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Sunday, June 24, 2012

TO GEEK OR NOT TO GEEK (PART II)



In which the reader is made to believe that Paige and John will meet Patton again... 
but they don’t.
When we arrived at the Hideout, half past midnight, the inviting cadences of Patton Oswalt’s simulcasted voice were being piped out of a speaker above the entrance. The canned spoken words disappeared from behind us as we entered the empty front barroom.  There was one hipster, only a few drinks away from changing his status to barfly, standing by his stool at the far right.  There was one bartender behind the counter, or maybe it was two.  I don’t mention this again in the story, so go ahead and picture anywhere from one to seven bartenders.  There was one woman tucked in a corner near the front door behind a chest high block of wood.  She was holding a hand-stamp like a gavel.  We approached her with our IDs out ready to prove to her our consenting ages of alcohol consumption.
“The show is sold out.”  
We looked around.  The bar area was nearly empty, but the back room was packed beyond capacity.  We looked at each other hopelessly.  Neither of us knew how to proceed.  
I said to the woman, “It’s a benefit.  We have the money, we’ll pay.”
“No.”
I mumbled, “We are part of the agency team... thing.”  The sentence didn’t even make sense.  To accent my ridiculous statement I pointed in the direction of the overpopulated back room.  Then I uttered a single word, “Pam?”  
The woman that held the power of entrance nodded her head in a short termed bemusement.  Then she restored herself to a more permanent appearance of anger and irreparable imposition.  My words didn’t contain a single ounce of substance.  I really really suck at getting into places.  
She was no longer having any of it.  “The show is sold out,” she repeated sternly.  Then in case we were actually idiots she pedantically elaborated. “That means there isn’t any room.”  
Our dejection, as well as our humiliation, was felt deeply.  We moped our way back outside.  
Paige said, “Well, at least we can listen to Patton.”
Then Patton’s voice ceased.  From the speaker we could hear the MC take back the microphone.  He thanked Patton for performing.  I recognized the MC’s voice, but I couldn’t place it.  For a moment I fooled myself into thinking if I could place that voice, I could use it to our advantage, and we’d be sitting pretty.
    [MC: Dan Telfer]
Paige asked, “Should I text Pam?” 
“Yes.”
In less than a minute after Paige pressed send on her phone, Pam appeared in the doorway.  She, for the second time in one night, waved us fearlessly into restricted territory.  
“It’s sold out Pam.  We wanted to pay but she wouldn’t take our money.  It’s a benefit.  We want to pay.”  
If I didn’t know better I would have thought Pam ignored what I had just said.  She ushered us past the doorwoman.  
“Excuse me,” The woman yelled.  “They can’t go in there.  They don’t have tickets.”  
“They’re with me.”
“I don’t care.”
This response took Pam aback for a quick second, then she started saying whatever came into her head.  “They were already in here.”
“Then why don’t they have stamps on their wrists?’
“They came in through the back.”
“Then they snuck in.”
“...No.”  
Before Pam could construct another retort the door to the back room opened. The front bar began to get crowded.  One lean fellow in a leather jacket made a beeline straight for Pam.  He was probably a comedian looking for representation.  We would later discover that a high majority of people in the space were stand-up comedians with varying degrees of notoriety.  It was part of Pam’s job to chat up the talent especially the ones her agency were scouting.  Talking to the clientele, and potential clientele, she claims is the easiest and most enjoyable part of her job as a talent agent.  Whether she delighted in this particular interaction, having turned away from us, did not matter.  She was required to make him the center of her attention.  Paige and I were once again forced to fend for ourselves.  This couldn’t possibly bode well for us.
