Archives: January 2014

Nashville, TN, date unknown, 2012 (The Noise Show)


Jack, a friend of mine who had also recently moved to Nashville, called me up to tell about yet another house show. He had discovered it through a friend of a friend, and thought it would be a good way to make an appearance in a new scene. I was fine with my current scene, that is to say the coffee shop scene, I already felt that my threshold for new friendships had reached his limits, but Jack convinced me to go.

The show was at a space called “Secret Arts Warehouse,” which was what it sounded like, a small warehouse in which, beneath its unassuming appearance, there were drum sets, large murals, half-finished paintings, and a few dingy, make-shift bedrooms. True bohême, if such as thing is still possible, and it might not be. The crowd was by far the trendiest I’d seen thus far in Nashville, in a fringe sort of way naturally—this was, after all, not just any show, but a noise show. If the coffee shop denizens had struck me with their obvious posturing, then this was what, whether they knew it or not, they were actually posturing towards. But these people too were posturing, we are all posturing in a sense, although towards what is not always clear. I found myself wondering where I was in terms of this thinking, whether they thought upon seeing me, if they noticed me, oh, here’s a cool guy we’ve never seen before or, what’s he doing here, look at his glasses, doesn’t he know they’re over, etc. Adolescent considerations that I confess with some embarrassment, admittedly. I boosted myself up by reminding myself that I’d gone to college in the noise capital of the world, lived in New York, and generally been around the block, so to speak, so any insecurity was unnecessary. Vain, idle thoughts!

The first act was typical noise fare, a dude with a guitar, lots of effect pedals, and a synthesizer, as well as a stocking on his head, as if he were robbing a bank, for added effect. I enjoy noise performances such a this in two senses, that is they seem to have merit, sometimes anyway, but they’re also laughable.

The second act featured a beautiful girl, a québécoise I later found out, dancing and singing to another guy playing with a synth and a drum set.

It was right before the third act that things took a turn. I had noticed several times a young, fresh-faced girl with a cute look glancing in my direction, and this time when I looked towards her she was lighting a joint. The smell of bud filled the air. She offered it to the group of people standing next to her, but they all declined—which surprised me, people are usually all about the bud. I was up next. It had been over a year since my last indulgence, which was fine with me, I could have gone the rest of my life without bud and been the better for it, but I took the joint and puffed. Jack took it next and when he offered it to the people standing next to him, only one person took it, and gave it right back. It came to me again and I offered it to the girl, who—the bud was already setting in—was beginning to make me feel nervous and giddy, like a naive teenager. “You can hold on to it for a sec,” she said, and although I’d had a number of assuredly clever things in mind to say to her moments ago, all of them escaped me and I just shrugged my shoulders, as if to say, the more bud the better, which couldn’t be farther than the truth, which was that I couldn’t bear anymore bud. This time I had a coughing fit after inhaling, that always means game over. “Whoa there,” the girl said. My heart fluttered, this simple exclamation struck me, like cupid’s arrow. When she took it away from me, puffed it once more, and handed it back, again I took a small hit, god knows what got into me. “Don’t worry about me, this is kids’ stuff,” I said, coughing still. She laughed, I laughed, we all laughed. “I’m Allison, ” she said, holding out her hand. “You can call me Dan,” I said, shaking her hand.

The third band began their set and I stood wondering what else to say to Allison. Then suddenly I was distracted by an overwhelming sense of dread, and the question: when can I get out of here? I turned towards the girl, then turned immediately away. “I’ve gotta go, can we go?” I said to Jack. “I’m feeling great, wanna stay to the end,” he said.

