Wednesday, January 23, 2008

As I was cooking dinner tonight, sweating, things on the stove and a thing in the oven, I heard a knock upon the door, shave-and-a-haircut-two bits. It was a smiling young man I did not recognize.

"Hey!" he said, extending his hand. I took it. "Your neighbor! From across the way?"

"Oh," I said, "yeah, yeah." Niceties ensued.

Then this: "I'm an A&R rep for Atlantic Records and I heard you singing and playing your guitar. You sound really great. Do you, uh, have a CD I can have or something?"

I was dumbfounded, sort of confused, harried, but I saw no reason not to play along. "Really?" I said. "Wow, that's, um, that's incredible! Thanks. I'm glad you say so, I'm really..."


"I don't really have anything I can give you but I can, you know, get something together." I was trying to say all the right things. The steak was cooking.

He smiled. "Great!"

"Yeah, thanks for..."

"Yeah! Yeah. One other thing: Could you keep the volume down? You know, after about midnight. We're trying to sleep."

Then there followed me saying of course, and him saying you probably hear our stereo too, blah blah, me saying no, no, I don't, because in fact I don't, and then at the end he gave a cheery reiteration that he likes my music, it's just a little bit loud, OK, goodbye, thanks.

I don't need to tell you that I was angry and embarrassed. What a miserable little humiliation. But then as I mulled it all over I wondered a few things, wondered which of them was true:

1. He is an A&R rep for Atlantic Records and was lucky to count on that gambit to, he imagined, soften the unpleasant impact of delivering the message he wanted to deliver. A funny sort of coincidence, but why not?

2. He is, of course, not an A&R rep for anyone. He contrived that fiction because he figured it'd be, as above, a humane way to shut me down.

3. The entire episode was sarcastic. He was sick to death of being kept up nights by my squawking voice and emphatic fingerpicking, like the plucking of feathers from a goose. What can I do to really fuck him up, he thought, and that's what he went and did.

I'm leaning towards #1, with #3 a not-so-distant second. He did seem very agreeable the whole time, not the least bit angry. But who knows with people. And yet, to assert to a neighbor that you circulate in a certain line of work when you do nothing of the sort is a little dicey. He could very well find me at some undefined point in the future, introducing him to some other music biz mucky-muck, as "my neighbor who works for Atlantic." Then again, who works for Atlantic? Isn't that too obvious? Haven't they been absorbed into some nondescript multinational, Hachette or Universal? So the reason #3 seems more likely than #2 is this: Just about every goddamn decent normal fucking person in the world who's kept awake by his neighbors has the decency and candor to tell them - whether in person or in a coward's note slipped under the door - that they'd appreciate a little more quiet late at night, thank you. And that's perfectly fine. To fuck with someone, you'd have to be cruel. Then again, I feel I should guard myself against any paranoid conclusions, for these are often false. It's the simplest answer that's usually the truth. So maybe it is #1.

Whatever it is, I'm fucking pissed, and tonight I played and sang until the clock struck 12.