In which L’Eric kindly gives me props.
Entering the bedroom, I knew something was wrong: there was a naked baby peeing on the bed, a put-upon wife sobbing on the sheets. I extended my hand; she took it willingly, looked at me with blazing eyes.
“She is blazing.” I touched our child’s head. It was true. The forehead was hotter than my wife’s eyes. I reflected on earlier times, better days when I could sleep. I also recalled the times during which my wife would slumber. I remembered the nights, those glorious nights, when it was peaceful, when our little offspring, snug in her bed, would pass the night without expelling a single slug-like loogie. The poor dear—I looked at her now, her brow fevered, her baby voice husky, and she spoke to me:
“I will never sleep again.”
And we believed. God help us, we believed.
That’s why I haven’t been blogging. Happy holidays, everyone. Higher quality content coming soonish.
I think today’s irony ends up saying: “How totally banal of you to ask what I really mean.” – David Foster Wallace
When I was 16, I started my first blog. It no longer exists, thank God, but it was, as all things were at 16, about me. It was about the times I was sad, when I was jilted, when I was angry. Sometimes it was about things I loved, but not that often. When I was 17, I decided that being personal wasn’t the way to go. I started a new blog and resolved not to post anything too intimate. It was no one’s business how I felt, what I loved, whatever. Plus, I had an image to maintain. It wasn’t a particularly cool image, but it was carefully curated, glazed in protective irony and topped off with a healthy dollop of snobbery toward anyone who disagreed with me on anything–music, movies, snack cakes, etc.
Fast-forward 12 years, and a part of me is still that self-protecting 17-year-old. I’m not cool–never will be, really, and at least I realize that now–but my natural reaction is still, when someone gets too close, to deflect. To go on the offensive when something I care about is dismissed. At the same time, there’s still a tendency to distance myself from things I like if they contradict the image I want to present. I can’t just like Taylor Swift; I have to “like” Taylor Swift. I can’t just rock out to We’re Not Gonna Take it; I have to “rock out” to We’re Not Gonna Take It. And so it goes.
Juvenile? Yeah. Silly? Of course. But this is how it is: we’re told to love what it’s ok to love, and “love” everything else. Even with the things we really do care about, we must be wary of caring for them too much; we must keep them at arm’s length, at least in public. Keeping it real has been replaced with keeping it “real”.
Atmosphere: Car lane was well-lit. Did not feel as though I was likely to be mugged until someone walked too close to my window. Lane was spacious, making it easy for me to defend myself with travel taser. Child’s parents were not sympathetic, although I used the low-voltage setting. This was not Taco Bell’s fault, however.
Speed of service: Unknown, as food was never received. It took less than one minute to be dragged from my car, however. The citizens that held me down were quite efficient, with one sitting on my legs and one on my thorax. Elderly woman had police on speed dial.
Quality of food: See Speed of Service.
Employee attitude: Employees were largely unhelpful. Did not offer refund or respond to my cries of helpless innocence. Note: Customer not always right at Taco Bell.
Would return: If restraining order is lifted, yes. Am curious about new Steak Nachos.
Final score: 8.5/10 Best dining experience in some time.
When people first meet me, the first thing they think is, “Wow, he’s tall.” The second thing is, “Aaaaagh!” followed immediately by, “Be cool, don’t stare, he’s still a human being.” Most, sadly, aren’t able to convince themselves, and the relationship ends there. It’s not their fault–I know I’m hideous. You see, I’m missing the tip of my pinkie finger.
It comes up in all sorts of situations, this revulsion. In drive-thru at McDonald’s, an employee will take a quick look and then scuttle as quickly as possible to the bathroom, gagging. A lifelong friend who has never seen me without gloves will tell me it’s not working out, dry heaving all the while. My wife will tell me she has a headache, and then lean over the wastebasket.
It’s not my fault, this disgusting aberration. It happened one night, at a campfire, while riding a go-kart with an unlicensed ten-year-old. A turn was taken too quickly, a roll bar had never been installed, an engine was hungry for human flesh–and in that instant, I became a freak.
It’s been a burden, truly, but I know it has made me a stronger person. I have had to work harder to become a below-average guitarist, though I will never be able to make a clean B-major. A pinkie ring big enough to fit over the misshapen bulb will hang loosely on my pinkie stalk. I will never be a hand model. And yet, through it all, I have learned to be brave, have endured the scorn and hatred sent my way by those too ignorant or uncompassionate to see that, beneath this mutant digit, there beats a human heart, the same heart as everyone else.
Look at me, people! I am a freak. I am a monster. And I am one of you.
If I am ever on fire, please, put me out.
If I saw a friend of mine, and they were on fire, I might be tempted to just look the other way. Not because he or she isn’t important to me, but the blaze could ignite my haircare products and make my head go up in flames. No one wants an exploding head, no matter what they say to your face.
That’s why I’m glad that my friends aren’t like me. They’d put me out without a second thought, most of them. I’d probably put them out. There would probably be a delay. I’d at least collect their ashes.
