mind, no matter how unlikely it is. There was a raging hard-on under my jeans pressing firmly against Linda's cheek. But then God stepped in. As I waited in horror for her reaction: the gentle sound of a snore. We both dodged a bullet. The Fluorescent Room When we got close to the border I pulled over at the Peace Arch Park and woke Linda. She sat up and yawned, "No offense but your lap isn't very comfortable." I apologized and switched seats with her. Linda wanted to drive across the border and explain to the border guard my situation. At this point, I was just along for the ride. It was nice to keep busy even if this was a stupid idea. Even Linda didn't have a valid passport. Our car pulled up the bright lights of the booth and Linda began to charm the border officer. She flashed her expired

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passport. He asked my name, and Linda tried to answer for me, which is a no-no. I answered and showed him my photo driver's license. He asked me what I was doing in B.C. from Saskatchewan and I had to think about it, also a no-no. But it was going surprisingly well and I thought he was about to wave us in when...he asked about the red mark on Linda's face. "What mark?" she asked, looking in the mirror. "Oh yeah. I was sleeping in the car earlier." Then the officer looked at me. I know that look, that accusatory look of suspicion and judgment. Got it from my mother for twenty years, it transfers well to a border guard. I know for a fact that these guys are trained in mysterious ways to look for guilt, and it actually works for them. I couldn't have looked more guilty at that moment. The moment of realization that this poor woman had been sleeping on my raging erection for the last half hour, the evidence clearly marking her face like Christ on the Shroud of Turin. Maybe it was the buttons on my fly that gave her a rash, but it sure looked like she had been dick-slapped. It didn't matter, the scale was tipped. We were sent off to to the parking lot for "further inspection." The dreaded "further inspection." I just hoped they wouldn't tear the car apart or impound it.

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We waited for three hours in an empty fluorescent lit room, with plastic folding tables and uncomfortable chairs. Then entered a supervisor. He was a small, slight man with a thin dark mustache. He reminded me of my bitter first year art history prof who had a melt down on the class when the bulb on his projector didn't work for the final exam. But I prejudge. The inspector was kind and polite. "Where are you traveling to?" "How long will you be staying?" and then the unexpected, "Do you still do drugs, Mr. White?" What the hell? Did he Google me and see my name next to the word "pot" or something? Was I on a drug terrorist watch list? "No," I emphatically lied. "Okay. You'll have to surrender all the alcohol in the vehicle though." "We're free to go?" Linda asked. "Yes." he replied. "To the States?" I asked, immediately recoiling at the stupidity of the question, but I was exhausted and genuinely not sure what was going on.

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He laughed and said, "Have a nice trip," as he left the room. We were on the road again, but aware that the band had already left Seattle for their next destination: Portland, Oregon, three hours beyond Seattle.

I-5 High Five
We continued down the I-5 toward Seattle. So far no texts or calls from Jenny, who we suspect is heading toward Portland by now, maybe even there already. Linda's driving again and she remains untalkative for a long time. "Are you sure you want to do this?" I asked. She gives me a heartbreakingly unconvincing, "Sure." I stared vacantly at the freeway whose traffic was beginning to fill up, even hours before dawn. "Did you look at me when I peed?" she asked. "What do you mean?" "Did you look at my naked bits? Did you have yourself a nice look?" The answer to that question throughout my life has always been 'no.' Always. But not tonight. "Yes," I said firmly. "I did." "Thanks," she said, sounding disappointed in me. That's what I get for finally looking.

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"Can I tell you why?" I asked. I explained to her that in every incident in my life where I've had the chance to see a woman I know naked, I've always--ALWAYS--looked away out of respect for them and, I think, not to risk being caught acting rude. There was Tanya in Grade 8. She was blonde, sweet, and buxom for her age. I had a horrible crush on her for every moment of the two years she was at my school. I sat near her in class and she actually talked to me, unlike some of the other popular girls. Our class went on a field trip several hours away and stayed in a hotel overnight. Tanya started playing strip poker with some of the future jocks of the class and lost. She had to walk by me to get back to her room. Everyone hooted and hollered but I turned away. I still think about it. I was shy then, not like now and I just didn't want to get caught looking at someone whom I spent every moment of my day obsessing about. Then there was Wanda in first year university. I had obsessed over her through high school all the way back to grade 7. My obsession with her and Tanya overlapped. There may have been other girls I had serious crushes on too, but that's not important. Wanda, who had blossomed into a tall beautiful brunette who enjoyed chain-smoking, came home with me very drunk after Buck o' Draft night at the University pub. She didn't come home with me for me, she came home because I was meeting up with some other friends from high school whom she hadn't seen in a long time. Long story short, she puked on herself and took a shower in my bathroom. It was there where she passed out, presumably

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naked. After three hours of not getting a response and my friends moving on, I went in, eyes to the ceiling and asked if she was okay. I gave her a towel but she spent the night in my tub covered in vomit--unshowered. "I could go on," I told Linda. I told her that now that I'm an old man, I regretted not looking all those times. I hated myself for being such a coward and last night I decided life is short and I was going to have my fill. She rolled her eyes and said, "You're such a dork!" "You found me out." I said, feeling the life drain from my body. "Yeah, I found you out and I like you." "Really? I asked. "Thank you." Again with the 'thank you.' I'm such a dork. Super 8 Used to Be a Motion Picture Film Gage Why do they call it a Super 8 when we're on the I-5?" asked Linda, as we pulled up to the lobby of the hotel by that name, located on the northern outskirts of Seattle. "I'm pretty sure it's after the film stock," I said, drifting in and out of sleep, realizing that there's probably an entire generation between me and my erection-provoking companion. Then I doubted my absurd film stock claim. It didn't make any sense unless it was a regular home for 1970s homemade porn makers.

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The counter lady, starting her shift at 7 AM informed us that the discount hotel chain was named after the original price for rooms forty years ago: $8.88. She deserves a promotion. You don't see that kind of commitment from low-wage earners at dead-end jobs anymore. Neither of us could drive any more. We might have crashed in the car in a rest area if we weren't in Seattle and daylight was just beginning. I took off my shoes and socks and crawled into one of the two double beds. Linda stripped to her underwear before hopping under her covers. Thongs seem so impractical, I thought. Do young woman just assume they're going to be parading around in their underwear and opt for sexy? "Nothing you haven't already seen but try not to stare," she said. "I might have zit or two on my butt or something." Then she unshackled herself from her bra under the sheets and hung it on the beside wall-lamp. "Goodnight Johnboy." she said before flicking the light. A reference from my childhood. Not bad. I pondered a cold shower but lost consciousness, angrily looking at the light leaking in from the curtain edges. Death Knocks POUNDING ON THE DOOR I woke up to loud fists on the hotel room door. An instant later Linda bolted upright in bed and momentarily exposed herself before seeing me seeing her and covering up.

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"Get it!" she screamed at me. I grabbed my T-shirt and got to the door but not before loosing my balance and knocking over a lamp on the desk. It's the police. They come in--forcibly--and look around. Linda shrieked. "Is there anyone else in this room other than you two?" asks one of the two male police officers who I only now notice have their guns drawn. "No, just us." I told them. "Stay in your room and keep all of the locks on your doors locked." the officer said. "What happened?" I asked. "The clerk at the front desk was shot dead in a robbery." Oh my god. Linda asked, "The gray-haired lady in the sweater?" "Yes. You have to stay put. A black male early twenties could be still be in the hotel." "What day is it?" I asked the cops, but they were gone. I had no idea what day it was. I felt like I had been sleeping for days. "Push the desk up against the door," Linda, now in tears and shaking instructed. "What do you mean what day is it?" "Look at your phone, what day is it?" I didn't know if was

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the next day or what. "It's today, James. 12:32 PM today. We've only been sleeping for four hours." That's impossible, I thought. I felt so well-slept, how could I feel that way after just four hours? Police dogs, door pounding, men yelling and faint weeping could be heard through the thin hotel walls. People were panicking. "What are we going to do?" cried Linda. "A bullet could fly through that window at any moment and kill us." I tried to take a mattress off the bed and put it in front of the window but it was bolted down somehow. Of course it was. Our first hours in the States and someone is gunned down in the same building as us. Someone who we had talked to before going to sleep. Someone who probably did no harm to anyone and was just doing her job. The sadness of it was excruciating. "I want to go home." said Linda. We sat on blankets placed on the floor between the inner most bed and the bathroom wall. We spoke in the quietest of whispers, terrified that the gunman would somehow hear us. Linda positioned herself in my lap with her back against my chest. She took my arms one at a time and put them around her. We started telling stories that started with, "If we get out of this alive..." I held her tight. "Is that too tight," I asked. "Not possible," she replied.

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An hour passed and we lay on the floor in each other's arms wrapped in mangled bedding. She ran her hand through my hair and whispered in my ear, "Thank you." We closed our eyes. More sleep. The Dust Settles Early afternoon at the Super 8 Our deep sleeps were interrupted after what must have been an hour but seemed like several. I opened my eyes first. Did I just hear a knock on the door and some one say, "All clear."? Linda was slower to gain consciousness. We were still in each other's embrace, like lovers in Pompeii waiting to for the volcano to kill us. My god, I realized. I drooled on Linda's face while we were sleeping. I quickly grabbed the bed sheet that we were cocooned in and pressed it against her wet face, removed it and smoothly repeated a dab with a dry section. She didn't notice. She wiped it away but I think she thought it was sweat or her own saliva. "Is it over?" Linda asked. "Do you think we're safe now?" I dragged the desk from out in front of the door because I could hear people in the hallway talking in a nonhorrified tone. "Is everything okay?:" I asked the father of a family that included four young curly brown-haired boys. "The hotel safe I take it?"

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"Yes, they arrested him shooting up behind the hotel across the highway. Don't go into the lobby if you have kids. The cops are still investigating and it isn't cleaned up yet." Kids. The only kid I have at this moment is skillfully putting on her bra under her white t-shirt. "How old are you?" I asked Linda. "How old am? Who cares how old I am, is it safe?" "Yeah, he was an addict, they found him shooting up at the hotel across the street." "I'm 24, what's it to you?" Twenty-four!. She couldn't be 26 or 27? That would also be "mid-twenties." Needless to say, I was caught up in her youth and horribly attracted to her. But when I caught a look at myself in the mirror, I felt like a dirty old man. Beforehand, I was starting to believe I was her age. "What did they say in the hallway?" asked Linda. I told her about the lobby. She informed me we weren't leaving the room until the cops had gone, indicating the body had been removed. Linda has a fear of corpses. "Shouldn't we get going?" I asked. "Jenny's going to be in

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Mexico by the time we catch up to the tour." "You don't even know her," scorned Linda. Where did that come from? She'd always been really supportive of me supporting Jenny, hence the two of us being at a Super 8 in Seattle. The same Super 8 that would soon to be featured on the Six O'clock Eyewitness News, if my reading of the logos on the news vans outside was correct. "You're right," I said. "But that's why we're here isn't it?" "Of course it is, but I was just thinking something funny. I was thinking that you know me much better than you know her. You've even seen me naked for all intensive purposes." 'All intents and purposes' I thought, correcting her in my mind, but then I realized she's right. She's very right. Four hours and a dinner is what I've had with Jenny. But Jenny kissed me. Jenny's in her early thirties, so I don't quite feel like a dirty old man around her, and she's a rock star. "You haven't seen her naked have you?" asked Linda. "It's pretty intimate on that bus. I've seen everyone naked." I teased. "Yeah right."

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"Well, at least I've kissed her." "She kissed you?" she asked. "Yeah, I think she just wanted to kiss someone and I was handy. Please don't tell her I said that. And please don't tell her I saw you naked." "Oh I'm telling her everything," she smirked. "I'm going to tell her your tongue was hanging out and you wanted to jump on me so bad!" She was obviously joking but I was at a loss for words on to respond since I was turned on by the thought of jumping on her. My mind, for some reason, told my mouth to say the following: "You're right. You're pretty god-damned hot, Linda. I don't know why you're spending the prime years of your life in a crack motel with me." The moment called for a joke, and thankfully I made my way to one, eventually. "I'm having fun with you," she said. This is fun? She was terrified half to death earlier and driving to the edge of exhaustion before that. And wanting to go home an hour ago. "And you're funny," she added. Really? 'When was I funny?' I wondered.

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"We should shower." said Linda. I stared at her doe-eyed, imagining something I won't print here, but what I'll be masturbating to the thought of for the rest of my life. Then I snaped out of my trance and dangled my tongue out my mouth as best I could. "One at time," she smiled. A gentle knock came on the door. I opened it to find a reporter and a TV camera crew in my face. "Uh, Eye Witness News?" I asked. "Are you from Seattle?" asked the young male reporter. "Absolutely not," I retorted. "I hate your murderous city. I'm from Canada. I was just having an afternoon with one of your prostitutes and all this shooting started." I just wanted them to leave. "Is that woman a prostitute?" the reporter asked from behind his camera and cameraman. Linda was out of ear shot getting things out of her bag for a shower. She stopped by the door on her way to the bathroom. "A very expensive one, I assure you," I informed the reporter as Linda passed by. "That's the only reason I visit Seattle is the quality of your professional women."

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"A camera!" Linda shrieked, before slamming shut the bathroom door in full view of the reporter and the camera. "No cameras, please," she pleaded from inside the bathroom. "Maybe we could get them to film our love making," I shouted back, probably audible to the poor guy and his kids out in the hall. I couldn't believe the TV people wouldn't leave me alone. The reporter persisted. "Did you witness the homicide at all? We're you here at the time?" "Yes I was, and I'm going to think twice about visiting your country again until you implement some gun control and shut down the IRA--not the IRA, the NRA. Sorry." The reporter looked at me with a straight face but said nothing. "You're a third-world country here!" I yelled, before gently closing the door in his face and the camera. Linda opened the bathroom door slowly and asked, "Was the camera on?" "Probably," I said. We laughed, she in her towel, the sight of which paralyzed me. I stopped talking and made a tent in my pants. I'm sorry! I'm sorry to her, I'm sorry to you, dear reader, I'm sorry to the penis gods, I'm just plain sorry. The damn thing just goes off and I can't control it. "You like a girl in a towel, eh," she observed.

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"At my age, everyone under thirty is gorgeous. You're stunning," I admitted. She closed the door with a smile. "Thank you," she said, softly but cheerfully as it shut. Then the sound of the lock clicking on the door knob. That is such a rude sound. Weakness and Stupidity When it was my turn to shower I--and there's no easy way to say this--jerked off twice. Probably could have hit the Daily Triple if I was a couple years younger. I couldn't think clearly anymore and I was starting to taste sperm in the back of my throat. Plus, I didn't want the damned thing going off all the time and making me look like a jackass. Linda was watching TV on my bed. "Jenny's not answering her phone, or it's dead, or she's doing the sound check or she lost her phone, I don't know," said Linda. I asked her if she thought Jenny had lost interest in the whole idea or if she didn't need me anymore. I laid down with her under the covers. I felt like a kid. Never before have I shared a bed platonically with a woman whom I wasn't sleeping with or expecting to. There was something

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nice about it, something wholesome. Of course the two whack jobs in the bathroom helped me in a substantial way. "Do you think she's given up on the idea of having me along?" I asked. "No, she probably needs you. It's probably you who kept her on the tour bus to Seattle. She was thinking of walking away and staying in Van for a while," said Linda. "What have I done for her exactly?" I asked. "I don't understand." "It's complicated, she's always been like this. But I see why you're the perfect person to be around for her right now." "I really don't know what's going with you people," I complained. She turned on her side and faced me, then ran her hand through my chest hair. "You're a good guy, James. You're amusing and you're an outsider, someone who couldn't be further from the music world. And, sometimes, you're kinda cute. I think I might even have a crush on you." I laughed, thinking she was joking, but she crawled on top of me and kissed me on the lips. My base instincts took over. I couldn't think my way out of this one. My mind was disconnected from my body and was now sitting

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comfortably on the bedside table, watching us with its tongue hanging out. I slid my hands down the back of her pants. She undid the button on the front and unzipped her fly, allowing my hands to grasp her fully. So soft, so firm, so round. Everything you want in an ass. And the person it was attached to? I have never felt so turned on. And then: "Did you whack off in the bathroom?" she asked. "Twice," I replied without hesitation. "Twice? I'm that hot?" she asked. "I could devour you like a wild animal right now," I said, not quite believing my ears. But I was by no means exaggerating. "I'm young enough to be your daughter, " she warned. "Incest is very acceptable in some cultures," I quipped. "What cultures?" "Utah? North Seattle, I'm assuming?" We began kissing again and Linda's cell rang. We ignored it. It rang again. We continued to ignore it. Someone called her for a third time and I picked up her phone to look at the display. It read "IHOP NE PORT."

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"It's IHOP," I said. "Are you out of pancakes?" I threw her phone onto the padded arm chair a few feet away from the bed, but the phone kept ringing and ringing and ringing and ringing. Finally she couldn't take it anymore and got up to answer the call. "Is your boyfriend obsessive? Or worse, is he psychic by any chance?" I asked as she was opening the phone. Looking at the display she asked, "Why the fuck is someone calling me from IHOP?" Not to digress too much, but from that moment on, I associated the International House of Pancakes with hot, gooey, amazing, delicious sex with comely young women. "Hello? -- Where have you been?" said Linda into the phone. Jenny. Jesus, Jenny. I actually stopped thinking about her for a few minutes. I'm not sure I even wanted her to call, especially at the moment she did. "What? Are you fucking me? When? Are you sure?" Did someone die? Someone outside our hotel? I was expecting the worst after what happened at noon just down the hall from us. "I don't know if we get that. James, turn on the TV to the news," she commanded.

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What? I turned on the TV and flipped to...Eyewitness News. Was the the murder getting covered in Portland? And how could Jenny associate it with us? "Jenny says the band was eating supper at an IHOP in Portland and saw your face on the TV news with the sound turned down. They saw your face on the screen with images of murder scene at a hotel, a gun pulled out of a trash can and a man being dragged off in a police car. She thought I was dead!" Holy Christ. The poor woman thought her sister was murdered trying to take some loser down I-5 to catch a bus with her on it. How could they have used any of my interview? Are journalists brain-dead down here? Linda hung up. "It's three hours to Portland. We can be there for the show if we hurry. She'll have tickets and passes for us at the main ticket booth." "What ticket booth?" I asked. "What venue is it at and how do we get there?" Googling ensued.