I turned back to the woman.  She was staring at me.  Keeping me in place with only her gaze.  “We’re kinda’ supposed to be here... maybe.”
She did not speak.
“We’ll pay.”
Pam, ignoring the doorkeeper’s plea, called me over to meet the person to whom she was speaking.  Before I could signal back to her that I was harboring major doubts in taking any kind of steps forward while being watched so intensely, Pam returned to her conversation.
The woman came out from behind her wooden box.  She extended her arm towards my face.  “I’ll have to get the Owner.”  She called over one of the two to seven bartenders and told them to get [Fill in name of Owner here.]  She seemed to be taking this whole door person security thing a little too far.  We were in the Hideout not the UN.
Pam heard this threat over the din of clinking glasses and chaos.  She broke out of her conversation and turned back towards us.  “Yes, you do that.”  She didn’t say this angrily, she just said it with confidence, as if all of this was out of the hands of the doorwoman and that the Owner would agree with Pam.  “Go get the Owner.”
Paige and I wanted to run away and hide, but I trusted Pam more than our own instincts.  We held our tenuous ground for the time being.  More words went between Pam and the woman at the door.  I began to not like the woman at the door, even though she was only doing her job... with a vengeance.  She was the human embodiment of a cerberus, a mythological three-headed watch dog.  She would protect the venue owner and his property to the death.  She would have torn us apart with all twelve of her canines if the owner had deemed it to be so.  He didn’t.  When he arrived he looked directly at Pam’s pass, and without any exchange whatsoever he calmly and politely turned towards us. “Forty bucks a piece.”  Pam reached into her purse to pay.  I said, “No.  We can do this.  It’s a benefit, and we want to pay for it.”  
“Here you go sir.  Sorry for the trouble.”
“No trouble at all.”
Then he whispered something to the woman at the door, and she looked sad, and then we felt sorry for her.
Later Page asked me what the benefit was for, and I had no idea.  I thought that that was funny; such integrity out of me for such unknown causes.  [After reading this, Pam would remind me that it was a benefit for 826 National - Writing, Publishing, Tutoring.  I new the title not because of the non-profit work they have done, but because of a commercial that was written for my Neo-Futurist show called, CRISIS: A Musical Game Show.  Steve Heisler, a writer/journalist/performer who just so happened to be at the Hideout that night working for The Just For Laughs festival, created a video commercial that was shown during the play.  It was arguably the funniest thing in that entire show.  826, quite a good resonant cause indeed, even if it was started by a bunch of literary hipsters.]
We finally made it in to the venue, but Patton was gone.  We don’t know how he did it. He couldn’t have passed by us, yet we never saw him again.  The man obviously needed rest, and I imagine Paige resolved herself to thinking her hero simply wished he was back in his hotel with his wife and child, and then, by the power of talent and kindness alone, he just disappeared.
Kyle Kinane chose that moment to emerge from the back room.  At first glance he had the demeanor of a mischievous hell’s angel reject, a blue collar mephistopheles.  He was surrounded by his local Chicago friends and Comedians, an entourage of instantly likable Midwestern Alcoholics, friends that had been supporting him since he was just an annoying drunk punk kid telling stupid jokes in the back seat of their vomitous beat up automobiles.  He had always made them laugh by instinctively exaggerating details of minor adventures they had all just experienced. He had an advantage.  He had the talent but he also had the audacity to wear a bushy beard and to bathe in the back alley glory of his gruff, low, often difficult to understand, voice.  He had always spoke like a jaded janitor, since childhood, since he was soiling his diapers in between knowing smirks and taking hits from his infant joint.  
