significance is optional

I’m with Angelle on the way to the only used game store left in Metairie when a chalkboard sign in front of a bar catches my eye. Someone’s written on it in pink and blue chalk “Bring Our Rooster Back — Reward.”

“Did you see that?” I ask her.

“See what?” she asks. I tell her about the sign and she laughs.

“That’s a story I’ll never know,” I say.

I started a game of Dragon Warrior III on New Year’s Day 2011 and a game of Dragon Warrior on New Year’s Day 2012. We’re going to this store to see if they have a copy of either Dragon Warrior II or IV. It’s actually a LAN center that shares a parking lot with a daiquiri shop. The lot is packed with cars to where we have to drive to the very back to find the last open spot.

“I guess everyone’s watching the football game at the daiquiri shop or something,” Angelle says.

“This oughta be a fun place to drive through once it’s over,” I say.

It was a logical assumption to make, and dead wrong too. The daiquiri shop wishes it got this kind of business. The LAN center is full of spectators commenting and loud gamers pounding on mouse buttons, every one of the dozens of seats filled, standing room only. “Take the base! Take the base! Take it!” a guy is barking into his bulky headset. “I’ll make a man out of you!” sing four guys standing behind a blond kid frantically tapping keys. I recognize it from Mulan. “Here’s the plan,” a twenty-something starts cooing coolly in a velvet voice on his headset, somehow audible through the din, sounding like he belongs on a top 40 station. The whole room’s alive. I feel like I’ve left Metairie for a while and stepped into the same specific space from the first time I saw an arcade when I was very young, the first rock club I ever wandered into, the first bar I ever snuck into with my friends. I enjoy it while it lasts.

Finally I remember why we came here, so I go to look at the NES game selection. They don’t have either game, so the tradition ends here. I can’t say I’m too disappointed because II is a frustrating drag to play through and IV would have been very expensive.

***

A couple of days earlier I’m talking to Greg, a friend of mine that I haven’t spoken to in a long time. We catch up on what the other’s been up to and then out of nowhere he says “The year’s finally coming to an end soon.” He sounds almost anxious about it.

“It sure is,” I say because I can’t think of any other way to reply to that. I guess I could have said “No it’s not!” Maybe if I ever have this conversation again I will, just to see what happens next.

“I just wish it would come sooner,” he groans. “Ugh, three more days of 2012.”

People who are relieved when a year ends are always relieved every time a year ends. The predictability doesn’t bother me so much as the kind of mindset it implies. It’s not the year’s fault after all. The date the year begins isn’t some universal law like gravity, just a day agreed on by a handful of people over a thousand years ago. Really, January 1st just kind of sits there in the middle of winter. Spring equinox makes more sense from a metaphorical and even an orbital basis for a Northern Hemisphere-dictated beginning. In a parallel universe where that’s the case, I bet he wouldn’t have started this conversation for another three months.

I tell him this.

“Equinox isn’t the same day every year though,” he says.

“It’s a range of three dates,” I say. “Make it the second one.”

“Ok, so the year starts in the middle of March now. Not a very pleasing aesthetic.”

I think about this. He’s right. “So we make March 20th into January 1st.”

“That makes sense,” he says. “How many days is that?”

“From what?”

“From our January 1st to your January 1st?”

“What makes it *my* January 1st all of a sudden?”

“Well it’s your idea, isn’t it?”

“If I were talking to myself, yeah. You just said it made sense, so ‘my’ January 1st is actually ‘our’ January 1st.”

“Well what do we call the other January 1st then?”

“‘Their’ January 1st.”

He liked this. “Ok, so how many days?”

“30 days hath September…” I start. There’s got to be a quicker mnemonic or something for the number of days in a month, because it always feels like it takes forever to get to the end when I go through it. “79 or 80,” I say after a moment.

“Ah, because of the leap year.”

“Which would now come…in the middle of December.”

“Would it have to though?”

“No, I guess we could just stick it anywhere at this point.”

“Why not the end of the year?”

“December 32? Think of all the hard 31 limits that would need to be recoded on websites and in software. Those poor programmers.”

