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Chapter 24: Arrival
Riss
palladian23 wrote in superwebnovel
Author's Notes: Hot weather, and starting over

Many thanks to my fabulous editor gwoman for her work on this chapter! Also, have a look at the thumbnail above to see the fabulous picture of Riss that my wonderful artist friend Snowzapped created! If you'd like to see a full-sized version, please check it out at Super's Facebook page.


Back to Chapter 23

“Really, I like this one the best,” Riss said as she opened the thumbnail on the laptop, bringing the picture into larger focus.

Lex smiled as she looked at it. She'd taken it at sunset, from around a corner. She and Riss had both insisted on taking a steamboat ride when they'd reached the Mississippi, so they'd found a small outfit and gone out near the end of the day. During the trip, Riss and Lex had become complete allies in finding it fun to take surprise pictures of Casey and Lou. In the picture, the two lovers stood along the rail of the boat kissing, framed by the sunset, and mostly just a silhouette against the remaining light in the sky.

Casey made an uncomfortable noise, shaking her head. “You guys. My favorite is this one.”

Riss enlarged the one Casey had pointed at. It was a picture of Riss and Lex with a backdrop of the desert, complete with huge cacti and a blazing sun. They stood each with an arm around the other's shoulders in matching sunglasses, Lex smiling widely and Riss with a small grin.

“Yeah, I kind of like that one, too,” Lex said, smiling at Riss. Although they hadn't had to deal with the sometimes 100–degree-or-more temperatures Lex had remembered from her Arizona summer visit, Lex had enjoyed the weather in the 70s that they'd experienced on the road, and the 70-80–degree temperatures they were having now, in the spring. She'd nearly forgotten how dry the air could be, compared to the DC area, and found herself drinking water constantly to compensate, usually keeping a case on hand for long days they'd spend on the road.

Riss smiled as if she had a happy secret, still staring at her laptop screen. She continued scrolling through the other pictures, enlarging some that she liked and some that others picked out. Lex's attention flagged after a moment, and she sat back and stretched, looking at the cavernous space they'd found for themselves. They'd done their best to sweep the huge concrete floor but realized that some of it still might not be clean, so they'd camped out in one of the less dusty spots. With the overhead lighting and their sleeping bags spread out over the center of the floor, Lex felt like she was camping in like a little kid, building forts out of couch pillows in the living room.

Casey caught the movement of her glance and looked at her over Riss' head and smiled a big, goofy grin. “How do you like the new digs?”

Lex found the smile catchy. “I wasn't sure I would, but I really like it. It's going to be great once we finish fixing it up.”

She found her mind wandering to the mostly empty lot outside as they'd seen it in the bright light of day, pavement cracked by a thousand hardy weeds and complete with a few defunct cars parked in the corners of the chain-linked lot. The neighborhood had the benefit of being a quiet one, however and the space was exactly what they needed. The owner had been so happy to rent the unit, given that most of the neighboring ones stood vacant, that he'd given them permission to make any internal changes they liked, which fit with their plan to make it a living space for the four of them.

Lex followed Casey's gaze to rake over their temporary home and felt her heart beat a little quicker. She found the prospect of all of this just for the four of them a little overwhelming, but still exciting. When the group had first arrived in Phoenix on an overcast 76–degree day, they'd all talked about what they thought they'd need in a place to live and finally started looking at vacant warehouses in some of the older business districts.

Lex had had a lot of fun refreshing her memories of the city and learning about it anew, not now restricted to the cactus-strewn suburb her friend had once lived in. What she'd learned was still colored with the happy feeling of being with friends, as her earlier visit with Liz had been, but she'd had some surprises. She hadn't remembered the city being as large or busy as it was, but the sense of openness (due to the lack of lots of trees like in her childhood home in Virginia), was something she appreciated, along with the stark loveliness of the surrounding landscape of reddish rock and seemingly endless dramatic sunsets.

Another pleasant realization had been that they'd accidentally picked a place where being anonymous seemed easy. The people, although friendly, didn't seem as inquisitive about your business the way Lex remembered many being in the DC metro area. In the end, they'd chosen an old warehouse in a semi-industrial neighborhood that seemed slightly run down and half empty, the kind of place where people weren't too nosy about others.