A feeling of utter malaise overtook me as the music got louder. I decided some fresh air would calm me down, but on my way towards the entrance I stopped in the bathroom. Naturally I looked at myself in the mirror to study my reflection. There was a small pimple on my nose, and I hadn’t done a good job shaving; one side-burn was longer than the other, and razor burn covered the right side of my neck, something which always confounded me because what was different about that side? Perhaps a new after-shave lotion was in order, in any case I’d have to look into reevaluating my whole technique. And the way my hair looked seemed somehow flat, it needed something but I was always reluctant to use product, I am not that dandy, though I am somewhat dandy, decidedly. Suddenly a surge of nausea called me to less elevated preoccupations, and I managed to purge into the toilet, which seemed to alleviate at least some of the discomfort, but my head wasn’t any clearer. Somebody knocked on the door so I quickly tidied up, flushed, made sure things looked in order. I took one last look in the mirror. At that moment it felt as if I would never get out of the secret arts garage, or warehouse, whatever it was, the truth is I don’t remember and all those names are guesses.

As soon as I opened the door the music overwhelmed me again, each noise was a sort of blow. I pictured myself lying down on the couch, a pillow propping up my head, blankets all about, utter relaxation leading to a deep slumber. This image propelled me forward, and I made it outside. I would have to wait for Jack, but at least I could sit in peace and quiet in his car while he enjoyed the rest of the show.

But then, about halfway down the block, and a few yards away from his car, the following two things occurred to me: First: I had no way of getting into his car. Second: Jack had mentioned earlier that his cell phone had died, so if I wanted to get his keys, or talk to him, I would have to go back inside. Then it also occurred to me that he didn’t even know where I was, or what I was doing, and what if he panicked when he turned to his side to make a remark, and I wasn’t there? What would he do? That makes three things that occurred to me, I wonder why I didn’t just say that right in the beginning. A profound fear gripped me; I had to turn back.

I made it to the doorway but when a few people came out and I heard the music again there was another powerful wave of nausea. In that moment only one solution to this rather troubling dilemma was apparent: since going back inside was decidedly out of the question, there was nothing to do other than remain by the entrance so there would be no possibility of Jack losing me, because as soon as he decided to leave he would see me upon exiting. Flawless reasoning. So I sat down next to a bush, crossed my legs, and held my body as still as possible while I closed my eyes and tried to block out any stimulus that could agitate me. And this seemed to work, until a few people came out and stood near me, talking. I was a super sentient being, the slightest shifts in the environment assailed me like blows. Just the sounds of voices got to my fragile loins, and when I opened my eyes to look up at them, I immediately had to look away and puke into the bush behind me.

“Are you okay?” I heard, as if from a distance.

“Just smoked a little too much, that’s all,” I managed to say. Although a vague sense that this was extremely embarrassing flitted through my consciousness, I was hardly inclined to give this thought any heed. In truth, very little thinking went on, I was all feelings and sensations, a mass of flesh undulating with the waves of gastric turbulence. People came and went to smoke cigarettes and talk, and each time the door opened and they stood near by, it just got worse. Again, as if from a distance, I could discern talk about the weed being “good,” perhaps Allison was even the one talking, but I couldn’t tell, and it hardly mattered, my principal concern was just to puke in peace.

It seemed like an eternity had passed before I finally decided to go find Jack and tell him I was in extreme distress. Miraculously I made it back to him without puking. He reluctantly agreed to leave early and take me home. “I feel great,” he said, as if that meant I should feel great, too. But I didn’t feel great. In that state my equilibrium suffered untold abuses during the drive home, fortunately I was able to avail myself of an empty shoe box, in which I vomited several times.

The following morning, my mind less illuminated than usual but active nonetheless, I reflected that the evening had probably been one of the most difficult and unpleasant of my life, and yet also easily one of the most meaningless, devoid of any significance or insights to be gleaned, except the platitude that I should stay away from bud. And even now as I write this—master of my mind, master of my body, nothing other than a little caffeine in my system—I wonder if there are any conclusions to be drawn.

