Show #10

Show #10: December 20, 2004

Columbus

Bernie’s Distillery

w/ The Squares

Blatant Finger

 

So about my friend from French class that I mentioned in the last story, Jeremy Pifer? We had been talking about our bands to each other for some time and were scheming about doing a show together. One day he handed me this very CD-R pictured here that I saved for all these years. Prior to listening, I was already planning no matter what to give friendly feedback to this young fella about his demo (I was a few years older than most of the students at OSU), but instead I was greeted by an amazing garage rock assault to the senses. I could not believe how good these guys were, I was flabbergasted. The next time I saw Jeremy, I pulled one of those “I didn’t like it...I loved it!” on him, and he totally went for it, haha, youth.

 

The Squares invited us to play a show they set up at Bernie’s, the (now defunct and developed over) notoriously filthy punk rock club of Columbus. You don’t necessarily think of punk rock, at least in the traditional sense, when you think of Columbus. But I’d go to battle with Bernie’s against any hole you think you know of. There’s a famous story of a member of the Aussie-punk rock greats The Saints walking into Bernie’s prior to performing, looking around the room and saying “I don’t know what I did in a past life to deserve this.”

 

On the night of the show, wouldn’t you know it, our projector from Georgia State University gave out. I called Jeremy and asked if he wanted to try and find another band, or if he’d be interested in doing interpretive dance behind us in lieu of our projection. Both ideas were resoundingly rejected, so we thought the hell with it; I'd just go up there and dance around without Mary Alice’s visual aids.

 

So that’s exactly what I did, to a bit of a shortened set. I remember it being really strange and fun, and I specifically recall this gutter punk looking guy falling off of a stool laughing during the song “Doogie’s My Friend,” which made the whole thing worthwhile. Local punk band Blatant Finger followed our set, and they played for way too long. They had a bunch of bullshit, prepared-in-advance crowd-baiting ideas for between songs, specifically making fun of Andyman’s generous size (shitty and totally out of nowhere) and the very recent shooting death of Dimebag Darrell at a nearby venue (pretty weak). After what seemed like an eternity, those assholes got off stage and The Squares rocked that motherfucker with the limited time they had.

 

****

 

We played with The Squares a few more times after that, and they broke up after a few years, but anyone who was there for their short time knew how great they were. They got signed to a popular local label and were named a Columbus Alive “Band to Watch,” even getting the cover of the dang magazine. They were it, and good-looking to boot. Kudos to you, The Squares. Long may your legend hover around the 614.

Ian MacKaye wants to say hello

Last night I had a dream that I pooped my pants at work, so I went directly to the dry cleaners while still wearing my soiled pants and underwear. I took them both off at the help counter, and so I was standing there bare-assed in front of everyone, obviously upset over what happened.

 

They had a service to help comfort people in these situations. First, they gave me a generic looking pair of underwear to put on so I didn’t have to be naked. Then, they handed me a phone and said, “Why, it’s Ian MacKaye, and he wants to say hello!,” à la the episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets a call from Magic Johnson. I told Ian that I was a big fan, and he told me a member of Fugazi had pneumonia. The entire service cost $972.

Show #9

Show #9: December 4, 2004

Columbus

Andyman’s Treehouse

w/ Big Ass Yard Sale

Bob Sauls

 

The first time I called Andyman’s Treehouse to book a show was on a Saturday night shortly before Midnight. People had been suggesting that EG should try to perform there for some time, and the website suggested Saturday as a good time to call. A harried-sounding Quinn Fallon answered the phone, and I asked about getting a date at the venue. He responded in disbelief, “You’re calling about a show at midnight on a Saturday, are you fucking serious?,” and hung up on me.

 

I gave it a little time and made a point to try again during a weeknight. I was studying with some classmates from my French class from Ohio State at someone’s house (don’t recall who), and I got up from my chair for my second attempt. This time a far more welcoming Quinn Fallon answered the phone and listened to my pitch. He chuckled a bit and said “Sounds interesting!” when I described to him what we were all about, and graciously offered us a slot in what Google tells me was a Saturday night.

 

Here’s the thing about Andyman’s Treehouse - there was a tree growing in the middle of the showroom that went through a hole in the roof. That’s right, it was a real treehouse. Quinn was the co-owner along with the late great John Andrew “Andyman’ Davis, who was a beloved and popular DJ at the Columbus alternative rock station CD101, who tragically passed away in the summer of 2010. (The tree itself was eventually removed as I believe it became more of a liability for the roof)

 

Joining us on the bill was singer/songwriter Bob Sauls, who went first, and Big Ass Yard Sale who closed the night. Bob Sauls had an accompanying drummer in a sort of White Stripes/Black Keys et al. set up, I remember digging what they did. I remember the frontman of Big Ass Yard Sale saying to me “We don’t care as long as we can pay our tab at the end of the night!,” and basically rockin’ out until the bar closed. We made a good first impression with our set, my friend from French class with his own band (more on them next time) brought his bandmate to see us, and I think a few other regulars might have been there.

 

*****

 

This was the beginning of a long relationship and friendship with the bar. Quinn told us we could play there any time, which we did a total of 44 more times until we moved in 2011 (plus two more times on returning visits). Amidst all the stress and ups and downs of being in a band, it’s one of those things I wish I could go back and grip hard and appreciate every moment of. We were so lucky to have the Treehouse. When we moved to DC, then booking agent and friend Kyle Sowash said it was like “The Tree had lost one of its branches.” As much as we appreciated them, I also didn’t realize that we were appreciated. I guess I often assume the worst, that myself and the band are merely tolerated (and maybe that was true with some, haha). At our last show before we moved, bar employee/open-mic host Joe Peppercorn who was an early friend and ardent supporter made a point to come give us a goodbye hug even though he was busy that evening, and I remember Quinn smiling at me and simply saying “I’m a fan.” I was so laser-focused on what was next for us that I didn’t fully take it in at the time. Well, I’m taking it in now, and I’m getting a little emotional. Thanks for everything, dudes.

Show #8

Show #8: November 21, 2004

Johnny La Rock’s Experimental Music Night

Cleveland

The Hifi

w/ Johnny La Rock & Mush Mouth

Subroc

Dead House Club

Zone Music Inc.

 

Eddie Fleisher aka Johnny La Rock is one of the better friends I made from the aforementioned Cleveland/ExBe scene. I believe we just got to know each other by chatting on the Experimental Behavior message board, and he invited us up to Cleveland to perform at an “experimental music night'' he was curating. Him and his friend Aaron aka Mush Mouth were an old-school hip-hop duo appropriately called Johnny La Rock & Mush Mouth, who I believed headlined that evening. I was excited to meet them, but equally nervous to cross paths with Zone Music Inc.