“Hmm.”

We thought about this a lot longer than we should have.

“November,” I said. “November always felt like it should be a 31 month.”

“You know, yeah. It’s more robust than a 30 month somehow.”

“November 31st is our leap day.”

“Rock.”

We spend a few minutes figuring out what our new birthdays are. Mine becomes February 23rd. I suddenly remember that I was friends with a girl a long time ago whose birthday was February 23rd and it nearly knocks me over because I realize I’ve had no memory of her whatsoever for years and years until this coincidence of thought brought weeks of experiences flooding back.

***

There’s this girl with long dyed black hair hanging out with my friend Chris when I go to meet him at Pepper’s. I hadn’t seen Chris since we’d lived in the same dorm building two semesters ago. The last time we hung out, he had walked in on me while I was pissing in the bathroom. Instead of the standard “Oh oh, sorry man,” he just stood there and stared at me. I stared back at him and then delivered the best one liner I’ll ever come up with: “Window shopping or just sightseeing?” Chris turned and sort of half ran out of the bathroom. Marcus and Louis exploded with laughter in the other room.

“Let me get you an icepack,” Marcus heaved between laughs.

“I don’t need an icepack,” Chris snapped. He was beyond flustered.

“It’s the only way we’ll stop that blushing,” Louis cackled, adding “Window Shopper.”

“Don’t call me that!”

One year later, Chris waves at me with a big smile on his face, getting up out of the booth to greet me. He looks exactly the same as he did a year ago. I decide not to bring up the bathroom thing. Yet.

“I’d like you to meet a friend of mine,” he says, gesturing toward the girl.

“I’m Alissa,” she says.

“I know,” I say, sitting in the booth. “I’m Jak.”

“You know? How did you know?”

“That crazy thing a year ago that we met at.”

“We did? What crazy thing?”

“You don’t remember?”

“No, refresh my memory.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right. It was a pretty wild time, so bear with me. I’ll try to get the story right.”

She sits up straighter in her chair. “This I’ve got to hear.”

I come up with this absolutely stupid story. I don’t remember most of the details anymore. Swimming pools full of alcohol and Rolls Royce demolition derbies. I think Billy Joel showed up for some reason, probably because “Piano Man” was on the jukebox at the time. At one point we all ended up at the White House. We got the key to the city of Thibodaux. Aliens showed up. That kind of dumb story. It all ended in a disaster, because that’s the only way I knew how to end a story back then. Something the aliens did, I’m sure. Everyone that didn’t get amnesia from their head injuries agreed to be sworn to secrecy since the government considered the existence of the aliens classified. I remember that I ended it with “To this day, if you talk to anyone involved, from Bush to the mayor of Thibodaux to the guy in the gorilla suit, they’ll act like they have no idea what you’re talking about.” Somehow she was still listening.

“Then why are you telling me? Won’t you get in trouble?”

“It’s all right because you were there. Don’t tell anyone else, now.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t dare.”

“I can’t believe I did,” I say. Chris keeps nudging me under the table and grinning and winking at me. He’s really very bad at subtlety. Alissa notices and gives him a sour look. I say “Did Chris ever tell you why we call him Window Shopper?”

He frowns. “Aw, c’mon man.”

“He didn’t, and you’re going to,” she says, completely intrigued.

“I, just, ugh,” Chris stammers. “I don’t have to sit through it.” He gets up and walks outside to smoke a few cigarettes, anything to not relive that. It really bothered him! He didn’t come back in for another forty-five minutes after I finish the story, so Alissa and I keep talking. At one point she mentions that she had always wanted to be a pilot.

“Like for an airline?” I ask her.

A look of shock crosses her face, like she blurted out a secret no one was supposed to know. “Ugh, never mind, no, no, no no no nonono.” She sounded out the “no”s like a marble dropping.

At first I thought I had said something dumb. “Then what, like a test pilot?”

“Seriously, forget I ever said anything about it.” I realize that for some reason this was extremely embarrassing to her.