“Hello Kyle.”
“Hello Jughead.  Hello Pam.”
Kyle looked at Paige, not knowing who she was.
“Oh!  Sorry,” I said.  “This is Paige.”  
  They shook hands.
Kyle was not a short stocky older man that she had been following the progress of for years.  Paige didn’t have stored in her suitcase of emotions the years of admiration of his talents, as she did for Patton or even myself.  She dodged me for at least 6 months before I contacted her and said, “When the hell are we going to talk?”  The building of admiration and sexual intensity that it would take for her to cry at Kyle’s presence would probably never happen, but she was, and still is, honestly impressed by his talent.
“Your show was great!”  she said.
Then I chimed in, “Yes, it was good to finally get to see you perform.”
At this point in our careers while writing this, while having experienced the night at the Vic then at the Hideout, I was more famous than Kyle, and yet I felt I had to impress him, to tell him an anecdote which would make us both look important to each other.  I wanted us to both be cool. 
     “Kyle.  The other night I was trying to remember your last name but I couldn’t recall it.  So I Googled “Kyle” along with the word “Comedian.”  You were the first one to show up.”  I thought he could use this in his act, although I never would have said that to him.
He was ever so slightly embarrassed by this remark.  He laughed inaudibly.  His subtle laugh was drowned out by one of his friends guffaw-like outburst.  They must have shared the same name and the same career, because after this other guy got done laughing he said, “I told you it would be you and not me.”
Then Paige said, “Kyle, when we were walking down the stairs of the Vic Theatre, two men were behind me saying that they enjoyed you more than Patton.” Paige later admitted that she thought this was blasphemy. “They couldn’t remember your last name so they kept throwing out ‘Kane? Kimmons?’ I turned around, smiled at the boys, and said, ‘Oh, his name is Kyle Kinane.’ As I walked away, one of them said, “Woah. That must be his girlfriend.” I turned around and winked at them.”  Paige winked at Kyle.
Kyle turned red.  I don’t know what he was feeling but it must have been strange for him to never have met this young woman, and for her to say such an innocently flirtatious thing in front of her boyfriend and one of his childhood idols. On the surface of it he seemed very pleased.
While she was speaking, a man who towered over everybody, uncomfortable in his own skin, lurching, waring a Black Sabbath t-shirt entered the front room.  I happened to notice him, but stayed quiet because I didn’t want to seem rude to Kyle, Paige, and Pam while they were talking.  The towering man did not have enough room to pass our group without accidentally brushing up against one of us.  He stood there for a few seconds assessing the situation.  Who would he choose to ask to move inconspicuously so he could pass by?  He did not know that I was watching.  He was not aware that I knew who he was.  He backed up as close as he could to the wall, put his hands on Paige’s shoulders as he passed behind her, and escaped to a door in the front area of the club that had a staircase that lead up to the performer’s dressing room.
Kyle, Pam and a few others walked over to the bar to buy a few more drinks.  I pulled Paige aside.
“Do you have any idea who touched your shoulder only a few moments ago.”
Paige’s eyes widened.  She was in a paralytic state of starstruck panic expecting me to say Patton.  Little did I know that this would shock her more than if it were he.
I said, “Brian Posehn.”
I think the synapses in her brain misfired in a thousand different directions.  She began crying, but the tears quickly turned into red hot balls of flaming anger.  “Why didn’t you tell me!!!!”

