Friday, May 8, 2015

Lowering the Bar, Resting It on the Ground

The idea of letting ordinary people write reviews of things — restaurants, hotels, Android tablets, electronic drum kits — must have seemed a very good one, but have you noticed that it just doesn't work? I have yet to find anything (with the possibility of my universally reviled Pixies biography, Black Francis Ate My Cerebellum) on which opinion isn't both widely and wildly divergent. Says Diner A of, say, La Maison de la Casa House (for all my fellow Calvin Trillin fans), "Most delicious food I've ever tasted, and what wonderfully attentive service!" Half a dozen others echo this sentiment, and you're all set to call for a reservation when you discover that Diner B has written, "Most horrible food in human history. I got ptomaine poisoning, and died. And our server seemed to have leprosy. I found one of his fingers in my bouillabaisse." Then half a dozen diners agree with him. 

You can can easily go crazy.

That was I singing last night ‘neath your balcony at a few minutes past 10. Maybe you were too involved in a favorite television program or book or even magazine to hear me. Or maybe you and He Who’s Replaced Me in your heart were sending lewd text messages back and forth. Knowing how much you’ve always enjoyed them — knowing how you become bloated with pride at karaoke when I perform them — I sang two songs, Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” and Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe,” and sang them well, in the full-bodied baritone that has delighted audiences on two continents and an island.

Or maybe the problem was that you didn’t recognize me, as I was dressed not as I customarily dress, as a penniless (or absurdly penurious) rock type in waning middle age, but as a root vegetable — a Russet potato, to be specific. I had hoped only to prove to you that, when the situation demands it, I can be humble. Oh, the slings and arrows I suffered on the long bus ride over! Or maybe not quite slings and arrows, but the hoots and giggles of the Oaxacan busboys heading to work and the Guatemalan maids returning from it in their starched white uniforms and plastic clogs, every third one of them answering either to Maria or Juanita, as the maids did too.

A bit fanciful today, huh? I can hear you musing as you sip your Superfood smoothie and light your first cigarette of the morning, reflecting, perhaps, as I myself am doing even now, that that which seems inexpressibly hilarious under the influence of the dregs of the medical marijuana I’m going to have to make a mental note to replenish soon often seems just silly in the harsh light of day. I mean, there I was in the bathtub last evening, reveling in the pleasure of the almost intolerably hot water, and giggling delightedly at my own ideas for this little flight of fancy. And now, 10 hours later, I’m wondering if I should even bother trying to nudge it to the finish line, or instead try to remember another sexual misadventure I might have enjoyed — or failed to enjoy — in a time before AIDS, a time before the decades pilfered my beauty and coarsened my swagger.

I could get high now, of course, and indeed would if I were more dedicated. But it might make me either lethargic or horny, and neither would be appropriate in the circumstances. I must practice my drumming. I must practice piano. I must spend a couple of hours applying for jobs for which I will invariably be pronounced Not a Good Fit, if I am pronounced anything at all. (Around 109 percent of my prospective employers don’t acknowledge having heard from me.) Friends speculate that my résumé is failing to tickle the algorithmic G-spot that has apparently come to replace a live human being looking at a prospective art director’s online portfolio and saying, “This guy’s good!” The problem is that I have already told every lie on my résumé that I can think of to tell.

I sadly recall the nincompoop assistant personnel director at the company in New York City for which I worked for three gloriously overpaid ($65/hour) months in 2009. If she sighed and said, “It is what it is,” once a day, she said it a dozen. Her doing so increased no one’s understanding of anything, least of all her own. My impression was that she imagined herself to sound alluringly world-weary.

I have done my legacy no favors here.  

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