Schedule for the next month or so:
December 3rd: Hammerkatz NYU performs at the Brandeis Sketch Comedy Festival
December 4th: Hammerkatz Improv at Juvie Hall, 10:30
December 9th: Buy, Beg, Borrow or Steal, a Glengarry Glen Ross-esque show set to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." I play Jesus. UCB Theater, 7 PM.
December 14th: Hammerkatz NYU in their fourth and final original show of the semester. Kimmel Center, free to all.
December 16th: Pass out on the plane ride home.
If you're wondering hows come I don't post so much, or hows come National Novel Writing Month has quickly become National First Five Chapters Writing Month, this is hows come.
Instead of pumpkin pie and hearth and home, I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving because it will be the first day in recent memory I don't have anything planned.
Me and Trevor used to make fun of people in high school that couldn't stop talking about how "stressed out" they were. I always try to check myself so I don't become that person. So I don't. I love it. I live for this pace. People would kill for as much stage time as I'm going to get the first two-and-a-half weeks of December. "Exhiliration" and "Exhaustion" share many of the same letters.
Also on Thanksgiving, I'm gonna do laundry. It may or may not have been due since late September. And I have kissed girls in the intervening period. In light of the facts, few would deny that I'm some sort of wrinkle-shirted demigod.
"I don't have no problem with you fucking me
But I have a little problem wit you not fucking me"
Fall thinks it's Winter.
This lionized Fall finds you on the street in an insufficient jacket and Weezer or The Rentals come on your iPod and you remind you that there exists such a concept as California, or somebody in your Drawing class plays a CD of mariachi music on the stereo while you sketch bottles on a table for three hours and you wish they were chips and salsa, and a dude could find himself very homesick. Really, he could.
Neko Case just sang "In California/I dream of snow" when I finished that paragraph. M&Ms, mp3s, and maladies are the things I shove in the tiny cracks between The Busy. Yesterday in class I drew my Shakespeare teacher. There's gonna be at two Drive By Truckers concerts in New York when I'm gone. That's not funny, Whoever.
Chapter Four, my darlings:
REFUGEE FROM SUCCESS: The Only Randall Coats Interview (Ever?)
By April Townes
Thumbscrew Media, August 2003
All of Randall Coats’ things are in boxes. All of his worldly possessions are in two cardboard U-Haul moving boxes by the door on the day he grants me the only known interview he’s given since the insane success of his debut project, “The Moving Furniture In The Dark EP.” All his possessions, that is, save for his cat Misty, who darts out from between his legs when he greets me at the door of his second-floor apartment just off the campus of Oregon State, from which he graduated in May with a BA in English Literature.
“I just gotta go somewhere,” he says. “It’s getting kind of nuts.” For someone whose rampant underground popularity has rested in large part on the brilliant bluntness of his lyrics, understatement seems sort of incongruous coming from his mouth. But after a few minutes in his presence, you get the feeling that he’s never hedging for modesty or effect, it’s just that for him, most things register on a different, quieter, level.
For example, if you or I had two crazed fans ninja through your bedroom window one night and take extensive pictures of your domicile, in order to recreate them in excruciating detail as part of their shrine to you, or a OSU blood bank employee set aside the bag of plasma you donated at a campus blood drive to put up for auction on Ebay (both things have happened to Randall in the past six months) we might be moved to use words stronger than “kind of nuts.” But Randall is eternally, unaffectedly mellow: none of his overzealous fans have had charges pressed against them.
“Man, I wish I could show you where they got it wrong,” Randall says, when I show him the pictures the aforementioned ninja-girls put up on their Randall Coats tribute website of their bedroom-recreation shrine. “You got here like a day too late,” he says, gesturing to the boxes in the corner.
The website, named “Wright Patterson Air Force Base,” after the second track on his ubiquitous EP, has been getting millions of hits per week since going live in June, causing its purveyors, Amy and Irene (last names not given), to have to solicit visitors for donations to pay hosting costs. The thousands they’ve received from likewise Coats-obsessed fans has been more than enough to pay the bills; the site’s most recent update showed Amy next to the used Camry she purchased with the overage, vanity plate reading “RCLUVR1.”
What does Coats think of all this? “I dunno. I read that they flew here from New Jersey on their spring break just to break into my house. How crazy is that? I guess I don’t understand being that focused. I love Elvis Costello, but I could buy a lot of concert tickets with the money I’d spend on buying a glass cutter and slipping into his bedroom at night.” Glass cutter? I ask.
