Friday, February 18, 2011

"The Long and the Short of It: A Focused and Truncated sort of Autobiography" or, "Motivations of an Old Toaster: A Manifesto"

An Introduction:

You don't know this, but I've written 17 blogs over that last 6 months. You don't know this because I haven't posted a single one of them. Okay, so none of them are "finished", per se, but they exist. They're all nearly done. They're on the precipice of substantial. They're there, all fuzzy and flickering in and out out reality, trying their hardest to break through the plain of idea and theory into the realm of actuality, but these writings have a single, significant stumbling block...the writer.

I keep writing; I always write. But regardless of how much I've liked the finished product, it was wrong. I was always wrong. I would tell myself it wasn't good enough, wasn't funny enough, wasn't clear enough, but really, the only problem was it wasn't "right" enough.

It's not that what I was writing was factually incorrect or misrepresentations of my opinions, it was the subject matter that was wrong. They were all fine subjects and I hope to finish and publish them very soon, but I've been dwelling on something for quite sometime, something that I have needed to get out, but have kept side-stepping. The irony of course is that by standing in the way of what I should be writing, the things I wrote stood in my way.

But no more...I'm done. After great contemplation and a much needed pow-wow with my super-good-buddy Liz, I've decided fear will not be my master. I'm too tired and too frustrated to be scared of appearing unbalanced. I have something to say, a blog to write, a blog that is probably the most egotistic and self-centered one I will ever write, but so be it. The more I've thought about it, the more I'm convinced I have to write it if for no reason other than emotional exorcism, catharsis, or self-preservation. As one final note, it is not my intention for what is written here to sound either self-deprecating or condescending, but there's a good chance it will be both. Oh well, here goes nothing...

The Long and the Short of It or Motivations of an Old Toaster

I'm not like you, or at least I'm not like literally every other music fan I've ever met. Everyone I know, everyone I've ever talked to about music (and if I've talked to you, there's a 99% chance music has come up. I probably forced the topic.) seems to have a singular similarity, they're looking for a visceral response to the music they listen to. Whether the provocation is emotional or physical, in order to fall in love with a song, album, artist, they need to be moved. This is something I do not need.

Don't get me wrong, an emotional response is great. Hell, an emotional response is invigorating, liberating, amazing, but for me an emotional response is simply a welcome byproduct. For me, music is an intellectual pursuit. A song can't even begin induce an emotional reaction if it doesn't make me think first. (Okay, so that's a blanket statement that doesn't cover all the bands I love. It doesn't account for Sigur Rós [I don't understand a thing those guys are saying], the Misfits, The Ramones, any of my beloved 80's Metal [exception within the exception: Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, White Lion], Wham!, or Kelly Clarkson, but "exception to the rule", writer's prerogative, and all that shit...they don't count in this instance.)

My friend John has always said I'm a horrible party DJ because I don't abide by Party Music rules, and I could never figure out what he meant. But since I've been trying to figure out what makes me different from all of my friends, I've realized that that statement is completely wrong for me, but he is, in fact, entirely right. The fact is, I have a solitary emotional response to the music I listen to, happiness. The Cure's Pornography makes me feel exactly the same as The Cure's The Head on the Door. I just feel good. But that's because Robert Smith and the rest of his rotating gang of bros that have encompassed The Cure over the last 3 decades never fail to make me think. Lyrically, Robert Smith has always written remarkably poetic, insightful, thoughtful words. And from a historical perspective, you can track the trajectory of The Cure's stylistic metamorphosis through their biographical timeline. Even though the series of singles released between November of 1982 and October of 1983 share no sonic resemblance to the songs recorded for and released on Pornography in May of '82, without the latter, the former would not have existed. That is a tale for a different day, so I won't go into it, but believe me, it's true.

And this (both the discovering and eventual knowing and dwelling) excites me. Getting to hear this stuff, know how it all intersects and interconnects is for me just pure, unbelievable, unmatchable, pulsating energy. Deducing this, dissecting it is intrinsically scholastic, but it's also unyielding in its brilliance. For me, thinking about this is fun, and that's makes the music fun. So even though the songs on Pornography are quite possibly the antithesis of fun, the fact that it gives me something to think about is fun, thus it makes me happy, thus Pornography makes me happy (I'm talking about the album, but I certainly see the humor here), thus I am happy when I listen to Pornography. So for me listening to Pornography at a party makes total sense. And this logic applies to everything I have ever loved.

Being given the opportunity to deconstruct what a band or artist is doing is what I love about music. Without that, I am only capable of at best liking it. In order for me to love something, it has to be intellectually compelling in one form or another. That's what does it for me, and once I have that, I'm happy...and there's that emotional byproduct. And if this was the only issue, it wouldn't be an issue at all. So what if I want something different out of the music I listen to than you do. You want something different from me, so it should at least be a wash. But of course, it's me, so there's always another issue.

If pending fatherhood has forced me to do one thing, it's been to attempt as best I can to seriously examine who I am as a person. I don't want my bullshit to become my kid's bullshit. I don't want my baggage to become my child's inheritance. In doing this very bare-bones self-diagnosis, I've discovered that my problem is I'm an old toaster.

