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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

THE LILLINGTONS MEET PETER FLYNN (PART I)















The Panic Button 
Headquarters

There was a period of a few years where my 300 dollar a month apartment in the heart of Lincoln Park became the headquarters for Panic Button Records.  I lived and worked amongst the lower upper class pristine jogging muscle bound men and women who twice daily walked their 2.3 dogs down to and within the restricted confines of a bounded hound infested gated mud pit.  It was a block away from my apartment.  The whole block smelled like wet dog and fresh shit. The place is still there now.  It’s called Wiggly Park.  Prior to its dogginess the pun named park used to be a playground for kids to swing, slide, and run freely.  I guess now it’s better for the children to search for communal entertainment within their video games or in the middle of the busy city streets.  
Every day after hours upon hours of delirious label work in front of a computer I would pause for a few minutes, walk outside to fetch a soda pop at the White Hen (Which now no longer exists.) and talk about nothing important with the few homeless drunkards that lived outside the church down the block.  In some ways I felt akin to these homeless ones.  I still can’t describe why, but I felt... well... “at home” with them talking about nothing in particular.  Perhaps I was taking my friend Peter’s place gibbering to whom most in that neighborhood would not even consider giving a second glance.  Peter always felt at ease amongst the down and out.  They make me feel uncomfortable but I feel they are a part of me too.
Douglas, who resembled a joyful Charles Manson, would summer in Chicago and hitchhike to the Carolina’s in the winter.  He would sit in the alley right outside my back door.  He was always curious as to what I was dong with my time.  I’d talk to him about the music business, often thinking he wouldn’t remember a word because he seemed to fade in and out, asking questions twice.  Yet the next day he would continue the conversation with me right where we left off, somehow with the correct information and starting point still tucked in the confines of his alcohol addled brain.  I have long since moved away from Lincoln Park, but I still frequent the sidewalks where Douglas lived, and I don’t see him anymore.  His drinking got worse every season I saw him, and his skin went from rebelliously tanned, to leathery, to covered with scabs and fresh blood.  I can only hope he retired from wandering the streets and permanently settled in the Carolinas.
I had inherited the apartment from the aforementioned Peter Flynn, who is now dead.  He wasn’t dead when I inherited the apartment.  He gave it to me when he and his wife moved to New Orleans, her to sell art on the streets, he to play guitar in the pubs, drink incessantly, then to hang himself one afternoon and finally, to die.  I am practicing being callous with the mentioning of his death.  I went through the anger, the mourning, and the sadness.  It’s time for a change.  You see, the actual death of a person never goes away.  The death is immortal as long as one person bothers to think of them or to transplant them into the head of another.  Anyone is able to transform a death into whatever they want, whenever they want, for as long as they want.  I am expressing my inalienable rights as an impermanent bundle of bones, nerves, and flesh to constantly transpose the fuck out of his death.
While Peter was still living he inherited the Lincoln Park apartment from some other drunken dude (And I mean dude like cowboy, not like hipster stoner.) who is probably now dead, or living on the streets and dying.  The three floor house was owned by three old Greek siblings, sitting out their days in the real estate office on the bottom floor.  They were old and visibly shrinking.  I don’t think I have ever seen such old people running a business.  They moved very slowly around their office engaging in small talk, pulling papers out of file cabinets, handing them to each other, and then putting them back in other similar file cabinets.  
Since our rent was so low in that one building it was an unspoken rule that you didn’t complain about needing anything fixed.  You just did it yourself.  Although for some external repairing they did have an ex-convict handle the work.  He was horrible at maintenance, but I liked him nonetheless, and, he needed the job. My three Greek Landlords could give a shit about making a profit anymore.  They seemed quite content to use our measly rents to just barely cover their taxes for the property, even though they could have sold that lot for millions of dollars.  They worked hard, but really they just wanted to have a place to go, to give themselves a bit of meaning during their last days.  I liked them very much.  I think of them often.
This gentlemen’s agreement of sorts, no one ever signed a rental contract, gave a few lucky artists a place to live for cheap in the middle of one of the most expensive neighborhoods to rent in the city of Chicago.  The entire seven years I lived there my rent was never raised once.  That is until a bunch of stupid frat boys held a party on a staircase a few blocks away.  The porch collapsed and some of their drunken bodies fell three flights to their deaths.  I do have sympathies for all those who passed away in this tragic accident, but come on, these are the same back alleys and porches used in the movie The Untouchables, because they were the most fucking old and decrepit in the entire city!  At least I knew the staircase and porch in my unit was too rickety for parties involving more than two guests.  
After the porch collapse incident the city sent a team of inspectors around the area to investigate potential hazards.  They put up signs condemning dangerous staircases.  My building was one of them.  The landlords built a new staircase and three intersecting porches.  They were all newer looking but just as dangerous as the old ones.  One thing lead to another.  The rent went up.  I had to move out.  Soon after my move a ginormous wrecking ball brought the building down into a heap of junk, then a bulldozer came along and leveled it to the ground. It was instantly replaced with a sky-high slew of exuberantly expensive condos.
In my apartment there was a kitchen, a bathroom and an everything-else-room.  I slept on an old worn out carpet in the middle of the everything-else-room.  After awhile of getting rug burns from tossing and turning on the hard floor, I purchased, at a yard sale, a cushion from a pool front lawn chair.  I used this for my bed until I moved out.  Each night I would unroll it on the floor like you would a beach towel.  I used to say that waking up wasn’t so difficult because it wasn’t that very different from being awake.  My prostrate body was just at a slightly different angle from one moment to the next.  
This is how I arose every morning to begin my day working at my computer in the kitchen/office but most importantly this is how I arose on a pair of very similar days.  In the vast configuration of time, these two days, were merely two distinctly separate mornings, but because of particular events unfolding and given significance they are now forever linked.  I received a friendly business related phone call from The Lillingtons on one of these occasions.  On the other occasion I received a distressed phone call from the wife of Peter Flynn. 
