meanwhile, at another band’s practice

I’m sitting in a Houma furniture shop’s office and a band a lot of my friends are in, Blackwater Burial, is practicing across the hall. Because we’re all friends, we’ve heard each others’ songs a hundred times before. The official beer of Blackwater Burial, a lukewarm Natural Light, is in front of me, daring me to put more of it in my stomach. I already know it’s going to win this dare because it’s raining cold and hard outside and I’ll be here for at least another few hours. Because it’s the 21st century, I pull out my iPhone before I have a chance to start thinking about things. I halfheartedly check my feeds and whatever I’d been browsing on Safari a couple weeks back which turns out to be yet another strange winding journey through Wikipedia.

“The internet is boring tonight,” I say, out loud to myself because I feel like it’s okay to do that in situations where even I can’t hear it. I shut the phone off and drink my disgusting beer and my mind starts to wander like it used to before I got this phone. I realize I just said ‘The internet is boring tonight’, as though every single aspect of the internet has nothing going on. “Now, there’s a concept,” I say — when was the last time there was an absence of internet activity for even a microsecond, a complete lack of any upload, download, email, messaging or any other conceivable kind of data transfer-in-progress happening worldwide? A finite point has to exist where–then my sister interrupts this thought by texting me.

“Hi”, the text says.

When we were growing up in the 90’s, she used email and browsers while I was still dialing onto BBS’s and Telix messaging with my friends so I learned most of the fundamentals of using the modern internet from her. And here in the future, I’m sitting there, bored with the entirety of the internet that’s instantly accessible in my 2013 hand, forgetting again that signing on to the internet used to be a whole *thing*, a commitment of time and preventing people from using the phone or calling the house. Switches had to flipped, things had to be typed, boxes had to be clicked, noisy digital handshakes had to be sat through just to be able to see who put something in your Juno box. If you were going to go online, it was going to be for something that was worth the effort — or maybe it was going to be worth the effort by default because of the effort. Hmm. With no warning the words “wiracocha1@juno.com” pop into my head, a string I haven’t thought about for more than a decade.

“No way,” I say, out loud of course, “there’s no way.” I go to Juno.com and at the top it says “Juno Email Sign In”. I’m kind of shocked that it’s still around. I enter “wiracocha1” into the username blank and then type in the password I used to use in the 90’s because I have a great memory for completely useless data like that. I’m waiting for the inevitable “No Such User” or whatever to show up, when my inbox pops up for the first time in eons.

“No fuckin’ way!” I shout.

“What?” comes a voice across the hall. The band was taking a break from playing and I hadn’t even noticed.

“Nothing, I just signed into an email account that’s old enough to vote,” I call back.

“Oh, wow,” comes the reply. He sounds genuinely impressed and, yeah, he should be. I certainly am. All my emails from back then were long gone of course. I had met a girl from Texas when I was in Hammond at some “Here’s why you should go to Southeastern University” thing that failed to convince me I should go there. I wonder if she ended up going there. Anyway, we had traded email addresses and we’d casually flirt with each other once a week for a few months before we just sort of found better things to do. All that was gone now. A shame, I wanted to see what sort of game I had as a teenager. You know what, maybe it’s better that I can’t.

Once again, that email address is wiracocha1@juno.com if you want to email 90’s Jak, who will reply to you if you do with 90’s teenage Jak flavored advice because I don’t have enough aimless projects already. If it’s fun enough, maybe I’ll put them on a blog page or something like that.

“Hello”, I text my sister back.

She lets me know she just made a Twitter account. “Welcome aboard,” I text back. “Enjoy spambots.”

“Enjoy what?” she asks.

I read that a few times to make sure I’m parsing it correctly. “You’ve been on the internet longer than me and you don’t know what a spambot is?” I wait an extra few seconds before I send it, trying to simulate a disbelieving stare. That’s a tough thing to pull off over text.

“No, I know what a spambot is. How does that affect my Twitter unless I follow one?” I try to explain. I’m not very good at it. She understands it enough to move on though. “I expect I’ll be a pretty boring Twit.”

“Angelle says it’s kind of like a giant chat room or something.” I try to explain. I’m not very good at it.

“Tell me what you think of what I have and maybe you can help me make it better,” she says. I look at her page and there’s all of one tweet. It’s about bread.

“Oh wow,” I say out loud, not just because the band has started playing again. “Oh wow”, I text, “bread, huh”.

“How can I make it better?”

“Twitter posts or bread?”

“Twitter posts.”

