Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: December 4-December 12, 2003
Friday, December 12, 2003:
I received confirmation yesterday that, on this coming Monday, a package containing an unwieldy number of copies of The Airbag's Lipstick Kiss will be arriving on my doorstep. All pressed, shrink-wrapped, top-spined, and ready to sell to a gullible public. So this weekend, my projects are to obtain a post office box and to set up a PayPal account on this site so people can buy the album. I'm thinking I'll charge nine dollars a copy, US postage included. Does that sound reasonable?
I'm really pinning a lot of my hopes for the future on this album selling reasonably well, so this is the scary part. I've gotta put together a press kit, and send out promo copies to college radio stations and publications, and go around to local record stores asking them to sell copies on consignment... If anyone out there has any ideas (or, even better, contacts or power) as far as wider distribution goes, please let me know. I'd be grateful for any help anyone could provide.
Tonight, however, I plan to go buy some gift-wrapping and packaging materials and a bottle of wine, and spend the evening wrapping up some of the Christmas/Hanukkah/belated-Sinterklaas gifts that need to be shipped out to my friends. So if you're on my gift list and you wind up getting a present that is wrapped in a wad of toilet paper that has been clumsily rolled around it, mummy-style, you'll know that I wrapped yours toward the end of the bottle.
CURRENT MUSIC: The Covers Record by Cat Power.
CURRENT MOOD: Semi-cozy.
YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT ER CAN GO DO, AFTER ANOTHER FRIGGIN' BORING, DIDACTIC EPISODE SET IN AFRICA LAST NIGHT? It can go screw itself right in the ear- that's what.
TIME: 5:43 PM.
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Tuesday, December 9, 2003:
Turns out Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich are in the Silver Jews, which I guess would explain why they're so Pavement-y.
I went out for coffee in Ferndale last night with Jess, just for something to do. But before coffee, we naturally stopped in Record Time. Jess told me to buy Only with Laughter Can You Win by Rosie Thomas and I told her to buy Almost Here by Unbelievable Truth, which was kind of nice. It's cool to have a friendship where you trust each other's taste to the degree that you'll buy unfamiliar albums solely on the other person's recommendation. Haven't listened to the Rosie Thomas disc yet, though, so perhaps this will be it for Jess's trustworthiness. One strike, you're out, ya know.
As Record Time closed, we went to Xhedos coffeehouse, where it was Open Mike Night. A rather cliquey Open Mike Night, actually, since all the performers and audience members seemed to know one other. Frankly, I imagine you'd need a personal bias in favor of the performers to get much use out of acts like a "dramatic" recitation of the lyrics to They Might Be Giants' "Don't Let's Start" or two girls singing Fiona Apple's "Criminal" in sort-of unison. (One of the girls sounded acceptably similar to Fiona, but it nevertheless reminded me of Jerri doing the same thing on the second season of Survivor.)
Jess and I therefore sat in the back of the cafe, where Xhedos has several shelves full of random books they've collected for you to browse through. I noticed a copy of the same Elements of Literature textbook I'd been saddled with in my 11th or 12th grade English class, so Jess picked it up. We checked the nameplate inside the front cover, and discovered that this particular copy used to belong to at least three people I knew in high school. (Most notably this guy Luke S. who was in my grade, and who signed his last name with a dollar sign in the book. He was big into the bling, as I recall.) As I later e-mailed Adrienne, I took that as further confirmation that I really need to get out of metro Detroit, because I seriously can't take high school haunting me much longer. Can't take most of the current situation much longer.
I also wound up having lengthy conversations with two complete strangers, which I never do. (One guy was outside Caribou Coffee while I waited for Jess to arrive. He told me that the girl sitting on the couch by the coffeeshop window is in there from morning till dusk every single day, always wearing the same pair of pants with a mark on the leg. Which is fine with him, because they look good on her and "she's a sweetheart." And the other guy was in Xhedos, who recognized Jess from various coffeeshops in Macomb County, and who we talked with for maybe an hour or so.) It felt kinda good to be able to carry on a conversation with people who seemed genuinely friendly, and who I guess wanted nothing more than to just share a tenuous human connection for a little while. But at the same time, a big chunk of me wanted to curl up in a little ball and be left alone. Not by Jess, but by strangers.
