“Who cares if you burn out? If you burn out, throw another fuckin’ log on, dude. I don’t care. I’ve had numerous people bring that up. ‘Hey, man, are you gonna burn out?’ You know what? I’m gonna fade away. I’m gonna be that person. I’m definitely not gonna burn out. To burn out, you have to have this big fuckin’ fire and this big explosion. It’s not gonna happen for me. I’m gonna slowly dwindle into more obscurity than I ever started off with. I want to be Amadeus.”
“It seems like everyone is dying” the boy stated in the presence of his mother and aunt. They looked at each other puzzled, his aunt, visably annoyed and disgusted. What is it with this whinny, depressed boy? Auntie glared at her sister implying her inability as a disciplinarian and educator. Mother’s expression turned from that of concern at the sight of her disapproving sister, to that of genuine grief when she glanced at her son. Her little boy had been through a whirlwind in the past few days and she sensed his inability to put the pieces of his mind back together. His unwillingness to discuss the contents floating around the cavities of his splintered cerveau was a great cause of concern as well. “Why do you think everyone is dying?” she asked. The boy didn’t reply but stared at the tops of his shinny black shoes instead. Sitting in an over sized chair, hands tucked under his thighs, his feet swung in unison and picked up their pace as his anxiety grew. How he took comfort in his “uniform.” Every day the boy would wear a simple black shirt paired with an assortment of neutral colored slacks. The bottoms of his shinny black shoes had been decimated by walks he had taken all summer long. Up and down the hill the boy would parade incessantly. A flurry of sentiments he could not decipher took the backseat to his explorations in his grandmother’s orchard at times. He would sit under his favorite tree and try, as best he could, not to think. When a thought entered, he gently push it aside by focusing on the sounds surrounding him. Once he stared at a single leaf and blocked the static for what seemed like a full minute. The tumultuous thoughts always came back to haunt him in the end. He longed for a life without introspection and doubt.
It had been two and a half months since the boy had been stationed by his mother’s side in Mexico. The entire holiday spent dealing with the finality of life. Mother had received a call about her dear father’s hospitalization and fled the comfort of her home to be by her matriarch’s side. Child in tow, they set off to Monterrey. The boy idolized his cousins in his native land. They had matured in luxury and intemperance. Their sense of entitlement and the way they comported themselves astonished and amazed him. He longed to be “just like them.” Like any third world civilization, there are but two economic classes in Mexico: the extremely poor and the excessively affluent. His family’s demographic fit the latter. Mother had fled the safety of her domicile in Mexico to marry a poor “gringo” after her infectious love affair with the boy’s father in Paris became unsustainable. This displeased the family greatly. How they relished flashing their influence and power in front of her. What her son didn’t know was that she had traded her financial shelter for some semblance of normalcy. She needed to be away from the prying eyes and judgments of her sisters. The disappointments and criticisms expressed carelessly (and often maliciously) drove her away.
The boy faithfully sat by his grandmother’s side one evening as she watch her favorite telenovela. He was her favorite. He knew this. He cherished her approval. They were thick as thieves the two of them. They seemed to communicate their knowledge with a series of glances, smirks, and smiles. “Mijo, tell Señora Letti to fetch us a pitcher of water, will you?” He looked through his grandmother, smiled, and nodded his head. Without saying a word, he rose from his chaise and proceeded down the long hallway. As he rounded the corner leading to the kitchen, he looked into his grandfather’s bedroom. The old man had been home for the past two weeks. The family had chosen he should spend his last days in his home. Seniors had always scared the child for some inexplicable reason. He held his dear grandmother on such a high pedestal; however, she was the only one of “them” worthy of his affectionate love. Even in her old age, she was bewitching. The boy’s grandfather had never been present during the boys short life. Before advances in medicine in the field of mental health had made their way to Mexico, the Alzheimer’s had set in. Once a man checks out at a certain age, his descendants humor him and treat him as if he were simply a lamp fixture.