The need to have someplace sturdy where Casey and Lou could live where they wouldn't have to be walking on eggshells the whole time, and someplace where they could have a lot of room in case they needed it (for gear, working out, practicing together as a team, or working on their skills), and potentially a lot more power than would be considered normal for a regular house (depending on how many computers Riss needed) were all things that had driven their choice. All of those considerations caused Lex to nod as she looked the old warehouse over again.

“I think we'll like it here,” she finally said.

Lou came back into the room then and used a huge button in a box along the wall to turn the overhead lights off. They continued to look at pictures from their break, their four faces lit only by the laptop's screen, the light flickering and changing as Riss continued to switch through different images. After a little while, once everyone got tucked into their sleeping bags, Riss shut it down.

“Goodnight, everyone,” Casey said. “Get some sleep; we've got a big day tomorrow.”

The place became a blur of activity over the next few weeks as they worked on their new home. First, they measured everything and then discussed and designed how they wanted the new rooms to look and where they should be situated. They settled on planning to build a large bedroom downstairs for Casey and Lou and a kitchen in one corner where currently a little utility area with a sink existed, revamp the downstairs bathroom (currently just toilets) to change it to a full bath, expand the bathroom upstairs, and use the half-ruined old office space there to build four new rooms. In the process they'd have to reinforce the stairs to the second floor, because in their current state Lou seemed doubtful if they'd support him or Casey.

Next they ended up buying an old but mechanically stable van, figuring that since they'd all been able to get around the country in a van like that, they should get one for traveling as well as carrying things back from the hardware store. After Lou had drawn up a list based on the designs they'd come up with, the group made five trips to the hardware store to get everything needed to start the project.

Construction dominated several of the following weeks, and everyone but Lou learned new skills as they completed the work. Lou had done enough different types of construction and repair in the past that he could direct everything that needed to be done, and he completed most of the plumbing and electrical installation himself, with some assistance from Casey.

One evening in the middle of the project everyone had decided that they should knock off early, since everyone seemed tired, but after they'd eaten, Lex still felt wound up, and her friends seemed about the same. As they cleaned up the dinner dishes, Lex asked, “What does everyone usually do to wind down and relax? Obviously, we've completely forgotten.”

Casey shrugged as she sat down at the small table in the kitchen. “After I've worked out all day I'm just tired, but since I spent a lot of today just puttering around and waiting, I still have a lot of energy.”

Riss lifted an eyebrow. “I usually just work on some project that I've got on the back burner.”

“On the computer, right?” Lex asked with a smirk.

“Yes, on the computer,” Riss said, shaking her head and trying not to smile. “You had to ask?”

Lex replied with a laugh. “I was thinking that maybe you could pick up another hobby, though. What about you, Lou?” Lex asked, turning to the man washing.

He looked over at her for a moment as he put a clean cup into the draining board. “I used to go home and play the bass.”

Lex had been about to grab another dish to dry, but instead almost dropped her dishcloth in excitement. “You play? For how many years?”

Lou tilted his head for a moment as he considered. “I guess for about fifteen years in one way or another. When I was fifteen, I found an acoustic bass someone was throwing away. I figured out how to fix it up and then started learning to play it. Once I got a job, one of the first things I bought was an electric and a little amp, and that's what I've been playing ever since. I just started getting into effects pedals in the past few years, so I had a little collection of those.”

“That's so cool!” Lex exclaimed, drying the dishes faster. “Come on, let's hurry up and finish, and then let's find a music store so we can pick up some gear!”

Casey smiled, Lou nodded, and even Riss seemed to be carried along by Lex's enthusiasm, so they ended up at a nearby music store. After splitting up and looking through the different departments, Lou bought a bass, a couple of pedals, a tuner, an amplifier, and lots of extra strings.

“It's sometimes hard for me to get the balance between hitting them hard enough and breaking them,” he explained. “On the plus side, I can change a string really quickly now.”

Lex picked out a small synthesizer, a microphone, and a practice amp with a couple of inputs for herself. She felt intimidated by all of the synthesizer controls but thought that she could learn how to modify the sounds if she worked at it. After all, she thought, I only had a few lessons and managed to learn most of the major chords for the piano from a book. She almost missed Riss buying a sequencer program just before the people in the store kicked them out to close.