I try to explain that I’m not very good at it. “When I’m not talking to people on it, I just post whatever stupid things I temporarily think are clever or entertaining. Half the time I think ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have posted that’, and in all cases I’ve forgotten about it a half hour later. I’m probably not using it right either.”

“Ah.” And the conversation ends there. So many text and chat conversations end with “Ah” that when I see it, it’s a reflex for me now to close the window or lock the phone. I lock the phone and listen to the music and drink more awful beer. It tastes like morning mouth and old keys. Seriously, I hate this stuff. It’s this or water from the sink though.

***

A few hours later it’s two in the morning and I’m driving back to New Orleans from Houma in outrageous rain. I’ve been up all day and I’m starting to get dangerously tired so when I get to a red light I start scrolling through my phone contacts for people who would still be awake. I call Amanda because her name starts with A so it’s the first one I come to. I bet people with names that start with A get these kind of calls a lot more than anyone else. Good thing to keep in mind for your kids, future parents.

“Hey Jak,” she answers.

“You at work?”

“No, I’m at home.”

“Congratulations, you’ve been chosen in the Exhaustion Lottery. You get to keep me from falling asleep at the wheel for the next half hour.”

“I’m so honored.”

“I’m so tired.”

We talk for a while, mostly about shitty beer. Then out of nowhere she asks me “Do you have Netflix?”

“Half my friends do so I have access to it enough to say yes.”

“You need to watch an episode of the A-Team called ‘Cowboy George’.”

“‘Cowboy George’.” I chuckle and decide to go for the obvious joke. “Where Boy George guest stars on the A-Team.”

“Oh, so you’ve seen it. Wasn’t that crazy?!” Wait, she isn’t joking.

“Hold up,” I say, “Boy George guest stars on the A-Team? This is a thing?” Over the next minute she details the entire setup of the plot for the episode to me and it’s even sillier than the one I had in my head. See for yourself. The next day I watched the episode with Angelle and the execution is even sillier than the setup. I recommend you watch it too if you can.

***

Because obsolesence should never get in the way of execution, and because I just really like tapes and miss working with them, I’m putting out “Jak Is A Four Letter Word” as a double cassette release with a brand new extra EP included, “Side D”. The last cassette release I did was in early 2003 — wow, almost exactly ten years ago, I just realized that — and it’s been really neat recalling all these things about the whole process. I’d gotten so used to 74 minute CDs and unmetered internet releases that I forgot how strict the time limitations can be per tape and per side, enough that it can influence track order and necessitate shaving parts off of songs to make them fit. The dubbing is time consuming, the equipment is old and loud and clunky, the j-cards and labels are a mess of cutting and folding and sticking, and I’ve loved every single inefficient outmoded minute of all of it. By its nature, I have to put a lot more into each copy than I ever could just uploading a batch of MP3s and a PNG file to Bandcamp, and there’s something I like about that. If you want one, I’ll bring a copy to every show I do until they’re all sold out. Give me a bit though, I’m still finishing them up.

Oh and hey, pictures from live shows are back again for like the seventh time or so! Instead of having thousands of badly composed dark pictures like I had the last time live pictures were up on this site (2009 I think?), I’ve only put up a few of the best shots from each year. Maybe I’ll put some more up. Or maybe it’ll disappear yet again. It’s just one thrilling mystery after another here isn’t it?

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catching

Once again it’s January and once again I’m thinking about putting together a tour, this time for the Rock Show. Of course I say that like you knew this was a regular thing for me — I never mention it online because I know that nobody wants to hear about something that’s only an idea unless they’re part of the process. And yet like some kind of flagrant idiot, here I am doing just that. Well there’s more than just an idea here, this is bigger than all of us — this happens to be a quest! I bet you feel foolish now!

If you listened to Side A of Jak Is A Four Letter Word (and of course you did, because it costs you zero dollars to stream and download), you heard a track that consisted entirely of someone talking about flipping the tape when it stops at the end. That was a recording of my friend Amanda from twelve years ago, and I hadn’t talked to her much in about ten years.

When people start talking to someone again after a very long time of falling out of touch, they usually use the term “catch up”. I’ve never liked that, even when I’ve used it myself. The semantics really do make a difference here because to “catch up” with someone requires that there be a finite end to the process, and I think that’s why the term has always bothered me: once you’re caught up, you’re done. In most cases it’s maybe a few weeks of small talk and eventually you’re “catching up” again another span of years later. And really, social media has kind of obsoleted “catching up” anyway. Thanks to Facebook, I didn’t have to talk to her to already know she owns a place called Zog’s in Chapel Hill, NC and that she’s just ordered herself a lime green melodica from Amazon. Thanks to Facebook, she didn’t have to talk to me to know whatever it is I’ve been up to that I post or that gets posted about me and linked on my wall there.

