Lately I’ve felt l like I’m living in the moment before the montage. The point when everything is screwy and disordered and low, and I just need to find the right song, the right witty word, and the scene will start–the grand, well-edited, life-change will begin.
I’m listening to Funwater Radio week five as I type this. Lindsey and I selected and mixed it tonight at the kitchen table as she made Jack Kirby themed cookies for an art show tomorrow. The major chord of washing machine, dryer, and fan is sustained behind me. It’s 11:30 and pitch black outside, but I’ve got the front door open and I can smell the warm grass and trees outside. I’m glad I’ve got enough sense to see that this scene is awesome, this moment is great. But I still feel low and that bothers me.
I haven’t written you beautiful few for a while and for this I apologize. I wish I had a good reason like a broken wrist or a multi-million dollar screenplay, but I really don’t. I reached a weird point where I felt I was writing this thing according to a style sheet, each entry had some formula to follow. Which could be fine, but it wasn’t a good style nor a good formula. I wanted to speak of happy things and make you guys laugh, but all my jokes got really bitter and unrecognizable even as jokes. I wanted to talk about funny things at work, but they’ve been coming less and less.
I’ve held strong to the belief that if I’m unhappy it’s mostly my fault, and I just haven’t looked at the shitty moment from the right, bright viewpoint. Your surroundings are only as good as what you put into them, and life is all one shade of gray with your moods casting different colors upon it. But lately this method has been failing me. I took a break to find brighter colors, I guess. It’s not serious or anything, mellow melancholy at best, but still it’s time to be happier.
The other day I was walking to the bathroom and saw a semi truck stopped at the light at Washington and Sylvester. The driver was staring at the road ahead, but he had this crazy big smile and he was rubbing his hands together excitedly. I was wonderstruck by him. What could he possibly be so happy about right now? His hand rubbing was that exaggerated, almost cartoonish excitement–like fat uncles at the thanksgiving table when the turkey’s brought out. And there wasn’t anyone outside but me, I mean he wasn’t being offensive about some young lady walking by. He just thought of something that got him super pumped up and I caught him at that exact moment. It was kind of fantastic. It made the walk to the bathroom better.
Barbering’s been bumming me for a while now. The shop and the hotel and the cycle of it. It doesn’t help that there’s a bump in the wall of the urban onion bathroom that looks EXACTLY like a fetus, so in the slow times I build up elaborate fantasies of the space baby being incubated in our walls and what sort of terror it will unleash when born. The spot has stayed the same size for a while, so at least the terror is not growing. Then again, I don’t know the gestation period for astro-babies. But this story is not going anywhere. Here’s a better one.
When walking to get coffee this morning I saw a couple guys working in the alley. They had shirts that said, “Got Carpet?”. They were working for some carpet company. This bothered me , cos the slogan sounded linguistically gross, and also I want people to generally be wittier. Like, even if you only know carpets and how to run a business installing carpets, you should still have enough humor to come up with an original tagline. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be yours. ‘Cars, pets, nothing’s too tough for our carpets.” Something clumsy but new like that. Eagan’s has the tagline, “Got Goop?” There’s an auto place on Southbay with the slogan, “Got Tint?” and now this “Got Carpet?”
When it first came out, “Got Milk?” made no sense. There’s no joke there or anything. It sounds a little discomforting. I don’t know why so many businesses have adopted it as their own.
Then I realized that I’m thinking too hard on this. All these people want to do is say what kind of service they offer and “Got Whatever?” is an easy, two word way of doing that. And then I realized that I was seeing the birth of a new, “…..And Sons”.
Here’s what I mean: You know all the different businesses that say, “Brooks and Sons” or “Steinway and sons” or “Schuster and Sons”. At some point , that “And Sons” didn’t exist. Some carpet guy would just open a place called “stan’s carpets.” Then maybe one day his son joined on, but Stan didn’t care for him much, and kept the name. Then a little later his other son joined on and now Stan had to admit it wasn’t just him running the place anymore, he was getting older and his sons had grown into responsible lads. So he changed the store to “Stan and Son’s Carpets”.
Other businesses saw this and realized how easy and quickly that new slogan explained the strong, family nature of their work so they changed their names as well, to “Foster and Son’s appliances” or “Cooper and Son’s Nickelodeons” or whatever. The point is, at one time this idea didn’t exist and someone had to start it. Now, the “And Sons” is just an affectation most of the time. You don’t have to have kids to use it, the title goes unquestioned. And you dont’ have to have a direct line back to the dairy industry to use, “Got Piano Tunings?”. The phrase is for everyone.
Thirty years from now, “Got Something?” will be an old-timey affectation to show how you remember the good old days when businesses were honest and just told you they “Got burgers” or whatever. It’ll be used the same way craft soda companies use the phrase “a revitalizing tonic!” today. Or how stores will call themselves Shoppes, even that that extra “pes” has no part in their dialect. We were born during the birth of a new “…Sons”, the beginning of a new cliche galaxy. . That’s kind of cool. We can remember it’s origin point, and we can remember the strange transition period when you’d see someone in an alley and you’d just want to scream, “hey carpet man! you’re shirt makes no sense!”
Instead I just went and got coffee.
So I might be in a lower mood than usual, and I might have just listened to Kathryn Calder’s “So Easily” about 8 times in a row like some sad teen, and I might have felt sad that I only have the song on MP3 because i’d like to hear the needle hit the end of the record and have to physically start it over again, because lifting the needle’s arm and placing it again at the edge is the gesture of pleasant bummerness. But I can change these things. I don’t need to fixate on the barbering, I can look beyond it, at least to the sidewalks and alleys surrounding the shop and then I’ll carry on from there.
So here was the best part of my day today. Or at least the funniest (the best part might have been talking about Street Fighter IV, Haruki Murakami, and Stand-up Comedy with a new customer–pleasant twining.)
But this afternoon I was walking to get another cup of coffee(can you see the ebb and flow of my day?) And the Fifth Avenue Sandwich Shop guy was smoking on the backstoop and talking to my building manager(who I cannot stand because he looks and acts like a burp). Tim(the 5th ave man) says, “THERE HE IS!” to me and I smile and say hi. Then he says, “I haven’t seen you come in for a roast beef sandwich lately.” And I tell him I was in a couple weeks back and he laughs and says good good.
then my manager says, “You have to try their pulled pork sandwich.”
At this point I’ve walked past them so I say, “I’ll do that.” and keep walking.
But he’s not done talking about the pulled pork, “The sauce was excellent and the meat was perfect.”
I turn around to be polite but he’s not looking at me, he’s smoking and staring at the asphalt. I can’t tell if he’s still talking to me so I keep walking. I dont’ think he knows either because he never directly addresses me , but his voice keeps getting louder as I walk away as if he unconsiously wants to make sure I hear him..
“They used a kaiser roll!” he bellows out. I reach the end of the alleyway now and am standing next to Batdorf and this guy is now a good 60 feet away but I can hear him crystal clear cos he’s straight up yelling.
“I THINK HE SLOW-ROASTED THE MEAT!” he cried out, “IT MUST HAVE COOKED ALL NIGHT. IT CAME WITH POTATO SALAD AND I GOT A DIET COKE!”
The air was perfect, the sky was blue, and I’m listening to a man scream at the top of his lungs the details of yesterday’s special. It was so awkward and absurd and so weirdly pleasant and I thought, “I want Funwater to know about this!”
It felt good to think that. I wanted you to know that too.