The Fifth And Final Day of the Random Biggie Lyric Short Story Challenge
Today's random lyric:
At last, I'm literally loungin' black
Sittin back, countin double digit thousand stacks
When the Billy Joel song "Piano Man" comes on everybody gets a little misty about the romantic ideal of the piano man, the underappreciated entertainer and friend disappearing quickly as supper clubs and nightspots with neon martini glasses shut their doors one by one.
So I've started playing it at the end of the night. It makes people tip more. Misty drunks will drop twenties, or just-broken twenties, into the oversized brandy glass that serves as a tipjar, if they have any money left.
The chorus goes "Sing us a song you're the piano man," but I don't sing. I play behind Tony Palomino and the Twins at 9:30, then again at midnight. In between their sets, I back up Rebecca. Rebecca's stagename is just Rebecca, and the Tony Palomino's twins aren't really twins. A lot of deceit goes on at the Albanian Oak Lounge.
In between the acts, I play filler. I try to take requests but everybody who comes in here is twenty years older than me and I don't know any of the songs they want to hear, really.
I shake my head. "I don't know that one." The woman's botox-ed face wrinkles in places faces aren't supposed to. She walks away: "Who ever heard of a piano player that didn't know..."
The sign in the front window, underneath big black-and-white glamour shots of Tony and his twins, and Rebecca, both of them clearly taken in happier times, announces AND GRADY TWO MOONS ON THE PIANO!
I'm not Grady Two Moons. He died six weeks ago and I'm an emergency replacement drafted from an advertisment in the newspaper of the college where I'm a graduate music student. I am told if you pulled down that sign, you would see another that read, AND ON PIANO, GRADY THE IVORY-TICKLIN' INJUN! The Albanian Oak Lounge has been around long enough to span many ideas about what is and isn't an appropriate advertising hook.
One night on my break I sat at the bar and wrote possible slogans advertising me, assuming I planned to stick around long enough to make that worthwhile. Among the ones I came up with.
AND ON PIANO, JEFF THE JEW!
A Grady-style trade on my race.
AND ON PIANO, JEFF THE IVORY-TICKLIN' INCURRER OF MASSIVE STUDENT LOANS!
A sympathy play, pure and simple. Just whispering to some kindhearted old barfly whose song I might actually know, "Oh, me? I'm a student!" is usually good for a couple bucks and a "stay in school, kid, don't end up like me."
AND ON PIANO, JEFF THE IVORY-TICKLIN' GIRLFRIEND IMPREGNATOR!
Needless to say, I didn't show this list to Laura.
I never stick around past last call, never accept the bartender's offer of "one for the road," never do anything but respectfully and hastily decline the bloody-Marys-and-tranquilizer-induced come ons from either of The Twins.
I hit the big padded doors running some nights.
"Oh, where's he going!"
"Oh but you're so cute in your little coat!"
"Tony beats us!"
I'm in the Geo by this time. I have to admit, the free booze from Stan the bartender is occasionally tempting, but once you become the sort of person who hangs out at your bad make-ends-meet job after you are no longer required to be there, it's like becoming a werewolf. You either have to be killed or sprinkled in holy water, and like I said, Jeff the Jew, so that one's out.
Laura hates how I come home smelling like smoke.
A fortysomething guy with a lose tie comes up one night to request "Oh, Mandy." I tell him I don't know it.
He starts to walk away. "What kinda piano player...Wait." He turns back around. "I know you from my kid's school."
Three weeks earlier, I'm doing parent-teacher night at the school where I student teach music classes. This guy's in the front row, maybe the same tie. His wife has her big red talons in his arm like if she lets go the slightest bit he'll float away.
"Oh, right! Heh, weird to see each other here."
"Yea. My kid's teacher's a lounge lizard."
"It's just, uh...it's just extra cash."
"Right. I can't blame ya. They don't pay you guys shit. I can sympathize. How's my boy? Honestly."
Four weeks earlier, my eyes are still almost stuck together from not leaving the goddamn Albanian Oak 'till three thirty, pissed off from only pulling down twenty-seven bucks the whole night, and in my first class Terry, this guy's son, is using his recorder as an exaggerated phallus.
"Okay, Terry, that's your first warning. Now everybody, let's open our books to an old classic I like to call-- TERRY!"
"He's great," I say. "Really enthusiastic."
The father looks at me, incredulous. "You say so. You and his mother agree. You guys oughta meet."
"I think we did meet at--"
"No, I mean-" he pantomimes taking his wedding ring off. Then he laughs a barrel laugh. "Nah, I couldn't do that to another young guy. Look what she did to me! Ha!"
"Yea, anyway, I'm going to be married myself," I say. There is no stated agreement between Laura and I on this point but it's just sort of the orbit we're both in.
"I give you twenty bucks ya don't do it," he says. "It'll be the best twenty bucks anybody ever spent on you."
"I couldn't take-"
He points to his glass. Scotch. "I used to be a beer drinker, kid. Think about it. Anyway, here's five bucks for your bravery in the face of doom. Learn some songs, huh?"
"Yea," I say. "I will."
I don't suggest that maybe he should be home because then I would sound like Laura. That night after "Piano Man" has netted me an extra seven bucks and all the chairs are finally on all the tables and Tony and one twin have carried the other catatonic twin to their Caravan, I sit at the bar and tell Stan I'll take that drink. I bum a smoke from Carla, the late night waitress, and when I've smoked it all the way down Stan pours me another one, and pours Carla one, and we all toast to Grady Two Moons.
Day Four of The Random Biggie Lyric Short Story Challenge
Today's random lyric (From "Unbelievable"):
My forte causes caucasians to say
He sounds demented, car weed-scented
Friday night, we hotbox Chrisï¿½s Civic.
There's no CD player, just a tape deck, and nobody has tapes anymore and Chris is too lazy to dub any CDs so all we have to listen to are tapes his brother's ex-girlfriend made for his brother. A lot of mid-nineties alternative music. This car used to belong to Chris' older brother.
"There is no alternative music anymore," Chris says, very philosophical after one joint.
"Your brother used to fuck this girl to this music," I say, very sorry after he punches me in the arm.
Her name was Kate. KATE + CHRIS ADORATION MIX 96, one of the tapes says in loopy blue pen. Can't you just write love? Adoration is something Catholics do for saints. I already don't like this girl. But, by the same token, I'm in love with her.
Chris fast-forwards through an Ani DiFranco song while we pull out of the church parking lot. We're both seventeen years old males and we're not about to listen to a chick song alone together in the car.
On the way to Sonic, we play Ways To Die. Chris is so good at this game it's scary.
"So, I'm hitchhiking on the side of a deserted highway when The Rapture happens like in that series of books all the kids in LifeTeen love to read, right? So all the good Christians are recalled to Heaven. And you better believe all long-distance truckers are Christian, right?"
"You don't KNOW that, I'm sure there are--"
"COME ON. Who ever heard of a Muslim truckdriver?"
"Trucks have to come and go in Muslim countries too!"
"Right, but I'm not in a Muslim country, I'm in Nebraska, right? And two trucks, headed down this same highway straight at each other, driverless because both of their good Christian drivers have been recalled to Heaven, leaving their ass indentations in the seats, both these trucks, they're both rolling toward each other, and I'm in the middle. I see them both coming, slowing down but not stopping."