“Yup,” he says, going over to the coffee table and proudly holding up a perfect circle of glass about two inches in diameter. “Like a souvenir of being famous, I guess. I’ve been using it as a coaster.”
What do Coats’ newly nomadic ways forecast for the chances of a full-length album? “Why would you record a follow-up album when you never intended to have a first album?” he asks, chuckling, once we’ve settled on his couch. He refers, of course, to the well-known (and he admits, mostly true) legend of his first and only release: his girlfriend at the time burned a CD of home demos Coats had recorded to a laptop, which she then slipped to her friend, an employee of Portland indie label We Read Sanskrit Records. She presented him with one of the initial 500-copy run for his birthday.
“I was flattered. It was neat to have a CD, but it was like this weird transmogrification of some hobby I had. That’s all I ever intended for music to be, a hobby. It’s like if somebody took your model airplane and dipped it in gold and gave it back to you. It’s cool, but…okay. Y’know?”
Not many of us have the good fortune of having our hobbies picked up by major labels and topping Billboard’s Indie charts for seven months straight (and still holding at the time of this publication,) but Coats says he doesn’t feel much obligation to his fans. “All this stuff has just sort of happened. I haven’t helped it along. I’m not a performer. These are just six songs I guess people happened to like. I probably have about eighty other songs those same people would hate,” he says, “but nobody’s going to hear them because I put a password on my laptop.”
Misty has found his way back to his lap when I start reading him press clippings and fan postings analyzing his lyrical content. I ask him to sum up his message, if only to put a stay on all the verbiage that has tailed his mysterious rise. “I dunno,” he says, a finger fondling the bottom of the cat’s chin. “I just kind of feel like people should stop apologizing.” Can he elaborate? “Sure. I was in a Creative Writing class last semester and before anybody would read anything they’d always have an excuse. Like, it was late, or I really don’t know what this is, or this sucks, flat out, or whatever. And who cares? What do you gain from apologizing? I had this Composition teacher my sophomore year, and he said, Never Apologize, Never Explain. I think those are pretty good words to live by.” The cat purrs and stretches in his lap. His roommate’s keys jangle in the door.
“And naturally, here I am, explaining. Hey Ben.”
“Hey,” says his roommate, who joins us in the living room. “This is the interview thing?”
“Yea,” Randall says, “This is April.”
“Do you have the tape?” Ben asks me.
I’m found out. The tape is the reason I’ve been granted access to Fortress Coats where so many others have been turned aside, what I promised him when I first contacted him, the bait. It’s an industrial educational film from the sixties wherein a schoolmarmish woman teaches a seemingly mentally challenged girl how to use a tampon. Besides the music thing (who knows if that’ll ever go anywhere,) Randall’s other hobby is collecting strange video.
I take the prize from my bag and hand it to Randall. He barely contains his glee. “Let it never be said that I can’t be bought off,” Randall says. “Actually, don’t say that.” He bobbles the video joyfully. “I assume it’s better stoned.”
“Watch it straight,” I say, “you won’t know the difference.” And they won’t.
“We should put it on a loop at your going away party,” says Ben.
My exit upon delivery of the tape is marked by discussion of Randall’s similarly imminent departure to parts unknown. “Haha. I can’t tell you. As flattering as this was,” he says, holding up the glass coaster again, “it’s kind of the only one I ever wanna have, you know what I mean?”
Yes we do, Randall. But I think we wish we didn’t.
Here's Chapter Three.
Kids are bringing me beers. Good beers. From the second I walk in the door with Jesse and Mark, eighteen-year-olds are reaching into paper grocery sacks and handing me bottles. There are no cans, no aluminum silhouettes of mountains, just brown bottles with fancy hand-drawn labels and when I pull off them they taste like iron. I like a beer that tastes like a railroad. These are not beverages people who live with their parents usually drink, unless their parents own this house we’re in. The chandelier count is at three before we hit the kitchen. By that time, I’ve pretty much drank my way across a brewery map of the world. I can barely set an empty down on a stainless steel counter-top or antique end table before it’s replaced by some kid who it’s a surprise he gets the drink in my hand because for some reason he’s averting his eyes.
“So what’d you think of the set, Randy?” Jesse yells, party-tone, in my ear. “And you can be honest.”
“I dug it,” I say, my best “this guy I’m with is joking” face plastered as we become the nucleus of the kitchen.
“He called him Randy,” I hear a girl by the fridge say to another one.