After bringing everything home and setting it all up, Lou tuned the bass and began playing something sonorous and rhythmic. Lex messed around with the synthesizer for a while and then turned to her microphone to practice, eventually singing along with what Lou played, tentatively and quietly. Riss had her program installed after a while and joined in, practicing stringing beats together and altering them to sound how she wanted. Casey had been puttering around in the kitchen, but eventually ended up sitting not far away, smiling as she listened to what the three of them played.

Before any of them realized it, midnight was near and after Riss mentioned it, they shut their gear down and began putting it away.

Still smiling, Casey said, “That really sounded nice towards the end.”

Lou nodded and smiled in response while Lex ducked her head and Riss looked in the opposite direction. “Did you really think so?” she asked Casey.

“Yeah, I liked it.”

“Me, too,” Riss added, carrying her laptop over to the others. “I think we should play some more later.”

“Definitely,” Lex replied with a nod and a grin.

A month later, they'd completed most of the work on the old warehouse and everyone had moved into their own rooms. The group had made it a tradition to work on their music every evening, as well. Lex asked Casey at one point if she wanted to pick up an instrument too, but the blonde just shook her head.

“No, I've never been good at that kind of thing. I really like hearing all of you play, though.”

“Are you sure?” Lex asked. “It's only for fun. Maybe you'd like it.”

Casey shook her head and shrugged. “I like listening better. It's sort of stressful for me to try to learn to play an instrument because I ended up breaking a lot of them when I was in school trying them, before I had a good handle on my own strength.”

“OK,” Lex replied. “I'm glad it's not too boring for you.”

It hadn't been boring in the least for Lex. She found herself getting lost in Lou's powerful bass playing, which seemed to take the lead in most of the songs they played. She enjoyed adding textures with her synthesizer, taking the lead line up occasionally, and singing on some songs. Riss, meanwhile, seemed to have mastered finding and crafting just the right set of beats for any song. At times, their sound reminded her of the Cocteau Twins, while their instrumental pieces seemed more like Boards of Canada or Aphex Twin to her. By any measure, their time to play quickly became Lex's favorite time of day.

While working on some of the finishing touches on the downstairs bathroom one day, Lex spoke up as she took a break from painting the trim.

“I know a while ago we talked about figuring out a way for us to visit different areas and see where we think we might want to settle, something less suspicious than being on permanent vacation. I've been thinking about it, and I think I've come upon something so we won't attract a lot of attention. It's almost like we'd be invisible, from what I hear.”

“How's that?” asked Riss, stepping down from the ladder she'd been standing on.

“I had a friend who was part of a touring band for a while. She told me a lot about what it's like, and it sounded like fun, but she finally gave it up because, although they ended up going all over the country, they didn't make much money. She did mention that people usually ignored them once they figured out they were musicians. So, I was thinking that people's level of respect for traveling musicians might come in handy for us in this case.”

Lex looked around to see everyone still listening, so she continued. “I know we've only been playing together for a while, but I think we've been sounding good. We could write enough songs to be able to perform and then go on a tour so we can look everywhere west of here, if we want to. It would give us a good reason to go, and one that wouldn't look that weird to people. I've never been in a band before, though, so I wanted to ask you all what you thought.”

Lou looked thoughtful, but spoke after a few moments. “I've been in a band before a couple of times, but I've never toured. I think we probably could put something together. Have either of you ever performed before?”

Lex nodded. “Well, I was in the church choir for years, anyway. I don't know if that counts.”

“That's as good as anything. Riss?”

Riss looked up and shook her head. “No, never, but I don't mind trying it out.”

Lex glanced back and forth between the two for a moment. “Another reason I wanted to ask is that I've been having a lot of fun playing music with you both. So, what do you all think?”

Riss nodded. “I'm in if you are.”

“Sure, sounds like fun. Plus it really would give us a good excuse to travel,” Lou agreed.

Casey looked around at the group for a moment, but before she could add anything, Lex spoke again. “Casey, I was hoping you might want to act as our manager and do stuff like figuring out our tour route and booking us shows along the way, that kind of thing. What do you think?”

The tall woman smiled and nodded. “That's a great idea. I'll start looking into it tomorrow.”

Over the next month, as they wrapped up the work on the warehouse, the three played much more music together and came up with a number of songs that they could reliably reproduce. Casey had busied herself with researching the music scenes all along the west coast, and at one point turned to the group to say, “Hey, everyone, before we hit the road, we should check out the scene here. You know, maybe meet some other bands and do a couple of shows to see how it goes.” Agreeing that it was a good idea, the four of them started going to shows in the area.