I spend the next minute trying to think of something else to talk about. Only aviation exists in the entire universe for this minute. I keep my mouth shut.

She breaks the silence with “My dad always told me it was a stupid idea.” I figure that’s about the moment our friendship really began.

“What, flying?”

“Well, me flying.”

“Why would he say that?”

“I don’t know. He never said why. Just that it was. And he was very adamant about that.”

“That’s strange.”

“Yeah.” She says it like she’d never considered that as a possibility. “I guess he was a strange guy.”

“‘Was’. Is he still alive?”

“Oh. Yeah, I haven’t talked to him for five years now.”

“Does it still matter what he thinks?”

She stares ahead for a moment. “Hm,” she hums. “No, I guess it wouldn’t.” Of course it wasn’t so simple as that. And of course it really was too. We got to be pretty close friends for a while after that.

A few days later I met her roommate Don. They had been best friends since elementary school. He had this great easygoing personality and found humor in everything. He was also a curiosity in Thibodaux, a giant 6’5″ gay man easily more than 400 pounds. He had a knack for hooking up with the worst people in the world. The one who beat him up with a baseball bat. The one who stole his car at gunpoint after breakfast. The one who tried to drug Alissa at a party. The one who was selling crack from the house they used to rent and tried to blame Don when the police raided it. Those were the big four; most of the rest of them just ended up stealing things. We came back from lunch with him one day to find their apartment door open. “Well, it happened again,” he said in the way anyone else would say “Ah, the mail came.” This one had stolen the television, his vintage record player and the toaster. The toaster. “The TV, the turntable and the toaster,” Don said, giggling. “I have to appreciate the alliteration.” Then he sighed. It’s the sort of sigh I shouldn’t have been able to ever forget. It was an aural diamond of concentrated sentiment, one wordless syllable that spoke paragraphs of resignation clearly and without context. It’s been years and years since I’ve thought of it and even longer since I heard it, and it still breaks my heart a little even just to remember it. I couldn’t recreate it if I tried. I wouldn’t want to.

The apartment lease was in Alissa’s name and she was torn about telling Don to find another place to live.

“I couldn’t,” she would convince herself. “He’s always been there for me, so I have to be there for him. He’d end up living with people like that and really get hurt or in trouble. He’s the worst judge of character in the world.”

“I have to,” she would convince herself. “I can’t keep coming home to an open front door. One of these days he’s going to bring someone here that’s going to kill us. I have to look out for myself at some point. He’s the worst judge of character in the world.”

Most of our time as friends wasn’t consumed with these issues. Like Greg’s 2012 though, difficulty sticks out more in memory.

The last time I talked to her was in an email. I’d moved from one friend’s place to another’s and decided I wanted to stay in town permanently, so I had started looking for a job. I was going back to New Orleans periodically to work with my friend’s company and play shows for cash to sustain me while I looked for something steadier in Thibodaux. She had emailed me after I hadn’t been in touch with her for a month or so, just asking what I’ve been up to and if I had any new music she could hear. I told her I’d been really busy and that I’d catch up with her “real soon”. I attached a couple of MP3s of songs I was working on. I figure that’s about the moment our friendship really ended.

She emailed me back a few hours later, though I didn’t check it until the next week. She had spent her own actual real time listening to my songs and then writing out what she liked about them. I don’t remember what her email said anymore; instead, I remember that I was wearing a pair of blue jeans and a maroon t-shirt, with my tan button down shirt draped over the computer chair. I remember that I was eating an orange popsicle. I remember that later that night I got drunk with Rob and Ben and Brennan in the same booth at Pepper’s where I’d first met her. I remember not replying and letting this friendship slip away because I felt like she was part of the life I had before I’d made this latest plan. Anything involved with that life could wait until this life was in place. It’s the kind of wrong thought that’s only obviously wrong after it’s all over.

Up to this point, talking to Greg, years after “real soon”, I’d forgotten everything about Alissa and her universe, which I guess is fitting for a friendship that started with a story about amnesia. I wondered what else I might have forgotten. I wonder what I’m doing now that I might forget. It happens, I know that. Everyone who’s lived enough to regret something knows that. Forgetting human beings still seems wrong somehow.

