or much of today, I found myself writing up two old stories from the late days of Big Fun, some two years ago. At least one of those stories has needed to age a little simply for legal reasons, and still I conceal names to protect the guilty. The stories are:
acky Jen came over in the late afternoon and invited Jessika and me to go with her on an excursion to Lowes Hardware (a hardware mega-store up on 29 North). I needed some special screen clips to fix our front door (still serving as a de facto cat door in the extended aftermath of one of Theresa's many excesses), so I thought I'd tag along. Jessika wanted some shellac to cover a decoration scheme she's planning for her "tussin" bicycle, and she came along as well.
As Jessika and I walked in, together, Jessika suggested I sit in one of the courtesy wheelchairs provided for handicapped customers. I was reluctant at first, but what the hell, if she wanted to push me around that was cool. Who knew, maybe we could work it into some scheme where we end up escaping with the wheelchair. I've missed having a wheelchair in my house ever since Matthew and Angela moved out and took theirs with them.
Jessika wheeled me up and down the aisles, looking for screen door clips or shellac, and not having much luck. Sometimes I'd act seriously handicapped for the benefit of passers by, twisting my hands into pretzels and talking like Corky Thacher. I'd also address Jessika as "Miss Flint," as if she was some sort of team leader on an excursion from a group home for paraplegic punk rockers. I had trouble maintaining this act consistently, though, and for the most part I looked like a perfectly capable white male who had sprained his ankle. The staff at Lowes went out of their way to be helpful though, especially with Jessika pushing me around so devotedly.
Wacky Jen had gone back to her car to get some lightbulbs she was taking back for a refund. When we next saw her, she'd commandeered one of those expensive electric-powered wheelchairs, the kind that the elderly and infirm use for transportation in shopping malls. She was having a marvelous time, even though the thing didn't go very fast. For awhile she traded places with Jessika and pushed me around instead. If people had been keeping track, they would have been amazed to see the especially weak power-wheelchair riding "paraplegic" suddenly become the able-bodied team leader. To add to the absurdity, I'd do extended wheelchair wheelies (a "skill" I learned over the Winter) and occasionally tease whoever happened to be the electric wheelchair-rider with the perjorative "cripple," the false-pot calling the false-kettle black (if you will). So, as you can see, we unashamedly used the "differently abled" as the basis for our frolicsome humour.
I think I should point out at this point that I've always found the term "differently abled" evidence in and of itself of the bankruptcy of politically correct newspeak. The "differently abled" are not "differently abled," folks. I hate to break it to you, but they are in fact less abled, and changing the language won't make that fact go away. Of course plenty of people walking around without the aid of wheelchairs are "differently handicapped" (handicapped in a not-immediately-evident sort of way). Countless millions are afflicted by a crippling inability to understand irony, for example.
Wacky Jen's electric wheelchair started to sputter and die as its battery ran low on charge. We bought what we'd come for and wheeled on out the door. If we'd had a pickup truck, we could have made off with some cool toys.
Jen dropped Jessika and me off at our house and continued on home.
n the evening Amy from Memphis came over. She and Jessika hung out on the front porch while Jessika glued ancient yellowed advertisements from the 50s all over her red tussin bike. The idea is to cover the ads with a thick layer of shellac and make the bike look sort of like the counters at an old Wendy's.
Morgan Anarchy and Little Jason arrived, carrying a 12 pack of Miller Genuine Draft. Little Jason has been gone for past several months and during his absence, he's developed into rather more of a hippie. His nose has gotten bigger and he looks kind of old, frankly. I'd had no idea that he was only 17 years old back in the days of Big Fun when he used to come visit Josh Smith bearing small bags of marijuana.
