10:16PM. Saturday Night. October 16, 2010.
Overlooking Formosa Bay, on the Atlantic Ocean. Sitting at the outdoor cafe of Nomad Seashore Hostel in Buzios, Brazil. Drinking beer: Bohemia Cerveja Pilsen, Desde 1853, A Primeira Cerveja Do Brazil. Listening to Rage Against The Machine antagonize an audience by yelling, “Fuck You I Won’t Do What You Tell Me. Fuck You I Won’t Do What You Tell Me.” The music is loud, overtaking the ocean waves as they crash on the shore; the lyric is a guiding light, causing the stars in the sky to shrink with embarrassment; the love for this band is mythic, forcing the man-in-the-moon to realize his uselessness in the universe and wish for an eclipse.
The boats in the bay are dancing. Even though they’re anchored like dogs with their balls snipped, for want of a bitch. I’ve been there. I’ve been neutered. So I know how the boats feel, tied down, waiting for permission, wishing they could break free; like Amelia Earhart, who dared to taunt the Bermuda Triangle, who disappeared while facing down her fear of what’s on the other side of the horizon.
The Monster on the other side of the horizon is conformity. The Monster across the border is a different language, and brown skin. The Monster just around the block is McDonald’s, which is even bigger here, in Brazil. That’s right, you heard me right, the Big Mac, the Monster everyone pretends isn’t a Monster, is even bigger in Brazil. It makes me want to rebel by starving myself, putting on a pair of leather pants, dreading my JewFro and starting another band.
Yes, I did. I played music. Yes, I did. I started a band. Yes, it’s true. I was a cliché. I wanted to break on through to the other side. In spite of my voice; in fact, because of my voice, which everyone who heard my band couldn’t wait to tell me, and my bandmates, how much my singing sucked. Just like they couldn’t wait to tell me how much the name of my band sucked. Just like they can’t wait to tell me how much the name of my blog SUCKS.
I get it. Thanks, pal.
It’s amazing how quickly everyone wants to offer free advice. Even though, if you were to take an honest look, at yourself, maybe the next time you’re shaving, you might realize, when it gets right down to it, in your own life, what you’ve accomplished isn’t exactly on par with being anointed “Lizard King.” Instead, if you took a look, you might be honest with yourself and admit you’ve become Conformity King. Sorry but, “I am Lizard King, I can do anything,” is slightly sexier than, “I am Conformity King, I can squash anything.”
Take it in. You’re welcome, pal.
Gumption Trap was a terrible name for a band. Jim Morrison read “The Doors of Perception.” He called his band The Doors. Greg Morelli read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” He called his band Gumption Trap. We never stood a chance. We didn’t set the night on fire. I didn’t look good in leather pants. I looked like a bow legged Jew. Rage Against The Machine and Bono never called and invited me to join them on a South American Tour to End Poverty…and ROCK.
In the Summer of 1996, my band got invited to play Lollapalooza. Instead of making it all about my band, I invited everyone I knew to get on stage, and share the moment. The in fighting was overwhelming. Instead of being grateful, everyone I invited to play fought with me about getting as much time as they could on stage. It wasn’t about putting on a good show. It was about putting on a long show. They felt it was their due. They felt it was owed to them. There’s an attitude going around, even in Punk, of entitlement. These so-called Punks think they’re special. But Punk wasn’t about being special. It was about being gloriously ordinary. It was a reaction against 4-part harmonies, pitch perfect voices and the business of making music.
On the 2nd day of Lollapalooza, disgusted with all the musicians, even the ones in my own band, especially the ones in my own band, I decided to make a statement. So when my band got our turn to perform, I made it a point to walk off the stage after playing only 1-song. My bandmates were furious. They were entitled, like the Tea Party, to be angry, because things didn’t go exactly the way they planned – boo fucking hoo – we were supposed to have 44 consecutive mostly irrelevant white men as president – boo fucking hoo – we were supposed to make more money than our parents and have better lives – boo fucking hoo – my band was supposed to make it, my band was supposed to get noticed, my band was supposed to play as long as we felt like playing because we were the ones who booked Lollapalooza.