[Brian Posehn, was also in the Comedians of Comedy.  Besides being a stand-up comedian, he is also a writer, performer, musician, seen on The Mr. Show, Just Shoot Me!, and The Sarah Silverman Program.  Even though he is Tall, Paige had nearly as much respect and fear of his talent as she did for Patton.  The Geekdom that Patton espouses runs deeper and more rampant in every fiber that constructs the lurching foundation of Brian Posehn.]

“I’m sorry, We were talking to Kyle.  I thought it would be rude to cut off the conversation with him in order to refer to someone like Brian Posehn who is much more famous than he is.  I made a judgement call.  I couldn’t do that to Kyle, or me!.”
Paige got very serious.  “Where did he go?”
“I think he headed up those stairs.”
Pam handed me a drink.  She went to hand Paige a glass of water when she dived into Pam’s arms, hugging her tight and crying on her shoulder.  She explained to Pam what had just happened.  I can’t remember how she structured her sentences, but I was the bad guy in the scenario, in a loving way.  Pam laughed.  She grabbed Paige by the shoulders, “Let’s go upstairs.”
“Really!”
“I wouldn’t lie to you.”
Pam took her by the hand and lead her upstairs.  I turned back around, and I was alone.  All around me people were deep in conversation.  I stood in the center of the bar with my drink in my hand, sucking from my straw.  The slurping sound echoed in my head, blocking out the comprehension of all other sounds.  “Blah blah blah,” was all I could understand.  I moved to the edge of one group of people talking, then I backed up and stood by another, then I moved back to my lonely spot blocking the exit out of the back room.  I was incapable of jumping into any current discussions.  I felt absurd.
“Who am I?” I asked myself.  Then I laughed.  I laughed while alone, but knowing that I would eventually share this with a distant audience, an audience not in the room at the time, an audience I hoped would, on some level, relate to my ridiculousness.
END OF PART II