Both relationships were music oriented.  The differences were that the Lillingtons were a pop punk band.  They were fans of Screeching Weasel and on our record label, Panic Button Records.  The label was ran completely by the two most famous of Screeching Weasels’ members, Ben Weasel, and me, John Jughead.  To Ben and I The Lillingtons were to be the saviors of the punk scene.  They were destined to become a well-mannered explosion out of the depths of Wyoming.  Three unassuming friends that had nothing better to do than listen to and to play three chord punk rock.  Well actually all three of them worked pretty hard jobs, in caves and ditches, in oil, and in grocery lines.  Next to the Manges Cody, Corey, and Tim of The Lillingtons were my favorite people I have ever met through Punkrock. (Discounting Gub Conway, Lizzie Eldredge, Phillip Hill and Nathan Bice.)
Peter Flynn was a folk musician from Portland Maine.  Who talked like an East Coast Sailor but sang like an Irish Drunkard. We met years before when we worked together at a crown books in the suburbs.  When his first wife left him everything fell to pieces.  He went back to drinking.  He quit Crown Books, got a job at another discount bookshop and lived in the warehouse.  Then he was fired from that job.  He moved deep into the city of Chicago, met his second wife and pulled his fragmented life back together.  Peter had always had a few pieces missing so it was no surprise that he would eventually go awry.  He maintained an ever increasing need for liquor and drugs. He respected me mostly as a playwright and we barely ever talked about Screeching Weasel.  We were dear friends who would do anything for each other.   He was a valuable critic and lover of my work, and I was his basement recording engineer, confidante, and unwitting supporter of his self destruction.
[Working at Crown books was my last Job.  More specifically it was the last time that I would work for a Boss. When Peter and I worked there it was pretty great.  He and I loved books.  He was the assistant manager, and I was just an employee.  Our boss was a woman named Celeste, who also had a great love for books.  We had to stock the shelves with the usual big sellers, but we always snuck in some independent publishers and old classics that were quickly fading away.  I had been in Screeching Weasel already but it was a passion project then, and it ate all the money Ben and I were making.  All of my money went towards paying for our early recordings and tours.  Between rent and the band, I lived on, no kidding, twelve bucks a week.  Then Peter left Crown Books.  Soon after he quit, the higher ups in Crown restructured all their stores.  They removed Celeste.  They brought in a more corporate regime.  The manager and assistant knew very little about books.  The manager aspired to work at a store across the street called Foot Locker.  Which I have no judgement against.  We all need shoes.  But what the hell was he doing running a bookstore?  One day while I was cutting open a box of Danielle Steele novels he put down the phone and ran back into the children’s section.  He was there for a few minutes.  He came back bemused, shaking his head.  I asked him what he was looking for.
He said, “A book called Don The Coyote.  I figured it would be in the children section.”
“Do you mean Don Quixote?”
“Yeah, that’s it!”
“It’s in classics.  It’s a classic!”
Now there is nothing inherently wrong with not knowing this book.  But if you are going to be a manager at a book store you should know the name of a 400 year old document that is one of the most internationally acclaimed novels EVER published.
I stayed on a bit longer.  Until one day they approached me with a blue apron.
“What’s that?” 
“You have to wear this from now on.”
He held it out for me to grab.
“What, are we going to start baking the books instead of reading them?”
“You have to wear this.”
And then I ended the conversation by saying, “No I don’t.”
He walked away.
Quite a few months prior to this incident, I took a few weeks off to tour. Screeching Weasel had reunited for the second time and had gone to California to record our first recording for Lookout Records, My Brain Hurts.  By the time of the the blue apron incident the record had begun to do very well.  Lookout records caught the wave of our success and rereleased Boogada Boogada Boogada.  Boogada is by far the largest selling record of our catalog, and 90 percent of those royalties are split between me and Ben.  All the other records which followed up till near the end of that Screeching Weasel the percentages were more democratically split between the musicians.  That pay structure is still in place to this day, though I hardly see a check.  But the year those two records came out on Lookout my income went from 10, 000 dollars a year to 60,000 dollars.  This boost in royalties, Peter having left, and the blue aprons contributed to the moment it struck me one day while stocking John Grisham novels, that I didn’t need to work for someone any  longer.  I told the manager I was going home and never coming back.]
  The Lillingtons phone call, which came first, was a short conversation with Cody, the singer, guitarist, and main songwriter.  All my conversations with Cody were always short.  Often he would call me from the grocery store he worked at in his home town, Newcastle Wyoming, population 3,485.  We liked each other very much, but we are both men of very little words, and conversations between two men of little words are usually incredibly brief and to the point, like talking in shorthand.  Plus usually half of the time was spent joking about how horrible, insular, and petty the pop punk scene had gotten over the years.  He would often inform me about what band’s demo they had just launched off the windshield of their van while driving on the interstate.  Those cd’s really take off.  Often they would judge how much they liked a band by how far the cd flew after it was launched.  They were more critical of music than I could ever be, yet from them it seemed...acceptable and perhaps even intuitively accurate.
They had just started a tour.  I always got the sense that they hated touring but loved the music they played.  This is a feeling I know too well but do not feel myself.  I was getting pretty sick of being in the office/slash house day after day with no hope of ever touring with my own band, so I asked Cody if I could join them on the road and play second guitar.  I did a little fancy footwork convincing him that it was better to have two guitars live than just one. Cody could concentrate better on solos and singing, and the rhythm section would hold strong.  It IS something I believe but I probably said it then just so that I could plant the idea of them letting me join them.  (You see at that time, I had no idea that to other bands it would be “an honor” for me to play with them.  To me it was just cool to be able to play with these new exciting bands and to be on the road without the pressures of being in charge.)
We agreed to meet on the road.  These special boys from Wyoming were happy to have me aboard.  And what these boys should know is that this no brainer opportunity they gave me has implanted their personalities on my brain for the rest of my life.    I hung up the phone and immediately made a reservation to rent a car for the next day.  We had no funds to get me a laptop so I stayed up the whole night printing out any documents I would need on the road to keep the business running.  I burned a cd of all their songs and I learned all of them while driving 19 hours alone from Chicago to Austin Texas.  I only stopped for gas.  I arrived at the venue an hour before the first show never having actually played any of the songs on a guitar, only in my mind.  I turned the road ahead of me into a fret board.  It helped to keep me awake.  The calm excitement and immediate acceptance of whatever I could do for them on stage that night intensified my responsibility to help them sound good.  I don’t recall if I made any mistakes and I don’t think any of the four of us even cared.  In retrospect it was like a magical dream.