Painting by Sarah Anne Dixon

Nashville, TN, May, 2012

artwork by Ariel Elias

How does one one make things more interesting? This is a question I had been, have been, asking lately, largely because I was keeping this record, and the monotony is more apparent when there’s a record of it. That’s why I don’t do it anymore, and you’ll never find out what’s going on now, think of me as an old text and nothing else. I was in the bathroom when a version of these thoughts first came to me, looking at myself in the mirror and running my hand through my hair, to get it just right of course; it occurred to me that so much time is wasted in this dawdling, which becomes a form of white noise, a distortion buzzing between the songs. But when do the songs begin?

For the first time in a while, perhaps ever, I opened the shop with my manager Phil. We smoked a cigarette out back before we unlocked the front doors. “I like to smoke back here so early customers don’t pester me to let them in,” he explained. “Vultures,” he added. Though a boss, in no way did Phil exhibit the objectionable and often petty characteristics of an authority figure. In the food services setting—this being a notable exception—authority breeds a range of undesirable characteristics, and I believe, a priori, one should be skeptical of all management and all business owners.

We worked well together. Phil mentioned some details about his biography; he had tried marriage, it didn’t work out. “Do you have any paternal instincts?” I asked. Definitely not. In short, Phil explained, he wanted to hold onto his “do whatever I want” card as long as possible, or until cupid’s arrow struck. These were sage words, it seemed to me.

Later in the evening Abe came by to pick me up so we could go to a warehouse gallery opening organized in part by one of the guys at the coffee shop, the wry one, I forget his made-up name. Here was an opportunity for a great evening—a cultural outing, assuredly involving attractive girls and booze. Perhaps love will strike, I thought, recalling Phil’s remark.

The warehouse was in the middle of nowhere, at least from my perspective, which is all you can get here. As we ascended the stairs, I realized we were really in for something else. It was as if we were in a haunted house—and installations are a little bit like haunted houses, in a sense. Strange, dissonant percussive music filled the air, like we were in a Japanese art movie from the ’60s. There were several large, Tee Pee structures in the room; a small area set up with photo lights in one corner; a tent in another with a projector inside; a small stack of strange lamps that was made by the guy from Bongo; and other assorted found-art sculptures. Phantasmagoria, in short.

As we drank the experience only seemed stranger and more fun. Later on in the night a girl who looked like one of the fairies in Fern Gulley did a trapeze act on a swing that was hung from the ceiling. Everyone stood in a circle around her and watched, transfixed.

At around 10 or 11 we decided to leave. Love wasn’t going to strike. I couldn’t find the friend who had invited me but I said goodbye to his friend Mary, another one of the artists on display, hoping she would mention some after-party plans, preferably involving nice drugs; she only said she’d probably be up all night, even though she had had only four hours of sleep the night before. That could have been an allusion to something fun, but she wasn’t extending an invitation. We conversed for a while about the idea behind the installation and she explained that she wanted it to be a transient thing: for one night people come and hang out in this weird place, then it goes down, no time for snooty art people to deconstruct it and ruin it. I did my best to say intelligent things about art, and then she said that actually, she didn’t as a rule like talking about her work at her own openings, as if she were reluctantly making an exception for me. That seemed to be my cue to end the conversation.

With nothing left to do Abe and I went to the Villager for more drinks. The night devolved into us commiserating about ex-girlfriends and breakups, we became a couple of pathetic, lonely guys. Nights often end that way. At around 1am I walked home.

 Illustration by Ariel Elias

Nashville, TN, late April, 2012

At work I caught wind of an upcoming house show at a place called “The Other Basement,” a reference to the record store and venue “The Basement.” None other than Dave Cloud would be playing there with his band Dave Cloud and the Gospel of Power, as well as another group manned by two guys from the coffee shop.

Lewis and I had some beers in our living room while we waited for Abe to come pick us up. I had that very Freudian feeling where I wanted to get ripped and plunge into the shit just for the fun of seeing what could happen—a drive that manifests itself less and less as I grow older and more sage, I note with some nostalgia. It seems to me that a great deal of what constitutes maturity is a realization that our impulses are misguided, certainly the way we follow them is misguided. But what should one do? And as we “grow,” do new, more reasonable impulses replace the old ones, or rather do we just become more internally conflicted, our desires contradicting each other more than they did before, our natures at odds with themselves? That’s what I wonder about from time to time.

