AUTHOR'S NOTE: May 11, 2017
It is a truth universally acknowledged that all writers inevitably seek representation in grand hopes of being published (because maybe we're actually all insane to think our work is good enough!), and sometimes, sacrifices need to be made, like taking down this story.
I have left the first chapter here, because I get nostalgic about these things - reminder of where I started, so I won't forget where I came from, like David did. Ha!
Thank you for those who have taken the time to read the original posting of this story, and next time you read it in full, I hope it will be in paperback form with my name on the cover. *crosses fingers*
You can reach me at my blog (link in the author's bio) - Like Jane's, it is an open and free space for opinions and thought-provoking stances, and there I shall welcome your comments like dear friends.
With love and Austen pride (and shout-out to Jack Kerouac),
Disclaimer: I do not own Jack Kerouac's writing style, though this story is heavily influenced by him and by his novel On the Road, nor do I own any of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice characters, no matter how cool I think that would be.
Atlantic City, NJ – June 24, 2011 – Day 132
We're in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but when you're from Los Angeles and currently in Jersey, the world is three hours ahead, which means that while East Coast people are already dreaming their way out of reality, the rest of us are just starting our night. This is exactly what I'm about to do—start my night, that is, because what else is there to do in Jersey?—and I'm on my way downstairs to abandon the expensive comfort of my 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton hotel sheets for the 132nd day of whatever tour of whatever month when Jesse pushes his laptop open and calls me over.
Now I don't really follow anything online (no Facebook, no Myspace, maybe only Twitter, and if I am on Facebook, it's probably a page that's run by my management team) because social media is suicide. Most people wouldn't think that, people who use social media to promote themselves or their art, but those people are probably not David Randall. Jesse's calling me though, and since he's my friend and a part of my band, I stop.
The color of the screen is light violet all across. He points at the title.
It's a blog.
"Don't know what you're ouch-ing for, Jess. You know I don't listen to purposeless gossip."
"This isn't gossip."
"One man's opinion."
"Pretty sure she's a girl."
"Girls are allowed to have opinions, yes. In fact, they're the ones who primarily put me where I am today, them and their love for me and my music—"
"And your hair."
"And my hair and my darling sapphire blue eyes—"
"So beautiful like the midnight sky."
"—Yes, so they're allowed to have opinions. So long as they're not opinions of hate."
"I think she used to be a fan."
"We're not for everybody, Adams."
This is a truth I tell him every day, or at least, for every criticism that we encounter, but he points it out to me anyway and reads out loud:
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man who has lost his inspiration is a dangerous man that no one ought to yoke with, dangerous because he is desperate. And desperation is what often drives the common man into doing uncommon things, such as selling his soul to the highest bidder in exchange for his return to notoriety. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his actual motives, especially if lying to himself is his greatest skill, this truth is so well-fixed in the minds of those surrounding him that they are justified in labeling him eternally desperate no matter what he may do or say afterwards to rectify his dying image. Such is the case for one David Randall."
Jesse shakes his head.
"There was no Emma Bronte, Dave."
"Same difference." I clutch the doorknob. "Don't read too much crap online, Adams." Because what's worse than desperation is people who aren't even in that position to return to notoriety that they will also do everything it takes to get there even if it means bringing others down. "Especially from random girls on the internet who blog and hide behind their ordinary names."
"Jane Bennet," he says.
"What about her?"
"Jane Bennet," he clarifies. "Elizabeth's sister. The nicest and prettiest of all the Bennets."
"The blog is signed by a Jane Bennet."
"Pride and Prejudice." He chuckles. "Jane Austen. Ryan was reading it in London."
"Dreadful book, Adams. I probably never finished it."
He agrees with a nod. I watch as his eyes dart back to the screen. His expression drops at once, and he lets out this long sigh that has more meaning than his words.
"This girl," he begins, careful as to not offend me although I've been in this madness long enough that it'll take more than one girl's negative opinions to offend me. "She has some interesting…."
"On your music."
"Tell her to get in line."
"She says that while your last album was well-received by the public and your sales went up ten percent, many critics think that you've deviated completely from who you are. Your older fans are saying that you've sold out to the big guys and they're wondering where you are at the moment."
"Atlantic City, New Jersey."
"I'm in Atlantic City, New Jersey."
"She says you haven't written a song in three years. Has it been that long since—"
"Atomic Heart has twelve songs."
"None of which were penned by you," Jesse is quick to point out, which I don't appreciate at all.