END OF PART I

Soon to come:
The Old Pheasant Hotel,  Dueling Pianos, and Drinking with Corey
Mormons
and The Death of a Friend.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A LITTLE TRIP TO EUROPE PART II


PART II: 
I Will Always Do

I do not want to tell a nonlinear tale, I have done that in the past.  It is the way my brain is rigged.  I will just let you know the events to follow are out of order.  This should not affect your enjoyment.  I will design them to seem as if they flow from one moment to the next, and not dizzily back and forth.

From the plane that landed in London Heathrow I ended up on a train to La Spezia, Italy.  It may have been only ten minutes, but more likely a few weeks.  My contact was Andrea from The Manges.  We had never met before and I do not speak a word of Italian.  I still to this day have to look up how to spell Ciao every time I use it in my writing.  In most cases when I leave I say instead, “Good bye, my friend.”  I know how to spell that.
Andrea picked me up at the train station.  He got out of his car and opened the door for me.  
“Hello, I’m Andrea.” 
“I’m John Jughead.”  I said those to words but I felt like I was lying.  I was just a guy with a large backpack who had his pants tucked into his socks and a head full of bed hair from sleeping on a train.  
“I know who you are.”  Andrea smiled and nodded his head, showing his respect.  In the car we spoke very little.  He knows more bits of different languages than he lets on.  Besides Mass, the bass player of The Manges, Andrea, the singer and guitarist, speaks the most english.  It was a surprise to me that English was not spoken as much in Italy.  You may say that statement is very American of me to think such a thing, but in most of the places I had been in Europe it seemed to be the case that English was everywhere.  A friend of mine in Belgium thought that one of the reasons for the proliferation of English in many countries, including Belgium, was because of the entertainment media and the use of subtitles.  They heard the English language on a daily basis on European television networks, and saw their own languages cross the bottom of the tv and movie screen.  It wasn’t just entertainment, it was a schooling of sorts.  In Belgium all tv and movies have subtitles in different languages.  (Many different languages are spoken in Belgium. It’s confusing.)  I watched a few programs while in Antwerp in a house built in the 1400’s filled with mannequins.  (That’s another story.)  Half the screen of the television was covered with multiple quickly moving layers of texts in many different languages. It was like watching a news channel that had constant warnings and flashes superimposed over stock market prices and averages lowering and rising.  I could barely concentrate on the program being watched. 
Italy, on the other hand, prides itself on dubbing all foreign media.  There is barely any subtitles.  Many of the actors that dub the voices of movie stars are just as famous and more loved in Italy than the stars themselves.  Andrea, who is very familiar with both dubbed and originals, says the Italian over-dubbed voices are usually more preferable.  Them Italians know how to speak!   This process of dubbing makes the imported media their own.  (I MUST impose on my own writing here to affirm that I am aware of the incredible influence Italian cinema has had on the world.  You must search them out, I don’t have the time here.)  Ferruccio Amendola, the man who overdubbed the voices of Sylvester Stalone, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Christopher Lloyd, and Robert De Niro, was so popular that when he died the funeral was telecast and fans from all over the country attended the ceremony.  
The stamp of America is both endearing and repellent.  Compared to Italy the US understanding of community, passion, and open conversation amongst our peers is shabby at best.  America’s brand of materialism invades the hearts of almost every economy in the world.  It is both fascinating and worthy of mockery to the Italians.   It is complex.  It fucks with their identity.  They criticize yet admit to their deep love for oddities such as Fonsi from Happy Days, Eddie Munster, B horor/Sci Fi Movies and the music of Screeching Weasel and The Ramones.  The Italians I met grew up with these influences.  They made them their own, assuming in many ways that they WERE their own.
In general bands that want to be known outside of their own country, to break the international market must sing most of their songs in English.  (I feel this has changed slightly since my trip over a decade ago.)  Whereas in many European countries English was taught as a second language many Italians learned to speak English by listening to British and American pop music.   The people I met, after seeing the Green Day and The Riverdales show formed bands and sang mostly in english.  (There are a few Italian punk bands that did sing mostly in Italian, I will list some of them at the bottom of this article. ) Along side these facts, to me, Italy remains one of the proudest of it’s own culture in Europe.  In large groups, in their punk venues, they may predominantly sing songs from The Ramones and other melodic bands from other parts of the world, but when they played for me Fabrizio De Andre, a nationally known Italian singer/songwriter, there was a significant difference in their attitude.  Fabrizio recorded a live concert a couple years before my trip.  The album was released in 1999.  He died a few months later of lung cancer.  This live performance was his last, and so it’s recording documented his life’s end.  
We were all crowded into a van.  Mass played me a song from the last concert, a grand, epic, sweeping Italian song.  The way my new friends sung together to the recording of this one man’s voice told a more full story of who they were. Even though I couldn’t understand the words I could feel a sorrowful joy overtaking the air in the vehicle.  This song seemed to have released from deep within them feelings about the continuous struggles with their government, a love of family, the sadness of passing, and an inspirational tone that only people raised in certain areas could emotionally comprehend.   A “you had to be there” to the extent of a whole culture.  All this became clear to me just from them singing a song together in a van.
Influences from other countries are welcomed into their culture with open arms but the influences quickly mutates into something... other.  The Manges are their own thing, unique and wholly Italian, infused with US kitsch, grit and rock and roll.  Perhaps this is why they are one of the few European punk bands to be embraced by the pop punk subculture of America.  They are 200 percent punk rock.  And as we all know, that amount of percentage is an impossibility, and that’s why they kick ass.