Standing in the hallway, arms swinging precociously by his side, the boy was the first to witness the death rattle. Grandfather’s body seized and lifted ten centimeters off the bed as he made the final sound. The child intrinsically knew his grandfather had passed, his heart collapsing instead of slowly grinding to a halt. The subservient and gentle nurse put her magazine down and said, “Señor Antonio! Señor Antonio, me escucha?” The boy stood shocked as the notion of the finality of life he had been wrestling with gripped him. Confused and bewildered he sprinted out of the home. Running across the garden, he sought the familiarity of his orchard and took refuge under his tree. There the boy let out a terrifying cacophonous shriek.
Something alien to the boy occurred at that very instance. The sound emitted from his small lips was so primordial and foreign to him that it caused his mind to splinter. It was as if he withdrew within himself and fully witnessed this new form of self-expression. Then came the stillness. The leaves darted to and fro, the crickets called to their mates, the swing creaked as it swung from his tree as the moon perched over the landscape illuminating it all. Completely still. Not a sound, not a whisper. As his mind continued in its absolute tranquility the boy reached for a leaf that had made its way to the ground, signaling the end of his summer. Every vein, every cracked edge, every missing morsel devoured by insects came into focus as he exhaled.
Making his way back to the home, thoughts came rushing back to the boy. Shock had given way to grief. He thought of all the missed opportunities to connect with the decrepit old man. The stories recounted around the dinner table about the resilient man, astute critical thinker, provider, and business genius would be all he would have to draw on when old age reached him. He would never experience this incarnation. It saddened him greatly as his lip began to quiver. Through the kitchen and down the hallway he went. When he reached his destination, the boy perched himself on his grandfather’s death bed, lovingly kissed his “patron’s” algid forehead, and told him he loved him.
THE PROBLEM WITH MUSIC.
“Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed. Nobody can see what’s printed on the contract. It’s too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody’s eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there’s only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says “Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim again, please. Backstroke. And he does of course.
I. A & R Scouts
Every major label involved in the hunt for new bands now has on staff a high-profile point man, an “A & R” rep who can present a comfortable face to any prospective band. The initials stand for “Artist and Repertoire.” because historically, the A & R staff would select artists to record music that they had also selected, out of an available pool of each. This is still the case, though not openly.
These guys are universally young [about the same age as the bands being wooed], and nowadays they always have some obvious underground rock credibility flag they can wave. Lyle Preslar, former guitarist for Minor Threat, is one of them. Terry Tolkin, former NY independent booking agent and assistant manager at Touch and Go is one of them. Al Smith, former soundman at CBGB is one of them. Mike Gitter, former editor of XXX fanzine and contributor to Rip, Kerrang and other lowbrow rags is one of them. Many of the annoying turds who used to staff college radio stations are in their ranks as well.
There are several reasons A & R scouts are always young. The explanation usually copped-to is that the scout will be “hip to the current musical “scene.” A more important reason is that the bands will intuitively trust someone they think is a peer, and who speaks fondly of the same formative rock and roll experiences. The A & R person is the first person to make contact with the band, and as such is the first person to promise them the moon. Who better to promise them the moon than an idealistic young turk who expects to be calling the shots in a few years, and who has had no previous experience with a big record company. Hell, he’s as naive as the band he’s duping. When he tells them no one will interfere in their creative process, he probably even believes it.
When he sits down with the band for the first time, over a plate of angel hair pasta, he can tell them with all sincerity that when they sign with company X, they’re really signing with him and he’s on their side. Remember that great gig I saw you at in ‘85? Didn’t we have a blast.
By now all rock bands are wise enough to be suspicious of music industry scum. There is a pervasive caricature in popular culture of a portly, middle aged ex-hipster talking a mile-a-minute, using outdated jargon and calling everybody “baby.” After meeting “their” A & R guy, the band will say to themselves and everyone else, “He’s not like a record company guy at all! He’s like one of us.” And they will be right. That’s one of the reasons he was hired.