"They're slowing down because no one's pressing the gas?"
"Right, but they're still fucking TRUCKS so they're still fucking hauling. And they both start to leave their lanes."
He hits play on the tape deck. We're in the middle of a Pavement song. Fast forwarding is an inexact science, especially when you're stoned and playing Ways To Die.
"-and I think, awesome, right, BOTH these guys are stopping for me, I have truckers FIGHTING to get me to my destination-"
"Not important. They're still hauling, though, not really slowing down fast enough to stop. And they're still swerving. I run out into the road to try to signal them, see what's up, I don't know...I go deer in headlights, right? And these two driverless trucks, not going full speed but still enough to catch me and still fucking TRUCKS, I'm sandwiched between them. I try to jump out of the way but I just end up pinned from the waist down like Mel Gibson's wife in 'Signs. And I see, neither of these trucks has a driver. Nobody can hop out to help me. I'm just fucking stuck there, bleeding to death--"
"HOLD ON. Then the crows start to circle."
"I'm trickling kidney fluid through the hot fused grilles of these big fucking trucks, I have no idea God has made his judgment and judged me unworthy, but just from where I am I think I can probably, like, infer that, y'know? But I'm not bleeding fast enough to die. Not before I can get dehydrated in the hot Nebraska sun and listen to country music still playing from both trucks. Different songs. Not before the crows come and peck out my eyes."
The Pavement song fades out.
"Okay, your turn."
This girl we know from school, Tina, roller-skates out to our car when we pull into Sonic. She looks good, but everything looks good right now. When Chris rolls down the window she wrinkles her nose.
"Aww, you guys shouldn't drive while you're high."
"Tina," Chris says. "We don't tell you how to live your life. I don't roll down my window and go, 'Eww, don't work at a fast food place.'"
"Very funny, dickhead. What do you guys want?"
"The usual," Chris says.
"I...don't know what that is."
"It's four--" I start.
Chris shushes me. "Is Tito working?"
"No," Tina says.
"He knows what the usual is."
"Right," Tina says, "but I just told you he's not working."
"It's four orders of tater tots, two cheese Coneys, and two cokes with cherry and vanilla," I tell her.
"Aww, you guys order exactly the same thing," she says. "Be right back," and rolls away.
"Great, now she thinks we're gay," Chris says. He leans over and starts to fast-forward through a PJ Harvey song.
"I don't think she thinks that. Anyway, she has a boyfriend."
Her boyfriend, Kevin, edits the school paper. Chris' brother used to edit the paper, before he went off to college.
"Yea," Chris says. "She has an asshole boyfriend. Don't they fucking all."
Chris hits play. "Who's this?" I ask.
"The Replacements. But it's half-over."
"How do you know?"
"You should learn to listen to the radio. Or dub some CDs. I'm tired of these tapes and this isn't even my car."
"The radio is a corporate sham. It's not how it used to be."
I don't ask how he knows how it used to be.
"Okay...uhm...terrorists have hijacked Air Force One. And I'm on Air Force One because--"
"If this turns out to be a NOBLE death you're walking home. No noble deaths. No heroics. It has to be painful and excruciating."
Tina rolls back up with our food. We pay her. I eat slow so I have time to think of a painful and excruciating death. When we're done with our food, we can't think of anything else to do and it's still pretty early so we drive back to the church. There's another joint in the glovebox in a Boyz II Men cassette case.
When Chris and I were twelve, we used to hang out in his basement every day after school. It was huge and furnished, constantly stocked with all the food we could eat, all the soda we could drink. Freedom incarnate, and three gaming systems. We never went to my house.
Chris' brother's room was down in the basement, too. His friends would be in there sometimes, smoking and playing guitar. Other times it would be him and Kate alone in there. While Chris and I were watching cartoons we were listening through the wall, painting ourselves into high school lives, big mature lives full of guitars, cigarettes, and adult love.
Sometimes Chris' brother would come out with his shirt off and comment on the game we were playing or ask Chris what they were gonna have for dinner. I remember a very specific time, Kate came out. We were watching Dragonball Z. She made for the bathroom. Her hair was a little mussed and she was wearing one of Chris' shirts from newspaper, My Drinking Staff Has A Newspaper Problem. It had gotten Chris suspended the semester before. It was way too big for her. Then, when she was done in the bathroom, she got two sodas from the fridge and went back in Chris' room. She closed the door and we could no longer hear whatever music they were listening to.
That's what it will be like, I thought. That's what it's like.
Chris finishes peeing in the bushes, hops the divider and walks back to the car. The church parking lot has the last lights for miles, until the Indian reservation.
He climbs in the car and says, "My brother says in college all you do is discuss the things you want to be discussing with people smart enough to discuss them with you, and fuck. Talk and fuck, all the time."
I fast forward through a Liz Phair song while we debate going back to Sonic.
Today's lyric is from "Sky's The Limit":
Gettin larger in waist and taste
Ain't no tellin where this felon is headin, just in case
“Let’s get three. Yea, I know they’re big, Kyle, but we want three of ‘em. We’re gonna share, right, sweetheart?”
I nod, but when the waiter brings them over, there’s no way I’m gonna touch them. He’ll bitch about it but secretly he’ll like it. He’ll like showing me he can spend money on food nobody eats. The waiter goes.
“God, this fuckin’ guy…I didn’t stand in breadlines the Depression so I could have some punkass telling me about how much appetizers I can and cannot order!”
You were in the Depression? I ask.
“No, no. That was me doing my father. I can tell this isn’t gonna work out.”
When he picked me up in his Maserati, Craig told me he was going to be “trying out characters all night. I’m working on this one man show about my life, and I’m gonna just slip in and out of these six characters I’m working on, so don’t be alarmed.”
All actors want to be rockstars. All rockstars want to act. And if Craig Roccavivara is any indication, all paroled supposedly reformed drug kingpins want to have hit one-man Broadway shows.
“No, no,” I say. “That was good. I mean, obviously if it was good if it was so believable. I really believed you were in the Depression. Enough to ask, anyway.”
“Aww, really? You think?” he says, touched. No, I don’t think. Goddammit. You always have to straddle the line between attempting to spare someone’s feelings and making it clear you are too disinterested to sleep with them no matter how many sampler platters they order. I just put a big dumb foot on the wrong side of that line.
“Your sister’s told me all about you,” Craig says.
“All good, I hope,” I say.
And of COURSE it’s all been good. She’s probably been telling him the things she’d tell him about herself if she weren’t married and therefore unable to fuck him. My sister adores Craig. She’s read his memoir “From Shoveling Snow To Breakin’ Rocks In The Hot Sun: The Seasons Of A Druglord” six times since he signed it for her at her job as his parole officer’s secretary. He wrote his number on the inside cover, and she and her husband have since been to six parties at his legendary all-white house.
“He’s lonely,” she told me. “He asked if I knew anybody as nice and pretty as I am, and I think you two would be great together.”
“You think I would be a great sacrifice on the altar of Lindsay’s Exhilarating Friendship With A Drug Dealer, you mean.”
“He’s NOT a drug dealer!” She then lists as evidence the fact that he shows up to his parole officer’s every week, and he takes a drug test, and then continues describing everything in his house that’s white.