Anyway, it was clear that a little dis-inhibition was what I wanted; I had been plugging along efficiently and living, if not equanimously, at least more so than I had been before, in New York. But is any of this true? That’s what I thought, then, but now I’m not sure.

When Abe came we had a couple of more beers and then set out. We had trouble finding the place because all the houses looked as if normal families lived in them, they didn’t have that “house show” look to them, but eventually Julie just came out and found us in the car.

We went around to the backyard and found a big group of people standing around a small fire. The house had a garage in the back that served as a basement—hence, The Other Basement—and I peered in and saw a drum set and some amplifiers. Many of the major characters from work were there, as well as some of the minor ones, customers and employees alike.

Dave Cloud was there of course, along with another middle-aged man who I assumed was his band mate. In the youthful, hip crowd, these two middle-aged men certainly stood out. Dave was dressed in a black, striped suit, looking rather solemn and serious, though nothing could have been farther from the truth. He was spinning his usual yarns about fund-raising projects and movie script ideas to a group of young girls, all coffee shop regulars. I caught him make a remark about using drugs and then one of the girls, a German exchange student, took out a pill bottle. I got excited but it was only weed, kid’s stuff. Dave rolled a joint with it, making remarks in a German accent. “Next time you’re all invited to Tora Bora to burn up a big fat nugget of marijuana. You won’t know what hit you,” he said to all of us. Julie explained that Tora Bora was the name for his house down the street from the coffee shop. The German exchange student was gossiping about another girl who wasn’t there, some relationship drama I gleaned. “Women,” Dave’s band mate said, caustically, then he mumbled something else. “What’s that?” I said. “I’m just so bitter, I don’t even care anymore.” Decidedly, he was not as genial as Dave.

In order to dis-inhibit myself, I needed a beer. Abe wasn’t drinking that night but offered that I follow a few of his philosophy friends who were headed to the gas station. Among them was Stan, whom I’d met before at Café Coco. “So you’re all in the philosophy department?” I said as we walked through an alley to the main street. “Yes, we are sad, crying clowns,” Stan said.

The performance was entertaining, but I’m not going to get into so-called music journalism. Some of it I videotaped with my phone, it’s a shame that phone doesn’t work anymore. In between acts a young girl in Abe’s department showed up with a few of her friends. They had all been on a day-long bender to celebrate her birthday. Abe looked at me and said, “She’d—”

No, I can’t go on, this is starting to feel tedious.

The following morning I woke up feeling—not surprisingly—out of sorts: hung-over, nauseous, in pain. Spiritually, I was okay, but not great. I reflected that it was strange—yet somehow, a basic truth—that debauching myself, and of course creating all this discomfort, was a form of necessary maintenance, a reorientation if you will towards whatever is self-destruction’s opposite.

Nashville, TN, a day in April, 2012


On Saturday evening, in a self-consciously symbolic gesture, I thoroughly cleaned my room. Uncluttered room, uncluttered mind.

“Everyday is new,” I told myself on Sunday morning, taking in my clean room. Truthfully, I didn’t feel very different than before, when things were messy.

That afternoon I went to the coffee shop, thinking it would be pleasant and lighten my mood to get out and be among people.