The music scene was small enough that it allowed them to meet and become familiar with a number of local bands fairly quickly. To Lex's pleasure, she found the people involved to be friendly and non-pretentious on the whole. Generally, the bands seemed to have younger members than their band, but no one seemed to care, so all four of them began making friends with people in other bands, exchanging advice on gear, venues, and playing tips, and attending lots of shows.

After several weeks, they heard about a large outdoor show. A good number of bands— many that they'd become familiar with—were on the bill, and the ad promised music all day. Casey, Lou, Lex, and Riss had already been planning on attending, but a few days prior, Casey got a call and interrupted the other three as she got off the phone.

She told the others, “I just got a call from Cassandra, the lead singer and bass player from Blue House. She said that two of the people from Wandering Spirit got into a car accident the other day. It's nothing too serious, but it means the band isn't going to be able to play at the music festival this weekend, and Cassandra wanted to know if we could fill in for them. They only had a 45-minute slot, and figuring about 15 minutes for gear setup and break down, that would mean about a half-hour of playing time. I told her I'd see if you felt ready yet and let her know. What do you think?”

Lou shrugged. “We're probably ready, but if we're not all into it, we shouldn't go. What do you think—Lex, Riss?”

Lex looked at Riss to see her friend looking back with wide eyes. “I think we could do it. I'm a little nervous since we're still working on a couple of the songs, but I think we might as well start playing out. It's not a long slot, and I figure I can talk to the crowd some if we're afraid we won't have enough music to fill the time. What do you think, Riss?”

Her friend sat for a moment more without speaking, then turned to the other three. “I don't know if I'm ready, since I've never done this sort of thing before, but I'll give it a try.”

Lex nodded and then turned to Casey. “Call Cassandra back and tell her we'll be there.”

Later that afternoon when Cassandra called back for more details, they all realized that they'd forgotten an important detail—their band had no name yet. After staring at each other for a long moment, the four of them spent the rest of the afternoon brainstorming and discussing ideas.

After going through a number of potential band names and discarding most of them outright, the group began losing focus. Out of desperation, Lex started talking about something that had started in her mind as a thought tangent.

“Everyone loves to talk about someone who 'led' a team of people to do something. Like somehow they're the ones who got everything done. I don't mean to down people who work with others to try to get things done, I mean, that's how lots of big things are completed. I do have a complaint when people talk about whoever the leader was, like they're the only one who did the work, though. They weren't. Whoever was out there, building the building and starting work at five in the morning, putting in drywall, testing software, or whatever else it is that the project calls for, are the ones that got the work done. It's thanks to them that any big project actually got completed. Like wars, for example. You always hear everyone talk about how great Alexander was, but no one talks about how great his army must have been in order to do what they did. That's who I'd like to start to see more credit given to: Alexander's army.”

Everyone looked kind of thoughtful at that, and Riss nodded. “Yeah, I like that. Good idea. Alexander's Army.”

Lou nodded as he looked down for a moment, his expression considering. A moment later he smiled as he glanced back up. “I second the idea. Alexander's Army, I like it.”

Lex felt herself frown in confusion. “You want to call our band Alexander's Army?”

Riss nodded, smiling now. “Yeah, good idea.”

“It was your idea. Do you really like it?” Lex asked, a little confused.

“I do. What do you think, Lou?” Riss asked, looking over at the man next to her.

Lou was nodding. “I think we've got it. Casey, could you call Cassandra back and let her know?”

Casey smiled and nodded in return as she picked up her cellphone.

The show day dawned fine, not even above the mid-80s as had been expected. A small stage had been set up in the empty lot behind a local club, and the sun shone bright with only a few clouds high up in the blue sky. Alexander's Army had been scheduled to go on second, so the four had arrived early to unload gear and get everything ready. While walking around backstage trying to mentally get ready, Lex noticed Riss over in a corner near the back of the club, leaning over. As she approached, Lex realized that Riss had become sick to her stomach, and felt her heart lurch in her chest. She stood slightly behind her friend, paralyzed with momentary indecision, but finally stepped forward to put her hand on Riss' shoulder. The other woman jumped, but didn't turn to face Lex, who kept her hand on her friend's shoulder. After Riss calmed down a bit, Lex opened the bottle of water she'd been carrying and handed it over. As Riss drank and wiped at her face, back still turned, Lex started to speak.