“ALL the silverware is white, all his cars are white, with white wheels and rims, all the glass in the house is a special kind that appears white at certain angles, all the flowers in the backyard are white…”
Craig’s shirt is white until a blob of mango chutney lands on it.
The three appetizer platters are here, each consisting of the same three finger foods and three sauces. I wonder why, since they were all for the same table, they couldn’t have just brought us three platters with one thing each on them. I guess they assumed it was for a big table to share, one platter for each end and one for the middle. Instead of how it actually is, Craig with one platter on each side on a stand and one platter in front of him.
“You’re probably wondering how come all the white.”
“Oh yes, I was,” I say, “I just didn’t know if it was rude to ask.”
Dammit. Must stop appearing interested.
“Well, my mother was a neat freak, and I promised to make her proud, even though when we were younger it drove us nuts. Get outta here, you kids! Get outta here!”
I look behind me to see who he’s addressing.
“I was doing my mother. She was telling us to get out of the living room after she’d just cleaned it.”
Neither of his characters sounded at all unlike his normal speaking voice. Not the slightest shift in pitch or accent. Just louder. Several people looked over this time.
“That was great,” I say. “Again, so real.”
He blushes. “Well, y’know, that’s my training.” He proceeds to tell me about a now-unknown breed of brilliant actors and directors that went to jail on trumped-up drug charges in the sixties, and how three of these lost geniuses were in his cellblock. “And Stanislavski, and Meisner, and all these assholes, these guys took all the credit and wrote my guys, the jail guys, the true minds, out of the history books.” The biggest of these jailhouse influences, for Craig, was a guy named Rotgut Mickey. I don’t ask how he got that name.
“You believe me?”
“Yes,” I say, “you really have a knack for believability.”
“Well, that’s all Mickey, that guy could tell a shanking story and I swear you could feel the screwdriver between your ribs.” Craig eats his eighth crab fritter. “You aren’t touchin’ the food!”
“Well, nothing stokes an appetite like a shanking story.”
“Whoa, okay, sorry… a guy tries to open up.” He looks genuinely hurt. Involuntarily I grab his arm.
“I’m sorry, Craig, that was rude of me. Here, I’ll try a shrimp puff.” Dammit.
“Yea, you’d better stay away from the crab puffs…you’re already CRABBY enough as it is!” He roars at his own joke. More people are staring. I fake a smile, then get mad at myself for allowing even that tiny gesture. His laugh winds down. He wipes tears from his eyes. “Crabby. Oh, man…That’s…I gotta remember that one…that one’s goin’ in the show.” He pulls a tiny white notebook from his breast pocket, and an all-white fountain pen. He starts writing.
He’s still writing when the waiter comes over.
“Are you folks ready to—“
“Just a second, Kyle, okay? Artist at work.” He looks up. “Jesus! This fuckin’ guy!” He puts his notebook back in his pocket. Kyle is taken aback.
“Oh, I didn’t mean you, Kyle. That was my Uncle Denny talking about how the ice delivery guy used to be late on Saturdays.”
I wonder if the ice guy’s name was Kyle and if Uncle Denny considered himself a “genius at work.” Then we order.
A little while later, the manager comes over to inform us that it would be easier to bring the first two lobsters out, and then, when we finished with them, two by two, they could bring out the other six. Craig agrees. The manager goes.
“I really don’t think we need eight lobsters,” I say.
“Baaaah,” says Craig. “This way, you don’t feel like, oh, I gotta eat this part, I gotta suck the meat outta that part, don’t want any go to waste, you just eat the parts you like then the next one comes. Think of it like Best Of Lobsters Volumes One Through Eight.”
I ask Craig why he didn’t want to write that one down.
“That ain’t my joke. It’s Billyclub Taylor’s. He was this other guy in the joint, he invented standup comedy as we know it. He was the silent partner in founding the first comedy club in New York City, and Lenny Bruce won all Billyclub’s jokes in a poker game. Got famous and Billyclub got nothin’.”
“Did Billyclub also go in on trumped-up drug charges?” I ask, again breaking my new disinterest rule.
“Nah, he shot a guy in the face.”
The first two lobsters arrive.
“Mmm mm, look at this, look at this. So what do you do, Ellen?”
It’s Helen but it’s the first time he’s said my name all evening and correcting him now would show I care that he gets it right. Besides, I want him to say to my sister “I had a good time with Ellen…” and have HIM have to correct her. I want pain and embarrassment for them both.
I answer him while being distracted by a lobster claw that just won’t fucking crack. “I, uh, I run the website for a store in Brooklyn that sells exotic tea and tea accessories. And a couple of other little freelance things—“
“Boring,” he says.
I shatter the claw.
“Shit, oh, Jesus, that was what my cousin Tony woulda said if he were here. That knucklehead huffed anything you could spray inna bag for three counties, but he wants to tell ME what I do—what I DID—is wrong. Real burnout. That’s what he woulda said, and I woulda said—“
I lean in close: “All of your voices sound exactly the same. All of your characters sound just like you.”
He drops his fork. “Aw, well, jeez…I guess I’m not doin’ Rotgut Mickey very proud…you’re right, rotten, I’m lousy...” His eyes go four-year-old.
“I’m sorry, Craig, I didn’t—“
“No, no, you’re right, jeez, you and your sister, you both, only you girls will tell me the truth and you’re right, it’s lousy, it’s a dumb dream…I should stick to…”
“This is dumb, all this food, this is dumb…” Now he’s legitimately crying, and not I-just-made-a-priceless-crustacean-pun crying, but crying. All the same people are staring.
“No, I’m sorry, Craig, I’m the one that’s dumb, you’ve taken me out for a lovely meal and you’ve been so nice to my sister and I don’t even have the decency to…look, it was just the same thing. The only reason I said that is because it was obviously so believable my mind couldn’t handle how amazing it was, and the only way could rationalize it…” I’m wiping tears off his face with a fancy lobster bib. The sobbing has subsided. “The only way my mind could make sense of it was by making it sound like your voice to my ears, like you know a frequency only dogs can hear? I just can’t hear brilliant acting. To anyone normal I’m sure they’ve all sounded great. I’m just a dog, Craig. I’m just a mean old dog.”
“Really?” he says.
“Yea,” I say. I kiss him on the forehead and sit back down.
He tucks his bib back in.
“So…we’re gonna fuck?”
The dog doesn't stay in her chair long enough to find out what character this is.
Day Two of the Biggie Lyric Short Story Challenge (see day one)
Today's selection is from "Who Shot Ya?"
Your heartbeat sound like sasquatch feet, thunderin’, shakin’ the concrete
Marlena’s huddled in the closet clutching a kitchen knife when I get home from the illusionist’s convention.
Not being able to find her at first, I walk around the house yelling “Honey?” and the fact that she hears me and knows it’s me is the reason she doesn’t plunge the knife in my chest when I open the closet door. Also because I’m standing and she’s on the floor in a fetal position, her head in some coats that are hung up. But if she knows it’s me, why is she still down there?
“You didn’t ring the safety bell,” she says.
Safety bell? I ask. Oh, she said, I thought I told you. I grab a trembling hand and help her up and she leads me to the kitchen and shows me where she’s rigged up a big bell next to the front door, a string hanging down from it. She tells me while she was fixing it up in anticipation of sundown and being alone in the house in the dark she was having a conversation in her head with me where she explained how I was to ring the safety bell whenever I came into the house, and she would know it was me and wouldn’t be scared.