When I emailed her to let her know “Hey, I made this really noisy album and, oh hey, you’re on it, here’s the track” she took that as a good reason to pick up where we left off rather than “catch up”. And yeah, it pretty much is. Here is the email she sent me back:

“What’s been going on with you lately? In an effort to bring that question away from the mire of small talk, please list three bulleted points about your life. Thank you.”

24 hours of bullet points and chat later we have a co-authored weblog thing called Three Bullet Pointz (I swear we’re not 14, it’s only because Three Bullet Points with an S was already taken on WordPress) where we write three related bullet points(z) per post on whatever topic we feel like to each other as if the internet’s not looking and then let the internet look at it. Theoretically, anyway — how much of the internet would want to look at something like that is a mystery to me. On the other hand, the internet looks at some really bizarre things sometimes so I have no idea. I just put things on it.

Though honestly, no, you really should look at it. How else will you learn about the dangerous game of Breadsy? You didn’t even know you were curious about Breadsy until just now. Just think of what else you might be missing out on…!…?… .

It was around this time that I put together an ambient drone track called “Fever Dream” for a Flaccid Plastic floppy disk split release with Spacings (coming soon). I based it off when I had pneumonia a couple of years ago and I’d get stuck in these horrible repeating dreams where I was sitting in a chair at a table playing chess with the personification of Mathematics who insisted on discussing philosophy with me instead of ever making his move. We were submerged in some murky fluid, floating about lazily. I could never follow a word of what he was saying, and he was relentless. For a few days until my fever broke, whenever I would start to sleep, it was always the same progression: a few moments of blissful rest and golden warmth, followed soon by forceful philosophy with that jerk Mathematics, and it would drag on mercilessly until I’d inevitably wake up with a pounding headache.

A couple days after writing “Fever Dream”, I got a fever that would reach a high of 102.8. My next song is going to be called “One Billion Tax Free Dollars In My Bank Account (And I’ll Stay Young And Healthy Until I get Tired Of It)”. Let me know if you want in on this action, I think I’m magical.

Anyway

I’m chatting with Amanda, and at this point I’ve only hit 100.6 degrees and trying desperately to convince myself that I don’t have a temperature that’s rising one degree per hour, that it’s all just some fluke with the air conditioning, the way I’m sitting, what I ate most recently, and my imagination, in that order. It makes perfect sense at the time, and don’t expect me to remember any aspect of why anymore. I hate being sick so much that I’ll do some serious gymnastics of logic to convince myself that I’m not really sick. At some point in talking to her, the melodica gets brought up. It’s funny to me because whenever I’m talking to somebody who I’m friended to on Facebook and something comes up that I already know about via their feed, it reminds me of when I watch a movie based on a book I’ve read and see something straight from the book on the movie screen. It’s a very 21st century feeling.

Anyway, the melodica comes up and I remember that I’ve forgotten I wanted a melodica twice now — once in 2008 when Adam Rouse brought his over to a practice to see if it could sub for the accordion part in “Battle Hymn” for the acoustic tour we ended up taking in December (it totally could! He didn’t end up coming with us on that tour though); and again last September when Dr. Sick played all of three notes on one at a Freaksheaux To Geaux revue (there’s no follow-up parenthetical anecdote here — I just put them here to balance it with the other one). I tell her this.

“I’ll make a deal with you,” she says.

“I’m listening.”

“I will purchase another melodica and have it mailed to you.”

“The lime green melodica.”

“The same.”

“That isn’t ‘a deal’. There’s more to this.”

“Yes. I will purchase the melodica and have it mailed to you if you promise to play Zog’s at some point in 2013. No show, no melodica.” She’s sent this all as one block of text, and for some reason I insist on reading it in my head with dramatic pauses and imagining sinister music swelling underneath it all. It’s the fever. I try to ignore it — I’m having a conversation here! I fail: the music I’m hearing in my head is just too good at creating the mood. For a moment, I keep reading it over and over again with various villainous deliveries, completely forgetting that someone’s actually waiting for a response from me.

Finally I snap out of it and read it properly. I decide I don’t like it. It feels too much like getting paid in advance for a job — the effort-to-reward flow is all backwards and wrong. “Here is an amended proposal,” I say.

“Okay.”

“Go ahead and get the melodica.”

“Okay.”

“And have it delivered to YOUR house.”

“O…kay?”

“And I will come to pick it up when I play Zog’s this summer.”

