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SPEW

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Tue, Feb 08


THE VOICE MODULATION PLAGUE

@ 12:00 AM

(A modified version of this SPEW appeared in the December 2005 issue of Giant magazine)



I'm trying to think. Shut the fuck up, seriously.

During the past week, my computer broke, my iPod went on the fritz, and I had a massive power breaker problem where I live. I was forced to go out—to coffeeshops, libraries, bookstores and internet cafes—to get any work done.

Ten years ago—fuck, five years ago, this would've been fine. In fact, that's how I did all my writing.

I loved being out. Loved hearing the low murmurs of conversation, the city sounds, the music playing overhead—usually a CD I'd missed, put on by someone cool and adventurous, working a day job and trying to make it tolerable for themselves and the customers. At 10 am on a weekday, at the Horseshoe Coffeehouse on Haight Street around the corner from my old apartment, the freaks and outcasts and weirdos and genuinely original would be arguing and sparring and chatting back and forth, and you'd grab the occasional intriguing packet of words or out-of-context phrase that would fuel your own brainwaves, make you surf in new directions. Distant sirens and nearby pedestrians and the occasional crazy homeless person outside the shop (or inside—one time, this tweak-head came in and arranged every napkin container on every table so the paper napkins were facing towards the big picture windows of the shop, muttering, “Done!” when he'd finished, like he'd just won a bet with a demon).

Gone now. Those days are over. When did everyone and everything get so fucking LOUD?

WHA? EH? PLEASE EXCUSE ME, I'M EIGHTY-ONE

I know this is cultural suicide, for me to admit that I can't stand the fucking noise anymore. I have friends who are kissing their mid-40's who've decided, out of desperation and fear of death, that they're 22 years old forever, and could ya turn it UUUUUPP??? Whoooo! They'll sacrifice clarity of thought and peace of mind and a lot of other shit so they can fool themselves into thinking they're still riding the crest of the Youth Wave.

Fucking idiots. I can't wait to be an old man. And to speed that process along, I've got my pair of Howard Leight earplugs and a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones. 'Cuz I'm in revolt. 'Cuz I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT.

I don't want to hear these inane half-conversations on people's cell phones. I don't want to hear the even MORE inane full conversations between two actual people. Strung-together catch phrases and repeated punchlines from TV shows and movies. SHUT THE FUCK UP!

It'd be fine if people talked conversationally. I don't know what happened these past few years, but now people scream when they talk. They bray and whine and shout as if there's a boom mike recording their every word, and a hidden camera capturing the amazing Indie Film That Is Their Lives.

And what happened to coffee shop employees playing a cool CD at a volume where you could actually listen to it? I spent last Sunday afternoon at the Abbot's Habit coffeeshop in Venice. Trying to read. To write. To think. Chased out of my house, and trying to make the best of it.

Impossible. The dumbasses at the counter, determined that everyone in The Habit experience the sonic glory of the Blaring Drivels and the Deservedly Unsigned, kept the music cranked to ear-splitting levels. Which made everyone talk louder and LOUDER and L!O!U!D!E!R until I forgot my name, where I was, and that I shouldn't punch the bag lady sitting next to me.

Out on the street, huge H2s, empty except for their lone, skinny, blond teenage chick drivers, crawled up Abbott Kinney, pumping Ashlee Simpson and Beyonce and ratting the windows, making the taped-up flyers for dog walkers shake.

Hey, when you're twenty, and still young and sexy, it's a good thing to have the music loud. 'Cuz you're not going to impress anyone by saying something startling or original or truly funny. That's the age when you rely on your looks. Or, if you look the way I did at twenty, you become a comedian, so you have a spotlight on you and a microphone in front of your yap, so you have a fighting chance.

But when you've reached the age of the clientele inside the Abbot's Habit, and you accept the fact that you look like a used copy of Confederacy of Dunces that a lucky wino used for toilet paper after a kindly spinster took him to the Chili Cook-Off - well, you get the point.

NOTHING LIKE THAT FIRST CUP OF COFFEE AT 2:17 p.m.

In the early 90's, a coffeeshop was a den of revolutionaries. People writing, reading, getting informed, getting active, fueling themselves to focus and get rid of George I.

Okay, maybe I'm looking back through rose-colored glasses. Come to think of it, I literally am, since I'm writing this in my Dame Edna costume.


Double-chinned ex-heroin addicts, balding hipsters and saggy-armed ex-rave chicks (“flappers”, now that I think of it) sitting around, scowling at the Calendar section of the L.A. Times. Sneering at how bad TV and movies and music and the President are. Checking their e-mail and seeing if anything's been updated on salon.com. Doing the Big Disdain.

Know what the Enemy's been doing? They've been awake since 8am, pumping away on the treadmill and taking krav maga classes and not hungover and getting ready to Carve Up the World for themselves. The Republicans stole rock 'n' roll, outsider status, and have now seized the day away from us, the Too Cool to Care. We're doomed.

Here's a scene from a screenplay I'm working on:

INT. SLEEK, HIGH-TECH PENTHOUSE IN BORING IRVINE, CA. - MORNING

A sweaty, toned Republican Cocksucker is on the phone.

REPUBLICAN COCKSUCKER #1: Hey Cindy, it's 6:30 a.m. Just hopped off the elliptical trainer. Let's go hike Runyon Canyon, then get some egg white omelets and buckwheat pancakes before we continue fucking up the world for everyone!

REPUBLICAN COCKSUCKER #2: I hate fags!

CUT TO:

INT. SILVERLAKE SHITHOLE/EAST VILLAGE BROOM CLOSET WHICH COSTS MORE TO RENT PER MONTH THAN THE HIGH-TECH PENTHOUSE - DUSK

A 41 year-old pretending he's still a 23 year-old skateboarder is sprawled on a second-hand couch, talking on a cell phone which he almost never uses 'cuz people who own cell phones are assholes. Old copies of the L.A. Weekly are piled on a T.V. which he only watches to remind himself of what a lame-o wasteland TV is, especially shows like Jerry Springer, The O'Reilly Factor, According to Jim and The Simple Life, which he and all of his friends can't believe get such huge ratings.

PATHETIC 41 YEAR-OLD: Hey man, you up?

EVEN MORE PATHETIC 39 YEAR-OLD (in faded Journey concert T-shirt which cost $85): Uh, yeah.

41 YEAR-OLD: Same shit, different day, huh?

39 YEAR-OLD: No fucking shit.

41 YEAR-OLD: Gotta make this quick before this piece-of-shit cell phone gives me brain cancer.

39 YEAR-OLD: Did you read that thing in The Baffler about how Cheney and Halliburton own a huge stake in the MRI business, which is a direct incentive for them to keep cell phones on the market which give people brain cancer?

41 YEAR-OLD: A friend of my brother read it and told him about it and he told me.

39 YEAR-OLD: Fuckin' idiots out there.

41 YEAR-OLD: Fuckin' sheep.

39 YEAR-OLD: Know what we should do? Let's do to the mall, check out some of the 'sheeple', and then go see Are We There Yet? to prove to us how lame and hollow Hollywood is.

41 YEAR-OLD: Sounds like a plan. Did you see how lame Saturday Night Live was last night?

39 YEAR-OLD: Ashlee Simpson's a cunt.

CUT TO: Mel Gibson being elected Pope.


 
 
   
   
   
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