Sample chapter from Drive All Night

I wish I could think of a snappy title for this post but it’s before noon and I need more espresso. At any rate, I thought you’d like to read a chapter from my book. Then you’ll run out and buy it. Or at least check it out from your very hip library, then recommend the book to fifty of your closest friends who will buy the book. Or go to their very own hip library … you get the picture. If you want to order it, you can get it from Bella Books or from a host of cool indie bookstores.

It’s getting some wonderful press, too, from the front page of the Durham Herald to an entertaining review from lesbian playwright Carolyn Cage. She calls me a bad ass. 

Enough blabbing, here’s the chapter. Enjoy!

DriveAllNightS250

She’s Shorter in Person

I was a little nervous about this gig because it was in a fourteen-hundred seat theater in Los Angeles, a city that’s used to huge, slick touring acts, not folksingers from North Carolina. Fortunately, I was opening for the fabulous comic Kate Clinton. After sweating through my own set, I knew I’d get to relax and laugh my way through her portion of the show.

It was a hard gig to get, requiring many phone calls. The promoter booked me because a well-known booking agent for someone else recommended me. We decided on the details and signed a contract. I knew something was awry when she sent me a short email asking me about the kind of piano I needed.

I play guitar.

When I phoned her, she told me that the show was being taped for a documentary about funny lesbians.

“Great!” I exclaimed, “I’d love to have a good recording of one of my performances.”

There was a pause on the other end of the line, a sigh, and then she responded, “We’re only filming comics.”

Okay, so I don’t do comedy clubs, and I’ve never been on HBO. However, with songs like “Menstrual Tango” and “I Miss the Dog (More Than I Miss You)” it’s pretty clear I’m not a folksinger who warbles about unicorns.

It could be that the promoter had never heard my music. Ah well. A gig’s a gig and I was getting the chance to play for several hundred people. It couldn’t be bad.

I arrived at the venue dog-tired from that day’s plane ride from North Carolina. I did a quick sound check, and then wandered around the huge backstage area. I had my own dressing room that included a wall of mirrors ringed with bright lights. Beats the hell out of the dingy, smelly bathrooms I’ve been offered in other venues.

Kate and a few of her friends were hanging out as a woman with a camera filmed them. I introduced myself. Kate thanked me for opening the show. Hey, twist my arm.

Strolling out front, I saw rows and rows of chairs. I’d made plans to meet an old friend, Oshara, so I wandered out to the lobby. There she was, smiling and waving at me. We sat and caught up until I realized it was getting close to concert time. She followed me backstage.

Walking down the long hallway to my dressing room, I saw a large group of women. All I wanted was a quiet space and a little more conversation with my friend, not a mob of people I didn’t know. I was just working myself up to a good grumble when I realized that one of the women in the group was Melissa Etheridge.

Okay, she can stay.

The promoter had hinted in an earlier phone call that she’d be there. Oh sure, Melissa Etheridge…lives in LA…friend of Kate’s. I told a few friends and they joked that I should do “Bring Me Melissa,” my parody of her “Bring Me Some Water.” I pooh poohed that idea, but now I was thinking, hmmm, does she have a sense of humor? Evil lawyers? Will I have to hand over my house, my car and my cats before it’s all over?

I didn’t give myself too much time to think. I strolled up to her and the group like it was something I do every day. I thought I’d casually smile and say, “Oh, hi, Melissa.” Not quite. Instead, I stood like a stone statue on the periphery of the group until the promoter extended her hand toward me, turned to Melissa and said, “Melissa, this is Jamie Anderson. She’s opening the show.”

Melissa grinned broadly, shook my hand and said, “Well hello, Jamie Anderson.”

I have no idea what I replied. It might have been something grown-up like, “Nice to meet you” or I might have babbled incoherently. Next, I think I was introduced to her girlfriend. I couldn’t tell you her name, because she was wearing a tight, low-cut T-shirt and I turned into Ed Bundy. I don’t even have a thing for breasts—hell, if I want to see them, I’ll just strip and stand in front of a mirror—but there were those breasts like a pulsing sign blinking look…look…look.

I’m five-nine in heels, and I towered over Melissa. I know it’s a cliché, but she was so short. With stage presence like hers, I expected her to be forty-seven feet tall. I stood there for a while, trying to remember to blink. I couldn’t find a way to slip into their conversation about how to get Melissa and her girlfriend safely to their seats. I have no superhero alter ego who can save a Big Star from hundreds of adoring lesbians.

See, when a big-name performer wants to come to another entertainer’s show, they usually have their people call the entertainer’s people to get free tickets. They get seated in a VIP section in front where no one bothers them. Not only was there not a VIP section, but Melissa bought tickets to the show. My opinion of her immediately rose.

The discussion continued. The promoter thought she could put them in the fourth row instead of the seats they bought that were further back. They could be escorted in just before the show started.

Instead of standing there like a department store dummy, I elected to step into my dressing room, located immediately behind the group. Oshara followed me. I shut the door, turned to her and calmly asked, “Did I just meet Melissa Etheridge?”

She replied that I had.

“Oh my God!” I screamed, before I realized the group we’d just left was right on the other side of the flimsy door.

I willed myself to breathe, then carefully went over my set list. Before I knew it, I was alone onstage in front of several hundred people. The stage lights prevented me from seeing any farther than the first two rows, so fortunately I couldn’t see Melissa and consequently forget how to form a G chord. However, I was keenly aware of her presence, especially when I did my faux rock song “Potato Chips.” Between two verses, I leaned forward rock-starlike, whipped my hair around and quipped, “I look just like Melissa Etheridge, don’t I?”

The crowd roared with laughter.

Also in my set was one of my most popular songs, “Dark Chocolate,” a sensuous bluesy ballad about loving women.

The way to a woman’s heart is through her lips

Through the shudder of her sighs and the motion of her hips

Through the softness of her thighs to that place between her… shoulders

And if a woman wants her, do you want to hold her back?

I had fantasies of Melissa meeting me backstage and asking to cover the song or to open her shows. I was already planning the tour schedule when I stepped off the stage.

The audience loved me. Not that I was chopped liver, but they loved Kate even more and rightly so. She gave a wonderful performance.

I slipped in the stage door to congratulate Kate. I expected mobs of people doing the same, but I found her alone. As I shook her hand and opened my mouth, a woman with a movie camera came in the same door and pointed it at us. I paid my compliments. Kate grinned, hugged me and exclaimed, “We did it!”

“Yes we did…but let’s not tell our girlfriends.”

Well, I thought it was funny. Kate looked at me with a half grin and turned down the hall, trailing the camerawoman. Several smiling people waited for her at the end, so I held back to give her time with her friends.

Melissa never did come backstage.

I knew my performance wasn’t filmed. I hoped that a clip or two of me backstage would make it into the movie. Nope. All that exists is the movie in my head and the feeling of Melissa’s warm palm pressing into my right hand. Somebody bring me some water.

************

You can order Drive All Night from Bella Books.

There are earlier versions of some of the other chapters here on my other blog, Jamiebobamie. I’ll let you hunt for them. Meanwhile, make a pot of coffee. Reading them could take awhile.

Want to know more about my music? Find it here.

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