Saturday, May 27, 2006

Anything but Joey

My friend L is an Everclear fan. I'm not.

Like... at all.

In fact... I'm probably nearer the opposite. (What's the opposite of a fan? An anti-fan? That's me.)

So we're sitting in the top row of the balcony in the VooDoo Lounge, L talking to an old work buddy of his we happened to run into, the man's silent (shy?) wife sitting mute and staring straight ahead, me trying my very hardest to enjoy the company of my friend, despite my head being in a completely different place. The lights dim; the lounge is about half-full. We're in the wrong seats, but nobody's noticed, so we stay. Five rough-and-tumble, hyper/grungy kids come rolling out onto the stage, laughing, talking, and generally having a good time.

They start up, and I have to tell you, they have, by far, the cleanest live performance I've ever seen. L, of course (being old, as he is) has seen a lot more live shows than I have, and he said they're the tightest performance he's ever seen. The work buddy agreed that they're the tightest performance he's ever seen, too. Those guys did an awesome job. At first we thought it was just the lounge: great sound system, decent acoustics. Until Everclear came on sounding like a cat being run over by a truck. The opening band was just that good.

The coolest part? Anything but Joey is local (and apparently unsigned). Who knew? I mean, KC has some decent sounds, but every now and then you trip on something surprising. Something that makes you grin. Something you find yourself humming for the rest of the week.

The guys finished their set, gave a big wave to the audience and laughed about every one staying and gambling with them when the show was over. Had I been walking, I'd have tripped on my lower lip, it was pouting out so far. The adult in me won't stay out that late. I have to eat, which means I have to work, which means I can't run around in some casino spending money I don't have with people I've never met until the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes I hate being responsible.

So the headliner comes on. The crowd's all excited. The lead singer horks and coughs his way through the first few lines. He does a really bad acoustic cover of Brown-Eyed Girl with an out-of-tune guitar, and I swear he was trying to shred my eardrums. Two mousy blondes wiggle up to the top row. We're in their seats. Down we go. Row 2, seats 15 and 16. Right in the middle of a pack of toasted college kids. They were a little riled up, but reasonably easy to ignore.

That is, until their Goliath-sized, completely blitzed frat-boy buddy came tottering up with a shit-eating grin on his face. He spent the next hour alternating between climbing up and over the backs of the first three rows of seats, and moshing all alone on the main aisle at the front of the balcony. We moved. He followed us. We moved again. Again, he followed us. Apparently, we weren't moving far enough (not that we could, the place was packed). Eventually, L got tired of it.

"You ready to go?" He knows I'm only there to be with him. He knows I'm not having a good time. He knows that strained look on my face, that mix between tired, hungry, and outright bitchy. He's trying to do the right thing. Thankfully, I didn't have to answer. Four security goons nailed the durnkards a hair's breadth after L asked. They were being removed.

"Nah," I said, in my most benevolent, selfless voice. "Let's stay. They're almost done, anyway."

L got to see the rest of his concert, unmolested. The drunks got a not-so-friendly conversation with the police. I got to stick it out with my buddy and heard a great "new" band.

All-in-all, a damn good night.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Shell Game

Last week I had the great fortune of hosting Mister M, a very dear friend of mine from down South. We talked about politics and religion, about weather and economics and geography (namely, the difference between his and mine). We toured a great old Victorian house-turned-restaurant in a quaint little town nearby, walked through several of the downtown districts, lunched and supped with some local friends of his, went to a small downtown theatre, and generally were out on the town for five days straight. It was wonderful.

I have to say, though,that by the time the week was out, I was ready for some down time. Ready to curl up in a wing chair with a book and my cat with the dog at my feet. Ready to sit and do nothing. Ready for silence. As beautiful and wonderful as Mister M is, five days of (rather intense) 24-hour interaction was nearly overwhelming... nearly.

He called this afternoon to check in, thank me for the "lovely time" and generally shoot the breeze. I could hear it in his voice, that strained, impolite, but very real: - I had a great time, but man am I glad to be home! -

Mister M and I are what he calls "solo acts". We're both reasonably used to being the center of attention. We're both used to shining in public, both used to practicing and enacting the emotional shell game. You know it, you probably do it, at least to some extent, but there are those of us out there who have crafted it into art. Those of us who have let it become more than a first line of defense, and slipped into an entire lifestyle of it, where
everyone is on the outside.