“I can't remember the first time I performed in front of an audience, probably because I was too young. There weren't a lot of things that my dad bent to my mom on, but making me sing in the church choir was one of them. I probably peed in my pants that first time. I know it doesn't make it any easier, but this is normal. I'm planning to make a fool out of myself out there so that people remember our band, but I promise that I'll make even more noise than I'd intended so that I'm the center of attention. That way, you can pretend we're back at home and we're just jamming in the living room with Casey working on something in the kitchen. OK?”

After a long moment, Riss turned around to face Lex. “OK,” she replied with a nod. Then, after looking at the ground, she added, “Thanks.”

Lex just smiled as the two of them headed to where their instruments sat piled together. They ended up sitting on the ground on a blanket nearby and watching the rest of the first act from somewhat behind and beside the stage. Lex glanced over at Riss as they applauded when the first band finished.

“I don't know,” Riss said, shaking her head. “They were pretty good.”

“We'll be even better,” Lex replied, smiling. She could feel her own stomach clenching with the familiar feeling of getting ready to go on stage, but she just smiled wider.

The stage setup went by in a blur, and Lex focused on being sure that she'd connected all her cords properly and that she'd plugged into the power supply. She looked over at her two companions once she finished and waited until she'd gotten a glance back from each of them. Lou, as usual, seemed calm and grounded standing in front of his amp, the bass appearing toy-like in his huge hands. Riss had found a stool to perch on and sat with her laptop open on her knees, cords snaking in all directions. She nodded once and then Lex pulled the microphone down in front of her mouth, smiling from behind her sunglasses.

“Hello, Phoenix!” she bellowed into the mic, and the people in the audience, many of them members of other bands who they knew well, all laughed. “This is the debut public performance of Alexander's Army, and we're thrilled to be here today! We're going to be starting with a song called Crazy Wind, and follow that up with an instrumental piece called Piriwick. We hope you like them.”

Lex shot another look at Lou and Riss, and listened as the two of them began the piece. She chimed in with the start of a simple sequence of chord changes and then began to sing.

The crazy wind whispered in my ear
As I set out upon the sea
It told me many lies and fears
But also of many roads open to me...


As she sang, Lex remembered how it had felt to leave her parents' house. She thought about that final day in detail, hiding behind the bathroom door, holding the lock shut against her father, who was trying to pick it and break down the door at the same time. How he'd shouted and screamed just inches away from her, cursing everything about her and telling her to leave or he'd kill her with his bare hands. Lex had waited for what felt like forever, leaning on the lock, listening with her ear to the door. After a while, the pounding stopped and the voices died away. She'd waited a while longer, and then when her tentative opening of the door and quick gaze down both directions of the hallway had shown her that no one remained, Lex had bolted to her room, gathered up a few things she had thought she'd need and her schoolbooks. She’d thrown it all into a small backpack before she had run out of the house, then walked to a nearby shopping center to call a friend to pick her up. They'd met up with some other friends, talked about it, and finally set her up renting a room from one of their families, Lex acting as their housekeeper as well as working almost full-time to get cash for her rent and to try to save for college. She could remember her uncertainty and fear, but also the occasional bubbles of giddy happiness in her chest as she had realized that no one was going to come into her room and beat her awake. Eventually she had decided that leaving her parents had left her much better off than staying there.

Then she heard the last few measures of music being played and Lex blinked, not exactly conscious of when she'd closed her eyes. She looked up at the crowd then, listening as the sound of the song faded away to an ominous silence. But then she noticed the number of people smiling, and watched as some jumped to their feet and began clapping. Darting a look over at Lou, Lex met his eyes for a moment and saw him lift his shoulder in a minute shrug before giving a small smile. When she looked at Riss, Lex saw her friend preparing for the next song, so Lex said some quick words of thanks into the mic as the applause subsided, and started up the next song.

Everyone had agreed that it sounded good enough to play for the show, even though it was an instrumental piece that the band still felt they were working on. The piece reminded Lex of visiting the ocean; her part had a rhythmic lull that almost sounded like waves washing in and out, and the slow beat that Riss had worked out also had a high sound in it that Lex always heard as a sandpiper. What Lou played just seemed to add to the mental picture—booming bass notes that sounded like big breakers thumping as they split apart against the rocks—and Lex felt herself calmed by it as the last beat of the song faded away like a wave washing back out to sea.