“How’s Erin? You guys still talk?” I ask Jesse.
“How do you know Erin?”
“Erin, dude. College Erin. Herpes Erin.”
“No, I know which Erin you’re talking about, but how do you know her, Randall? You went to Oregon State. I went to New School. That’s all the way across the country.”
“Dude.” The bit’s over. We pranked some suburban hipster kids. I drank for free. I could probably bum fifty cigarettes off any kid at this party. Now I just want to bullshit to my friends I haven’t seen in three months. The place is teeming; with my one free hand I instinctually check my wallet, like I do in large crowds. My wallet’s there, but it’s grown a tumor.
I pull out the lump: someone’s slipped me a baggie of weed. I’m not much a pot guy but on a purely aesthetic level this stuff is beautiful. I turn around. In the doorway, a kid in an orange hoody throws me the devil-horns.
“Say thank you,” Jesse says.
I hold up the baggie and mouth the word “thanks.” Upon eye contact, the kid experiences internal Beatlemania. I think I may have made his year.
“Moving Furniture, man! That’s my shit!” he yells. The joy seems to overtake him and he melts into the living room.
“Holy shit!” somebody yells from across the continent-wide island in the center of the kitchen. “Randall Coats fuckin’ rocks the ganj!”
“No shit, Kyle,” a girl says. “That’s what the song Incense Holding Elephant is all about.” From between her dyed-black bangs and her Buddy Holly glasses, she looks over to see if I approve of her interpretation of a song I didn’t write. I replace the baggie in my pocket and return my attention to Mark and Jesse. Now Jesse’s holding a half-empty bottle of Maker’s Mark.
“Courtesy of our hosts,” Jesse says. Tall scruffy kid in a blazer toasts from by the sink. Jesse does likewise. “Also these,” he says, showing me another baggie, this one with two pills in it.
“Mark’s gonna find out.”
“There used to be four,” Mark says.
“Is it like this in every town?”
“Fuck no, Randall,” says Jesse. “Fuck no, it isn’t.”
He hands me the bottle. I take a swig, and when I bring it down, an Asian girl with an eyebrow piercing and a short skirt has joined us. “Awesome show, you guys,” she says to Jesse and Mark.
“Thanks,” Jesse says. “Glad you enjoyed it. What was your name?”
“Karisa,” she says, extending a hand.
“Jesse. Pleased to meet you, Karisa. This is Mark, and this is Randall.” Despite my stop-it glares, Jesse clearly has no intention of stopping it.
“He’s quiet,” Karisa says.
“He’s shy,” Jesse says.
“So they say,” says Karisa. Nobody looks at me like that. The few people who’ve ever attested to being in love with me never looked at me like Karisa looks at me.
“Where’s the rest of our awesome band?” Jesse asks Mark. Mark shrugs. “Well, let’s go find them.”
“Why?” Mark asks.
Jesse starts off, shoving the bottle at me as he goes.
“Thanks,” I say.
“You’re welcome,” he says, and they’re headed for the living room, where sixteen hipster kids are huddled around a laptop hooked to speakers NASA built, and no more than thirty seconds of any song gets played before it fades into its natural ironic counterpoint.
“I’m so glad they left,” Karisa says to me. “They’re awful, aren’t they?”
“Have you considered that they might be my friends?”
“You would never be friends with them,” she says. “Anyway, I’m glad they’re gone. I have something really embarrassing I want to ask you to do.”
She grabs me by the wrist and drags me through the party. Every other girl there admires her courage, or so I like to imagine, and from the looks on their faces I’m seeing as we rush by I’m getting nothing to disprove it. This isn’t my life, but whoever’s life it is I hope they like my old one because I’m not trading back.
She elbows two kids aside and drags me into a bathroom. The theme of the bathroom is nautical. “I couldn’t let anybody see me do this. Oh my god. So tacky.” I lean against the sink, whiskey on the marble countertop, nudging some potpourri. She opens her messenger bag that looks like it was made out of Che Guevara’s hat, and pulls out a vinyl copy of The Moving Furniture In The Dark EP.
She left all her bravado on the other side of the bathroom door. “I don’t…I don’t just like, carry this around with me, or anything…I brought it into work today…You don’t have to make it out to anybody…” I take the pen and the record and in the washed-out white spot that’s the window Randall’s staring out of, in handwriting that could beat up my handwriting, I sign RANDALL COATS.