Alissa. Don. Bring Our Rooster Back — Reward.

***

“Anyway,” I say, “the point is that you wouldn’t be anticipating the new year like this right now if it were three months away.”

“Well, obviously,” Greg says. “So?”

“So it seems awfully limiting to label the next three days as being part of a ‘bad’ year knowing how arbitrary it is, doesn’t it? Why wait to change your outlook?”

“Hm,” he hums. “That makes sense.” And in this case, of course it really is as simple as that.

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bias is often called identity

I was talking to an insanely talented performer after a rehearsal for a show we’ll be working together on next month.

“The difference between professional and amateur performances is how much they’ve been perfected,” he says.

I’m pretty sure I disagree, though I haven’t thought it through or heard it out enough to commit to saying something about it one way or the other. “Mm,” I hum instead. I nod my head up gently as I make this noise. It’s enough to acknowledge “Yes, that certainly was a thing you just said and I sure did hear it” without obstructing or leading the dialogue yet.

He goes on, “In community shows like what’s standard around here, you’re always playing to the same crowds, so you constantly have to keep coming up with new material. You can’t spend months honing an act to perfection like when you’re on the road and it’s always new audiences every night.”

While that’s true, there’s such a thing as “too perfected”. Perfecting an act means calculating what actions at what times will generate the desired appropriate response from the audience. This, of course, is a vital component to any act worth seeing more than once.

If you’ll allow me to get all douchey artistic-minded (and you will, because that’s how reading other people’s words works)…

Where it gets “too perfect” is when the creativity and initial drive behind the act gets eclipsed and replaced by those calculations. And yeah, it’s not hard at all to fake enthusiasm enough to fool people when you’re already performing at such a level that would lead to that point.

Who’d want to though? At that point it becomes a crass and soulless meta-performance, doesn’t it? To me, it’s right down there with “How’s everybody feeling tonight?” or “What’s up, [town name]?”: a meaningless effort with a guaranteed reaction because there will always be at least a few people who feel obligated to respond to that sort of thing with some kind of positive noise.

Some of the best acts I’ve ever seen fly completely by the seat of their pants, rehearsing just enough to have nothing more than a general direction and they still carry the performance with their ability and personality. I’ve also shared bills with acts that have every second of the show from the song intros to the stage blocking meticulously planned out and honed months in advance that completely failed to entertain anybody.

It’s not what he meant, and so I don’t say it.

I do say “I don’t think it’s possible to standardize what’s ‘professional’ in entertainment.”

“Mm,” he hums, then “True.” I feel like I should be happy that someone I have so much respect for agrees with me, and I’m not. Instead we share an uncomfortable moment of silence because we both realize at that point that it would make our jobs so much ridiculously easier if it weren’t true.

…on the other hand, we get to do this for a living. We move on to other topics. Later I get home and finish up the audio / video pairings for the sheriff’s office scene in Targeted, a process that is so boring it won’t get mentioned again once the period ends this sentence and here it comes and here it is right here.

The next day I wake up to an intense argument going on outside my window. A man and a woman are having it out in their carport in machine gun Spanish. Thanks to the distance, the speed of the words and the twelve years it’s been since I spoke Spanish with any regularity, I can’t even catch a gist of what they’re arguing about, except that they are both throwing some righteous rage each other’s way.

I’m annoyed that I don’t remember more Spanish. If someone’s going to argue loud enough to wake me up from a house over, I want to follow the story. It’s a public performance at this point, and I can’t tell if it’s amateur or professional.

Fifteen minutes later, a car door slams and the ignition roars. I imagine her twisting the key so hard that the top snaps off. The woman’s voice fades in like someone turning up the radio from zero really fast as she starts yelling again inside the car a few seconds before she rolls the window down so he (and I) can actually hear her. There’s something very funny about that to me that I can’t even explain to myself.

