Yes, I wanted to believe him. I wanted to believe the promise that I would get to go on the road with cool Fred Berdine’s cool band and start living the rock and roll lifestyle he kept talking about. but when I started asking about exactly when all this coolness was going to start, all I got was a dismissive waive of his hand.
“Just as soon as I hear from my agent.” (or some such thing)
I wanted to believe the stories Fred obviously loved to tell. Stories about wild parties at the Hollywood, New York or Chicago mansions of all the celebrities he claimed to know. And of course the girls that always followed them around when they were on tour. I wanted to believe him… even when he laid it on thick.
“I hear we might even get a shot at a TV show.”
I was very naive, but not dumb. I wanted to believe, but started to suspect. How could I not become suspicious when every time I asked about anything actually related to music, Fred would quickly change the subject. Even about something pretty easy to lie about like musical influences and favorite bands n stuff. Fred just said something like, “Oh I like all the best stuff in all styles… ya know?” and then he’d talk about some obscure club in Chicago or LA last time the band played there.
Fred also had claimed to be the drummer yet I never saw anything from him that was consistent with my experience of how I’d seen drummers behave in school and other places. He didn’t have a drummer’s natural tendency to drum on things, tap on tables or glasses, bowls and trashcans.
I didn’t act on my suspicions and challenge him however. Fred was almost ten years older than me and besides… I so wanted it to be true. It took a lot longer than it should have for me to abandon my rock and roll fantasy.
When he wasn’t fielding my questions about the band, the topic of discussion at “Fred’s” apartment was almost always about money. That, and the fact that Norfolk was too racist a place for a black man like him to find work. The idea that we were going to have to move to Omaha for him to get a job eventually became the main plan to address that problem. Meanwhile, I would see what I could do to contribute money for food and to pay the rent on top of Maria’s welfare checks.
I got a pretty good job right away.
Less than three days after arriving in Norfolk, I got a job as a laborer for a small family-run company that did custom interior work and the like. The owner had just landed a contract to lay the floor tile for a brand new shopping mall under construction and needed a lot of help.
It was really hard work. I carried what seemed like endless boxes of floor tile and eventually (once I was trained to do so) was given a trowel to spread adhesive while my boss and his main guy laid that floor tile, one at a time and faster than I could ever imagine anyone doing such work.
It was a HUGE job! But we worked our asses off and got it done sooner than expected. My new boss was very happy and asked if I knew anyone else who needed a job. I mentioned Fred and he said he’d be happy to hire him.
But Fred never even applied. First he simply dismissed it, saying that he would surely not be hired as soon as my boss saw that he was black. I assured him that this would not be the case, that my new boss (while not currently having any black employees) was a good guy and very fair to everyone. Fred said something about it not being the type of work for him and besides… he had a lot to organize regarding the band.
Again, he never went into any specifics about that. It was just that taking a full-time labor job would take up too much of his valuable time.
His valuable time.
By the time I started to see what Fred’s valuable time really meant. What he was actually up to and how I fit into HIS whole operation, we were in Omaha. I eventually would learn what he’d been up to all along, but not until we got there.
I guess Fred he needed people like Maria and me to help finance his lifestyle. I was doing my part just fine in Norfolk. I was making good money but Fred also needed me to not get too established. So he planed (I’m sure of it now) to intentionally throw me off balance. To get me back to believing I needed him. So he could get where HE wanted to go. With all my questions about the band, he saw that his hold on me was wavering so Fred needed to up that ante and get some maneuvering room. He needed to get me motivated to quit my new job and move again.
So he manufactured a crisis.