Morgan was playing rcords mostly from my hard rock/heavy metal collection: Guns 'n' Roses, Metallica, AC/DC, that sort of thing. "Butt rock" is what Morgan calls it. Amy and he got to talking while he was flipping through the records, and somehow the subject of records being stolen from WTJU came up. Amy is rock director at WTJU, and she takes such matters very seriously. Morgan didn't know this, and he made the mistake of boasting about the time back in the days of Big Fun when he and Ray (and others) invaded WTJU and stole a bunch of records (nearly the whole R section, including lots of Ramones and Rolling Stones). Amy was outraged and demanded the records back, and proceeded to tell about taking someone to court for just this sort of thing. Morgan started back-peddling immediately, moving most of the blame to the then-conveniently-absent Ray. It was an odd conversation to witness. Most of the time, see, Morgan can assume he's firmly within the criminal-saluting underground whenever he's at our house. This time, though, he actually found himself hanging out with the embodiment of one of his victims!
Deya came home with a litre of tequila, and she immediately started making margaritas. Wilbur the Cockatiel sung energetically whenever he was presented with a fresh lime.
Both of us equipped with margaritas, Amy and I discussed the little known fun facts and family trees of 1970s classic rock bands. Her interests in music are somewhat similar to what I liked as a teenager, so I played excerpts from one of my old Moody Blues albums, In Search of the Lost Chord. As some of you no doubt are aware, the Moody Blues were singing about Timothy Leary being dead 18 years before he actually was. Hippie music was good in those days, but I can't believe the crap hippies listen to today.
Peggy, Zach and the Baboose arrived while Amy from Memphis, Morgan Anarchy and Little Jason departed. Our house is a social train station these days, except the departures and arrivals are completely unscheduled and usually unanticipated.
Zach asked if I had any spare hard drives for his 286, and I gave him a whole 386 PS/2 computer, complete with 2 megabytes of RAM and a 70 megabyte hard drive. I've been thinking about all the crap I've amassed and how I'm going to have to move it all somewhere at the end of May, and suddenly I've become a generous person.
eya wanted to go to the Tokyo Rose tonight since it was her only night of complete freedom all week. I wanted to go too and Jessika would have liked to join us, but her monetary situation is kind of bad these days, so she decided to stay home.
When we got to the Tokyo Rose, Deya and I stayed for a time at the upstairs bar, avoiding the cover charge by watching the bands perform on a monitor. Haunted House Tyler had been singing a little with the first band (which we'd missed) and he chatted with us as we drank Budweisers. We'd heard from Zachary that Jatasya had been in some sort of auto accident and broken her collar bone, and Tyler added what he knew, that she also had a sprained spine. I'm feeling kind of bad about all this because, as you know, I recently wrote a poem called "When Jatasya Got a Lobotomy" (a poem Zachary has been setting to music).
The Tokyo Rose hand stamp, the evidence of cover charge payment, is a little picture of Audrey Hepburn from the rear, her face turned looking coyly backwards. It's sort of the Tokyo Rose logo. I decided to just draw the hand stamp on the back of my hand in black magic marker, with amazingly good results. Deya wasn't doing too good with her version, so I drew a copy on her hand as well. Even on close inspection, they were pretty convincing. We walked downstairs and showed our hands to the guy at the door. No sweat, we were in for free. We immediately went to the bar and proudly showed Wacky Jen our counterfeit Tokyo Rose stamps. The irony, of course, is that Jen is one of the people in charge downstairs.
From then on, all I drank was water for the rest of the night. I'd been a little drunk and it seems I just stayed that way, though I craved beers the whole time. Unlike, say, marijuana, you can't just get drunk and then go do something else. For whatever reason, you have to keep drinking to be content with your intoxication.
I should say something about the music. The bands tonight were alterna-pop, or aspired to be such. The 2nd band (the first band I saw tonight) had a decidedly classic rock quality to their performance. It came complete with wailing guitar solos and rock staresque leaping around. I wasn't impressed.