"So I've been dry, musically." I shrug. "I'm not for everybody, Adams. I've stopped caring long ago about the opinions of random strangers who can't get out from behind the haven of their screens and tell me, face to face, that they don't like me."
"You've also stopped writing music."
"I have people for that. I have you for that."
"What happens when I start recording my own album?"
"You wouldn't," I say.
"Nah. You like where you are. You're comfortable because this is safe, and you feel sorry for me and we've known each other since third grade, and—Have you been writing new music so you can record your own album?"
He laughs. "Go and play blackjack or something."
"That's exactly what I'm going to do."
But when I get downstairs and I look like myself because I don't bother to disguise myself anymore, knowing full well these lost souls around me are equally lost like I am, and the dealer's dealing and the world is alive, full of ding-ding-dings, ooh and aahs and the breath of winning the very things you only dreamt of having, and half of the East Coast is asleep while the rest of us are at the genesis of life, I hold the unlucky cards in my hand—a two diamonds and a three hearts—and I return to "Wanted: Talent" and three years of no writing, and I think to myself, "Has it really been that long?"
Half of the time, the 3600 seconds of one hour pass me by without notice, mostly because being on the road does that to you, and that's why I'm in love with tour buses, regardless of the fact that I'm not in love with my music at the moment because it isn't my music or my words at all. It's been that long, I suppose, but for the most part I don't really think about this anymore and time has been very helpful in my goal not to think. But Jesse has brought it up now, and it's my turn to gamble, and I lose because I'm cursed when it comes to card games.
So I surrender and go to a corner.
And then I call Jenny.
At the door is Jenny Evans.
"David." She zips towards me from the lobby door, pink track pants, black sweater, blonde wispy hair in a ponytail, looking like she had been watching an exhausting heart-breaking movie, popcorn and all, before she was interrupted. "I get out from my very comfortable sheets at 4am for you, I have to pause Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts because you pay me to, and that is the only reason I'm here."
"'Don't forget that I'm also just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her,'" she quotes, sighing. "It's about this normal guy who's in love with this incredibly famous actress but their worlds are on the opposite sides of the spectrum. He lives in Notting Hill, she lives in Beverly Hills. Tragic setting, but they get together in the end."
"Oh, you wouldn't understand, David. You can get any girl you want."
At this, I laugh. "What's my schedule for tomorrow, Jen?"
Jenny has the kind of intellectual memory that real characters like Neal Cassady only dream of having, and she immediately launches into naming everything I have to do in five hours.
"Tomorrow's pretty relaxed, so after breakfast, you'll have that 45-minute interview with Italy, then your mom expects a call. But after that, it should be easy peasy. Lunch with the band, some downtime, 4pm sound check, and you get on at 8pm after The Gatsby. Why?"
"Is there an internet connection down here?"
She stares at me like I've put Julia Roberts to sleep.
"I find it amazing," she says, not really amazed, "that you dragged me from the comfort of my Julia and Hugh just to get your itinerary—which I've put a copy of in your hotel room, Mr. Randall, on your bedside table if you bothered to look—and to ask if there's an internet connection down here when you could've said something on the phone five minutes ago. And no, I don't think there are even computers here."
"As you should be."
"Reading online gossip."
"I can't sleep," I whine. "I'm ready to go back to the West Coast because sleep just isn't happening here. I used to be so good at sleeping, Jen."
"I did." For about three hundred quick seconds and I even put my iPod to Pachelbel and there is nothing more effective in putting me to sleep than Pachelbel's Canon in D that has the same eight chords in an annoying loop that causes me to dream of wild colorful circuses at weddings that play Pachelbel but no luck. I am a man of no luck today.
"Try harder," she says.
"I told you that you're supposed to get your own room but you insisted."
"I insisted because the last time I had my own hotel room, Marcia screamed at me for all the negative publicity that decision brought down. How was I supposed to know Sarah had only turned seventeen?"
My own sister was seventeen and it disgusted me as soon as I saw Sarah's license because it felt like I was violating my sister's memory, or something equally mad.
"She looked older, Jen!"
She squints. "I thought her name was Farah."
"Ciara? Mara? Mariah? Lara?"
"Daniel? Damien? Davis? Dennis?"
"Dennis?" I make a face. Jenny giggles. "That's not even close to David."
"I pity your future wife."
"I hereby renounce marriage from my future," I declare, spreading my arms wide open, "in favor of the happiness of that poor unknown girl."
