I used to only listen to Orange Rhyming Dictionary. I had assumed for some reason that it was Jets to Brazil’s best record, even without taking much time with the others. A few months ago, in a conversation with Adam from Cheap Girls, he mentioned that Perfecting Loneliness was his favorite Jets record. This struck me as odd, running against the current of my uneducated assumption, and it piqued my interest in the albums I’d ignored. Since that conversation, I think I’ve listened to Perfecting Loneliness a solid thirty times. Around spin fifteen, I realized that Adam was right. The record is amazing. Better than Orange Rhyming Dictionary even.
This isn’t my favorite song on the record, but it’s my favorite right now. It’s getting warmer out. Soon it’ll be suffocatingly hot and humid and I’ll retreat to air conditioned rooms, sit in their simulated balm, the way they feel like how diet soda tastes, and pine for cooler days to come. And I’ll listen to songs like this one. And it will be a musical apologist for my crankiness that will work in augmented brilliance to its death, an expanding star burning hotter and brighter before it collapses. It’ll make my hate for the heat so intense and justified that it will eventually send it over the edge, like traveling so far north you begin heading south, and I’ll get over it. I’ll call my friends and meet them somewhere, arriving sweaty and disheveled sure, but better than that clean boring whiner sitting inside with sad songs, wasting a perfectly good day.
This seemed to animate him. He leaned across the desk and gazed, is the word, at my boots. “Those things are ugly, aren’t they?” “Yes they are.” “Name the parts. Go ahead. We’re not so chi chi here, we’re not so intellectually chic that we can’t test a student face-to-face.” “Name the parts,” I said. “All right. Laces.” “Laces. One to each shoe. Proceed.” I lifted one foot and turned it awkwardly. “Sole and heel.” “Yes, go on.” I set my foot back down and stared at the boot, which seemed about as blank as closed brown box. “Proceed, boy.” “There’s not much to name, is there? A front and a top.” “A front and a top. You make me want to weep.” “The rounded part at the front.” “You’re so eloquent I may have to pause to regain my composure. You’ve named the lace. What’s the flap under the lace?” “The tongue.” “Well?” “I knew the name. I just didn’t see the thing.” He made a show of draping himself across the desk, writhing slightly as if in the midst of some dire distress. “You didn’t see the thing because you don’t know how to look. And you don’t know how to look because you don’t know the names.” He tilted his chin in high rebuke, mostly theatrical, and withdrew his body from the surface of the desk, dropping his bottom into the swivel chair and looking at me again and then doing a decisive quarter turn and raising his right leg sufficiently so that the foot, the shoe, was posted upright at the edge of the desk. A plain black everyday clerical shoe. “Okay,” he said. “We know about the sole and the heel.” “Yes.” “And we’ve identified the tongue and lace.” “Yes,” I said. With his finger he traced a strip of leather that went across the top edge of the shoe and dipped down under the lace. “What is it?” I said. “You tell me. What is it?” “I don’t know.” “It’s the cuff.” “The cuff.” “The cuff. And this stiff section over the heel. That’s the counter.” “That’s the counter.” “And this piece amidships between the cuff and the strip above the sole. That’s the quarter.” “The quarter,” I said. “And the strip above the sole. That’s the welt. Say it, boy.” “The welt.” “How everyday things lie hidden. Because we don’t know what they’re called. What’s the frontal area that covers the instep?” “I don’t know.” “You don’t know. It’s called a vamp.” “The vamp.” “Say it.” “The vamp. The frontal area that covers the instep. I thought I wasn’t supposed to memorize.” “Don’t memorize ideas. And don’t take us too seriously when we turn up our noses at rote learning. Rote helps build the man. You stick the lace through the what?” “This I should know.” “Of course you know. The perforations at either side of, and above, the tongue.” “I can’t think of the word. Eyelet.” “Maybe I’ll let you live after all.” “The eyelets.” “Yes. And the metal sheath at each end of the lace.” He flicked the thing with his middle finger. “This I don’t know in a million years.” “The aglet.” “The aglet,” I said. “And the little metal ring that reinforces the rim of the eyelet through which the aglet passes. We’re doing the physics of language. Shay.” “The little ring.” “You see it?” “Oh man.” “The grommet. Learn it, know it and love it.” “I’m going out of my mind.” “This is the final arcane knowledge. And when I take my shoe to the shoemaker and he places it on a form to make repairs—a block shaped like a foot. This is called a what?” “I don’t know.” “A last.” “My head is breaking apart.” “Everyday things represent the most overlooked knowledge. These names are vital to your progress. Quotidian things. If they weren’t important, we wouldn’t use such a gorgeous Latinate word. Say it,” he said. “Quotidian.” “An extraordinary word that suggest the depth and reach of the commonplace.”
This is the best thing I’ve read in a very long time.
I’ve said before in friendly debates with people who choose not to use their canine teeth to their full potential, that often times vegan food tastes like how Christian music sounds. I say this as a former youth group kid who, even when at the zenith of my piety, just couldn’t stomach Christian imitations of rock music. There are probably a lot of reasons for this—good art rarely comes from the conveniently chaste—but primarily I think it’s because Christians, like vegans, are in a position where they usually have to take what they can get and be happy with it. After all, when a minute fraction of a huge industry finally decides to pay attention to your myriad constraints, you don’t whine when said limitations are blandly fulfilled. You focus on the means in an effort to ignore the lackluster ends.