“I guess I just forgot we didn’t actually have that talk.”
“Are you sure somebody else wouldn’t ring the bell, even accidentally? I mean, it’s right there.” I know these words are stupid the second they leave my mouth but I’m too tired to stop them. Doing anything but completely denying the existence of ill-intentioned intruders is a huge breach of the Code For Sane Living With Marlena, and I instantly regret it.
“Oh God. Oh God, you’re right…”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean--” I say, but it’s too late. I’ve backhandedly convinced her that she has given her boogeymen a tool to deceive her; that she has, in fact, made her own violent death that much more inevitable.
She starts sputtering about how we’ll have to work out a way to keep the purpose of the safety bell a secret, or reverse-psychology anyone who enters the house out of ringing the bell, then she mentions something about Pavlov, that’s psychology and that’s with a bell, right?, then she starts crying.
The one thing I never really question in all this that you might think I should is having an imaginary conversation with someone and then becoming convinced it was real. I can’t judge that, because I had an imaginary conversation with her while I was gone.
In it, I told her I couldn’t do this anymore.
My signature illusion is called Schrodinger’s Wife. I explain to the audience that we will be testing live on stage the famous thought experiment Schrodinger’s Cat, and that the cat in our little experiment will be my lovely assistant. That lovely assistant was Marlena, up until about two years ago, hence the “wife” part of the piece. I still say my lovely assistant is my wife, even though she’s actually Nicole, a girl who answered my ad in the Humboldt Shopper. It helps the drama of the illusion.
My assistant is placed in a long box, which is then closed. Schrodinger’s box, I say, contained a radioactive isotope and some poison gas, but my specially designed suitcase containing those items was lost by the airline, so I’ll have to make do. Then I pull out a chainsaw and cut the box into three pieces.
I say, the experiment was meant to illustrate that until the box is opened and the state of the cat determined for sure, we are theoretically living in two universes simultaneously.
I pull out an automatic pistol and fire a round the first segment of the box, where presumably, my assistant’s feet are.
One in which the cat is alive.
I fire a round into the second segment of the box, where her chest is.
And one in which the cat is dead.
I fire a round into the third segment of the box, where her head is. Then I fire two more.
Ladies and gentlemen, I say, how does it feel to be living in two realities at once? A stagehand gives me a flamethrower, and I shoot a jet of flame into the head end of the box. Tiny flames lick out at the foot end, and while the contents of the box are still smoking, I move downstage.
In one of these realities, I say, I am a happily married man who is made all the more happy by the fact that his wife has made it out of a terrible ordeal unharmed, maybe a little frazzled, but at least in one piece. I light a cigarette. It provides a really nice counterpoint with the column of black smoke rising behind me.
In the other, I’m a widower, a bachelor once again. On one hand, I’m shattered by what’s happened to my wife, on the other hand, maybe I’m in need of some comfort. I take out a hotel room key and toss it to an attractive female audience member. Room 1227, I say, and men look to their wives or their dates to see if it’s okay to laugh. Usually, it is. Everyone needs the release.
Well, these two realities are nice, but I wouldn’t want to live here, I say. Let’s see which one it is, shall we?
I open the box for only me to see and make a face like I’ve done the unspeakable. I choke back tears and look away in disgust. Oh God! I moan, what have done, what have I—
With a triumphant meow, my wife pops up from the box, thoroughly unkilled.
I turn to the audience and ask for my room key back.
Marlena’s mom fucked her up.
Her parents don’t like me because they define what I do as “magic” and, in their fundamentalist Christian lunacy, that falls into the same dark-arts category as heavy metal or independent thought. I can’t imagine the fear propagated in that household. Drunken father, guilt-monger mother, angry God. My parents listened to Joni Mitchell and referred only to “filmmakers,” not directors.
One morning before we were married we were eating breakfast when her mom called. “Mom,” I heard her say, “He’s not a magician, he’s an illusionist!” I gave her a that’s-my-girl smile over my Corn Pops.
Even then I was calling her my wife in the act. A week later at a VFW hall in Topeka, after Schrodinger’s Wife, I admitted as much. But I said I’d like to change all that tonight, and I called her up to the front of the stage and the audience of two hundred and thirty Kansas Girl Scouts and their parents went nuts. I fumbled for the ring in my pocket (the gun was still in there) and placed it on her shaking hand.
“Okay, maybe they started the problem but you’ve exacerbated it beyond--“
This is Marlena’s best friend Rachael and I on the phone. Rachael doesn’t like me either.
“I don’t like your tone, Rachael, frankly-“
“I don’t like you, Mitch!”
My stage name is Harrison Darq. My real name is Mitch.
“If she’s afraid of sex, maybe that’s her parents. But if she’s afraid of getting cut up or shot, maybe that’s because she spent three years getting cut up and shot! And by the person that’s supposed to be closest to her!”
“We’ve been over this. Even if I didn’t think there was a problem, I went out and I found somebody else to do the—“
“Oh, yea, and like it’s helping her paranoia to have her husband out on the road nine months out of the year with some college girl.”
“Well, by your logic, seeing me cut up and shoot this college girl should be therapeutic for her, right?”
“HOW, exactly? Do you know the first thing about therapeutic? Are YOU the one with the degree in psychiatry?”
“No, but I think I—“
“Then would that make me the one with the diploma from Magician School?”
“Whoa, hey, okay, watch it!”
I’m pacing back and forth in the bedroom with the door closed. I’m holding a message Marlena took while I was at the convention telling me to CALL RACHAEL. I’m also holding, among other various scraps, the convention’s official program, the cover of which reads:
WE’RE NOT MAGICIANS.
Inside, I circled the lecture on ILLUSION IN THERAPY, and attended it on Saturday at 9 AM. I tell Rachael this. I also tell her that in his section of the LEGENDS OF SMOKE AND MIRRORS interview series (Sunday afternoon, 3:30, Rainbow Conference Hall), Conrad Drama, one of the industry’s first rock-n’-roll illusionists back when the old guard of illusory laughed at such a notion, said that it actually saved his marriage to put his wife in an act in which she was impaled four times each evening. It helped them work through a lot of anger issues, and—
“I don’t know who that is, Mitch, all I know is if you want to still be married, you should stop doing tricks where you kill-“
“Whoa, tricks? They’re not tricks, okay, kids are for kid’s parties. I do illusions.”
“Delusions, Mitch. You do delusions.”
Then she hangs up.
The safety bell is really well-mounted on the wall. I wish Marlena would find more outlets like that for her engineering talents. She was a stagehand when I was in my developing years as illusionist-in-residence at the Second Best Bed Theater. She designed and built all the apparatuses I still use on the road. I wish she would find more things to build that weren’t directly hardwired to her paranoia. I try to think of new, staging-intensive illusions later that night while I’m shaving, but nothing comes. This weekend, in a roundtable panel, Billy Tragyk said it’s best to stick with your signature ‘till it’s reached absolute saturation, and he would know, he’s been doing his signature, The Sleepy Gravedigger, to packed houses for twenty years.
In bed, I ask Marlena if maybe she’d like me to show her how to do my part of Schrodinger’s Wife, and perform it on Nicole. She doesn’t say anything, she just looks at me like I’m insane. And it’s the cruelest thing I’ve ever thought but when she does that I think: Don’t look at me like I’m crazy, crazy woman.
