414. Trouble Me

I had been to Bart’s parents’ Cape house before, when they weren’t there. What’s funny is that I had forgotten what it looked like. I had convinced myself it was a split-level, with a large deck in the back.

I later figured out that in my head I had transposed some other rich family’s Cape house where we’d gone to a party around the same time, three or four years ago. There was a while when that was sort of a thing we did, going to parties of mostly college-age people Bart kind-of knew. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that after he and Michelle hooked up we went to a lot fewer of them. Not that Bart only went to them to cruise (is that even the right word? does it apply to straight people, too?). I mean, if he was only there to pick up girls you wouldn’t think he’d drag me along? Whatever. It was a thing we did. I didn’t think too much about it at the time.

Beach houses are inherently relaxing. Even the beach houses of rich people. I had forgotten what it was like to be with a bunch of people and to have no agenda myself. I didn’t have to be the center of attention. I didn’t have to be anything. I could just hang around. Other people had various agendas: food, drink, swimming, walking somewhere, that kind of thing. Amusingly enough not only did I have no agenda, but Ms. Agenda herself didn’t. Carynne, like me, let other people pick the music on the stereo. Someone else picked the beer, the food, the topic of conversation.

It was nice. We were sitting together on the couch one night, drinking whatever someone else had opened, when she commented on it: “I forgot what it’s like to not be in charge.”

“And I forgot what it’s like to be in the background,” I added. “I used to be in the background all the time.”

“You’re funny,” she said. “Because when you want to light up a room, you can.”

“I guess. Nobody here gives a shit if sunlight comes out my butt, though. Thank goodness.”

“We know you too well.” She gave me a smug smile. “So Jonathan’s really moving to L.A.?”

“Yeah. He signed a month-to-month lease he said, though, so if he’s done in six months and he has opportunities, he can move on.” I shrugged. “I don’t think he likes L.A. that much.”

“I don’t think you like L.A. that much.”

“Got that right. I like Remo’s. Not so much the traffic, earthquakes, and surgically-plastic population.” I yawned. “The clubs are okay. But we’ve got better here.”

Colin sat down across from us. “Check it out. I found a set of Hollywood Trivial Pursuit cards.” He began pulling out a game board.

So we got sucked into playing the game. And by the time we were done with that it was time to eat again. And that was just how things went. Bart and I wrote a song on the beach. Just because.

Over the course of the weekend, I had a couple of conversation with Lacey, and it became clear to me after a bit that she was trying really hard to figure me out. Like she’d taken it on herself to shrink my head since I was the only one there who wasn’t currently in or who hadn’t previously been to therapy.

No, I’m not kidding. Bart, Michelle, Carynne, Chris, Lacey, Colin, Courtney, they’d all had something.

Lacey’s way of starting one of these conversations would be to say something like, “So it’s really a problem that you let your Daddy issues get in the way of effective leadership.”

We’d be sunning ourselves by the water, or peeling carrots, or whatever, and I’d have to say, “Excuse me?” And then a kind of non-argument would ensue where I’d have to pick apart whatever the theory was–meaning she had to explain to me what she meant by Daddy issues, or passive aggression, or whatever jargon she was throwing around, and I’d then have to debunk whatever conclusion she’d come to about me, which always seemed three or four steps too far in the wrong direction. She wasn’t what I would call confrontational about it, not like she was the night I’d come home and she’d accused me of wanting to bash Chris’s brains in, but she wasn’t exactly what I’d call sympathetic and understanding either.

Mostly no one talked about our problems, I guess because we all felt the point of going to the Cape was to leave troubles behind.

The one time I took the tack of questioning Lacey as a form of self-defense, it went something like this.

Lacey: Your sexual repression is the source of all your anger, you know.
Me: Okay, I’ve about had it with the generalizations. Yeah, I’m pissed off about the way the world has pissed on me for being gay, but you know what? I’ve got plenty of other things to be angry about, too. Life isn’t that simple, Lacey. There’s not one magic single thing that explains it all.
Lacey: Sure there is. And you can find it through Transcendental Meditation.
Me: What?
Lacey: If you close your eyes and repeat your mantra for twenty minutes, twice a day, you’ll figure it all out.
Me: Is that how you figure it all out? Meditating on everyone else’s problem’s?
Lacey: No, silly. When you meditate you try not to think.
Me: I’m great at not thinking already, thanks. Pass me another beer. But seriously, you meditate?
Lacey: I don’t have time. I’m too busy. Chris does, though. I’m trying to do it with him but it’s so boring.
Me: Chris meditates?
Lacey: Every day. I think he does it instead of praying since he doesn’t believe in God. Dave sort of ruined that for him.
Me: Do you believe in God?
Lacey: Yes. Yes, I do. I believe God is testing me every day.
Me: Really?
Lacey: Yes. And you know, I thought it would be difficult to stay with someone godless, but Chris isn’t like other godless people.
Me: Because of the meditation thing?
Lacey: Yeah. I think he really is communing with God, he just can’t bring himself to call it that. I figure he’ll come around in good time, if he can just stay clean.
Me: What about you? What do you do to stay clean? Pray?
Lacey: I’m just over it now. I learned my lesson. I’m so young, I wasn’t addicted that long, so it’s not as bad for me.
Me: Is that how it works?
Lacey: Sure is. Anyway, what about you? Do you believe in God?
Daron: I don’t know. I think there probably is a God but I think as puny humans we can’t even comprehend. So I don’t think about it much.
Lacey: You think of yourself as puny because you have crippling self-esteem issues.