CURRENT MUSIC: Fear of Music by Talking Heads.
CURRENT MOOD: Grouchy, but I mustn't give into my desire for caffeine. Must work to wean myself off it. Or at least cut down significantly. Must...
PLEASE REMIND ME TO PAY MY CREDIT CARD BILL. I'll probably forget otherwise. Thank you.
TIME: 9:09 AM.
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Monday, December 8, 2003:
This being the season of theoretical giving, perhaps you'd like to help the fine folks at Kindercore Records win their lawsuit against the assholes who basically destroyed this great label, by contributing to their legal fund. I know you might not think it has the same importance as giving to The Salvation Army or some other good, charitable organization around this time of year, but in my opinion, helping to stop the little guy from being screwed over is every bit as noble. Especially if independent music is important to you, and/or you're into great Kindercore bands like I Am the World Trade Center, Of Montreal (I'm guessing the Kindercore debacle is the reason that masterpieces Cherry Peel, The Gay Parade, and Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies are currently out of print), or The Essex Green. Plus, Quinn, their lawyer, is also my lawyer, and I can vouch for the fact that she's a really cool person who's all about doing right by small record labels. Even if you can only contribute a little bit, it would help, so please do. Seriously. You'll feel better about yourself, even if you only contribute a couple bucks. Every little bit helps. Artistic need knows no season.
I forgot to mention this when it happened, but a few months ago, Jon and I had the following entertaining discussion with the UPS guy who delivers to B&N every day. He's a nice enough guy, though not tremendously bright, and for those of you who've watched the commentary tracks on the Futurama DVDs (that is, Ben, Cole,or Rich), he has a great, crazy voice kind of like David X. Cohen. So try to imagine that.
UPS GUY: So, what kind of girls do you guys like?
UPS GUY: Do you like blond girls, or slim girls, or skinny girls [sic], or what?
ME: Smart girls.
UPS GUY: Oh... I like the girls with the big muchachos. [He giggles, then turns to Jon.] What kind of girls do you like?
JON: I don't like girls.
UPS GUY: [Long pause.] Ohhh, so you just like women- is that what you're telling me?
[Jon fixes him with a hilarious expression that's half-pity and half-disgust.]
UPS GUY: So, what, you like men or something then? Heh.
UPS GUY: Oh. That's...
[UPS Guy leaves, confused. Several seconds pass.]
JON: Doesn't muchachos mean "men"?
CURRENT MUSIC: Starlite Walker by the Silver Jews. (These guys
really like Pavement, don't they? I like 'em.)
CURRENT MOOD: Not bad, considering. You know me, I don't like to complain or nothin'.
YOU KNOW WHAT JUST OCCURRED TO ME? Why isn't it "Toronto Maple Leaves" instead of "Leafs"? That's just stupid. (Sorry, Marco.)
TIME: 5:30 PM.
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Thursday, December 4, 2003:
I spent last week in Louisville, Kentucky with my parents and brother, visiting my grandma (or "Meemaw," as she's known) for Thanksgiving. I wrote the following few paragraphs- those in blue- in the car on the 25th, when I was planning on keeping a thorough journal while I was away. That didn't happen, but I thought I'd record this anyway, because I bothered to write it down longhand:
I had a dream last night that I was walking down the street with some of my friends, and I became so panicked and overcome with hopelessness and paralyzed by the isolation that I feel from every other human being on earth that I just started walking really fast, and really far ahead of everyone else (which I do sometimes in real life). Don't know why. Erica or Jess told me to slow down, and I angrily spat back at her, "It's too fucking cold."
And that exchange, for some reason, made me feel so depressed and useless and unimportant that I just started running away as fast as I could. Not that I was trying to run away from my friends, specifically, but in my dream, that was the very moment when my mind finally snapped and I simply had to get away from everything in my life because I hate it all so much. And I guess sprinting as fast and as far as I could seemed like the way to do that. (I suspect my subconscious was having a laugh at my expense by plunging me into a Forrest Gump-style "I just felt like running" scenario. I hate that movie.)