Before this ride in the car I knew very little about Andrea and The Manges.  Two years prior to my trip Ben played a 7 inch record for me in the living room of his spotless condo, his need for cleanliness was an exact replica of his mother’s.  We listened to this scratchy low budget recording of a song that I could have figured out how to play before the song had even ended, but the melody was so catchy, and the textures of the voices were oddly enchanting.  When the song ended Ben said, “I wanna cover this for our new record.”  And I said, “Yeah, sounds great.  Who is it?”
“The Manges.  They’re from Italy.”
At that time I didn’t even know Italy had much of a punk rock scene.  Ben had toured Italy in his Ramones-core band called Riverdales.  They opened for Green Day.  Many of the Italian punks I would meet on this trip were highly influenced by that show.  In fact quite a few of my Italian friends have admitted to discovering The Ramones through The Riverdales and Screeching Weasel, and not the other way around as most critics and music lovers would think.  That blew my mind.  I never thought it possible that someone could have heard Screeching Weasel before they had heard The Ramones.  
(Sidenote: Screeching Weasel before the formation of The Riverdales rarely if ever got compared to The Ramones.  Somehow after The Riverdales’ years, that comparison dominated all other comparisons.  I love The Ramones, right up there with other punk bands like The Circle Jerks, Husker Du, The Minute Men, The Descendents, and Adrenolin OD.  To have the band’s descriptions shrink to such a specific degree, discounting the other influences and broad lyrical content over the many years of our band’s history, pissed me off.  Thereafter the mention of The Ramones in the same breathe as Screeching Weasel would often make me cringe.)
The Manges’ song was called I Will Always Do.  The title is grammatically incorrect yet has a simple loveliness to it.  The Manges version has two distinct voices switching off lead vocals.  Ben chose to make our version with only one main vocal. His.  I thought that this was a mistake.  Not because of his voice, but because it seemed wrong to make this change.  I suggested having Heather from the Teen Idols sing one of the parts.  I thought, removed from lyrical content, that two voices helped to create a tension in the song.  It was one of the elements that made the original version stand out.  This is one of the reasons The Manges, I Will Always Do, is superior to ours. Though, ours is still quite good.
From the first day Ben and I listened to their songs, this small band from Italy became a shared pleasure for the two of us.  By this time in Screeching Weasel, circa 2000, Ben and I really didn’t share much of the same opinions about anything.  I often conceded to issues in order to avoid conflict.  We knew we both liked The Manges.  We were both happy to help them out in anyway, especially by putting their song on our forthcoming record, Teen Punks In Heat.  Little did I know that over the next year, once The Manges found out we were putting their song on our record, Andrea’s life would be made a tiny bit more complicated.  There is no mistaking that this was an important and exciting event to have happened to them, but it also had its awful side.  
The Manges were going to have rehearsal the evening I arrived.  Andrea asked if I’d like to go.  I was very excited to see them play.
“Yes, I would like that very much.”
We dropped my bags off at his place then we stopped by the post office.  I sat and waited outside at a cafe down the street.  I wasn’t good at confronting waitstaffs from foreign countries, I was afraid I’d just speak louder in english thinking this would make them understand what I wanted, like they were deaf.  Andrea said he would order for me then go to the post office.
“Would you like a coffee?”
“I don’t drink coffee.”
Andrea looked at me as if he didn’t understand.
“You don’t drink coffee.”  Andrea is very cool.  He is short like me, burly in the shoulders and tough, yet slightly effeminate, just enough to make him attractive to all women.  He laughed when he finally understood what I meant.
“No coffee.  That’s ridiculous.  Would you like a coke?”
“Yes, I’ll take a coke.”
(Another thing, all soda is served warm in Europe.)  
Andrea set me up with a bottle of cola.  He ventured over to the post office with a single manila folder.
Although I was in a new location with all the signs on the streets in a different language and cars driving much faster than I had ever seen, La Spezia was a more modern working class city, and looked no different than a heavily concreted US city.  I waited quite a long time.  Andrea walked over to the table shaking his head in frustration.
“Sorry to made you wait.”
“What was that about?”
“More shit registering our song.”
“What song?”
“I Will Always Do.  Ben told us that we should register the song so that we wouldn’t get fucked.  
(This was wise advice for Ben to give yet I don’t think he knew what it would entail.  The process in the states for registering songs, publishing, is fairly tedious but at the end of the day it’s really just filling out a bunch of paperwork.  Now all of it can be done online pretty simply.  To relay Andrea’s experience I did not want to get the details of his plight wrong.  It’s been years since this happened.  I emailed Andrea recently and asked him to send his rendition of this encounter.  I think for the sake of making it sound less troublesome and monotonous he skipped the mentioning of many trips he had to take to retrieve and fill out copious amounts of paperwork from locations within and outside his city.  I don’t think he would want to give the impression that a “favor” we were doing for them would set in motion a time sucking process that would take place over a goodly amount of months.)
Andrea: “If you wanted to register to SIAE, the Italian writers and publishers corporation, you also had to take a music test.  For the "lyricist" exam, they locked me in a room alone with two assignments:
1) they gave me a song title and I had to write lyrics with it. Like, with any kind of music I had in my head. That was just to see if I knew how to rhyme and write sentences down without any evident mistakes in syllable count
2) They gave me lyrics of a song nobody ever heard of, and I had to change them completely but fit them in the same imaginary melody and structure.
Maybe they wanted me to prove I could write uninspired, heartless shit on demand? Anyway, I did it.  
Then I had to go to Rome at SIAE headquarters and take a "composer" exam.  A music teacher in his 70s, serious man in a suit and all, opened a notations book and asked me to play a melody on a piano.  I told him I couldn't play piano, so he gave me a guitar. I told him I couldn't read music notation, so he started to sing the notes for me while pointing at the staff. I wasn't skilled enough on guitar to play that melody anyway, so he gave up and asked me to sing the melody. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did it. 
It was bad.”
END OF PART II
*Punk Bands that sing in Italian (List supplied by Stefan Eno)
1. Fikissimi
2. Home Alone 
3. Ignoranti 
4. Sempre Freski