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

PATTON OSWALT: TO GEEK OR NOT TO GEEK



    













 This was supposed to be a simple short post about my girlfriend Paige and My experience meeting Patton Oswalt leading into introducing another Chicago comedian named Kyle Kinane, then finally settling into a short more joyous memory about Screeching Weasels' last show at McGregors, but the whole endeavor ended up longer and harder to write than I had planned.  This part is less about the band and more about pondering the concept of semi-fame; a topic I seem to revisit quite often.  Part II should be done in a weeks time.

PART I
(The Eve of June 14th 2012)
     REMINDER: Paige is a huge fan of the comedian/actor/writer Patton Oswalt.  Patton was headlining at the Vic in Chicago for the Just For Laughs Festival.  It was over forty bucks a ticket.  Her and I have very little money these days.  Luckily I have a friend, Pam, in LA, who works for the largest talent agency in the world.  She, out of the kindness of her heart, purchased us two tickets to Patton's show.  Even better news for me was that she was going to be there for the festival and was planning on joining us.  A friend of Pam’s, Kyle Kinane, was opening for Patton.  Kyle is a huge weasel fan and I am a huge fan of his comedy.  That was also a perk.  We met a couple times before.  Keep track of this Kyle Kinane; Punk kid makes good in stand-up comedy. (This will come into play a little later in Part II.)  At the end of the show Pam walked quickly ushering us out of the building and into the alley.  The security guard asked us where we were going.  Pam with full confidence said, "They're with me."  Even though this answer had nothing to do with his question, the security guard let us pass.  He said, “My name is Randal. Let me know if you need anything."  Pam did not have to mention who she was, where she worked, or why it should matter that we were with her.  During her time in LA Pam has gotten very good at commanding authority over doormen, security guards, personal servants, and ticket box managers.  Besides confidence she manages to finagle her way into places with politeness and a big toothy smile, which are not very common authoritative attributes.  Yet it works for her.  She is able to get into places whether she belongs there or not.  She actually DID belong where she was this night, but that is not my point.  I am very bad at looking confident in these type of situations.  I often feel I don't belong at a place, even when I do belong there.  
Paige and I did not belong there.  
Friends over the years have confessed to using my name to get themselves into concerts and clubs, "Hey I know Jughead from Screeching Weasel."  My friend Matt Nelson would tell me he did this at least every couple months.  I have never used my nom de plume in that way.  I am almost jealous when I here these stories.  Why can't I get myself into places by using my name?  
  This was a big night for Paige so I dealt with my uncomfortable semi-famous anxieties.  I wondered if I could push it a little farther and engage Patton in any kind of small talk to make the night that much better for her.  Hopefully Patton would get some enjoyment out of it too.   We arrived at his dressing room before he did.  When Patton walked in, fresh and sweaty from off stage, after his encore, which we missed in order to be standing back there waiting, he politely said hello.  A couple other people walked in with him.  We hadn’t even realized that Pam had placed us into his dressing area.  Paige and I backed out of his private room.   We wanted to give the man his space.  Pam, who stayed in place, peaked around the corner of his door and waved us back in.  At that exact moment a very incredibly tall man was heading in also.  I let him pass.  Once in, we stood there no more than three feet away from Paige’s number one hero.  Patton shook hands with the tall man, who had blonde hair and glasses.  He had a British accent.  His face looked familiar but his notoriety was temporarily unplaceable.  Once he began talking I immediately recognized him.  He was the guy who writes hit sitcoms with Ricky Gervais.  I don’t have enough storage in my brain for facts like famous persons’ names and linear-alical history. (Linear-alical is not a word but it is a fitting description of the things my brain cannot comprehend.)  I didn’t recall the tall british man’s name till later when I said to Paige, “He’s the guy who writes that office show and the show about the guy who is also famous who had that funny segment with Elmo.”  Once I said “Elmo.”  Paige knew I meant Ricky Gervais, And once we got that name we could quickly look up the tall guy’s name on her phone via google.  While looking up this tall guys name she admitted to not even noticing he was in the room.  Her eyes were on the two short wide men; Her boyfriend, me, and her hero, Patton.  She has a thing for short stocky men.  “Steve Merchant!”  The tall thin british man’s name was Steve Merchant.  
The two admirable men chatted their casual, we-are-both-famous chat with sophisticated wit.  They were both subtly and craftily in awe of standing next to each other.  It was cute watching two famous individuals muddle their ways through a conversation without gushing forth with praises and asking each other for autographs.  There might be a utilitarian way of measuring who in the world is more famous and more important, but the truth is, if you are impressed with what someone has done, they will always be that much better than you are, even if you can’t admit it.
