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Authors: Josh Farrar

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BOOK: Rules to Rock By
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“Then the eagles flew to me, and in their cries I heard a wisdom,” she sang. “And they kept my love alive.”

Speaking of eagles, a few kids started to point, as if they had just spotted a rare form of wildlife right here at Federal Hill. The “audition” was obviously about as done as the lifeless burgers on our plates. It was damage-control time now. I had to get this drama queen out of the caff before this became the most talked-about incident of the first month of school.

“Hey, could we maybe do this somewhere quieter?” I tried to interrupt. But she was so wrapped up in what she was doing, she couldn’t even hear me. Meanwhile, about eight boys had gathered around us, pointing and laughing, while this nut continued to sing her god-awful lyrics. Three of them even started to dance in a circle around us, pretending to be inspired by the cheesy soundtrack she sang out.

Finally, the girl realized what was happening. And she totally snapped. “Oh my God, will no one ever understand me at this school?” she said, her lower lip shaking in anger. I had to keep myself from looking around for video cameras, because these tantrum antics couldn’t have been real; there had to be a live studio audience somewhere. “Am I not even good enough to make a new girl’s stupid band? Ridiculous!” She turned abruptly and walked away.

“Umm, nice to meet you!” I called out after her. What a weirdo.

I opened the door to the hall. A couple of kids pointed and chuckled. “Nice song,” one said.

I was totally embarrassed, but I tried not to show it.

Rock stars don’t blush.

A HOMECOMING, SORT OF

I turned my key in the lock.

“Hey, guys, I’m home!” I called out.

No answer.

“From my first day of school. In a new city!”

Still nothing.

“I got home fine on the bus …”

My parents were definitely in here somewhere—I could smell half-burnt popcorn. They probably had headphones on.

I closed the door and looked out at the “studio,” which was basically the entire center of our huge, messy loft apartment. My parents had moved us here so they could record and live on the cheap, and I had to hand it to them—they were doing what they said they would. My brother, Xavier, and I were miserable about our new hometown, but my parents’ album was almost done.

Yep, there was my mom in the isolation booth, eyes closed and concentrating on recording a vocal part. I looked to the right, where my dad squinted at the computer in a makeshift control room. Dad was always the engineer, twiddling knobs and squinting into a computer monitor. I didn’t see Xavier anywhere. Maybe Shaky Jake, my parents’ drummer, was picking him up at school.

“Well, don’t all come rushing to welcome me home. I’ll just make myself a little snack.” Still, no response.

I walked across the studio floor, and my mom finally noticed me. She gave me a wave and a smile but kept on singing. My dad gave me a thumbs-up sign without turning in my direction.

In the kitchen, I stood on my tiptoes to grab a package of wasabi rice crackers from the top of the fridge. Then I poured myself a big glass of grapefruit juice, grabbed the laptop we all shared, and headed to my “room,” which was nothing more than a little square in the far left corner of the apartment, separated from my brother’s “room” by a couple of flimsy Japanese screens. I’d be stretching it if I described this wimpy collection of screens as a “wall,” too. They didn’t reach more than halfway to the ceiling, so at night I could hear Xavier’s every move. If his little nine-year-old body tossed and turned, I knew it. The soundtrack of my dreams was written by a snoring fourth grader.

I stepped into my
personal area
, bit into a rice cracker, and hit the space bar on the laptop. I figured I’d see if Ronaldo was on IM. He wasn’t. But when I went to check out Egg Mountain’s MySpace page for the three hundredth time in the last forty-eight hours, I saw the pleasing glow of the orange and green “online now” sign, and my heart leapt. I hadn’t talked to Ronaldo in almost three days.

“Dude, get on IM. Hurry!!!!!” I typed in a MySpace message. I scanned the page. The band had
10
5,
69
1 friends now, and “Climbing the Egg” had been played
59
7 times that day alone!

I scrolled down to check out the posts.