The applause rose over them then, and although it seemed the audience had liked the first song better, they still applauded enthusiastically. Lex spoke up again, to let the crowd know about the remaining songs, and then the band started up the next one. Playing the last three songs ran together in Lex's memory, but the crowd responded loudly to the two pieces with vocals, and seemed to like the other instrumental piece as well.

“Thanks so much for having us here!” Lex yelled as the applause died away after their final song. “This has been a lot of fun, and you're a great crowd. Keep an eye out for us in the upcoming months, because we're planning to play out a lot. We're Alexander's Army, and thanks for listening!”

This caused the crowd to applaud again, so much so that it surprised Lex. After having attended shows for friends' bands in DC, the reception seemed much more positive than any she'd seen. Usually, it seemed the crowds who wanted to hear original music were small, and that at least some of the people attending seemed to be more interested in hearing themselves talk than in listening to the band. She mentally shrugged as she stepped from behind her keyboard to bow low to the applauding audience. I guess it's different in other places, Lex thought as she shot a tiny grin at Lou. As she looked in the other direction, she saw that even Riss had gotten off her stool to bow to the audience.

After the show, while struggling to transport all of their gear from backstage, the first people approached them.

“That was really great!” exclaimed one of the members of another band playing later in the day.

“When are you playing out again?” asked someone who'd come to the festival, a friend of yet another band scheduled to go on in an hour. A little knot of people gathered around Riss and Lex, and a few followed Lou as he and Casey carried the rest of their gear back to the van.

Riss ended up quickly creating a list of people's e-mail addresses on her laptop while Lex found out what they wanted to know. Most just wanted to know when the band would play out again, and whether they had a recording yet. The other band members who'd come up to congratulate them wondered why they didn't have a web page yet to showcase some of their songs, and whether they had recorded anything. When they found out the band had none, they all started giving Lex information about their favorite types of recording gear.

After about an hour, the four friends gathered under a small, twisted tree at enough distance from the stage to hear but not to bother anyone as they tried to plan their next steps.

“I've started creating a website for us,” Riss mentioned, “but there's probably not much point in working on it too much until we have some music to add.”

Casey nodded. “One thing everyone's been asking is whether we have anything recorded and how they can get it. So, we should probably put one together before we get on the road.”

Lou shrugged, saying, “We should probably wait to put an album out until we have a couple more strong songs ready. I think the expectation these days is at least 40 minutes. That wouldn't stop us from beginning to record anything, though.”

“I did get a lot of recommendations from people from some of the other bands about what recording gear they like,” Lex said, gesturing with the pad of paper she'd scribbled some quick notes on. “A lot of them are doing recording on their computers, apparently.”

“I don't know if we should go that way,” Riss said with a little frown. “The thing about computers is that they're really meant for being multi-purpose machines, and recording programs and music files are really memory and processor intensive. Unless we want to get a really powerful machine just for recording, maybe we should look at some of the recording equipment out there that's specifically designed for recording music. It's not like we have to skimp because we're short on cash.”

Their discussion went on for a while, mostly between bands playing since they gravitated back towards the stage, and they ultimately decided to do research the following morning and then look at recording gear in the afternoon.

They finally got back home very early that morning, and Lex felt so sleepy that she had trouble carrying her equipment back inside. Casey seemed to sense that, because she shooed Lex away when she tried to pick her amp up.

“This isn't very heavy for me, but you look tired. Don't overdo it; we've already had a big day,” Casey said, turning towards Lex as they headed back inside.

Lex sighed but looked up at Casey with a smile. “OK, Mom.”

Casey laughed in response. “If you were my kid, I'd have raised you with more manners.”

Lex laughed too, then half-turned to her friend. “Thanks.”

They were both smiling as they went inside.

Forward to Chapter 25
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Comments about anything you liked or that you thought could be improved are extremely welcome!

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  • 1
Kind of a slow chapter, but interesting.

I'm curious to see how much time it takes Lex to realize the name makes it sound like the band is HER army.

Also, I'm not sure they've fully grasped that their aim is to become an obscure, forever unknown band to stay off the radar, because they seem pretty enthusiastic about promoting themselves. :P

Glad you liked it...I figure when you're starting a new life, probably not much happens at first. : )

Heh, heh...I don't know if that'll ever occur to her!