5. Derozer, 
6. Impossibili, 
7. Supereroi, 
8. Monelli
9. I Guerrieri, 
10. Bombardini
11. Gambe di Burro
12. The Chromosones



PART III will get us closer to Kylie Minogue.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A LITTLE TRIP TO EUROPE


PART ONE: HAVE A PINT WITH JUGHEAD

This is Part I of what will probably be many many parts.  I do not even get to the subjects brought up in the “Reminder.”  In this first part I try to get much of the contemplating out of the way so that once I get into the actual adventures in Europe, especially Italy, I can approach them in a more playful storytelling style.  This backstory and extensive introduction to the inner workings of my brain are important components to better understand where I was coming from but more importantly for the reader to better understand the love I have for the people I had met during this particular journey.  


[Also I want to get a good chunk of the philosophizing out of the way because Andrea from the Manges told me that these blog posts have been an easier style of mine for Italians, who have English as a second or even third language, to read.  So Andrea, bare with this first part, I promise it will get easier.]
Reminder:  I have been watching a british sitcom called The Green Wing.  I have yet to decide whether or not I will continue watching it.  I admire the over the top commitment to the oddness of the characters.  At times the humor makes me smile, which for sitcom watching is more than often an unattainable goal.  While watching theater or friend’s bands playing live, my face is one big grin.  I pride myself on being attentive at live performances.  Yet for the at home pre-recorded viewing I am not so easily swayed.  This in no way means that I am too good for netflix or youtube.  I watch them every day.  I just don’t feel the need to laugh out loud.  I’ll cry.  I am a sucker for romantic comedies and friendship adventures.  When I used to have cable, and I watched everything on my large old school cathode ray infused television tube, a sure sign that the romance had had an affect on me was the uncontrollable urge to take off my shoe and whip it at the screen.  I don’t do this anymore.  Now I only watch things on my computer.  I still have the guttural instinct to cast forward my footware, but I don’t follow through because of the inevitable consequences. The velocity at which the shoe must be thrust would cause the laptop to fly off the living room table.  At which point it would instantly smash to pieces.  Lobbing the shoe softly at the computer or pitching it elsewhere in the room, or even throwing something harmless like a handful of popcorn or a cotton swab isn’t an option.
To chortle properly I need to be in the company of an infectious laugher.  The former friend known as Matt Nelson, now lacking the breathe to emote in any fashion, was a boisterous chuckler.  The lack of that type of inspiration, specifically his genuine outbursts, is greatly missed in my life.  This may be why I was surprised the other night while alone from deep within my lungs bursting up through the esophagus and causing my jowls to open wide was a sole guffaw.  It was like an unexpected burp or sneeze that surfaces so quickly there is not enough time to cover the mouth.  The moment on The Green Wing which caused this rare reaction was orchestrated by the character Sue White, played by the unsettlingly sexy Michelle Gomez.  The scene was not funny enough to make anyone laugh so sharply they had to cough.  Though that’s exactly what I did.  The character made a sexual innuendo by singing the lyrics to a pop culture music video.  These types of jokes have always boggled my mind.  I don’t know enough about pop culture to get the references.  Also, I don’t understand why such a concept works.  Why, besides a performer’s impeccable comic timing, is it funny to hear someone sing a certain popular song or mention a particular famous person’s name?  It makes no sense to me.  I do not condemn its use.  This category of humor deserves my respect because I cannot deny the phenomena exists, and yet I could never intuitively choose which pop culture references would inspire large groups of consumers to laugh.  
Then why did I laugh?  It wasn’t just the recognition of the song and the singer.  It reminded me of an embarrassing memory that somehow over time has lost it’s edge.  I feel I can share it now because for some reason it no longer causes discomfort.  It just makes me laugh.  The song Michelle Gomez sang, which caused the memory to resurface, was Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.  The reason it makes me laugh is embedded in the following story.
MEMORY:
In October of 2000 Screeching Weasel played two sold out shows at The House Of Blues.  While at the second show I struck a conversation with a member of the office staff.  I had asked how they thought the shows were going.   They said that they were going great, that we were making them some money but that it was also an honor to have us play there.  I’m sure they say that to many of the bands.  One thing about The House Of Blues is that they go out of their way to make a band feel special. (Or at least they did for Screeching Weasel)  There was some truth in his statement about it being an honor because he didn’t try to end the conversation in order to get work done.  He continued the conversation and asked if the band had planned on playing more shows.  And I just couldn’t hold back from laughing.  I’m afraid that getting this band to tour is much more difficult than you would think or hope it to be.  Then I took a gander at the large audience before my eyes.  I turned back to him and asked, “What would it take get a contract to play at ALL of the House Of Blues.”
“It would take for me to say, yes.”
“Is that example of a yes actually a yes?”
“Yes, of course it is!”
We talked details.  I told him that Ben would never again be up for cramming into a tour van for days on end.  He had pretty much said as much to me many times before, whenever I would bring up touring.  Right there, standing on the sidelines of our second sold out show, this House of Blues promoter and I created a sketch for a potential game plan.  
Over a period of 6 to 8 weeks he could fly us out for the weekends to perform two shows at each House Of Blues’ venues: Los Angeles, New Orleans, Dallas... I can’t remember what other ones were around in 2000 but there was at least four others.  All we had to do was bring our guitars.  They would supply the equipment and accommodations.  It seemed perfect.  On the sales of concert shirts alone we could pay our rents for a whole year.  For those two Chicago shows we made over $16,000 in t-shirts.  The actual show pay was much less since we required the venue to charge the smallest amount they could for individual tickets to the show.  
I had all that cash in my backpack when I walked to the Bank the next morning.  I poured all the money on the counter and handed the clerk my deposit slip.  They called over the security guard, branch manager, and a few other official looking people.  The branch manager asked for my ID.  After handing it to him I told him I was in a pretty well known band and that I was just depositing our merch money.  He asked what band.  I said (knowing he would have never heard of us) “Screeching Weasel.”  He just looked at me blankly and said, “You’ll have to fill out some forms in order to deposit this much money.”  I really wondered if he thought this would scare me away.  But without hesitating I said, “Yeah, of course.”
That day after depositing the cash I talked to Ben about the expansive House Of Blues Idea.  He had no interest whatsoever.  And that was that.  During the following months it began to sink in that my most favorite part of participating in a band was rapidly fading away.  As I said in another post, friends had often used my name to get into clubs, to meet other established performers, to impress ladies, and to get free shit.  I, on the other hand, had never even considered doing such a thing.  For the most part I felt lucky that I got to experience the world in a way that for the majority of people was only a pipe dream.  Recording in a studio and performing on stage easily counter-balanced the grueling mundane work I had to do as tour manager, accountant, and taxman for the band’s individuals and corporations. In the wake of imagining I may never tour again, that I may never have the opportunity to associate with the fans again, that my major creative contribution to the band was being demoted, this present path I was on had begun to turn into an endless funeral dirge.
I took a good chunk of the money I made from the two House Of Blues’ shows and bought a three month ticket to Europe (a place Screeching Weasel had never played.)  I announced on a few message boards that John Jughead was traveling around Europe and would like to meet the fans that never got the opportunity to see the band.  It felt like cheating somehow as if I would have to pretend to be someone I wasn’t.  I didn’t really think about this for too long.  It was a passing thought that seems more apparent in retrospect.  Since I was never the front man, it allowed my personae to more closely resemble my actual self.  (Although my personality still boggles quite a few minds.)  I was to be one of the only tangible connections these fans would have to the band.  There was some pressure, most of which I imposed upon myself, to represent the entirety of the band’s lore.  Yet my instinct was to be more the voyeur and less the center of attention.  I could not speak to the soul of the tunes, or of the love of the Ramones.  I understood these portions of the band, but my association with punk was more about leading a contrary existence and to scrape away mediocrity from every day life.  I love punk music but I don’t love it enough to be defined by it.  So I have always been conflicted with my role within the scene.  (I don’t like using the word “scene” here but I couldn’t find a better one.)
I had many responses to my enquiry.  I built my whole itinerary around fans’ locations throughout Germany, England, Ireland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, and Italy.  Also before leaving, my zine article about The Lillingtons, a punk band I had toured with a couple times, had just begun to grow into a novel.  I emailed many of the European punks that had gotten back to me and added a comment about how I was working on a novel about Screeching Weasel and would love to find a few scenic places to stay for a few days at each location to write.  My plan was to meet with these fans individually, in a public place, and if I did not get a crazy vibe, I would buy them a drink, hang out, and if all went well they would ask me or I would ask them if it was OK to return with them back to their home town to stay for a couple days, to hang out somewhere cheap and focus on companionship and writing.  I traveled for three months and barely paid for a thing.  It was amazing.  Thanks to the kindness, not of strangers, but of the fans of our music.
For the longest time, while talking to fans I couldn’t help but be hyper-sensitive to the point of the interactions.  I do acknowledge the enjoyment in gratuitous conversation and of course I loved the attention.  It is great to be admired.  But I can’t deny that something close to my core demands genuine connections, and I have little tolerance for small talk.  I want always to experience spontaneous sparks that make two people say to each other, “I like you.  I’m not completely sure why, but I really just like you.”  This may be why I’m not a good schmoozer.  If I’m not engaged in what is being talked about I have difficulty feigning interest for very long. For me it is not rude to walk away from a conversation, it is rude to pretend to be attentive.  I am prone to romancing the idea of friendship, and I crave for all the connections I make to each have their own unique meanings.  
How does one distinguish between a fan’s enamored nervous behavior from actual human contact?  In order to avoid superficiality I became obsessed with immediate immersion into the workings of their lives.  I would bombard them with questions about their culture and day to day lives so that I didn’t have to feel privileged, special, different.  This made it difficult to give them what they needed.  My inquisition rendered them too embarrassed to enquire about the very element of my personae which brought us together.  This too is a product of seeing in retrospect, like actual friendships, it takes time.  And often even time won’t make the difference.  The fans always have questions, even when the fans become friends the questions still linger if not answered.  They often cloud the potential “friendships.”  Over time I have learned to balance my pursuit for friendship with the needs of a fan.  I have learned that by opening myself up to questions about “the band” I intrinsically gain a deeper access to the inner-workings of people I have helped to inspire.  Often I can feel when the relationship moves from fandom into mutual respect and a deeper friendship.  This is a good feeling.
End of Part I
in Part II: 
What the fuck does Kylie Minogue have to do with Sicily?