These A & R guys are not allowed to write contracts. What they do is present the band with a letter of intent, or “deal memo,” which loosely states some terms, and affirms that the band will sign with the label once a contract has been agreed on.
The spookiest thing about this harmless sounding little memo, is that it is, for all legal purposes, a binding document. That is, once the band signs it, they are under obligation to conclude a deal with the label. If the label presents them with a contract that the band don’t want to sign, all the label has to do is wait. There are a hundred other bands willing to sign the exact same contract, so the label is in a position of strength.
These letters never have any terms of expiration, so the band remain bound by the deal memo until a contract is signed, no matter how long that takes. The band cannot sign to another laborer even put out its own material unless they are released from their agreement, which never happens. Make no mistake about it: once a band has signed a letter of intent, they will either eventually sign a contract that suits the label or they will be destroyed.
One of my favorite bands was held hostage for the better part of two years by a slick young “He’s not like a label guy at all,” A & R rep, on the basis of such a deal memo. He had failed to come through on any of his promises [something he did with similar effect to another well-known band], and so the band wanted out. Another label expressed interest, but when the A & R man was asked to release the band, he said he would need money or points, or possibly both, before he would consider it.
The new label was afraid the price would be too dear, and they said no thanks. On the cusp of making their signature album, an excellent band, humiliated, broke up from the stress and the many months of inactivity.
II. There’s This Band
There’s this band. They’re pretty ordinary, but they’re also pretty good, so they’ve attracted some attention. They’re signed to a moderate-sized “independent” label owned by a distribution company, and they have another two albums owed to the label. They’re a little ambitious. They’d like to get signed by a major label so they can have some security you know, get some good equipment, tour in a proper tour bus — nothing fancy, just a little reward for all the hard work.
To that end, they got a manager. He knows some of the label guys, and he can shop their next project to all the right people. He takes his cut, sure, but it’s only 15%, and if he can get them signed then it’s money well spent. Anyways, it doesn’t cost them anything if it doesn’t work. 15% of nothing isn’t much!
One day an A & R scout calls them, says he’s ‘been following them for a while now, and when their manager mentioned them to him, it just “clicked.” Would they like to meet with him about the possibility of working out a deal with his label? Wow. Big Break time.
They meet the guy, and y’know what — he’s not what they expected from a label guy. He’s young and dresses pretty much like the band does. He knows all their favorite bands. He’s like one of them. He tells them he wants to go to bat for them, to try to get them everything they want. He says anything is possible with the right attitude. They conclude the evening by taking home a copy of a deal memo they wrote out and signed on the spot.
The A & R guy was full of great ideas, even talked about using a name producer. Butch Vig is out of the question-he wants 100 g’s and three points, but they can get Don Fleming for $30,000 plus three points. Even that’s a little steep, so maybe they’ll go with that guy who used to be in David Letterman’s band. He only wants three points. Or they can have just anybody record it (like Warton Tiers, maybe— cost you 5 or 7 grand] and have Andy Wallace remix it for 4 grand a track plus 2 points. It was a lot to think about.
Well, they like this guy and they trust him. Besides, they already signed the deal memo. He must have been serious about wanting them to sign. They break the news to their current label, and the label manager says he wants them to succeed, so they have his blessing. He will need to be compensated, of course, for the remaining albums left on their contract, but he’ll work it out with the label himself. Sub Pop made millions from selling off Nirvana, and Twin Tone hasn’t done bad either: 50 grand for the Babes and 60 grand for the Poster Children— without having to sell a single additional record. It’ll be something modest. The new label doesn’t mind, so long as it’s recoupable out of royalties. Well, they get the final contract, and it’s not quite what they expected. They figure it’s better to be safe than sorry and they turn it over to a lawyer—one who says he’s experienced in entertainment law and he hammers out a few bugs. They’re still not sure about it, but the lawyer says he’s seen a lot of contracts, and theirs is pretty good. They’ll be great royalty: 13% [less a 1O% packaging deduction]. Wasn’t it Buffalo Tom that were only getting 12% less 10? Whatever.
