Chapter 16: A Fresh Pursuit

After waking up, having breakfast, and practicing for about an hour and a half Cather called The Bent Spoke and asked them if he could bring his bike in, and how long it would take for them to fit a new chain and execute a general tune up. They told him it would take a couple hours and cost $70, but was eminently doable. He had work that night, it being Thursday, so he wasted no more time, packed his laptop into his backpack and wheeled his bike out of his room, down the hall, and out the front door. He would have to walk through a rough stretch of West Oakland and through Uptown to Telegraph Avenue, where he would catch the 1 bus North. Without his bike there would be no way to get from the BART station to his house that night. Bikes require maintenance. Maybe he should learn how to fix them himself. But he needed a new chain too, so making the trip to the Bent Spoke this time around was unavoidable.

The walk went fine. The sky threatened rain but didn’t deliver. The wait for the bus took about ten minutes. He loaded the bike onto the rack at the front of the bus, boarded, paid his fare, and took his seat near the front so he could make sure his bike wasn’t stolen. Five uneventful minutes later he off boarded, got his bike, and rolled it into the Bent Spoke, where he found an employee and told him what needed doing.

“A couple hours?” Cather asked.

“Shouldn’t take much longer than that,” the employee answered.

“Will you call me when it’s done?”

“That’s the procedure. Payment upon completion.”

“Well then I’m walking to an internet café.”

“Closest one’s South of campus.”

“I know. Just call me when it’s done.”

“No problemo, señor.”

Cather left the bike shop and started North on Telegraph. It was probably about a ten block distance to his favorite internet café, the Mediterranean. To pass the time on the way he called Dylan, but he didn’t answer. After a brief moment listening to his voicemail answering message Cather decided not to leave one. He’d been poking Dylan with text messages and calls periodically and only sometimes got through. He found that Dylan’s diffidence didn’t bother him that much, but, should he like another go around, Cather wanted to make sure Dylan knew that he was available. He wondered if all people were so skittish, or only gay people, or only Dylan. Cather was relatively new to the circumstances of such carnal delights. Only further years on Earth would hold the answer.

Telegraph Avenue was one of the main thoroughfares through North Oakland into Berkeley. The border was porous and nondescript; the only obvious difference between the two cities here was that Oakland’s street signs were green and Berkeley’s were brown. But a few blocks before you reached UC Berkeley the environment changed drastically, from mostly residential to packed full of small businesses: restaurants, used record stores, vintage clothing shops, and, of course, the internet cafés where so many students got their work done. Caffé Mediterranean was a well-loved Berkeley institution situated on a block that was for some reason always teeming with hippies and homeless people. Inside the café the presence of this eccentric demographic held true, only now, particularly on its second floor, was mixed with students and some adults. In the ‘60s it had been a locus of radical campus organizing, and the photographs on the walls proudly proclaimed as much. You could imagine it being a great place to write a few stanzas of poetry, or just watch the human milieu. Cather was no poet, but he had a particular task in mind with which he hoped to occupy his time.

He bought a large coffee — he took it black — and took it up the stairs to the second floor. There were a few open tables. He took one at the wall near an outlet, into which he plugged his laptop, and opened it on the table. He took a sip of coffee, entered the wi-fi password, and opened Safari. Then he went to Craigslist. After navigating through the site for a few minutes he chose the link in the top right corner of the SF Bay Area landing page: “create a posting.” He chose “East Bay Area,” then “Oakland North/Temescal,” even though this wasn’t exactly accurate. Maybe he should have chosen a neighborhood in San Francisco. If he didn’t get many responses maybe next time he would. As he continued on the process he found that it cost $10 to create a “talent gigs (including acting, modeling, music, dance, etc)” post. He had his debit card ready for just such an eventuality.

For the “Posting Title” he wrote: “Well-trained, prolific jazz/prog rock pianist looking to start a band.”

He looked at this title for a bit, and decided it was about as direct and accurate as he could get it.

In the “Description” he wrote: “Classically-trained pianist, active in San Francisco, looking to create a four- or five-piece jazz/prog rock group. Influences include King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and Swans. Please e-mail with details about your training and performing background, as well as your influences. If you have a recording you can post it as an attachment. Serious inquiries only, please. Would ultimately like to perform at clubs all around the Bay Area, and hopefully beyond that should we really get going. Thanks.” After reading it through a few times he paid the fee and posted it.

He’d already decided that while this process was taking place he would search the rest of Craigslist for groups looking for a pianist. That was how he would spend his time waiting for his bike. It turned out to feel like a relatively productive pursuit. There were a few he found promising, and he sent in his contact info, influences, and a live, five-minute song he’d recorded with Dr. Pickle and Friends in New Orleans. It took about an hour. He made three inquiries. Perhaps he should make this a regular activity, until he’d landed a gig he felt confident with, which would require meetings and auditions, but he also liked the idea of starting his own group, and felt he had the kind of vision that such an undertaking would call for. He imagined that taking the leap from his cushy, paid gig at Pyramid to something freelance would require some convincing, but he hoped he would know the right opportunity should it present itself. He imagined trying to cram four musicians into his crumby little room would be a headache, and might even irritate the neighbors, but such were the travails of those following this sort of passion. He knew he was good. Would he be able to tell if the others were?

It took about an hour for him to finish this activity. It felt good, optimistic. He bought another cup of coffee and, while he was here, thought about making a Facebook profile for himself to buttress his networking efforts. Unlike the Craigslist post it didn’t cost anything, but he didn’t have any good pictures of himself, and couldn’t think of many friends to connect with. He searched for Laura Small, Jim Getner, and Tyler Burrell, but Jim was the only one of them with a profile. Cather connected to him. That was something. Anyways, all these ideas were works in progress. The important thing was that he’d opened the door. Now to see who would walk through it.

A little while later the bike shop called. Cather packed his things and left the café. During the walk it occurred to him that Dylan still hadn’t gotten back in touch. Maybe he was afraid to be noticed at work. It was probably time to file that particular relationship into the waste bin of the unsuccessful. Cather didn’t like to admit it. He’d really liked Dylan.

A few minutes later he retrieved his bike and rode it back to his apartment. He checked his e-mail. His Craigslist post had already received its first response.

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