Hmmm...the things they're doing are pretty much the same things that thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of bands do to promote themselves, and the vast majority of them remain unknown to most of the people in the world. It's kind of interesting these post-arena rock days that there are few famous musicians these days who are really new. It used to be that record companies put a lot of cash into promoting their future stars, but it seems that these days, the only musicians who can fill arenas are the ones that had the benefit of all of that publicity years ago.

For young or independent musicians, there's a lot of competition out there and it's very difficult to find a way to differentiate yourself from everyone else, or to become more popular than any other band. So, it may not be as bad a strategy as it seems...do the sorts of things that most bands do to promote themselves (so that it won't seem suspicious if anyone checks up on them) and likely remain obscure nonetheless. : )

Thank you for reading and commenting!

They should dial down on the good songs, try to be more mediocre...but what fun is that? Also, a band with a 7 foot bass player and a 7 foot manager is likely to be remembered.

True, true...but yes, most people don't take up something new and try to do a bad job of it. I don't know if they really could!

I know, one of their big problems is that Casey and Lou are both going to be taller than a lot of people, no matter where they go. On the other hand, though, they might get written off a bit more in a band...lots of people would probably think about it as a marketing gimmick, or write it off in general because those people in bands are always weird. XD

At any rate, thanks much for coming by to read and comment!

Hmm

(Anonymous)
Slow, but not a bad chapter. Just wanted to point out that the reason that people always call it the leader's project is because it is. No matter how much you want to talk about how it's the little guys who make the difference, they're still all interchangeable and therefor non of them are really essential to the project. They're cogs in a machine designed by the leader; harsh, but that's reality. Not everyone can have vision, and most people's vision stinks. On the other hand for the potential glory you get as the leader of the project you have much, much higher risks. Anything that happens is your fault, bad results reflect solely on you, whereas if you're one of the cogs just doing their jobs the worst that can happen is you lose that job (not likely unless you're incompetent) and go do the same thing for someone else.

On the same, or similar note people DO talk about how good Alexander's troops were. That doesn't change the fact that they were cogs however. They were that good because Alexander and his immediate subordinates demanded they be that good, because they put them through intensive training, because they equipped them with the most sophisticated gear of the time, and still most of their success was because of Alexander's command skills not because of the individual skills the soldiers had because of the standards he demanded and the training he orchestrated.

Even so though, even though pretty much all human accomplishment is the result of effort from the top to essentially herd the people at the bottom into doing what's necessary (either through orders or by making the leader's desire the most beneficial path from their viewpoint), the people just doing the 9-to-5 often get the credit anyway. If you want a perfect example considering you used Alexander then look the Roman legions. Their success was, like that of any other great army, entirely due to their leadership. They weren't supermen, they weren't better than the other armies they faced. The leadership created a mythos which inspired the men, they created a training regimen which forged them into soldiers, they equipped them with the best mass-produced armor and weapons of the time and put at their heads some of the best generals in the world during the time of their operation who devised some of history's most brilliant tactics, and as a result the Roman legions stomped almost all resistance. When the leadership failed, they failed. But not many people remember any specific Roman generals. Certainly not enough to justify the fame of the Roman legion. What everyone knows is the Legions themselves, that they were the best troops in the world at the time, even though most of those legionnaires simply followed the path their superiors herded them along to get to that point.

Again it's harsh, but it's reality. Most people just don't have it in them to DO anything, other than following orders, and if that was all that we had as a race we'd still be poking animals with sharp sticks for our suppers. All of our accomplishment, all our technology and civilization and wealth, can be laid at the feet of a tiny minority of the population who are just smarter or better motivated than the majority. It's nice to talk about how it's really the little guys who make the difference on any project but that's a blatant falsehood. Those little guys could be switched out for any other little guys in the same line of work who have been trained to the same standards and the results would be exactly the same because all they've got to do is follow orders.

Maybe that wasn't the author's viewpoint but just the naive protagonist in which case I apologize. It just stuck in my craw when I read it, it's such a childish sentiment in an otherwise okay story. If the little guys, the cogs and the workers, really were as motivated and intelligent and forward thinking as that tiny minority who actually propel human advancement we'd have colonized the whole galaxy by now and be living in a society without a concept of hunger or death. Instead they just trudge along following their orders and occasionally acting as easily manipulated agents for one of those one-percenters who wants to tear everything down instead of building it up.