They, of course, spend another couple of minutes screaming back and forth, because nobody ever just immediately drives off in these situations. She eventually volleys a sentence that satisfies her and does drive off. It feels like a song that ends on an unresolving chord. What was all of this about? Who won, if anyone? Will this pick up again when she comes back? How much Spanish can I brush up on between now and then?

I have things to do though. I’m going to busk with Remy and Thugsy on Royal so I step outside to put my guitar and ukulele in the car and there’s my neighbor, still pacing the carport.

“Hello!” he calls with a cheery wave. “How are you today?” His voice sounds sluggish and labored somehow.

“I’m fine,” I answer back. “Going to play some music for a while.” Now my voice sounds strange too, and I realize it’s because for the last half hour I’ve been listening to enraged Spanish. In comparison, English sounds like a series of yawns. “What are you up to today?”

“Rearranging the patio,” he says. His grin drops and he looks away for a moment, then back at me, smiles, looks away, frowns, smiles, and then turns away. It looks even more awkward than it sounds like it would.

“Good luck with it,” I say, not meaning the patio.

He nods and tries to mask a sigh as an “mmmmmhmm”. The shoulders give it away. The shoulders always give everything away. I feel bad for him, and just a little guilty that I get to go have fun on Royal Street.

I shouldn’t have, because four hours later I was in a pretty bad car wreck. It’s good to get the first wreck over with early. My ugly green Kia Soul is currently in the parking lot of a collision center, sitting next to other smashed-up vehicles like it’s waiting to be seen at an emergency room. Since I first bought it I’ve said it’s so ugly, it’s charming. Right now it’s so ugly, it’s ugly.

***

A clarifying moment is a point in time where every bias and subjective tint falls away, leaving only an objective truth. That sounds really deep and important, doesn’t it? It’s not. Most clarifying moments are inconsequential.

On the other hand, it can be argued that everything is inconsequential if there’s a large enough perspective applied, so I guess it depends on what’s important to you.

A while back I played through Final Fantasy V. I found it extremely hard which usually means I was playing it wrong, like when I played through Final Fantasy VII with only level 1 limit breaks because I didn’t know any better.

One of the mandatory bosses in FFV is a beast called Twin Tania, and he will absolutely wreck your shit. There’s an undisplayed time limit to the battle, at the end of which he’ll cast a spell called Gigaflare which wipes out your party even if they’re all at full HP. It’s not a long countdown at all.

The game isn’t content simply ending the battle with a Gigaflare cast though. It gives you a facade of hope by allowing you ONE MOVE between the “Gigaflare gathering power!” message and the nuclear payload. This detail is important enough that you read about it in a book a bit earlier in the dungeon.

The rub is that despite knowing about the grace period, it’s worthless knowledge. Unless you’ve spent weeks just leveling up your characters to Herculean heights, there’s nothing you can do in one move to kill Twin Tania by this point. It’s SquareSoft sticking a gun in your face outside the convenience store and saying “I’m going to kill you no matter what you do. So what are you gonna do?”

Things like that give the most valid idea of exactly what kind of RPG gamer you are, moreso than playing every RPG ever made ever will. What do YOU do with a meaningless move seconds before an inevitable Game Over?

Seeing a pair of headlights rapidly approaching brings about a clarifying moment that fits in a larger perspective. The thoughts you have besides “OH SHIT” in that sluggish space between realizing “this is inevitable” and the actual impact are a clear picture of the sort of person you truly are.

I saw a man in his 50s in the driver’s seat of the truck. There were no passengers. “I hope he doesn’t get hurt,” I thought. “Well, here it comes.” And I think I can live with being that sort of person.

As for Twin Tania, I cast Meteo on my party because I’ll be damned if I give some six-legged warthog the satisfaction more than once.

***

What else? Oh! The Jak Locke Goes Too Far EP is finished and I released it online a couple of days ago. Here, listen to it! Enjoy it while it’s still something new!

12/21/2012 ADDITION: Apparently the proper way to beat Twin Tania is that you’re actually supposed to wait until the Gigaflare is charging and then use something with an instant death effect on it. The book is supposed to be a clue to use that method. Because it’s been more than seven years since I played it, I’m going to go ahead and blame the Playstation version’s lousy translation for not making that clearer, even though I have no idea if it was the translation’s fault or not. That version’s localization was so awful that I’ll take any possible opportunity to slag it.