The front porch was packed with students recently back from their spring break, smoking and talking. Inside there was a long line of them. I ordered, chatted with the staff a bit, and walked to the gas station to buy cigarettes while they made my food. I smoked a cigarette out there on the porch, waiting. The crowd was getting to me. All that week it had been much calmer, with the students away, and I had intended to enjoy a peaceful moment, perhaps chat up some regulars, and puff away at my cigarette. Instead I was ill at ease. There were attractive girls everywhere it seemed, indifferent to my presence, don’t ask me why. Up until that point I had spent the weekend more or less with myself—tiring company admittedly yet anything but indifferent—and now myself was beginning to make me uncomfortable, if such a thing is possible, and it is. The crowds of attractive people agitated me, disconcerted me, as if they were rubbing my nose in the shit of their complacency. One can respond to this sort of thing with disdain or aloof superiority, which in a sense is appropriate, but I was feeling particularly out of sorts, persecuted by loneliness. It seems to me I’ve said that before, or thought it. Here were the prosecutors, these young, unburdened and self-satisfied students. Other people are always the problem in this way (though where would we be without them?), they put solitude into an unfortunate perspective.

Yet in the end this afternoon indulgence in self-pity did me some good because I began working with renewed fervor, and even wrote what would eventually become this. And I admit that having lived this text and moved past it, only to return to it now, it does seem to me a little excessive, but one can’t help how one feels, especially how one felt.

Drawing by Keenan Julies


Nashville, TN, April 1, 2012

Writing about going to work and other quotidian things is beginning to feel tedious, I wonder if reading about it is too, certainly living it is tedious, tedium all around. Sadly, that’s all I’ve got. With that in mind, after a contemplative walk up to Lover’s Circle, I sat down at my desk to do some serious writing and plumb the depths (it’s not that deep, I’m young after all) of my past for some inspiration. I looked over an essay I’d finished and sent it off to Stewart, then began reading over my latest story, but stopped after a few sentences. Sometimes reading myself is a real chore, you better believe that churning out these Intimate Thoughts every week is no picnic.

An idea for a new story occurred to me but upon reflection it was just another veiled return to the trauma of my last breakup, and god knows I’m sick of that. The following Intimate Thought came to me: what I needed was a new relationship, followed by a terrible breakup (this latter part almost being more important); then there would be new material.

Arriving at work I felt ruffled and out of sorts. It is a shock to be with one’s self all day, to go about in solitude, then be obliged to deal with masses of people ordering coffee. My social faculties seemed to have temporarily left me, and I wondered if I came across rude. One woman, a rather large one with her breasts displayed for all to see, treated me with unwarranted skepticism when I took her order, as if she didn’t understand the basic procedure. I wondered if I had behaved strangely or tactlessly in some way, but Jane confirmed that she had been acting odd. Some people just haven’t been socialized properly, it seems. Jane did point out, however, that on other occasions she observed me missing the mark with customers, and not just missing the mark but the customers being totally baffled by me, a total disconnect in other words. You’re an acquired taste, she said. That’s right, I can’t help who I am, I said, just like some cheeses can’t help what they are. You’re right, she said, that’s what makes you who you are.

But despite the consoling truth in this truism—that one can’t help help who one is, etc. (“One is what one is, partly at least,” Beckett)—I felt troubled because the écart between who I think I am (or was) and what I actually am, as if the latter can be known, is assuredly a far deeper gulf than what I imagine it to be, or can even can conceive it to be.

But in the end, one can only reach the conclusion that there’s nothing to be done. I soon forgot the matter.

Nashville, TN, February or March (?), 2012

I had the day off so I planned on getting a number of things done. That’s how it always works, in the morning you start with high hopes and ambitious projects and the time quickly runs dry and before you know it the day’s been wasted, if such a thing is possible, a wasted day that is. In the morning I had breakfast with Lewis at the Elliston Place Soda Shop, biscuits with gravy. Classic Americana.

After that I biked downtown to go to the district attorney’s office. Apparently I replaced my totaled bike, I must have forgot to write about that. An interesting experience was ahead of me. A police officer leaving one of the government buildings directed me to the right place—the warrant screening office. I don’t know why, but I expected a cushy waiting room with nice chairs and magazines. Nothing of the sort. It was just an institutional looking room with metals detectors to pass through before you entered. I had to take a shit. The classic Americana cuisine can do that to me, it passes through like a flash flood. I noted the following written on the bathroom walls: “take a piss on Bin Laden” and “Nashville is Cracksville! Stinky Coons!”