Maybe later I’ll forget I didn’t actually say it out loud and I’ll wonder why we’re not divorced.
I am gonna do an experiment this week, because I can't think of anything better to do, to write a short story a night based on a random Biggie lyric. Today's selection (from "Kick In The Door"):
Your reign at the top was short like leprechauns
Everybody wants to stump you.
The waitress at the airport diner asks you the name of the world’s first test-tube baby. The flight attendant stops you from boarding the plane so she can as you what’s John Wayne’s hometown. Back at work Monday morning, your boss Terry forgoes finding out how you’ve been the past three months to ask what acrocyanosis is.
Everyone has at least one bit of trivia, one silver-bullet stumper, packed away with encounters like this with supposed smart guys. Everyone, no matter how daft, has some segment of their life that’s exposed them to some details nobody else would know, or so they think. The airport waitress was a test tube baby herself. The flight attendant grew up in John Wayne’s birthplace. Terry is the dumbest person you know, but his wife’s checkered health history has given him the hard-to-spell multisyllabic name of a single obscure malady to wield. And he does so frequently, because doing so is the one bright spot in a disease that renders his wife sexually unattractive to him.
Louise Brown, you say.
Winterset, Iowa, you say.
A dark blue discoloration and swelling of the hands and feet, you say.
You have no special bit of trivia. You have all of them, you have a sticky brain. You have no strange angle, no weird quirk that gives you a vein of rich specifics. You’re an insurance claims adjuster. Nobody ever asks game show questions about insurance claims adjusters, there are no salient details to the job. Other people live interesting lives and write about them and they end up in encyclopedias they made fun of you for reading in grade school. You don’t read so much as you laser the information into your skull. You had a dream one time where that’s what it looked like.
Your interesting thing happened four months ago up until two weeks ago. The thing that you would know that nobody else would know is the softness of the cushion of the makeup chair on the set of “Genius Battle.” How the host, Gene Tendril, smells vaguely of gin and his made-up face, when not interpreted through a camera lens, looks wrapped in Saran Wrap. How there’s a Genius Battle groupie named Sarah who rents a studio apartment across from the lot and makes a point of fucking whoever’s the show’s current champion. The guy before you was married and wouldn’t do it, and he was on for seven months, four months longer than you, so when you started winning, God was she hungry for it. It was better than that girl at church camp when your were both seventeen year old counselors who wanted to do it while she was on the phone with her mom, and ended up attempting suicide, shaving her head, returning to the camp the next summer and throwing a dead raccoon into a raft full of campers. She was the last time you had anybody. You think of all the sex in your life as finding money in the street: it’s great when it happens but it has nothing to do with your merit.
The salesman at the boat dealership asks you what was the name of Joan Jett’s first band.
The guy you hire to teach how to sail asks you what NFL player simultaneously played quarterback for the Browns at got a Ph.D. in Mathematics.
In the absence of anything else to talk about, a guest at your yacht party asks you what makeup vaudeville artists wore for blackface acts.
You figured sailing would be something interesting to do with your winnings, give you something truly unique, but you already knew what everything was called, even though you’d never been on a yacht. No further instruction necessary, the sailing instructor spent the rest of the eight hours you were paying him for trying to stump you. By the time the party rolled around, you still didn’t have any good stories.
The Runaways, you said.
Frank Ryan, you said.
Shoe Polish, you said.
One night after a taping and three glasses of wine, you asked the groupie woman what she did when the current champion was female. She walked over to the stereo, turned down Steely Dan, put her hand to her mouth and gave the universal symbol for cunnilingus. You weren’t quite sure why she had to turn down the music to do that, but you were pretty certain someday she would shave her head, and start tossing dead critters at children.
Now that he doesn’t want to fuck his wife, Terry and this woman should get together. But that could never happen, because Terry is an idiot. Unless of course all the questions were about acrocyanosis.
Gene Tendril asked you seven hundred and seventy eight things over three months and then he asked you who was the first king of an independent Portugal.
After the show, you called Groupie Woman and the phone just rang and rang. Crazy women do not have answering machines. Then you went downstairs and checked out of the Westwood Sheraton, where guests of Genius Battle stay when in Los Angeles. The pool is not as idyllic as it looks in the post-show promo still.
Uhmmmm, you said.
You think you might start pretending not to know the things people ask you. You might start shrugging and say “You got me!” This will give the people a story to tell their friends. They’ll preface the story by asking their friend, “Do you know the name of the third most winning contestant in the history of Genius Battle?”
Then they will have stumped two people in a row.
Discussion Question: 50's "Patiently Waiting" is the only good song ever produced by Eminem, and this is only because the hook cleverly rides the cookie-cutter "this-is-what-it-would-sound-like-if-a-string-quartet-was-also-an-army-regiment-and-they-marched-in-a-vaguely-menacing-but-also-tedious" Em-produced beat. Okay, that wasn't really a question, but I urge discussion nonetheless.
Further 50 musing: when I googled the lyrics for "In Da Club" to fact-check my last entry, several of the lyrics sites (like this one transcribed the lyrics in the bridge as:
There's a couple fun things going on here. The first and more forgivable one is the misspelling of "dough," which leads us to imagine that the whole goal of getting shot a bunch of times and cooking crack and polishing his flows in prison was so that he could one day have a couple of G Unit boys present him with a big-eyed nubile female deer. Just the image of Lloyd Banks and Young Buck stumbling through the woods, led by the trucker-hatted crusty old white hunter they've paid to be their guide, as he lowers his rifle and turns to them and says "You boys want this deer for what again?" makes it all worthwhile.
Then: Look, homie, I got K Mart and I ain't change. The real lyric is I done came up and I ain't change, but that's not important right now.
What is important: 50 Cent in the backseat of the family car, age eight, driving through Long Island on the way back to Queens after visiting some relatives upstate. They pass a KMart, and the little boy is entranced by the big red K and by how much delicious merchandise must be packed inside a place that huge, entranced by the signs promising ridiculous discounts, obsessed with cold hard economics even at that young age. He thinks: I will have you, KMart. I will have to shoot a lot of people and sign to a record label founded by an elder-statesmen producer god and his controversial white protege and I will have to get an absurd amount of groupie blowjobs, but I will have you.
Cut to the present day: 50 has his KMart. It's in Utica. Modern day bullet-proof-vested jacked-beyond-belief 50 is lecturing a stockboy on the proper technique for facing the products to acheive maximum consumer appeal, in the smooth, half mumbled cadence that has made him a millionaire many times over, not to mention won him this flourescent barn/shrine to consumerism and his darling pet deer Tec-9: C'mon, Kyle. You can do better 'n this, Kyle. Label facing out, man, simple as that. I ain't playin' with you, Kyle. Perception equals reality, man, and if people perceive that 50 Cent runs a crappy store, then you tryin' to tell me that's reality, Kyle? You fuckin' up my paper, Kyle, and when you fuck with how a man eats--
Around this time the store intercom crackles to life and The Game proceeds to diss 50 mercilessly for thirty-two perfectly composed impeccably delivered bars. Thirteen bars in 50's deserted Kyle and is on his way to find Game, but not without stopping to direct a woman in a kitten sweater to the Housewares section and swinging by the Sporting Goods department to get a crossbow. There he sees Young Buck, Lloyd Banks, and the hunter, who have all become close friends and are planning their next wilderness sojourn. Banks insists the hunter has a HOT demo, perhaps 50 would like to hear him freestyle, his demo has this ILL line where he compares wack MCs to the plane Skynyrd went down in, but 50 isn't listening.
