How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Rodney-Scott Del Vecchio
Rodney-Scott Del Vecchio is a reclusive journalist thought to be living in a small loft in Richmond's Historic Fan District. Rarely in the public eye, Del Vecchio was one of the first reporters to pick up the tale of tomatoband and he remains the unofficial Archivist of the band to this day. Quarterly, Del Vecchio pens a short piece concerning the activity, or lack there of, within the tomatoband realm. His handwritten, mailed manuscripts are always a delight to read and a true insight into the strange, often murky microcosm that is tomatoband.
Yesterday morning it dawned on me that I was not at all myself. I had not visited the botanical gardens in weeks, nor had I spent any time feeding the ducks at the local pond or stopped to pet the neighbor's cat who frequents the sunny patches of my front porch. I had not even plucked the interest to take an amble along my own humble avenue to witness the blush of autumn return to the trees that split the shady boulevard outside my front door. Normally, I adore autumn. I welcome its crisp freshness like an old pal and relish in the delight of an evening cool enough to warrant unearthing the musty collection of knit sweaters from the furthest reaches of my cavernous closet. I drink spiced cider squeezed from the finest Virginia apples and clad my rotund corpus in yards of lush corduroy. I am, in short, an autumn guy.
But this year felt different, somehow. My historically placid mind was all a'flutter and I found myself stalking fervently around my house, muttering excitedly and chewing the ends of my nails. I needed a break before my will to live gave out entirely and I collapsed in a heap of blubber and beard on the living room rug, twitching slightly as the final throes of death played out. Sometimes, when I start to think that I might be really losing it, I like to clear my head by driving slowly in rush hour traffic while ferociously, and quite openly, picking my nose. There is a certain respite I take in the knowledge that dozens of commuters around me stare aghast at the sight of a seemingly respectable middle aged man digitally drilling his own snout with such vigor for minutes on end. I was, however, forced to stop the practice on moral grounds. One afternoon, I looked up from a particularly vicious manual exploration of my sinuses to realize, quite sheepishly, that my little show had been the root cause of a handful of fender benders that had turned the congested freeway into a fracas. I left the smoking hulks of several cars in my wake as I turned tail and headed for home. With 'traffic picking' out of the question, I searched my brain for other options.
A vacation was needed to soothe my overstretched nerves and to restore the buoyant equilibrium in which my soul floats so comfortably. Now, as most of my readership is doubtless aware, I have remained blissfully unemployed for the better part of my adult life, but I still find it necessary to take decided vacations, just an old habit I've kept up with through the years. Not all vacations are as pleasant as they may sound, mind you. I can recall a fateful trip to Majorca in the early 90's with my old friend, Dirk Beef, who had his boat anchored there for the summer. Dirk, the old dog, convinced me to take on a challenge at the hotel restaurant in which I would be compelled to consume copious amounts of raw seafood in exchange for eternal glory in the form of a polaroid photograph of myself tacked to a board behind the bar and a free tab for the evening. I heard “free bar tab” and not much else. Besides, it is not uncommon for me to down several dozen oysters in one sitting at important holiday parties; I accepted immediately.
Perhaps you have already guessed from the mention of polaroids tacked behind the bar, but our hotel was not one of the finer houses in Majorca. That would have been too far from the truth for even my imaginative mind to conceive. So you can imagine, then, the state of the seafood when it arrived. The oysters, while still positioned impressively on the half shell, resembled the refuse of sea gulls and the snow crab legs carried the unmistakable scent of diesel fumes. I don't even want to start on the squid. This was not the 'fruits de mer' that I had become accustomed to in southern France.
Now, I am not a man to neglect his nourishment, but this noxious nosh was beyond even my cool demeanor at the dinner table. I gave Dirk a scowl that could have sent him across the river Styx and dug in. Remember, there was a bar tab at stake, here.
Three hours later I sat belly up at the hotel bar, burping and stuffed to bursting with heaps of questionable seafood. I swirled my rum over ice and tried desperately to hide my discomfort, which was becoming increasingly impossible due to my greenish pallor, feverish sweats, and bouts of nausea that caused me to emit loud groaning noises each time I shifted in my chair. The other guests stared in disgust. Needless to say, the snorkeling trip I had planned for the following morning had to be postponed.
With all of this in mind, I decided on a safer option. It had been some time since I had seen a movie, and I was curious if Audrey Hepburn had any new material worth looking into, so I decided to go out and rent a videotape. Well, let me tell you, there wasn't a Blockbuster in sight! It occurred to me that my beloved neighborhood had become quite gentrified over the years and that most houses in the area probably had extensive VHS collections and multiple VCR sets, eliminating all need for a video store altogether. I snorted with contempt at their greedy ways and gave up all hope of finding a Blockbuster nearby.
Scoffing, I continued down the block and around the corner toward my cozy local tavern where I can be found, most evenings, rosy cheeked and ranting. The air was brisk and the breeze was sharp as I buttoned my blazer and turned up the collar, glad I had worn a turtleneck. Ahead, the tavern was a glowing beacon, a halo of golden light that promised comfort and ease. I was hungry. I drew closer and began to unscramble the chalk letters that made up the daily specials on the blackboard near the front door. Escargots. Boeuf Bourguignon. Root Vegetables. Pomme Frites. I was starting to fantasize about wine pairings...
Inside, the light was soft. Brass railings gleamed alongside deeply burnished wooden surfaces, and the well worn black and white tile floor had just begun to collect the usual refuse – dropped napkins – the odd pomme frites, that would be swept out at the end of the evening when the waitress' hair hung in tired strands and the last shots were poured. I could not imagine a more perfect little restaurant.
Stepping inside and un-fastening my coat, I waved a friendly greeting to Prescott at the bar and took up my usual chair in the corner. I ordered a tall, dark, thickheaded stout and retrieved my notebook from the blazer that hung on the back of my chair.
My thoughts turned, as they always seem to do under the right influences, to tomatoband. I had been following closely as my friends trekked diligently through the Carolinas, bringing their ethereal sounds to welcoming new audiences. I had received advance recordings of new songs and sound-pieces that left me yearning for more. But the most extraordinary news I had heard from the band was that they would be returning to play in Richmond in less than a week's time. I was floored. Memories from my eight years of covering this band flooded back. This was the city where it had all started, where the joke was first imagined, first told, and first misunderstood. This was a place where the band was still largely unknown, as the news of their recent triumphs on the road has been slow to travel. It was thrilling to think of what this ensemble had planned for their return to this city that is so ingrained in their history. As I reflect on this band, now reaching their stride, I am reminded of the great Alexander of Macedonia, student of Aristotle; of Julius Caesar on his crossing of the Rubicon; of fearless Arthur and the stoned sword, and of all the other great and noble characters from tales of legends past. All of whom pale in comparison to the idea that is tomatoband.
My reverie was shattered with a call from Prescott at the bar, “Another stout one, Vecc?” I inhaled deeply through my nose and nodded, smiling slightly through eyes that were still damp with the dew of recollection and tapped my empty glass thoughtfully. Like the changing seasons, something special was about to happen...I could feel it.
October 8, 2018
Richmond, VA. Fan District