It was 5 am on September 24th, 2000. I stood amidst the wreckage in the usually sleek and serene lounge of the Steely Dan Hall of Fame and Caribbean Time Share (SDHOF/TS), blearily taking stock of the damage.
The victims of Post Dan Tour Depression Syndrome had been streaming in ever since the 19th. All sought relief from that poignant ache which inevitably accompanied the knowledge that there would be no further live Dan until some vague date in the future, assurances that we'd see them "next year" notwithstanding. All these poor Syndromers, perforce detoxing cold-turkey, knew full well that there was no cure for their malaise short of that promised future hit of the drug they craved. But since that was not to be had, many of them showed up on our doorstep, intent on drowning their sorrows in whatever potions I, the Time Share's self-appointed Bartendress and Purveyor of Relaxicants, could recommend for their troubles. And prodigious amounts of drowning had gone down in the ensuing days and nights, to which the sorry state of our lounge was mute testament.
I was in none too good shape myself, having sampled more than a little of my own wares--hey, they say never trust a cook who doesn't taste her own cooking; why should it be any different with a bartendress? Plus I had my own dose of the Syndrome to deal with, all of which left me in an uncharacteristically foul mood. So I left the broken furniture for my handyman to deal with whenever he came to, and contented myself with collecting empty and/or broken glasses, plus assorted abandoned articles of clothes left draped over the potted palms.
I was almost done with this wearisome endeavor when I heard the absurdly cheerful tinkle of the door chime. Gad, who could still be conscious at this hour?
"We're closed," I growled, dumping my last dustpanful of debris into the trash can with a clatter of glass shards.
For answer, I got a pair of familiar laughs, and swung around in astonishment as two well-known figures ambled through the door.
"Christ, is that any way to welcome a pair of conquering heroes fresh from their global exploits?" said the perkier one.
"Maybe we landed on the wrong island," drawled the other. "I was sure this was the one, but it's been so long, I could be wrong ..."
"You guys!" I threw the dustpan in the trashcan, laughing now myself as I wiped my hands on my bedraggled bar apron. "Don't tell me you've been flying around the globe ever since Dusseldorf!"
"Hell," laughed the Perky One, "the record company hasn't asked us yet to bring back that nifty little jet they chartered for us, and the crew didn't seem to mind the detour, so what's wrong with a little post-tour R'n'R?"
"Speaking of which," interjected the Drawler, "you still haven't welcomed us properly, y'know ... "
I pulled off my apron and gave them both big hugs. "That better?"
"That's a good start," conceded the Perky One. "Some coffee would be nice too ..."
"You're in luck. I bet coffee is the only beverage we have left at this point."
I bustled about loading up the Braun, while my guests seated themselves at one of the few remaining intact tables in their characteristic styles (the Perky One sitting upright, looking surprisingly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed given the hour; the Drawler slouching into his chair, limbs splayed in all directions).
"I dunno about this new decoration scheme you got here," said the Drawler, "it looks a little sparse if you ask me."
I snorted. "Just a demonstration of your fans' love and devotion, taken out on the furnishings."
"Shit," said the Perky One, "if that's what their devotion looks like, remind me not to be here when they demonstrate their contempt. So I take it it's been a little lively around these parts."
"You might say that." I arrived at their table with three mugs of steaming Vienna roast, and set my weary body down in a third chair. "But enough about us. How are you guys doing? Did you have fun?"
They paused as one, and glanced at each other. For a split second I saw pass between them that almost-telepathic vibe that they'd been sharing for lo these three decades or more.
"I dunno," said the Drawler, "I think we had fun, didn't we?"
"I had some fun back in Oslo, but I think I left it behind in the hotel room ... "
"Shit." I shook my head at the both of them. "I should know better by now than to hand you guys a line like that."
"No worries," said the Drawler, "we'll just chalk that up to your obviously fatigued condition."
"The truth is, we had one hell of a lot of fun, some of which we're not at liberty to talk about lest we inadvertently reveal the names of certain innocents--"
"Innocent? They seemed pretty sophisticated to me."
"Well, perhaps innocence is in the eye of the beholder, but rest assured that fun was had."
"We even played some pretty good music, don't you think?"
"Except for that one night when Jon clammed royally on the coda to Kid Charlemagne."
"That was Jon? I thought that was you."
"Are you kidding? I never make that kind of mistake."
"That's right, your mistakes are much more inventive."
And on they went like that. I just sat back and watched them go at it. I'd learned long ago that there was no way of getting a word in edgewise when they were off on one of their banter-trips. But who would want to? Almost as fun as listening to them play music was listening to them do this long-standing game of verbal trading-fours.
Finally the volley slowed down again. "But there's an actual reason for us stopping by on this little detour," said the Perky One.
"What?!" I feigned outrage. "Seeing my smiling face wasn't reason enough?"
"Oh, that's always a bonus," said the Drawler. "But my partner here had a mission ..."
The Perky One meanwhile was searching through the pockets of a suitcoat that looked as though it had been slept in perhaps one too many times.
"Aha!" he said at last, triumphantly producing an object from the jacket's inner recesses and setting it down on the table. "Here we are. A little souvenir of the stopover we made in Amsterdam on our way here."
I eyed the black plastic film canister. "Uh huh. I assume that doesn't contain Cibachrome anymore."
"I tell you," said the Perky One, "not much gets past this girl. But then, not much gets past those pesky US Customs inspectors either. So I was wondering if you wouldn't mind stashing this item, so to speak, in the Timeshare's safe until I send for it later."
"Sure. I keep a humidor in there just for such purposes." I scooped up the canister and slipped it into a pocket of my dress.
"Feel free to have a taste, too, if you'd like," offered the Perky One.
"Only you probably shouldn't plan on doing anything for the next twenty-four hours or so that requires significant motor coordination," added the Drawler.
"Now, now," said the Perky One, "I didn't run into that doorframe all that hard. Besides, what business did the hotel have papering their rooms with that confusing striped wallpaper?"
"It was rather garish, wasn't it?"
They went on in their fashion for awhile longer. Then the Drawler took a glance at his watch, and began hauling himself up out of his chair. "Y'know, we really should be leaving if we want to get back to New York by this afternoon."
"I'm glad someone's keeping track of the time here. My body thinks it's this afternoon right now. Yeah, I guess we should be leaving ... before any of the natives wake up and get restless."
They gave me goodbye hugs, then trooped back out the door again, the jingling bell marking their passage. I sat at the table for some time thereafter, smiling to myself; they never failed to cheer me up, no matter how short their stay ...
Someone was shaking me by my shoulder, gently but firmly. I raised my head from where I had cradled it in my arms on the table. A bright noon-time sun was streaming in the windows.
"Hey, Boss-Lady," said my handyman, "you okay? Looks like you crashed out right here in the Lounge."
"Urg." I sat up gingerly. My body was sore all over. The place looked even more of a shambles in the harsh light of day. Had I dreamed my visitors of earlier this morning? True, there were two mugs on the table besides my own, but they could have been anybody's ...
My handyman gave me an appraising look. "I think maybe you should just go crash, Boss," he said. "Don't worry about the Lounge, I'll finish cleaning it up real good. And I expect we won't get too many customers today."
"Yes, I guess you're right," I said, picking myself up off my chair. I thanked him, then ambled off through the landscaped grounds of the Timeshare, still pondering. It wasn't until I reached my cabin at the far end of the property that I put my hand in my pocket, searching for my key, and came up with the little black film canisters.
I stood there under the palms, smiling again.
"Heh. Think I will have a little sample," I said to nobody in particular. "In honor of another championship season, and a well deserved rest for us all."