I generally don't find it useful to analyze or even think about my dreams unless they're especially funny or sexy, but this one was a direct continuation of my state of mind when I went to bed last night, so it's been nagging at me all day. Not my state of mind toward my friends, of course- I love them- but toward everything else. Last night, I went with Jess, Tim R. (my friend Tim, not my brother Tim), and Jess's friends Rachael, Liz, and Brad to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Magic Stick. It was Jess's 21st birthday, so she, Brad, Liz, and Rachael went out to dinner before the show. She invited Tim and me to come along, even though Tim and I are located about an hour north of Ann Arbor, where everyone else lives, but I'd told her we probably wouldn't have time to drive all the way to meet them for dinner and then back up to Detroit in time for the doors opening at 7:30, so they should just go without us.
As it happens, the doors opened at 9:00, and I had been misinformed by Ticketmaster. "So, basically, Tim," I said to him as we sat in the bar beneath the club for an hour and a half, "I just screwed you out of a dinner."
A guy I went to high school with worked at the bar. When I got up to go to the restroom, he snatched my only-partially-finished $5.00 beer from the table Tim and I were sharing- to "clear" it- before Tim could stop him. So even five years later, high school people continue to mess up my life.
Jess & Co. had the presence of mind not to trust me and called the Magic Stick themselves to check when the doors opened, so they arrived at the end of the set by the first opening band, who we'll call Interchangeable Local Band #117. The Locust played next, and blew all our minds to smithereens. What a hilarious, wonderful band they are! I haven't bothered to read any interviews with them or learn anything about the point behind their music, but my theory is that they're attempting to create an insect's approximation of what "music" would be. Four guys wearing skin-tight alien masks, screaming into their microphones in some bizarre non-language that consists mostly of sounds like "PWAH PWAH PWAH!" and making a searing, tuneless- yet visibly complex and precisely rehearsed- racket on their instruments. They played about 30 songs in 40 minutes, and even though it all sounded the same, the Locust became more and more transfixing and funny the longer they played.
Naturally, they were a hard act to follow, and my mental state started deteriorating midway through the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' performance. Not that Karen O wasn't giving it her all, playing the flirty dominatrix riot-grrrl role to the hilt, but my mind started wandering during the songs that didn't smash along like "Tick" or "Black Tongue." And it wandered to sinister places yet again. This time, I became fixated on how everyone in the club was going to die at some point, and I got that scary, disconnected feeling that occurs when you realize that none of us is anything more than a collection of twitchy, oozing muscles and electrical impulses all held together by cling-wrap. And then I remembered that one monologue Robyn Hitchcock delivers in Storefront Hitchcock, about how it's silly to think of people as people or by names, and that the people I knew as "Tim" or "Jess" or "Rachael" were, like me, just a random mishmash of machines working together- and not necessarily the way they're supposed to- and one day those machines are just going to stop and we'll cease to be, like Jeff from Today's Special turning back into a mannequin when his hat falls off. And life in general just felt like such a bizarre cosmic joke that I couldn't stand it. Then I imagined the Death Comet hitting the club, and had some really vivid and haunting images running through my mind for the remainder of the show. For instance, the guy with the mohawk standing in front of us, lying lifeless on the floor as ash and radioactive wind buffeted his body, fraying his carefully arranged 'do. That sort of thing.
After the show, I said a quick and rattled goodbye to Jess and then dropped Tim off at his house. As I pulled out of his driveway, I momentarily turned on WDET, and "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate" by the Flaming Lips came on, and it was such a wonderful, perfect nail in my coffin of human disconnection that I cried the rest of the way home.
Well, that was certainly worth typing up. I should mention that I'd had barely two hours of sleep when I wrote that. I'm not trying to be profound with the whole mind-body dilemma bit; it just really freaked me out for some reason.
So yeah, Louisville. It's an even more depressing city than Detroit, because whereas Detroit is already a long-dead skeleton of a city, Louisville is still in its death throes, and it's heartbreaking to watch. Apart from Bardstown Road, which is hip and lively and crammed with awesome, independent record stores, the whole city is visibly rotting. Meemaw's street, to use just one typical example, is filled with boarded-up houses, pathetic little bars, seemingly abandoned wheelbarrows full of junk, and an old, run-down health care center that's really quite spooky by now. (There are also nine stray cats living under Meemaw's porch. She feeds them daily, which is sweet of her, but the cats creeped me out.)