Why did Screeching Weasel covering a Manges’ song make Andrea’s life temporarily unbearable?

and I may get to the day in Milan when I impulsively spent a thousand dollars on a camera for Massimo Zannoni


Monday, July 2, 2012

TO GEEK OR NOT TO GEEK PART III

Please Start with PART I
(An Ode to the Fairy Godmother Of Comedy)

I like part II, too. I've decided that you make me sound like the Fairy Godmother of Comedy. I'm OK with that.
   -- Pam Klier
There is nothing as consistent and problematic in the core of my being than some deeply imbedded craving for notoriety.  My father gave this quality to me, and my mother gave me the ability to question it’s importance in living a contented life. I suspect for the first time, as I write this, it occurs to me for the first time, that maybe this marriage of opposing forces is why I am often considered my mother’s favorite.  I am made especially imperfect because I am the perfect balance between conflicted parents. I say this without regret, I say this proudly.
In the first sentence I avoid using the word “fame” because quite frankly I honestly don’t know if that is what I want, or deserve.  Perhaps that is why I don’t have it.   My dilemma with the inherent self absorption and narrowing of talents that seems to be acquainted with the road most traveled to success, or cynicism, or death, forever leaves, me, the seeker of notoriety, a middleman of fame, a seamstress of dreams, and an accumulator of above average medias.  Maybe I don’t have what it takes to commit to one field of creativity.  I have been told by bandmates, and unauthorized critics, that I don’t play guitar well enough to be a musician.  I don’t have enough musical instinct.  I am better off committing myself to theater.  I have been told by theater performers that I am, at heart, a musician.  And so the meta-obsessed portion of my brain dwells on this displacement of personae, lavishing in a term that I have adopted; Semi-Famous.  For instance: I am mostly only recognized on the streets of Chicago (because of the neo-futurists) and in random ancient town centers across Italy (because of Screeching Weasel).  On the internet I can say I am John Jughead, and that carries me some ethereal distance, enough to pat my ego.  I gave away legal ownership of a series of words and a logo without much of a fight, because the future was more important than being forced to forsake the past, fighting legal battles against a tyrant for the rest of my life.  In this I also gave up a more direct path to full fledged fame, but it would have been paved with intense uncertainty, misery, and seething dissatisfactions.  I have no complaints.  Well... I DO, but they are sworn to secrecy and acceptance, out-rationalized by my own stubborn, yet passive, adherence to individuality.  I think my mom gave me that trait.
To move forward let’s say that those former thoughts were what I was thinking as I stood alone in the Hideout during the Just For Laughs Festival for a benefit celebrating the non-profit organization 826 National.  Pam and Paige were searching upstairs for the elusive six-foot-six sloth-like comedian know as Brian Posehn.
They returned moments before I put into action me walking over to the bar to purchase another drink.
Paige, living a dream, hugged me.
“You got to see Brian?”
“No, we couldn’t find him.”
I was surprised that she did not see Brian upstairs, because that is where I saw him go.
I never got to go upstairs.  To me the upstairs was a Hollywood Valhalla, a place where comedic warriors went to bathe in golden ink giving them the ability to write only the funniest jokes.  I pictured Pam leading Paige through the upstairs gaggle of comedians pushing aside the weaselly Aziz Ansari and leaping over the petite 5 foot tall Janeane Garofalo.  Their only mission was to spot the extremely tall or the extremely short stocky comedians known as Posehn & Oswalt.
“Are you sure it was Brian Posehn who touched me?”
“It was him.”
“He touched my shoulder?”
“Yes, he touched the fuck out of your shoulder.”
Then, vibrating through the doors of the back room, was the low roar of Brian Posehn’s, humorously hesitant, highly self-deprecating voice. “Is that -”
“I think so.”
Paige ran into the back room.  I stayed where I was.  I think she needed to experience this on her own.  I joined Kyle’s posse along side Pam.
 [While Paige was fact checking this document she informed me that the two of them did NOT go upstairs.  They chose to restrain themselves from bothering anyone’s privacy.  Instead they went outside, while Pam smoked a cigarette.  They talked about the pros and cons of being an agent as they waited to see if Patton or Brian would step outside for some air.  I wasn’t going to include this correction in the story because why not keep it about my perception of what happened?  I think my vision of what they were doing is much more vivid and adventurous than the truth.  But I like the fact that If I hadn’t decided to write this down, I probably never would have known they never went upstairs.  It reminds me that a large part of my memory is most likely fictionalized.  Erroneous material adopted into my perception of how the world functions.  It makes me wonder if the reason I didn’t raise my hand in class when I was younger, to ask or answer questions, wasn’t because I was shy, but because I preferred not knowing the truth.]
Pam introduced me to a few of Kyle’s posse, and the ones she didn’t know, Kyle chimed in with names that I quickly forgot, I do not have the salesman memory for names my father had.  I gave them all cordial handshakes.  Occasionally Kyle or Pam would elaborate on who I was: punk rock legend, neo-futurist, novelist, friend, and duly respected artist.  Some of the posse were honestly impressed. 
The conversation barely held a continuous thread, and I, in no way was ever for very long, the center of any kind of attention.  I do not have the quick continuous wit of a stand-up comedian.  I do not have that instinct to try and hold the attention of the crowd, although often I crave it.  Even if I did try, on that particular night, there was no competing with these comedians who could feel and control the energy of a room.  They also had the added pressure of staying on their toes to prove their worth. They were all awaiting, admitted or not, those moments where the combination of luck, talent, and obnoxious perseverance could nudge them into a place for career advancement or at least material to adapt or usurp to improve their act. This seemed very familiar. It reminded me of evenings on tour with Ben Weasel as I sat back and watched him slowly dominate a room with his wit and audacity.  He would commit to stances and opinions whether he believed them or not; how punks should dress in leather jackets, and only drink certain types of beer, condemn bands like Led Zeppelin to death even though that’s all he listened to in high school.  I was of a different ilk, a different semi-fame.  I was a chronic voyeur.  So I may sound overly critical of domineering figures but you must also realize that I loved to watch it!  And I still do.  Often this pulling of focus would allow me the time to meet the more subtle personalities.  Within a room full of people racing for acknowledgment there is always a few charismatic personalities who wait their turn and beguile the crowd with a moment of genuine spontaneity and kindness before they disappear once again.  The moments and people that I choose to cram into my brain. These voices often whisper instead of yell and vibrate instead of shake.  They choose their moment to shine, or save it for the stage.
