There’s been a mistake. Flank Treat is playing tonight at the Pixlar with that other band, Drove OverBill. Somehow my name is not on the list. The longhair in the box office pretends to have never heard of me. He must be new. In town. Someone will hear about this later, but in the meantime I’m having him phone up to Joe for an answer, namely in the form of an all-access pass. Having dated Flank Treat on and off again for the last few years, I’ve become someone the band thinks of as one of the core. Over these years I have acted as manager, of sorts, and of course number-one fan, but also friend, landlord, accountant, bondsman, confidant, sister, mother, and lover. In a word, muse. Flank trusts me and knows that, when mood permits, I am more than happy to be of any help. Perhaps morale is sagging: that’s where I come in.

Now, finally, Flank has realized I am more than just another pretty shoulder to suck up to, and tonight is my debut with the band. A cameo appearance on backup tambourine. I don’t know why my name shouldn’t be on that list. It was just this side of a chore convincing Flank it would be no trouble. I imagine they’re wondering where I am now. I’ve already missed sound check battling those Cub fans for parking.

The longhair in the box office asks me to wait while he runs upstairs. And hurry up. I don’t enjoy drumming my nails. But having waited this long to show the world what I’ve got, I suppose I can wait another …ten minutes is how many seconds? Anyway, I don’t know why he doesn’t take me upstairs with him, I’m sure Joe will want to say hello. Instead the longhair leaves me with his little friend the nose clip. Excuse me, nose ring. She can’t be 21. Look at her. Sad little gloom girl. I can see from here she paints in those dark circles under her eyes. I remember when I was that age we wore dark circles under our eyes too, but we got ours the hard way, through sleep deprivation and self-starvation. They call it integrity. As far as the current neo-Cervenkan aesthetic goes, I guess you could say we laid the bricks. She looks away when I smile. Oh what is the holdup with that pass? The longhair returns with a roll of sticker passes, one for me. Thank you God. I have him write my name in on the list and then cross it off. Good. Now I can focus on my debut without all these red tapes binding me.

Backstage Flank Treat is doing its usual damage at the booze tub. I mix myself a juice. With Tanqueray. Sound check, it seems, went fine without me, though there does seem to be some animosity about my showing up late. I tell Flank it couldn’t be avoided, naturally, and that I more than anyone wanted Stan to check my lights so that later I am not dodging shadows onstage. Flank indicates that I shouldn’t have that problem and that I can put my stuff in the dressing room with the mirror.

All this is conveyed not so much with words as with the eyes. Flank doesn’t talk much. And believe me it’s just as well. The musical artist has better things to do with, how shall we say, its mind. Energy must be concentrated.

A chair has just crashed against the wall behind me, thrown across the room by one of Flank. There is feverish emotion going on in this room, no doubt the effects of too much tequila and not enough quiet time. Fortunately I know how the business can be. Entire magazines are devoted to the subject and I subscribe to both of them. Touring with a band can be a taffy pull on the brain of an artist before it becomes what some might term a national treasure. Sooner or later, though, I’m afraid Flank will have to learn to take it standing up.

In the meantime, my duties as muse also include acting as brace between Flank Treat and a dubious world. And I, hypotenuse, gladly subtend. Patsy Tam Tam put it best in Who’s Watching Me Now?, the timeless chronicle of her life on tour with Gim Crack, when the fateful bassist says on page 17, “Nobody understands.” I understand. And I will not let what happened to Gim Crack happen to Flank Treat.

Sitting Indian-style on a tabletop across the room is that lead singer guhhrrl from Shaved Cow. I can see her underwear from here. Bar tart. Mary Slot is the perfect poser, and while it’s true she can scream, this is hardly grounds for a platinum. And don’t sit on the buffet; people want to eat that. Mary Slot, can’t be content with her own corner of the haystack, either, now she’s also got to have her own line of frolicwear. She’s wearing one of her creations now, a gold silk knit babydoll with shell bead trim. We’ve seen it before. Go back to bed. And put on a bra. Her little friends amuse me, though. One of them is talking too loud. “Liz Phair is just a slutty Suzanne Vega.” Oh, tell us all about it. Thankfully, Flank doesn’t run with the Shaved Cow crowd. Anyway, aside from Mary Slot, who is an ardent breeder, most of Shaved Cow graze on the other side of the fence, or so they claim. I’m sure they flatter themselves. Must not let them detract from Flank and I having the best show ever.

Drove OverBill is having its picture taken in front of a backdrop painted to resemble a JC Penney parking lot where a dozen or so school buses are lined up as a motorcycle jump. They’re all dressed like Evel Knievel. I would like to begin some breathing exercises with Flank, but with the motorcycles the entire setup is taking nearly three-quarters of the backstage area. Possibly this is contributing to Flank’s acting out. Must talk to OverBill’s manager about sharing.

I’ve asked the photographer, an impossibly effervescent queen-bee type, if there isn’t time for Flank to have its picture taken also. Already they are into my makeup bag and the suitcase I’ve brought with costume changes, forcing dresses to fit and smearing lipstick on their faces. One of them has written SLUT across his chest. Interesting. A man in drag exposes the notion of his own interior feminine. Am I wrong? Someone has put a cigarette out in my Dippity-Do.

OverBill is leaving now with Mary Slot and her Shaved Cow herd. Charmed, I’m sure. When she was a bike messenger they didn’t get along so breezy. I saw the glasses fly off Mary Slot’s nose when one of Drove knocked her sideways at the Crass Palace. She’d been taunting them. I’ll say. When the police came no one pressed charges because they all had hooch in their pockets. Now look at them. I wonder which one’s the father. They leave little to the imagination, whereas with Flank and me there is always an element of…what is he doing with my hat?

Am a little nervous about my debut. The booze tub is empty and that frightens me. Not only that, but my tambourine is missing. Flank has already conveyed concern that I may miss my cue. Admittedly, I do have preshow willies, but why is the big one running around naked, wearing only my hat as a girdle? Thank god the Moshing Spam Kings aren’t here too. Those wags no one can control.

The photo session goes rip-roaringly smooth, oh you can believe it. Her royal highnie, the photographer, just happens to have a backdrop of a trailer park with her, oh brother. I do back bends putting it up single-handedly while she and Flank discuss concept. After only one or two shots with me in the frame, I am summoned by the queen to hold a screen over a light. Fine. It gives me a better angle from which to act as Flank’s cuckoo birdie. Am more the behind-the-scenes type anyway. Personally, I loathe the prospect of stardom and can’t understand why anyone would want to fall into that trap.

Next month: “Voodoo.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Dan Grzeca.