I sat at a table adrift in tiaras, plastic horns, and leis and sipped a Bombay Sapphire and tonic. The tonic, lime wedge, and translucent plastic cup bored me. While gin and tonic is fine on a hot India day spent in a rocking chair swatting flies and watching the malaria victims float down the Ganges, the basement of a Wrigleyville tavern on New Year's Eve demanded something stronger. I slid up to the bar and made good strong eye contact with the bartender, some dude.
“Gin and ice in a real glass, please,” I said.
“No,” he said.
A burst of cold rushed from the door. I fingered my sixty-dollar yellow wristband, which was supposed to give me whatever I wanted. I guess I can't always get what I want. “I'll have a Heineken.” Just what I needed.
“Good yuppie,” he said.
I wore a diamond checkered sweater and a charcoal collared shirt. These were gifts from my mother, who dresses me from a distance. However, I chose my own accessory: a pair of Walgreen's reading glasses that hung from the collar of my sweater, turning me into a shy professor. My body, wrapped as well as any Christmas gift, stood at a table with one hand unoccupied. This hand found the jeans pocket, felt my keys, jingled them, and then jingled something else.
Set back in a black garage ringed with white Christmas lights, Snuckafoo began to play, and I heard wild animal voices.
I had hoped for an emotional rejuvenation to begin the new year, but my heart pumped the same old desires: To love, to fuck, to drink. To achieve the former two, I needed to talk to some girl, but I was not yet interested in what she would say in reply, unless it was “Yes.”
I could always begin by explaining to her that the bulletin board in my kitchen is nothing fancy, not even a black designer one, just regular cork for regular people, like us, and it contains a map of my mind with a baby's head in the center.
Then she would say “Not a real baby's head?” Such a nice lilt to her voice.
“No, a photograph of a baby's head.”
She would brush her hair back from her face. “I'd like to see that.”
“There's a small price,” I would say, but she would walk away after I explained that the price was well-groomed, disease-free, but not small at all.
Still no one talked to me. Because of my closed body language or because I'm a goddamn weirdo? (The answer is always both). Only able to fix one of these things, I took my hand out of my pocket, palm open. I felt Dave's drums in my palm, then up my sleek, pale, hairless hands to the nails. Such nice cymbals. Tap tap tap. I bounced in place. Tap tap tap. I stretched my free arm out as if ready to hug. I stood tall. I smiled. I waited.
I went to the bar to get another Heineken. The problem was that I hadn't been writing. The words, not flushed out onto paper, churned around, brown in my head, louder and louder. Stuff like, “A misanthropist is a racist and misogynist out of convenience,” but never stuff like, “She's got a super pooper.” They drowned out even Rod Stewart's “Stay with Me.”
The damn thoughts were ruining my night, the opening bar of my year.
I am unwilling to dance with my body, so my mind, disembodied, floated in gray pieces. It hovered and swept, wove in and out of the bumpy cracks where the black radiator hung, and then up on the silver ceiling with the pressed tin twigs and berries, it mingled with the balloons.
It wandered around the stage, squeezed between bass and guitar strings, hopped across the keys, and snuck inside the big drum until “Foom!” That was loud.
From above, I considered myself. The truth lies in the body. The mind cannot touch. God I looked uncomfortable, a stiff among loose red girls, whose flesh cools the touch and warms the press, and whose navels fill with moist beads from gyrating.
How would I fix this detachment and return my mind to the service of my body, my cock? I would listen to the music, first the drums, then the bass...
Then the keys hummed. The guitar whined. It was “Mr. James White.”
And soon came midnight. I didn't feel like kissing myself, tongue tickling the inside of my elbow, so I just toasted “Happy New Year” with my clear plastic cup. The champagne bubbles rose, then fell into my stomach to “Auld Lang Syne.” I don't even know the words to that song.
The band was into “Stoned to the Bone.” James Brown knew that music is the language of the body. My arms felt like wet paper towels, my feet, buckets of water. A girl in a little black dress twirled. A girl in white threw her arms up and arched her back. The bar had warmed.
The beer was working. I donned my glasses, blurring my vision and magnifying everything within reading range one and a quarter times. I tried to focus on Pat Reilley. Maybe he could see me, and think it funny for me to be wearing glasses, like him, but cross-eyed. Maybe he was busy playing “Advice for Neddy.” Regardless, I decided that Snuckafoo and I, as artists, must stand together. The product of their pain rocks the house, while the product of mine sings twenty-six notes.
The glasses blurred my vision further, and everything was close and hot, unfamiliar. George's keys cried “monkey” in a lush jungle of sound. Dave's drums signaled the sacrifice of the natives. Hondo's bass thundered the approaching storm. Pat guitar screamed against order outwardly imposed. This, I realized, is why I came. Not to grind on some flabby ass hugged in soft fabric that reeks of wet flowers (although...).
The reason I came is to observe the way that Snuckafoo creates their own order from disorder. From them: a chord here, a lyric there, a perfectly placed song. From me: a word here, a sentence there, a perfectly placed paragraph. They impose their order upon the crowd as I impose mine upon the reader.
Nauseous, I removed my glasses. A sweaty man with an afro and a stained white shirt swayed in front of me to “Down with Disease,” and I knew that he was thinking “Yes, yes, yes!” And then the hippie girl to the side, we three thought “Yes, yes, yes!” And then Hondo, George, and Pat, all “Yes!” but not Dave, who thought, “Beware the milky pirate.”
The thoughts, the collective hum of minds, hovered on the ceiling like confetti suspended in mid-air, and it occurred to me that my mind had never been alone up there, that I had just mistaken the others for balloons. The crowd's thoughts streamed into my own and then back out, a cloud absorbing even the socially inept and the rhythmically challenged. A guitar-flare shot up, and the collective energy exploded. Confetti fell.
“So what if I can't dance,” thought everyone. And everyone danced.
Listen to Snuckafoo.