The old label only wants 50 grand, an no points. Hell, Sub Pop got 3 points when they let Nirvana go. They’re signed for four years, with options on each year, for a total of over a million dollars! That’s a lot of money in any man’s English. The first year’s advance alone is $250,000. Just think about it, a quarter million, just for being in a rock band!
Their manager thinks it’s a great deal, especially the large advance. Besides, he knows a publishing company that will take the band on if they get signed, and even give them an advance of 20 grand, so they’ll be making that money too. The manager says publishing is pretty mysterious, and nobody really knows where all the money comes from, but the lawyer can look that contract over too. Hell, it’s free money.
Their booking agent is excited about the band signing to a major. He says they can maybe average $1,000 or $2,000 a night from now on. That’s enough to justify a five week tour, and with tour support, they can use a proper crew, buy some good equipment and even get a tour bus! Buses are pretty expensive, but if you figure in the price of a hotel room for everybody In the band and crew, they’re actually about the same cost. Some bands like Therapy? and Sloan and Stereolab) use buses on their tours even when they’re getting paid only a couple hundred bucks a night, and this tour should earn at least a grand or two every night. It’ll be worth it. The band will be more comfortable and will play better. The agent says a band on a major label can get a merchandising company to pay them an advance on T-shirt sales! ridiculous! There s a gold mine here! The lawyer Should look over the merchandising contract, just to be safe.
They get drunk at the signing party. Polaroids are taken and everybody looks thrilled. The label picked them up in a limo. They decided to go with the producer who used to be in Letterman’s band. He had these technicians come in and tune the drums for them and tweak their amps and guitars. He had a guy bring in a slew of expensive old “vintage” microphones. Boy, were they “warm.” He even had a guy come in and check the phase of all the equipment in the control room! Boy, was he professional. He used a bunch of equipment on them and by the end of it, they all agreed that it sounded very “punchy,” yet “warm.”
All that hard work paid off. With the help of a video, the album went like hotcakes! They sold a quarter million copies!
Here is the math that will explain just how fucked they are:
These figures are representative of amounts that appear in record contracts daily. There’s no need to skew the figures to make the scenario look bad, since real-life examples more than abound. income is underlined, expenses are not.
Advance: $ 250,000
Manager's cut: $ 37,500
Legal fees: $ 10,000
Recording Budget: $ 150,000
Producer s advance: $ 50,000
Studio fee: $ 52,500
Drum. Amp, Mic and Phase "Doctors": $ 3,000
Recording tape: $ 8,000
Equipment rental: $ 5,000
Cartage and Transportation: $ 5,000
Lodgings while in studio: $ 10,000
Catering: $ 3,000
Mastering: $ 10,000
Tape copies, reference CDs, shipping
tapes, misc. expenses: $ 2,000
Video budget: $ 30,000
Cameras: $ 8,000
Crew: $ 5,000
Processing and transfers: $ 3,000
Off-line: $ 2,000
On-line editing: $ 3,000
Catering: $ 1,000
Stage and construction: $ 3,000
Copies, couriers, transportation: $ 2,000
Director's fee: $ 3,000
Album Artwork: $ 5,000
Promotional photo shoot and
duplication: $ 2,000
Band fund: $ 15,000
New fancy professional drum kit: $ 5,000
New fancy professional guitars : $ 3,000
New fancy professional guitar amp
rigs : $ 4,000
New fancy potato-shaped bass guitar: $ 1,000
New fancy rack of lights bass amp: $ 1,000
Rehearsal space rental: $ 500
Big blowout party for their friends: $ 500
Tour expense [5 weeks]: $ 50,875
Bus: $ 25,000
Crew : $ 7,500
Food and per diems: $ 7,875
Fuel: $ 3,000
Consumable supplies: $ 3,500
Wardrobe: $ 1,000
Promotion: $ 3,000
Tour gross income: $ 50,000
Agent's cut: $ 7,500
Manager's cut: $ 7,500
Merchandising advance: $ 20,000
Manager's cut: $ 3,000
Lawyer's fee: $ 1,000
Publishing advance: $ 20,000
Manager's cut: $ 3,000
Lawyer's fee: $ 1,000
Record sales: 250,000 @ $12 = $3,000,000
Gross retail revenue Royalty
[13% of 90% of retail]: $ 351,000
Less advance: $ 250,000
[3% less $50,000 advance]: $ 40,000
Promotional budget: $ 25,000
Recoupable buyout from previous label: $ 50,000
Net royalty: $ -14,000
Record company income:
Record wholesale price
$6.50 x 250,000 = $1,625,000 gross income
Artist Royalties: $ 351,000
Deficit from royalties: $ 14,000
Manufacturing, packaging and
distribution @ $2.20 per record: $ 550,000
Gross profit: $ 7l0,000
The Balance Sheet: This is how much each player
got paid at the end of the game.
