Been on the road and off the grid. Semi-regular posting will resume as soon as I catch up on the non-required reading and tackle some long-procrastinated priorities. For the moment, allow me to stray off topic and introduce you to the virtually unknown recordings of my good friend, Ugly Squab, whose self-styled brand of "Rest Stop Rock" once edged at the inconspicuous margins of a forgotten cassette mythos revolution.
Prone as I am to wallow in lugubrious lo-fi nostalgia, I will point out that I made up the words to "Toledo Birmingham" and "Eva Braun." I was living in a roach-infested studio apartment back then, sleeping on a painfully lumpy Murphy bed that took up most of my leased real estate. I was fat and poor and perpetually half-drunk. Just another shut-in, given to spiraling self-pity and pathetic crying spells. I remember waking up one mid-afternoon and noticing I had developed a rather painful zit on my scrotum. Wincing, I popped it and sniffed the translucent product on my fingertips. Nothing. Scrotum puss is odorless, I said aloud. To no one there. Not even the chair. I think I washed my hands.
Years later I landed a better job and moved into a garage apartment without the roaches. Then I quit eating meat and lost a ton of weight. Then I rescued a sick little gray kitten from the pound and named him Boris. I would go to work and think about Boris and things seemed better. When I would come home, Boris would be there wanting to play fetch with plastic milk carton rings. A perfect distraction. When Boris grew restless in his lonely days, the Ugly Squab let me adopt a sprightly little gray-and-white fucker from an unplanned litter. I called him Jack. Jack the cat. Boris’s conspirator.
Then, late one night on the patio of a local dive bar, I find myself on a good wave and I offer to buy the quiet one a drink. She says yes and we talk about nothing and everything. I forget to get her number, but after a few awkward calls to mutual acquaintances, I am put in touch. Turns out, she’s always up for Indian food. Turns out, she’s gone to good schools, where she studied Heidegger and film theory. She’s traveled the world, she has. And she’s in love with Lillian Gish. She has beautiful black-brown eyes and a quietly striking Jewish countenance. That I cannot forget. I tell her I feel sorry for Hitler. I tell her my favorite film is Straw Dogs. And the first time she comes over to meet Jack and Boris, I hand her an open beer (of cheap American vintage) and I make a nervous and ill-advised Rohypnol joke. I might have told her about the scrotum puss, too. I should remember, but I don’t. Yet somehow, she doesn’t seem to mind. I make her laugh. And she pretends to enjoy the cumen-infused couscous and portobello sandwiches that I have prepared. After the first bite, she tells me I am "fun guy," and as usual I’m slow to get the pun. I don’t like puns.
She must be crazy, my wife. My Eva Braun. The only one who ever really knew me. The one I love. We have six cats now. And Jack and Boris are doing fine.
Long Live Ugly Squab.