Everyone's had one at one time or another. You know the one I'm talking about; the toaster that, in order to properly brown bread into that state of golden and crispy edible accoutrement that is a staple on breakfast tables around the world you have to "toast" the bread on one side, flip it over and "toast" it on the other. If you're particularly unlucky, you might have to jiggle the lever in just the right way to make the thing turn on at all.

Well, that's what I am. I am the human equivalent of that. I function, just not in the intended way. I can hold down a job, conduct conversations without educing fear in my conversant, perform the basic vitals necessary to survive, but outside of that, I kind of begin to fail as a human. I'm sort of like a believable imitation of a person. I am dysfunctionally functional. I hesitate to call myself crazy, but I have to admit, a more apt term continuously seems to escape me. Maybe quirky or not-quite-right are more satisfactory terms, but I don't know, crazy seems to just ring a little more true to me. Oh, I'm not stabby or rubber-room crazy, I'm just incapable of functioning in a full and normal capacity in the realm we call the real world.

Maybe I'm being a little unfair to myself. Maybe I'm not crazy, but I'm definitely not normal, I'm definitely flawed. Whether I'm crazy or just a little broken, the result ultimately ends up being the same, I'm a little fucked up and communication seems to be the root of the majority of those flaws. It probably sounds funny that the loudest guy in any room who has apparently no filter for what is and is not appropriate social conversation should say he has a hard time communicating. I think I come off as an open book type of person, but I'm not. I'm actually pretty fucking guarded. I think I also often come off as a pretty easy going guy, but again, I'm not, or at least not entirely. Don't get me wrong, I like having fun, I enjoy jokes and laughing. I'm not saying I'm dark and brooding, but I am somewhat intense. The way I think, the way I feel, internally, I'm kind of severe. Because of the severity of my personality, I have very little tolerance for small talk, but because of the insularity of my nature, I have a hard time talking to people about the things I want to talk about, the things that actually matter.

So where does that leave me? Well, kind of fucked is where. Essentially, unless I feel like I can trust you 100%, I have a hard time showing you the dark, cold, abyssal waters that exist beneath my surface. There are probably only 5 people on Earth who know the whole me. It's not that what everyone sees isn't me, it's just not the whole me. And if you're close to me but don't think you're one of those 5 people, don't feel bad. If you're my friend, that means I admire, respect, and love you. It's not anything you did; it's me, it's my hang-up. I'm not sure why I'm like this. I wasn't raised that way. I'm not some über-masculine, Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry type. I'm no Cromagnon man (although if Brendan Fraser's portrayal of Link in 1992's Pauly Shore vehicle "Encino Man" was anywhere near historically accurate, I might not be giving the proper credit to the intuition and range of emotional depth of the Neanderthal). Still, there's a real fear attached to the idea of truly exposing myself. Maybe it's fear of vulnerability, maybe it's a fear that, if I allow you to see the whole messed-up picture, you'll decide I'm not worth the energy. Maybe it's something entirely different that I hasn't occurred to me yet. I don't know. Nonetheless, here I am and here it is.

"So what does any of this have to do with music?", you ask. Well, music has served as my great neutralizer. If you like music, and I like music, this the one way in which I know you and I are the same. Thus, I have used music as a way to safely reveal myself to you. I relate to the world around me through the music I listen to and love. If I recommend something to you, that probably means I'm trying to, in my own backwards, cryptic way, open up to you. I'm trying to show you something about me that I think you may not know. I'm attempting, in what I realize is the most unobvious way, to be a better friend, or open up to you in a way I probably haven't yet. The music I listen to is rarely music I simply like, it's part of me. It's someone's unintentional yet probably apt interpretation of an aspect of my personality. So by recommending you listen to this, I guess I'm sort of indirectly hoping that we'll get a chance to later talk about it, and as a result, you'll gain a greater understanding of who I really am.

Oh, I realize this is asinine. Not only would I have to actually tell you that this is what I was doing for you to get it, but you'd also have to listen to music the same way I do to glean what I was trying to convey, which we've already established is probably not the case. I guess in the end, what's important here is that I've finally realized this. My expectations are unfair and unrealistic. And although I'm 100% sure that I won't stop attempting to cram the music I love down your throat in order to put myself on display, I'm going to make a concentrated effort to be a little more obvious, a little more open. I guess this is one part explanation, one part personal exposé, one part self-gratification, and one part apology. I'm sorry I've been a kind of crappy friend to most people, but it's not because I don't love you, it's because I don't know how to say it, and for that, I'm sorry. I'm going to try to be better. And if you appreciate it, do me a favor, and when my baby is old enough to understand, let he or she know that the mere idea of their existence made their dad try to be a better person.


  1. Wow. Brandon great blog. Almost brought me to tears at the end.

  2. First and your gang of music lovers took a giant sling shot and balcony railing to the old toaster I was hoping would suck someday.
    Secondly, I can't wait to teach your child about emotion-go and surfer-angry.
    Lastly, I love you too.
    Ps Cake rules and they are more intellectual than you