Excerpt from my Letter to Rachel, 25 May 2006

...Two weeks ago, I attempted a James Brown song for the first time. I was at the Galaxy Lounge's Karaoke Bar with a number of friends, the day after my birthday.

Perhaps you know this already; it's a heavy thing, to dare an attempt at James Brown. You must master the most demanding coordination of skill, hubris, alcohol and luck--far more ambitious than anything I know of in the typical karaoke songbook. You must be wilful and insouciant, armed with the temperament of a saber-toothed platypus--grimly determined to be whimsically ridiculous, and yet perfectly capable of "taking it to the bridge" as the need arises. I was very genuinely concerned when the KJ called me up.

Fortunately for me, between the friendly audience, five beers, and the auspicious ocassion of my birthday, my rendition of "Get Up (Sex Machine)" went so well that, afterwards, both the KJ and the management personally approached me, inviting me to perform it every Friday night, at which point they began talking about competitions and bands needing lead singers and the like. To be honest, I wasn't really paying them any attention, by that point.

In spite of the risks--abject humiliation, race riots, death by exhaustion--I have to say I highly recommend the experience. The available vocabulary describing transcendental profundities woefully fails to describe the sheer awesomeness of performing something by James Brown. In his book, "Middlesex," Eugenides talks about how he loves that Germanic method of constructing vast, forbiddingly unwieldy words to describe the excruciatingly specific, far more preferable to the insipid generalizations encompassed by solitary anodynes like "happy" or "sad." there should be a word, for example, that encompasses the mortifying humiliation of seeing an ex- with someone else and not being able to decide whether you're okay with that, even if you'd firmly resolved not to care about it. Or a word that signifies the kind of relief you experience when the incredibly elaborate lie you told your dying grandmother actually turns out to be substantially true, but only after her death. In this case, our language languishes without a word describing the euphoric exhaustion after singing a James Brown piece for the first time. Something really must be done about this.

In spite of that night's sucess, I'm hesitant to attempt a repitition. I have been to the mountaintop already; try that again and I risk the indignant wrath of the gods. Instead, these past couple of weeks I've been reveling in my unemployed freedom, vigorously prosecuting months and months' worth of laundry, quietly applying for jobs and carefully weighing competing plans for the fall.

I now have the luxury of noticing hte most remarkable things, nestled amongst the reassuringly quotidian blandishments all around me. For some reason, it's deeply satisfying that our postmen now wear raincoats over their shorts and their pith helmets, and that the bike commuters have begun to preen and strut in their mud-splatter. The vivid greens, in their infinite shadings, seem almost to illuminate our rainswept streets. And I know of nothing so remarkable as small children in hoodies and galoshes, galloping across uneven sidewalks.

My poverty notwithstanding, a substantial portion of me earnestly desires to stay here, in this becalmed place, tracing the progress of rainclouds and the shadows blooming like inkblots around the streetlights. Of course, this isn't enough by far to keep me here--just enough to make me want to linger.

So. As ever, I hope this finds things well and thriving with you. I hear good things from Sarah, from time to time. My Summer Housemate is a droll, gay dell'Arte man whom I rarely see. Portland is much diminished without your resplendent influence. Take care of yourself, and look to hear more soon--

love and butter,


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