She laughs harder. "The fangirls wouldn't have that so nice try. You know that I put up with you only because you pay me, right? Generously. For all the hard work I suffer because of you, including the interruption of my movie."
"Jenny," I say seriously. "You wouldn't even be in this hotel without me."
She stares me down again. I tremble on the inside. Then she sighs in defeat, takes a book out from her sweater, magically, and the green glossy cover is gracing me with its best smile.
"Crossword puzzles. One of the 50something I carry with me when we travel. Because I care. And your fans are very accommodating to your needs. If only they'd send you sleeping pills." She hands it to me. "Promise me you'll sleep and stay away from stalkers."
"Scout's honour." The book fits perfectly in my hands, like it was made just for me.
"You know," she says, "you insisted about the room because Sophia broke up with you again after the Indiana blonde chick fiasco, and you're lonely."
I fix my eyes on the crossword book, imagining its black and white boxes of mysteries, and I think to myself how lucky I am to have something I can solve, something that has answers and won't drive me mad for too long.
"Aren't we all, Jenny?" I sound more depressed than I mean to.
"Please don't do anything stupid, David, or Marcia will put me through hell and back again. It makes me eat and eat and I don't want to die fifty pounds overweight and single, Mr. Randall."
I hold my hands up and give her my cheekiest grin. "Promise. And you're not fat, Jen."
She smacks me with my book.
"No smoking," she warns.
"You're so boring."
"No getting drunk in public, no making a scene, no punching the paparazzi, no disappearing for a few hours without so much a notice, no getting caught on camera doing something you don't want your future kids to find out, and absolutely no underage girls. Or any girls, period."
I frown. "Where am I, a monastery?"
"Jersey, Mr. Randall. Welcome to Jersey." She cackles at my pain.
"It's where rock and roll came to die."
She's unfazed. "The Rocker, right?"
I laugh. "Get out of here, Jen."
She gives me a big satisfied smile before disappearing inside the elevator.
I plant myself on the red couch in the lobby afterwards for fifteen glorious minutes of linguistic escape until I get curious and I pull out my iPhone.
And what do you know?
There's Wi-Fi in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
One of the biggest days of my year is the great Greenwood State Fair in Greenwood, Missouri, and I call it great because they've asked me to perform there every year since I made it big, and I've looked forward to it every year and any year they had me. Performing for your hometown is one of the most humbling things in the world. Plus, there's my mom's apple pie.
This year is no different. At least for me, it isn't. That is, until Jesse brings to my attention Jane Bennet's recent blog post and her poll regarding the songs I'll choose to sing this year.
"There's only one song," I note, reading off his screen on our way to Bloomsburg, PA. "Is she trying to be funny?"
"Apparently, she thinks you're predictable."
"Thanks, Jess. I completely missed that."
"Sarcasm acknowledged." He grins. "She says you've sung this for the last three years. If it's not this, it's the mercury song."
"It's Oxygen, a Grammy-award winning song, so how can someone who follows me not get that right?" I sit back on my bunk bed, watching him. "And I'm not predictable."
Scott peeks in from behind the door. "You're predictable." He throws a banana at Jesse and Jesse catches it perfectly and begins peeling. "You wake up at the same time every day, no matter which city we're in, you eat the same breakfast every morning—cup o' noodles—you solve crossword puzzles when you're nervous, you solve crossword puzzles when you're bored, you solve crossword puzzles when you're—"
"Elated," Jesse interjects.
"Happy," I shoot. "Just say happy."
"Elated." Jesse ducks from my rolled up crossword book with a laugh. "Nice try."
"When you're depressed," Scott adds.
"After you talk to your mother."
"After you talk to Ian."
"After you meet a new girl."
I hold up a hand. "I think I get it."
"Jane Bennet predicts you'll do My Dedication the same way you always do it," Jesse says, eyes on the screen like it's the holy blog of all blogs and contains the great answers to life's questions. Scott rushes beside him. He mumbles the words, reading under his breath, and after a few lines he cracks up laughing, and for two seconds I wonder what's funny, but I stay where I am although I'm curious, though not curious enough to move from my wonderful bed and look.
"How long until Pennsylvania, Adams?" I ask though I already know the answer but I just want to distract them. He ignores me.
"She says you're going to use—"
"A full band, complete with the tacky and grey western business suit jacket you always wear that makes you look like a corporate sell-out…"
"My suit isn't tacky." I cross my arms. "It's a suit."
