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Lunch tonight was: Carnitas, carnne asada and pollo tacos from the place by the Harley Davidson store. Washed down with a half litre Mexican coke!

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Alex V. Cook is an author, journalist and music critic living Baton Rouge, LA. His work has appeared in The Believer, The Oxford American, DownBeat, Paste Magazine, Hails and Horns and The Wire, and his first collection of essays Darkness, Racket and Twang: Essential Listening from the Fringes of Popular and Unpopular Culture was published by Side Cartel in 2006.

He is the music editor for, editor for Sweet Tooth, and a frequent contributor to 225 Magazine, OffBeat and Country Roads.

He is a founding contributor to the Badasses of Contemporary Composition blog.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Separated at Birth: INXS and Shellac

OK, clearly not. INXS being the most palatable and rockist of the pretty boy new wave era in retrospect, and Shellac being the homliest and workmanlike of the raw nerve post punk era in endless re-hash. Yet, while cleaning up the kitchen after yet another glowing success with barbecue chicken (The tabasco spicy BBQ sauce is infallible) I was struck by both these two songs playing in my head. Then, it reminded me of a friend of mine.

Shellac - "House Full Of Garbage"

And no, this is not a comment on the state of my kitchen. But I had a friend that fit the description of the lost soul depicted in this song. His house was filled with garbage, like bags and bags of it, finally turning into a labyrinth to his living room. He was rather unabashed at his conscious squalor, as every friend he had began to distance themselves from his madness that had grown from amusing to dangerous. This was a guy prone to projects: homebrewing, pinhole cameras, taping every single miniseries, etc, and that's what I liked about him. His mania was a noble stab at the dark of the complacent life. Its when he crossed the line into being filthy that his humanity began to get too thick to deal with. Soon after that, I moved across country and kept sporadic-at-best email contact.

Upon re-arriving in town, I hooked up with him for dinner, and clearly the years had taken their toll. He was jittery, the spark drained from him. He had lost all friends, and really was to weird to bring into my circle now that I had a family. I liked the guy, still like the guy, but he became too much to take.

Evidently, that sentiment followed through onto his physician, who put him on Hardcore Atkins, gave him meds to cure his adamant insomnia and thoughts-of-doom. He got his physical and emotional sides back in working order, and rejoined the human race with renewed gusto. And I tried to pull him back in, but there were too many ashes left over from burnt efforts. It was difficult looking at him now, even though he was clearly happier than he'd ever been in his life.

INXS - "Don't Change" (still trying to find a copy)

It is so strange that there are roads down which you can go, and walk back up safely, and never be the same again. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for the guy. His turnaround is extraordinary, but something happened while he was down that road, and maybe while I was down my own parallel road that just severed that connection.

Maybe this all came up because this friend was a master of the grill, would procure tons of smoked meat that he got free from some obsessive abuse of a grocery chain's policy that if you find something expired and bring it to the manager's attention, the store will give you a good one free. He and another glorious nutjob would hit these store daily, reporting back to each other that suntan lotion was going to expire at the one College Dr., whereas there is a big block of Velveeta about to turn the corner out on the north side of town. I'm not making this up. He would get tons of meat out of the deal and have these elaborate dinner parties (before the garbage thing hit full throttle) to eat off his bounty. I had an art show years ago, and he brought a platter of smoked lamb to set among my paltry table of chips and boxed wine.

He's a good guy, an interesting guy. But I have a couple other friends that are on similar paths because of which the friendships probably will not recover, and that's a little sad, but its the raw fact of linear existence: everything moves forward, always and forever, and there is a reason that objects in the rear view mirror seem closer than they are, because its the residue of those things that propels you.


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