Record company: $ 710,000
Producer: $ 90,000
Manager: $ 51,000
Studio: $ 52,500
Previous label: $ 50,000
Agent: $ 7,500
Lawyer: $ 12,000
Band member net income each: $ 4,031.25
The band is now 1/4 of the way through its contract, has made the music industry more than 3 million dollars richer, but is in the hole $14,000 on royalties. The band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11, but they got to ride in a tour bus for a month.
The next album will be about the same, except that the record company will insist they spend more time and money on it. Since the previous one never “recouped,” the band will have no leverage, and will oblige.
The next tour will be about the same, except the merchandising advance will have already been paid, and the band, strangely enough, won’t have earned any royalties from their T-shirts yet. Maybe the T-shirt guys have figured out how to count money like record company guys.
Some of your friends are probably already this fucked.”
“Grunge Collection” by Marc Jacobs / 1993
IF EVERYONE IS HIP … IS ANYONE HIP?
“But at a time when the pavements are worn thin by Doc Martens, when every open door admits a file of backward baseball caps and soul patches, when jocks sell attitude and all of rock is supposed to be alternative — hipness is bigger than General Motors. So big, in fact, that at this moment of triumph, when the ironies of Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman occupy the best time slots on television, and even the President’s daughter is named after a Joni Mitchell song, hipness is giving off an arthritic creak. It’s true that nothing is more difficult to pin down than the sensibility of an era, and nothing harder to trace with certainty than its rise and fall. But in a society so adept at distributing the very latest thing and bestowing an edge upon the most unremarkable consumer fodder — Miles Davis wore khakis! — it’s impossible not to recognize that hip is losing its force, muddling its message, becoming just another sales pitch. Or a decoration on the edges of the most conventional ways of life.”
Untitled / Unknown by Pierre TOUTAIN-DORBEC
I FELL IN LOVE IN A DREAM WHEN I WAS A CHILD ONCE.
Children readied their makeshift sleds anticipating the tear down the snowy hillside. The fact that it never snowed in this part of Mexico was the furthest concept from the dreamer’s mind. The quiet and sullen demeanor the boy carried with him transfered into the landscape of his slumber. The orchard was in full bloom, not a single flake on the illuminated greenery. The trees seemed ignited by resplendent dreamlike pigments which transcended color itself. They captivated him. He would stare at them as they caught his eye for the duration of the voyage. One might think the construction of these plants was the sub-concious’ greatest creation in this hallucination. They were, until she appeared. It was a clear, cool day. The leaves swayed in their own surreal rhythm, compelled by the steadiest of breezes. He took some comfort in this dreamland, he assured himself, as he trepidatiously became one with it. When he saw the smiles of his peers (whom he had never met) as they called his name, he dived in. He was now fully immersed. Dressed all in white, his new best mates generously encouraged each other and took turns sliding down the embankment. He recognized his grandmother’s home out of the corner of his eye and felt comfort as though he were resting on her bosom.
