I remember a writer from my beginning times. We were only acquainted well enough for me to recall sparse memories of his smoky residence off of 63rd, polluted with green glass grenades and their capped puzzles & brain teasers. Fogged with a bearded insomnia that was highlighted by a small gold chandelier that hung over the stained wooden bar, in front of a full length mirror in the living room. It smelled of cracked black couch leather, crusty drunk pirates, and a kitten with a gloppy eye infection. When you approached the door you could tell it muffled the news brought by ESPN & various mysteries of cinema from spilling out into the long damp hallway. He didn’t pussyfoot around the point he was trying to make, he didn’t hide the feelings he had on the topic or your feelings for the matter. He wanted better out of everybody in his own way, and if you were patient enough of a person to garner a fuck out of him, you’d learn that.
A purple mother of pearl dragonfly had just finished playing something new at our local java brewing establishment. I thought my opinion was relevant at the time, so somewhere between indifference and the unbearable likeness of being, I filed a simple compliment. “I liked that, and I thought it was really artistic.”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw him shake his head, snicker and belch a hearty chuckle. “What a shitty compliment!” It was followed by a burping hiccup of a laugh, the kind of chortle that bubbles up from a bouncing basketball of a diaphragm that had marinated in gallons of malt liquor and Brandy. It was scoffed out of his inverted rhombus of a mouth, a shape created by his smirk and the cheap 100-sized cigarette hugged betwixt his teeth to one side. His arms and legs were crossed, and the blue tinted smoke trailing from his teeth squinted the eye that was north of his burn-off. “I hate when people say that. You can think of the words to describe what you liked. It goes further than it’s just artistic. You ever go up to a painting and say ‘That’s artistic’?” He hiccuped more chuckles. “It sounds stupid. It’s redundant and obvious.” I was surprised he even spoke to me, to defend myself was futile.
“Artistic, what bullshit.” He quipped. “It’s a shitty adjective.” He was right, I didn’t think about the person’s craft that was displayed for the world to see. Deep in this dank split level business hugged from behind by the trees at the local forest preserve. “You passively listened to it and paid a vague general complement that made you sound like a horrifically ambiguous jackass. Everybody does it. Why do you think people play the same thing every week? Because someone told them, oh that was just so artistic. You’re effectively quitting as a listener. Jesus Christ, use adjectives. Why else would you do it?” This was fairly obvious, had I decided to use my brain instead of my mouth. He went on-“If you’re not there to grow or help the person with specific feedback, what the fuck are you doing there? After a while you’re effectively getting up on stage and masturbating with your guitar in a public bukake, all over the audience’s cookie of irrelevance. Maybe that’s what you should do next week. Go onstage with your guitar and amp and place a cookie in front of you. Then, instead of playing, just whip your dick out, beat off on the cookie and eat it. I guarantee some mongoloid will tell you that they liked it because it was artistic.” I never saw him perform so I was stunned at the strength of his opinion. I like to think that, at my urging, he would change his mind. This was rare since I wasn’t yet a regular.
The next Wednesday, he went up. Every time he read a sentence or paragraph he’d written, people would laugh, and he threw the sheet away to the side, allowing it to softly float down. Others were crumpled up and thrown at the audience or folded into an airplane and thrown like a dart, only to have them either catch someone in the chest or flip and immediately hit the ground and made more laughs between pauses. After he was done, I went up to him and told him which jokes I liked and why. He responded with “Huh. Not artistic?”
That’s when I understood. He made us his experience his bukake cookie of indifference. He had done what brought him enjoyment without the expectation of critique and then did what he wanted with his work. He took the milky white sheets of paper and molded them to whatever fit his fancy before firing them off one at a time only to have them connect with his audience.