Patton talked extensively about places to get food in Chicago.  His backstage banter was as insightful and humorous as his material on stage. (Shit, I wish I could think of something critical to say about him, but I honestly can’t.)  He talked passionately about an eccentric chef who ran a restaurant called Schwa.  The restaurant only had 24 tables.  “He’s a chef who designs his clientele as much as he does the gourmet food he serves.  Everyday items become a delicacy.”  
Patton asked Steve if he was on twitter, but then probably realized that he was an equal and could actually ask for a phone number or at least an email. (Since overseas phone calls are still fairly difficult to make.)  They shared emails, openly but privately, by handing each other one another’s cell phones to punch in their letters and numbers in silence.  I felt we should have left at that point, but Pam held us back.  Paige was on the verge of tears.  She does this when confronting her heroes.  
BACKSTORY: About a year ago, Patton came to Chicago and read from his book, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland.  Paige wanted to go, but felt she would embarrass herself by crying, which she did.  She wasn’t going to go.  I told her she was.  A few days before the reading one of my best friends died, the aforementioned Matt Nelson.  Matt was the guy who took over booking punk bands in Chicago after Ben Weasel and I got too busy to pursue it any longer.  He helped to make bands like Green Day, Operation Ivy, Alkaline Trio and The Smoking Popes famous.  He gave them a place to play, and people arrived, selling out most shows just by the power of his promotion abilities.  Whether you loved him or hated him, you always had something humorous or praiseworthy to say about him.  
     Paige went with me to the funeral.  That night she had decided she definitely wasn’t going to go to the reading the next day.  Once again I told her she was.  She wouldn’t forgive herself if she didn’t.  When I awoke at 8 a.m. she was no longer in bed with me.  She arrived five hours early to the reading.  (Paige did not OK this part of the story before I posted it on the blog.  She would probably disagree with me putting this on the blog, but you must realize that her passion for things is genuine, geeky, real.  She is the real deal.)
Later she told me that eventually, after she bought her second copy of the book and stood around for 4 and a half hours, Patton entered and accidentally brushed up against her.  She cried a few tears and then tried her hardest to keep it together through his performance.
Afterwards he signed books.  She waited in line, shaking, telling herself at every moment that she should leave.  When she reached Patton she handed him the book and said her name.  He signed the book.  She began to walk away but turned back.  “Patton.”
“Yes.”
“I know you are a big supporter of up and coming comedians.”
“Yes I am.”
“Can you give me a list of comedians to watch out for?”
“Sure.  Do you have a pen and piece of paper.”
She began crying harder.  She pulled out the first piece of paper she could grab on to, without knowing what it was.  She says that Patton took the piece of paper and gave her a concerned look.  He then wrote out a few names.  She began to cry even more.  He handed her the list.  As she began to walk away Patton grabbed her hand and said, “Hey.  Take care of yourself.”
After a few blocks of being in shock, she took the piece of paper out of her pocket.  “John,” she told me later. “I can’t believe what I did.  I had him write a list of comedians on Matt’s funeral program.”
Patton was being very generous with his time backstage even though we were all stuffed into a very small, sterile, hot, dressing room.  Luckily there were not too many people there; Me, Paige, Pam, Mr. Oswalt, Mr. Merchant, the festival producer, and one other agent.  I was very surprised no one else was back there.  I am used to walking into the backstage area of a venue and seeing all walks of life, people who know somebody who knows somebody, or who is related to somebody, or has fucked somebody.  These are the cases of many of the people who get back stage to touch the talent, or just stand around drinking the talents mountain dew and eating the rice crispy treats and M&Ms they have left behind.  There are also pleasant people who hang out in backstage areas too, I am just being critical, for affect.  I should be more sympathetic to these people, because in regards to the situation being described, I was one of them.
I have been friends with Pam for 25 years and that is what got us backstage.  I still don't know why no one else was there.  We could tell that Patton wanted to leave, he had another show on the other side of town at the Hideout, a tiny nightclub tucked in a culd-a-sac of old warehouses.  A festival chauffeur was outside waiting to take him there.  Patton had also been coughing through his performance on stage.  He was obviously getting sick.   Yet, he was committing to the socializing that he expects of himself, because he’s a genuinely nice guy being overly generous with his time.  Being nice is taxing!  I wanted to leave him alone but felt there should have been a bit more to this encounter than just having stood back there watching him talking about food, of which he is a genuine expert.  He is Remy from Ratatouille after all.  Paige was dealing with her starstruck silence.  I began to introduce myself when we were interrupted by the man who was in charge of the Just For Laughs festival.  This always happens to me.  I don't start conversations self-assuredly.  When I am on a stage, especially in a theatrical performance, I can feel the larger than life charisma I exude.  I have no problem expertly feeding my wares to an audience.  When I am off stage often I can feel myself shrinking with every word I feebly utter.  
They spoke for a few minutes before the show promoter left. Patton turned back to me and apologized for the interruption.  