 

The lone person behind Zone Music Inc. was a notorious ExBe message board ruffian who went by the handle of “H*machine.” (One letter is censored with an asterisk because he’s still active, acts exactly the same, and uses that name as his current act) I joined the message board around the same time that he did, but unlike me he posted with arrogance and bravado. He often bragged about being “The only famous person” on the message board, and oft-repeated what essentially became his catch-phrase, “I am the highest technology.” When we arrived at the venue, Eddie greeted us outside and filled us in on the night’s proceedings. Apparently he was not as familiar with the antics of H*machine, as one of the first things he mentioned to us was how difficult the first act Zone Music Inc. was currently being. He was already setting up, and was being very specific about his needs, telling Eddie that “He was the highest technology.” Eddie said he thought he was joking at first, but soon found out he was being 100% serious. I took a deep breath and entered the venue, prepared to meet this macho, handsome, dick-swinging force that was H*machine.

 

Instead, I met Joey (not his real name), a timid-looking fella who did not at all look like Val Kilmer in Top Gun. He had a TON of shit on stage, including a TV with a looping video of him dancing around CD-R's that were dangling by pieces of string from a basement ceiling. His set consisted of him sitting and playing techno surrounded by mountains of equipment, and he had a headset mic where he would periodically yell things during the songs like “I’m the best, nobody can mess with me.” It wasn’t terrible, and it wasn’t great, it was just what it was. I learned a valuable lesson that day. People who act tough online are mostly full of it and/or crazy.

 

I remember when we were hauling our stuff on stage, newly met ExBe member Lisa Miralia said “Hey, it’s the Electric Grandmother,” which is just one of those small things you remember. We played our set which went well, then were followed by the delightful chiptunes of Subroc and the dope styling of Johnny La Rock & Mush Mouth. I don’t recall anything about Dead House Club, sorry if you were in that band and you took the time to read this. We were able to stay for all of this one, and hung out with Eddie and Aaron in the venue parking lot for a little while before we went home. Another one of those small things you remember was Eddie joking that the after-party for this gig was “Him playing keyboard in the parking lot,” which immediately endeared us to him. We’re still good buddies with him, and we try to gig together whenever we’re in town.

 

****

 

The epilogue to this story - “H*machine” ended up getting permanently banned from ExBe for abusive behavior. (Side note, the reason he considered himself “famous'' is because he did the music for this guy who had a public access show with a cult following in California). Later, he threatened some ExBe friends over his being banned by messaging them on MySpace something like “The knife will cut deeper,” or some other nonsensical cryptic shit. I believe I saw him one other time at a later show we did at Pat’s. Ironically, I found him to be generally pleasant in person. Joey, if you someday find this write-up, please don’t cut me, everything I said here is true. I hope that you’ve chilled out since. Long live the highest technology.

Show #7

Show #7: October 29, 2004

ExBe Showcase II

Cleveland

The Winchester

w/ Scotty Boombox

J Rhodes

New Planet Trampoline

Colorforms

DJ Eric

 

Once upon a time there was a delightful message board called “Experimental Behavior.” It was started by Infinite Number of Sounds member Brent Gummow for experimental musicians in the Cleveland area and beyond to discuss, network, and promote their work. The website is now long gone, but for a handful of years it was a great resource and a fine place to visit. I became enough of a regular and friend of the message board that EG received the honor of being invited to perform at the second “ExBe Showcase” at a club in Cleveland called The Winchester.

 

This particular club, The Winchester, was not usually in the business of hosting “different” types of acts or even pop/rock bands. For the show listing on their website, they made a point to say “The bands have promised to behave in a respectful manner,” which I knew instantly we had to do something about. In addition to a planned release of balloons, I bought a football and a basketball to throw into the crowd during the set, and we were certainly going to use the hell out of our bubble machine. When we arrived at the venue, images of the bands were being projected onto a large screen, and Brent had created a .gif with a makeshift logo of our name and the words “Sitcom-Core,” with sitcom images flashing underneath. I wasn’t sure exactly how .gifs worked in those days, so I thought it was the wildest, most technologically advanced thing I had ever seen, and I was flattered at the amount of work dedicated to this logo for our band that magically changed every couple seconds.

 

The set up was a bit unusual in that Mary Alice projected onto that same screen which was off to the side of the performance area, while I positioned myself to sing on the stage. Before the set started, Eric Alleman introduced me to the crowd. He said something along the lines of “He’s a good-looking guy, nice long black hair,” and then poked fun at himself for not having hair. I remember the sound was booming, I could feel it on the stage beneath my feet. As promised, I went back for a pass during one of the songs and launched the football into the crowd. Later I took the basketball and began to dribble, yelling “Post up! Post up!,” before I sent the ball crashing into a bunch of tables and chairs. It was a good time.

 

After we performed, Cleveland locals the Colorforms played some dreamy-ambient music (and they may have had an accompanying light show?) Following them was Scotty Boombox (Scott H Shelton) from Columbus, who I had never met but had seen play with Infinite Number of Sounds. He played a cool trip-hop set while seated at a turntable, and at one point between songs said “This one’s for EG,” which Mary Alice and I thought was the coolest thing ever. After Scotty’s set, Mary Alice suggested that we head back to Columbus. “No,” I said, “We gotta stay and see J. Rhodes.” I didn’t know this person, but from their comments on the ExBe message board, he seemed totally nuts, and I wanted to see what he was planning to do. As it turns out he wasn’t nuts, but completely crazy. Scotty was his friend and they had come from Columbus together, so he supplied the music for the set. He wore this insane looking clear plastic facemask behind his turntable, while J. Rhodes wore a skeleton mask and a rainbow clown wig. I recall them having a smoke machine, and at the beginning of the set J. Rhodes slowly rose from a monitor he was hiding behind, and it was the scariest and awesomest thing we’d ever seen. The set was insane (he even “fucked” one of our balloons), and was an early version of what would become the Ocean Ghosts, a group Scotty and J did together for several years after.

 

Later Scotty would tell me, “As soon as I saw you throw that football, I knew we were going to be friends.” I talked to J. Rhodes before and after his set, and I found him to be eccentric but kind. (We all ended up spending a good amount of time together in Columbus afterwards). We did leave before New Planet Trampoline played, as was our habit of doing for a while at Cleveland shows. Sorry dudes. On our way home, we stopped at a gas station to pee, and this guy angrily told us they had no bathroom. As we turned to walk out, he yelled towards us “Do you have to go to the bathroom?!” We were timidly like, “...yes…?” And he snapped back, “Sorry, don’t got a bathroom.”

 

This picture here was taken at the show by Eric Alleman (I think?), which Mary Alice blew up and framed, then gave to me as a gift. You can see the bubbles there in all their glory. It hung in the living room of our Grandview apartment until we left for DC. I always wondered if people thought it was weird that there was a framed picture of me out in the open, and I remember saying to someone once that “It may seem weird, but it was a gift from Mary Alice,” and I recall them saying something along the lines of, “Oh, ok. I was gonna say, that‘s kind of weird.”

"Admit"

Late Spring, 1994

 

"Late Spring" is my best estimate, as I don't believe Summer vacation had started yet, but it was definitely a balmy night.  My friend Brandon had dropped by to see me at home, where I was alone for the evening.  We were both 16 years old, but unlike me, he was allowed to get his driver's license and his own used car shortly after his birthday, which was only 12 days before mine.  It was a red car, and that's all I have to go on, because I don't remember/know shit about cars.  As he was about to leave for the night, I piped up "Hey, I got my learner's permit, let me drive your car!"  He hesitated at first, but then gave in to my charms, and I hopped behind the wheel.