Under the I, 5

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Linda and I are again traveling the I-5 in her tiny car, this time heading for Portland, Oregon. The sun has gone down and Linda is driving. We've decided that we're vampires because we only seem to travel at night. "Maybe you should be a werewolf," Linda joked. "Why?" I asked. "The whole 'I could tear into you like an animal' bit from earlier?" I was embarrassed. "I don't normally talk like that," I said, sheepishly. "Spanking it twice in the shower wouldn't have slowed you down?" "There would have been less biting and scratching of flesh," I admitted. "Hmmm, how do you know I don't like that sort of thing?" she asked, causing me to feel guilty about Jenny. God, I like Linda. But what would have happened if we continued? I'm trying to think of Jenny but it's hard. For every hour I've spent with her I've spent eight or ten with Linda. And some of those minutes with Linda have been pretty memorable. I began to wonder if my lust for this very attractive and youthful woman has supplanted my earlier desire to be intimate with Jenny. Jenny was my whole world a few hours ago. I really don't know where this is going. The scenario of me being left stranded somewhere deep into the U.S. is now crossing my mind. I'm going to try to exercise caution.

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The Boss Phones Ring, ring... Linda answered her cell. "Hey! How are ya? Blah, blah, blah, yeah sorry about that, blah, blah, blah, yeah he's here, you wanna give him shit?" I took the phone from her. It was Win. Win Butler. God to many, regular dude to few. I wasn't sure which side I stood on at that moment. He hasn't been on my mind for an eternity. Win called to ask me if I was coming to join the tour. "Jenny could use your company I think and the whole band likes having you around." (I called bullshit in my mind on the last one but holy fuck did it sound nice.) The call was short but of great magnitude as calls go. "Why is it important to him for me to be there?" I wondered aloud. "Because Jenny is probably getting claustrophobic on the bus and is threatening to take an unscheduled break," said Linda. "But guys like me are a dime a dozen, you could pick one up at any stop on the tour. Why me?" "Because you've been supportive to her, you're a fellow Canadian, and you're a nice guy with no needs, no strings." I asked her if a woman could do the same thing. "Probably, but she may have some daddy issues where you being a man is a plus," she said. It sounded like a

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strange thing to day and I'm not sure I believed her. "Do I look like your dad?" I asked. "Uh, kinda actually," she laughed. "If this thing wasn't weird enough as it was." I groaned. I look like her dad? This better not be a part of it. Linda thought for a moment. "You're kinda like a romance novel for her when she's too lazy to read. You give her something to think about that's outside the bubble of the band. You're like downtime but you're around all the time." "I actually think I understood that," I said. "You'll do fine, just be yourself and have fun. If you're having fun, the people around will be having fun. And try to be funny whenever you can." The court jester. Great. No pressure. "You're never going to have sex with me, are you?" I asked. "Of course not. You had your chance. That moment will never be there again," she said. "I'm hurt," I told her. I really was. At least my ego was. My fragile self-esteem hasn't left me. It might have if she wasn't half my age, which led me to thoughts of how hard it would be for me to actually have a relationship with someone as young as her. "Jesus, I'm kidding!" she laughed. "It's just that I'm

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driving right now on an Interstate in a strange country and boning you doesn't seem like a safe idea at the moment." "Fine, while I'm waiting I'm going to alert Spin magazine that I'm Win Butler's bitch." I flipped open my laptop and decided to blog instead. Lucy Turnbull Lucy Turnbull, 58 of Marysville was the lady who was shot dead at the hotel. She had three grown kids and was predeceased by her husband. I hope she's with him now. We both want to write a letter to her kids saying, "We knew your mom for all of three minutes but she seemed really nice and the world needs nice people." Linda and I spent a lot of time deprogramming after the homicide. We're a bit in shock still, a bit wound up on adrenaline. I can't imagine how Lucy's kids feel. It's times like this that I really hope there's a god and a heaven and she's up there being okay. We agree not to talk about it anymore because it's stressing us out. Me thinks we could use a drink or two. More of the Same There was an accident ahead of us on the I-5. The freeway had become a parking lot with us stuck in it. We had already missed the opportunity to get to Memorial

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Coliseum for the start of the show even though we were maybe a half hour out of Portland. We couldn't even see flashing lights ahead of us, that's how far away the accident was. But thanks to Linda's Blackberry we found out it involved a tractor trailer and fatalities. Death seems to follow us. We're both frustrated and our moods had been sour. I asked Linda, "What are you going to do when we find them? It's over five hours back to Vancouver. You should stay in a hotel." Super 8 was generous enough to have someone come by our room to check us out so we wouldn't have to visit the scene of the murder. He gave us a five nights accommodation voucher. But he asked me, "We're you the man on TV talking about gun control and hookers?" "No," I deadpanned. He bought it and moved on to the next room. "I'm not going to a Super 8 again without a gun and you, baby," Linda joked, lightening the dower mood-thankfully. "I don't want you dying or anything. You're going to be exhausted," I said. "Oh, you care about me?" she asked sardonically. The question paused me. I really did care about her in some way, beyond hormonal interests. In fact I was startled by how much I realized I cared about her. She had been a savior to me, helping me selflessly then, and reawakening my youth back at the hotel. I was feeling

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more alive than I had in many years. Then out my mouth came these brilliant words: "Linda....I can't leave you I don't think." "Really? You can't quit me?” she teased. "It'd be pretty easy for you, you've got my sister, the rock star, waiting for you up ahead." "This is going to be the hardest thing I've ever had to do and I don't think I can do it." I thought I was going coocoo. "What about you driving home by yourself in this strange place with the murder just happening today?" I asked. WTF was I going to do? I had been riding this whole adventure like a bumper car with my hands off the wheel and the pedal to the metal. Linda cried. Really cried. I felt conspicuous with all the people around us but I took her over to my side and held her. I don't know what I said that set her off but I guessed that she was perpetually lonely in spite of all the dating she does. With Linda close to me, my fucking penis went off again. It couldn't have been a more inappropriate time. This is the kind of thing I was a afraid of. Before I could panic, she went from crying to kissing me. It's funny how that goes sometimes. We made out like teenagers in a cramped car. Except, instead of parking somewhere secluded, we were bumper to bumper, side window to side window, standing still on a well-lit freeway. Neither of us gave it one thought. I even made clothing-related advances (instinct got the best of me) but Linda kept stopping my hands. But it was she who cracked first: "I could eat you up like an animal," she said, almost possessed, trying in vain to repeat my earlier nowinfamous words.

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"Wasn't it something like, 'Devour you like an animal'?" I asked, surprisingly keeping my composure, relatively speaking. "There was a Super 8 behind us on the highway. Let's go there." "What about--?" (The band.) I stopped myself. The chance for sex with Linda overpowered any good judgment and decency I had. Linda got back behind the wheel and did some aggressive honking before wheeling the car across the freeway and onto the oncoming lanes. We could barely touch each other during the trip, yet out desire just kept going up and up. We got to hotel, quickly checked in, and the rest is none of your goddamn business. (It was great!)

I’m Sorry
Linda and I only spent a short time talking in bed together afterward. Somehow, doing it made it easier for us to leave each other. Maybe I was confusing lust with love, maybe I always have, I don't know. We agreed that we should get going quickly so we wouldn't have to catch up with the band in San Fran, an additional eight or ten hours away. It was now or never and catching up to the tour would have to involve high speeds and some luck. Linda already got a text from Jen saying, "about to leave Portland, where are u?"

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We hit the highway and said little, but we held hands, which was surprisingly nice, and then, as I drove, Linda laid her head on my lap. Now that it didn't really matter, nothing popped up. Departures I drove like 1.5 times the speed limit on an alternate into Portland, away from the traffic jam, then got back on the trusty I-5. I would have worried about getting a speeding ticket but I wasn't the only one driving that fast. We had a near miss when I was in the blind side of a semi and he cut us off. That got Linda up. She wasn't sleeping but she wasn't talking either. "Are we going to be okay with this?" I asked her. She assured me that whatever would happen would work out for us. The first issue was getting me a cell phone. Mine was turned off and without a charger. I kept it only for emergencies on this ridiculous adventure, much to the annoyance of many people. We picked up a cheap pay as you go phone at a gas station and plugged it into the cigarette lighter to charge. I asked Linda if she would miss me and she assured me she would. But she had a job and a life in Vancouver and wasn't just going to run away from it all like I did. That hurt. She didn't mean anything by it, but it hit home because I was, in fact, running away from a life. A life I've had no time to think about in days. Nor would I have time now. We spotted vehicles from the tour, thirty minutes south of Portland city limits, but still in the well-lit

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freeways of the never-ending suburban sprawl. We were able to pass the band's bus in the right lane. It was only 1:00 AM and the cabin was bright with activity. And there she was, looking out at the view alternating between trees and shopping centers. But Jenny was looking forward and didn't see us so I pulled behind the bus and sped past it on the left. "What are you doing?" asked Linda. Impishness struck me. It must have been an aftershock from the sex. I decided to pass well ahead of Jenny's bus and let it catch up to me while I parked well ahead of it on the side of the road. Linda and I got out and held out our thumbs, standing well into the lane so Jenny couldn't miss us. Linda was having fun and that was important to me in our last moments together. The bus raced past. Linda and I thought we could make out Jenny's face for an instant but had no indication if she, or anyone, saw us. "Now what?" she asked. The bus disappeared to the other side of a hill without slowing down. I looked at Linda and we laughed. But I was getting worried we'd lose the tour if the texts stopped flowing from Jenny, as they often had. Linda and I went to get back in the car and, as I grabbed the wheel and looked down the highway, I saw the silhouette of a person walking over the crest of the hill. "That's her," said Linda. It would have made more sense to drive to her but we got out of the car and walked. Jenny would have had to get to the front of the bus and tell the driver to stop, I thought.

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That's why it took the bus so long to stop. We all jogged to catch up to each other and when Jenny got to us, she embraced Linda and picked her up off the ground. "I thought you were dead you little fart!" exclaimed Jenny tearfully. She didn't even make eye contact with me. "What about me?" I asked. "I saw you on TV. You looked a little underfed but otherwise okay," she said without batting an eyelash in my direction. "Don't do that to me again!" Jenny told Linda, "I just about trashed an IHOP freaking out over you!" "James protected me," said Linda. "Really?" asked Jenny. "I knew there was something I liked about him." The bus honked from the other side of the hill. This was it. "We got to go," said Jenny. "Call me when you get to a hotel." She handed Linda a handful of cash and Linda took it, in spite of our free Super 8 hotel vouchers. I had the sense that these transactions were frequent. 'Now, what?' I thought. Do I kiss Linda in front of Jenny? What would she think of that? Would she get on the bus without me? Linda and I hugged then looked at each other. I wanted to kiss her one last time. "Kiss her," said Jenny, shocking only me. So I did. And

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Jenny and I walked up the hill toward the bus with the sound of tractor trailers roaring by. Who else drives the freeway at 2 AM on a weeknight, other than rock bands? "My sister tells me all," smiled Jenny. All that frantic texting, I had no idea. I turned around and ran back to Linda for one last private good bye. "She knows?" "Yeah, but it's okay. Trust me. Go, have fun and tell me everything," she urged. "Thank you for everything. Thank you for being incredible." I said. I'm not much with words. I wished I could have carefully composed my thoughts in a nice long note for her to read but there was no chance for that. As Jenny and I stepped on the bus, Linda zoomed past and off into the night, honking cheerfully in her tiny car. She took something of me with her. Back in the Bubble Most everyone was awake and perky when I got on the bus somewhere south of Portland in the middle of the night. Everyone got up to greet me, many hugged me and Régine gave me a sloppy kiss on the cheek. (She's Québécois so it's expected. They even kiss their mailmen there.) I was taken aback by the love. These guys are just so damned nice! It meant a lot to me, to be made to feel welcome on the bus. I figured I could be more useful if I felt I was assured they all wanted me there. Régine even said, "I want to teach you how to play the Hurdy-Gurdy, so you can be in

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our band." She was joking but I sure enjoyed hearing her say it. Jenny and I sat together and chatted. Others joined us to hear the hotel homicide story but eventually Jenny and I were left alone and others hit their bunks for the night. Jenny suggested I join her on a overhead bunk so we could talk some more about her sister and our adventures. When I pulled a blanket over us I said, "You know, I was doing this with your sister just a few hours ago." "I heard about that. If you lay a hand on me I'll scream so loud the bus driver will crash the bus," Jenny teased. I was surprised she knew about the laying of hands. "How much did Linda tell you?" I asked. "You pleasured yourself twice in the shower, James?" she asked. "Are you people some sort of crazy twins born eight years apart?" I was starting to dislike this openness between my two lovers. "You better not be pulling that--so to speak--in our shower. It doesn't get cleaned as often." "I've never showered in the bus shower. God knows I've wanted to." "You're one of us now, James. You can take a shower whenever you want as long as you don't use all the water. But we have to have someone watching you at all times," she added. "I think I'll ask Will. He'd probably do it too. Just because it's such a weird request. And he'll probably want to sketch you while you shower. I hope that's okay."

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I told her that I was so desperate for a shower in B.C. that I would have let my mother watch me. "That reminds me," said Jenny. "What?" I asked, not having a clue where this was going. "Régine talked to your mom. She's an interesting woman, to say the least." HUH???? "We couldn't reach Linda when we saw you on TV and thought she was dead. Régine googled you on 411 and found one person in Saskatchewan with your last name. She called her to ask for your cell phone number." Jesus. Régine talked to my mother? I recoiled in horror. "Yeah, she told her she was Régine from the worldfamous rock band the Arcade Fire who were currently touring North America and had welcomed you to our bus but lost you somewhere in the Pacific Northwest." teased Jenny. We had a good laugh, but I realized that I now had to phone my mother. I hate my mother. Jenny fell asleep but I couldn't. I slipped out of bed and sat down in a chair with my laptop to write my blog. Hey You Still on the bus, two hours later, 3 AM on the road to San Fran. I was wired and couldn't sleep. I texted Linda to see if she

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got a hotel room and didn't hear back. My phone had just been activated so I wasn't sure the texts were getting through. Jenny was looking down at me from her bed. "Pssst. Can't you sleep? Come up here." I joined her again and she kindly wrapped a blanket around me. I accidental got too friendly with her by putting my hand on her side. It was a natural place to put it. She gently removed it. "Sorry, I didn't mean anything by that." "Oh," she said. "Then put it back." She placed my hand on her side. "Just keep them off my ass." I would have rolled my eyes if they weren't jumping out of my head so. "Why would she share intimate details like that?" I asked. "She liked it and thought for some reason she should get my approval for further activity." "And you just offered me up like a piece of meat?" I teased. "She's got a nice little rear end. I'm sure it's more appealing than mine these days. Oh to be that young again. No one's grabbed my bum in a long time. No one sane, anyway." "I'd be honored to grab your ass, or scratch it or wipe it, or whatever you need," I said. "I know I don't need to tell you you're hot."

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She took my hand off her side. Damn, I was enjoying the intimacy. "Why do guys always lose it for women in their early twenties?" she asked. "There are a lot of people on this bus getting hardons for the some of the fans. They're children really." "The guys or the fans?" I asked. Point: James. The hand got placed back on her side. We seemed to have a game going. "If men are only attracted to young women because of their bodies, then that means they're objectifying them. Can't you just as easily fall in love with someone older?" she asked. "Why did you kiss me that night?" I blurted, the words just slipping out, having been safely sealed up for days. Jenny paused and thought for a moment. "You looked like you needed kissing." "I did--" She turned over and said, "Let's pick this up tomorrow. It's an off-day in San Francisco. I expect you to be my chaperon." An off day? That means a nice hotel and the opportunity to shop for fresh underwear and shirts. I hope there's a Walmart nearby. Then she added, half asleep. "I think I'm going to take you for a makeover tomorrow." San Francisco, CA

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We checked into the hotel in downtown San Francisco just before dawn. The venue is in Berkeley but the band obviously wanted to have a day off in the middle of things, where the action is. I helped her carry some hand bags to her room and she pointed to one of the two queen-sized beds. "You take that one," she instructed. It's surprising to me now, as I write this post, that I just assumed I would be staying in her room. I must have been exhausted. Will stuck his head in our room and said, "Keep your hands off her. We have a no-groupie policy." I laughed but Jenny told me he was serious. The band's policy is not to allow groupies on the bus. Not that anyone partakes in casual sex with fans, according to Jenny. "But is has happened," she said. "Hence the policy." So there you go: It's officially impossible for me to have a physical relationship with Jenny or I'd qualify as a groupie, since they picked me up on the tour. That should make things easy. Jenny asked if I thought we should grab some breakfast at the hotel's restaurant buffet. "Sure," I said. I was starving, it hadn't caught up to me until then but I really hadn't been eating much since...since 3 PM last Saturday, almost a week ago, when I had an Uncle Burger at A & W in Regina. They were on sale for three dollars. Four if you get them with bacon and cheddar, which I believe I did. "Wait," said Jenny. "Let's order room service instead."

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Jenny was having a shower when the food arrived. I asked her for tip money and she directed me to her wallet on the desk. I saw her Montreal I.D. and it seemed strange that she actually had a home and isn't always on the move. I wondered what her life was like at her home when she's not touring or recording. For some reason, at that moment, I wondered if she was a lesbian. Of course she was! That's why she wasn't interested in me! As I tipped the room service guy I shouted into the bathroom. "Are you a lesbian?" "Nope. Tried it. Didn't stick. You?" she yelled back. Hey, she's funny. I had forgotten that. The Honesty Game Part I. Jenny and I entered our respective beds to sleep for a couple of hours before our day off in San Fran. We continued talking and ended up on the inside of each our beds, facing each other in the dark hotel room. "What are you thinking right now?" she asked, making me feel like I was kid at a pajama party. I wasn't thinking about it yet, but I lied and used the opportunity to try and get information out of her. "I'm wondering why you want me here." I said. "Oh," She said, and edged up even closer to me by getting near the edge of her bed. "You're a friend. You're someone different to talk to. It's always the same people on tour. You're unusual, and I'm enjoying getting to know you. You're funny and I'm happy around you."

