Monday, June 17, 2013

“Lose Your Fingers!”

A recent, lengthy walk to the edges of Bensonhurst led me to a folksy-looking bric-a-brac shop. Inside, below racks and rows of delicate teacups, porcelain figurines and various other pieces of precariously-cluttered daintiness, there beamed a beautiful, flame-colored electric guitar. The mock Fender's presence seemed like a deliberate artistic statement: a discordant bit of loudness among the myriad quiet, fragile, civilized things displayed.

I expressed interest. “Fifty dollars,” said the jovial, Eastern European shopkeeper, “but for you, forty-five.” When I turned-down the offer, he said, good-humoredly, “I hope it doesn’t end-up with one of those bands that smash their instruments at the end!” He repeatedly smashed an air guitar and laughed to himself.

On the walk home, I decided that I had made a mistake. I thought about the guitar constantly. I even decided to give it a name: "Jocylin." Several more days of rumination passed before I returned.

Jocylin was still there, smiling her big, fierce guitar-grin. I walked over. A small boy, perhaps the store owner’s son, seemed to mirror my enthusiasm. He wanted me to play.

“You gotta do it,” encouraged the boy, “lose your fingers!”

“Lose your fingers?”

“Yeah!” said the kid, “you gotta lose your fingers!” That extra “L” struck me as a perfect metaphor. I held Jocylin for him and began alternating between C- and G-Major as he pawed the strings with his fingertips. The two of us spent a minute "losing our fingers" on the guitar, smiling widely all the while.

I bought the guitar and high-fived the kid as I left.

Once outside, I defrocked Jocilyn from the plastic bag that the shopkeeper ridiculously wrapped her body in: the world should see her. At first, I carried Jocilyn by the neck – like a dead, flame-colored phoenix, ready to burn and reemerge, electric and anew – but because holding Jocilyn in this way felt somehow disrespectful, I instead began carrying her like an assault rifle. As I forged ahead through the streets, as high on adrenaline as a successful revolutionary, it occurred to me that I was wielding a far more powerful weapon: all an assault rifle can do is kill a man.

Jocilyn turned heads. Once, a group of kids, away from their mother’s tether, saw the guitar, stopped what they were doing, and lined-up against a wall: staring awe-eyed, as though for a newly-coronated king in his first royal ride down High Street.

For the amp, I went inside a local music store, where I gravitated towards the black hole in the center letter of “VOX.” I was sold once the owner mentioned the “wah wah” sound effect option, hearkening me back to that bizarre advertisement/track on Pebbles Box of Trash:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

10 Nostalgic Songs

As my pre-post internet search for "nostalgic songs" would suggest, nostalgia is a very personal thing. Every similar list I came across was radically different from the last, in terms of genre, time-period, etc. Therefore, perhaps most of what follows is only relevant to my own, narrow experiences, but hopefully there's something here to which you can relate.

"Losing Haringey," by The Clientele
Remember those long, contemplative walks? Remember that feeling of 1982-ness: dizzy, illogical, as if none of the intervening disasters and wrong turns had happened yet?

"Slide," by Goo Goo Dolls
Remember consolations?

"I Will Remember You," by Sarah McLachlan
Remember the last time we saw each other? I've long associated this one with graduation day...

"Fast Car," by Tracy Chapman
Remember forgetting it all to wild exhilaration?

"You Get What You Give," by New Radicals
Remember the 1990s: Beck, Hanson, Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson? Remember what the Staten Island Mall looked like back then?

"Green and Grey," by New Model Army
Remember the one who got out, sold out?

"Drops of Jupiter," by Train
Remember your best friend always stickin' up for you? The best soy latte that you ever had?

"Late Night, Maudlin Street," by Morrissey
Remember moving away from the street you grew up on?

"Post World War Two Blues," by Al Stewart
Remember your youthful idealism? Which way did the 60's go?

"Talent Show," The Replacements
Remember how cool we all thought we were in our younger, dumber years?
(Hon. nostalgic Placemats mention: "When it Began," of course)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Neckties; Or, Adventures in Vasoconstriction, Part III

Although I learned during week one that they were not mandated by the company dress code, I continued wearing neckties to my new job until week three: mostly because, for yours truly, the image of me in a necktie was as novel a sight as a gorilla in a shopping mall reading Anna Karenina. The novelty has since lost its affect like similes with gorillas or puns on the word “novel” and with summer fast approaching (let’s hope Greenland doesn’t start thawing again), only the hipsterest hipster could bear wearing a sweat-slopped business-noose for the sake of ironic self-parody.

The lesser reason that I kept wearing ties was as a social experiment: do people treat necktie-wearers differently? I discovered that the courtesies and hostilities of everyday urban social interaction remain: what changes is who exchanges what.

For example, in my non-work attire, I accidentally happened upon Chevy's: a menswear shop on 86th Street in Gravesend. The moment I entered, the owner, sitting behind the counter, asked, with a very subtle enmity:

“Can I help you?”

I responded “just browsing!” and began perusing his wares. Much of it was Italian-made, which meant, to my own paranoid, left-wing head, that I could buy something and not fear that it came from a sweatshop.

As I walked to the back of the store, the owner rose and began sneaking quick glances at me, strongly resembling nervous butler with a peasant in his midst. I felt self-conscious and unwelcome. When I approached a rack of neatly-hung jeans, the contempt he held for my class and kind became clear:

“Those jeans cost $135. Is that a problem?”

Such a question can only be asked to humiliate. “No,” I lied, “that’s not a problem,” but I nevertheless considered buying a pair just to best him. I smiled savagely and asked if he carried the jeans in a size 29.

“I don’t,” said the sallow, class-prejudiced, pathetic little fuck.

“That,” said I, Shakespearean, triumphant, “is a problem,” and I left, mouth puckered inward, teeth clenched tighter than a streetfighter’s fist.

Blatant classism is bad enough, but I was more disturbed by how my peers, or those whom I would regard as such, treated me when I wore a tie. In the subway, my fellow countercultural twentysomethings, with their piercings, thrift-store clothing and chunky headphones blasting almost loud enough to drown-out their student loan anxieties, no longer looked at me with an acknowledgement of <DROOG> in their eyes. No matter what your actual job entails (I would consider my line pro-social), no matter how much David Graber or Michel Foucault you’ve read, and no matter that you’ve listened to every song on Sandinista! at least twice, a necktie immediately makes you The Man.

The absolute worst, however, was the socially-engineered, resentful obsequiousness of the very poor; the exaggerated nicities that we assume we should bestow on those of high rank. Having that directed at me was the straw that broke this camel's heart.

Thus lay a mess of neckties on my dresser table, gathering the same dust that all things, splendid and decrepit, generally do.