Am I selfish? Perhaps, but if your body was made of 100% post-consumer waste, you might want a little distance as well.
It’s hard to put out a fire when you’re made of paper.
– Klan rally
– Birthday party for friend who has recently broken up with a giraffe
– House warming for giraffaphobe
– Rehearsal dinner for long-necked friend
– Vegan luau
– Wake for lion that starved to death
They were, by all accounts, the worst band in the history of the world. The accounts themselves were few, of course. If there had been too many, they might have ascended above their categorization on the strength of sheer numbers. Instead, people–they really had no fans–talked to me and told me about the times they had heard them play. Only one of the subjects I spoke to had heard them play more than once, which made sense, because, as Hank said, why would anyone see them twice?
They weren’t enjoyable in any way, and it’s important to note this, since I live in, and am writing for, a post-ironic age. If you attended a show for the purpose of ironic appreciation, a phrase that is here being appropriated to mean “actual appreciation that comes from extra-musical elements, but can’t be admitted without utilizing irony as a ten-foot pole with which to touch the object of said appreciation”, you would be disappointed, as several, not many, were. Having heard that a very bad band–no one knew yet that they were the worst, because if they had, the audience for superlatives may have, as mentioned earlier, pushed them up a rank or two–was playing at some dive downtown, Greg and Amy had gone to hear them. They stood close to the stage and listened for maybe three, four minutes, two songs, and then, across the bar, saw Ed and Gina who waved them over. By the time they’d crossed the small room, they’d forgotten a band was even playing. When I interviewed them, they had to be reminded of the night. It was also the night Ed was hit by a car.
No one remembered their name except the members. They were called The Heads, which, while not the worst moniker ever bestowed upon a subpar bar band, was certainly among the least distinguished. Alan told me that they had considered “The Screaming Wombats”, “Alan and the Architects” and “Danger, Will Robinson!” but had opted for The Heads because it took far less time to stencil on Harry’s drum kit. Harry himself told me that it took longer to take off than to put on. He took it off the day before they broke up.
The Heads biggest show took place downtown, at a festival intended for the young but populated mostly by the old. The most involved audience member was an old woman in a wheelchair, who sat close to the stage all night, not moving except to adjust the tube to her oxygen tank. Jenny, the bass player, told me that she had interpreted the woman’s occasional movements as some esoteric dance. It provided her with the only burst of joy she received during her entire three month tenure in The Heads. Two days later, a seventeen year old kid was dancing in front of the stage, dancing like crazy, until he fell down and seized up. The EMTs told Joey, the keyboard player, that he’d been so full of heroin he probably hadn’t know his own name, and that the kid was deaf anyway. Joey’s keyboard had been on the fritz anyway.
The Heads never really settled on a style, but they were capable of making anything their own. They started, according to Jack, the tambourine player, as a psycho-billy post-punk mashup, but, upon learning that their singer couldn’t yell due to throat polyps and their guitarist couldn’t play the pentatonic scale due to a lack of skill, they tried their hands at everything: freak-folk, ambient, post-rock, strummy acoustic rock, country, atonal wailing–anything that required very little in the way of skill or tonality. John’s parents, who had bought him the mandolin and indirectly started the whole thing, said they couldn’t really tell the difference between the different iterations of the band, which The Heads took as a compliment on their unique sound.
Their final show, which took place in the basement of Casa Roca High School during a blackout, was an acoustic set of Neil Young covers. Eden, their DJ, couldn’t plug in her turntables, so she raked her abnormally long fingernails against the chalkboard to similar effect. “I wasn’t worried,” she told me in our interview. “they were fake anyway.” It was attended by the members of the band, the janitor, and two students who had fallen asleep in each other’s arms, who, when I asked them, claimed they hadn’t woken up until the power came back on.
The Heads split after three months together, citing differences. Although Jake attributed his lack of interest to the paucity of interesting piccolo parts in The Heads’ music, the official story, not that anyone heard it, was that The Heads had accomplished all that they wanted to accomplish, and also that Ted, the percussionist had lost a foot.
Only Travis, the singer/songwriter, seemed upset about The Heads breaking up. After the split, he’d attended at the conservatory for several months, until his vocal teacher informed him that, although spirit was important, it was not all that was important, and gently implied that Travis might find a better way to spend his money. Travis took this as a sign and enrolled in an Creative Writing MFA, hoping to parlay his experience writing lyrics into a career in letters. Two weeks after enrollment, during the “critique” section of the class period, a fellow student told Travis that his poems weren’t that bad. He followed up by affirming that he was proud of Travis for taking up writing, even though English wasn’t his first language. After class, he put in an application at Subaru.
I got the band together one more time, sans instruments, at Patino’s Pizza, and over a meat-lovers, we discussed their short career. There were no grand statements, no proclamations of broken dreams and crushed ambitions. Roger summed it up best, when he said, “There were a lot of bands that wanted my xylophone. But most of them were good.”