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"That's a really nice thing to hear you say." "James, I really need you to be honest around me. Total honesty. I need a friend right now who can be completely honest, no secrets. Can you do that?" "Honestly, yes." I didn't know what else to say. "I'm serious. Can you do that?" "I'll do my best," I promised. "What did you think of me in the days after I kissed you?" "I was confused, I didn't know--" "Try to be totally honest. I mean, completely. Don't hold anything back," she instructed. "I was enamored with you. Even obsessed. I thought about you all the time. I felt warm and fuzzy inside. I may have projected what I wanted you to be onto you." "What did you want me to be?" "I don't know right now, I may have forgotten." "Did you want to fuck me?" "Of course I did. But it was more than that. I'm not like that. I was in puppy love, I guess. How come these questions are all one way?" "You'll get your turn. Why did you want to fuck me?" "'Cause I'm a guy. You know how we are. We take

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something like point seven seconds to assess a women we meet on whether or not we'd like to have sex with her. So you were easily in the green light category before I met you. That's the total honesty answer." "I appreciate that. That's interesting. I might get back to that sometime. What did you think when we got into separate beds just now?" "I thought I wished I could get into your bed with you." "I wished that too," said Jenny, both surprising and confusing me. "I wanted you to spoon me. What do you think about spooning me?" "I think I would like it a lot, but I'd get an erection because of the whole body contact. Although wholesome at first, it would turn into me wanting to make love to you." "I don't want that," Jenny said. "I appreciate your honesty," I retorted. Jenny laughed. "Come over here and spoon me for ten minutes. Whatever wood you have I won't take personally. And you know where the shower is." I spooned her for ten minutes and guess what? The damned thing behaved itself. She fell asleep and I crashed in my own bed. The Honest Game Part II. I woke up choking. Jenny was standing over me pinching my nose.

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"What the hell?" I screamed. It took me a minute to get my bearings. "Why did you do that exactly?" "I was up and you were snoring. I figured you were dreaming about boinking my sister so I ended it. Sorry about that." "Are you punishing me?" I asked. "No, not at all." "You're not pissed I bumped uglies with your little sister and I'm so much older than her?" "Not at you. I don't blame you. I don't blame anyone. But no, I'm not thrilled it happened. But it probably happens all the time." "Thanks," I said sharply. "Is it any different that it was me and not some other guy in his late thirties?" "No, if anything I'm glad it was you. I like you. She could do worse. You're a decent fellow." "I'm not buying that you're being totally honest, at least not up to the caliber of honesty we've established." She paused. "Well I guess I was jealous." "You wished I was fucking you?" (How's that for honesty? I was getting the hang of this.) "No, I wasn't. It's just that you entered into my life and we were getting to know each other and then suddenly you]re gone and my sister has you all to herself and I'm freaking out on the highway, and in the occasional IHOP."

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"Can you please tell me what's going on with you that everyone is so concerned about?" "No." She said. "And that's the honest answer."

Thai, Don’t Care for It
Jenny and I had lunch at a Thai restaurant close to the hotel. We ate alone. Most off days that don't involve a lot of publicity or appearances on late night talk shows, are days the band tries to spend away from each other. In fact, on this day, the rule is not to make eye contact if you pass another person from the tour in the hotel. Being Jenny's bitch is going to take it's toll. We don't seem to like the same cuisine. Mostly because I've never had cuisine before, being a thrifty man from a small prairie town who is perpetually poor. Every day, press clippings are put on the bus in a mail box for anyone to read. I haven't seen anyone read one yet but I know they do. It's upsetting most of the time. The writer will praise the band, say the audience lost it's mind at the show but then put down Arcade Fire for not sucking their cocks after the show. One guy put down the fact that he had to watch the show with forty year olds who are really into AF's music.

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I thought they would probably have the ability to get me out of that crappy stadium. My guided meditation plan worked in small increments, but the forty-some-odd year old guy next to me, singing along to every song, sort of snapped me back into reality. I mean, that's me at the Saskatoon show. I felt stupid and out of place. I'm privately feeling really old and conspicuous. I wanted to ask Jenny how old she was but it doesn't matter. She's a rock star. I'm just a dork being taken out for a clothing and hair makeover after lunch. But hey, the nice lady taking me is pretty darn cool. Linda is Home Safe Linda texted both of us over lunch that she made it home in time for a shift at work. I'll talk to her tonight. The New Me On our day off in San Fran together, Jenny insisted she take me for a clothing shopping spree and a haircut, a full makeover. I had tried too hard to stretch out my haircuts in order to save money and I was looking bad, even for me. She bought me expensive black clothes, the kind all the non-band members on the tour wear. "It's not that I like the look, I just want you to blend in." Then she took me to a chain haircutting store and instructed the stylist how to cut my hair, through the whole haircut! "Why don't you cut it yourself?" I asked

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Jenny. "All right," she said, grabbing a pair of scissors. I relented and she stood down. She had the woman shave the sides of my head in a modern punk fashion. I looked far more like a hillbilly after the haircut, if you ask me. People on the street actually look at me differently now, I swear! Then Jenny took me to a piercing salon down the street, announced casually that she was a member of Arcade Fire, and we got squeezed in right away. She had a diamond stud implanted into my nose. I wouldn't let her do my lip or eyebrow. "If you take me on the rest of your world tour and have wild passionate sex with me every night I'll seriously consider it," I told her. "I can't do that," she said. "Which part?" I asked. "You know which part. Both parts," she said. "Fine, do my lip," I said. "Why?" she asked. "Because I'm sad." I got a stud in my lip. They wanted me to put in a ring but I'm just not that secure with rings. I could get it caught on something and then where would I be? The Fishing Cats

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Second on Jenny's day off agenda: The San Francisco Zoo to see the fishing cats. What are fishing cats, you ask? That's what I asked. "You'll see them when we get there, trust me, they're cool. Do you like cats?" she asked. "I love cats," I told her. She'd been to the zoo many years before and the fishing cats had made a big impression on her. That's because she went as a child, a tween, with her dad and sister after the divorce. Seeing the fishing cats was a trip back to a rare happy moment in her youth. I was to accompany her. When arrived at the zoo mid-afternoon, the fishing cats were nowhere to be seen. I grabbed an educational pamphlet on the fishing cats while Jenny asked a Cat Kingdom staffer where they were. "They're sleeping," the cat lady said. "It's late afternoon and it's hot and sunny, they probably won't be active until six o'clock or so. Jenny was distraught. She was counting on seeing the damned fishing cats, known for what they do: they fish. They have extra webbing on their feet, according to the pamphlet, and are excellent swimmers so they fish for their food, which is mostly fish. Naturally, these freakishly large wild cats who like to swim are endangered. "Are they like house cats?" I asked the cat lady, trying to diffuse Jenny's frustration. "They're much larger with small ears and large, strong tails that act as rudders when they swim," the cat lady

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replied. "But there are stories of people actually having them as house pets. They'd be like a large dog and eat twice as much." "Does each litter of kittens have different daddies among them?" I asked, recalling an experience with a pregnant cat in my youth. "The female release eggs during intercourse, so she constantly seeks out male companionship as the males constantly seek out a variety of females," she said. "Are they dangerous to people?" I asked, trying to stretch the conversation. "They can be under the wrong situation," she said, walking away. Jenny and I were left alone and her eyes suddenly lit up. She spotted a kitten in some hay behind a Cat Kingdom shed. To my discomfort, she opened the gate and walked in. "What are you doing?" I asked. "It's not polite to go into unrestricted areas," I said, pointing to the sign. Her answer: "If it was that restricted they wouldn't have forgotten to lock the gate." I was beginning to think she was used to getting her way on tour as a rock star and this a real-world excursion was going to get me killed and eaten. At first I thought it was a normal kitten but then I saw it's strange, rudder-like tale and it's short ears. Jenny was like a child, "Oh you're so cute, look at you! I just want to take you home!" She sat down in the hay with her back against the shed. I joined her. It was a nice afternoon and we were

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out of view of the staff. The kitten licked my salty fingers and we became friends, which somehow made Jen like me more too. And then: Staring at us angrily was a giant cat. Not a lion, not a tiger, not a cougar, but a big, strong, angry cat, maybe four or five times the size of a house cat. She hissed at us and her fangs showed. They were large. Large enough to easily wrap around the largest part of my calf. Jenny and I froze and didn't dare even speak a word until I whispered, "Look away, don't make eye contact. Don't look at the kitten either." I said this without moving my lips like it might trick the frothing animal somehow into not thinking I was talking. It's not like we could back away, we were sitting down. A lot would have to happen before we got to our feet. The mommy fishing cat began to growl, as cats sometimes do, but this was so loud and frightening my soul left my body to take cover two towns over. The kitten was licking Jenny's toes through her sandal as the mother sat down in the grass in a ready-to-pounce position. The adult continued to hiss every few moments. I prayed for the kitten to take off to its mother, or be carried away by an eagle. Anything. But the stupid thing just curled up against Jenny's bare calf and had itself a snooze in the afternoon sun. Jenny finally broke her silence and whispered, "James, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Maybe we should call for help on my phone." I was against moving in any way so we stayed put. An eternity passed and the mother cat went to sleep, occasionally opening one eye at the slightest sound or

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motion by us. "Nudge it. Nudge the kitten gently," I ordered in a whisper. "Without moving, try to nudge the kitten awake." "How can I nudge it without moving?" Jenny asked in frustration. Good point. I decided to lean over to Jenny and extent my arm in super-slow-motion that was spread out over two minutes. The cat's eye continued to open and I'd freeze in an odd position before continuing. Eventually I got my hand extended to the kitten and nudged it. It hissed angrily at me for being disturbed from its slumber. The mother cat, stood up and growled. Jenny and I looked toward the sky as if not to notice. I could hear my heart beating and was thinking the giant cat could too, but eventually she laid back down, relaxed and closed her eyes. "Are you religious?" Jenny asked me in the quietest of whispers. "Yes," I replied. For the first time since being cornered, Jenny turned slightly toward me. "Really? You don't look religious." "That's because you had me all angrily shaved and pierced today," I reminded her. I could see her smile out of the corner of my eye. "James, if we get out of here alive, I'm going to kiss you again."

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"Really? Then I've got something to live for," I said in a quiet voice, far louder than my previous whispers. And then the unimaginable: In one fluid motion, I scooped up the kitten in one hand and hurled it in the direction of her mother. The kitten landed awake on her feet and the mother pounced on her, but only to lick off the human scent from its fur. The two of them proceeded to have a bath while we waited for them to leave. We were beginning to relax and not worry as much after another half hour had passed. But I really, really had to pee. Having thought long and hard about it for what seemed like hours, I decided I was going to mark my territory by urinating on the ground. My mind, failing me in the hot sun, honestly thought it would work because it did in the book Never Cry Wolf, a Canadian classic read and enjoyed by me in grade ten English. I slowly and cautiously proceeded to urinate a few feet away from Jenny with my back turned to both her and the cats. The sphincter on my bladder was slow to unclench. A slow trickle splashed awkwardly on the ground and then Jenny screamed, "James!" I don't know if I could hear the big cat galloping toward me or if I caught a glance of it out of my peripheral vision, but I turned my back to the attacking mother cat and bent over as it lunged at me, tearing into my back as it used it as a launching pad to jump onto the roof of the shed. In an instant Jenny and I found ourselves on the safe side of the fence with the gate closed. The back of my shirt was shredded and bloody, my pants soaked with urine from the chaos. Jenny wept. I groaned in pain. We both were in shock.

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Conspicuously we exited the park without any staff person noticing my bloodied back or my soaked pants. My new black hipster pants were discarded in the parking lot trash can and we went to the hospital. We elected not to tell the zoo staff, fearing reprimands and an afternoon of questioning. The hospital was told it happened on a hike in a nearby park, probably a cougar, I told them. They cleaned up my scratch wounds, gave me an antihistamine (I'm allergic to cats, even giant wild ones who spend their lives swimming) and a fist full of hospital Tylenol. Not only did I now have Jenny's girlish sympathy, she also saw me as being more manly for "taking on the beast." "You didn't have to throw out those pants, you know. Urine is sterile," said Jenny, as we waited for a cab outside the hospital. "That's a myth," I said. "If it was sterile everybody would be drinking it and they're would be a soft drink," "What about Mountain Dew?" she smiled. "You're killing, you know." "Why?" "You've got so many things attracting me to you and then you have to throw in this sharp sense of humor of yours on top of everything. You're killing me." "Is that sexy?" she asked. "You have no idea," I said. "When do I get my kiss?"

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"You'll get it when I time is right. Don't worry, I'm a woman of my word. Besides, you've earned it." The Beautiful Ocean I. The rest of Jenny's afternoon day-off agenda was kept a secret from me, but whatever it was, it had to be all brushed because we ran out of time due to all the cat stalking, mauling and hospital visits. We taxied to the ocean and chartered a sunset cruise for two. Juan, a second-generation American (he told us so two or three times) has a small business driving couples on his small, somewhat ragged yacht out into the ocean to see the sunset off of San Francisco. He serves Champaign, as much as you want, then takes you back to shore shortly after sunset. All for just three hundred dollars. The day was getting expensive, what with all the clothes, hospital bills and piercing. The evening was clear and calm when we reached a point off shore that was fairly far out but still within faint sight of the beach. "See that over there?" asked Juan. He pointed and said, "That's that prison." "What prison?" I asked. "You know, that prison. The one on TV. The one in all the movies." My mind was not even thinking about Alcatraz for some reason but Jenny was killing herself laughing. "I hope you pee your pants so we're even," I told her.

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"I'll take you there to the prison, we will go look," said Juan, starting up the engine. In spite of a chorus of "nos" from Jenny and I, Juan threw the boat it into gear only to have the engine clank loudly and completely shut off. He cursed in Spanish. "Is that bad? Is the boat not going to work?" asked Jenny. Juan stormed off down below deck without replying. We heard wrenches clanging and more swearing. He reemerged minutes later with a deflated fluorescent red children's dingy, the kind you might buy at Walmart at the end of the season for ten bucks. He began the slow process of blowing it up with his mouth. "No refund. You enjoy the sunset. I'll go to shore and get my other boat," said Juan, now sweating profusely. He continued to blow up his dingy, with the tiny plastic paddles sitting on the deck. "Will we drift out to sea?" asked a concerned Jenny. "No. I'll put down the anchor," he said, but he suddenly exited the boat by jumping into the water and then climbing onto the dingy soaking wet. "There's life jackets there if you need them," Juan yelled. "And I forgot to throw down the anchor. It's right beside you. Just crank it." Juan disappeared from site remarkably fast and Jenny and I sat down and try to calm our anxiety with more Champaign. Then I laid my first anchor (that's not a euphemism.) The night was calm, warm and beautiful. The developing sunset looked to be worth the price of admission. I

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decided to apply some Chapstick. "What are you doing?" asked Jenny. "It's not New Year's Eve, you know. There's no sure thing for you tonight." "I know," I said. "I just want to be prepared. It could be the last time I kiss you and I want to make the most of it." She stared at me like I was a puppy. "You're so cute," she said. "Like a puppy?" I asked. "Because I was just thinking you were looking at me like a puppy." "Really, because that's how you always look at me since the moment I met you." Puppy love, I thought, hating myself. "Do you want to keep me warm as the sun sets?" she asked. "I do." I said. We huddled together on two plastic chaise lounges pushed together (Walmart $15 each, end of season I figured.) With our arms around each other and an amazing sun setting on the ocean's horizon, I caught Jenny looking at my crotch. "Stop that,” I said. "Sorry, just trying to see what you're thinking, because this isn't anything, okay?" "Jesus, I could be fucking you and you'd say to me, 'Just

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so you know, this doesn't mean anything and I'm not enjoying it but please don't stop!" I said, annoyed. She smiled wryly at me. "You're so aggressive now that you have metal stapled to your face." "I just hope the fish that eats us tonight breaks a tooth on it," I said. "It'll be probably that fishing cat coming after you. They're excellent swimmers and it may have developed a taste for you," she teased. "You're killing me." "I know," she laughed. "And I'm enjoying it soooo much."

The Beautiful Ocean II. (The Sun Sets)
We watched in silence as the sun disappeared behind the ocean's horizon. Jenny's phone buzzed. It was a text from Linda at work. Jenny curled over laughing and her hand held my hand so tight I thought she was going to break something. "What is it?" I asked. "I sent her a picture of your bloodied back when we were at the hospital and told her it was she who did this to you!" Jenny howled. "And I told her I was going to send her the hospital bill!" "Juan's not coming back and we're going to die on this ocean," I reminded her. She stopped laughing and deadpanned, "I know." Her

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sudden seriousness surprised me. After a moment she looked into my eyes and added, "I'm not going to forget this day, you know." "Really?" I asked. "I'm certainly not going to forget it, but your life and mine are very different." "Let's smoke a J! I can't believe I didn't think of this earlier!" she exclaimed, reaching into her bag. The Beautiful Ocean III (Nightfall) The lights of ships and various smaller vessels dotted the ocean as a bright waning moon rose over the shimmering city. (Thank you, I wrote that myself.) When the meticulously-rolled joint was finished, Jenny got up and exclaimed, "Let's swim!" "No!," I responded. "This is how Jaws started. You're drunk and high, that's how people drown!" She looked around and said, "We'll put on the life jackets." "I wish you wouldn't," I pleaded. "Oh, I'm not doing it without you," she said. "Don't you want to see me naked?" "I hate you," I said. "No you don't. You're in love with me." What?

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"C'mon, are you in?" "I'll do anything for you not to do this," I begged. "Look at how gorgeous this is," she said, looking at the night sky then down at the city skyline. "James, please. I want you to do this." My momentary silence was taken as an agreement and she took off her shirt. "I think I'm going to take off my underwear as well. We have to do this properly. Have you ever been skinny dipping before?" she asked. "More than you would believe," I replied. "Really?" she said, raising an eyebrow. "Then you understand the importance of being totally naked in cool water. Turn around." I was impressed as impressed with her as she was with me. The kid knew her skinny dipping. A moment later she had her life jacket on over her bare upper body and was removing her shorts and panties in front of me. "Hurry up," she said, climbing down the ladder into the water. I took off my shirt and shorts but not my underwear. I adjusted the straps of the other life jacket and put it on before joining her in the water. "Aren't you going to take off your underwear?" she asked, with a big smile on her face, clearly enjoying the the water. "Fine," I said, I reached into the water and pulled them off, letting my size size larg white 100% cotton Fruit of the

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Loom briefs (Walmart, package of 10, $8.00) float to the surface. Jenny laughed at the absurd image. I brushed the underwear away but they kept returning. "What are you thinking right now?" Jenny asked. "Is this the honesty game?" "Absolutely, yes! Now more than ever. Totally, totally honest, okay?" "I'm thinking this is the most romantic situation I've ever been in, or could ever hope to be in, and I'm with a beautiful, amazing woman that I'm never going to get romantic with." "Aw," she said, now seeming more inebriated. "Our friendship is very romantic. I've never been in such a romantic situation either. The whole day, really. You, offering yourself as chum for that tiger, or whatever it was." "It was a lion, and I'm not sure if I'm prepared to do it again tonight if I see a shark fin behind you," I warned. Then the salty sea water seeped under the life jacket and through my wound dressings. I clenched my entire body and groaned in pain. She held my hand hard as I kept the other on the ladder to keep us from drifting. "What are you thinking?" I asked, as she gazed at me without saying anything. "I'm thinking I want to kiss you. What are you thinking?"