Re: Hmm

(Anonymous)
I'm perfectly OK with you exposing your opinion. You have some good points, others I disagree with. But what DOES stick in MY craw is you saying everyone who doesn't believe as you do is childish and naive.

Insulting people who think differently than you do: not cool.

You also misunderstood Lex's point. Giving credit to a soldier for being well-trained and disciplined (and that IS worth being credited, because not everyone has the wherewithal to become an elite soldier, no matter the training regimen) doesn't, in any way, mean their general was any less skilled a tactician himself. That's what she was going for. Sharing the credit.

Thanks so much for participating here, and I agree with you about the insults; I don't appreciate them on my page.

I do appreciate you pointing that out about Lex's point, however. That's exactly what she was trying to get at, and you summed up very well.

Thanks again!

Well here's an interesting way to look at it. It is kind of ironic Lex saying that, since as an emergency response superhero team the rest of the "M-Team" were amazingly ineffective until Lex provided the initiative and logistical thinking to get them organized. On the other hand, Lex couldn't have done it on her own, or with any "interchangable cogs". Each of the team was an exceptional individual with unique abilities, literally, but none of them were leaders, until Lex came along.

Well-spotted, Fiona. It's quite true that Lex stepped forward to help in a way that no one had previously, and before she arrived things were rather disorganized. She'd be pretty much aghast if anyone called her the leader, though, because she just thinks about herself as part of the team. And yes, it would have been impossible for her to do what she did on her own, or unless she'd already gained her teammate's confidence, and she already knew well their limits as individuals, as well as her own.

I actually thought when I began this story that Joan would have been the one leading the team, but she didn't seem interested. That's one of the things about being a leader – it's not something everyone prefers to do; for some, simply doing a job well is all they want to do, regardless of their actual leadership ability.

Thanks for your comments!

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the chapter, and I'm very happy that you had a lot you wanted to discuss afterwards. One of the reasons I wrote this in the first place was to make people think, so I'm happy that it seems it worked.

While I (and Lex) agree with you that good leadership is important, what she was trying to get at with her comments is that these days, it is often leaders that are solely credited with accomplishments. In a partnership, it is only fair that all of the partners share what credit or blame there is to go around, but what I've seen much more of these days is that leadership gets all of the credit if things go right, and anything else (usually workers, but also conditions, shipping delays, weather, etc.) gets the blame if things go wrong. Even if any blame gets attached to leadership, they usually then collect their multi-million dollar severance packages and fly off to their next engagement on the corporate jet. There are some great leaders out there, but sadly, the amount of 'vision' I see in a good portion of leadership these days only goes as far as them seeing some more money make it into their pockets.

In actuality, it's definitely possible to do some good work with good leadership dragging along a bunch of reluctant workers, and it's also possible for a great team with lousy leadership to do good things. If you wish to reliably do great work, and even some world-class work, however, both a great team and great leadership are required.

A great leader is one who is humble enough to know that without a team, he or she is only an idiot tilting windmills in a field. Part of great leadership is the vision to find the team you need, and to get their input in in order to get the best possible job done. Another part of being a great leader is inspiring your team to greater heights by being the best that you can be, by being able to respect all of the individuals on your team and help grow their individual strengths, and by actually being committed to the team and the work that you're doing, rather than just looking to line your own pocket or polish your own credentials.

A great team is self-motivating and always looking to do a better job of what they already do well. Great leaders know one of their biggest jobs is to remove any of the BS preventing them from moving forward and, at all costs, to not do anything to de-motivate them.

There was actually a fascinating study done some years back that ended up focusing on these topics, although they only set out to find out how to move from having a good/mediocre company to a great one. It's called Good to Great, and was written by Jim Collins and his research team (all of whom are named, pictured, and credited), and one of their core findings was that if you want to take on this challenge, you will need a great team as well as great leadership. I highly recommend it to you to hopefully broaden your ideas about the function of the team in making a big idea into a reality.

Also, I have to mention that although I really appreciate thorough discussions from different viewpoints, please don't come here to insult people who don't agree with your views. Just because someone doesn't agree with you it doesn't make them wrong, they just see things in a different way than you do, probably because their experience in life has taught them different lessons than yours has.

Thanks again for reading and commenting!

Weight Loss tips

(Anonymous)
Say, you got a nice blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on...

Thanks for your kind words! So glad you're enjoying; there's much more to come.

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