Honestly, I don't think I had ever driven a car on an actual road before this.  My parents were overly cautious and didn't particularly seem to like me much around this time, so they weren't rushing out to give me lessons.  After backing out of our driveway into the street, I started frantically moving the steering wheel to seemingly get my bearings (Brandon later said he thought I was just trying to be funny).  We headed slowly down the street with the intention to turn into the nearby marina, which I just calculated is all of 1000 feet (exact route mapped here).

 

Right before I was about to turn off the main road (Nautilus Trail), I flipped on the turn signal, but then realized I had flipped it the wrong direction.  I took my eyes off the road and fumbled around to correct my error, and all of a sudden Brandon was yelling "PETER!!! PETER!!!"*  I looked up and saw that I had slowly drifted off the side of the road road over the curb, and before I could do anything else, I plowed into a mailbox and comically sent the mail inside flying into the air.  The expression "surreal" is often overused, but that's how it felt, like some bizarre nightmare where you're experiencing a tangible and vivid overload of instant terror. 

 

I stopped the car and sheepishly looked over at him.  He just stared straight ahead, blinded by rage and disbelief. 

 

"OH MY GOD!!  OH MY GOD!!  GET THE FUCK OUT OUT THE CAR!!" he screamed.

We surveyed the damage.  The plastic mailbox had been obliterated, and the wooden post attached to it had been lifted completely out of the ground.  The car had a flat tire, and a headlight had been busted.  It's probably my imagination, but I seem to remember steam rising out of the hood.  I was repeatedly apologizing, which probably wasn't helping.  Brandon drove the car into the parking lot of the marina to further investigate the damage that I had needlessly inflicted on his poor innocent car.

After a few minutes, we noticed a couple of police cars had shown up where I had hit the mailbox, which was about a few hundred feet from where we were.  I saw a woman outside talking with the cops, and I think she pointed us out, because the cops then got in their cars and drove over to see us.  A lady cop approached us and stated that this woman had told her that two boys wearing black shirts had hit her mailbox and driven away.  We readily admitted that we were who she was referring to, and Brandon took a step toward the cop attempting to explain that we weren't fleeing the scene, we just wanted to pull off the road.  "Please step back, and put your hands on the car!" the cop barked at us.  We both put our hands on the car, while she radioed someone for some reason. Backup? Brandon glared at me. "Thanks a lot, Peter," he sneered.

I was taken to the scene of the crime in the back of a police car, where they talked to the person whose mailbox I destroyed.  Some neighbors, who had known me since before I was born, began to gather around the scene and idiotically gawk and squint at me sitting in the car, and I tried to hide my face just like on TV.  "So this is what it's like to be on this side of it," I thought to myself.  The took me to the police station separate from Brandon, I suppose so we couldn't get our stories straight.  They questioned me in a room that was also separate from where they questioned Brandon, where I told them the truth but alertly lied about wearing a seat belt, which Brandon overheard and later complimented me about.  After we were questioned, the cops filed whatever paperwork they needed to, and advised me that I'd probably have to appear in court and that I should tell my parents about what happened.  They then let us go, and Brandon drove me home in his tattered auto.  While on the way to drop me off, Brandon suddenly started laughing.  "God, you're like Beavis or something," he said, and then began to make grunting sounds to mimic Beavis driving into mailbox.  I certainly couldn't argue with that.

Brandon driving me home that night.

Of course I didn't tell my parents what happened.  I thought it would probably just going away somehow.  The shit hit the fan early that Summer when my dad picked me up from work one night.  He didn't say much to me on the way home, and kept staring at me while he was driving.  It dawned on me instantly, "Oh shit, he knows."  Sure enough, when we got home, my mom was sitting at our dining room table and said they received a letter from the police station, saying that I got in an accident and there was now a ticket on my driving record, before I even had my license. I tried to play it off like it was no big deal, but they seemed to think it was a big deal. 


I had never been to juvenile court before, and my mom certainly didn't ever expect to have to take me there.  But there we were, sitting and waiting for the judge to call us into the courtroom.  We were seated next to a mother and her delinquent son, who were talking to the kid's lawyer about whatever was about to happen.  The kid was younger than me, but he wasn't new to this situation.  He was wearing just a regular t-shirt whereas I had gotten dressed up, and he was extremely agitated while I was sitting quietly in shame.  His mom kept getting him to try and tuck in his shirt, and kept untucking it right afterwards, mouthing off to both her and the lawyer.  It retroactively reminds me of the episode of The Simpsons where "Gavin" talks back to his mom outside the Try-N-Save.

My mom had tried to get me to cut my long hair before the court date but I refused, and while we were waiting to be called into the courtroom she kept taking it upon herself to try to tuck my hair behind my ears.  The hair would slip out, and again she'd tuck.  I was too ashamed to fight back, but it was totally infuriating.  Once we were called into the courtroom, the judge explained that juvenile court was different from adult court, in that you don't plead "Guilty" or "Not Guilty,' your options were "Admit" and "Deny."  I stood there and timidly pleaded "Admit," with my tucked hair and dress clothes in full force.  The judge remarked that he thought "I was a good kid who just made a mistake," and that he wouldn't see me back there again.  He was wrong.


EPILOGUE: Less than a year later, I was in a near-fatal accident that forever changed my life.  Looking back, I can now "Admit" that whatever happened was likely my fault, even though I don't remember what happened.  I haven't driven in any serious way since the accident, and I likely never will.  I think there are some people who aren't meant to operate a motor vehicle, and I'm one of them.  I'm consistently amazed that people are always constantly crashing into each other on the road. 

 

This tale was difficult to tell, mostly because I'm embarrassed that I couldn't drive one thousand feet without crashing on this particular day.  But I'm also embarrassed that I fucked up my friend's car, and while I paid the lady whose mailbox I crushed, I couldn't afford to help Brandon with the car repairs.  He and I have lost touch over the years, but if one day he reads this - dude, Beavis is real sorry.

*Friends from my hometown were in the habit of calling me "Peter" instead of Pete.  I really don't know why.

Show #6

Show #6: October 16, 2004

Recycled Rainbow 9

Cleveland

Everyman’s House

w/

the Record Exchange

stAllio!

The Former Yugoslavia

Tropic

The Black Fives

Volta Sound

Leia Alligator’s Puppet Show

The Damn Weiner Kids

6 Volt Haunted House

A Nick Traenkner’s presentation

Metaphysical Zoo

Colorforms

 

As previously mentioned, on the same night of that strange Rockwood show, we skedaddled to a nearby house show hosted by a gentleman known as Everyman, which is probably where we should have been hanging out to begin with. Though it was emphasized to us that this wasn’t a “show,” so much as a “collective like-minded art dealie” known as Recycled Rainbow. Whatever it was, we got to know the folks there, handed out some EG pins, and were kindly invited to perform at the next installment of the event in October.