I said, “I just wanted you to know that my girlfriend Page introduced your comedy to me.”  He turned and shook her hand.  She stayed silent.
I continued, “You signed my friends funeral program for her, then she cried.”
“I did what?”
“You signed his funeral program.”  Paige looked at me with daggers for eyes.  “I mean, she wasn’t crying because you signed the death thing, she was happy to see you.”
My explanation was mostly incoherent.
“Oh, I see what you mean.”
I changed the topic.  “She introduced me to the documentary you made called The Comedians of Comedy Tour, and I just want to say that I admire you for having played all those small punk clubs across the country.”  
The tour with Patton, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn, and Maria Bramford visited alternative venues, performing for much less money than comedians of their stature should have to endure.  
“I recognized most of the clubs from having played in them years ago in my punk band.”  
You must picture me having said these things quietly while mumbling.  I was only looking for something to keep him there a little longer so that this could be the most special night for Paige.  
He asked, “Oh really, what band were you in?
And I said “Screeching Weasel.”
His face lit up. (Paige later said that he completely geeked-out once he heard the name Screeching Weasel.  I thought he was just being kind.) "Dude, I used to spin your records in college all the time.  Mad at the paper boy. (He started singing one of our songs.)  What was that record called?"  
“Boogada Boogada Boogada,” 
He didn’t recognize that title.  
He said, “The green cover with the house, and the boy...
And I said, “No the pink one with the cartoon drawing of a weasel.”
The conversation paused.  It paused.  Well maybe it didn’t pause.  Yes... It did pause.  I failed to relate to another human being once again. Yet I might have failed in the grand scheme but with later reflection I must admit it felt good to have someone I admired know who I was.  It made me feel less like I was a creepy fan standing there with no purpose other than to gawk at fame.  He had given me a small hand full of validation.  Sadly, it does not penetrate my shield of humility, which I used to admire in myself, but recently wish would just go away.  
I thought it strange, and midly ironic, that this famous man new my semi-famous band, but he only knew the material that came out when we were an unknown bunch of punk kids self releasing our overnight recordings.  He geeked out on our prior fame.  He had know conception of the world that followed, the fame that increased tenfold once we signed to the young independent label called Lookout Records.  I had much preferred he would have known the extent of our influence.  How ridiculous of me, yet, I felt it, and it was real.
He said he would have liked to stay longer and talk but he had to get to his next show.  I would have thought that that was an excuse but  Pam had said it was true.  He had three shows in one night.  There was a benefit at the Hideout.  A hand full of the comedians in town for the festival were going to perform unannounced.  Pam whispered that Patton  was definitely one of the “unannounced.”
We left the building before he did, allowing him to change out of his sweaty clothes.  Pam was on her way to the benefit.  It was 40 bucks a person.  “We can’t do that Pam.  Thanks for everything.  You are the hero for the night.”
Paige and I hugged Pam goodbye.  She hopped in a cab and We hopped on our bikes.  
We got about 6 blocks before I stopped and said, “That was a great night.”
“Yeah, it was pretty great.”
“We don’t really want it to end do we?”
“No.”  Paige paused.  Her eyes lit up.  “John, let’s go to the Hideout.  I want to be in the same room as Patton one more time.”  
This is the part that Paige originally thought might make her look too creepy.  And yes, some of you might think such a thing.  I think any fan would have to admit to feeling such things at least once in their lives.  Also Paige is pretty likable and is quite an attractive woman.  I can’t fathom a famous geek like Patton not being honored to have such a dedicated, sexy, and respectful fan.  
I, on the other hand, am less optimistic about my own circumstances.
“He was just being kind about knowing the band, right?”
“No John, he completely geeked out about you being there.”
“Yeah... Maybe.  We don’t have any money to go to this Hideout thing.”  These are the words I spoke.  I spoke them knowing we were going to do it anyway.  It didn’t seem to matter that we had no cash.  The night had begun, and we wanted it to continue.  It’s so rarely we go out.  We both took money out of our savings accounts reserved for rents that were do within the week.  We promised ourselves we’d make the money back somehow.  We’d sell some of our clothes on ebay.
We called Pam to make sure we could still get in.  She texted back and said, “Come on over.  If you have any trouble just text me.”
Paige Jumped on her bike.  We rode a few blocks.  Then I stopped.  “Oh Damn!”
Paige realized that I was no longer peddling.  She turned around and pulled up next to me.
“What’s wrong John?”
I didn’t speak, I just bent over my handlebars and looked at my feet.
“John!  We gotta go!”
“Oh No."
“No?”
“I mean, yes we’re going, but ‘oh no’ I just figured out what Patton was talking about.”
“What do you mean?”
“Green with a house and a boy?”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Patton had the English Import of Boogada Boogada Boogada.  I forgot about that version.  We were talking about the same record.  Shit!  I can’t even talk about my own band properly.”
END OF PART I.  (Link to PART II)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