He's simultaneously drawing an arrow back in the crossbow and on his walkie-talkie, calling in advance for a blood clean-up on Aisle Hater.
The questions that matter: Who gave Hot Hot Heat permission to become Eve 6? Their first album was kicky and jaunty and fun. The two songs I've heard off their second album bear not a passing resemblance to...well, Eve 6. And I don't have to tell you why that sucks, Consumer.
I think it's funny that on Friday night Rina turns to me at Chipoltle and goes, "Are you dating a rockstar's daughter?" referring to this entry No, I said, that was a short story. Apparently she even went so far as to google the fake New York Times quote. Before I had to, Dominic explained to her one of the somewhat unspoken cardinal rules around here: Everything in italics is made-up. A story or a poem, or, for a brief and shameful period, an acrostic where a word like COURAGE or ENDURANCE would be broken down into a bunch of other words that started with the letters from the initial word.
Oh, shit, what if I write Everything in italics is made-up. Now y'all don't know what to think. I am on some serious Escher painting blog meta-mindfucks right now.
Anyway, I should've deadpanned it and said yes, I am fucking something that came out of Mick Jagger or Bowie. A dude probably could have gotten himself linked on Gothamist.
I like the idea that even if I was, as I so elegantly put it, "fucking something that came out of Mick Jagger or Bowie," I'd write about it on here. I actually just contemplated writing about something as innocuous as flirting this weekend, and then I though nah, real bad boys move in silence and violence. (All my guiding maxims are taken from hip hop songs, despite the fact that most of the advice doesn't scale to situations that come up with my life. I have needlessly shot so many sarcastic librarians and girls in front of me in line in the dining hall who take too long ordering sandwiches with nothing in them.) (Seriously, though. There ARE rules to this shit. Industry people ARE shady. You SHOULD love it way more than you hate it. And most importantly, if you actin' mannish, I CAN find another ho.)
Speaking of Rina, her and Gregor could've taken me to a party tonight that started on a boat and ended up on a private island, but Gregor and I are too big of comedy nerds and saw Mike Myers at the UCBT's Inside Joke instead. Actually, I had to be there for a meeting anyway. I encouraged Gregor to go to the boat party. I mean, seriously. A private island. That is an opportunity for some serious Gatsby moments. A dude could really ponder the emptiness of the glamor and everything around him while staring into Long Island Sound, and simultaneously get twisty on top-shelf liquor someone else paid for.
Anyway, Mike Myers was ridiculous and inspiring. Inside Joke is an interview show about the art of comedy, and he talked at length about improvisation, studying under Del Close, SNL, being superfamous, and living in New York ("It's really kind of great, isn't it?" he said, which got rousing applause even though today was probably the least pleasant day to be a New Yorker all year by way of gawdawful hellmouth humidity. And I'm not saying the applause was unearned; rather, he nailed it. We are determined to enjoy ourselves.) He made making people laugh seem like a noble avocation, which it is, though it's easy to forget that sometimes. And one of the ceiling pipes dripped on him, which I guess is the UCB equivalent of saying "Lincoln slept here." Now instead of being grossed out by getting facialed by air conditioner fluid like I was last week, I can just think of it as communing with the comedy titans. Yea.
This segues poorly into something I wrote about last night only to have it accidentally deleted. Now it's apropros of nothing except the weirdness of this life we've picked out and how this portrait typifies it:
Me and Steve are backstage at the Dirtiest Sketch in NYC Competition at midnight on Saturday. Actually by now it's like 1:15 and we (Hammerkatz) have already done both our sketches: one involved me and Matt as very actor-y actors overdubbing the voices for a horrific anime rape scene, the other, Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis fucking beneath an afghan, then Richard Nixon fisting a headless baby's neckhole, then Richard Nixon fisting Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis beneath an Afghan while a headless baby looks on in horror, and me at a desk, in a blazer that wasn't mine, smoking, acting hardboiled, and narrating the whole sordid business. Yea, it's called the Dirtiest Sketch Competition. UCBT is renowned for its smart comedy. Dirtiest is the theater's Id. Gross but entirely neccessary.
So now Steve and I are doing tech for Gil's sketch, and by "doing tech" I mean pouring various fluids into a beer-bong like contraption rigged, out of sight of the audience, to Gil's pants, to pour out of the fairly convincing fake penis he's made out of the end of the tube and some masking tape. We have our shirts off, not wanting to get apple juice (urine) or Hawaiian punch (blood) or milk or anything else on them. Right before the sketch starts, Steve says: "Three hours ago, I was doing Shakespeare." And he was.
When I wrote this yesterday, it ended rather dourly, with a quote I'm always reminded of when some moment in the comedy scene is particularly surreal, like I'm in the drugstore pondering which handsoap would make the best fake loads (serioulsy, if you have a suggestion, leave it in the comments, I have to do the sketch again tommorrow.) It's something Paul Newman rumbles in The Road To Perdition:
This is the life we chose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see heaven.
And to some extent I think that's true, in a tongue-in-cheek way. The die is cast. We have caught a magnificent disease. But, in part due to the rousing Myers interview, I feel like an evening spent doing disgusting, weird bits in a leaky basement underneath a supermarket all in the name of making people laugh is more valuable, and more viable, than a thousand straight-faced productions of "Hey What If Uncle Vanya Took Place In The Belly of A Whale And Was Read Backwards" by the Please Take Us As Seriously As We Take Oursleves Players. Thousands of people every night in New York City, and millions around the world, go to see bad Legitimate Theater and pretend to like it because they think it makes them Right-Thinking People. But you can't pretend to like a comedy. If you don't laugh, you just don't laugh. There's no bullshit, just instant, honest feedback. So no, we don't get written about at length in the Times and we're not capital-I Important. But at our best, and I mean the community at large, we are fucking funny.
And I can potentially be happy forever if I can stay convinced it's a noble thing to be.
Oh dude I just lost a whole long entry fuck shit balls.
It's five AM so I'll attempt to re-create it in harrowing detail tommorrow. Or I won't. You know how dude is.
Nothing instantaneously alters your late-afternoon plans like having a pigeon in the park shit on your head.
There you are, half-reading your book on hair metal, half-eavesdropping on a supergay kid a bench down on his cellphone eagerly planning a cocaine rendezvous, when something hits your head, like a raindrop with purpose. And you want so badly for it to be a raindrop or condensation or the trees above or anything that you actually read the next three or four sentences of your book as you faux-casually reach up and drag your head for evidence. Then you look up and see the two pigeons above you on a wire, cover what you imagine to be the offending mass with the other side of your hair and walk home fast.
When I looked in the mirror in my room I just a single white streak in my hair, which I imagine is a mark of worldiness and distinction in certain homeless circles.