 

We were told in advance that we had to incorporate at least 5 minutes of a “Classic Literature” theme into our set. We don’t read no books, but I liked the movie “The Grapes of Wrath,” so I figured I could go dressed as Tom Joad. (There are pictures of this somewhere in time and space) I also wrote thematic lyrics over top of existing instrumentals, part of which had me saying the word “Homicide” in the style of Tom Joad, which sounded like “Homa-cide.” We started the set with that, and nobody cared. I asked the crowd if they knew who I was supposed to be, and they answered in near unison “Huckleberry Finn.” I think the alcohol was flowing freely at this point, because I distinctly remember someone doing a drunken drop kick down the stairs into the basement where we were performing.

 

We were in the habit in these early days of making the trip to Cleveland from Columbus for shows, and then traveling back to Columbus the same night. Probably not the smartest way to go, as we often missed people’s performances and getting to know them better. But hindsight is etc. So unfortunately we didn’t get to see too much of what the other acts were doing, but I remember the house being splashed in psychedelic garb, colors and lights. It was a cosmic freakout.

 

I do remember leaving on a sour note. While people seemed to enjoy our performance, someone there giddily told me I was like a “White Wesley Willis.” Now, like everyone else in the world, I loved the late great Wesley Willis. I even had the honor of giving him a headbutt at one of his final shows before he passed. But it wasn’t someone I was flattered to be compared to musically. I felt like I was writing legit pop songs over keyboard beats, not just happily yelling over an auto-accompaniment. We also received word later that someone we were acquainted with showed up after we left and insulted some of the guests (and hey, fortunately for us we were named as the people they were there to see!)

 

I recall being riddled with anxiety in the days after this show, and it was really no one’s fault. I feel like we had jumped with both feet first into doing EG, and I was starting to feel emotionally overwhelmed. I remember crying and telling Mary Alice that I didn't think I wanted to do this anymore, but she was able to calm me down like she seemingly had to do so often in those days. There was wrath, but then there were grapes.

Mary Alice:

I remember much less about this show than the one where we just visited after the show we did that nobody showed up for. What I do remember is being very stressed out about finding on-theme attire for at least one of us. And then nobody else bothered to dress up. I wore that dress I bought in high school made out of fabric with belts printed on it because I thought it would go nicely at that freaky scene. And nobody commented on it! I think that was the last time I ever wore it, even though it still hangs in my closet to this day.

 

I also feel like I remember shouting along to "Growing Pains" from behind the scenes (where I was manning the semi-broken slide projector) because that had been going on at Columbus shows and I was maybe thinking the crowd could have been a little more into it? And I think later you nicely asked me not to do that anymore and in retrospect you were absolutely right.

 

I remember Recycled Rainbow as being a thing that I was introduced to when I was just a baby adult that gave me an unrealistic concept of what artsy adults are like. Which is to say that this crew was far more energetic and cohesive than any other community/collective I was ever even marginally associated with. At that first show I saw Eric Alleman performing the "Red Human-Headed Bull" and was just so taken with the bizarre competence on display. It was very exciting and energizing.

 

I think I assumed all house shows would be like this--so richly off and yet always striving to just ART as hard as one could--and I could not have been more wrong.

 

Show #5

October 8, 2004

Columbus

Victorian’s Midnight Cafe

w/ The Teeth

Villa Straylight

 

This was a show that happened to fall on the same night as the second Bush-Kerry presidential debate. It was set up by our friend Jill from the previously mentioned November Loop, who invited us, two of our local friends that were playing their first show as Villa Straylight, and a punk rock band from Ann Arbor called The Teeth. It was at a venue that at the time was called Victorian’s Midnight Cafe (later renamed The Shrunken Head), which had a bit of a half coffee house/half bar feel to it.

 

Some absurd drama occurred before the show even started. Jack (not his real name) from Villa Straylight was standing with a group outside laughing and talking shit about The Teeth, about how they had insisted on headlining because they came from the furthest distance (which seems very counterintuitive in retrospect), saying things like “Who the fuck are you, anyway?” I was sitting at a nearby table with a guy who was resting with his head down on his arms. After another comment or two from Jack, they guy next to me raised his head up and said “I don’t know where you got your information from, but I’m in The Teeth, and who the fuck are YOU anyway?” Jack walked over to the guy and attempted to awkwardly stammer an apology, but the guy wasn’t having it. Jack gave up and walked inside with his tail between his legs, leaving me and the guy outside. I struck up a conversation with him, telling him that I had checked out their stuff ahead of time, and that I dug their obvious Minutemen influence. I was a little proud of myself for semi-diffusing the situation, and I was glad I was able to offer a more welcoming presence than what he had just experienced.

 

Villa Straylight opened and did an acoustic set that featured a cover of NIN’s “Hurt,” which seems fitting now, because Jack had just hurt himself outside. We debuted EG buttons at our previous Columbus shows, and I noticed friends of ours wearing them, which was pretty exciting. I felt legit. The guy from outside introduced me to the other members of The Teeth, who along with him were starting to get pretty liquored up. They asked me to describe EG’s music, and after a pause to think, I said “Synth-Pop Punk” which they thought was the greatest thing they’d ever heard.

 

For this show, Mary Alice blew up three garbage bags full of balloons that we planned to release on the crowd during the set. This idea came about when I had recently told her that when I was very young, my older sister drew something in black marker on a balloon that resembles the recreation Mary Alice drew today for the purpose of this story (pictured here), a cool face with sunglasses on one side and the words “Top 10!” on the other side. (A little context here - my sister and I were pop culturally deprived as kids, leaving us confused and warped. So basically my sister thought she was doing something cool by drawing a sunglasses guy and the words “Top 10!” on a balloon, and additionally repeating the words “TOP 10!” in a low grainy voice that I presume was supposed to sound like a rock ‘n roll guy. So now you know the rest of the story). So Mary Alice drew the “Top 10!” guy on three garbage bags worth of balloons, because we thought it would be funny for me to release them on the crowd during the set while saying “TOP 10!” in a low grainy voice. (More on this later)

 

Our set was a ridiculous length of 22 songs, and I have no idea why we thought this was a good idea. The sound was great and we were having a great time until this very drunk girl came to the front of the stage and started digging her fingernails into our inflatable dolphin. Mary Alice took exception to this, and they began to wrestle each other for control of the dolphin while I yelled at the girl to let go of it. The girl eventually relinquished it to her, but not before she had punctured holes in it during the struggle. Mary Alice and I looked at each other sadly as our beloved dolphin slowly deflated before our eyes. We then learned that shortly after this incident that the girl went outside, fell over and pissed herself while crying, so I made a point to ridicule her loudly from the stage. At some point, I reached over and released the balloons in a blaze of glory while yelling “TOP 10!” over and over (This began a long-running tradition of releasing balloons at our shows which more or less lasted until we left Columbus). The joint was rockin’ when suddenly the PA went out halfway through the set. The club owner got on a mic near the mixing board and said to me “It’s 9PM, we have to stop. People live above us. The music is too loud.” The bar apparently had planned to have a viewing of the debate which was now starting.

