Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Memory of a Texas Stopsign

For whatever reason, I get my best ideas while in the shower or on the toilet. Regarding this latter, you might be tempted to think that I assume the same pose as Rodin's The Thinker. But you'd be wrong. That's my dad. Just so you know, I didn't happen upon any other revelations in the shower this morning, though I politely asked a German cockroach to remain on the wall opposite the shower head until after I had finished. He compromised by heading up to the ceiling.

While I seem to do a lot of thinking in the bathroom, I tend to reminisce while eating. I'm not sure why this is; though I love food, I don't have a ton of memories about spectacular dining experiences. This is not to say that I haven't had memorable meals, but given that I'll eat saltines and mustard just as readily as I'll eat something small, sculpted and expensive from a five star hotel, I guess I'm not so much a gourmet as I am a bipedal carp.

But anyway, I ate a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon from the Perk (the rarely-open cafe in my office building), and for whatever reason, it made me think of Dairy Queen, which is another name for a Texas Stop Sign, except for when the Dairy Queen is in another state, in which case it's just another place to poop.

I don't eat at Dairy Queens very often. Usually, it's only on the way home from something, and the ones I've eaten at seem to be deliberately decorated with straws all over the floor and pee on their toilet seats. One of these stops occurred in '98 or '99, when I was on my way from some corny fraternity thing at Texas Tech. I was riding with my friends John Lea, Matt Singer, and Royce Carvallo, and John insisted on having a blizzard. We were tired and hungover, and frankly, a Dairy Queen blizzard is not a good solution to a hangover, especially if you are consistently lactose intolerant, which I am, with regimental frequency. A dairy shit brewed with a beer shit seems like a recipe for Armageddon, but whatever--I had to sit in the back seat, and my rights and opinions were null and void.

So we pulled into some Dairy Queen (who, if she marries Burger King, presumably gives birth to Carl's Jr., according to the joke, which isn't all that funny, unless you are this guy I went to high school with, and then it's a riot). Of course the floor was covered in pink straws and napkins and dirt clods and auto salvage, and I was relieved to find that the toilet seat was covered in a thousand layers of dried pee. The thing about a peed-on toilet seat is that you really can't do anything about it (like say, for example, lifting it), and thus the shimmery lacquer of crystalized urine gets increasingly thicker. When in Rome, I guess.

At least I washed my hands.

When I re-entered the "dining room," which actually had a lot more in common with a bus station than you'd want to imagine, I found John in one of those irritable poses--arms crossed, bedhead standing tall, mouth pursed, steam misting from his ears. The thing about John is that his volume and vulgarity level is directly proportional to his BAC and the number of hours he has been up; needless to say, both of these were big numbers, and what I found was that he and the other guys were the only ones in line, and none of the people behind the counter were helping them.

As I perused the menu, I heard John grumbling to the right of me, and finally he lost it.


I ended up waiting in the car.

The Robo-Pirate

Sunday, June 05, 2005

I Might As Well Be Honest

So my band, Darth Vato, is nominated for Best Live Band in the local alt-paper's annual music awards. We won it last year, and at the time, I suspected the whole thing was rigged, largely because there were better and tighter bands with big attendance draws who were in the running with us. In the event that we win again, I will be convinced that the awards are indeed arbitrary, in light of our performance (or gong show, if you prefer) on Saturday. We've played worse, but just barely. At least nobody threw up.

I have a number of reservations about my presence in the band. In my own opinion, I am a mediocre bass player, but since our songs are more or less rooted in reggae, I don't have to do anything really difficult. This is not to say that reggae bass is unchallenging or beneath the skill of good bass players; on the contrary, playing reggae bass well requires one to make choices, rather than runs. A good reggae bass player is judicious with his or her notes. There isn't room in the groove for hot licks or jerk-off slapping bullshit. Which is probably why I like to play it, because it is within my capacity to be good at it.

However, I'm still pretty sloppy, and that's before I start drinking beer. And given the way things went on Saturday, I started drinking beer pretty darn early. Suffice to say that I lost another favorite hat by the end of the night, and given the trouble I went to to get that particular hat, I'm pretty pissed at myself.