“Thanks for the add!” read one from SckBoy. “GOOD GOOD GOOD!!! Besos desde Buenos Aires!”

“Go crazy kids!!!” read a note from Mizayaki
112
1 in Japan.

“You rock! Hope to see you soon in France!” said JolieRidicule.

Argentina, France, and Japan. Egg Mountain could launch an international tour whenever it wanted. With a total dork named Anthony Delaney playing my bass parts. Fantastic. I kept scrolling.

“New bassist looks like a good fit,” said LightningBoltBoy. “But where’s Annabelle?”

On the other end of the world,
I wanted to answer. All alone. Just lonesome little Annabelle and Satomi, the loyal bass who is her only companion. I pictured the two of us thumbing a ride on the side of the highway, trying to hitchhike our way to rock ’n’ roll stardom. Or at least away from obscurity and invisibility and toward … I don’t know, if not Brooklyn, then at least somewhere where somebody knew my name.

“It’s okay, Satomi. We’ll get back in the game,” I said, picking her up and plucking out the intro to “Climbing the Egg.” I stood up and made some rock star poses in the full-length mirror in the corner of my room. This was something I did more often than I ever would have admitted, but how else could I know how other people saw me? And as long as I didn’t get busted (X had caught me a couple times, but that doesn’t count), it was fun.

I played “The Perfect Me” by Deerhoof and stared at my own reflection. Did I look like somebody who should be onstage? I pointed the neck of the bass up toward the ceiling and snarled. Thick, dark brown hair like my dad’s, blue eyes like my mom’s, but nothing special, nothing
different
about my face. I balanced the bass’s body on my hip and stuck out my tongue. I wore rocker clothes: skinny jeans, a black-and-white checkered T-shirt, and my cherry red Converses. But there was nothing especially rock ’n’ roll about
me
. I definitely didn’t look as cool as either of my parents. My dad looked like a rock musician from the moment he woke up bleary-eyed till the moment he put his head on the pillow. And my mom was so pretty, with her black turtlenecks and dirty blond bangs. I was still only four foot ten! That officially made me a midget, not the offspring of indie-rock royalty. I would have to make up for it with attitude. I shook my hair out and tried a punky sneer. Did I look ridiculous? Maybe.

My laptop beeped. Ronaldo!

EggMtnRckr:
Wassup belle?!?

Bassinyrface:
nuuuuthin.

EggMtnRckr:
total boredom?

Bassinyrface:
First day of school. Blah …

EggMtnRckr:
Heh, tell me about it. you got a new band yet?

Bassinyrface:
It’s only been 1 day, R.

EggMtnRckr:
they dont know how to rawk in Pvidence?

Bassinyrface:
?

EggMtnRckr:
I’m jk. see Liars on TV last night? Insane.

Bassinyrface:
you know i’m not that into them.

EggMtnRckr:
they are genius.

Bassinyrface:
meh

EggMtnRckr:
How bout yr parents. Album done?

Bassinyrface:
nope. Endless.

EggMtnRckr:
btw, what kind of mic does yr dad use for yr mom’s vocals?

Bassinyrface:
i dont know! stop kissing his butt all the time.

EggMtnRckr:
i’m not kissing his butt!

Bassinyrface:
meh.

EggMtnRckr:
but the man IS genius.

Bassinyrface:
you go visit my grandmother like you said?

EggMtnRckr:
Of course I saw Abuela! Got me some home cooking.

Bassinyrface:
how’s she seem?

EggMtnRckr:
good.

Bassinyrface:
details please?

EggMtnRckr:
good, I dunno. Sad. She just kind of sat around.

Bassinyrface:
she ask about me and X?

EggMtnRckr:
on and on about you and X, yeah. Hey, Belle, sorry but I gotta go.

Bassinyrface:
ok.

EggMtnRckr:
Shooting video for Climbing …

Bassinyrface:
ok, good luck. but it wont be the same without me!

