Before Wesley left, I told him that I was interested in arranging a meeting between him and Darnielle. “No way!” he said. “I feel like Charlie in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. And I have the golden ticket.” I didn’t mention that, in the end, Charlie wound up profoundly disappointed with Willy.
Wesley and Darnielle were set to meet at Webster Hall, the day after the Music Hall show. I found Wesley outside before the sound check, and his face was chalk white. “I think I’m gonna throw up,” he said. As we walked up the stairs to Darnielle’s dressing room, Wesley mumbled reassuring words to himself. Wesley was told Darnielle was changing, and there would be a few minutes delay. Then the dressing-room door opened and a record-label assistant beckoned Wesley inside.
“Hey, you’re the guy I am supposed to meet!” said Darnielle, gamely trying to sound excited. Wesley said hello and took a seat on a beat-up couch. Darnielle ended a long, painful silence by confessing, “I’m sorry, I am in a really bad mood. The stage in Williamsburg is covered in carpet, and I never feel like I play well on carpet. And there was too many people backstage.” He launched into a lament about life on the road. “Doesn’t rock and roll seem glamorous?”
Another awkward pause followed, but this time Wesley took the initiative. He said that he knew Darnielle was a private person and probably hated the artificiality of the situation. With that, Darnielle smiled and loosened up a little.
“Don’t worry, I had a teacher who said the moment when man wrote things down, life becomes a production instead of pure,” said Darnielle. “It’s all downhill from there.”
Wesley replied, “I had a ninth-grade teacher who said the ruin of man was the creation of a false society, which started the first time he shared his crops with his neighbors.”
Both men laughed. Wesley told Darnielle he was a devout Christian. They then began talking excitedly about BibleGateway.com, a website where you can put in any Bible verse and the site spits out translations. “I’ve got something that is going to freak out the Protestant,” Darnielle told Wesley. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small rosary adorned with a picture of Mother Teresa. “I was raised Catholic, and it’s all about the liturgy of the heart, and I still pray it will relax me even though I don’t believe.”
Wesley beamed, paused for a moment, and reached into his own pocket. He pulled out a long, black rosary with two Corpus Christis and two Virgin Marys flanking a medallion.
“I was baptized a Catholic before I became Christian, and I still carry these with me,” Wesley said. Darnielle’s eyes went wide, and he clasped Wesley on the shoulder.
Then Darnielle grabbed a felt-tip marker and began to scribble on a paper plate. “You can’t leave empty-handed,” he told Wesley. He scribbled a line in Hebrew, a verse from Ecclesiastes that he remembered from a college class. It roughly translates as “There is nothing new under the sun.”
The two of them posed for pictures. Wesley smiled beatifically while Darnielle mugged shamelessly, resting his shoulder on Wesley’s. “Someone told me that there is nothing more not rock and roll than two guys posing for pictures together,” said Darnielle. “We might as well go all the way.”
It was time to leave. For a second, Wesley and Darnielle paused without shaking hands. Darnielle because he has germ issues, Wesley because he knows Darnielle has germ issues. But then Darnielle relented, maybe because it was the last night of the tour. The two shook hands and hugged. Then they said two final words, precisely in sync: “Thank you.”
Pig That Rain Straightaway Into the Water, Triumph Of