Anyway, Saturday was a fun show. It was pretty crowded in the bar. There were new faces. We inspired a mosh pit. A fight broke out in front of us. We sold a bunch of CDs, in spite of the fact that we really didn't bring the "A" game. In fact, one of our biggest proponents and best friends remarked, "Wow! They sound BAD!" And to ice this particular cake, the entertainment editor of the beneficient Weekly got to see us turn the buffoonery knob to 11. On our collective amp, the buffoonery knob is next to the suck/not suck switch. Guess what position that was in.

On a couple levels, I'm okay with the way we played. Not proud mind you, but okay. First of all, it wasn't like we have a reputation for perfect execution, and Saturday was not the last time we will play like crap. Secondly, everyone I saw seemed to be having a good time and didn't seem to care a whole lot about wrong notes or cracked voices. I'm not terribly pleased that we likely embarrassed ourselves in front of people who had never seen us before (which probably includes the aforementioned editor), but what are you gonna do? I guess part of our appeal is that we provide a guessing game as to whether or not we will be dressing to impress, so to speak, or proverbially showing up in the clothes we mow the lawn in.

Along those lines, I tend to think of my band as a punk band of sorts, not because we play punk (we try, with limited success), but because that is how we think. If someone doesn't like us, we don't really care. We run our mouths. A lot. Maybe even about your band. Especially if your band is better or more popular than ours. Having a party? Better watch your beer, because we will definitely try to walk out with it. And whatever snacks are in your cupboard--we'll take those too. We suck at shows that are supposed to be big deals (and by we, I mostly mean I--see above). Moreover, we revel in all that is puerile. I make no claim to inventing jackassery (otherwise I'd be a millionaire and nailing Jessica Simpson like Bam Margera and Johnny Knoxville--now those guys are jackasses! They should make a TV show), but I do feel that in our town, which is what it is, there aren't too many bands that do the same sort of lame crap that we do. Maybe the other bands in our town are a running loop of gag reels when they are off-stage, but our antics typically spill over to the times in which we are plugged in. I can't help it--I just love punching Kerry in the nuts.

Sometimes I think that being an ass clown is a way for me to sabotage my own success. By fucking off all the time, I don't ever set anyone's expectations higher than what is easy for me to reach. If someone doesn't like us, I can just say, "well, we were so wasted, I'm not surprised." Perhaps I want to hear someone say that we're a good band when we're sober, or, better yet, "Steve is good when he isn't shitfaced." That would be terrific, because then I'd have an excuse to duck under whenever the spotlight of my insecurities glares down on me.

I've been pulling this crap my whole life. My fear of failure keeps me from attempting a lot of things, and when I do attempt something, the fear keeps me from excelling. Sure, I get things done, but they are usually accomplished in a half-assed sort of way, because if I can't make it perfect, well, I wasn't really trying anyway. My own potential is hamstrung by the possibility that I might fuck something up or that someone will be better or brighter at it than I am. And thus, I play sloppy bass, sabotage relationships, alienate friends, pain my family, pay bills late, and worst of all, refuse to challenge myself.

You might wonder why I don't ever seem to learn from my mistakes. The fact is that I do learn; I just don't really apply the lessons. The post is a good example of knowledge without application, and I just now realized that my self-analysis is largely a broken record. Moreso, it is a security blanket. I can cycle through life giving lackluster performances, feeling sorry for myself, and then rationalizing why I do the things I do without ever making steps to alter my behavior. It's a pretty shitty way to live, especially when I know there are a lot of people who believe in me and in what I am capable of. For that I am sorry. I am trying, or at least trying to try (sometimes, anyway).

Everyone has their hangups and personality flaws. Mine have, most recently, cost me a cool hat. I guess I have to remember that I only get to be here once. Better late than never doesn't mean a whole lot after you are gone, and if woulda shoulda coulda is the refrain from the theme song to my life, then I need to change the tune.