“Ugh…I swear I’m not gonna sell it on eBay or anything like that… my god, I’m such a—“ and Randall Coats launches off the counter and kisses her hard to shut her up. His breath tastes like whiskey, hers like cigarettes. The record falls to the floor.
Almost two thousand words, y'all!
Chapter 1 is down the page. Chapter 2 is below. Enjoy.
On the Monday before the concert, Derek notices that my hands are stained red.
“You finger a girl you killed?” he asks.
“Yes, Derek. I fingered a girl I killed.”
Derek means “sick” like “that’s gross,” not “sick” like the slang term for something that’s cool, but Derek uses both, frequently. If Derek or an extreme sports star does something, it’s the latter. If myself or any avowed or simply Derek-declared homosexual does something, it’s the former. And Derek does not distinguish between those two groups, me and the gays, despite my early protestations to the contrary.
I wish Derek would network faster. And I wish Derek would network far away from me. There’s lots of room. We’re the only two people in a vast flourescently-lit barn that will someday be the Tulsa Community College Main Computing Commons. It would be the Tulsa Community College Main Computing Commons a lot faster if Derek would stop image-searching girls on their periods on computers he’s just put together.
“This is you.”
“I’m not looking, Derek.” He has the monitor of the computer next to the one I’m working on swiveled toward me.
“When did you grow a mullet?”
The cold shoulder never works, and by now I’ve worked up a tolerance to all manner of ghastly Internet porn, so I look.
“Yep, that’s me, alright.” Me is a portly guy giving one thumbs up to the camera, the other thumb in a girl whose head is cropped out, socks still on.
“Sick. You’re a fucking sicko.” He swivels the monitor back.
“I was dying my mom’s hair, Derek,” I say, which is the truth.
“Why did you do that?”
“Because she’s going senile and can’t do it herself.”
The terminals we’ve hooked up so far hum. I finish the one I’m working on and move over a seat.
“Chad Muska is the fucking sickest. I skate-battled him one time. No joke. In Oregon. He beat me, but even he said it was close. No joke.”
He turns the monitor back to me. A skater is doing complex tricks on a ramp.
“Yea.” And back again. “I basically invented that trick. Me and Bob Burnquist worked on it one whole summer in Oregon.”
Derek is a twenty-two year old kid from Oregon. I’ve never been there, but to hear him tell it, Oregon is a place where the drugs are excellent, the girls are easy, and extreme sports luminaries are constantly challenging Derek to feats at which if he doesn’t waste them, he at least does well enough that the star expresses surprise and offers Derek a bong hit. He is also my superior at Centricic Networking, leader in Tulsa’s burgeoning IT industry. (It says that on our van.)
Six and a half hours later, I get to go home. In that time I have hooked up forty-four computers to Derek’s seven. But on the other hand, I have not shown Derek a single humorous internet animation, autopsy photo, or video of two frat-boys doing naked beer bongs from opposite ends of a prone co-ed. I guess that’s what makes us a team.
My house is the house I’ve lived in since I was born. The car I drive home is the one I drove in high school. The tassle from my high-school graduation mortarboard is still dangling from the rearview mirror. I didn’t realize it was there ‘till a week after being in Tulsa and the night after I took it down my dad reminded me at dinner how much they paid for my graduation outfit. He threatened to find the receipt. I said I believed him. I put it back up while he watched, smoking on the porch.
I sleep in the same bedroom I did when I was a kid, before my mom started acting as though she perpetually had half-a-bottle of Robitussin in her. When I was a teenager I used to lock my door at night for the obvious reasons. Now I lock it so I won’t wake up to her sitting next to my bed in a rocking chair she dragged in from the hallway, the stuffed giraffe that usually occupies the chair in her lap, rocking slowly while she whispers words nobody can hear.
My dad gets home at seven-thirty and chides mom for still being in her bathrobe. We eat dinner in front of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” I download mp3s for a while and correspond with people from home. Later, I fall asleep with the TV on. Tomorrow I will be 17 minutes late for work, beating Derek in by half an hour.
We're going to have another four years of a terrible president, looks like.
I am okay with that, so long as my best friend in the world keeps pullin' ho's like this:
If Ohio goes to Bush, the sun will still rise. Beer will still taste good. Kissing will still be fun. Some things will be fucked, but some things are always fucked.
Despair is boring.
903 words down, 49,097 to go!