 

Now, I don’t think a lot of people there had wrapped their heads around what happened. The set was long enough as it was, so I think amidst all the chaos, people thought it was just the end of our set. There was still a punk rock band that had come all the way from Ann Arbor who were scheduled to play after the debate, and the owner had said WE were too loud, which we really aren’t. We watched the debate while members of The Teeth got drunker and drunker. At one point Jill said to me, “I wish I hadn’t booked The Teeth,” because I think she knew the shit was going to hit the fan. I think I had tried to explain the situation to my friend from outside, but I don’t think he understood me, he just kept yelling about how much he hated George Bush.

 

Our stuff was still on stage when The Teeth began to set up. The owner walked over to them and explained that they couldn’t proceed with what he saw them planning to do, which was perform with live drums and electric guitars. I think the owner was also pretty sauced by then, because he was taunting them by laughing saying they could “set up a drum circle by candlelight.” The drummer stood up and said, “We just drove 3 ½ hours to get here.” Things escalated from there with yelling and threats going back and forth. I remember the owner saying to them, “You wanna rock out?! Go to Bernie’s!! (a now shuttered punk venue in the city),” which again was said in an oddly ridiculing manner. The guy from outside got into the owner’s face. “HEY! You don’t talk to (the drummer) that way!!!” I scrambled to get our stuff off the stage, as I didn’t know if it was going to be destroyed in a melee. The guy from outside then got on the mic. “FINE THEN! Does anyone have a basement that we can play in?!”

 

Crickets.

Mary Alice:
Villa Straylight did a full set of covers. I remember clearly their doing a Bowie cover but for some reason I don’t recall at all which song it was. Also it was pronounced like how it is in Italian like “vee-yuh.” I hated that name.

 

Jack mentioned to me that he’d been to the rowdiest, crustiest punk shows and had never gotten into a fight until he played an acoustic set with his girlfriend.

 

Jack was alright. He and said girlfriend (to whose wedding we attended in Nashville in the mid-2000s) now live in Arlington. The last time I heard from him was like eight years ago. He hit me up to try and help him get a job. I helped him and then he didn’t talk to me after that. So I’m kind of mad.

 

Jack also described the scuffle with the inflatable dolphin between me and the pants-pisser as a “Marx-brothers-style tug-of-war,” which cracked me up very hard at the time and I still occasionally think about it out of nowhere. So funny.

 

I also recall you and I joking about leaving with the dolphin, the screen wiping, and we returned with a deflated dolphin. I believe I tried to patch it, but that never works. I feel like we found a second one but you can’t stop people at EG shows from manhandling inflatables. This lesson followed us all the way through mid last decade.

 

We kept the balloons up for a while. It became a huge burden for me. We kept thinking we needed more and more balloons at every show. That makes sense. But it got to the point where I’d not get it done before we left, we’d get to the venue, set up other stuff, and then while Pete would settle in with a drink and start socializing, I’d be pumping balloons and drawing on them with a marker like an idiot. I don’t remember when and why we stopped with that, but we did eventually. If you see a show where we throw balloons at the audience, it’s a throwback to our early days in Columbus.

Show #4

August 7, 2004

Cleveland

The Rockwood

w/ ?????

 

I tried to find info about this long-shuttered venue online, and I couldn't. We were asked to be on this gig by a former area promoter that I’ll refer to here as “Cleve,” because he ended up doing some bad stuff that got him in trouble, and I don’t really want to get into that. What I will say is that I soon learned over time that Cleve had a knack for putting on shows with too many bands with lineups that made no sense. For example, we were coming from Columbus, and the other four bands on the bill were each coming from somewhere else. (I have no record of the bands who played as we were too focused on making an early exit, and I think it was after this show that I made a point to meticulously keep logs of such details)

 

NO, it’s not cool to bail on a gig you’re playing, but this show was total shit. We played first, half of our set to Cleve and the bartender, and then our friend Matt arrived and shelled out a $6 cover to sit at the bar for 15 minutes. I remember there was a Cleveland Guardians game on the TV, and I stopped in the middle of the set to talk about a homerun they hit. The second band arrived at the venue right as we finished, and us and Matt skedaddled out of there to attend a nearby house show where I ended up meeting a lot of people who would have been a lot more interested in what we were doing (more on that later).

 

As you can see, the show isn't looking particularly dynamic, though we do have the spinning light and bubble machine going anyway, because fuck you. Also visible behind us is a rare photo our inflatable dolphin that was eventually destroyed (again, more on that later). You can also see some solid acne action here.

 

Side note: I remember some time ago seeing someone online talking about "singers that close their eyes," like they're being all cheesy and intense with their songs? I'm here to tell you it's a concentration thing, at least it is for me. Also, I'm being all intense with the songs.

Mary Alice:

I sadly don’t recall anything additional about this show but I’ll add that when I read “Cleveland Guardians” I had a total lapse and thought you were talking about a minor league soccer team or something. It took me several rereads to untangle that spaghetti, even with mention of a home run.

Show #3

August 6, 2004

Columbus

Cafe Bourbon Street

w/

Stars Like Snow (November Loop)

Debaser

 

I had panickedly asked Colin to do sound for the EG set that night after I heard that bands at the venue ran sound themselves. I wasn’t yet comfortable with that sort of thing; around this time of my life, instead of stepping back and calmly trying to figure something out, I would presume I was helpless and that it was over my head. I remember in 2002 when on stage at Little Brother’s with Upchuck Berry, the person running sound asked me “What do you need?,” and I looked at either my bandmate Eric or Brandt with sheer terror in my eyes, and they answered for me. (Nowadays I sort of know what I’m doing, so if you ever freak out about sound at your show and I happen to be there, I’m happy to lend a hand)

 

Our friend Jill, who we knew from Mary Alice’s Sociology graduate department at OSU, had a shoegazey band called Stars Like Snow (which later became November Loop), and they brought a nice crowd out to see them. We played once again with Debaser who went first, followed by Stars, then us. I got on stage, and my long-running, ongoing, forever and always battle with agitation while setting up began. I think the difference between this show and the first two was that it was a slightly less welcoming environment. It wasn’t a casual show set up for weird bands to play at their leisure, and it wasn’t in a friend’s studio, it was in a venue with a lot of strangers, so the need to deliver in a more timely manner seemed more pressing. I had Colin mess with the PA, mess some more with PA, and then mess with it some more. He finally just looked at me and said “It’s show time.” I tried playing a sample track, and it sounded distorted and just bad. I looked over at Bryan from Debaser for some kind of answer, and he said in a friendly yet unassured manner, “Dude, it’s whatever, just go.”