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"I'm wondering why you want to kiss me." "A girl doesn't know why in these situations, she just knows." I stopped her before her lips touched mine. "How long will it last?" I asked. "As long as you want it to," she said, leaning towards me with her eyes closed. "If I pull my lips off to catch some air, does that mean it's over?" "Don't you want to kiss me, James?" "I do, but I'm dreading it. Because once I do, I won't have anything to look forward to." She pulled herself closer and kissed me. I wrapped my arms around her life jacket and she pulled away. "I want to take this thing off." "Are you sure?" I asked. "You keep holding onto me and I'll be fine." She threw her life jacket onto the boat and we began again, this time I could feel her warm, soft back underneath my arms. She unlocked her lips from mine again and said, "I want you to put your hands on my bum like you did to Linda." I slide my hands down slowly and held her tightly. She drew in a slow, deep breath and I instinctively pulled her toward me.

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"Well, what do you think? Not bad for someone in her thirties. See, you don't need to chase little girls around," she said. "I can see your dancing on stage every night has made you as taut as a ten year old," I quipped. "Honesty game," she proclaimed. "What part of my body do you like most?" she asked, slurring her words slightly. "Your bum," I replied. "Easy one, I guess. What's second?" she asked. "Your arms, they're very firm and muscular," I said. "I find them very sexy." I impressed her with my answer. "Us fiddlers are known for that," she said. "What's third?" "Your breasts, I think. But I've never seen or felt them." She took my free hand and held it on her warm breast. "Yup," I said, "I was definitely right about that one. In fact I might want to move it up a notch or two in the rankings." "Ha! What's next?" she asked. I paused for a moment. "Your clitoris." "What!" she exclaimed. "Oh I get it. You're hoping I'll put your hand there next and we'll descend into a night of sex. I admire your determination. I almost fell for it." "You know, friends don't really do what we're doing, I

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don't get this," I said. "Kiss me some more before your meter runs out," she said. I leaned forward but then I smelled something peculiar: the scent of a man's musk-scented deodorant. I turned my head and screamed at the sight of Juan looking at me from three feet away in a small rowboat. Jenny screamed too and grasped me brutally hard. "Shhh! You'll wake the sharks," cautioned Juan. He lifted my white 100% cotton Fruit of the Looms out of the water and held them toward me at the end of his ore. "Don't litter in my ocean," he said. "Yeah, well I just shit myself does that count?" I blurted, shaken by the surprise. "I thought you were getting your other boat." "This is my other boat. It holds up to four people, not including myself. I'll give you some privacy and then we'll get going. You can row. I'm exhausted!" We made it to shore, freezing cold but safe. It gave me the chance to work on my upper body strength and pain endurance. The life jacket rubbed against my wounds as I rowed haplessly, in circles at first, then zig-zagging to a beach on one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Hide your lovers underneath the covers It was midnight by the time we were back at the hotel. There were streaks of blood staining the White San Francisco Zoo t-shirt Jenny had forced me to wear earlier in the day because of all the rowing and the life-jacketchafing. Under that, lumps of wound dressings puffing up. I dragged my sore, weary body down the hotel

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corridor to our room. We passed Will who was accompanied by two bombshell college-aged women. I stared at them like a diabetic at a chocolate mousse being delivered to the table next to him. "What the fuck did she do to you?" a very concerned and bewildered Will asked, checking out my punk-coiffed hair, stapled face and my bloodied and puffy back. "You're not supposed to make eye contact with anyone in the band until tomorrow," I reminded him. "You're not in the band," said Will. "He is now," said Jenny before dragging me off in her arm. "He can't come on the bus if you've done to him what I think you've done to him," yelled Will. "Dude, are you alright? What the fuck did she do to you?" "A lot more than is apparent,": I shouted before Jenny stopped. She looked at me incredulously, seemed about to speak but said nothing. She led me back to our room. Jenny threw her bag on the desk, turned on the TV and laid down on her bed on top of the sheets. "I saw the way you were looking at Will's little friends," said Jenny. "I looked at the fire extinguisher the same way," I told her. "You're that horny?" she asked.

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"Of course I am, with all this spooning and kissing and ass-grabbing and breast touching and nakedness and S & M shit at the piercing shop!" "I'm sorry," she said softly. "Sorry doesn't cut it. My testicles are swollen up like plump little stress balls that they give out at the bank," I said. "And so is my heart. You're a cock-tease and a heart tease. If there was a hole in that wall there, I'd fuck it right now and scream out your name." "You've become very primal," she observed. "I'm human, don't you get it?" I blurted, losing some of my composure. "I can offer you a hand job," shot back Jenny. "That's the most heart-breaking thing anyone has ever said to me," I said. She sat up, removed her clothes and bra and then slipped under the covers and turned off the TV with the remote. "I've got to get up at 6 AM for a radio interview." I had to get out of there. "I'm not freaking out but I'd like to go for a walk and have some time to myself." "Okay," she said coldly. I exited the room and slowly walked down the hallway, half-hoping she'd come after me. She didn't. And I knew what that meant, I just couldn't accept it.

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The Lobby I'm in the lobby of the hotel with my laptop. It's surprisingly busy for this time of night. There's a lot of beautiful people coming and going, probably having sex with each other, loving each other and all those things that men and women do together. I had to write everything out that has happened to me today and get it out of my system. I ventured out onto the street but was halted by my exhaustion. I should have been in my bed dead to the world but I am pissed off and horny as a bull moose in autumn. (Someone on the bus told me the male moose is far more dangerous than bears, especially during mating season in the fall, if you ever find yourself out in the wilderness.) A text from Jenny lit up my phone. My heart raced. "Come back to the room and make love to me, I can't live without you." I imagined. Nope. Instead it was sobering: "U didn't even talk to Linda today. C what happens when u fuck someone?" Linda. Fuck! Was Jenny right? She could be. I'm medicated, and intoxicated and in pain... I tried calling Linda just now but got no answer. And I missed her text from earlier: "I miss ya, behave yourself." I've done neither. I didn't miss her and I didn't behave myself. I'm such an asshole. People from the tour trickled in, including a few band members. Win and Régine walked past me and did a double and triple take as they tried to live up to their rule of no eye contact. They continued on to the elevator. As

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they waited for it, Régine ran back to me and whispered, "Are you okay?" "No," I confessed, with blunt honesty. "Actually I'm not." I looked up at her like a toddler wanting its mother. Régine seemed like a caring soul who could fix anything. She was my number two on the bus. But it was a distant two. We are virtually strangers. "Talk to me tomorrow," she said, and ran back to her husband at the opening elevator. I still can't reach Linda. She could be with her boyfriend or asleep or at a club. I'm not freaked out by that, but I wish she was here. Her world makes more sense to me. You meet someone, she sleeps on your hard-on, you're detained by the authorities because of it, people get murdered, you develop an unbridled lust for each other, have amazing sex and say goodbye to them in the middle of an Oregon Interstate... It all sounds crazy but it makes more sense to me than life in "the bubble." The Hand Job New events to report, as the title suggests. I'm in bed and Jenny is snoring in hers. When Régine left, I noticed a young woman, midtwenties, short brown hair, dressed business-casual sitting next to me. We made eye contact and she asked, "I like how your friend dresses. She's very eccentric." "She's a rock star," I informed her. April had heard of Arcade Fire and even thought there might be a song of theirs on her iPod but really couldn't

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place the band. "Cool," she said. "How do you know them?" "I don't." I said. "It couldn't be more complicated." "What's wrong with you?" "What?" I asked, defensively. "She asked if you were okay and you told her you weren't. I mean you seem really wrecked. What happened to your back?" "Fishing cat. What's wrong with you?" I asked belligerently. "I figure anyone sitting here at this time of night has problems." "I'm waiting for my client." "Really?" I asked. "Yeah, I'm an escort. But keep your voice down, the hotel staff will kick me out if they find out." "I don't mean to be a jerk but you don't fit the stereotype." "I specialize. My client is trying to arrange another business meeting for me in an hour." Satan then appeared and nudged my shoulder. "Do you have time to squeeze in a client now? How much for a hand job?" She looked at me puzzled but not offended. "I don't get a lot of requests for hand jobs." She thought for a moment. "Fifty dollars? How long would it take?"

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"I can't see it taking very long." "Really?" "Yeah, I've been cocked teased constantly for what seems like days." "What happened?" "Nakedness, ass grabbing, breast feeling, kissing... Spooning!" "Spooning turns you on?" "You don't know what guys are like." "No I don't. I have my client's room key, let's go upstairs." We got to the room and she said, "Take off your clothes and lay on the edge of the bed but don't disturb the sheets." I obliged and then it began. But something was wrong. "You never give hand jobs?" I asked. "No," she said. "My clients are all women." "You're a lesbian?" I shouted. "Jesus! Why didn't you tell me? Why are you doing this then?" "I thought it'd be an easy fifty and you seemed so pathetic and sad. Just show me what to do." "I don't know if I can," I said. "You seem very happy to be here, so let's do this."

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With a little help from me the operation progressed but, remarkably, it wasn't going anywhere. That's when my cell rang. Inexplicably, I answered it. It was Linda. "I'm so glad you answered your phone for once," she rejoiced. "Where are you, what are you doing?" Without the slightest hesitation I said, "I'm in a stranger’s hotel room with a lesbian prostitute who is giving me a hand job as we speak." "I'm not the least bit surprised." And you know what? I don't think she was. "Can we talk while it's going on?" Linda asked. "Yes," I said. "I think it would help, actually. What are you wearing?" "It's not what I'm wearing, it's what I'm touching," she said in an intimate whisper. "Tell me more," I said, and in a moment fireworks and screaming: me in uncontrollable ecstasy, April in surprise and fear. "Oh my god!" April shouted. "Do you need a towel?" As my hearing came back and I began to focus, I could hear sobbing laughter coming from the ear piece of my phone which was now on the floor. I picked it up. "Let me talk to her," howled Linda. April returned with a towel that she threw at me as I was standing up. I handed her the phone. "She wants to talk to you," I said. April talked to Linda and laughed, "Uh, okay, sure. You're

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his girlfriend, right? How do men live their lives like this?" April held up my phone to take my picture. I was caught off-guard but managed to place the towel over my midsection before she pressed the shutter. "OK, what is your number that I send it to?" she asked Linda. Chicks! In the Pre-Dawn
I was pulled out of the deepest kind of sleep by Jenny

placing her lips on mine at five in the morning. "What now?" I asked, wishing she'd back off and allow me to slip back into my unconscious womb. "I thought you might be dreaming about kissing me so I decided it'd be neat to have you wake up to my kiss." "I was dreaming about banging your sister with Win and Will and a few of the guys watching while cheering, 'Go James, Go!' to the tune of 'Go Cars Go.'" "That's not true," she scolded. "Yeah, well it happened another time I was sleeping," I said. I then noticed Jenny was completely naked with her hair wrapped in a towel.

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"Why don't you wear clothes around me anymore? If we're going to be friends, you've got to help me out," I pleaded. "Nothing you haven't seen," she said, brushing me off. "Most times when a lady friend wakes you up early in the morning after a shower, it's for sex. But not you. No, you have to wake me up and torture me some more by kissing me in the nude." Jenny crawled into bed with me, pulled up close and pondered my face. "Your pupils aren't as dilated anymore, did you whack off?" She must have seen something in my face resembling surprise or embarrassment because she burst into laugher. "What's so funny?" I demanded. She couldn't control herself. She thrust her iPhone in my face and spat in my eye as she exclaimed, "This!" She held up the photo from the lesbian handjob session that Linda had and, unsurprisingly I guess, forwarded to her sister. "You had the same expression now as you did in the picture," she howled. "This isn't easy, being your court jester," I lamented.

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"I know it isn't. What do you want me to do?" she asked, wiping away tears from her laughing fit. It came to me right away. "The honesty game. Get comfortable," I ordered. She shifted to her back but I insisted she face me. "Why do you want me here and why is it important to the band?" Her expression told me I was going to break new ground. "It's my boyfriend." I see, I thought. A gun can't be too far away. Shoot me. I said nothing and forced her to continue with my silence. "He's an alcoholic and a jerk. I ended it and he keeps trying to get near me. With you here, he doesn't go near me, I have a wonderful companion and it's bliss by comparison." "He's on the tour? I was picturing him back in Montreal phoning you every ten minutes. Spit it out, please. Who is it?" "Rick," admitted Jenny. "Rick the sound guy? He never talks to me."

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"Well, this is why. That night I kissed you, he was walking by outside the bus, on his way to corner me." I was sucker-punched in the gut. She kissed me to scare off a greasy boy friend? There's no lesser of a kiss. It's lower than the sympathy kiss, or the 'there's no one else around so I'll kiss you New Year's Eve kiss. I took a deep breath and tried to absorb the painful reality that I've been little more than a decoy and a distraction for her. "Why not fire him?" I asked. "Oh I've been dreaming about that for weeks, but we've been told that we'd be exposing ourselves legally if we do that, because I was involved with him on the eastern leg in the summer. We'll be rid of him when we go to Europe in a few days." "Why do women get all wet for assholes? I'm sick of it!" "You're not an asshole?" she asked. "All you want to do is fuck me. I'm just a thing to you. Sure we could fuck. Why not? I like fucking. But once you conquer me you'll change, you all do. I'm working on regaining my self respect after a low period on my life." "Why do you lump me in with the asshole population?" I asked. "Why wouldn't I? You fucked my sister, and moved on to me. You didn't even phone her yesterday because you

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were drooling all over me. She had to phone you and naturally you were with your lesbian friend getting a peniscure. I know your type. You'll be as unfaithful as your circumstances will allow you, mostly because you're insecure." Our conversation deteriorated further, but I was thankful for the honesty and the clarity. Finally. Still, I was angry and hurt. She wanted me to go to the radio station with her and told her I'd think about. I told her I was going to take a walk. She wrote down the address on a piece of paper and left for breakfast. I walked the busy but still-dark streets of downtown San Francisco like a man scorned.

The Radio Station
I stopped at a MacDonald's to eat breakfast. I don't care what anyone says, their coffee still sucks. I watched the single professional women stopping with their friends before work, the old people and the gay men. Their lives seem so mundane to me at this moment, yet my life a week earlier would have seemed excruciatingly mundane to them. Deciding to rejoin the circus, I hailed a taxi and traveled to W-something, something, something, "The Bay area's best rock with so and so in the mornings." I exited the cab to find the station all but vacant at 6:50 in

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the morning. The front doors were locked so I walked around back where I found two cars in the parking lot. I rang the buzzer on the door. A chubby bald man answered. "Hey, good morning!" "I'm here for the Arcade Fire interview," I said. "I'm James." "Of course, c'mon in. I'll show you around." he said. Jenny was not seen. I wondered if she was searching out a vending machine or in the washroom. "Why don't you come into the booth and I'll give you some headphones so you can hear," the DJ said. I entered the rag-tag booth and had a seat at the table by one of the four mics. The Barenaked Ladies' song "One Week" was playing and it reminded me of home. Not of Arcade Fire though. At 7:00 AM a woman came in and read the news. And when it was done, Jenny was still not there. "It's seven oh four. Tonight as you know is the big Arcade Fire show at the Greek and we'll be talking to one of their members right here in the studio." A new Bruce Springsteen song was then played. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if I could spot Jenny through the glass window. And then, to my horror, the song was quickly faded out and the following words were spoken: "We're here with James from Arcade Fire but first, here's a few seconds of their current single 'Ready to Start.' I laughed and looked around for Jenny. She had to be looking at me, otherwise she wouldn't enjoy my horror.

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Then, as I wiped sweat from my face and felt metal, I realized I didn't look like my normal self. By the time I studied the clueless vacancy in the eyes of my morning DJ, friend, it was too late. "James it's great to have you here. How are you enjoying the Bay Area?" asked the DJ. "Um, it's been an adventure. I was at the zoo yesterday and got attacked by a fishing cat and later in the day, after I got out of the hospital, I was stranded at sea," I said. "Those fishing cats are something aren't they? Do you know some people have tamed them as pets?" "That's amazing. I don't think I'd recommend that," I said nervously. "I've got a list in front of me from your publicist but I don't see what instrument you play. I know there's a crazy number of people in the band, but I don't see you here." Just then, a reflection of Jenny on the glass to behind the DJ. "Thank Christ!" I thought, but then I got vengeful. "I actually don't play an instrument. I am an instrument. I've been played for the last few dates on the tour." Jenny sat down at her mic and was about to talk but the DJ interrupted. "Percussion?" asked the DJ. "That's right," I agreed. "You see, what they do is wheel me out on a gurney, because I've got a fragile heart and I'm pretty beat up. They dress me in hockey gear with a helmet, shoulder pads, shin pads, a can for my nuts. The whole works. And for a couple of the songs they just wail on me with drum sticks and anything else they can find."

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Jenny placed her headphones on and spoke into the mic." That sounds like a great idea. Hi, I'm Jenny. Sorry I'm late." "Welcome to our show, Jenny, nice to have you along. James and I were just talking about all the wacky percussion you do on stage." "We try to experiment with different things," said Jenny. "I'll say," I said. "I'm one giant experiment on this leg of the tour. I've been knocked around quite a bit. I'm bruised and battered Tim. Is it Tim?" I couldn't remember the DJ's name. "No, it's not." said the DJ, incredulously. Jenny hit me on the side of the head, making a smacking noise audible on the microphone. I hit her back just as hard on the back of her head. "The Arcade Fire are hitting each other, ladies and gentlemen. It's brilliant! Don't you need the helmets and stuff that you were mentioning?" Jenny had tears in her eyes. I couldn't leave fast enough. "I have to go because I have diarrhea. I apologize to you and your listeners," I said, before getting up and exiting the studio. I broke a gallop as I headed for the back door. When I was a block away I heard her screaming. "You can't fuck with the band you asshole. Who do you think you are? You can fuck with me but don't dare fuck with the band. The band is sacred, you fucking hayseed!" Jenny screamed, so far away she was barely audible but it still made my blood curdle.

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She got into the cab that she kept waiting outside the station and gave me the finger as she drove by. Man, she was pissed. That's good, I thought. But then I thought maybe it was a good bye. This could be it, I worried. By mid-afternoon, rumors of the human drum being introduced into Arcade Fire's show at Berkeley that night were wide-spread on the internet. Don’t wanna fight, don’t’ wanna die, just wanna hear you cry I'm sitting at on bus bench near a wi-fi hot spot. I don't know where I am, but I haven't made it far. I thought maybe I would have heard from her by now. I'm feeling dead inside. I'm not sure what I've done. Calls and texts to Linda have gone mostly unanswered. One text saying she's working and she will get back to me. It's nearly ten o'clock in the morning. The sun is hot and the band will be checking out of the hotel soon and I'll be homeless. The ringing of my cell was the happiest sound I have heard in my life. It was Linda, she had time to talk. "I think your sister hates me. I'm not kidding. Did she say anything?" I asked. "One text. 'He's an asshole.' What did you do?" asked Linda. "I found out about her boyfriend." I said.