Thus, most every product containing tempeh.
Now do I think that all vegan food is bad? Not at all. I have occasionally encountered the edible equivalent of Thrice or old Pedro the Lion (David Bazan kinda did the Christian music version of vegan to vegetarian to pescetarian to only white meat to fuck it steak and bacon are amazing), but falafel and hummus can’t redeem* all the vegan cheese pizzas and tofu scrambles out there. And don’t even get me started about not eating s’mores! It’s like those people who refuse to be hugged. So sad.
The fact is, the next time you bite into that BBQ tofu sandwich and tell yourself that the always-prefaced-with-the-word-vegan delight is enjoyably edible, you most likely have a lot more in common with the fans in this video than you’d care to admit:
“One of my friends posed a rhetorical question this morning: what’s the difference between Coachella and Burning Man? Looking up from my coffee I replied, without thinking: “The rich kids who go to Coachella are richer than the rich kids who go to Burning Man.” And then I went back to focusing on my daily ritual of spreading rainbows wherever I go.”—Selectism.com: Columns | Tony Gervino | Too Many Bands, Too Much Time (via mrbren)
Last month I was on tour and I mentioned it once on this blog thing, a pretty big blog fail I admit, but I like to think that excessive updates and the hours in front of the computer they demand are their own sort of tour fail, and so I will accept the former as the lesser evil. Actually, I will mostly accept it because it is easier, and I love when something that is easy appears as the lesser evil. It’s a win-win. “I can’t update the blog because then it will take me out of this wonderful touring experience,” is, of course, total bullshit, but it’s the best kind of bullshit, in that it appears true so long as it’s unexamined. Its heredity is talking points and religious platitudes.
To say there isn’t enough time on tour to update a blog is to say there isn’t enough water in the ocean to swim. Tour is nothing but time. It’s sitting idle in a van or club or parking lot outside the club before the club opens and after having sat in the van for so so long but then eventually sitting back in the van because let’s face it it’s more comfortable than the parking lot even if it feels totally lame to be sitting in a parked van after hours of wanting to be anywhere but there. I think you get the point.
Tour is crazy and exciting sometimes because it is distilled restlessness, a fuse of freedom from everyday societal consequences, and a spark of booze. The explosion that follows is the hyped part of touring, the impetus to the oft asked and always dreaded interview question: So what’s the craziest thing that has happened on this tour? But even Guns and Roses was probably idle most of the time. I bet even Axl could have updated his blog.
No, I didn’t update this blog because I was too busy living it up, rather, I was too busy caught up in the hurried listlessness of anxiously waiting around in unfamiliar places for something to happen. And I was lazy. The living it up happened, don’t get me wrong, but I doubt it would have needed to be sacrificed in order to document said up living. The interim was extensive, and it was squandered. Much like the midwest.
Since I did nothing productive in three weeks replete with idle hours, I will currently pay penance with an attempt at the summation of said weeks, which, if you know me at all you will know that I’m not good with brevity, especially when applied to the documentation of events passed, and so I will suffer at details skimmed.
Here’s how tour went when compacted tightly and placed inside the shell of a very small nut:
Everything broke, but it’s cool.
What does that mean exactly? Well let’s start with a list of the things that broke:
Jon’s amp. Trailer tire. Windshield. My amp. Trailer axle and leaf springs. GPS. This really cool belt buckle the day after I bought it. Freddy’s kick pedal like pretty much every other show.
So when you add all that stuff up, we had well over $1200 worth of things break on this tour. That’s a lot of dollars when you’re us. It comes in as the 2nd most expensive tour we’ve done (behind the one a few years ago where we had to replace a transmission, brake rotors, guitarist).
Now onto the 2nd part, the “…but it’s cool.” It is so because:
Harvest of Hope was phenomenal Hung out with a ton of old friends Made new friends Saw Leatherface play 4 nights in a row Saw Cheap Girls play 16 nights in a row Pork buns at Momofuku Witnessed a man get willingly tased on his bare ass Iphone + Yelp = best coffee and food of any tour yet More than ever before, people came to our shows on purpose
It’s especially that last one. the one about people, in the words of Mike Birbiglia, coming out to shows on purpose. My band has played a lot of shows, well over 400, and at nearly all of those it felt like we were starting from scratch, playing to a room of people (or sometimes person) that all had pretty much no idea who we were. And I like doing that. I like trying to win over a crowd in a song or two, to get them to stick around for the whole 30 minutes. But, I have found, what I like even more is when certain people in the crowd are pre-won over, when people are excited to see us play right from the start, ready to sing along and have as much fun as we do. And for the first time since this band began touring, I feel like we saw these people in nearly every city we visited. And it was amazing. It felt like all the work we’ve done over the last few years was finally starting to show, our efforts had taken root and sprouted. And that overshadowed all the petty things that broke. It buoyed us through the tedium and monotony of vans and gas stations and value menus and parking lots. It made it exciting and rewarding and a whole lot of fun.
So a very sincere thank you to everyone who came out.
Also, thanks to Mel and Sophia for the beer and for the whiskey and for letting us store our gear in their kitchen for a week and a half.