On the plus side, now I get to repeat the shower-wet-hair and computing-in-my-underpants portion of my day, which is always my favorite. And in the shower I was reminded of the MF DOOM line "Drop dead joints hit the whips like birdshit/they need it like a whole in they head, or a third tit," and I never realized before how deeply he rhymes in that line (dead/head) so I suppose there is no suffering without some knowledge gained. Y'know, besides the knowledge that life is inherently ridiculous.
I'm in a very music-geek mood 'cause when the shit hit the proverbial fan (if you go back and actually read the proverb, the fan is my head) I was finishing Chuck Klosterman's Fargo Rock City. He takes much the same tack I favor: Pop music isn't bad because it's dumb, and it isn't good because it's dumb, it's just dumb and good and you don't even have to appreciate it ironically, in fact, if you are, you're cheating yourself, you can just fucking enjoy it and apologize to exactly nobody. That said, I was expecting more drunken North Dakota heavy metal anecdotes, but that turned out to be kind of the point, there WAS no heavy metal scene in his town of 500, it was a scene that took place entirely inside your bedroom, in your imagination. And he liked Motley Crue for the same reason I like Jay Z: we cannot relate. Good book. Now on to a biography of Boss Tweed.
My life is basically: wake up too late, eat something with chicken salad in it, read, ocassionally babysit or bartend, do comedy, drink, do comedy, write, sleep when the sun comes up.
And now, the cell phone conversation this fearless reporter took a poo-shot to the head to bring you, in its one-sided entirety, recorded live and direct to utterly unreliable memory. Here it is: "Affeminate Kid Is Enthused About Narcotics."
It was like, so fun! I know, it was like, so fun! We have to do it again! I know! It was like, so fun! When can we do it again? I know, we'll like, go to a club! (pause)Do you think we'll have any trouble getting it here? (pause) Oh, Caroline knows somebody? (pause) It was just like, so fun! (pause) Oh, you have to! You literally have to! (pause) I know, to like, think that that mirror is like, still in her house, and her parents like, look into it every day! (pause) I know, it's like, the best, you're like, up for anything! (pause) No, I haven't, have you done it yet? I dunno, I'm like, kind of nervous. I think Nicole's done it. Do you think she would be-- (pause) I know, it's like, if you have someone there that's already done it, then they're like, cool, and it's just-
He left around this point and a minute later I got my head pooped on.
Do this weekend up.
Though you wished you’d had time to clean your room
you were touched-
They cared so deeply about
where you were on a particular evening
what mood you were in-
even what you were wearing,
right on down to your shoes,
and which of your purses you were carrying,
they were scientists of your scene
and your scent
No one had ever shown so much interest
in the details you always put so much thought into.
These detectives are such nice men,
You thought from Heaven.
It is done, y'alls. I get to drink the celebratory bottle of wine now 'cause the first draft of the play is complete, as of last Thursday. Tonight after our improv set at Juvie Hall I couldn't get into the bar everyone was going to. I can drink pretty freewheelingly at the bar all the UCB people frequent, but this was downtown, where I am feared by bouncers up and down St. Marks. And when I say "feared" I mean "the dudes feel pretty comfortable grabbing me by the scruff of the neck and throw my backpack-to-the-bar-wearing ass out on the street because they have done it so many times before." So I did my usual writing-night ritual of getting iced coffee at the same deli (which, I might add, varies WILDLY in quality from evening to evening, and yes, that is the most important thing I have ever written) and trekking down to the basement of the library, where I am still. I read the whole play, filling in a couple gaps I left and getting the whole thing to tuck in its shirt punctuation-and-spelling-wise, and sent it to an Elite Few who are to give me feedback. I would've done a more intense rewrite, but it all looks like mush to me right now, because of proximity. It's like that part of a relationship where you become like the utilities to each other, you take a motherfucker for granted. "This time apart is needed," as Jay Z in the song of the summer.
In that last paragraph, when I was describing not going to the bar I was gonna write "I bounced," but then I thought, in ten years, will I be okay with having written that? Is that gonna be the verbal equivalent of looking at a picture of yourself in middle school with a DragonBall Z shirt four sizes too big and knowing you thought you looked awesome at the time?
I dipped. No...I peaced. Yes, that's better.
Let's talk about comics! (One way to guarantee a paragraph will never be read by anything with a vagina or a social life or both.) My friend Matt loaned me Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns this week, and I have a new berth of nerd-dom. I haven't read comics in earnest since I had boxes and boxes of them when I was around thirteen, and I forgot how much I missed them, how much they taught me about image and pacing and story and most importantly, zingers.
Dude, Watchmen! How did I go all these years without reading this book? It's just...dark and sinister and awe-inspiring and wholly fleshed out and complicated and fucked up and cynical and optimistic, fucking life-giving. It's a world. It reminded me of Tony Kushner's comparing playwrighting to making a lasagna: you put everything good in there, more elements than seems like might be a sensible idea, one right on top of the other, 'till it's absurdly thick, right on the point of failure, then you cook the damn thing so it all melts together. And it all melts. And the world blows up. Superheroes die. And life is a beautiful thing, a "thermodynamic miracle."
And Alan Moore, depending on how much I like his other stuff, might end up in the pantheon of "voices" alongside Salinger and Bukowski and Biggie and John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. It's like, you have the stuff you like, and then you have those voices, the people that are speaking directly to you, telling you you're not alone, the stars in your personal sky. Alan Moore might be one of those dudes.
Chris Onstad is defnitely one of those dudes. If you're not reading Achewood, you clearly need to change your life. The guy writes a daily internet comic, and blogs for all of his main characters. He might be my favorite artist working right now in a non-music medium. Check it:
When you are like 8, a Swiss Army Knife is way better, and much more exciting than even pussy. (This is mainly because if I had had access to a pussy at age 8, I would have like yelled into it and run away laughing, and other things which if I did them at my current age would be guaranteed to get my photo up at the post office.)
That's from the latest post in Roast Beef's blog. Go read the whole thing, it's hilarious and sad and nostalgic all at the same time, like Achewood is at its best. And like all great things, I sound stupid describing it, and it's only when you become immersed in it that you will thank me and realize what great taste I have in everything.
(By the way, I Have Great Taste In Everything is what they should call The Facebook. And all blogs, and Friendster profiles, and iTunes libraries. What I love, though, is how somebody's perfect I Have Great Taste In Everything profile is somebody else's Well Now I Know Me And That Person Would Never Have Anything To Say To Each Other. The Facebook should also change its name to What, Whiteboards And T-shirts Weren't Enough Places For College Students To Write Out Their Stupid In-Jokes And Napoleon Dynamite Quotes?
And they would've, too, if I hadn't already taken the domain name.)
Dude, what the fuck is this weather? If they wanted me to feel more guilty about rolling out of bed at three sometimes, they should make sure that when I do roll out of bed it looks like fucking July in New York outside, rather than some place prositutes fear the fog-shrouded menace of man with a top hat and a penchant for dissection.
Did Jack The Ripper have a top hat? I don't know. But I do know it's been cloudy for a week and a half and that is unacceptable. Much in the fashion of the guy next to me at the counter at Wendy's tonight demanding extra cheese on his baked potato, and he WORKED at Wendy's he KNOWS what extra cheese looks like and THIS is not IT!, I may have to demand an extra week and a half of summer tacked onto the season's end. Or maybe I'll save it 'till Februrary. Maybe they'll give it to me in a little plastic cup like they did the extra cheese at Wendy's. Maybe I'll go back and forth to the counter, making the person sitting near me who just saw my heated and probably mentally ill exchange with the employees verrrrry nervous that I might pull a piece from my weird bag I have and blaze the place.