There’s probably a metaphor somewhere here for seemingly meaningless things actually having a function if only the proper knowledge is applied, and it’s a shame I have no interest in finding it.

all words are old ideas

On Monday I worked as an extra in a movie called Boulevard H which is supposed to come out next year. The most official synopsis I’ve been able to find is “a group of wannabe actors who collectively follow an eccentric and volatile acting coach. The students are held back by autism, old age, dwarfism, paralysis, egotism, and delusions of grandeur.”

I got the email confirming my booking five hours before the call time so I only slept three hours. If I hadn’t been getting three hours or less of sleep the last three nights, that wouldn’t have been a memorable detail for me.

The email only told men to wear “semi-formal” which is the most vague wardrobe description possible. I threw on the suit I wore at my show last Saturday, shoved a tie in my pocket (just in case) and went to the shoot.

We’re playing audience members at the play the characters put on. I’m sitting in the third row at the far right. The actors are running their lines on the stage and it’s legitimately a very funny scene, leading me to believe that the movie must not have a very large budget (it doesn’t). One of the lead actors is also the director / writer. A mammoth headache begins to roll in as I realize I should have eaten a lot more for breakfast than a handful of pretzel sticks. The director’s assistant is pointing at me and telling me to move to the front row, rightmost seat, then later moves me again two seats to the left. He later thanks the front row extras for dressing properly. Okay, so that’s what “semi-formal” means.

After three hours of positioning and rehearsal, the crew is finally ready to start rolling cameras. Loud booming chords of music play from the other side of the ballroom doors. We’re all confused, nobody mentioned this.

“Mood, you think?” the girl to my left asks me. She’s a very pretty college student who told me earlier this is her sixth film she’s done background work on and that she’s excited because it’s the first project that she hasn’t been cast as “student” in.

“That, or maybe the fanfare before the play?” I say.

“Doesn’t the old lady play the fanfares on the trumpet?” she says. And she’s right, that’s one of the funniest parts of the whole scene.

“That’s true — say, why do the director and crew look as confused as the rest of us?” I ask.

“You think there’s something else going on out there?” she asks.

It was a conversation of questions, one of many going on between the cast, crew and 100 extras. Finally I hear the assistant director, a big important looking man with a white beard, talking over the radio and relaying it to the director who is currently wearing chainmail.

“It’s a children’s Christmas concert. The hotel said it’s been planned for a long time. We’ll have to wait until they’re done.” It feels kind of good to know that it doesn’t just happen to my movie, it happens to the bigger deals too.

After an hour of slightly off-key Christmas songs, shooting begins and we’ve all memorized every characters’ lines by the time lunch comes. Five hours later the girl on my left will find out she’s been asked to come back tomorrow to play one of “ten youthful classroom extras” in a different scene.

“So you’re a stu-”

“Shut up. I’m a youthful classroom extra.”

Much later I’m home and looking up articles about background work to see if the experience on this set was an average one or not. I find a particularly lively one and start reading.

It’s an article so long that I end up glancing at the scrollbar to see if I’m as far down as I think I should be by this point. (I’m not. I’m only halfway through.) It’s a phenomenon you may be familiar with. I scroll up to see the post date and I begin to wonder if the author wrote this in one sitting and if not, how many sittings it took. I start thinking about the way I look at articles and realize it extends to any collection of words and, really, anything at all that’s published in any kind of way.

“That Frog Dell’s Junkyard book was certainly a book,” someone says about my book. “When did it come out?”

“It came out in November 2010,” someone else will answer them. And suddenly that book is now locked into that very specific reference point, even though I wrote it in little shreds and giant marathons at various points of time between 1999 and its release in 2010.

“So, this is a November 2010 kind of book then, huh?” said nobody ever. Even still, that’s the kind of referential tint that’s thrown on those sorts of things, at least in my mind. And it’s incorrect.