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Linda claimed not to have known about it. I don't see how that's possible. I don't have a lot of trust for anyone right now. "What did you do, trash the bus?" she asked. "I trashed the band. It's a long story. I didn't mean to do anything. But it actually feels good to hear her angry. At least it's an emotion directed toward me. I'm surprised I'm capable of pissing her off." I told Linda that I'm homeless and stranded and she motivated me to hurry to the hotel before everyone left. I told Linda my location and she just ordered me a cab online from Vancouver. The nurturing is a shot in the arm. Check Out Time Our hotel room had been emptied by the time I got there shortly after 10:30 AM. The bag with my clothes was gone too. Had she put it on the bus? Was I still welcomed on the bus by Jenny, if for no other reason than she couldn't be heartless enough to put me on the street, could she? I returned to the lobby and thought about checking for the tour bus out back behind the building when Régine found me. I was pretty freaked out by this point, fearing being stranded in the U.S. without enough money to just jump on a plane anytime I wanted to. "James, I have to talk with you. Some people are pretty upset with your shenanigans on the radio this morning. They say you embarrassed the band," said Régine.

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I was too ashamed for words and sat down in a chair. Embarrassing the band is the last thing I wanted to do. I really, really fucked up. "I don't blame you. The band doesn't blame you, except maybe Jenny. She's pretty pissed off," said Régine. I told her that I was at the end of my rope when the band picked me up in Saskatchewan and it has been amazing at times but I was now feeling like a piñata at the end of a rope. "You really have been kicked around, haven't you?" she said, then she told me to stand up for a hug, which I appreciate more than I can say. "Jared needs to talk to you, he's from the record company. Just let him scream at you for a bit and don't say anything other than you won't do it again." "Okay," I said. "What do I do now? Do I come with you?" "No, not now, let's let Jenny cool off first," she said. She pointed to Helene, the person who organizes, fixes and dry cleans the band's clothes. "She has your bag. Go see her before she gets on the bus. She has a job for you to do today." Régine hurried off. A job? That's just what the doctor ordered. For fucksake, give me something to do! Give me a purpose! Helene was happy to see me. She handed me my bag and said, "I'm supposed to give you Régine's camera bag as well. I need you to go talk to that woman over there," Helene said. She pointed to a young college girl wearing one of Arcade Fire's charity t-shirts from the tour. "But I

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have to measure you first before you go." She measured me and only told me it was for some apparel the band thought I should have. The story of my ruined pants and shirt must have made its rounds. I was stopped by Jared from the record company. He looked like he was half my age. He tore me a new one and made me sign something that I didn't even read, something about not misrepresenting the band or associating myself in anyway. "Something like this could throw water on the fire that is Arcade Fire," he scolded. Wow, I thought. This turd has a job? "This thing you did is viral all over the fan sites. The only thing you have going for you is they think its real." The only thing you have going for you, dick-wad. I don't make money off the band. Enter Emilie. She's a twenty-year old psychology student at USC Berkeley. Emilie, who witnessed my assholetearing, introduced herself to me as I stood humiliated in the hotel lobby. "Wow, you must really hate your job, even though it's pretty cool. That guy is a real hater," she said. "He really busted your grill. I'm Emile. I'm supposed to stick to you like glue today." "Who told you that?" I asked. "Jenny. They want pictures of all the volunteers working at Berkeley today to post on Facebook or something. I've got a car to drive you around and some petty cash." I felt suspicion. "That fucking cow," I said "She's up to something." At this point, I should mention that Emile is very

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attractive. I imagine most of her peers are as well, just because of their youth, but she's probably more attractive than most. Her blonde, blue-eyed attractiveness made me paranoid. "I'm hungry. Let's go get breakfast at McDonalds," I said. "I'm a vegetarian," she replied. "I know," I said. Of course you are, I thought. "How 'bout a veggie dog on the street?" "Rad! Best dogs in Sco right here downtown." I'm not sure what she said but she led me out of the hotel and I couldn't help but check her out. The Brutal Initiation of Emilie Emilie and I finished our hot dogs and exchanged pleasantries on a quiet park bench, as a thirtyseven-year- old man might with his new twenty year old female cohort. I decided I wasn't going to be fucked with anymore so I threw away all inhibition and attacked any and all demons that were standing by, ready to bugger up my day. "Emilie," I said. "Every hour is like a day, every day is like a month to me lately. Many of those days have been exhilarating, but many have been equally the opposite. I'm going to play something called the honesty game with you. Jenny taught it to me." "'Okay," she said. "Will I end up naked by the end of it?" "No--Jesus, I'm really glad we're doing this. I have to nip

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things in the bud." "What does that mean. Is that a marijuana reference?" "Look," I said. "I'm going to tell you every intimate detail of me and my current thoughts. That way, I can't fuck up. But you might be scared out your mind. I can't help that. It's your choice if you want to leave.' She turned to me with a curious, excited look on her face so I began. "I don't have a job with the band. I was picked up in the middle of Canada because Jenny had a jerk of a boyfriend who was hassling her so she kissed me in front of him. I fell in deep puppy love with her over the next few days until we got to her home town of Vancouver where I was dumped off. I then proceeded to fall in lust with her sister. We later made out and I ran my hands down inside the back of her pants. It was the hottest moment of my life." "Didn't you have sex?" she asked. "Not yet, but we did at the Super 8 north of Portland." "How old is her sister?" she asked. "Twenty four." "Ew, that's old." she said. "I know," I said. "I'm old enough to be her father." "No, I'm meant her. I can't imagine being twenty-four. You're so old by then, you know?" "I'm thirty-seven-years-old."

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"I know, I was going to mention something. Why do you have all that metal in your face and the freaky haircut?" she asked. "Because I get enamored with women easily and I allow them to push me around for their own amusement." "You gotta respect yourself." "You're making this difficult," I said. "No, don't say that. This is fun. Keep going, get it all off your chest." "Jenny doesn't want a romantic relationship with me and I'm obsessed with her. I don't know if I have a serious problem with lusting after every woman I meet, or if it's because she's a rock star, or what." "She probably doesn't want you baggin' her sister. If I had a sister and some old man was baggin' her, I don't know how I'd feel about it." That hurt, but I buggered on. "After a large zoo cat attacked me, we went on a sunset cruise. We snuggled." "Is that an old-person term for sex?" "No, we laid together intimately." "Did you have sex first?" "No, you don't understand. We're doing all these things, swimming naked touching body parts and lots of kissing and we aren't having sex. In fact we're just friends and it began to drive me crazy with horniness. I couldn't even

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think anymore." "She wouldn't even brain you after all that?" "Um, I don't think so," I replied, not knowing what that meant. "She just wants to be friends." Emile laughed. "That's funny! I give all my friends blowjobs if they've got a bad case of blue balls. Everyone does." "I guess it's a generational thing. My generation just used to shake hands." "Shake hands? How'd you get your rocks off?" "In the shower, alone. But I digress. Which reminds me, I met and hired a lesbian to give me a hand job, mostly to piss off Jenny, and for medical reasons, but it just ended up amusing her to no end." "Okay, I'm not exactly sure what a hand job is." "It's a blow job without using your mouth." "Why wouldn’t you use your mouth?" queried Emilie. "I honestly don't know," I said, somewhat exacerbated. "Women in my generation were lazy sometimes I guess. They weren't go-getters like you." "You think I'm a go-getter?" "I think you're incredibly hot," I blurted out, but Emilie had no reaction whatsoever. "I don't know if it's because you're twenty or if you're actually just incredibly hot. I mean, if I were your age, I don't know if you'd just blend

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in as an ordinary woman or if I'd find you hot. But, since I'm almost twenty years older than you, I think you're the sexiest person I've ever had a conversation with." "Thank you," she said, genuinely. "I imagine taking off your clothes and feeling your body. You're like a drug to me. You're about the sweetest candy imaginable to me. And that bitch-from-hell Jenny knows it. She's baiting me by having me spend the day with you." "Oh. That's weird, isn't it? "You're not the least bit disturbed that I'm telling you all this and I'm old enough to be your dad's older brother?" I asked. "No. I'm not stupid. Guys your age stare at me with their mouth's open all the time. All day long. Guys of all ages, guys a lot older than you. Grandpas even. Sometimes guys your age hit on me, especially the rich ones. I'm used to it. It's not a big deal. No one's quite said it like you though. You're a bit dirtier than most old guys I think, but that's kinda good, actually." "Why?" "It's good you still have all these desires and everything," she said. "Do you think a person loses their sexual desire as they get older?" "Yeah, I mean that's why there's Viagra, right?" "When people get older they don't lose their desires. The pills are because their bodies don't work like they did

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when they were kids. If I didn't look in the mirror ever, I would assume I was your age." "You mean you walk around this horny all the time?" "No," I said. "There's other things in life. Relationships, kids, jobs, people get busy and I don't know, get used to sex." "Are you having a mid-life crisis?" "I probably am. A lot's happened and I've changed a lot lately. Once the fire in me got burning, I can't seem to put it out." "You just need to have a whole bunch of sex and get it out of your system," advised Emilie. "Or buy a really nice sports car." The ice had been broken. We knew were we stood, so we headed to Berkeley. I felt like I had some self-control for once and was looking forward to a sane and lovely day in "Sco." Get me to the Greek I'm driving with Emilie to Berkeley. Our fulldisclosure conversation continues. In one sentence she says, "I don't think Jenny should tease you like that." Then in the next she says, "Hey, since we're putting everything on the line here, do you want to see me naked?" (That's when I pulled out my laptop to cover my lap top.) Emilie took her iPhone up off the ash tray where it had been plugged in and wheeled through it as she drove.

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"There," she said, and handed me the phone. "That's me and Cari-anne." Two women stand naked in a bedroom with big smiles, holding beer mugs like they're giving a toast. "I see you both have nipple rings," I observed, searching for something to say. "Yeah, that's pretty much standard nowadays," said Emilie. "Press the right arrow if you want to see my butt." My laptop almost got nudged off my lap. I skipped to the next picture. "That's pretty spectacular. I wish I was your age again," I confessed, gazing at the image as long as I thought polite. "So why do you carry around naked pictures of yourself?" "Oh, our friend Josh had a birthday and he was sick so we were trying to cheer him up. Do you have naked pictures of yourself on that laptop?" "No. Sorry," I said. "Good. I really didn't want to see them, to be honest." I hate honesty sometimes. Under the Berkeley Tree It's beautiful here. I've never seen a campus like it. The university at Berkley is older than the city I live in. I'm sitting under a tree outside the entrance to the Hearst Greek Theater while Emilie searches for the local coordinator of the charity that will canvass the crowd tonight. I just had an insightful conversation with her. She

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latched on to the honesty/total disclosure thing and we got to know each other a little better. We were watching students come and go when Emilie said to me, "Are all these girls like candy to you?" "Pretty much," I replied. "Their youth does something to me. Maybe it's a primal thing. Maybe my hormones drive me to them as good hosts to spread my genes because they're young and healthy." "I thought guys were supposed to seek out big boobs and wide hips so your babies can shoot out easily and have lots to eat," she said. "That's probably part of it." "I don't have big boobs. Why am I so drippin' hot to you?" she asked. "Oh they'd fill out once you had my seed," I quipped. "That's disgusting," she said. "Yuck! You can talk about me being hot but please don't talk about seed anymore." She has her limits. "Were you macking on me when you said my boobs would fill out?" she asked. She saw my puzzled face and added, "Flirting." I had to think about it for a moment. "No, I don't think so. You've already expressed that the thought of me naked is unappealing, which is should be, by the way. I'm a flirtatious person but I usually don't intend it go anywhere. I just like making people laugh and putting them at ease," I said.

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"What would you say to me if you wanted to sleep with me and you thought I might want to sleep with you?" "That's my problem, I'm not very good at that. What should I say?" "Probably something like, 'Hey babe, you're beautiful. Want to hang out for awhile?' That way, if she's into you, you'll know it soon enough." "See, I'm terrible at that. I drag things on for weeks sometimes and I get all overcome with love and anxiety and excitement. It's like a drug. I don't know if it's endorphins or what, but I'm definitely an addict. It makes for a painful existence." Emilie laughed. "You're a neurotransmitter junkie!" I looked at her surprised. "What? Hey, I might be a tasty little creamsicle to you, but I am a college undergrad. I'm not stupid," she asserted. "When guys chase after a woman, dopamine levels increase in his brain. He gets all alert and energetic because he's got this problem to solve. Maybe you like feeling that way so you're always in the chase. When a man accomplishes his goal, sleeps with the woman he's chasing, the dopamine levels drop, and you addicts don't want that!" she smirked. "Will you marry me?" I asked. "I usually consider marriage proposals to be a form of flirtation. Why do you want to marry me?" "Like you said, you're a tasty little creamsicle who's smart

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and seems fully capable of carrying my seed." "Ack! Stick your seed up your ass. You're old enough to get a discount at Denny's," she gasped. "Look, you can show me naked pictures of your incredibly hot self, speak with me openly about your sexuality, show me you're smart, but don't be funny around me or I'll start feeling like pedophile. I can't take funny." "Okay I get it. I'll try not to be funny around you," she said. Endorphin Production Manipulated Emilie had gone off to find the coordinator and returned to find me under my tree. Exhaustion caught up to me and Emilie noticed. "C'mon, I found her, let's get started," pleaded Emilie. I was supposed to start taking pictures of the volunteers soon but was practically asleep. She got down on the ground with me and leaned into my ear. "Remember Jenny?" she whispered. "Remember how hot she is? Remember how you want her? She's probably here somewhere because I can hear the sound check starting." Emilie sniffed the air mockingly. "I think I can smell her, she's close! She smells nice! She's looking for you, James. She needs your seed!" For some reason I thought Emily knew that Jenny was about to show up and I filled with anxiety and jumped up off the ground all freaked out. This caused Emilie to explode with laughter. "See, if we can control those brain chemicals we might be able to make something of you

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yet," she laughed. "I'm getting weird inside. My breathing is shallow and I'm stressed," I said. "This is what happens to me. I hate it. If you have an antidote, let me know." I groaned. "Yeah, see a shrink! You're fucking crazy," she blurted. I agree. A Lesson We departed for the command center set up for the volunteer canvassers and Emilie ran into people she knew. "You're Emilie, right?" asked the tackily-tattooed young man with some sort of clever tuft of hair on his chin but no where else. "I remember you from Ty's party." "Yeah, right. That was fun," replied Emilie. "What are you up to tonight?" he asked. "I've got this until midnight and then my roommate and I are going to the Kona." "Cool, maybe I'll see you around." he said. Her friends left and Emilie turned to me. "See that? Did you get that?" "What?" I asked. "I turned him down," she said.

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"Really? But you've got the concert tonight, of course you're busy," I said. "Yeah, but if I was at all interested, I'd be with him tonight. I'd make it happen. At the very least I would have given him my number." "Ahhhh." I said. "Now he's onto some other chick and not wasting his time. Eventually he'll get lucky, unlike you, Mr. Obsessive." Point made. Totally reasonable. I'm learning from this tiny, beautiful child. A Serious Education We have our gear: laminated pieces of paper with the charity name and website printed on them that volunteers and fans will hold up while they're photographed to promote the charity. The pictures will be posted on Facebook, a fan will tag themselves and their 1000 friends will get the message to support the cause. We shot a couple dozen volunteers who showed up for their orientation and free concert tickets, but we had an hour and a half to wait for the fans to start arriving. After eating at a really awful campus pita joint, we camped out in front of the Greek, talked and observed. "So, do you think those girls over there are hot?" asked Emilie, pointing to a group of four college girl talking on the lawn. "The girl on the left is thin and young, but her arms are flabby. That tells me she's got a flabby body and isn't very

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taut. Basically, she's not genetically grade A," I confessed, fearing a justified scornful response. "You're right. The other one is toned and has nicer skin. She probably has a better body and I'll bet she's more confident and fun to be around," noted Emilie. "Because?" I asked. "People probably treat her better. She probably feels better about herself if men of all ages think they have a chance to shag her. Even girls treat good-looking girls better. It all adds up. Plus people are better looking when they're confident." I was now mindlessly scanning through the pictures of student volunteers on my camera. "What about those two?" asked Emilie, pointing to my camera that displayed my photo of two young female volunteers. "They're both quite pretty but there's something about them. They're not exuding sexuality," I observed. "You-you look like a porn star." "I know. It's a look all girls go for if they can pull it off. It's not easy you know. I have to spend a lot of time on my makeup every morning and dye my hair blonde every few weeks and wax like crazy," she said. "Sounds expensive. Especially those daily Brazilians," I joked. "Actually, bush is now considered hot." "I'll alert my grandma," I groaned.

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A young woman with black hair and an olive complexion stopped in front of us to talk on her cell. "There's a babe. What do you think of her?" asked Emilie. "I like her. She looks like a swimsuit model. Everything about her is top-shelf," I said. "Tell me all the things you like about her." "I like her white teeth, her soft lips, her smooth, radiant skin, her bright eyes--" "All illusions created with makeup," countered Emilie. "All that proves is that she's better at applying makeup than some other girls." "Her figure is nice, her breasts are pert and full," I added. "They probably drag on the ground. You can thank Victoria's Secret," noted Emilie. "And she's got an ass I just want to bite into," I drooled. "How do you bite into an ass exactly?" asked Emilie. "She's not food. You can lick her all you want but if you start taking bites out of her she'll scream. She poops out of that butt, too, you know. Most girls do. And those hard shapely muscles that form our butts? They are used for getting us around." "Well," I said, "it looks like she'll survive childbirth and that's all my testicles care about. People say men think with their dicks. That's wrong. You remove their testicles and leave the dick and they will think clearly for the first time in their lives and quickly go on to cure cancer."