Kyle appeared to stay attentive yet disinterested.  I began to suspect that his fascination with my former band was tangential.  His curiosity did not visibly push him as forward as I felt mine had, to get us into that room, to use the push of my best friend, and the waning power of my fame.  He did in fact choose to go to another bar before his Vic show instead of meeting Pam, Paige and I at a horribly populated frat bar down the street from the venue he was to play with Patton. [This for a bit tarnished my vanity, but really it was about seeing Pam.]  Between Pam’s love of my friendship and my passive aggressive admiration of talent, I felt, with Kyle, I was moving out of respectful acknowledgement of mutual accomplishments into freshman status fandom.  
[This apparent loss of respect has happened a couple times to me already with people in music and theater. In Theater it was the incredibly talented, and incredibly disturbed, writer Dino Stamatopolous.  Dino was interested in my writing for the stage.  He attended the debut of a play of mine in Los Angeles. I was told he helped lead a small audience of about ten people in a standing ovation.  I have met him a few times.  In person I have lacked the ability to surpass or even maintain the enthusiasm of the standing ovation that I never even got to see.  
In music it was, sadly, Blink 182.  They were fans of Screeching Weasel.  They invited me to their show in Chicago many years ago.  I DID not like there music, in fact it was one of the only times I truly got offended at a band’s onstage banter.  They portrayed themselves in a stupid and outright homophobic manner in front of an audience full of impressionable children.  When I went back stage one of them asked me, “What did you think?”  And all I said was, “You can say any ridiculous thing onstage and your fans scream and clap.”   They just looked at me not knowing if it was an insult or a complement.  I don’t think I meant it as either, it was just an observation.  The next time I was to meet them I couldn’t even get back stage to give them a draft of my novel about punk.  I wanted a quote from them to help sell it.  Could you blame me?  No, really, could you?]
Kyle’s harsh judgment of me was an illusion.  It was only in my head.  I think too much.  I was proven hideously wrong.  People are not so easily read.  When my attention was elsewhere Kyle began speaking.
“Man, it’s hard to talk to you.”
I was looking in a different direction when he said this.  It might be possible that he wasn’t convinced he wanted me to hear this comment.
I turned towards him.  “Really?”  I was truly shocked. “Why?”
“I can only see you through the eyes of that kid going to your shows and looking up onto that stage and seeing his heroes in person.  Those punk shows changed my life.”
“Kyle you are an incredible comedian.  You are one of my new heroes. As it stands today we are both equal admirers of each other’s talents.  So it’s all good now.”
This seemed to have broken the ice, because I would never say I learned who Kyle was in those moments to follow but I did begin to see a human being appear before my eyes, one I liked quite a bit.  
Pam had told him I was trying to recall forgotten memories about the my former bands for a blog.  He reminded me of a show Screeching Weasel played at McGregors in Elmhurst in 1993.  
[While writing this I couldn’t for the life of me remember when this show took place.  I even looked at countless “Weasel Timelines” on the internet and still could not find a clue.  So at 3:30 in the morning I texted Kyle.  He got back to me immediately.)
My text: Working on the section about the McGregor's sold out show and can't find a weasel timeline anywhere. Do you remember what year that show happened? Sorry to bother you.
Kyle: Never apologize. Valentines day 1993. Was a Sunday bc Monday I was losing my mind on my disc man over Boogada. 
If you recall Boogada, short for Boogada Boogada Boogada, was the same record Patton referred to while talking to us at the Vic.  Though, I think when Patton listened to it as a dj in Virginia many years ago, there were no such things as compact discs.  Kyle probably had the Lookout! Records cd, the one with the Weasel Logo on the cover and not the European vinyl one with the boy and the house.  My god!  I recorded over 20 records with Screeching Weasel and the only one anyone has referred to in this epic three part post is the one, after only a year of being a band, we recorded and mixed 27 songs, on the cheap, during one sleepless night of coffee, soda pop, and hostess cream pies.  That was more than 25 years ago.]
The Valentine’s Day first-come-first-served McGregor’s show sold out.  There was still a line wrapped around the block.  
[Once Kyle told me the year and that it happened on Valentine’s day, I wanted to confirm this for myself.  I googled a few keywords and fell upon this woman’s site where she wrote about a vintage dress given to her by her boyfriend for her to wear to that very Valentine’s Weasel show in which Kyle correctly referred.  http://bombshellshocked.blogspot.com/2010/05/time-capsule-that-is-moms-closet-pt-3.html ]
It was the first time we had ever sold out a show.  We decided to add a second performance.  It occurs to me now that we obviously made more money adding a second show.  That might sound self-evident, but honestly I don’t even think that was a consideration when we made the decision.  Of course we charged our audience, but that was secondary to us, albeit primary to the owner’s of McGregor’s.  We just wanted to get those people standing outside a chance to see us on stage.  It was very exciting.  I am glad I was given that memory back.    
Kyle said, “If you hadn’t added that second show I never would have seen Screeching Weasel.”  
Ben and I were so proud of ourselves for attracting such a big audience.  We were so high on our bemusement of our, what seemed, unexpected level of fame, that between shows we wandered alongside the crowd, talking with the fans. (I wonder if one of them was Kyle.) We walked to the diner on the corner.  The place was full of punks.  When we entered they all looked in our direction.  We sat down uninvited at a table of about twelve punks. We ordered food with them.  We ate and chatted about everything under the sun, except music. We questioned them about their hometowns, family life, high school, shopping malls, and their dead-end jobs.  The time passed.  We stayed chatting until we were needed on stage for the second show.  Before leaving we paid for their meals with our earnings from the first performance.  I remember having a few crumpled fat wads of five and ten dollar bills in my backpack with which I paid the check.  This McGregor’s show confirmed for me that we were experiencing an important section of our lives, that we had an emotional connection, a common ground with the spirit of the times.  It transcended the music and for awhile it seemed it would never end, but the moments were passing by rapidly.  
Kyle was very animated while talking about HIS memories of this show.  He was so animated that I might have actually seen him smile for a second.  
[While writing this I could not recall properly what Kyle had said to me that night in The Hideout, but a couple days after releasing Part II he contacted me via email.  He had just got done filming a comedy special in San Francisco:

