We saved all our marriage money and spent it on a down-payment for a house in North Carolina, like thousands of other newly cemented couples. Imagine, if you will, thousands of couples like us. White. Educated. Professional. Some, like ours, had a decidedly weak link in the chain of responsibility, income, qualifications. That was me. In fact, the wyfe left it to me to send resumes to all the hospitals in the region, and I misspelled “laboratory” on the cover letters. Something someone who had probably written that word a trillion times in her life had worked out pretty firmly. How mortifying that was. Still, her experience, dedication and work ethic overcame this.
So, we were all descending upon cities like Raleigh. When we got here, it was difficult to find good food, good culture, any sense of place. Any depth and breadth of…experience. When you live in Buffalo, Cleveland, Rochester, Detroit, Albany, Erie, I imagine Cincinnati as well, and travel south, you imagine yourself, like we did, ready to assimilate a new way of doing things. A new cuisine. A new feeling of community. A real sense of place. But those things didn’t happen.
There’s thousands of people moving into these thrown-up apartment complexes, the likes of which I had never come across up north. Immaculate, luxuriously appointed, even though they were pretty pricey for their size, some with handball courts, some with pools and gyms. But all the same. All the same. When we were planning our move, we tried to differentiate between them but it really was impossible. It was bad luck again when she got a job 25 miles and some horrible traffic away from our first apartment in Cary. However it was right in her wheelhouse, as it were. She has but one wheelhouse, but it’s quite the fucking wheelhouse, professionally speaking. I have wheelhouses up and down this world, but they’re all tiny, I’m afraid.
We moved to Hillsborough, a house that we could have two of in Buffalo for the same money. And again, since everyone who moved here COULD afford to move here, those people who had enjoyed Buffalo’s hospitality and history brought with them stories but nothing more. Every “yankee” I met then, and every one I meet now (one just yesterday) laments this. There’s no food here that even approaches real Buffalo chicken wings, pizza, Avenue Subs, the theater scene isn’t as gritty, the music scene, a selling point at the time of our move, was even more incestuous, even less welcoming, even more dictated by one or two powerful reviewers than my home town. We all brought memories of the culture of Buffalo, but the culture itself did not travel with us, since we could afford to imbibe, but only as an audience and not a creator. We could all afford to move. Those people who could afford it were not the ones who made the place what it was, and it stands to reason that the wave of northerners who came here from the 90’s to today have had virtually no impact on the culture. Only the economy, and only for a while. It all collapsed in the “dot com collapse“. And now it’s just…hot. Hot as fuck. Or as the kids and I say, “hotter than a monkey’s diaper.”
I tell them that my job is two-fold. To keep them alive and to say “no”. “No” is an impulsive response after a while. They ask me for something. I want them to have that thing. And yet I still say “no”. Then I turn around and say “ok”. And Olivia gets her Hank Williams Jr. Brand BB Gun. It’s my means of having empowerment without, say, smashing my kids in the mouth or grabbing their necks.
I still hear the word “no” every day. Unanswered job applications, unaccepted demos, unresolved friendships. “No”. Every day, a few times. Sometimes I get messages on my phone before I roll out of bed. “No”. “We’ll keep you on file.” “Please respect the restraining order.” And I’m not going to lie. It still stings. Thinking about an email I just got wherein my song was rejected for consideration for this or that.
Some people never see or hear a “no”. I imagine a handsome man or pretty girl with an appealing decolletage learn pretty early that a certain use of these assets can turn a “no” into a “yes”. It is, I imagine, second nature after a while. I don’t blame people like Madonna or the guys in Color Me Badd for using this skill. The word “no”, whether spoken or delivered through the proverbial smoke signal, is something we instinctively avoid, like a fake punch. We pull back.
I think that this is why so many of my good, talented friends have, for lack of a better word, resorted to either playing other people’s music or treating their own compositions almost as something for which they should apologize. And unruly guest. Not my brother’s keeper. All that shit.
People who never hear “no” in their adult lives, like Keith Moon, Jim Morrison, the great Chris Schenkel of ABC, athletes, any sort of celebrity really, can turn to substance abuse and suicidal tendencies. I think of Kurt Cobain in this regard. It’s unnatural to hear the word “yes” all the time. There’s nowhere to fall. You cannot know what is real and what is fake. Does the woman love you? Does the friend merit trust? Does the prostitute take Best Buy card? I think that’s why so many people off themselves when they’re famous. It’s not that they’re sick of fame. I think they’re sick of “yes”.
And if the world should smile on me someday and treat me with favored-fatty status, if my next CD or any of my songs come into the public eye, if I “blow up” as the kids these days say, I’m not sure I would handle it any better. But I will tell you this. It would be nice to hear “yes” some day in a professional regard without paying someone to “say”it. If you know what I mean. And I think you do. Why would you be here otherwise?
Ninety-nine. One thousand.
And one. Two. Three. Shit….