 

The set was pretty awful. It was around this time that I discovered that the tabletop CD player was prone to get “shocked,” i.e. get the signal disrupted and skip. I assumed at the time that the fault lied in the venue PA, but as we learn so often in life, it was “your” fucking problem. I got off stage, and I proceeded to try and quickly get drunk to ease the pain of what had happened, which I think was the first time I ever tried that. We were sitting around talking about the show, and somehow it got twisted up in a conversation about Rick James, who had died that day. I was sitting there sadly downing vodka and 7-Up’s, and Colin walked over to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and said “I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry Rick James died.”

Mary Alice:
Here’s how Rick James came up. Colin collected the door money, plonked it on the table and said “Here’s the money, bitch!” But the way he said it was inadvertently in the same cadence as Dave Chappelle saying “I’m Rick James, Bitch!” Which is why you offered that Rick James died, but I don’t think he had cable, so it came out of nowhere.

 

Also I’m pretty sure this was one of many shows over the next couple of years where we sat in the car in front of our apartment building after the show and you would say “I’m not doing this anymore” and I’d say “ok, so what are you going to do?” And you’d be like “this, I guess.” And we would carry on.

 

Why we didn’t replace that CD player with a laptop earlier, I do not know. Except that we were broke.

Show #2

July 23, 2004

Columbus

Supraphonic Studios

w/

Chris McCoy & the Gospel

Debaser

 

We got set up with our first Columbus show at the studio where we had our 2004 album “Sin City Sex Mix” mastered. Our friend Jason ran the studio, and he and our friend Colin helped us get set up for the night. While we were setting up, Colin accidentally knocked over and shattered this red neon sign that we had that said “PARTY.” (I believe we had it replaced after only to have the same sign shatter again) We got some solid attendance from Mary Alice’s grad school cohort at OSU, and a few other people saw us that night that we eventually became friends with. One of these people remarked to me at a later date that she thought we were “the joke” before the real bands came on.

 

I’m wearing an Aloha shirt in these photos, something I briefly carried over from my time as the vocalist for Upchuck Berry, Columbus hardcore punk legends that broke up after two shows. This second show was the last time we performed the song “Dance Party,” a song that’s mostly Saved By the Bell samples, because we felt it was a bit awkward and disrupted the flow of things. As you can see, the bubble machine was in full effect, leaving the studio floor a greasy mess. I remember it being a solid show, even getting people to wave their hands in the air back and forth to the pumping dance beat of “Danny Tanner Had a Wife.” We became good pals with Bryan from Debaser, who performed at our very next show. Chris McCoy was very tall, and I admit that we wussed out and left before his band went on. We didn’t quite know how things worked yet.

Mary Alice:

It’s well worth mentioning that it was pretty unsafe to use the bubble machine anywhere without carpeting. And use of the bubble machine anywhere with carpeting I’m sure greatly reduced the life span of said carpet. I’m very glad we no longer use the bubble machine.

Show #1

June 19, 2004

WCSB Cassettefest Fest (also with The Pinheads)

Cleveland

Pat’s in the Flats

w/

Harvey + Felix

Thursday Club

Dead Peasant Insurance

Black Cabbage

Neonatal Death

Love Spank

Dolly’s Crotch

 

My friend Mike had told me on the phone in early 2004 about a “contest” of sorts being run by WCSB Cleveland State radio, where bands would send in recordings on a cassette and the DJs would play the songs on the air. I already had plenty of songs on cassettes, as I had been recording solo as “The Electric Grandmother” since December of 1999. I compiled 5 of my best together on tape, sent it off to the station and promptly forgot about it.

 

Some time later Mike got back in touch with me and told me that the songs had gotten rave reviews at the station, and the DJs were wanting to find out more about The Electric Grandmother. Mike’s own project called “The Pinheads” had also garnered praise from them, and they wanted both bands to perform on June 19, 2004 at Pat’s in the Flats in Cleveland, and they wanted EG to close out the show. I was stunned, as was Mary Alice, and we quickly hatched a plan. We borrowed the idea of a multimedia show from our friends in the band Infinite number of Sounds - I’d sing over the music on stage while she projected images onto a screen. We bought a tabletop CD player that a DJ would use, and an old slide projector off of Ebay that was previously the property of Georgia State University. Mary Alice gathered images for the projector online, and we contacted someone who could turn the images into slides. We also added other elements to distract the audience, such as a plug in disco light and a bubble machine.

 

I was actually slated to do double-duty at this show, as I was standing as The Pinheads vocalist for our friend Gary, who was unavailable. Our friend Eric joined on drums, and the makeshift Pinheads practiced for 45 minutes the night before at Mike’s house. Mary Alice and I stayed overnight at Mike’s, and I remember some nervousness being placated by seeing a video performance of David Essex singing “Rock On,” holding just a microphone on a stage surrounded by people while music played in the background. We figured if he could do it (without the addition of visual projection), then so could we.

 

Pat’s was normally an indoor venue, but “Cassettefest Fest” was set up outdoors. We arrived right at noon while the first band Dolly’s Crotch was playing. I remember the wild-haired guy fronting the band taking off his shirt during the set, and Eric politely applauding in response. I think it was during Black Cabbage’s set where I started to feel the nerves take over. I was sitting at the bar drinking water, and Mike was trying to talk me down some. We heard Dead Peasant Insurance start a noisy-feedbacky set, Mike remarked “Hey, this sounds cool?” almost like a mother would comfort a son, and we went outside to watch. During their set, this motorcycle-looking guy standing in the back loudly stated “You’re beautiful” to the girl in the band, and the crowd fell uncomfortably silent.

 

It must have been during Thursday Club’s set where I started to feel my stomach hurt from nervousness. I decided I had to do what was necessary to alleviate the pain, but the stall at the Men’s bathroom at Pat’s had no door. If you know me, then you know I went for it anyway. The only person who came into the restroom during this time was Eric, and I sheepishly told him while he looked over and chuckled, “I’m really glad it’s you.”

 

The Pinheads were on 3rd to last, and I felt ok jumping on the stage with my pals around me. We started with the opening acapella number “Wonder Wayne,” which was a song about Wayne from Wonder Years to the tune of The Beatles “With a Little Help From My Friends.” (It should be noted at this point that ‘Sitcom-Core” was a shared creation, even if I coined the phrase and moved on it the most. It was something that myself, Mike, and our friend Gary did together as a group called The Doldrums). I remember some guy in the crowd smirking and shaking his head when we got the chorus of “I get by with a little help from my brother.” We did about 6 or 7 more songs, including an encore featuring “Mr. Belvedere Loves Ding-Dongs.” It was weird having performed The Pinheads songs first, because Gary had written those lyrics, and I was planning to do more of the same as EG later.

 

After the band Harvey + Felix played, we were finally up. One of the station DJs looked at the CD player while we were setting up and asked quizzically, “That’s what you’re using?” The wind had started to pick up, and our projector screen kept getting knocked over, jangling our nerves. The Sun hadn’t even really gone down yet and people were standing around waiting, and so we took it as a sign just to give up on the projection. "No," Eric famously said. "That's why we brought it." He then grabbed some cement blocks that were nearby, and positioned them to hold the screen upright. We got in our positions, plugged in the bubble machine, and off we went.