"And you'll go up a key after the second chorus, like you always do—"
"Wow, she's good."
"No, he's predictable."
I tune them out.
I pick up my own Mac and read the post for myself. At first I just scan the whole thing. Most criticisms are unwarranted, most stem from hatred in denial, most I just ignore. Why would I care about one girl's opinion about me, especially a girl that has no merit in the industry or anywhere else for that matter? This is a blog, a personal blog, I tell myself—a personal blog dedicated to pointing out my musical and personal imperfections but a blog nonetheless that I bet no one even reads, except for guys who don't have anything better to do on a tour bus other than stalk complete strangers and their blogs while on their way to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.
"She has 105,034 followers?" Jesse's voice interrupts my thoughts.
"That's not possible." My eyes roam to the sidebar where the numbers are mocking me. "I take that back."
They stare at me.
"What?" I ask.
"She's on twitter too," Scott says.
Of course she is. Otherwise, the whole purpose of social networking wouldn't be complete. Look who's predictable now.
"Dude, the girl's writing is viral."
Jesse nods. "That's 100,000 people—"
"105,034," Scott inserts.
"105,034 souls who are affected by this girl's writing, writing that so greatly depreciates you."
They both look at me again because there's no other way to be dramatic than looking at people dramatically complete with the turning of the head.
But I don't care. I've been in this industry long enough to know that one girl's opinion about me affecting a hundred thousand people is a blip on my radar. Maybe it bothered me for three, five seconds. In the end, I don't know who she is and she doesn't know who I am and maybe one day we'll meet for half an hour and have coffee somewhere, like Red Cherry Café on Thames Street or some Starbucks in Atlantic City International Airport, but all it will be is a quick meeting of the minds and afterwards I'll go my way and she'll go hers and we'll never see each other again, just like how it happens in real life.
"If you're looking to see if I am, in any way, concerned—"
"You should be, David."
"Because you've become predictable," Scott answers and I retort, "I don't pay you to tell me I'm predictable."
"The label pays me, Randall. I'm telling you this because we're friends. Because she's a fan. Or was. And don't you want to know why she's not anymore? Why a lot of them aren't anymore?"
"Because she's right." Jesse closes his laptop and meets my eyes. "When was the last time you just sat down and wrote a song?"
"What is this, Hate David day?"
"You can't even remember, can you? And the girl in Indiana…you wanted justifiable reasons to piss off the record label because for the fifth time in seven years, they're pushing you to make an album just for the sake of making an album and that sucks so badly. For all of us."
"Yeah, I'm not going to lie, Dave. Oxygen makes me want to strangle myself with my own guitar strings."
"It's not that bad," I tell him.
"It's pop music."
"It won a Grammy, Scott."
"We are not pop music, Randall. "
"Technically, pop music covers anything that is popular—"
"Technically, you used to write songs that resonate with people and never use the word 'baby'. You are way too old to try and sound like Justin Bieber."
Now I'm just offended. "I am not old."
They laugh at me.
"Well, what do you suppose I do about it, Scott?"
"Prove her wrong."
"I don't really see the necessity in that. We're still successful. The fans are still there. Six, seven years later and we're still doing this. Why would I change who I am because of some blogger? There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of them out there who hate me. She can get in line."
"David." Jesse sounds serious now. "I've known you my whole life, man. You used to be…"
"Brilliant? I'm still brilliant."
"Screw you, Jesse." I shake my head and stand up. "I haven't changed."
Perhaps a clothing line, a cologne, a more serious haircut, a cleaner edge, some dance moves, and a 3D movie, but damn it all, I'm an artist and I'm allowed to evolve, and change never means selling out, at least not in my books.
"You haven't written a song in three years—"
"And that makes me less of an artist?"
"Yes, it does. Now you're just a puppet. You know, Sam would've never—"
"She'd never approve of this, Dave—"
"Don't you ever bring her up again."
Jesse shuts up. He can tell I'm serious and he shuts up at once and Scott is uncomfortable.
I take my laptop with me without another word and head to the front of the bus where I take a spot at Ryan's table. He's reading Rabbit Redux and munching on frosted mini-wheats straight from the box like an afternoon snack.
He glances up. "You all right?"
"Dandy. Rabbit Redux?"
"John Updike. From Reading, Pennsylvania."
Ryan has this thing of reading books written by authors who come from whatever state we're currently in or books that are set in whatever state we're currently in.
