map of the endtimes
Wednesday, May 12 2010
For dinner we'd be having over a celebrity guest, a successful frontman for a well-known North American alternative rock band. I can't really say who because I don't want to get in trouble and I don't want to scare people away with this blogging thing, which has been something of an ill-advised overshare from the start. But if you've been reading this site for the past week you can probably figure out whom I'm talking about. Let's call him Cl, and let's call his wife Ch.
Normally Gretchen cooks and I have to clean the house when we're having people over, and while Gretchen slaved away in the kitchen, it was houseguest Ray who did most of the cleaning. And he wouldn't even get to hang out with our dinner guests; he would be working his evening shift at New World Home Cooking.
So a bit past six, the dogs started barking and there they were, Cl and Ch. Unlike our one other celebrity guest, Cl and Ch actually brought a bottle of wine. Gretchen had prepared a number of delicious vegan dips (one of which resembled chicken salad), and we sat in front of the fire (it was an unusually cold night) and talked such. Cl expressed a common view that vegetarian food shouldn't try to ape meat products. But he was outnumbered three to one by those present who had the opposing view.
Before it got dark, the four of us toured the greenhouse and peaked into the brownhouse. There's just so much to explain and to show off, it's a little hard to get it all off on just one night of hanging out with someone (I'd never talked with Cl or Ch before). Still, via lyrics, stage banter, and second hand, I'd been led to believe that Cl is interested in the end times (or "the end of days") and preparing for them. Thus my oddball creations like the brownhouse and the greenhouse with its integral "you must have had way too much time on your hands" well seemed like they should have interested him. "How long did that take you to dig?" he wanted to know. I didn't have an easy answer.
During a delicious dinner built around Cæsar salad and French onion pie, conversation was initially about the alternative standup comedy scene in New York City. Cl knew the guys from Flight of the Conchords and Demetri Martin, among others. He said he had a lot of respect for stand-up comedians, whose job is only one thing: to make people laugh. He said he thought trying to do so, all by one's self, and being so vulnerable to objectively-obvious failure is incredibly brave.
After dinner, all of us but Gretchen toured the laboratory, another rich spectacle that is impossible to adequately show off or describe.
Then we sat by the fire drinking booze and talking more, now mostly about music.
We'd already gotten Cl's opinion on Bob Dylan versus Leonard Cohen (he preferred the latter) and some interesting stuff about Cat Power[REDACTED].
Other bands mentioned were the Avett Brothers and The Soundtrack of Our Lives. We mentioned how at a kickass TSOOL show back in 2002 at the Mercury Ballroom (before they became popular in this country, something we didn't know had happened), all the hipsters were just standing around while Gretchen and I were the only ones really letting ourselves enjoy the show. Cl and Ch said this was typical of shows in New York City. NYC shows are ruined by the hipsters (and their constantly-hovering air quotes) that go to them.
Gretchen was playing MP3s on her computer the whole time, though none of the songs in the playlist had been written by Cl (that would have been tacky, right?). Some of the songs were alternative rock, some were by the Jayhawks, and some were by Gretchen's many favorite soul and R&B artists. Gretchen's breadth of musical interests is a bit broader than mine, though I had the feeling Ch and Cl's interests were more similar to mine. Ch specifically mentioned the blues as something she didn't like, and while I silently cheered, Gretchen was nonplussed. But we could all agree that there isn't much to love about the products of jam bands, with the possible exception of My Morning Jacket. Interestingly, both of them proved to be as conversant about this season of American Idol as Gretchen and I are.
Cl's band had been an opening act for Guided by Voices back in the day, so I learned that one of the things Bob Pollard likes to do is challenge new acquaintances to a rousing game of basketball, though he also warns them not to play if they're not good.
Gretchen asked Cl what is is like when fans come up to him and fawn. Cl said it felt good but what he didn't like was when such people then just stood there staring at him expectantly. What the hell was he supposed to say to that?
Cl and Ch ended up staying for something like four hours.
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