He first noticed her dainty tall figure as she walked towards him from the orchard. She wore a beige hat fashioned in a manner he had never seen before, a cross between a mourning veil and a small top hat. Perched on the top of the slightly tilted chapeau were two black feathers attached to its base by a cream colored ribbon, which contrasted beautifully with its caramel color, and then the incandescent surroundings they stood amongst. His mind assembled her slim robe from one of the countless Vogue magazines he and his mother adored to rifle through on Sunday mornings. Her bright red shoes clashed dramatically with the rest of the ensemble. Her coquettish gaze was transcendent and intoxicating. She never wavered as she looked through him. A knife cut through his heart spilling out its unpredictably volatile contents. He was in a trance-like state the likes of which man has never known as she magnetized towards him. Romeo and Juliet be damned. The greatest love story ever told palled in comparison. Oddly enough, he was comforted. His usual shy and skittish disposition was replaced by a tranquility he had never felt. With every step she took, the boy reciprocated and did likewise. They met under the most majestic tree in his mind’s kingdom. They loved each other unconditionally without ever uttering a word. Her slim face and exaggerated lips replenished his heart’s contents with the most powerful narcotic ever conjured. The angelic snapshot of the corner of her mouth was the most alluring sight the boy had ever witnessed. She bent down and gave him a peck somewhere between his cheek and eye through the veil and then playfully retreated. He unabashedly chased after her as she coyly drew away behind the phosphorescent tree. When he caught his muse she giggled and shrieked as her bonnet fell to the ground. Questions the boy often pondered, and worried he didn’t have answers for (nor the courage to ask), were answered uniformly when he was in her arms. The sky is blue, the stars and heavens are above, the planets spin seamlessly on their axis held together by the intangible for one reason only. For us.
He awoke startled by the sound of grandmother’s cook thrashing about in the kitchen. His eyes drew wide open violently. Welcoming the child back into this cruel world was a an off white eggshell cracked ceiling. He was befuddled staring at the neutral canvas as her presence began to fade and sutures in his heart became undone. Absolutely still. Then it came. the mild ring in his left ear pulsated to the right and settled somewhere between the temporal lobes after volleying back and forth for a few dizzying cycles. His eyes jittered and darted unpredictably. The reverberation sustained and grew in its intensity as the tears unexplainably dripped down the young boy’s motionless cheeks. He had lost in love before he had ever been given the chance to take a leap of faith.
Dé Dé / France 1911 by Jacques HENRI LARTIGUE
DADDY SMOKED MARLBOROS.
Daddy whisked the boy away to Cavalaire for the summer. Unlike every other child in the family, the young boy was separated from his father by not only the Atlantic ocean; but, hundreds of thousands of life shaping moments for which father would never be present. It was imperative that the child witness and appreciate what it is to be a loved by his father. These few precious moments they spent together had to count for all the times he was not in attendance. Papa insisted on it. The absolute best of everything would be paramount on this trip: large home near the beach, boat rental to discover nooks and crannies around the picturesque coastline, incredible French traditional foods (not that processed crap his mother fed him in America). Most of the French family the boy loved so dearly managed to be in attendance. They set off on the nine hundred Kilometer trip from Paris on a Friday. Father, son, and beloved cousin, Margot, in the back seat. The boy was ecstatic. He had escaped the clutches of his mentally unstable mother in America; as well as, the abuse he sustained from his tormentors in school (if only for the summer). When his daddy was present, the boy felt loved. Truly loved. Months later the boy would cry himself to sleep thinking of the drive for weeks on end; making sure to bury his face in his wet pillow least he be heard by his mother. He would recall the stubble on Papa’s face in contrast to the half opened car window. He would remember the endearing smile father would bless upon the boy, all while puffing away on a Marlboro light. When he thought of that half cocked smile, Marlboro balanced seamlessly on his lips, the boy would receive a jolt of grief and cry out for his daddy without making a sound. Just the hush emanating from his lips, “papa,” as the tears poured and his body quaked with grief. The reality of a father’s cowardice and his inability as a provider is never contemplated by a child who sees him but for fraction of the year. All is a wonderful fairy tale when the rigors of a normal life are replaced by boats and sandy beaches. The boy built the mythology unknowingly. Father let him.