“Done. And if you never, ever come play Zog’s, I will burn the melodica on a funeral pyre and post pictures of its lime green guts on your Facebook page every day.” And knowing her like I do, I absolutely do not doubt for a second that this would happen.

“Now *that* is a deal,” I say.

I’m right, and I’m also wrong. It’s a deal and it’s so much more than a deal. We call it “MELODICA QUEST: It Probably Resembles An Adventure” and it’s going to be around seven or eight days in July or August. Exciting! It could be your town we play in! It will more likely be your town that we drive right past the exit of. It will most likely be that we won’t even be in the vicinity of your town!

***

There are days when nothing seems to go right. In no-budget filmmaking, those days are called “every shooting day”.

In October we did the first shoot for the Targeted project, the brothel scene. Angelle and I got to the set at 6:30 in the morning with a list of tasks and how long they should take. The list was adorable in how wrong it was. The wall construction was estimated at thirty minutes; it took an hour and a half. The light setup was figured at five minutes — HA, closer to twenty-five, courtesy of not threading the bulbs into the sockets properly because I’m trying to make up lost time and being too hasty. I don’t think there was a single item on the list that didn’t take at least three times as long as the estimate, and each delay just made us prone to making more mistakes and more delays.

I’d call crew members to see if they were close to arriving only to have them tell me they were just now waking up. One of our actresses dropped out and another one went to the emergency room that morning so we had to find two willing replacements within a couple of hours — it didn’t help recruiting efforts that the roles were “Whore #2” and “Whore #3”. Somehow our casting wizard Melia was able to find two who were willing and available.

Even with the cast and crew all there, diner customers kept wandering onto the set in the middle of shots. Every time a truck would pass on the highway next to the building, the walls would rumble and ruin the audio of any takes in progress. Video poker machines and sink faucets added anachronistic sounds that we had to wait out.

“There’s this image I have in my head for situations like this,” I say to Angelle while we’re waiting for the camera battery to recharge for the second time.

“Yeah?”

“I’ve never tried to verbalize it to anyone before, so bear with me.”

“Okay.”

“There’s these four walls all in front of each other, each with small square holes cut in them. All four of these walls are moving left-to-right and right-to-left against each other at different speeds, so VERY rarely, the four square holes will be lined up. On one side of these walls is a man with a bow and arrow and on the other side is a target. Each take is the man shooting an arrow and trying to hit the target.”

“Trying to get it through all four holes when they’re lined up,” she nods.

“Except he’s blindfolded.”

Somehow we got enough good takes to finish the scene. I remember being completely drained and wondering if I was cut out for this kind of thing at the end of the day. This was nothing like the short subject films and music videos I was accustomed to putting together up to this point.

“It’s no wonder most of my filmmaker friends are going bald,” I said.

“This is just the first day,” Angelle reminded me.

“Just, wow.”

3 months and a number of shoots later was the Pinkerton Agency scene that we did this Sunday. I wake up at 6:45 in the morning to day six of being sick. I check my phone, thinking “Okay, let’s see what crises happened overnight.” Sure enough, the actor playing the reporter in this scene dislocated his shoulder and is still in the emergency room — he won’t be able to make it.

“The guy playing the photographer is now playing the reporter,” I text to Melia. “And the backup actor who was on standby is now the photographer.” I go find something to eat. Later, on set, we find out the actor playing the photographer decided not to show up.

“How about our backup?” I ask.

“He’s not answering his phone either,” because of course he’s not, why would he?

“For the next ten minutes, everyone contact anyone you know that wants to be in an ultra low budget underground western with us for a couple of hours.” I then get back to screwing light bulbs into the softboxes and figuring out what wardrobe would look best on me as the photographer, glancing at the storyboard to determine if we can shoot the angles that character is in without catching his face since I’m already playing one of the main characters too (we can). I stop for a moment because I realize that the sudden vacancies of two important roles in today’s shoot elicits the same reaction from me as having to screw in light bulb #8. “Well, that needs to be done next, then. Okay.” The contrast of how we handled October’s shoot comes to mind and I smile, even in the midst of all this chaos with my head and lungs full of virus. This must be progress of some sort.

This is good.

We did find two fine replacement actors and the shoot ended up going great. Somehow it always does. Pictures from it are up at the Targeted project’s Images page, with more to come soon.

***

Two days prior to that was my performance as Jareth the Goblin King with Kali for the Dirty Dime Peep Show. If you want to hear me sing with one-sixteenth of a voice and a fever while Kali spins fire inches from my face, you’ll probably want to click on this video link, you sadist.

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.

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.