 

I don’t remember what we started with, or what we finished with. For half of the set the Sun was still shining which made the images harder to see, but after a while darkness fell and the images looked pretty cool. I remember a good deal of hometown friends were there to see the show, and it was oddly cold out that night. The rest was a blur, but we got through it, and couldn’t wait to do it again.

Mary Alice:

I remember Simpsons Season 4 had just been released on DVD and streaming anything wasn't to the point where we weren't excited about a DVD release yet. I brought it with me. I just checked and sure enough. June 15, 2004.

 

I remember Matt Mansbach had this drawing he did of 80s Tom Hanks. I think it was a birthday card for someone? It was SO GOOD.

 

HARVEY + FELIX!!! I think that was the first of many, many bands where I saw them and thought "wow we're going to be best friends with these people" and I never saw or heard from them again.

 

I'm pretty sure we closed with "Dance Party."

25 Years

Today officially marks 25 years with my best gal, best friend, and bandmate. I’ve always been a little private about our relationship in a way, because it’s something so personal. We got together approximately a year after I was in a traumatic, life-changing car accident, and now all these years later I have a grasp on how damaged and vulnerable it left me. I recently wrote a song called “The Great Swim,” based on the title of a short story Mary Alice wrote before I moved to Hawaii in 1997, about her swimming the Pacific Ocean to be with me. There’s a line in it where I say “I was a baby when you were a kid,” which initially came to be in a dream, and I interpreted it as a description of my state of mind when she and I came together. I was 18 and she was 17, but the trauma of my accident had mentally regressed me to a much younger place. That's part of what I think makes our bond so close. Not only was she the girl I fell in love with, but she had a hand in rebuilding me as a person, and that’s something that’s hard to express. That’s partly why I’m glad we didn’t have a wedding with all of our weirdo relatives, because it all feels too personal. Our eloping to Las Vegas in 2003 even seems odd to me, because I don’t think she and I can be defined in that manner. Like Del to Neal said about his wife in Planes, Trains & Automobiles, “Love is not a big enough word.”

Cool James

Was putting on deodorant just now, and I flashed back to LL Cool J’s 1991 MTV Unplugged performance when he flashed deodorant cakes at everyone. He of course was ridiculed, but I always felt really bad for the guy.

 

First off, he obviously showered close to his performance time because he wanted to feel good and fresh, which I can totally relate to. Second of all, since he knew that he was performing shirtless, he layed it on extra thick, which is quite considerate. I’ve been to many a show where the shirtless yahoos on stage weren’t so considerate. Third, they missed a major marketing opportunity here. LL Cool J and Right Guard, which is a sporty brand that I don’t know if they even make anymore.

 

Kudos to you, Cool James.

Rocky V

The movie started with a man who had a brain damage because of a boxing match.  He told a man to get his wife, and she came to see him.  There was a press conference where another man said that he wanted to set up a fight with another man, but then the man's wife said he was retired.  It turns out the man and his wife lost money because of something they did, and they had to move to Philadelphia.

 

While there he met a young man who wanted to box, and he had him for dinner.  The man's son was mad because he had to leave.  He became his friend, and then he was sad.  He won a bunch of boxing matches, and then the other man introduced him to a beautiful woman.  Him and the woman and the man started to be against him.  He had a nice car, and drove away while he tried to talk to him.

 

In conclusion they fought outside, and it showed that he was right all along.  Then the man said he'd sue him, but he punched the man anyway.  At the end him and his son went to the library.

Joey

I was living in Hawaii in my small and filthy apartment at the time, getting ready to move back to Ohio that Summer. I was flipping through the channels late at night and I saw a live performance of "I Believe in Miracles" being shown on MTV2. I was puzzled as to why the channel was showing a seemingly obscure Ramones video, and at the end they had a graphic and and photo that read "Joey Ramone: 1951 -2001."

 

I probably called Mary Alice at her parents home, but neither of us can remember. I waited up a couple of hours until I knew it would be a semi-reasonable EDT, and I called my friend Mike and woke him to tell the news. I had this black wristband for some reason, and I wore that on my arm for a week in tribute.

 

Mary Alice and I hosted a radio show on KTUH Honolulu at the time, and we paid tribute to Joey on our next broadcast by playing all Ramones songs and sharing some Ramones history. During the show, this guy called and meekly asked us "What happened to Joey Ramone?" We looked at each other, as it had already been approximately a week. "He died," Mary Alice said. The guy on the phone began to sob. He was able to stammer out, "Back in 1977, KTUH was the only station in Hawaii that would play the Ramones." He thanked us for what we were doing, and hung up. That one still sticks with me.

 

I was lucky enough to see the Ramones play an opener-length set in Cleveland in 1995, and I wish could remember more of it. I have the pinhead bringing Joey the "GABBA GABBA HEY" sign imprinted on my mind, though. Mary Alice and I visited Joey's resting place at Hillside Cemetery in Lyndhurst, New Jersey several years back, which was really cool, because there was no one else around. It was just us hanging out with Joey. We were also able to see an amazing Ramones exhibit with Josie at the Queens museum. Joey died of lymphoma, which also was the first type of cancer that Josie was diagnosed with. I strongly dislike cancer.

 

Hard to believe the rest of the original lineup has passed since. What else can i say, I think they're the most important band there ever was. RIP Joey

Freedom Government

The resurrection of Tag Team for that Geico commercial got me thinking about other songs of the era. This song "Dazzey Duks" (Daisy Dukes) has a hook that goes "Look at them girls with the Dazzey Duks on," but at the time I misheard it as a garbled call to grassroots political action, something along the lines of "Free the government yourself," or "Freedom government you sew."

 

I didn't have MTV, so I didn't have any visual aids to assist me in deciphering. So when this song inevitably arrived at the #1 spot on the "Top 8 at 8" countdown on Jammin' 92.3 Cleveland, I remember thinking to myself, "Ah, the government song. Interesting choice."

Dr. Juice

They can take away whatever Dr. Seuss book they want, just don't mess with my childhood hero, Dr. Juice.

AC Pee

In 2013 we put out the "Make a Joyful Noise" collection featuring 100 very low-fi EG songs songs spanning from 1999-2002. I made a promo vid at the time for a song called "Michael J. Fox Went to My House" that I recorded in 1999, so now 8 years later I decided to do another for a 2001 song called "AC Pee," which in retrospect can be seen as an emotional reaction to 9/11. It took me all afternoon to make it.

Framed

I had a dream last night that I somehow directed a commercial airplane to fly into a set of power lines to knock out electricity in the area. I did this using a computer while sitting in the bedroom bathroom of my parents' house. The reason I committed this act was to frame the Trump administration. The pilot of the plane blamed Kayleigh McEnany for directing him to fly into the power lines, and this was an excerpt from an interview with him in the newspaper the next day:

 

"She's a n-n-n-nerd," said the pilot, who was not previously thought to speak English. "I knew it was a bad idea to fly into the power lines, but I did what I was told. I'd like to thank for inspiration Jesus, MDC*, and Martial Arts."