  “Seeing a gathering of people that found a scene without MTV or radio or at that time even the internet. That was my introduction to everything DIY and pretty much the philosophy that would shape my approach to life. I really do credit my success as a comedian to that scene and seeing people creating because they needed to--not for fame or money but because they needed to make something.”]
Kyle returned to his friends giving them the time they deserved.  Tomorrow he would fly back to Los Angeles.  I noticed Paige was standing next to me serenely waiting her turn to speak.  She was calm on the outside but in her smile and eyes I could see the explosions going on inside.  At the Vic she had suspected she might again meet Patton.  She had prepared herself emotionally as best she could.  She was not expecting to even be at the Hideout and she was definitely not expecting to be touched by Brian Posehn.  
“How was he?”
“He was hysterical as always.”
Her expression then changed slightly, the way a mother may look when told by a teacher that her child had been called by another student stupid, fat, or weird.
“What’s wrong?”
“During Brian’s act he mentioned that when he walked into here (The Hideout) about an hour earlier, some hipster said to another hipster behind Brian’s back, ‘Oh, hey. Remember when Brian Posehn was funny? I don’t.’ They laughed.  And even though Brian incorporated it into his act you could tell that that really bothered him.  It was still fresh.”  She looked around.  She was furious. “If I only knew who they were!”  I gave her a hung and a kiss.  There was no need for blood tonight.
In mid hug I looked to my right.  There was a group of people standing shoulder to shoulder next to us.  It was a few of Kyle’s friends, one of the funny comedians we had just seen, Pete Holmes, and next to him was Brian Posehn.  This time there was no reason to avoid directing Paige’s attention to one of her heroes.  I turned her body slightly, she looked up and then she looked immediately down and then at me.  Pam then like a fairy godmother appeared next to us, brought us closer to the group, and introduced us, not directly to Brian, but to the group.  Once Paige was established as a member of this gathering I moved back to talking to Kyle and an old school skinhead friend of his.
  Kyle's friend talked about fighting, and drinking, and punk rock.  They both reminded me of a Weasel event that was derailed by a prank gone bad.  An annoying kid who would start any kind of band to help promote himself named Paul Think passed by a punk record store and saw Ben inside.  Paul threw a pie in Ben’s face.  It was a cherry pie and looked like blood.  Kyle’s friends wanted to know the facts, but I could hardly even remember whether I was even there.  I have asked friends to fill me in on details since reminded of this event.  I have looked online.  All the facts are a mess.  Some say Paul Think after throwing the pie then maced a few people.  An interview online states that Paul was confronted by a big bouncer who held his arms behind his back, smashed his glasses, and that he, himself, was maced.  Some say the owner pulled a gun on Paul Think and others say it was only a squirtgun.  The few who I know who were actually there now say that it is best buried in the past left as a small punk legend forever riddled with inconsistencies.
Not too much later I turned to see Paige standing by herself, similarly to myself earlier in the night.
“What happened with Brian?”
“I think I scared him away.”
“I doubt that.  What happened?”
“I could tell he was exhausted.  He said goodbye to everyone and then turned to leave.  I thought I lost my opportunity to talk to him.  I felt horrible so I faced my fear and yelled, ‘Wait! Brian!’ He turned around. I grabbed his hand with both of my hands and said, ‘Hi, Brian. My name is Paige and I’m a huge fan. Fuck that hipster douche-bag, he doesn’t know shit. I think you.. well...’ then I remembered a phrase he often says in his performance about things that he genuinely loves.  I said. ‘Brian, you just fucking rule!’ He shook my hand and bowed his head uncomfortably.  He said, ‘Thank You’, and he left.”  Paige stopped speaking.  I could tell that she thought she had done something inappropriate.
“What’s wrong babe?  It doesn’t sound like you scared him away.”
“John, I started crying again.”
“That’s OK.”
“Pam held me.  The other comedians were looking at us. I’m so embarrassed.  I think I annoyed him.
“No, that was a great thing you did.
“Pete (http://www.peteholmes.com/) gave me a hug after Pam and said that I was the real hero of the evening.  He said that I probably saved Brian’s night after what the hipster said to him.  He told me that what I said to Brian was really beautiful, and it was touching to see someone get emotional meeting a comic. He said that doesn’t happen to comedians very often and it’s fantastic when it does.”
I agreed.


THE END