Song Of The Day 3/15/2017: The Magnetic Fields – “Papa Was a Rodeo”
The Final 15
So I was back in Olympia. I was still working for the music marketing company on a telecommuting basis.
I’d also picked up a side job for another company my boss had started called eCRUSH. If you were of a teenage kind in the early 2000’s you might remember eCRUSH as the original secret-admirer web site. Often imitated, never equalled. And nowadays nobody has any secrets anymore anyway. So we were the last of our kind.
I didn’t handle the core eCRUSH business model. I worked on the site content as editor and head writer. This meant I wrote a lot of interactive quizzes, like “Which Member of *NSYNC is Your Soul Mate?” Now, that might sound like junk content to you, but eCRUSH gave me a considerable amount of freedom to make it worthwhile reading for anybody who happened by. The truth is that those quizzes had some of the tightest comic writing I’ve ever done. “(J.C. Chavez’s) dream girl is one who supports his tough work schedule, yet can be a solace and inspiration to him at the end of a day. Kinda like Vicodin, but different.” I found that on, of all things, a U2 message board item about the quiz. (This, although a paraphrase, was better: “Justin Timberlake is free of mind, lighthearted and fun. That’s how I was before the boating accident!”)
I did manage to find a number of the questions I wrote for the *NSYNC quiz, thanks to the Wayback Machine internet archive:
4. You've stopped off in one of those duty-free shops near the San Diego/Tijuana border, and they only sell the following five items. Assuming they're all roughly the same price, which do you take back with you?
- A Hard Rock Cafe menu
- A Wonder Woman Pez dispenser
- An antique shotgun
- An old vinyl "Muppets Disco" LP
- A pair of green Converse sneakers
7. Let's say you've just died. What movie would you most like to see on the airplane flight en route to your final judgment?
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- 12 Monkeys
- The Waterboy
- Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
11. Let's pretend you've just gone a little "funny in the head," and have taken a guy home, strapped him to the back of your sofa with leather restraints, have obtained a giant seltzer bottle with a spray top, and have told your “date” that you're going to be squirting him with a potable liquid for the next, let's say, 3 hours or so, and will then suck the residual droplets off his body with one of those twisty "crazy" straws that you get at 7-11. What liquid will you use?
- Iced tea
- Hot tea
- Almond cappuccino
- Nicole Miller cologne
I also edited user-generated content, and served as the site’s advice columnist. That was tricky to pull off, because eCRUSH officers determined (rightly, in my belief) that it might seem a bit off-brand to have their sincere teenage inquiries on how to love answered by a balding guy with little fashion sense and dwindling interest in pop culture—even if the advice that guy gave was sound, which it was. So we all agreed to make a few, oh, adjustments to my internet presence, so that the advice component came through unscathed without the distraction of the advice-giver being something of an outsider… or… you know, very…
What I’m trying to tell you is that I was Advice Girl.
Look, what’s the big deal? It wasn’t the first time I’d done drag. That was in a college production of Cabaret.* And I really cared about how Advice Girl was perceived. I was truly concerned about the kids who wrote in too.
My having been Advice Girl (along with a couple of other people, on occasion—she was more a state of mind) isn’t something I’ve tried to hide. I’m actually pretty proud of it. It was a worthwhile ruse. I just don’t know how to phrase it on a resumé.
(*Not a joke. I forgot to mention this earlier.)
Shrug ReduxI also got Shrug Festival back on the air pretty quickly—about a month after I’d gotten back in town. This reflected either an enormous amount of faith in my abilities from KAOS management or their totally forgetting what I’d done the first time.
Of course I’d been practicing the cold open of the first episode for months, again, paraphrased: “You know, I had this really weird dream last night. I dreamt that I was dragged out of my bed, tied to the top of a truck, and shunted down to Los Angeles FOR FIVE FREAKING YEARS.”
Shrug Fest was again put in a graveyard time slot, but that was fine. I didn’t and still don’t see how it could have played anytime before 11pm. There was no real change in the music either, at least not in the beginning. I had less 7-inches to play and had to spend more time in preview, but more or less it was still CDs that had come right off the truck.
Okay, there was one episode where I decided to morph into a radio evangelist for no special reason. I brought in my keyboard and played some of that TV-ready organ gospel music that they sometimes do. Crazydee called in and we had a faith-healing/singalong session over the phone. But those kinds of things were rare.
A Quickie in ChicagoAgain, there’s a lot I’m leaving out of this part of the story, and I’m afraid because of that this is going to look like a pretty sudden leap in narrative. I didn’t have anywhere else to put it in the pages after this one, though. For space considerations it goes here.
The summer after I moved to Olympia I went out to Chicago to spend a couple of months working out of eCRUSH’s home office. The office was a two-floor loft in Bucktown that happened to have a private bedroom in case somebody needed it for a couple of months. I was happy to fill that position.
I loved Chicago, even though I wasn’t in the best state of mind for a few weeks. The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs was on replay for a lot of those two months. But I made friends fairly quickly. Most of them were at Louie’s Pub on the corner of North and Paulina. Louie’s was “Where Friends Meet,” according to the sign outside.
Not to give away too much of the substance (such as it is) of future episodes of this series, but my karaoke game was on point at Louie’s. I got a lot of requests for “Me and Mrs. Jones” after the first time I did it. One night a writer from Entertainment Weekly named Gillian and I met at the bar after one of my karaoke fits, and said she said she'd just become a fan of mine. That was when I knew karaoke might be my pathway to glory. (Gillian, meanwhile, went on to write a book called Gone Girl.)
I took a road trip during the summer in Chicago for music marketing business. This took me to cities I’d only heard of in books but never experienced up close, like… Indianapolis. Cleveland. Detroit. Grand Rapids. I saw the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which was nice, but the Motown Museum was way better. I like Bon Jovi’s tour jackets as much as the next guy, but standing in the same room where Marvin Gaye made “What’s Going On” was a little spookier, in all the best ways.
Also: Brooks and Mindy got married that summer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Rob flew in from Olympia to officiate the ceremony and I was the ring bearer. Rob and I drove up through Wisconsin together to get there. We stayed in Brooks’s family’s cabin in Copper Harbor. We also went out on a speedboat to torture a giant tanker that was moving slowly on Lake Superior. I mention this because that weekend was really one of the more perfect ones I’ve had.
I was in Chicago when 9/11 happened. Nobody stayed at work. I watched television news that whole day, with one eye out the window watching what was then called Sears Tower with a lot of anxiety. Karaoke at Louie’s went on as usual because nobody knew what else the hell to do.
I did seriously consider moving to Chicago. I certainly had the support of eCRUSH to do so. I was probably only about a life question or two away from saying “yes” and not having what I have now. But again, if I did, I’d have departed Olympia for the second time in six years feeling like I left something unfinished. There was still something waiting for me back there even though I couldn’t put a name to it.
So I flew back to Sea-Tac on a United Airlines jet—nine days after 9/11. There were five other passengers on the plane. We were outnumbered by the flight personnel. I was nervous, but like a copycat J.C. Chavez, I had some Vicodin.