Holden. A fake name for a very real boy. The first time I remember seeing him was at Ace of Spades in Sacramento, California. I must have seen him the day before, because Sacramento was the second date of the tour, but my earliest recollection of Holden is watching him watch, in the dark corner of the black and red venue.
A few days ago I got done with a tour where I met a lot of wonderful people. People who I really didn’t want to say goodbye to, people who made me feel at home on the road and people who truly excited me. There is a lot to be said about last month, but this is not the time for that. While on the roof of some apartment in Los Angeles, I was discussing with one of the guy’s that I have become really good at letting people go, to which he responded, “that’s kind of fucked up.”
Maybe he’s right, but like I discuss in A Temporary Home, it comes with the lifestyle, and it’s necessary otherwise you’ll break your own heart. I’ve learned to recognize when someone is special, and just enjoy the little time that I do have with the person and when that time is up, you let them go. Sometimes though, I meet someone who makes that pretty fucking difficult. I did meet someone like that on this past tour, but like I said, it is not the time to tell that story. However, it did get me thinking about other people I have said goodbye to along the way, so in honor of retrospect, I am going to tell you about Holden, a boy I met on tour in the spring of 2014, and I haven’t seen or spoken to him since.
I’m not sure what my very first thought was when I saw him, but I had a few.
One, he’s drinking alone, which I liked. Well, kind of alone. As alone as you can be when you’re inside of the venue that you’re playing at that night. He would entertain some passing females for a few minutes here and there, and I could tell that he was smooth. I watched him do that thing where you casually place your hand on someone’s arm or side as you lean in to put your ear closer to them in an attempt at conversation in a loud venue. That can be repulsive if a guy does it wrong, but I could tell he had that shit down. Even with his good moves though, he stayed leaning at this bar counter, and continue watching the show by himself and let the girls walk away.
Two, he looked like a douche.
Three, but an incredibly good looking douche. Now that I know him, I think that Holden is one of the most beautiful boys that I’ve ever met, but at first glance, I was sure that I was NOT going to like this guy despite his James Dean appearance. He had a piercing on his face, and just this look that kind of screamed, I’m trying. I was very wrong.
Four, there’s something else though. Something else must have ran through my mind because I still decided to say something to him. Maybe I figured that I was going to be on the road with this dude for four months, so I might as well get the first introductory conversation out of the way. He was not in the band that I was working for, so we were not on the same bus, but his band was the direct support, so we were still going to be traveling together (it was a four band tour package) for many months.
I had been watching this… couple(?) all night. I hesitate to say couple because I’m 90% sure that they were on a second date, or something close to that. I don’t know how to describe what this chick was doing, but it was one of the most embarrassing things that I have ever seen. Basically, she was trying to dance on this guy and be sexy, but just failing at it so hard. It looked like she was attempting to give a lap dance despite the fact that the guy was standing up. She kept trying to jump on him, and then dry hump him I guess…? It was such a catastrophe. I was literally laughing out loud at this brilliant sight, but there was no one else who seemed to be witnessing it.
Like I’ve said many times, I hate small talk, so I figured I’d use this moment to speak to Holden so we could skip the formalities and dive straight into making fun of people together. Holden was about 15 feet away from my merch table, so I motioned to him to come over. The very first thing I said to him was something like, “Have you seen this couple over here?”
Holden: “The dancing chick?”
Holden: “Oh I’ve been watching them all night,” he said with a lot of enthusiasm.
I fucking liked him immediately. I was so unprepared for him to have the same sense of humor as me, and to be on the exact same page as I was in that moment that I was kind of taken aback. As much as I hate talking, I am generally pretty good at conversation IF I decide to make an effort, but in those first moments with Holden, I did stumble a bit.
During the course of the tour, we went on to become fairly close. I don’t know that I have ever been so attracted to someone who I didn’t need to kiss. It was weird, I felt like I had a crush on him, but it was a very platonic type of crush. If that can even be a thing. I didn’t want to be with him and didn’t think about holding his hand or kissing him or fucking him or any of those things that you think about when you are into someone. But, he did kind of make me nervous, and I loved being around him. So I don’t know what the fuck to call how I felt about Holden. A “platonic crush” is the only thing I can come up with.
In a way, I think everyone kind of had a crush on him. I even heard the English Hooligan describe him as a “sweetheart” once, which I have never heard him call anyone else before or since. My fondness for him was no secret. I would regularly announce, “I’m in love with Holden,” to everyone (including him a couple of times I think) when I would see him by himself playing an arcade game, or sitting on the ground smoking a cigarette with a strand of hair falling into his face River Phoenix style, and those times when he said, “one second,” and then would walk a few feet away from us, vomit, and then turn right back around and join the circle again laughing, and take another shot of whiskey. Holden turned liquor into his bitch. It was outstanding. With that being said, that boy had some demons.
When you yourself are haunted, I think it’s pretty easy to spot another soul who is drowning in their own poison. On an afternoon in Philly, we ducked into a bar for a couple of beers, and he told me some of his tale which I won’t repeat here because it felt private, but I could feel that part of his past was eating him alive. But my God, he was such a beautiful disaster.
Holden is the type that somehow makes self-destruction look glamorous. I know that is terrible to say, but unfortunately, often times most interesting characters are the ones that are at constant war with themselves. I don’t want to make it sound like he was some depressive basket-case. He was always in a good mood and was always a good time, but I have a sixth sense about these things, and I could just tell that there was a lot going on underneath the surface. I used to love watching Holden on stage. Him and one of the guitar players would always smile at each other, and I’d often see them laughing about something, and it just looked like they were having so much fun. He belongs on stage.
I have this random memory of him, and it’s so seemingly insignificant that I don’t know why it stuck with me. We had a day off, so a few of us took a boat and jet ski out. We were out in the middle of the water and someone would take the jet ski for a few minutes, come back to the boat, and switch riders. EVERY TIME the new rider would drive away, they would unintentionally splash those of us on the boat with the fountain of water that jet skis create out the back. Even though everyone knew that this happened, and despite that they all tried to get far enough away so that the splash wouldn’t hit anyone, it did every time. Except when Holden got on. He was the only one who got the jet ski far enough away so that he didn’t splash anyone before taking off. That might seem minor, but for some reason it stuck with me.
Holden had good taste in music too. One of the very first conversations we had, one of the things that got brought up was the local music scene in the town where he is from. I asked him to make me a recommendation of a local, and he almost immediately said, “John Moreland.” I liked that he answered me so quickly. Often when you ask someone to give you a music recommendation on the spot, they shy away from the question.
So, I listened to John Moreland that night, and I fell in love with him, which made me fall in love with Holden. “Break My Heart Sweetly” is possibly the saddest song I have ever heard, and it seems oddly appropriate that I heard it due to Holden. It’s always sexy when the very first thing that someone tells you to listen to really hits home. It feels like you’ve found a kindred spirit. He went on to consistently give me good music recommendations, which brings me to the conclusion of this vignette. My retrospection of Holden inspired me to make a playlist. So this one is for Holden, the boy who broke my heart sweetly during the spring of 2014, and I’m so fucking glad that he did.