EggMtnRckr:
too true. but be happy for us, ok? we’ll both have bands soon, and we’ll tour the world as a double bill. Cool?

Bassinyrface:
yup.

EggMtnRckr:
And next time, lets talk about YOUR band.

Bassinyrface:
But I dont HAVE a band.

EggMtnRckr:
Not yet. But you will soon. If you follow the rules.

Bassinyrface:
rules?

EggMtnRckr:
yeah, the Rules to Rock By.

Bassinyrface:
umm, WHAT rules to rock by?

EggMtnRckr:
mine, that’s what. More later, Belle. Talk soon!

Bassinyrface:
Ok, talk soon. Satomi says rock
out on yr video, dude.

EggMtnRckr:
Byeeeee!!!!!

Be happy for us.
I made a promise to myself to try, but it felt horrible to be left out. I tried to remind myself that it wasn’t Ronaldo’s fault that my parents had pulled me out of Brooklyn. I was glad I was still in touch with Ronaldo—I think I would have gone crazy if I had landed in Providence and not been able to chat with him. He was like my lifeline to Brooklyn, to my grandmother, to my now former band. But I was amazed at how easily he seemed to be moving on since I had moved away. I mean, of course I was happy for him for shooting his stupid video! But I was supposed to be
in
the video. So did he expect me to do a cartwheel over the fact that Anthony Delaney was in it instead? I could be happy for Ronaldo, and Eddie and Dakota, too. But I couldn’t help feeling sorry for myself, and I couldn’t help secretly hoping that Anthony would fall on his face, forcing Ronaldo to beg me to take the Greyhound bus down to Port Authority to save them. He’d pick me up in a black Town Car, and we’d race to a top secret studio to shoot the video, where a pouting but relieved director would thank God that I had come down and rescued them all.

Now that that little daydream was over, I strapped Satomi back on, headed back to the kitchen, and ran straight into Shaky Jake, the big, broad-shouldered drummer who had been playing in my parents’ band, Benny and Joon, for over ten years. Jake didn’t officially live with us, but he spent a lot of nights on the couch.

“Oops, sorry, kiddo, close call,” he said, rearing back to avoid getting clipped by Satomi’s headstock. Jake was carrying more percussion instruments than he could comfortably handle, and his mop of red hair was pasted to his sweaty forehead. He had a set of bongos wedged between a rib and an arm, and a tambourine was wrapped around his wrist like a giant bracelet.

“I didn’t even hear you come in. You pick up X?” I said.

“Yeah, he’s with your mom in the booth.” He dropped the tambourine.

“Looks like you’ve got your hands full, Jake.”

“Yeah, can you help me out here?”

I picked up the tambourine and grabbed a shaker.

“Your mom’s recording some vocals in there.”

“I know.”

“Wanna watch?”

“Meh.” I followed him anyway, though. “She on take thirty-seven yet?”

“Nah, nah. Smooth as silk. She’s only got one song to go, then
finito
. This magnum opus will be D-O-N-E.”

My parents have been making albums since before I was born, so it isn’t exactly a new experience for me to watch them record. But they had never recorded at home before. For my dad, who idolizes producers of records even more than the people who play on them, it was a dream come true. He had spent years trying to find a live/work space somewhere in New York, but he said it had gotten too expensive there. So he moved his whole family from the most happening city on the planet to the smallest state in the union, just so he could work on his records
2
4/7.

Jake gave me the
shh!
sign as we plopped down on the couch that divided the kitchen from the main part of the studio, and I tried to get myself into an educational frame of mind. Sure, it was a little much having my parents’ band completely take over my life, but I had always learned a lot from watching them. When the time came for me to make
my
first real record—I wasn’t counting Egg Mountain MP3s—I’d be way ahead of the game. Plus, it was a lot better than reciting reading passages for Mr. V.

BOOK: Rules to Rock By
7.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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