I know what summer looks like. I didn't come here to get robbed, like the guy said. If I wanted to get robbed, I could do that out on the street! Then he laughed nervously and I tried to look sympathetic to the poor confused/apathetic cashier until my Bacon Cheeseburger came up and I went and sat down and ate and read my biography of Notorious BIG and looked nervously at the crazy dude until it was time to go do my improv show.
I didn't come here to get robbed, Summer!
Gonna head down to Battery Park to see a free Yo La Tengo concert. Gonna stop on the way and get an iced coffee. Later, gonna watch fireworks on a roof in Queens.
It is my sincere opinion that in honor of one of our nation's greatest citizens, we should change the our motto.
America: We Got That Good Dick, Girl, You Didn't Know?
Tony Pierce says when it's light out, write, when it's dark out, party.
This sounds like great advice, but I'm used to writing in ungodly coffee-powered night raids, so the closest I can get is this modified, multi-day schedule:
LIGHT OUT: Sleep in. Babysit in the afternoon.
DARK OUT: Write until it's
LIGHT OUT: Sleep in. Bartend in the evening.
DARK OUT: Party. Make half-baked promises to self about waking up early and writing.
LIGHT OUT: Sleep in, wake up hung over, dick around on the Internet in underwear and eat peanut butter out of a jar. Leave just in time to work out and catch dinner at a dining hall, walk around absorbing twilight.
DARK OUT: Write until it's
I have to say, for no reason the best part of my routine right now is that like 1 PM (sometimes 4) first-steps-out-of-my-building down Broadway to the gym eating bananas 'cause I don't want to eat a whole meal yet. Sun is shining. Girls from Long Island are wearing more money than I will make all summer. Beats are getting kicked in the headphones.
Clearly, through a few very simple steps and a dramatic schedule overhaul I could be approaching making enough money over the summer to approach Long-Island-Girl-outfit levels. At one PM I could be walking back from my lunchbreak to my dayjob which requires me to a) wear a necktie, or b) use an autodialer to call people I don't know and shake them down, or both. But I recently determined that this is the second to last summer of my life.
I told Gregor this (he is graduated and has a dayjob now, good one, too) and he was like, yea, you're kind of right, it kind of is.
This is depressing to think about, much less write about. Let's move on.
I have been tempted to speak on here about how the playwrighting process is going, how it wasn't going very well, the specific, interesting-perhaps-only-to-me reasons it wasn't going well, but a couple months ago I adopted (or think I adopted) a tenet Mamet lays out in True And False (which you should read if you want to do art), which is basically Take The Note. If you feel out of touch with your muse, "off," in your head, whatever bullshit, you keep it to yourself. You are a craftsperson, it's your problem, and you will handle it like a professional. As G Unit says: "you tuck your head and do your biz." You don't throw prima-donna fits. You don't take poorly lit pictures of half your face and put them on your Facebook profile. And you certainly don't talk about your problems to your friend in a tone of voice that assumes DC Pierson two tables over in the dining hall who's just trying to read his book and eat his chicken salad wrap, y'know, cares.
He basically wants us to conduct ourselves (he's addressing actors but the note applies to all artists, and to everybody, even though everybody is more sensible than artists and probably gets it already) with dignity, strength and courage. I think a lot of people who want to be artists think that it's a matter of being a container for frailty, a walking breaking point, a cigarette addiction with a headshot. And it isn't. It shouldn't be, anyway.
Like Delaney said on the subject of improv openings, you have to be "a warrior about that shit."
And now I'm talking about not talking about it, which is clearly the most cowardly way of talking about it.
Another thing, I think touched on in the same chapter (I returned it to the library in like March), is when somebody tells you "good show," you say, "thank you." You don't say, "UGH, no way, I was terrible!" Tuck your head and say "Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it." It's assuming (I'm pretty sure I'm still just paraphrasing Mamet here) that the art happens in you, which is arrogant. The art happens in the audience, who gives a fuck what you felt, it's what you transmitted that counts. So in saying "I was terrible!" you're telling the person their perceptions are shit. Or you're fishing for compliments.
Recently I met some people who I heard just had something very cool happen to them, and I congratulated each of them individually, and received the same basic answer from all of them: "I mean, yea, thanks, but it's not really even anything..." NO. I understand this is New York City and we're forbidden by law to be sincerely excited about anything, and maybe you do think it's legitimately nothing, but I'd love to have the same thing happen to me, so when you say "It's nothing," you're circuitously telling me I'm small and so are my aspirations.
They're not. "Thank you:" simple as that.
And while I'm on my self-hating artist rave-up, I finally resolved something in my head yesterday that's bothered me for a long time. (This will be the evening's most self-serving point, but this website is called dcpierson.com, so who else are we gonna serve?) So: girls say they like guys with passion and ambition. Ambition and passion. I can believe that, I find the same thing to be extremely attractive in girls.
So here's my deal: I'm always dumbfounded by girls I have a lot of respect for expressing admiration for dudes whose ambitions are, to me, paper-thin. Like, dude talks a lot about opening an "artspace" or his screenplay about somebody who feels really empty. Basically "talk" being the main theme. Why so impressed by these dime-a-dozen Kerouac readers*? Then I realized: if you are truly passionate, you're somewhere else. You're doing the thing. You don't have time to talk about it because you're not at that party because you are making it happen. A well-advertised place full of not much is always gonna do brisker business than a warehouse full of awesome** with no sign.
The Great Gatsby, which I reccommend you re-read if you haven't read it since high school, if possible in New York in the summertime, especially if you can still hear parts of it read aloud by your impossibly hot Junior English teacher in your head, solidified my cranky theory for me: "Well, there I was, way off my ambitions...all of the sudden I didn't care. What was the use of doing great things if I could have a better time telling her what I was going to do?"
How do I determine which of these dudes are faking? A sixth sense, by which I mean, shallow surface judgements.
And naturally this all comes down to the age-old caveman sentiment: "No! Not those charlatans, me! I'm the real deal, not these clowns!" Even in prehistoric times, neandrathals were looking at the other protruding-brow dudes circling the mammoth and thinking, "Poseurs." It is the same thing I feel when there is another long-haired dude in tight jeans at the party. I hit him over the head with a skull and grunt, "me liked Decemberists BEFORE was cool!"
*- I have not read Kerouac. I'm sure he's a quality guy, but that first month of college where everybody's carrying him around and putting him on their computer wallpapers like The Badge Of With It could turn anybody off, at least for a while, y'know? I suppose the same could be said of Salinger, though, and he's my favorite author, so, again... I never met billious hyperbole I couldn't immediately undercut with a sensible caveat instead of just editing the hyperbole.
**- I sincerely believe myself to be a warehouse full of awesome. I think I'm going to use me to open a really chill artspace.
I think the girl sitting across from me in the computer lab is talking on a hands-free cellphone I can't see. Either that, or there are auditions being held down here for the creepy hollow-eyed possessed girl in a horror movie that I didn't know about. If so, she's got it. She has the staring, sitting with her knees tucked under her chin, whispering unintelligbly, and giggling at random intervals down like a champ.