The last band was called Gift Horse, and not to look them closely in the mouth or anything, but I thought they weren't too great. The vocals (sung by what could have passed for a frat boy) lapsed far too often into annoying Beach Boy type crap. I was thinking for much of the night that if they played their guitars a little more like Guided by Voices, they'd be a much better band. Then they covered GBV's "Motor Away," and it was such a weak cover, exposing as it did all their shortcomings, that I couldn't think of any possible remedy. One bearded member of the band had sort of understated hippie charisma and played guitars and did backup vocals. I was thinking that he should go start his own band, that maybe such a band wouldn't be too bad.
Wacky Jen was dismayed to survey the audience and behold all these well-dressed fraternity type college kids. It definitely wasn't the usual Tokyo Rose scene. For some reason, most of the people present had evidently spent the day watching the horse races at Foxfield (the hoity-toity horse farm out on Barracks Road), and they still wore the skimpy formal clothes one normally wears to such things. Jen wondered how these people even knew how to find the Tokyo Rose.
Deya and I were hanging out at the bar with Jeff, the vocalist for the Counselors (the punk rock band that played at our Aquarius Party), and he thought Gift Horse could do with a little bit of a mosh pit. He wanted me to join him as he stripped down to his boxer shorts and dived flailing in front of the band. But I don't wear boxer shorts and wasn't in an exhibitionistic mood, so I stayed at the bar while he did his little thing. It looked like the sort of thing he normally does in live performance, and when he was done, he reflexively grabbed a mike stand for support.
Every time I thought Gift Horse was done with their show, they came up with another song. Disgusted, Wacky Jen hollered "Last Call!" and some minutes later, motioned Deya and me to follow her as she left the building. She rode with us back to our house.
n the way, we passed one of the members of Union of a Man and a Woman (the acclaimed emoish band from the backwater Shenandoah Valley town of Staunton) trying to park at the Haunted House. Wacky Jen wanted him to come hang out with us, so she motioned for him to follow Deya's car.
His name was John, and he's just a high school kid at Staunton's Lee High. But boy, did he have an attitude. We (Jen, Deya and me on the couches, Jessika on the stairs) were laughing, joking, telling stories and playing a vinyl record of narrated barnyard animal calls while John just sat there cross-legged in the wicker chair brought by Spring, rarely smiling, speaking only when spoken to, and mostly acting bored, snotty and "too cool for the likes of you." I tried to bring him into the conversation by talking about Staunton (it's still hard for me to imagine any band as interesting as Union of a Man and a Woman coming out of that town). "Staunton is Staunton," John replied vaguely. Then I brought up my brother, a well known crazy-person in the town. "I think I've seen him at the library," said John with a trace less monotone. Geez.
John had the most to say in response to questions about his band and his music, and most of these questions were asked by Wacky Jen. Evidently, all the members of Union are graduating from high school in June, and they'll play together through the summer and break up in the Fall, when they'll all be going their separate ways to institutes with cool credentials, places such as Brown University and Reed, St. John and Oberlin Colleges. There's a certain amount of tension in the band, since one of the members (not John) wants the band to stick to the emo track, while the others feel they can be more interesting if they do other things. John further feels that its important for him to focus on "my music" instead of other distractions he'd been into in the past, such as art.
"Do you always dress that way?" asked Jen.
"This is what I always wear, but these aren't my pants," John responded. [He was wearing a black jacket, a black tee shirt, dark pants and black shoes. He had an emo haircut, but unlike some of his band mates, it was not dyed black.]
"Why do you place so loud?" Jen wondered.
"I like the 'wall' [of sound], and you need to play loud to get that feedback.
"Have you ever recorded in a studio?" I asked.
"Yes, and the Foo Fighters had just been recording in there so it was kind of weird."
"How do you get that feedback in the studio?" I further inquired.
"We played really live."
"Who are the Foo Fighters?" asked Jen (she's unfamiliar with current trends in pop music). "They're pop... rock... alternative, sort of like the music we heard tonight, but I think they're probably better," said John.
Despite himself, I think John actually enjoyed hanging out with us, though he didn't endear himself to either Deya or Jessika. And grumpy though he seemed, Wacky Jen could make him do anything she wanted him to, including driving her home when the night was done.
one year ago
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