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"What is it about my body you like?" bluntly asked Emilie.. "I like the whole package. You're very beautiful." "Thank you," she said. "Am I more beautiful than Jenny?" "Did she put you up to this?" I asked. "No." "I'm enamored with Jenny, so I don't know." "You're not enamored with her, you're trying desperately to fuck her, to conquer her. And your balls are all tangled up in a knot because you don't know how to do it. And maybe you think it's just not going to happen. That's driving you crazy but you continue on because losing's not an option. You just use all your energy to try and stay in the game when you should be forfeiting and moving on to the next game." "So I take it you're doing quite well in psychology," I replied. "I am but I'm not getting my info from that. I've been in the game for almost half my life and trust me, I've had lots of guys who wouldn't leave me alone. People like you, I imagine. Mostly chompers who hate themselves. I've even had a couple of stalkers. You're not a stalker are you?" "No," I said emphatically. "You're a stalker with permission. That's what you are," scolded Emilie. "But what if Jenny's the best woman in the world for me?

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The one I should be with and I'll regret it all my life if I don't do my best?" "That's what all the guys who wouldn't leave me alone said. But it didn't matter that I told them that they definitely weren't the ones for me." She was right. I politely asked for some time alone. Shish Kabob at the Greek The beautiful amphitheater known as The Greek at USC Berkeley had a vibe that I wanted to take in alone. Emilie had friends to meet anyway and I'm sure she didn't want to be hanging out with an awkwardly-pierced middle-aged man. I wandered through the crowd and settled on the hill just above bowl that holds the seats. I thought about what to say to Jenny after the concert and what my future was going to be with the tour. I decided I would apologize and swear not to bother her again, but would offer my friendship if she wanted it. After the warm-up band Colexico finished, my cell phone rang. "Obviously I was rough on you and I'm totally sorry," began Emilie. I asked her how she got my cell number and she said she called Jenny for it. "You talked to Jenny?" I asked desperately. "Did you take her temperature? Does she hate me? Did she say anything about what happens to me after the concert? "She said the band needs you backstage before the concert. It's important," said Emilie. "They thought you'd

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be at the sound check." She then gave me tips from Jenny in how to get backstage. By the time I got through the crowds and the layers of security, Arcade Fire was taking the stage. I was desperately looking for a porta pottie to empty my painfully full bladder in but could find none. Terry, one of the guitar techs ran after me. "Dude you've got to get your ass over here. We've been waiting for you. Where have you been?" I told him I had no idea I was supposed to be here for anything other than taking pictures out front. "We've got to get you into your gear," said Terry. Then John, the drummer from Colexico, came running up and Terry went back to the stage. "Okay, first of all we've got to get your clothes off," said John. WHAT? "We all thought it would be cooler if you were naked wearing this stuff." He handed me a hockey helmet. No! I thought, realizing what was going on. The radio station gag: they were making my joke real. "We've got a hockey helmet, football shoulder pads, a can and some soccer shin pads." "There's no way I'm going out there naked," I warned John. "It's okay, they will only see you from the side, you'll be lying on that gurney over there," he said. "Remember the

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gurney from your radio interview? That was hilarious by the way!" "Why does it help that I'm naked?" I asked. "It's just more pure. C'mon, this will go down in history. Kids will be downloading the YouTube cell phone video of this in the hundreds of thousands. It's history, bro, don't hold back! You're going to be a part of Arcade Fire folklore!" I caved and agreed to do it. What did I have to lose, exactly? I was teetering on being homeless in the U.S., or at best, being forced to return to the life I fled. "Okay, strip down and I'll get someone to help you on with the stuff. Then we have to strap you on the gurney and Terry's going to put a wireless microphone on each piece of gear. Except your can. He refuses to mic your can," said John. I got into the sporting equipment and began feeling less naked once I was strapped into the gurney. The set list progressed all too fast for me. I knew my song, "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)," was fast approaching. I was overwhelmed with fear. I took solace in the fact there was nothing I could do and resigned myself to being wheeled on stage and used as human percussion. The song began. A few moments in, I was wheeled on stage behind Jenny on the audience's right. She towered over me with a smirk on her face. I felt my cup being lifted and my junk exposed to the outdoor air before she snapped it on my balls. The cup squashed my left testicle and I was in excruciating pain. To make matters worse, my beloved left testicle remained exposed. That was the meanest thing a woman had ever done to me.

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Without warning, Will flew into view with drum sticks whacking my helmet which caused me to flinch wildly within my restraints. I had to not make a sound verbally. This was a struggle. Will danced around me like a demon around a fire. He smacked the crap out of me, up and down my body. Then other members joined in briefly. I was getting pounded on my head and my legs and chest simultaneously, with the occasional tap on the can. I was surviving until the unthinkable happened. Will started banging on my can to the audience's delight. He fed off the audience's response and hit it harder and harder until a drum stick shattered. A long thin sliver of which pierced my exposed left testicle and I started to feel faint as I could see it protruding vertically from my groin area. I remember seeing flashes of Jenny's shocked face, and Will's horror. I've seen that horror before on old clips of the Joe Theismann injury. That double take Will did. That look to his brother Win and back at me. There were no medics to wave onto the field so he waved me off the stage as frantically as the shocked football players did on the day of that fateful NFL game. As the crew ran on stage, Jenny pulled my can to the side to get it out of the way, She thought she was being helpful. That's when I lost consciousness and, I'm told, control of my full bladder. I began to urinate upwards in a steady yellow stream like a fountain, augmented by a pulsating smaller red stream of blood shooting straight up in the air from a burst blood vessel. Anchoring the image: the drumstick-long wood sliver implanted firmly in my left ball. The audience roared at the seemingly staged spectacle.

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After the song ended Win said to the crowd, "That was our friend James." The crowd cheered loudly, mostly drowning out Win's next words: "I hope he's okay." Wake Up II (The Hospital) I regained consciousness several times between backstage and the hospital but I really didn't know what was going on until later in the night. It was two in the morning when the drugs wore off and the whole band stood over me in the hospital emergency ward room. Jenny had tears down her face as she looked down at me. "I'm so sorry," she sobbed. "I was late for the radio interview because I was looking for you. I panicked when you weren't at the hotel. I thought I'd never see you again." "What happened?" I asked, my throat so dry it stung to talk. "Your ball is going to be okay," said Régine. "My what?" I asked. "Your left nut," said Will. "They did an ultrasound and sewed you back up with just one stitch. You'll be fine in a few days." I looked at him puzzled. "I broke a stick on your can. A large sliver went into through your sack and stuck in your left gonad. I almost lost my lunch," admitted Will. "It's going to be a fully-functional testicle the doctors say,"

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sniffed Jenny. "We just have to follow a list of things they wrote down." "We've got someone buying bags of frozen peas right now," said Régine. Then Win spoke in a serious tone. "James, we'd like to hide the fact that Will made a shish kabob out of your testicle. The stunt has everyone in the music world talking. But if they find out we butchered you--" "It's going to make us look like terrible people," said Régine. "It was our mistake but could you help us out?" I assured them I had no reason to tell anyone about this. The band left for the bus, which was already delayed because of me, and was now parked behind the hospital. The band wanted me to come to L.A. with them, and I didn't know what else to do. I couldn't get on a plane and I had no where to stay. Jenny kissed me on the cheek, not a peck but a lingering, sincere kiss. I was happy about it because it felt more real than if she had kissed me on the lips, like she had so many times before. Maybe she did care about me. Jenny left to get five Tylenol 3s from the nurse and then we left. A man from Merge Records came in and had me sign something saying I wouldn't sue, then he disappeared into the night like a vampire after a feeding. I was in great pain when I tried anything but the laying on my back position, so I was practically carried onto the bus and pushed up into a loft bed. What else could possibly happen to me, short of dying?

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Three Hours to Big Sur The guys got me on the bus and onto an upper bunk bed. The moving was painful, even with the medication, so I planned to stay still. Emilie came to say goodbye, which was sweet. "I saw your junk," she said. "Yeah?" I asked. "I've seen bigger penises," she said. "What?" I asked. "Coming from you that's like an astronomer looking at the sun and saying, 'I've seen bigger stars.'" She didn't get it. We exchanged numbers and insisted I call her from L.A. because she was going to be at the Shrine for the first show. As the engine started up on the bus and the door closed, I could hear giggling from the front of the bus. Jenny appeared before me wearing a nun costume. "We were going to put her in a sexy nurse costume," said Régine, "but the doctor said even a little arousal could be painful for you. So we did the opposite." "How do you know I'm not turned on by nuns?" I teased. "Are you?" laughed Régine. "I am by this one," I said to oooos and aws. It was my first public admission in front of the band. I thought Jenny would recoil but she jumped up on the bed beside me. "Good night, guys." she said. Will joked, "I bet he's got wood down there."

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"I had your wood down there earlier tonight," I quipped. The bus erupted with laughter. I was home again. Secrets We laid together on the bus, me on my back, Jenny on her side against me. I knew I probably had a few more days left with her, but I feared that if we grew closer it would only make parting ways even harder than it already was destined to be. "What's going to happen with us?" I asked. "Are we more than friends?" "We're more than friends." she said, looking away. "I've never put anyone through this much hell before. Yet here you are beside me and I feel like I'm some sort of angel to you." "It may be the drugs," I cautioned. "I need to plan my future. I need to know what's going to happen to me and when I will get tossed to the side of the road." "I'm not going to throw you overboard. What do you want to do?" "I'd rather die than go back to my life," I said. "I can't do it. I can't go back." Jenny looked away again. "Are we in honesty mode?" "Yes," I said. "There's two things I need to tell you."

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"Okay," I said hesitantly, feeling apprehensive about the intended suspense. Good things never follow the "there's something I have to tell you" phrase. She stalled. I asked, "What is it?" "The first thing is, I slept with Rick today." There's that wrecking ball in the gut again. There's that feeling that when something finally goes well for me the roof caves in a moment later. It happens over and over again, and it is inhumanly cruel. Perhaps my universe is contained in the petri dish of some greater power and they're all looking down on me having a grand time laughing at my foibles. "Why would you do that? Was it after I had a drumstick in my ball?" "No, it was this morning at the hotel. I was angry and--" "And what?" I demanded. "I was horny, frankly. Out of my mind horny." "You get out of your mind horny?" I asked, in total amazement. "Of course I do. What the fuck do you think I am?" "I see, but only when you're around asshole sound guys who treat you like shit?" I asked. "No, I wasn't horny because of him. You think all this messing around with you hasn't driven me crazy?"

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"No, I hadn't got that impression at all." "No one has ever made me feel like this. Just the way you look at me and talk to me would have been enough. But the kissing, the situations we were in. You saving me from the lion..." she smirked. She managed a smile out of me but jealousy prevailed. "Why the hell did you resist me? I felt rejected by you almost every moment we spent together. Is it because I fucked up with your sister?" Silence from Jenny. "What is it about me that you loath so much that you'd fuck that asshole?" I asked. "Tell me about the wedding ring on your finger the night we met," said Jenny in a broken voice. And all the bricks that were building my bright new world came crashing down in an instant and buried me in their rubble. I was paralyzed. I couldn't speak. "Every moment that I've known you, both good and bad, I've had that question on the tip of my tongue. And I've never asked it because I knew this would be your answer," she sobbed. I knew the tour's tractor trailer was following behind us. I fantasized about jumping in front of it. My heart was broken, but so to was hers. I had no idea I was even capable of breaking her heart. I would have been happier dead than responsible for that. Jenny's sobbing drew a concerned crowd and word

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quickly spread as to why. All the goodwill I had miraculously built up with the band seemed to get sucked out the window and vanish in the tall forest that bordered the highway. Jenny left me on the bed alone where I had no choice but to stay. At Big Sur Jenny and I planned to share a cabin in the park near Big Sur, site of tomorrow's small garden party concert where 300 lucky fans would attend. But Jenny was not there with me and I was in too much pain to go looking for her. I took another pill and passed out on one of the two beds. I slept like I was in a coma until noon. When I awoke I was relieved to find Jenny sleeping in my bed. She turned to me and said, "Hi." I asked if I could speak for awhile and explain a few things. She agreed to let me but said, "If I detect the slightest hint of dishonesty or skirting around something, I'm going to punch you in the nuts. If I let you talk, it's on the terms that there's absolutely no bullshit." "You've got quit the potty mouth for a classically-trained musician," I smirked, catching her off-guard and getting a brief smile. I told her about my wife, how we'd been married for ten years, the first five were terrible while the last five have been excruciating. I told her how we had grown apart and barely talked on a personal level anymore, how we went to sleep without even saying goodnight to each other. I told her how my thirties were vanishing before my eyes and how I was suddenly a lost and lonely thirty-seven-yearold wasting away to nothing. I told her that I envisioned

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the rest my life going the same way and it made me ill and depressed. "Why did you stay with her then? Why didn't you cheat on her before?" asked Jenny. "I never got the chance. We didn't go anywhere, we didn't do anything. We lost all our friends because of our closedoff married lifestyle." "You should have got a divorce. What about the vows you made on your wedding day?" she asked. "What do vows mean these days? It's an old-fashion notion. No one's religious anymore. I threw away a whole decade of my life. Now I'm old, and I've failed at pretty much everything I've done." Jenny put her fist over my mid-section. "I told you, no bullshit," she said. "Okay, I've done well at a lot of things but have never really broken out successfully at any of them. I've got all kinds of potential and talent but it's all been wasted." "You don't look anything like you did the night we met." I felt the studs on my face. "You've changed me," I said with a straight face. We looked at each other for a moment then broke into quiet laughter. We held each other and I cautioned, "Careful, you know how spooning turns me on." Jenny spent much of the day with me as I healed in bed, even bringing meals and feeding me. My wife never did that for me. Not even in the beginning.

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My groin had made a sufficient enough recovery by the evening of our first day at Big Sur that Jenny and I sat on the deck under the brilliant night sky. Tall trees obscured much of the celestial view but we were enjoying it so much that Jenny took all the sheets off of the second bed and brought them to the deck. "I've got the perfect song for this," she said, taking out her iPhone. Jenny is one of those people who has every song she's every even slightly enjoyed clogging up countless gigabytes of hard drive on her music player. "There," she said. "Put this on." She put an earbud in my ear and the other in hers before cuddling up to me under the comforters and blankets. The first notes brought me back to the time of my wedding. "Lost Together" by Canada's Blue Rodeo was even played at my wedding reception, I recalled. It remained one of my favorite songs but the lyrics were hard to bare. Strange and beautiful are the stars tonight that dance around your head in your eyes I see that perfect world I hope that doesn't sound too weird And I want all the world to know

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that your love's all I need all that I need and if we're lost then we are lost together I thought of my past and I thought of my tentative relationship with Jenny and how I desperately wanted to escape with her. Jenny must have spotted extra moisture in my eye. "Are you crying?" she asked. "I'm trying really hard not to, it hurts my testicle." "What is it?" she asked. "The song reminds me of my wedding night. It was played on my wedding night for fucksake. But I've left that life behind and now I couldn't be more lost." Jenny climbed onto me, much to my groinal discomfort. "Sorry," she said. "Hey, buddy, listen to me closely. If you're lost, then we are lost together. I'm not going anywhere just yet." "What's going to happen to us?" I asked. "I don't know. I live in Montreal and you live in--where is that you live again?" she teased. "I'm on the road or I'm in the studio. My normal life is like today. A few days here, a couple of months there. It makes relationships nearly impossible," she warned. "I wish I played an instrument," I lamented. "Maybe I could run away with you and the band."

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"I wish you could run away with us. I can't see them keeping you around much longer." "What about Rick?" I asked. "They're looking for a way to get rid of him without--" "Getting your ass sued. Has he threatened it?" "He had his lawyer threaten us. You can't fire someone because of a marital disagreement. He's looking for a payout or to make my life hell. He really is a dick," said Jenny. "Rick the dick," I said. "Maybe you could come see me at Christmas in Montreal, after the European tour is done," she said. "You'll probably fall in love with some slick European guy by then," I said. "Yeah," said Jenny, "I'll pick up some loser in Spain or something and have him fuck my sister to test him out, then I'll take him to a zoo to see what he's made of." "I think I'm falling hard for you," I confessed. "I know," smiled Jenny. "I like that." While still on top of me, she kissed me. "Careful with the arousal thing," I urged. Jenny laid down beside me and we fell asleep under the stars in each other's arms. We woke up freezing a half hour later.

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Second Place Day Two at the Lodge I call our cabin near Big Sur "The Lodge." Don't ask me why, you'd be wasting your time. Tonight the band plays to what amounts to a garden party of just 300 hundred people. Jenny was away more today but came back at lunch time with some food. "Guess who's here?" she asked. "Where?" I asked. "At the concert tonight." "Neil and Peggy Young," I guessed. "Nope. Are they here?" she asked. "The pamphlet says they have been here a lot in the past. Who's here that's so important?" "Joaquin Phoenix! He's so hot!" she gushed. "Really?" I asked. "You can't come in the door and say, 'Guess who's here. James. He's so hot!'" "I would, but I already knew you were here." "Maybe he's got a thing for fiddle players. Would you sleep with him?" "Of course. But I'd let you hold my hand while he made

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love to me." "That's not funny," I warned. She left to check out the small stage being set up behind the Henry Miller Library. Later, as I was resting my testicle in bed and watching Oprah (we got one channel on the TV), I opened the door to find Rick come a calling. "Hi," I said, hoping to have a pleasant exchange. He looked me up and down and said, "Where's Jenny?" He sounded drunk and he looked like he wanted to hit me. "She borrowed a vehicle to go to town." "What for?" the grumpy abusive piece of shit asked me. I don't know where it came from, probably the stupid part of my brain, but I said, "For feminine hygiene products." I half expected him to get violent but he accepted my story and left. So this is what she's been dealing with. When Jenny returned later in the afternoon I told her about Rick's visit and she seemed concerned, not for herself but for me. "He can be violent when he's drinking. Try not to piss him off." And that's when I got my plan to piss Rick off. In the mean time, I asked Jenny if she had spotted Mr. Phoenix.