You are reading this whenever right now is, and you can glance at the header to see that it was published on December 11th 2012 at 4:01 in the afternoon.

This part of this post is being written in a restroom which is in a restaurant I’m really not supposed to be in right now because it’s closed. It’s December 8th 2012 at 1:14 in the morning right now, and I just finished playing a Jak Locke Rock Show at The Boxer & The Barrel next door. I may have drank — a LOT — leading up to the point of me clumsily typing this on an iPhone that doesn’t register half of my keypresses because my fingertips are too calloused.

It is dark in here, and I can hear cymbal crashes, snare drums and throbbing bass guitar notes coming through two walls. Every now and then I can hear Don Puebla saying things, probably mean things, on the microphone to the audience, because that’s what he does. I can’t hear what he’s saying. Mostly I’m waiting to see what my stomach’s next move is going to be after the abuse I’ve put it through today between bad food, cheap beer and twisting my body around for forty-five minutes.

So far I’ve just been standing and leaning against the stall wall, wishing I could peek ahead to see how this ends, because right now there’s definitely a war going on somewhere between my esophagus and my lower intestine, and I’m having a hard time figuring out which direction the front line is advancing.

Almost every nightclub and bar I’ve been to has bathrooms with no doors on the stalls. In situations like this, I like a bathroom that has doors. Just in case.

The pain and nausea eventually pass with no incident. It’s cool and dark in here though and so I spend a few more minutes just enjoying the relative quiet.

After the show’s over, I go to Pepper’s to get some pizza with Israel and find out that everyone else in town apparently had the same idea. It’s getting really late now and I wonder if they’re really going to be able to serve all these people before they have to close in like fifteen minutes.

“Excuse me, are you taking orders?” I ask a girl wearing a black Pepper’s shirt.

“No,” she says. Israel and I notice that there are a couple of people with menus, some even in the process of ordering. The girl keeps staring at us like we just asked her to drive us to the moon.

“Can I take your order?” another girl wearing a red Pepper’s shirt says.

I’m hesitant to answer that. Israel looks at me as if I’d have any explanation. I’m not sure why that annoys me, just that it does.

“She just said you aren’t taking orders,” I tell her, pointing to the first girl.

“*I’m* not taking orders because *I* don’t work *here*,” the first girl says with a proud and disdainful sneer, in a way that suggested working at Pepper’s were the tenth circle of hell Dante couldn’t bear to write about. The second girl, Israel and I all look at her shirt at the same time. She looks down and her face turns red so quick it’s almost creepy. “…oh.”

“I work here,” the second girl beamed. “Can I take your order?”

“Let’s get a pizza,” Israel started to say.

She sucks in some air between her teeth and cringes slightly. “Ooh,” she says. I don’t like the sound of this. “Yeah, we’re going to close in fifteen minutes so we won’t have time to make that.”

I’m looking at the menu and wondering just what can be made and consumed in fifteen minutes. I’m not seeing any candidates.

“Breadsticks?” Israel asks.

“Sorry,” she says, and I really believe her. She really does look sorry about it.

“Ravioli?”

“Sorry,” she says just like before, and I realize it’s just a very very well rehearsed sorry.

Israel just starts going down the menu listing foods he’s heard of. The “sorry” gets more and more humorous to hear as the situation becomes more and more like an early draft of a Monty Python sketch.

We end up getting a bowl of cold banana peppers, a fantastic idea after what my stomach’s been through already. I notice for the first time that except for a handful of tables, everyone else is eating the same thing we are. We’re able to finish three each before they start kicking people out to close.

Did you notice the point where I stopped typing and just pasted the bottom half of a Livejournal entry of mine from 2001?

Anyway

Good stuff coming, like the EP that I’m totally working on right now instead of typing this. Next time, a post that doesn’t mention pizza at all, which means that only pizza-related things will probably happen to me over the next week or so.

mainly stalling here

Angeli on Decatur has a very good calzone and even better honesty. I like a place where someone on the staff tells me “the pizza here is shit” when I ask what they recommend, because sometimes a reduction in choices is better than a suggestion.