My dad, Tim, and I spent an afternoon record shopping, and in The Book and Music Exchange, I found the same used Brian Dewan album that's been there for the past five years. This year, I decided yet again that I didn't want it enough to spend eight dollars on it, and left it to be considered and passed over again next year. It's nice to have holiday traditions. At Ear X-Tacy (coolest record store in America), I found rare copies of Live at Jittery Joe's by Jeff Magnum and Live at Stubb's 7/2000 by Ween, and I also picked up The Execution of All Things by Rilo Kiley, though I could've spent an additional $3,000 or so in there, if such an act were feasible.
On Thanksgiving, my mom's siblings and their families came over, and Tim, my dad, and I watched the Lions/Packers game while everyone else chatted. During the pre-game show on FOX, I asked Tim why the four commentators were wearing shiny ribbon pins on their jackets. He told me that the ribbons were there for autism awareness, probably related to Doug Flutie's fine organization. It struck me as odd, then, that throughout the broadcast, Terry Bradshaw kept making Rain Man jokes. Oh yes he did. Every time he made a prediction about what would happen in the game, he followed it by saying, "And I'm Rain Man! I'm never wrong! Haw!" He did this repeatedly. I guess he thinks that Dustin Hoffman's character was a psychic or something, because otherwise his "joke" makes even less sense, but nevertheless, ol' Terry kept me in horrified, how-can-he-do-this? giggles for the entire telecast.
Actually, between Mary J. Blige's ridiculously tasteless attire during the halftime show (her coat may as well have been made from a blend of endangered condor feathers, newborn puppy fur, and human hair taken from a hijacked Locks of Love transport truck) and Tim's insistence on referring to Najeh Davenport by the nickname "Poop," I laughed a lot during that game.
I went to get a haircut, and the stylist at Fantastic Sam's told me that I look like Thom Filicia from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. That's actually the first celebrity comparison I've ever had. At last, I can completely fill out those Onion personal ads! My only hope! The Futuristic Sam's was located only a few blocks away from the house I lived in between the ages of 1 and 4, and I visited it and found that it looked depressingly small. The new owners have added a blue gazing ball and a stupid stone angel to the front walkway. Talking to Jon today, I remembered that there was a huge weeping willow tree in the backyard, and I wish I'd remembered to look for it last week because it was really important to me as a toddler. For some reason, when my parents told me we'd be moving to Michigan, I started bawling when I realized it would mean leaving the tree behind, but I cannot remember why it meant so much to me. Maybe I talked to it a lot and considered it a friend, as I did with many inanimate objects as a child (e.g., my dad's record player, my own feet, etc.).
On the way back to Meemaw's house, I saw a bunch of people walking down the street in Dickensian outfits, presumably for the "Light Up Louisville" celebration that would be occurring later that evening. This year's Dickens theme was The Pickwick Papers, and by nightfall, the streets were flooded with jolly madmen!
In Ohio, on the way back to Michigan, we stopped at a rest area and I noticed a plastic holder full of vending machine refund cards by the snacks. It's awfully cute that someone still believes in the honor system, so I took a card as a souvenir. It's really not worth scanning, but it says, "If you have lost money and want a refund, simply complete this card and place it back in the box from which it came," and asks how much money you want them to mail you. I figure I'll hang onto that card until I hit a rough patch.
This is going nowhere.
CURRENT MUSIC: The rough mix of my song for the WRC Christmas compilation
that's due tomorrow. Over and over.
CURRENT MOOD: Defeated.
EXHAUSTION LEVEL: Yellow (elevated).
TIME: 6:13 PM.
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PAST JOURNAL ENTRIES:
May 3, 2003-May
May 10, 2003-May
16, 2003. May
17-May 24, 2003.
May 25-May 31,
2003. June 1-June
7, 2003. June
8-June 13, 2003.
June 14-June 21,
22-July 1, 2003.
July 2-July 13,
14-July 20, 2003.
July 21-July 26,
27-August 4, 2003.
9, 2003. August
10-August 16, 2003.
23, 2003. August
24-August 30, 2003.
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