You're the street-gamer, hiding a ball under shells and flipping them around on the table. "Guess where it is and you get a prize!" All along, the sucker feeding you dollars thinks that somehow, if he tries hard enough and is patient long enough, he'll find it. You, of course, know there's never any danger of that. The ball isn't even on the table any more; it's tucked safely away in your pocket. You're at no risk of losing, so it's easy to play on and on. It isn't difficult to put all your money down when you know the deck's stacked in your favor.

Until you get bored with it. Until you're ready for the next mark, the next person you can suck in, the next person to play along. Tam calls it a drug, that euphoria associated with a new interaction. And he's right. A lot of the behaviors associated with it are those of an addict. Riding the wave long enough to convince yourself you don't need it, don't want it, and it isn't long before you get that itch, before you go sniffing around for your next fix.

So what happens when something inside clicks, when a switch flips and the lights come on and you can finally see? When, in the harsh light of day, you don't like what you're looking at? When you don't want people to be disposable, and you're tired of life being transient? When you'd really like to be able to make a real connection with some one, but you've been so far removed from it for so long that you don't even know how to begin?

What happens when you've been operating on auto-pilot for a seeming eternity, and you don't know how to turn it off and actively engage any more?

It'd be nice, I think, to do that. To be able to pick a would-be mark and say, "You know what, man? Keep your money. The ball's right here," and hand it to him. I'm not quite sure how to get there. I'm making the first steps, though. I've upturned all the shells and emptied my pockets. Nothing in my hat. Nothing up my sleeves. Nothing to hide.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


The wolf crouches in it's den, lying low in shadows and mist, calm, but alert. A rabbit hops gingerly into the clearing, dappled sunlight dancing patterns over it's fur. The wolf lets out a low, smooth growl, and the rabbit's ears perk.

--What was that sound? I don't know that sound...--

The wolf growls again, louder this time.

--Don't come near!-- the growl conveys. --Don't get any closer!--

Curious, the rabbit hops forward, towards the the entrance of the den. Brown eyes meet flashing gold. The wolf curls it's lip back, baring it's teeth at the rabbit.

--Such a pretty smile,-- thinks the rabbit, --and such flashing eyes!--

--I'm dangerous, you know,-- thinks the wolf, matter-of-factly.

--Oh, but certainly you're not all that dangerous. See how soft your fur is? How broad your brow? You're too lovely to be dangerous. May I touch your fur?-- thinks the rabbit, crossing the barrier between light and dark,entering the den.

--I told you not to come any closer,-- thinks the wolf, with only the slightest pang of remorse. --I did warn you, you know.--

--I don't know what you mean,-- thinks the rabbit.

--You will,-- thinks the wolf.


Recently, a friend told me I'm a predator. He isn't the first, of course, only the most recent. I disagreed with him (them)... surely I'm not so bad as that. "Predator" conveys that I hunt, that I seek things out to maim or kill. That isn't the case at all. And then he told me the story of the wolf in the den, and the rabbit who just happened by.

"Do you think the wolf would be any less likely to kill that rabbit, than it would be to kill one it had hunted down?"

No, of course not. It's in the wolf's nature. The wolf is a predator.

I don't mean to be, certainly, but intent doesn't negate behavior. I'm not entirely sure it's my fault that I've been draped with this mantle.

"You lure men in with that laugh and those flashing eyes, with that wit and that charm, and that smile that lights up a room. You look at them and talk to them and laugh with them and make them feel like they're the only man on the planet, and the only man for you." Which is rarely, if ever, the case.

Should I be penalized for giving some one my undivided attention? Should I be punished, branded a predator for making some one feel special? Should I tone down my enthusiasm, the appreciation with which I meet daily life? Should I hide it? To do so would be to give some one the complete wrong impression of me, which doesn't seem fair at all.

Better, I think, to shine. Better to be who I am.

It's hard, though, when you see them welling up with tears. "I don't understand! You made me feel like I was everything to you. I could see it in your eyes!"

And then, of course, it comes full-circle. Then I have to explain, again, what I've explained so many times. "Oh, sweetie, don't you understand? I look at every one that way. I smile at every one that way, and laugh at every one's jokes that way. That uniqueness, that "special", that well of joy you see lighting up my face? It isn't you. It's me."

Apparently, it still counts as predation, even when you warn them.