“The pizza here is shit,” this person said. Man? Woman? I’ll never tell, because their boss might find out and then one day someone will have to eat a bad pizza.

“A good thing to know,” I said. “What would you get here?”

“Get a meatball and pepperoni calzone,” said the unmistakeable voice of Frances from behind me. It’s a very deep and authoritative voice coming from this thin frame dolled up in feminine fashion. I worked with him a lot last year in Razorblade Waltz Revue and would love to work with him again soon in, well, anything. I’d read bingo numbers with Frances.

“Yeah, that,” I told the person taking my order. Frances explained how they make the meatballs the proper Italian way, so they’re spicy and tender, and then we went on to drink way too much between there and Aunt Tiki’s down the street.

I made a point to try to see what the pitches were like on Decatur. I’m told that a spot where you throw down a hat or something and play music for money is called a pitch. If I actually use the term, maybe it won’t feel so silly coming out of my mouth. So I looked for pitches and realized that I don’t really know the difference between a good pitch and a bad pitch yet, so I may as well have been saying “that’s a corner! And that’s a corner!” At least I know the right term though, right?

I’ve been busking with Remy and Thugsy from the Freaksheaux To Geaux band at different pitches that they pick on Royal Street whenever we’re all available and it’s not raining. We’re doing mostly vaudevillian numbers, Depression-era songs and spirituals with a couple of more modern surprises here and there. If you’re the sort of person who walks around New Orleans, you should come find us and throw your money at us. This is assuming I remember to mark the calendar on the front page here before I head out there. Some of you already know I’m pretty bad about last minute updates.

I’m also apparently bad at remembering things I’ve actually already done because as I was typing that, Angelle from the Strangers From The Internet podcast (among other things) mentioned my cameo appearance on their Halloween episode which I don’t remember at all. I’m going to listen to it after I post this up. Here, you do it too. They use one of my songs on the latest podcast, which is super cool of them, and is another fact I’d completely forgotten because I’m a jerk who doesn’t remember to listen to podcasts that people I know work hard to make.

“Bethany edited this month’s episode,” she messaged me. “She used quite a bit of BDtbD.”

I tried to figure out what it could stand for and failed. “Bless you,” I messaged back. Which is funny to me now because I remember Frances saying he’s actively trying to stop using superstition-based phrases like that.

“Beautiful Day To Be Dead,” she messaged back to me. It’s a strange feeling, seeing an acronym someone else used for something you made, even if they only did it because it’s an absurdly long title to have to type out.

Angelle is also part of the crew and cast for the film aspects of the Targeted project, which filmed another scene on Sunday. Not everyone in the cast is on the crew. Everyone on the crew is in the cast which means some of the more physical crew positions rotate a good bit. I’d been looking forward to this shoot because it was the first one that I didn’t have to act in, so I would be able to direct without anything else on my mind.

Something came up and our usual sound man Charles couldn’t make it so I took the job for the day, which entails holding a five pound pole up in the air out of the shots and wearing headphones with every sound around you amplified about ten times their volume. I figured it would be educational for me if nothing else.

And it was! I learned that five pounds gets really heavy after seven hours of holding it, people make really awful sounds when they drink water between takes, and the lightest tap on the boom pole will register deafening in the headphones. I told Charles the next day that I don’t know how he does it. “Strength of will,” he tells me. I don’t believe him one second — I think he’s either a masochist or a mutant, especially considering he volunteered for the job.

The shoot went well, if a lot longer than we expected. You can see pictures from it on the Targeted project page.

Even with all these things I’ve done over the last week, I feel like I’ve spent it not committing to any music backing for the last unfinished song on the Jak Locke Goes Too Far EP that you’ll be listening to before the end of the year. For me, the hardest part of a project isn’t starting it, it’s when there’s maybe one day’s worth of a few things left to do because those are the details I always kept putting off. “Let that chump Later Jak do it,” I must think.

Of course it’s what I think, because I’m thinking it now. Gah! Enough stalling! I’m going to go finish an album. After I listen to this podcast.