Guillermo has also joined the battle to write a novel in a month. As should you. You're not supposed to show anybody little bits and pieces of something big you're writing, I have heard the pros say, but fuck 'em. Motivation is going to be a huge part of this, and what motivates me is instant feedback from random dudes and girls on the internet. So here's Chapter 1 (after the jump)...
I’m not Randall Coats.
The girl giving me head in the downstairs bathroom at a house party in the suburbs doesn’t know that. She is kneeling on a vinyl copy of “The Moving Furniture In The Dark EP,” by Randall Coats, who I’m not, the jacket of which features the only known picture of Randall Coats, as an adult, anyway, his face turned towards the window next to the kitchen table he sits at, face all washed out by bad photography or an attempt to be artsy or both, wearing a shirt and tie, like the ones I’m wearing, and a hooded sweater, like the one I’m wearing, and a knit cap, like the one I was wearing but is now on the floor next to the record and the girl.
Her left knee is smudging where I signed the jacket. Randall is now looking at the window at a blue marker smear. Before that, he was looking at his own name. But he didn't write it. I did.
It was my first willful act as Randall Coats. Who, in case you hear otherwise, I’m not.
The Thursday Brigade. I used to sell merchandise for these guys. Jesse and Mark, the vocalist and drummer, respectively, I went to school with. I stood in the back of all kinds of shitty venues for these guys. I watched people actually leave bars because these guys started tuning up. On their way out into the cold, those people threw me you-should-be-ashamed-of-yourself glances, like I was watching my friends shoot up in a rusty bathtub. They were awful. And now look at them. Look at these haircuts.
These are things I think when I watch them take the stage at Stagnant, one of the two rock clubs in Tulsa. They haven’t signed to a major label yet but they’re being courted (“being courted” is not my choice of words, it’s in the e-mail Jesse sends me two weeks earlier when he tells me they’re coming to town) by Extra Medium Records, an indie label out of Portland. The band they’re opening for, Amory, just got a stellar write-up (again, Jesse e-mail language) on Thumbscrew Media, a music website that’s gospel for every kid who wishes he could walk out the front door of his suburban house and onto Avenue A. The place is packed. If I remember being seventeen correctly, all the kids who found out about Amory on Monday are scoffing at the Wednesday bandwagoneers. A cute girl walks by wearing a T-shirt with iron-on letters reading TULSA IS TERRIBLE! I agree.
The band comes on to a chorus of digital-camera flashes and camera-phone clicks. A lot of these pictures will show up on teenage girl’s online diaries later tonight, under the words THESE GUYS SUCKED. Or Thursday Brigade! Cute! No one in Brooklyn thought they were all that cute. I am wondering who got them matching black skinny ties, and come to the conclusion that it was probably them.
It says something about my new life that when they play the first few bars of “Shannon,” the opener that used to send eyes rolling and exit doors swinging and my hand for the flask I kept in my pocket to get me through these never-ending gigs, I get homesick. I start wading through the crowd towards the stage. I haven’t been to a single concert since I’ve moved here. Finally have the means to go see a show a night and nobody but nobody plays here.
The crowd is squarely divided between kids who are making a statement by dancing and kids who are making a statement by standing.
At the end of the third song, which is new and halfway decent, Jesse spots me.
“Boys and girls,” he says, “we are very lucky to be joined tonight by, uh…someone I’m sure you all know, and if you don’t know, you need to get to know…someone you wouldn’t expect to see at a concert in your fine city, or even out in public, anywhere. Somebody who probably doesn’t want me to point him out, but I think he deserves your thanks and acclaim.”
I don’t get it. I’m about to crack a smile and shout “Less talk, more rock!” which back in the day I shouted many times and they never, ever took to heart.
“Randall Coats,” Jesse says, looking right at my where I’m standing now with my elbows on the stage, “I had no idea you were a fan.”
I look down at what I’m wearing. I have the EP at home. I get the joke.
“I’m not,” I say.
Mark counts off the next song. It’s hard to pay attention. There seems to be a lot of finger-pointing going on. The cameras are flashing again, and this time, if I’m not mistaken, at me.
Jesse and I did a video project our senior year of college where we pretended to be protestors advocating the United States’ immediate withdrawl from Iowa. (US OUT OF IOWA NOW! was the name of my thesis film.) We discovered something on the streets: people think that when they ask you if you’re kidding, you say “no,” there’s no way you’re kidding. There’s a lot of talk about the death of trust in our society, but more often than not, if you look somebody in the eye and don’t crack a smile, they will believe whatever you say.