WEASEL UNBOXED


THE REMINDER:
     I hooked up one of my old Mac100 iomega zip drives to look through old documents.  I stumbled upon discs that had a few writing files on it that initiated the writing of Weasels In a Box.  One of the most influential aspects was the failed attempt of writing an article about The Lillingtons.  The other, which you will find below, came from the frustration of wanting to tour with Screeching Weasel instead of playing one-off shows for a half an hour like we had just done at The House Of Blues.  Here are the raw thoughts that inspired the book.  

PS. This was while Ben and I were still communicating.  The actual dissolution would happen quite a few years later.

THE MEMORY:
Somewhere along the way the band, and my past along with it, became a fiction, and yet the memories still hold tightly to everything tangible.  It moves along side me.   For instance, everywhere I go, the logo of Screeching Weasel is stamped.  It’s a constant reminder seen on a tattooed leg or arm, on t-shirts, record covers, buttons.  It’s a mark of the bands influence.  There are t-shirts and buttons of other bands everywhere too, thousands of groups on television, here today, gone tomorrow, who will be more popular, more well known, more respected.  How many of these bands have their logo tattooed on bodies all over the world?  The comparative ratio of fans to tattoos must be in our favor in most cases.  What the fuck does it all mean?  Does it make the band partially responsible for any good or bad with which that logo marked person is associated?  It would have to indicate something as strong as that for me to get a tattoo.  There never has and never will be a tattoo on my body. (I have never had a piercing or even dyed hair either. A purist is what some people have called me.) I like looking at tattoos, but I can’t help but assume that they should represent something extremely important, a life changing influence that needs to be remembered forever, a period in life that is not to be forgotten by you or anyone who looks upon your symbol drilled into the skin with needles and permanent ink.  Does the Weasel logo just happen to look cool?  Anything that looks cool can be identically transfered to tattoo with the right tattoo tools and artist.  I believe the Weasel’s essence is hard to capture.  Is it my friend Paul Russel's artistic talent that allowed him to off-handedly draw a series of lines and shapes that somehow captured such a simple yet dynamic character that continues to have a strong everlasting charismatic affect on punk attitudes?  There is no denying that that original drawing of the Weasel had immense attitude.  But who’s attitude?  Paul's? The band's?  Paul’s interpretation of the band's?  The logo’s own independent attitude? Is it Ben's?  I don't think it noticeably resembles mine, on the surface.  Had Ben’s lyrics and both of our philosophies on individuality and the destroying of convention helped fans to cope with their frustrating social situations?  Does this come out in the permanent ink that lives on their body for the entirety of their life?  And what the fuck does that all mean?  Is this gestalt important enough to keep the band active for as long as it has been active?  Will Ben and I still feel strongly about these issues when we are no longer together?  We have known each other for over twenty years.  More than half of the band’s fans aren’t even that old!  By that age an individual has been affected by their families, friends, teachers, books, television and movies.  They have personalities distinct from each others no matter how imitative or insecure they float about the world.  We nurture and nature parts of ourselves that we can never change, even the active search for change becomes an element that manifests from prior influences.  Twenty years working together, sometimes as friends, business men, musicians, brothers, husband and wife, parents, schoolmates, never enemies but sometimes seeming so.  There is no real complete separation.  There is no end to the levels of complications.  
People attribute songs to me, but I have written none of them, except for small parts here and there.  Yet I do feel the rebellious yet humorous attitude that oozes from that logo is partially mine, is due to my hard work.  Can it honestly be said that I have had a noticeable influence?  This has been a troublesome silently contentious issue.
THE FICTION IS IN THE DISTANCE OF SELF
I have become more conscious of myself because the live performances are limited and I am getting older.  One of my largest grievances is losing the foolish spontaneity that made me feel alive and having it replaced with paperwork and explanations of why things are the way they are now.  If we play out once in a blue moon.  I need to make it memorable.  The pressure is immense.  I grasp on to whatever foolishness I have left, physicalizing the memories and magnifying the absurdities.

Ben has helped to make this tremendously difficult for me.

  Dealing with the complexities it would be easier just to say, I like this person, I don’t like this person.  But I can’t hate my friends, and I don’t want to love those who hurt me or prevent me from achieving goals.  But what if these goals are irrational or jealous to the point of hurting others?
  I am an alien, not because I don’t fit in, I am an alien because I choose to visit places where I do not belong.  I have very little in common with my punk associates.  What do I share besides a limited portion of my musical tastes?  I like to think it is the voicing of individuality, the pursuit of thinking for oneself - I call it a pursuit because along the way you often find that a choice you have made was not your own but an acceptance of a majorities perception, or of someone you admired or feared.  Hidden persuasions have ways of sneaking into our choices.  We do not fully know ourselves.  One of the most honest statements I had heard privately come from Ben’s own lips was, “There is hardly ever any real change in a person's character.”  And I add to that, “We just perceive ourselves as making monumental choices instead of facing the fact that we are acting in accordance with whom we already are.  
     I will make my audience the second person, because they are not me, and so they must be made to perceive themselves as what they are not, and cannot, be.