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It Takes A While To Make My Point Because I’m Tired, So Heads Up
I’m starting to think my job sucks. Not this job. Writing is the best thing ever, especially getting to write fiction and trying to get an agent or a publisher to give an old and neglected shit. That part is a gas. I’m talking about my bass playing job. It kind of sucks. We had a long couple of weeks, which is good in many ways, but what irritates me is all the other bullshit that goes with it. Especially the drinking. Goddamnit I can’t stand it anymore. Now, I’m not saying I’m better than you because I’ve been sober (from booze) for ten years, but what I am saying is that I’m better than most of these drunken idiot assholes. The problem is that some of these drunken idiot assholes are, when sober, my friends. But we’re not going to talk about that today. What are we going to talk about? Hm. I’m not sure yet. Let’s find out.
Let’s keep it sort of related, though. Besides the drinking at the gigs, most, if not all, of the people in the club irritate me completely dry of piss. You have to always be selling. You have to always smile and be as cool as a fresh green vegetable. You have to answer their questions, which you answered from a different drunken slut the night before and the night before that and the night two days ago (which makes no sense, but I’m not taking it out). You have to make a good impression, and make sure that everyone there stays there from the first shitty song all the way through set three to the last song of the night (which is “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince, in case you were wondering). You have to shake hands with the owner, talk some shop, remember the bartenders’ names, and just be generally cool. Some days it is more difficult than others.
It’s not so much the questions like, “Do you know [song no one has ever fucking heard of or in no way would want to hear a live band play]?” And if you yell out, “Play “Freebird!”” we will play it to spite you. The entire fucking thing, so be prepared. It’s the other questions. The in between set questions. You know, in the fifteen minutes where I’m trying to chug a cranberry juice and suck down five cigarettes.
The last two weeks have been a month long. Moving gear, playing shows (twenty-seven sets from Tuesday of last week until tonight), the whole thing. And I’m not complaining so much as I’m providing some context. Between each set we usually get about fifteen or twenty minutes to relax, write down the next set because we always forget to print them out, smoke a cigarette, drink if you’re every other guy in my band, and answer questions from the drunk sluts and dudes. Most of the questions are directed at my front man. He’s a dashing gent with a velvet voice, and an on stage demeanor that Colm Wilkinson could study for his entire life and never master. If you got that joke, you’re a nerd. But I do have a couple of opposite poles about me that draw in some questions that only I can answer.
First off, if you ask me if I’m ‘slappin’ da bass,’ I will walk away from you resisting the urge to grab some type of construction material with which to marry with the back of your cranium. But the two glaring hit me signs I wear are my modifications and my handicap. People talk to me constantly wherever I go about them both, and at gigs, alcohol has lubricated all sense of tact and decorum, and the questions come freely behind a breath so infused with whatever shot was just taken that if the person were near an opened flame, he’d probably explode. (Which would be much better theatre than watching me play “Poker Face” and “California Girls.”)
The modification questions. I assume that’s the bit that you’re more interested in hearing. We all face these questions, especially those of us who are more heavily modified. We’ve answered a thousand times the question, “Did that hurt?” We’ve answered as many times the question, “Why do you do that?” We’ve watched the asker stranger twitch and skulk when we take out plugs out to show them the wrinkly empty space that our lobes are. We have a bit of a social obligation, don’t we. We wear a sign that says, ‘hey, I’m different than you for this stupidly obvious reason.’ To be insulted by the simple asking or to be rude in our answering is damaging. Not only is it damaging to you as a person or a passing guest star in the sit-com of the asker’s life, but it is damaging to the community of modification. I’m not saying that you have to regale a dissertation with flowery adjectives akin to renaissance love poetry. That, likely, isn’t what the asker is looking for anyway. I’m not even saying that we have to do it with a smile on our faces. What we have to do, though, is to provide the asker the information he’s requested in a way that will edify and reflect positively on our beautiful community and culture. I’ll exemplify for you because I am just that nice of a guy. Buy me gifts, please.
I had a wedding gig last week. Wedding gigs are pretty cake. Pretty wedding cake. (The cake is a lie.) We do two sets, usually, and the bullshit dancing and speeches and all of that nonsense. We take two weeks to learn a song that we’ll never play again, like “Book Of Love” by Peter Gabriel, which is quite possibly the worst song I have ever heard in my life. This wedding last week required us to load in through the service tunnels of the hall, take an elevator to the floor with the ballroom, and load in. Rinse and repeat until the truck is empty of gear. Alone in the elevator, I was joined by a staff member of the hall. He was carrying two five gallon buckets filled with water and potatoes. I didn’t ask. In the tiny space of the forced interaction that is riding an elevator with a stranger, he asked me this: “How do you do that. To your ears, I mean.”
This is where your word choices are important. This is where you are tested as to how you present the culture to which you willingly subscribe and advertise your membership. “Very carefully,” I say to him with a smile. “If not,” I continued, “you’re going to have some problems.” He says, “Doesn’t it hurt?” I say, “Not if you do it correctly.” Then I detailed to him how I stretch my lobes. I even offered him alternatives as to how other people do it. He made a poo face as if he could sympathetically feel in his lobes what I described as doing to my lobes. We continued our conversation, answering the question about what it’ll look like when (it’s never ‘if’ is it) I take my tunnels out. I considered correcting his vocabulary, since we don’t wear gauges, we wear plugs; nor do we gauge our ears, we stretch them; but I didn’t because the elevator ride wasn’t that long. The point is that if I gave him one word answers, if I was curt and abrupt with him, I’d be doing a disservice to the modification community. I may have answered the same questions elevendy-twelve times, but this may be the first time he’s ever asked them. It is a more special conversation to him than it is to me, but I should keep in context that it is indeed a special conversation for us both and make him feel that way. How else is he to learn? Would we rather him walk around with a preconceived notion of a culture in which he doesn’t participate, or would we prefer to educate to the best of our knowledge and help to create another knowledgeable unmodified person? It’s like the time you met that celebrity that you love. Remember? I don’t want to ruin your idea of what the experience was, but he probably doesn’t remember you, and he has probably had the same conversation a trillion times. But you’ll remember it forever, won’t you. Aren’t you glad he was cool to you?
The cat in the elevator also asked me about my cane. He pointed with the hand that wasn’t holding a five gallon bucket of potatoes and said, “Is that part of the look, or what? What’s the deal with that?” Now, since the word archaeopteryx in this sentence is word number 1462 in this blog, I’m going to save that part of the conversation for another day. It’s important how we present ourselves, kids. It’s important that we give strangers the respect that we think we deserve ourselves. We very much live in an entitled society, and on the whole, that irritates the feces free from my poo pipes. But we can be entitled to politeness, conversation, respectful disagreement, differences of opinion, and motiveless compliments if we are each willing to provide the same respect to the other person. Yes, you’re entitled to all of that, but you’re also responsible to give it too. I guess I just wasted 1576 words on something that goes like, “Just be cool, man.” Stay beautiful, kids.
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