 

The power came back on, and credit was given to the current administration for acting quickly. I was relieved to know that nobody was hurt, but I still felt a little guilty about what I did. I told Donna Jo that I felt everything went exactly as planned.

Interview with Marilyn Manson

Electric Grandmother: Hello Man.
Marilyn Manson: Hi man.
EG: Where were you born?

MM: Canton, Ohio.
EG: That's pretty good.
MM: Thank you.
EG: Why are you like this?
MM: A lot of reasons I suppose. You're from Ohio, so you probably get it. There's not a lot to do. I guess I'm just mad.
EG: How come?
MM: My dad.
EG: I'm sorry.
MM: I'm sorry.
EG: A lot of people are saying you aren't very good.
MM: I know, and it kind of tears me up.  I've always tried to be nice, despite my uproarious public image.  I owe a lot to the people I grew up with, and they understand.  I don't know if I'll ever be the same.  Might be time to do something else.
EG: Like what?
MM: Singing.  They say you should sing every day.
EG: That's very well put.
MM: I was taught to do that.
EG: Well, what's next on the horizon for you?
MM: A lot of people don't know the Pro football Hall of Fame is in Canton.  I'm not sure when I'll ever get back, but I always enjoy being inside.

EG: Are you going to watch the Super Bowl?
MM: A little.
EG: Are there any misconceptions about you that you'd like to clear up right now?

MM: All I ever wanted in life was a house to live in.
EG: Like in the movie Bowling For Columbine?

MM: Exactly.
EG: Well, it's time to go.
MM: (laughs) I knew it.
EG: Thank you for speaking with me today.
MM: Goodbye.

Screech's Eulogy

Written by Mary Alice

Most of the time, I don’t find myself affected by celebrity deaths, though there are notable exceptions. One such exception was Isabel Sanford, who played TV’s Louise “Weezie” Jefferson on the 1970s-80s sitcom the Jeffersons, who passed away in 2004. Not being a particular fan of the show, I was struck by how saddened I was to hear of this. At the time, I think I was mourning the loss of a notable cultural icon from before my time and the knowledge that someday, they would all be dead. I was 25 at the time and think it marked the beginning of my truly understanding human mortality and indeed my own. This detached sense of sadness stands in stark contrast to how I feel about the passing of Dustin Diamond, known to most as Screech from Saved by the Bell.

 

I turned 41 this year and have changed a lot from the self-centered 25 year old who was a little sad when Weezie died. When I heard that Dustin Diamond had sage four cancer just a few short weeks ago, I was 100% aware that the colossal bummer that this death sentence laid upon a man just 3 years my senior is rooted almost completely in empathy for a person who had a pretty terrible life overall and never found peace in it.

 

Screech was a joke-character on a show that in its time tried to present an aspirational picture of the American teenage experience in the early 1990s, which eventually became a joke in itself. Screech became a joke within a joke. The tragedy of the Child Actor trope is a well-worn cliché at this point, but doesn’t stop it from being tragic. This place in pop culture history does not excuse his behavior post-Saved By the Bell, but does kind of explain it.

 

I don’t need to list all of the shitty things Dustin Diamond has done since Saved by the Bell. His stint in porn isn’t itself problematic except that it’s rooted in his attempts to repair an image rooted in fragile masculinity that never existed in the first place. Which at minimum makes it really, really gross. He scammed people out of money for various reasons related to his housing situation the details of which I don’t really remember. The one that hits closest to home to me is the lies he told in his trash memoir Beyond the Bell. Among other things, he claimed to have had an affair with NBC VP of Children’s Programming Linda Mancuso, who died in 2003 of breast cancer. I don’t think it was coincidence that she was not around to challenge these claims when he made them. That’s a sensitive issue for me for some reason. Making claims about things people did after they died when they’re not around to contradict them.

 

After Saved by the Bell, we watched Dustin Diamond try very hard to reinvent himself into the anti-Screech. Through it all, whether it was challenging the drill sergeant on that VH1 weight loss show to a fight or the public humiliation of listing his house for sale in 2020 as a “great rehab opportunity,” it’s very clear to me that he was a very unhappy person.

 

He felt ridiculed and left out during the pinnacle of his career. He spent a large part of the aftermath extremely angry and persistently making moves in an attempt to get “revenge” for wrongs that were never really committed. In doing so, he permanently alienated anyone who could come close to understanding. He experienced financial ruin, was sent to jail for stabbing a man in a barroom brawl and faded into obscurity. Then, when his child-star peers did the impossible and successfully revived the franchise that made them stars, Dustin Diamond is diagnosed with stage four long cancer and passes away three weeks later.

 

He was not a good person, but I’ve spent a lot of time with his Saved by the Bell character over the years. His character isn’t a particularly good person either. He’s like Urkel Light and seems to feel like he’s owed something by women for not being attractive—or something. But his illness and subsequent passing reminds me only that he is a person who lived a pretty tragic life. He never found peace and now he never will. I don’t think anyone deserves that.

 

Sleep easy, Screech. I wish better for you.

Ricky's Nuts

My household didn’t have a lot of salty or sugary snacks when I was growing up, so I always jumped at the chance to eat stuff like that whenever I could. When I was in 5th grade, this rich boy named Ricky brought peanuts for a snack every day, and I would always ask if I could have some. He never wanted to give me any, but eventually he realized that if he threw a peanut on the floor, I would retrieve it and eat it. He would ask other kids to watch, throw a peanut on the floor for me to pick up and eat, and laugh hysterically.

 

He later claimed to me that he had put the peanuts in his mouth prior to throwing them onto the floor. I knew this wasn’t true because I had never seen him do that, and besides, I would never have voluntarily engaged in doing something so degrading.

Sobering Reminder

Just in case you need any sort of reminder of the effect that recent events can have on people, here is a picture I drew of a Trump supporter firing a gun at the Capitol Building engulfed in flames.

Cassettefest Fest

June 19, 2004, at Pat's in the Flats

Cleveland, OH

 

Before EG hit the stage for the first time that night, I took the stage earlier with my friends Mike and Eric as The Pinheads. I was actually standing in for our friend Gary who was unavailable, and Eric was essentially playing the part of our friend Brandt, who was probably somewhere doing something else. The Pinheads, along with The Doldrums which preceded it (which was myself, Mike, and Gary) were the origins of what we now know as "Sitcom-Core."

 

Mike and I had been wanting to be on stage together since we were teenage punkers, and we were finally able to here in our mid-late 20's. Eric was the guitarist for the punk rock band I sang for in Columbus called Upchuck Berry, which featured our friend Brandt on drums and our friend Jeff on bass. This marked the first time we had been on stage together since 2002.

 

Mary Alice and I were extremely nervous to be doing EG that night, and when the screen we brought for projection kept getting blown over by the strong wind outside, we were panicked and just wanted to forget about it. "No," Eric said. "That's why we brought it." We then got concrete blocks to hold up the screen, and we went on went the show as planned.

 

It's a mantra we still use to this day when we flummoxed or frustrated when trying to do something ambitious: "That's why we brought it."