December 1999
s m u g
smoking jacket
by Gregory Alkaitis-Carafelli

Slack Jawed

The Indie Rock guide to meeting people, Mad Lib style (IRGTMP):
why is this valuable product not available today? I am thinking of a pocket sized book with customizable phrases to help get you out of awkward pauses, as if Mr. Rodgers were channeling the spirit of Maxim at an Olivia Tremor Control show. I need one of these guides, since if left to my own devices I screw up, like this:

It was the low point of the week, my garbage having been rejected from curbside collection for reasons still not clear to me. But it was clear that just my garbage had been singled out -- wasn't good enough to be garbage, was lower than garbage if such a thing is even possible, and so had been left exactly where I set it at the curb, with a note on cardboard, stuck to the few black plastic bags: "better luck next week." I don't handle rejection well. I fell asleep during the opening band at a show that night, distracted, morose, my mind in the gutter, literally, thinking about trash.

But these plebeian cares were no more as the next band took the stage, in full licorice chewing, cigarette smoking form. I admit to fascination, consuming fascination, with the band; specifically the licorice chewer, about whom whole arias would be composed, USENET flame wars would start over, park benches dedicated in her honor. She is the gravity that pulls men's jaws south. And what do you say to a natural force who is also a rock star? This is where the IRGTM would be consulted, and I am confident it would not have suggested I say what I did: "Can I have a Twizzler?"

"OK. Shhh. Don't tell anyone," she said, and gave me a wrapped strand of licorice. (It is this thin thread of a promise indirectly made, by the way, I am holding on to by not actually naming the band.) But, the candy handed over, the exchange was complete; she vanished with the rest of the bucket of licorice. End of line. I was thrilled but very disappointed at the same time. True, I had gotten what I asked for, but in my mind there was more to it; the Twizzler would naturally lead to witty, fresh conversation -- the whole thing would be more Abercrombie, less eBay. Instead there I was, alone, with a single piece of candy the only proof I'd even met her.

Obviously I needed a second chance, and what a perfect opportunity: I could give back the borrowed Twizzler. Not, of course, the digested pieces of the actual candy consumed, but, you know, a fresh package (sealed). The chance came a week later in a club with television monitors everywhere, all showing Nosferatu -- which, in my mind, was a ploy to sell more watered down drinks. It is unnerving to look up at someone and see in the background men climbing out of open graves; immediately, you think "yes, time for a refill."

And yes, transfixed by the grainy black and white movie, I admit to conjuring grand plans. She would be charmed; it would be better than last time, i.e. actual conversation would occur and segue neatly into coffee afterwards, at this nice place right around the corner. It didn't matter that I couldn't think of what we would talk about; all would end well.

Well. It ended, at least: licorice delivered. But that is all I managed to do -- it was a complete conversation failure. So, the ultimate problem that comes from all of this is that even though I am one of the people who needs (and would benefit from) an IRGTMP the most, I am clearly unfit to write or even help with the writing of such a guide. Although if you like Twizzlers I know just who to talk to: now if only someone would help me with what to say.



and such
and such

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