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"Yes. I was introduced to him," she said. "He's exactly half as tall as I expected him to be." "Maybe I should hold his hand while he has sex with you," I chortled. We agreed that she deserved that comment. The Henry Miller Library Plan On the evening of the Henry Miller Library concert, the garden party to celebrate Will's birthday, the sound check had to be scrubbed due to threatening weather. Rick was on a tear, swearing at everyone who made eye contact with him. Perfect, I thought. I spent much of the evening with Codie, who does the video display, switching between live remote controlled cameras throughout the stage and mixing it with prerecorded visuals. He had even let me work the switching software during a show one night in Calgary (for five minutes.) Due to the small scale of this show, there was no video and Codie was not working. Mind you, my twenty-something friend was working on a ‘shrooming co-ed who at one point in the evening tried taking off her clothes in an awkward, drunk way that almost had her thrown out by the two police officers present. I watched Rick from afar all evening and I could see him stewing. He was pissed that no provisions were made to protect the equipment from rain. He

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frequently exchanged angry glances with Jenny. Even if I was to say goodbye to Jenny and not see her again, I couldn't bare to leave her with this douche. Like a crazy man, I set in motion a plan to help Jenny and the band get rid of Rick. Plan A was to encourage Rick to drink more or aid his drinking so he'd completely blow the show. I sent countless drinks his way through any means I had, including bringing them myself and quietly replacing his emptying bottles with full ones while he looked away. Turns out he's drunk all the time anyway and it didn't affect his job. Play B was to get him to assault me during the show. I brought Codie to the sound platform and used an excuse to get Codie to bring me up onto it. Then I said to the inebriated Codie," Ask me something really loud about my love life before the next song." "Why?" asked Codie. "Because that naked girl on mushrooms gave me her phone number to give you," I lied. I jumped down and made my way to one of the police officers. "I'm really worried about that sound guy over there," I told the cop. "I think he's really drunk and violent. Could you keep an eye on him?" The officers walked with me to the sound platform and I hopped back up on as the song

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ended. Win talked to the audience about the threatening rain. I nodded at Codie to get him to ask me a question. "Oh, um, does your other testicle still work?" he asked loudly. Fuck. That's not what I wanted, but I went with it anyway. "Absolutely. Jenny and I were making love last night and she gave me one of those really long five-minute orgasms, you know, like the ones Sting has?" Rick lunged at me but didn't hit me, as I expected he would. "Don't you fucking talk that way about her, you little artsy dipshit," he growled while grabbing my shirt. "Oh, I'm sorry, did I sleep with your girlfriend last night?" I asked, cringing in anticipation of my beating. "She's my wife, not my girlfriend," he bellowed, holding his wedding ring in my face, "and you better leave her the fuck alone." So that's when I punched him, square in the jaw. First time I've ever hit someone in my life. He fell backwards onto the soundboard and hit the solo button on Jenny's violin mic. For those of you who don't know what the solo button does: it isolates one track and mutes all the others. A melee broke out to violin music, first between me and Rick, but then with a fight-happy fan. As Rick fought the fan and the police tried to pull them off each other, I ducked into the crowd and crawled on my hands and

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knees until I could casually stand up and walk away, my nose dripping with blood. I retreated to the cabin and stuffed toilet paper into my nostrils. After the concert Jenny quickly made her way to the cabin. "What the fuck was that?" she shouted. "I was trying to get him charged with assault so he could be taken off the tour," I said. "What? You hit him, I saw the whole fucking thing!" "He said he was married to you and I lost my shit. I've never done anything like that before in my life. I swear. I'm not a violent person." "Why should I believe you?" "How long have you been married?" I asked. "Since June, for fucksake. We were worried about having to part ways and we ran off to Vegas between shows. You have to leave. The police are going to charge you with assault. Rick, of course, can't wait to press charges against you." "Why did you marry that douche bag?" "Look, it was categorically the stupidest thing I've ever

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done. It was done on a whim." "I don't want to leave. Fuck the cops," I barked. "Really? What if they ask you for your visa, or even your passport? You could be thrown in jail down here for a long time. You can't take that chance." "What am I going to do?" I asked. Jenny had a plan already in mind. "Go to Mexico now and let the tour catch up with you." Jenny found a fan from L.A. and asked him to drive me to the hotel. She explained that the band were friends with a very rich couple who were lending them a large beach front villa. The band planned to spend a few days relaxing at the Villa near Monterrey on their days off after Mexico City. "I'll meet you at the hotel. By then I'll have the details on the villa and order you an airline ticket to Monterrey." "I'm really sorry." I said, as I got into the car. "That was the stupidest thing I've ever done and I hope you can forgive me." "It was kinda sexy seeing you kick his ass," she admitted. "I'll have to buy you a wife-beater t-shirt when I get to L.A."

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"Please tell me I don't have be a gorilla to turn you on. I'm not a violent person. I don't know where that came from," I said. "Dara's going to give you a ride." "Who's Dara? Is that a man or a woman?" I asked. "It's a guy, a gay guy and I think he made the name up. He seems like a good kid and he hasn't been drinking, so be nice to him." The police car came driving down the road and parked in front of our cabin. By then I had quietly escaped.

The Car Ride to Los Angeles
“Dara” is a pudgy fair-skinned eighteen year old boy from L.A. with a failed attempt at a gay haircut. My body battered and tired, I opted for the efficiency of blunt conversation. "Your car is spotless, you're playing right into the gay stereotype." "It's my mom's car," he said. "Does she know? I inexplicably asked. "Yeah, she told me she'd kill me if I got it dirty," he said. "My name's actually Brendan. I figured we should use fake names."

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"Nice to meet you, Brendan. I'm not a criminal, you know." "What are you then?" "I'm a lover. A lover of women." "I take it you're a lover of Jenny," said Brendan. "Is that why you punched out that guy?" "Let me ask you something, Brendan. Have you ever had your ball punctured?" "No, what's that?" he asked nervously. "Are you coming on to me?" "No. Please relax for the rest of the trip. No matter what it sounds like, I'm not coming on to you." "Okay, it's just that I meet a lot of straight older guys and they're like, 'Oh you're gay, I've been thinking of trying that.'" I laughed. "I really did have my ball punctured," I said. I was going to make a joke about testosterone being squeezed into my body and making me crazy." "I know what that's like. I get horny and crazy too. All the time, but it usually doesn't pan out for me. My friends are all really promiscuous." "You're not?" I asked. "I've only had sex once and it wasn't very good," he confessed. "It'll get better, trust me. How old are you?"

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"Eighteen. You probably have kids my age," he speculated. "I don't have any kids," I said. "I have a wife but I didn't couldn't have kids with her." "Are you sterile?" "No, my marriage was. Jesus, for as long as you've been alive, I've been dead," I lamented. "That's a long time, didn't you ever cheat on your wife?" "Never got the chance until now. I was terrified of being alone." "Yeah, no one ever breaks up before moving onto someone else. Is your wife all heart-broken?" "I don't know," I said, resisting the guilt." I'd be surprised if she found the time." "What made you decide to cheat with Jenny?" asked Brendan. "I cheated with Jenny's sister. She's a lot younger than me but that's probably why I lost my mind over her." "You'd be surprised how many creepy old guys come after me because I'm young." "It's shameful, but we're more attracted to young people. Our egos get a shot in the arm then we shut down our minds and believe we're young again to," I said. "Are you involved with Jenny?" .

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"I want to be. It feels like I'm falling in love with her," I admitted. "How could you bang her sister then?" "My dick tricked me into thinking she was the end-all, beall. Then I slept with her and I started thinking clearly." "I understand. I totally fall for hot guys all the time who are like total assholes and I keep thinking that if I can get them, I'd be able to change them." He thought for a moment. "Hey, can you be in love with someone without sleeping with them?" "In the olden days people waited until they were married and seemed to live long and happy lives." "Did they? Or did they just put on a brave face and all?" "Maybe divorce was too shameful." "How do you know it's not your dick that's falling in love with Jenny?" "I guess I don't. But in spite of all the crap that's happened to me, I can't stand to be away from her." "You haven't done anything sexually with her?" "She offered me a hand job once." "What's that?" asked Brendan. I rolled my eyes. "It's an old person thing." "Are you going to go on tour with them all over the

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world?" "No, they don't take love-sick groupies with them. It's a rule they have." "Are you going to try and sleep with Jenny in L.A.?" "No, my ball's broken. I can't even think about sex for three days. Doctor's orders." We turned onto the trusty I-5. "We're built from the ground up to spread our genes far and wide," I said. "Yet we're programmed to stick around and help raise our offspring." "What about me?" I looked at him and said, "Maybe you prove that what I just said is total bullshit." "What happened when you met your wife? Were you chasing her with a hardon?" "I was enamored with her. I thought about her day and night." "Did you sleep with her before marriage?" he asked. "Hundreds of times. We were engaged for two years and we humped like otters." "Maybe every relationship has a limited lifespan before dying out," Brendan pondered. "Do you think your relationship with Jenny will last for a long time?" "I've got to find out," I told him.

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I reclined my seat and tried to sleep. Los Angeles was three hours away. L.A. We made crappy time to L.A. because of several stops for bathroom breaks, gas and breakfast, the kind of stops you don't have to make on a bus. Not to mention the delay from hitting the morning rush just as we hit the city. Brendan dropped me at the hotel and vowed to friend me when my Facebook account was reinstated. The hotel in Sco was nice, but this one is The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. My attempt to check in under my name and the tour manager's name failed so I waited in the lobby and texted Jenny. Before long band members trickled in from the bus and I was fed a shit sandwich by them. "What is he doing here?" asked Régine, causing my heart to fall out my ass and onto the floor. "I didn't know you were a redneck, James. We have to cut our ties with you before you ruin us." I left for the door, incapable of speaking. I wanted to say sorry, but words don't cut it when you've done damage to the reputation of a pristine band at the peak of their career. I headed out of the hotel and into the strange city, fantasizing about taking up heroine or some other drug to dull the pain I felt at that moment. And I might have if Jenny had not found me. "What are you doing?" asked Jenny. I couldn't speak. I tried to hug her but she resisted.

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"You have to get out of here. The L.A. police are coming here to find you. Rick's in the hospital with a broken jaw. He quit the tour and the band is freaking out. I'm in the dog house because of you." "Where can I go?" "Get to the villa in Mexico. We'll be in L.A. for several days. I'll figure something out to get you a flight to Canada without a U.S. stopover." "Will I see you again?" I asked. "I'll see you in Monterrey, I promise. We'll spend a day or two together." She handed me a piece of paper with an address on it and several hundred dollars in cash. "I have to go," she said. "Call me when you get there or if you need anything else." And she was gone. I felt like an astronaut whose tether had broken, allowing him to drift off into space to face a certain, lonely death. On Mexicana Flight to Monterrey It was expensive but I got on a flight from LAX to Monterrey, Mexico. The normal flight time is 3.5 hours. What I will do when I land, I don't know. I need to get to a beach-front villa north of the city and I don't speak a word of Spanish. The band is to spend several days vacationing at the mansion-like home, owned by very wealthy "friends of the

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band." It is my understanding that no one will be at the villa at the time. So how do I get in? Will there be food in the fridge? Can I drink the water? I'm basing my information on bits and pieces I've overheard on the bus earlier in the week. Arcade Fire is to stay in L.A. for two shows at the Shrine, plus whatever surprises shows they might do at local clubs. On top of that, the band is to do lots of business things like promotional photos again, interviews and charity promotion. I've actually got time to think about what I've done. It seems like I've been running so hard away from my past life that I have stumbled many times along the way. I'm not sure the impending heart-break over saying good-bye to Jenny is worth it. She won't let me come between her and the band, I know that. She's not stupid enough to throw her whole life away for a man. Was this all a huge mistake? I'm looking down at Mexico thirty thousand feet below and I'm wondering how many people are being shot in drug turf wars and how many people are living lives of poverty. When you fly over Saskatchewan, all you see is a patchwork quilt of wheat fields and you know that everyone is safe and living a pretty good life.

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I have no idea if this mansion north of Monterrey will have wi-fi or what. Going into this, I know almost nothing of Mexico. This could be my last post. Wish me luck. I could really use some.

HO-LY SHIT! (Monterrey)
They do indeed have wi-fi. They have everything! I got through customs without problems and, after I got a bag I checked, I see this Mexican man holding a sign that says, "Arcade Fire." I went up to him and introduced myself. He can't speak English at all, but he took my bag and I followed him. Forty-five minutes later, I was standing in the villa. (Honestly, it's my first villa.) And what a villa!!! It's surreal. This place is huge and there's no one else around. I'd post pictures if I wasn't certain that it would draw the ire of the band. I counted eight bedrooms and as many small guest bedrooms in another wing. The person driving me, I think his name is Javier, let me in the front door and left. I have the place all to myself and have set up shop in the bedroom closest the dining area. I found bottled water in a pantry and all kinds of food in freezers that I can microwave. The ocean is right there off the sprawling grounds (which includes a large fountain and an infinity swimming pool overlooking the ocean.) It has it's own beach, partially fenced off from the neighbors. Not that it would matter, the property is so large.

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I dipped my feet in the ocean and the water was amazingly warm. I'm going to search the house for a bathing suit and see if I can't go swimming this evening. It's very strange being here, in a rich person's walled-off island of a home, in such a turbulent and largely--poor country. The (Mexican) Ocean I fell asleep watching one of the several hundred channels of TV the owners of the home bring in on a U.S. satellite service. I wondered how on earth someone could be so rich as to own this home and only use it for vacations. I found myself wandering the grounds and ending up on the beach after the last twilight had vanished. I forgot to look for a bathing suit so I threw caution to the wind and entered the water sans clothes. I had heard so many stories of drownings on Mexican beaches due to tow currents that I was hesitant to go even waist-deep. But the water was so still and inviting with its warmth I eventually dove in. I walked deeper until the water was up to my shoulders and I stared at the stars. It was one of the best moments of my life but, like all the best moments of my life, it was short-lived. That's because I was about to meet Veronica. "Who are you?" she yelled from twenty yards further out in the water where she stood largely obscured by darkness, only her head exposed above the gentle waves. She scared the daylights out of me. "I'm James. I'm staying at this villa," I said. "Oh, how nice for you. I'm Veronica. I own the villa."

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Veronica is a forty-seven year-old San Franciscan who is barely clinging on to her cute-as-a-button cheerleader looks from days gone by. I would later find out she's recently had multiple plastic surgeries, including breast implants. The moon was rising over the water and the increasing illumination put me in a bit of pickle. I was naked, after all, and not expecting anyone to be around. "You've met Javier then?" she asked. I wasn't sure. "He's my gardener. He came and picked you up at the airport. I gave him the rest of the day off for his troubles. He hates driving." Veronica went on to explain that she had talked to Jenny, whom she had met several times with the band but with whom she was not well-acquainted. "I didn't expect anyone to be here. I'm sorry," I apologized. "Don't worry. I didn't intend to be here," she said, approaching closer so that I could now see she was holding a near-empty Champaign glass. "I'm at a crossroads in my life James and I've come to a major decision." "Oh." I sensed she was drunk. "I've decided to cheat on my husband of twenty-five years," she announced, now face to face with me. "Why is that?" I asked.

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"Because I'm dead inside." "They have pills for that," I advised. "The pills only numb the deadness and make it bearable. I should know, I've been on them for years." She told me she's been working towards this for a long time but feared her husband's power to destroy her career. She runs one of his companies and her life is centered around her career and it's related charities. "Touch my breast," she said, taking my hand and placing on her bare breast. "That is the best implant a money can buy. The very latest. I went to France to get them done." "Very nice," I said nervously. "Are you planning on using me to cheat on your husband?" "I just did. You're the first man who's not a doctor to touch my breast since my wedding day. You're not a doctor are you?" "No." "What are you, then, Mr. James?" Veronica slurred. "I'm nothing. I'm really not anything. I hope you don't mind my being here." "I like the English-speaking company." "I don't think touching a breast is cheating," I warned. "It was a big step for me and I'm growing appreciative of you for helping me out. Why don't you join me in the

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house for a drink?" I hesitated. "Oh yeah," she realized. "You've got yourself a bit of a dilemma, don't you? I saw you strip down at the water's edge. Don't be shy," she said, taking me by the hand and leading me to shore where, as the water line fell gradually to her feet, she slowly revealed that she too was naked below the waist. "I see you work out," I teased, judging that she had a wry sense of humor. "I see you don't," she rebutted. She used my towel to dry herself off and offered no apology when she handed it to me wet. We both walked the block and a half to the villa completely nude, towel in hand. Drinks with Veronica After retrieving two white resort-like bathrobes for us, Veronica led me to an entertainment room with a bar and a wall of entertainment devices. She played Arcade Fire's album "Neon Bible" from a digital music server. "You can play music in any room of the house or at the pool, but I haven't a clue how," she confessed. "That's my husband's thing. I just take my iPod with me." She poured me glass of Champaign and slunk back in her chair, exposing both cleavage and her thighs. She caught me staring at the latter. "What are you looking at?" asked Veronica.

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"The darkness between your legs. I honestly can't see anything--yet. Could you do up your robe a better? I'm not to be aroused due to a recent testicular injury," I revealed. "That's a shame. Does it still work?" she asked. "I sure as hell hope so. I'm very attached to it," I laughed nervously, realizing I was already tipsy. "You've been a big help to me, touching me as you did. I just knew I could trust you, the moment I saw you struggling to take off your discount store briefs on the beach. I feel liberated. I'm gaining the courage I need to take the next step." "I don't know how I feel about that," I warned. "You don't like my breasts?" she asked. "I don't want to be the person who broke up your marriage." "You could be saving my life." "Only if I had found a lump," I quipped. "I have to tell you, this naughty business you did with me tonight, the walking out of the water naked, the touching, is making me feel like school girl. I should buy you car for this. What kind of cars do you like?" "I live in Canada," was all I could say. "I know, your accent fools no one. Are you married?"

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"Yes." "I see by your lack of wedding ring that it's going very well. Do Canadian's cheat?" "I just did, after ten years of Purgatory," I lamented. "Really?" she asked, sitting up from a reclined position. You have to tell me everything. What brought you to the decision?" "There was no deciding. I was overcome with lust. I didn't once think about infidelity." "Impossible! Not after ten years!" "I was overcome with what I thought was love. It was an out of body experience." "Sure it was. You were in her body. How was it?" "It was as if I was put in the universe for one purpose: making love to her." "Is she married?" "She's Jenny's little sister, she's very young." "That slut? She was here three years ago after the last album. I hope you wore a condom, that's all I can say." "You know Linda?" "You know, I'm not surprised. Men like to have their little girls. My daughter is a few years younger than that and she's a total little whore. They all are nowadays. I envy them."

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"Me too, frankly," I admitted. She sat her glass down on the floor. "So, you're in love with Jenny as I understand it." "You talked to her? To arrange my visit?" "You two would make a cute couple." She got up out of her chair, making an extra effort to keep herself contained. I'm going to go pass out on my bed. You stay out of trouble down here, Mister. You think you have problems with L.A. cops, it's a whole different world down here." And so concluded my first day in Mexico. Good Morning I was in the midst of getting my first good night's sleep in nearly two weeks when I was awoken by Veronica, standing at the foot of my bed wiggling my foot. "You have an erection," she announced, looking down at the thin sheets covering me. "What? You woke me up to tell me I have an erection? It's a dream erection," I said, annoyed at being woken. "Don't flatter yourself." "What can I do for you?" I asked, adjusting myself. "Please," she pleaded, staring down at the lump that kept getting me into trouble. "I'm at your mercy."