Weeks later the family had settled into their large home by the beach. They had explored nearly every alcove and island in the region. The boy blushed and marveled at the beautiful half naked women strutting about. Such “things” would never be exposed in Texas. Most of all the boy was mesmerized by the ocean water. Its clarity was as foreign to him as unconditional love he was experiencing from his French progenitors. Mother had dutifully taken him to the local coastal cesspool by the port. He remembered forming sand castles from the polluted mud and standing in six inches of water, unable to see his feet. By comparison, In this paradise, he swam in the thick patches of seaweed, plucking starfish off the ocean floor. He danced on the deck of the boat with his cousins screaming at the top of his lungs: “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah!” The thick French accent emanating from the others was amusing to him. How he loved them he thought to himself. He never wanted the summer to end. The family gathered around the table on the patio for every delicious meal they savored whilst in the home. Fresh tomatoes sprinkled with olive oil and topped with fresh mozzarella, whole farm raised chickens cooked to absolute perfection. Their skin covered with assorted herbs and seasoning that the boy considered exotic. At least four bottles of wine were consumed amongst the patriarchs every evening. Father made sure to pour his loving son a small glass every night in hopes the elixir would coax whatever trace of his European genes lay dormant in the boy’s psyche. Often, he would have conversations with his sister about the boy when he assumed the child was out of earshot. The little man listened in one evening as his hero voiced concerns about his uncultured and Americanized spawn. Concepts which flew over the child’s comprehension level; but, he felt the anxiety in his father’s voice non the less. Fear penetrated the boy’s heart. He attempted, to the best of his ability, to suppress the emotional duress. He was seized by his mother. Five thousand miles away, and he was already home from the summer holiday.
“I don’t give two splats of an old negro junkie’s vomit for your politico-philosophical treatises, kiddies. I like noise. I like big-ass vicious noise that makes my head spin. I wanna feel it whipping through me like a fucking jolt. We’re so dilapidated and crushed by our pathetic existence we need it like a fix.”
Boulevard Diderot / Paris 1969 by Henri CARTIER-BRESSON
MOTHER DECIDED TO STUDY ABROAD.
Coming from a well to do family in Mexico that was all too eager to finance the expansion of her horizons, she decided on Paris. Above all, fashion was the most important endeavor in mother’s life. She dreamt of walks along Les Champs Elysees, sketch book in hand, designing couture that would pull at the heart-strings of sixteen year old girls across the globe. Grandmother produced the post cards from her bureau’s bottom drawer. Furiously shuffling through them as though she was working her well worn Rolodex, she settled on one depicting the Louvre and withdrew it from the stack. “Here it is,” she said in Spanish. Handing it over for my review, grandmother said “this was the defining moment that brought you into this world.” I inspected the well worn post card briefly. I then turned it over. It read: “I’m sorry. I’m not coming home.”
It was just an average Tuesday like any other. Cloudy skies, the roar of cars and motorcycles echoing from the nearby tunnel, the bakers and butchers selling their wares on the street as he stepped out of the metro. Father was a practical and calculated man in both thought and emotion. Walking up six flights of stairs that lead to his destination, the furthest thing from his mind was any nuance of true love or destiny. “It’s for the birds,” he would often say to his close Parisian friends over drinks. He believed a series of chemical reactions in the body caused the “illusion” of love. A presumably forward thinking man, he shunned most commonly accepted concepts and practices. This included love and religion. Walking through the front door of his sister’s house while simultaneously removing his scarf, father and mother locked eyes. He was converted. Instantly.