Don’t know what happened, but somewhere between the 1st and 2nd day of running things, and making everyone else happy, suddenly, I grew a pair.
I became more tyrannical than the Lizard King. As I hit the stage, in 1996, years before Zach de la Rocha thought about raging against his parents, let alone machines, as I hit the stage, with my bandmates demanding a 2nd song, with the so-called Punks resenting me for not seeing how much more special they were than me, as I hit the stage, I let go of my better self, the self who was always nagging at me, “Take your LSAT’s, apply to law school, become a lawyer, exploit loopholes, over bill clients.” Instead, I turned off my better self. I turned off the noise. I orchestrated a coo. Selfishly, I took the kingdom of Rock ‘n Roll for myself, whispering, “Fuck You I Won’t Do What You Tell Me. Fuck You I Won’t Do What You Tell Me.”
A week after Lollapalooza, I renounced the throne. Turns out, it’s not good to be the king. I broke-up my band. In the end, looking back, it’s pretty amazing how true we were to our name, Gumption Trap, which is something you leave unfinished.
After 10-years in a band, the day after it was over, I have to admit, never in my life did I feel more lost, more adrift. Turns out, the pay-off awaiting me on the other side of the horizon wasn’t even worthy of an Oliver Stone Movie. No, we’d never write a classic like “Fat Bottom Girls.” No, we’d never have animated groupies in a rock band video game named for us like Green Day. No, we’d never have a poster on a teenage boy’s wall next to Mark Wahlberg.
Has it dawned on you? Has it slipped into your awareness? Have you stopped to notice? Turns out, things are so much more interesting than your younger self ever could have imagined.
I’d never even heard of Buzios, Brazil. That is, until last Wednesday, when my brother got into a conversation with a friendly hooker at a bar in Rio de Janeiro called Balcony. She gave him advice: the best scuba diving is in Buzios (oh, and that she had lambskin condoms, so if he wanted to fuck her, and cum, he should ditch the latex kiddie condoms, grab his nut sack, man-up, and go lambskin). Grandpa Bernie always said, “Free advice is worth exactly what you paid for it.” In case you’re wondering, this cost my brother $200 Brazilian Dollars, at a conversion rate of 1.73, that’s roughly $150 American Dollars, for the advice of a hooker.
I know, I know, hookers are terrible people. I know, I know, this is terribly embarrassing to my North Shore Mother. I know, I know, I should have taken my LSAT’s, gone to law school and fulfilled my destiny to be a lawyer with an ex-wife and a couple kids in therapy. I know, I know, my brother should be a big-time famous Chef, by now, with Joey’s Brickhouse, his very 1st attempt at a restaurant, being more popular than McDonald’s. Those are all the things my younger self believed. What a brat!
If I let go of my younger self, I have to admit, right now, as a man of 42, who’s 2 months shy of 43, sitting here, overlooking Formosa Bay, 2 hours and 56 minutes into Daylight Savings Time, after eating 1 overpriced dinner at the oldest restaurant in Buzios and drinking 7 beers: Bohemia Cerveja Pilsen…
As I look across the Atlantic Ocean, with the eyes of a man, instead of a boy, instead of a brat, right now, more than anything else, I’d rather have a 3-way with Emilia Earhart and Jim Morrison in a bar & grill on the other side of the horizon called Devil’s Triangle, where the boats have no anchors, the stars don’t pretend to matter, the man-in-the-moon is grilling Chilean Sea Bass, and Rage Against The Machine has the most requested karaoke song, “Killing In The Name Of!” That is, the 2nd most requested karaoke song, right after Kelly Clarkson, with her classic, “Since You Been Gone.”
Oh, by the way, in case my Mom is wondering, since her father, Grandpa Bernie, died 1-year-ago, today…yes, Grandpa Bernie is there, too, on the other side of the horizon, at Devil’s Triangle Bar & Grill, passing out lambskin condoms. Even though, in heaven, you don’t really need a condom since the only thing contagious, the only thing known to cause a rash, the only thing unforgivable, is regret.