Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Plan

There are two kinds of holidays in this world: the ones you spend with your family and the ones you spend with your whiskey. On one hand, you've got your Christmases, your Mother's Days, your National Hideous Deformation Awareness Weeks. These are days dedicated to the unwrapping of gifts, the eating of honey hams, the giving of flowers, the staring and the pointing at hunchbacked albinos. They are days where we gather with our loved ones and, well, that's really the point: gathering; making merry; feeling lucky that there are people somewhere in the world who care what happens to you. These are good holidays, but good in that 17th century Puritan kind of way.

On the other hand, you've got your drunk days: your New Year's Eves, your Labor Days, your Halloweens. And while they do indeed have societal import---the signification of another calendar year, the enjoyment of day off, well earned, the Pagan-flavored need to dress up like a Leprechaun and grab women's asses---these holiday are just nationally sanctioned excuses to get stumbling and blotto. I, of course, have no problem with this.

Unfortunately, I'll be missing Halloween weekend in San Francisco for the second time in a row this year. Last October, we found ourselves in New York, doing the CMJ thing, riding in taxis with bloodthirsty, braying lunatics. This year? Well, we're flying to Chicago, we're doing a little recording. Thing is, its been a while since we recorded our last album and we're in full on let's-get-our-lazy-asses-into-the-studio mode. We've got plenty of new songs and now, alls we need is to find somebody who can make those songs sound the way they should sound and, quite honestly, that's what this weekend is for. Maybe we've found someone. All we can do is try it out. It's like a really expensive, horribly loud first date. Except without the sexual tension. Or the dressing well. Or the copious lying.

Needless to say, we're excited. Our current recordings of these new songs have that AM-radio quality to them, which is to say they sound like they're coming out of my old Dream Machine, which is to say you're never hearing them ever. So this Friday we're vamoosing, skipping a weekend of booze-soaked revelry, and returning, we hope, with two or three songs that make us feel like I feel at the end of Beethoven's Ninth: awash in sonic euphoria. "Doesn't sound like butt" would be an improvement, however.

So that there is the plan. The unfortunate lack of Halloween weekend will be remedied when we return, even if all that means is me sitting on my couch with a bad mustache drinking Hamm's out of the can. I don't know how this qualifies as "Halloween" but I figure that if you're drinking Hamm's, you should have a bad mustache.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

On Life, Music, and Decorum, or, What I Really Learned At Work

Musicians, by and large, have always had a bad reputation. Now, certainly, it's deserved at times. Axel Rose has refused to play concerts to tens of thousands of exasperated fanatics for want of a lamb shank. Ozzy Ozborne once staggered into a suit-and-tie meeting with some label executives and, after releasing a jacket-full of doves for dramatic effect, chewed one of those doves' heads off. And surely, no father wanted his daughter bringing G.G. Allen home for supper. I mean, unless that father was a masochistic coprophiliac, and then, well, who's judging who, really?

But there are countless other cases of musicians maligned for dubious motives. Nicolo Paganini and Robert Johnson were long assumed to have dealt with the devil for their prodigious skills, and, suffice it to say, you don't often hear the words "Faustian contract" associated with tree surgeons. The Italian composer Antonio Salieri has been fingered as Mozart's poisoner with evidence that could best be described as "suspicious," "arguable," or "made up by some whack-job." Hell, even Britney Spears---certainly no rock of pious chastity---has been slandered to the extent that if you read a "Brit Chairs KKK-NAMBLA Co-Convention!!!" headline in the grocery store, you really wouldn't be surprised.

Now, Birdmonster, well, we're pretty wholesome folks. Sure, we've got a collective unquenchable thirst for Quaaludes, but, really, who doesn't? Otherwise, we're the sort of people who do your dishes rather that breaking them in half and stabbing your pets. We're the salt of the earth over here. I mean, look: no devouring of peaceful birds, no lamb-shank-related bribery, no contracts with Beelzebub, no horseplay with fecal matter. No big deal, you might protest. Nothing to be proud out. These things are givens. No one, in real life, actually does those things, you'd say, and then we'd go back to playing cribbage and chatting politely about the news of the day.

Of course, you'd be wrong.*

See, a few weeks ago, I was at my straight job, doing what it is I do at my straight job. Namely, that's conversating with lawyers or sending angry letters to those selfsame lawyers demanding all manner of documents and evidence even though I really have no idea what I'm talking about. Essentially, then, I'm paid to out-bullshit professional bullshitters. It's fun in that not-at-all-fun sort of way.

At any rate, there I was, on a pleasant MonsWednesday, staring at a letter I'd received from a partner at a Defense firm. It was an especially haughty missive and it forced me to mutter this gentleman's surname aloud.

"Damn you, Jenkins!" I said, pounding my fist on my desk.**

"Jenkins?!" exclaimed a passerby. "JENKINS! You know about Jenkins, right?"

I knew he was a horrible pompous ass, but beyond that? "No," I replied.

"Hold on," said our passerby, who scurried off to his desk, grinning in a not altogether healthy way.

I went back to working. In fact, I sort of forgot about the whole exchange. I was neck deep in a letter to Mr. Jenkins himself when our passerby returned.

"Ok," he began, evidently fighting off some serious glee while he handed me a legal document. "So Jenkins got fired from his old job and his employer sued him. But this is Jenkins' cross-complaint for breach of contract. Skip down to the fourth page there. See what I highlighted?"

I saw. I read. I winced.


"Jenkin's rage carried over into the late night hours. At approximately 2:27 a.m. on April 23, 2003, only a few hours after the dinner meeting, Jenkins returned to the San Francisco office. While there, Jenkins destroyed the computer equipment in his office, left papers and files scatted about his office, and placed piles of his feces in his office and on a mouse pad on top of a cabinet in a common area near the kitchen. Jenkins also smeared feces on one copier and one of the sinks in the men's bathroom.

...Jenkins' mess was discovered later in the morning on Staff Appreciation Day by Julia Monroe, Office Manager…"

First off, let me tell you it was incredibly difficult for me to not mention that in the letter I was writing: "Plaintiff seeks responsive documents, including but not limited to sales records, product specifications, and please, please don't shit all over them, Jenkins." Second, while I know lawyers don't enjoy the reputable social status that nurses and firefighters do, they are rarely lumped in with the Lady Divines of the world either. Which brings us to our moral: never judge a person by his job. Or, more universally, you never know who's crapping on your mouse pad.

* and of course, I'm winning in our imaginary cribbage game. Double run for 8, sucker. And I got Knobs.

** for the record, his name isn't "Jenkins." I did one of those "names have been changed to protect the innocent" things they do on Get Smart.