"We're not in Pennsylvania yet."
"Page 3, Randall. Page 3."
I chuckle. Right beside Ryan is Kyle who has his eyes closed and his headphones on. They're now in a state of cannot-be-disturbed rapture and so I go quietly to myself and follow the pattern of silence.
In my mind, I think about what Jesse and Scott said. It's not true. I tell myself it's not true. I'm not predictable. I haven't changed. I am exactly who I was six years ago when Jess and I started this band. I am the same guy that Holly fell in love with. I am the same guy that Sam respected.
Except you're not – I hear the voice loud in clear. Sam's voice. You don't write your own music anymore.
God, I'm going crazy.
I grab my copy of On the Road from the table but I know that even ol' Jack won't save me from this rut I'm trapped in.
When I open my laptop again though, there's my answer.
An acoustic set of one of my old songs, preferably Awake. Just me, my voice, the world, and a guitar. A guitar that I've been terrified of touching since Sam.
I haven't played acoustic in years and in fact have avoided playing to intimate smaller crowds because vulnerability in front of an audience damages people like me in the long run. And maybe this won't exactly bring back everything that I used to know. But for now, it's different, it's a breath of fresh air, it's unpredictable.
And according to one Jane Bennet, it'll be incendiary.
April 23, 2011
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man who has lost his inspiration is the type of dangerous man that no one ought to yoke with. Dangerous because he is desperate. And desperation is what often drives the common man into doing uncommon things, such as selling his soul to the highest bidder in exchange for his return to notoriety.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his actual motives, especially if lying to himself is his greatest skill, this truth is so well-fixed in the minds of those surrounding him that they are justified in labeling him eternally desperate no matter what he may do or say afterwards to rectify his dying image. Such is the case for one David Randall. But before we approach the heart of this matter, perhaps we ought to get three things straight first.
1) I, dear reader, in immortalizing my views on this subject with this blog, aim not to promote hatred or verbal abuse, or any such kind of harsh judgments, towards anybody and therefore I outright say now that I, Jane Bennet, in no way carry any such prejudice towards one David Randall. Even if I do, I think it improper to allow this hatred to critically affect my writing and seep through in my justified thoughts of him. And so, if at once you notice that I am being unfair, I kindly ask that you point it out for the sake of justice. If the truth is bared as the truth, however, then I pray you let it be, for as Gustave Flaubert had once written, Art should aim exclusively at raising the moral standards of the masses.
2) While I claim not to hate the subject of this writing, I also do not claim to love him or his music and if I did, it had been a brief love affair with bad judgment and the ignorance of youth. To love this man—whose manners are filled with pride, whose air reeks of condescension as he assumes that the surrounding masses will lose their physical bearing at the mere sight of him, who does not think it best to appreciate those gracious individuals who have put him where he is and their only mistake in life was allowing vanity to blind them—would be preposterous. For this man had sold his music and his soul to a creature worse than Beelzebub himself in return for fame. The recent Indiana fiasco with the seventeen-year-old young girl is not a rumour after all and neither is his recent status of refusing to meet with fans after a concert because he did not fancy it and some lady friend is waiting (though I very much doubt that they, in any way, engage in anything that is solely within a platonic paradigm, especially since this is David Randall we are speaking of).
This man had lost the rare treasures of musical and personal integrity, along with his gift of writing words that once captured the essence of brokenness and created three-minute escapes into a temporary heaven that also, once, inspired the souls around him.
David Randall had completely given up.
Perhaps those who had been there from the start will remember Jack's Prose, remember the a capella renditions of "Yellow Candles", the anthemic rock edge of "Just Go", the sweet sound of "Weightless", and the other gems sung in concerts that once stabilized the vocal talent behind the wit, humility and charm. What happened to him?
Which, of course, leads me to 3) David Randall needs our help. Before answers can be given to any situation, the problems must first be identified, not by me but by the masses, through the poll below.
What do you suppose transpired in his life that propelled David Randall to such a frayed state that he is in now?
_ Financial shortage and desperation for the people's love and/or attention (highly unlikely as he is sitting on years of accumulated fortune from his fame)
_ Inability to retain individuality and faith in self
_ It isn't his fault—he practically grew up in the business (which is not entirely a justifiable response by the way of the manner through which a person turns out in life is not specifically determined only by nurture and environment but by nature as well)
As always, if you remember my last post, this is an open and free space for opinions and thought-provoking stances.
With love and Austen pride,