In the waiting area there were a few people waiting to talk to the DA. Down one of the hallways a man, some sort of sheriff, was telling a long-winded story to another man. His southern accent was thick, and he spoke with enthusiasm, often laughing. Time passed and a man with a do-rag came in and sat next to me. By then we had filled out our paper work and handed it to someone in the office. It wasn’t exactly an environment where it was apparent what you were supposed to do. The guy next to me said, in reference to what they were doing in the office, “I guess they’re checking to make sure there aren’t any warrants on us!”

The sheriff was still telling his story. The man next to me was listening closely and remarked, “and he’s a sheriff!” I guess the guy had made some funny remark. I started paying closer attention and put down my book. My head was up my bookish ass, you might say, or rather, perhaps it’s my head that’s bookish, not my ass. Unfortunately I can’t remember anything from the story. If only!

A middle-aged woman arrived. She borrowed my cell phone to call her daughter to come and help her fill out the forms. It dawned on me that she couldn’t read, that’s why she needed help.

The man and the woman started complaining about the long wait. The woman was growing indignant because she felt she was doing the right thing, and instead of going ahead and fighting whoever was threatening her, she was getting a warrant out instead. She mentioned that the person in question was a woman…the whole thing involved an ex-husband, some infidelity I imagine…the details were vague. I didn’t know whom she was addressing, me or the other gentleman, or no one in particular.

The gentleman next to me, who was truly a genial fellow (I should have chatted with him more) explained that someone had put a restraining order on him but had contacted him after the order. He showed me the document and indicated the date, then showed me a text sent to him from the man in question that was dated after the date on the forum. Was he vying for my sympathy? I didn’t know. Maybe people just speak freely in these settings. And why not? All in all, it was far more enjoyable than waiting to see the doctor, or the dentist.

The DA was of little use. She didn’t have the police record yet; and besides, it was probably a civil matter anyway, out of her jurisdiction. She sent me to central records. There for 90 cents I easily obtained the report. I noted with satisfaction that the officer had written, with regards to the driver, “careless and erratic driving.”

The man’s contact info was there for me. I thought I might as well give it a shot. He did answer his phone, but when he discovered who I was, he promptly hung up. I had to make several phone calls to figure out where to go next. Meanwhile I overheard a real sob story; a young woman with a small child had been driving without a license, but she was taking her daughter, who had liver cancer, to the doctor. That’s more or less what was said, I paraphrase verbatim. She was talking to a man in a suit, an icy fellow who wasn’t exactly moved by the narrative.

I walked across the street to a large building. This one was expansive and vast inside and there were several metal detectors by the entrance, as if the foot traffic there was really high, even though I was the only one. It was like a Kafka story, and I was Herr. D, confronting the Law in all its grandeur. I explained what I needed to do to the security guy. I was in the wrong place, and he gestured to the building across the street. I was confused because someone else had told me to go across the street when I had been across the street—so I was across the street, in effect. I asked him to clarify. The white building, he said. I pointed out the window. My view was somewhat obstructed, and there was a building I knew wasn’t the right building getting in the way of the building that might have been the white building, I wasn’t sure. That one? I said, pointing in that direction, still unsure. The white building across the street, he said. The one over there, I said, pointing where I thought he meant. Yes, the white building across the street. Just think white building, he repeated several times as I walked away.

I easily found the white building and made my way to the civil court area. Filling out the required forms was a breeze. I questioned the clerks. What are my chances, I asked? I had to pay 100 dollars to file the suit. They couldn’t say really; they weren’t legal experts, but my case seemed solid. But, they explained, it is easy for a judge to decree that I have the right to the $450 (plus the court fee), but it is another matter forcing the defendant to pay. More headaches. What is it like? I asked. Have you seen Judge Judy? they said.