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"Don't make me get out the note from my doctor," I warned, trying to deflect her. Veronica suddenly began to cry and I asked her to sit down on my bed. "You don't know what it's like," she wept. "Twenty five years and last night, a switch got turned on in me that I can't turn off. I couldn't sleep!" "Can't you go out and buy yourself a man who's a lot more appealing than me?" She threw my phone at me. "Here, make the call!" she exclaimed scornfully. I realized it's not something you can just decide to do one day. I felt like I was in an episode of "Hung." I asked her about masturbation and vibrators but she said, "It's the human interaction I need. Last night, when I put your hand on my breast, I knew you were turned on by me." "Really, I didn't' think the water was that clear." "I'm a flawlessly confident person when it comes to business and the day to day aspects of my life, but I realized I needed to be appreciated in that way. I took a Valium last night. I'm telling you, I'm out of my mind over this and I stand losing control," she cried. I told her that I understood now, and promised I would try and help her. She pulled up pillow and put her head on it. "If if weren't for your injury, would you have done what I asked?" "And if it weren't for Jenny, I'd wreck you. I dip you in

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that Champaign of yours and lick every drop off every square inch of you." Oops, shouldn't have said that. Her eyes widened and she crawled on top of me. "Don't make me beg," she pleaded. I delicately squirmed out from underneath her. "Give me a minute. I'll figure something out." I took a moment to look at my phone to see if Jenny had called or texted. She had not and I had that sinking feeling inside me again. I made eye contact with my laptop and got an idea. "What about web cam sex?" I asked. "James, a person in my position can't--." "No, there's a way. I see it all the time. People wear masks or they don't show their faces at all." "Besides, I don't think that will give me what I need. I want to be fucked, James, by a real person." "I think you want to be desired. You stick this camera on your new boobs and you'll drive man after man to come all over himself and sing sweet praises of your beauty." "I don't know," she said. "Just chat with them. Hell, you don't even have to say a word if you don't want to." I was excited. I bounced around the net to try and find a suitable webcam site. I couldn't find anything appropriate right away so I singed up for a Chat Roulette account. I asked Veronica to sit at the desk and I turned on the lamp to illuminate her with soft, flattering light. I activated the camera on the laptop and tilted the screen

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down to exclude her eyes. "Oh my god," she said, seeing her cleavage from the loose bathrobe on the screen. She pulled the bathrobe together in modesty. "What do I have to do?" "You don't have to do anything. Just click the button and chat. If you show a couple square inches of skin it'll probably get the ball rolling, so to speak." A minute later Veronica asked me to leave the room as she was getting into talking to an eighteen year old soldier from the U.K. I crashed in the next room but was awoken by laughter and loud talking every few minutes. An hour later, I got up to find a quieter room and I saw Veronica returning from her bedroom with a hair brush. "James," she said. "Write down your address on a piece of paper. I'm going to send you a Christmas present this December." I'm no superhero, but I do what I can. Waking Up in Mexico on Night 2 I slept all day, making up for a week of sleep deprivation, but I woke up horny. I was pleased by this because it seemed to prove things were working normally down there. It had been three full days since the horrible incident. The house was silent so I dragged myself to the nearest washroom to empty a very-full bladder. As soon as I commenced, I was startled by a familiar voice. "Gross! I can see the thread sticking out," announced Emilie, not seen since San Francisco, who was

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comfortably reclined in a bathtub full of whit foamy bubbles as she stared at my midsection. Naturally, I screamed in absolute terror. Emilie starting kicking and flailing in the tub because pee was now shooting into the foamy lather after I involuntary turned toward her. "What the fucking hell? Am I dreaming?" I screamed as she immodestly exited the tub. "I live here," she said, casually wrapping a towel around her torso. "You're Veronica's slutty daughter?" I asked. "No, that's my sister Rachel." I backed out of the bathroom, almost tripping over myself. "Where are you going?" she asked. "I'm trying to give you some privacy," I said. She moved toward me. "I was just going to give you a little hug, I thought we were friends." "I'm not supposed to be aroused," I told her. "This is hot for you? You've already seen me naked and you didn't freak out then." "The laptop I covered my groin with that afternoon almost got catapulted through your car window," I informed her. "Fine, I'll get dressed and meet you in the kitchen." She

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looked at the wet floor and said, "You should go grab a mop. It's not fair to make the made clean that up." Emilie in Mexico "So you're a fugitive from the law? That's hilariously out of character for you," declared Emilie as she walked into the kitchen. "How do you know?" I asked, while inhaling a Jethrosized bowl of cereal. "Spending eighteen years in a loveless marriage because you're a little scaredy cat?" "You've come out swinging. I thought we were 'friends.' This must hit close to home with you," I countered. "I see you've fucked up my mother. Didn't take you long. You're a walking tornado, aren't you? That was cute what you did at Big Sur. There's even parodies of the parodies on YouTube. Arcade Fire is a bit of joke these days thanks to you." "Fuck off," I exclaimed. You have no idea what the circumstances were." "Little James is in love with Jenny the violin player. People think you're a crazy fan." "What do you think?" "I think you should go back to your life and leave the band alone." She pushed all the wrong buttons. "I'm trying to do that,

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you fucking cunt!" I screamed. I stormed out the patio doors and into the twilight. "Oooo, you're not a pussy after all.". When I got outside Emilie followed out the door and asked, "Hey, where are you going?" "I'm going to go stand in the water and hope for one of your famous Mexican undertows to drown me." I walked straight through the grounds and into the ocean fully clothed until the water was up over my shoulders. Emilie appeared on the beach and sat down in the sand. "What are you doing?" I asked. "I'm watching you so you don't die. I was a lifeguard two summers in high school." I appreciated her concern. "Why are you nice, all of a sudden?" I asked. "I've always been nice. I thought I should tell you something you needed to hear. I'm a good friend that way." It's not like she wasn't making sense. "Are you coming in?" I asked. "I'm not getting my clothes wet and I'm not skinny dipping," she said. "I can't stand you when you've got blue balls." "I'm sorry about your mom. It's not what it appears." "It 'appears' that she's happy. I've never seen that before."

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I began walking to the shore. "I know where this is going," she said. "They're going to break up, like all my friends' parents. There's going to be two Thanksgivings and two Christmases. I was selfish to want them to stay together," she admitted with tears in her eyes. I took her hand and helped her up. We returned to the house and I changed into dry clothes. The Terrace Over-Looking the Ocean Emilie cracked open a bottle of wine and we drank it on the dimly-lit terrace with nothing but the sound of the warm wind in the trees and the ocean waves in the background. Veronica ran out of the house and up to me, bouncing like an excited school girl, still wearing a white bath robe. She leaned into my ear and whispered, "I've got my onehundredth man off! You should have seen all the cum shooting everywhere just because of me! I'm taking a short break to celebrate," she laughed proudly. "What did she say to you?" asked a concerned Emilie. "Something about her self-esteem," I said, trying to avoid telling her anything uncomfortable. I went through my ritual of checking my phone for signs of Jenny. "She's probably busy getting ready for the second show at the Shrine," said Emilie. You miss her, heh?" "I do."

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"Well, thank you for not sleeping with my mother. I guess I owe Jenny one for that," she laughed. "You're not actually in love with Jenny are you?" "Have you ever been in love?" I asked. "No. I want to be, though. You can't imagine how much I do, actually," said the young woman who carries nude photos of herself on her cell phone, astonishing me. "It's not a good feeling, being away from her," I said. "She could be with her husband later tonight, for all I know." "I'll kick her ass if she is. You're super-messed up," she said, sounding irritated. "I don't want to be around you when she says goodbye and gets on that plane to Mexico City in a couple of days." The truth hurt and it must have shown in my face. "What did you think was going to happen? The woman doesn't have a home. She's a musician in a huge band. You're just some sad guy from Canada." "You're not helping. Every minute that cell doesn't ring wrenches my gut another turn. And the fact that I'm in heat just--" "Makes you totally unbearable," she interrupted. "Did my mom contribute to that? She works out and she's got these new boobs," said Emilie. "It's too bad because you seem like more of a dick when you're ready to jump someone." "It's not all what it's cracked up to be, being born a fertilizer spreader."

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I looked at my phone again. Nothing. They would be taking the stage soon and Jenny would have eight thousand people under her thumb for the next ninety minutes. "God, just fucking phone her, already! You're making me sad," said Emilie, who was getting downright bitchy the more she drank. "How many times can I phone without looking like a psycho?" I barked back. "Give me the fucking phone!" she screamed and she grabbed it from my hand, causing it to fall onto the patio. "You fucking cow! How is she going to reach me now?" I screamed, losing all composure and kicking over the Chaise lounge in a fit of testosterone-fueled rage. "Don't you fucking call me anymore 'c-words,'" snapped Emilie as she picked up my phone. "It's not broken, Balloon Nuts." She opened it and pressed redial. "Hey, it's Emilie. Your guy here is in love with you, I thought you should know that. But he's driving me crazy cuz you got him all hot 'n' bothered. He's all snorting and scratching his hooves on he ground and shit. And he's grinding his antlers into mom's expensive patio furniture. I think his balls are going to explode like potatoes in a microwave. You gotta let me give the love sick bastard a blow job." Didn't see that coming. "Uh, huh," Emilie responded into the phone. "I understand. No I don't....Okay...No, that's cool...Okay...I'll

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tell him." Emilie threw the phone hard at my chest and I managed to catch it. "We settled on a hand job. Drop your fucking pants or I will rip your stitch out with my teeth like an angry pit bull!" she screamed. I took the phone as Emilie pantsed me. "Hello?" "It's okay. Let her. But talk to me, okay?" said Jenny sweetly over the phone. I laid down on the Chaise lounge and the nurse began her procedure. "Is this right?" asked Emily. "Oh, you like that. Cool." "We're finally going to do it. But over the phone," said Jenny. "I feel like a prize steer and I'm worried I'm not fullyhealed so it's going to hurt or maybe I'll die or something," I said. "It hurts now from the sounds of it. I don't want our day together tomorrow to involve another hospital visit." "Okay," I said. "You're voice is amazing." "I'm going to talk dirty now, but I'm a little shy." "You better say something, or I could seriously die here tonight," I said. "James..." she said, pausing. "I like that," say that again." "James. I haven't stopped thinking about you. I miss you. I wish I was with you. When you held my hand at the zoo

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with the fishing cats, when you made me laugh all those times, when we we're in the water together holding each other, when I made you laugh all those times, the way you look at me when I'm on stage... The way you look at me even when you're body has been injured because of me, you still look at me with such adoration and purity. The way you've rescued me over and over. The way your lips feel on mine. The way your warm hands felt on my bum in the water..." The unstoppable process began, from the extremities of my body inward, and the words, "Oh God," escaped my mouth. And then, a cry of "Jesus Christ!" as the flood gates opened. Sensing the moment, Jenny quickly blurted, "I'm naked!" Then, after what seemed like thirty seconds of ecstasy and release, it was all over but the screaming. "Jesus mother of fucking Christ!" shouted Emilie. "What the fuck was that? Fuck me! Do you need a towel or something?" she gasped, with her eyes wide as she gazed down at me in disbelief. I looked at her stunned, then I struggled to find my phone. "No wonder no one does this anymore!" exclaimed Emilie. "Jesus, girl," she shouted to my phone on the ground, "he could've died in his sleep tonight if we didn't get this done!" I found my phone on the ground and I expected to hear laughing coming from the other end, but instead I heard tears. "Oh no, what's wrong?" I asked Jenny.

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"I don't know what I'm going to do. No one's ever made me feel this way." "I think we consummated our relationship tonight," I said, half-jokingly. That cheered her up, which in turn, filled me with relief. We talked for a few minutes about Jenny's trip to Monterrey tomorrow and then the band was called on stage. "If I cry during the show, it's your fault," Jenny teased before hanging up. Emilie marched back from the house, threw a towel at me and said, "There you go you freak!" The Best Day of My Life My Last Day in Mexico. With the band having wrapped up two shows and some time off in L.A., the tour headed to Mexico City for one show. After that it was to Monterrey for one show then five days of sunshine. And after that was Portugal then a European tour leading up to Christmas. Having earned the wrath of the band, the plan was for Jenny to fly to Monterrey at her own expense, spend a day with me and return to Mexico City for the show. And me? I was to say goodbye and fly directly to Vancouver, avoiding the U.S. authorities where I could be charged with assault. At noon, Jenny was already an hour late. I paced in the kitchen, having spent most of the morning grooming myself and looking my best. Then Javier opened the front door revealing two beautiful women: Jenny and, to my

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surprise, her sister Linda. "Linda's going to stay here for the week and take care of me," announced Jenny. As they approached, I wasn't sure whom to embrace first. Jenny directed me with her eyes to hug Linda first and I did. "Is this okay with you?" I whispered in her ear during the long embrace. "It's okay," Linda whispered back. "I should have shown more restraint," I replied. "Don't say that," she whispered. "It was all meant to be." Then I held Jenny. Her embrace was never so powerful. She really had missed me. Jenny and I were left alone to have lunch on the terrace and then Jenny showered. The afternoon was spent driving along the coast and talking. We learned every important thing there is about each other, laughed, and cried at the specter of our impending separation. Occasionally we found a place to stop and walk. We made out like teenagers from time to time, then continued on our way. Questions like, "Will you remember me?" kept coming up. And the promise of seeing her in Montreal at Christmas was made, remade and sworn upon. In the evening, we shared drinks at the villa and went swimming without clothes on Veronica's private beach. We talked and caressed until our bodies became prunes. When we finally got to shore, we found a pile of blankets from the house that an unknown person left for us. I took some of the already-gathered wood that was on the beach and we started a small bonfire. We sipped Champaign and

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fell asleep before getting the chance to make love. In the morning I awoke at the first dawn to find myself alone. I panicked and shouted for her. I stopped when I saw her foot prints in the sand leading toward the house. Was she gone to Mexico City? Was this our goodbye? Could she not bare it? I died inside thinking about it. Javier met me at the door. My heart raced when he implored me to come with him saying only, "Mister you come. Jenny." Javier got into Veronica's car and I followed him into the passenger seat. I tried in desperation to communicate with Javier during the half hour drive into Monterrey but got no where. Cell service was spotty and I couldn't reach Jenny. We pulled to the side of a street in an entertainment district of the city. Javier got out and I followed. He walked through a door of a shop with art work in the windows. It was a tattoo parlor and there was Jenny, inside, behind a long black curtain laying on her stomach with her buttocks exposed. "Hi," she said sweetly. I woke up with an idea this morning. A man was needling a tattoo on her behind. "What do you think?" she asked, pointing up to a handdrawn picture beside a color photo of a leaping fishing cat. "A wedding ring is so temporary but a tattoo is forever." I was overcome by the gesture and knelt down to be at face-level and gave her a lingering kiss, until she flinched in pain. She looked over at the artist's drawing and said, "See, it even has the scratches from your back." Sure enough, the artist incorporated them underneath the cat based on a cell phone photo she took of my back at the hospital.

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"You scared me," I said. "I thought you had left without saying good bye." Then I got an idea. "How much cash do you have on you?" I asked. "Why?" Jenny asked. "I want one too. I want a violin for you." "Where?" she asked. "On my ass, of course." She smiled and pulled me toward her for a slow, lingering kiss. And so it was done. By early afternoon she was gone. By that night, I was on a plane to Canada. The Flight Back For all the way I've come in the last two weeks, it's remarkable that it's only a four hour and fifteen minute flight from Monterrey, Mexico to Vancouver, British Columbia, where I planned to catch a flight home to Regina in the morning. Norah was the attractive woman a few years younger than me, in her early thirties, sitting in the seat beside me. This stranger showed kindness to me when she sensed my agony. We exchanged stories of our adventures and I made her cry with my tales. She even offered to hug me, which I gratefully declined. Norah bought me several drinks and even offered for me to stay at her family's home overnight because she was so touched by my story. She really took pity on me, but for now, she had decided

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to recline her seat and sleep after the lights were dimmed on the plane. Sitting at the window and looking down at the lights along the west coast, I recalled the memories of the past ten days. The highs, as well as the lows, which I was finally learning to laugh at. That tiny little bus with that tiny little band traveled so far, spreading their music a lot further than my eye could see from thirty thousand feet. I turned on my cell phone and flipped open my laptop. The first thing I did was go to Facebook and reactivate my account from the self-imposed "vacation suspension." As soon as I did the messages popped up by the dozens. Mostly wall-posts: "Where are you?" etc. But then came a slew of friend requests, one at a time: Mike Knoblauch, my new brother in music who drove me on an innocent trip to Saskatoon to see The Arcade Fire. Codie Wallace, the video guy from the tour, one of my few friends for so many days trapped on the bus. Linda Perry, Jenny's sister and the woman who broke me free and kept a pure heart. Emilie Griffin, my San Francisco angel. Brendan Perry, the tentative young man who promised to friend me as soon as he got home to L.A. I'm going to keep an eye on him through Facebook. And then Jenny Perry, the woman who had my heart. "Wow," I thought. Everything got replayed in friend requests the moment I logged on. But it wasn't done. More flooded in:

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Régine Chassagne, the matriarch of Arcade Fire, a nurturing, blossoming friend who scorned me at our last meeting. Win Butler, the front man, and someone I apparently beat in ping pong, but I don't fully remember. Will Butler, fun and kind, like the rest of the band: Richard Parry Sarah Neufeld Tim Kingsbury and Jeremy Gara. Everyone in the band friended me. Everyone except that bitch Marika Anthony-Shaw, who was too good to play at the Saskatoon concert so I've hated her ever since (just kidding, Marika!). I was beaming as Norah snored beside me. The band didn't hate me after all. Then one more friend request came in: Javier Hierra? WTF? There he was in picture form: his smiling, beady little gardener face on the friend request pop up. Not a single word to me in Mexico but he want's to be Facebook friends? But it got far better. A text from Jenny on my cell: "Codie can't go to Europe, fell in love with mushroom girl from Big Sur. Band wants U! Plz come 2 Madrid!!!" I was born again. Everything that was wrong with me was washed way with one simple text on a sleepy, half-lit plane, thirty thousand feet over the north western United States. "YES!!!" I typed in my reply text.

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Only moments later came a text from Régine: "We love you James! Thanks for coming to Europe. Tom will send info to your email. Kisses, R." And simultaneously, an email from Tom containing info about a flight to Madrid in six days and an attached PDF file containing the video switcher instruction manual. Then another text from Jenny: "Can I stop missing you now?" "Yes," I assured her in my next text. I involuntarily shook Norah awake. She sat up in her chair and looked at me puzzled. "Kiss me," I said. "Why?" she asked. "Because I'm happy." It was a kiss of pure joy, and nothing else.

(THE END)

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