Yeah, yeah.

Actually, you know what? I don’t think I do have crippling self-esteem issues. I’ve got issues, yeah, but if I really had an esteem problem, do you think I could get up in front of ten thousand people a night and do what I do? Do you think I would have even gotten this far? Would I even still be alive now if I thought myself that worthless? I don’t think I would. One of the reasons suicide has never entered my mind except as a subject of momentary morbid curiosity is that taking myself out of the equation would never occur to me as an option. Now, you could argue that someone with really incredible talent can make it on luck while still fighting “crippling self-esteem issues,” but if that’s the case with me, well shit, I guess that means I’ve got incredible talent. And if I believe I’ve got incredible talent… then Q.E.D. I don’t have self-esteem issues.

I decided, for the third or fourth time, I should look into therapy, though. So at least I’d know what the fuck I was fooling myself about.

(I apologize to everyone who is as bothered as I am by how flat Natalie Merchant is here. I mean, she’s ALWAYS flat, worse than Whitney Houston, but it’s even worse than usual here. -daron)


  • cayra says:

    I’ve had a hard time commenting lately, never felt like I had anything to say, but I still love this series. It brightens my day each time to see an update .

  • Connie says:

    Lacey is a trip, that’s for sure. Hope there was plenty of beer!

  • Jude says:

    You could always turn it around on Lacey: “So why are you spending so much time considering my problems? I think you are both projecting your own issues at me and denying your own issues at the same time.”

    • daron says:

      It’s a thought? Thing is, sometimes she’ll say something that really sounds like good advice. (It’s usually before or after something wacked out, though.)

  • Joe says:

    There’s nothing wrong with being flat when it works. They craft their songs & harmonies around it, so it’s OK (at least to me).

    • daron says:

      You’re allowed to like them. Both Whitney and Natalie have excellent voice timbre. But for someone like me, listening to someone who sings flat… it’s a lot like a chef who is really good except that everything is too salty. It ruins it for us.

      • Joe says:

        I sang in a choir from fifth grade through my sophomore year in college. For three years in high school I had a woman standing behind me and to my right with a very loud voice, who was very certain of her singing ability and never held anything back. She was also ever-so-slightly flat. All of the time.

        I guess I just got used to it.

        • daron says:

          I’m sure it sounded fine to her! Would have driven me insane though. It’s one thing to play with the pitch, to bend it and use it to make the voice pop from the accompaniment. But folks who are flat all the time it isn’t intentional. That’s how it sounds right to them. Makes me crazy… I can’t get over it.

  • Bill Heath says:

    Ditto on the flat all the time, Daron.

    Isn’t it funny that almost no one seems to be always sharp all the time? Yes, my sister is sharp all the time but she knows she can’t sing and doesn’t care.

    In “I Will Always Love You” part of Whitney’s appeal to me is that she’s just always a few herz low. So were her emotions at the time. It just fit.

    • daron says:

      I’ve known some instrumentalists who overcompensated to sharp when they tuned because they had been (badly) taught that “flat = bad” as opposed to “out of tune in either direction = bad”. But not many.

      I think singers can be habitually flat because reaching pitch is about tightening the muscles and to go flat you just. don’t. quite. do. enough. You can’t overshoot easily but you can fall just short easily. And once you get used to it sounding “right” you’re stuck. I think people accepted Whitney’s flatness because the overall timbre and expressiveness of her voice was so great that the “imperfection” was almost necessary…? IDK. I hate speaking ill of her now, given how things went for her. But I still can’t listen to her.

      • Bill Heath says:

        Until a year ago I directed a church choir; we had five parts.


        Fifteen months ago my vocal cords were destroyed by a doctor working on restarting my heart. I forgive him. Almost. Astoundingly, I’m still on pitch. However, my range shrank from two octaves and a fourth (F to Bb) to one octave (D to D). I’m getting back about one half step every three months. I believe if you could get back one half step of Ziggy every three months you’d be thrilled.

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