The World of Music and Me
by C. Matthew Rictus

Music and science have a lot in common.
Ah, sweet memories. 'Twas many the evening in years gone by that I would breeze into a crowded Two Bells Tavern, seek out my customary stool and, warm Guinness in hand, regale my friends within earshot with tales and asides from the world of particle physics. There are few things more satisfying than the feeling of "giving something back" to the society which has given me so much pleasure. I would teach them about electrons and ions and axions and how -- think about it -- how fundamental they are. (Get it? There would be no "society" without them.) And how things are different from the way they were in the early days. The innocence is lost.
On occasion during my allocutions, and not unexpectedly, some young go-getter would, emboldened no doubt by his beverage, work up his pluck and pick my brains a bit. Test my stuff, even; make a sport of it. He'd offer up something like, "Firstly, the correct term is not 'axion.' It is 'axon.' It is not a fundamental particle but is in fact a type of neural synapse. It is completely inappropriate to refer to axons as 'derivative and unoriginal.'"
Sigh. We've all encountered moments like this in our weary travels down this road called Life. Sometimes it's hard to know what to say. But I'll let you in on a little lesson I learned long ago from a close personal friend of mine who goes by the name Experience: at times like these, whatever else you do, remember to prevail with a sense of style. And thus I would pin the brash lad for a moment with a level gaze, clear my throat with an air of ennui, and before the upstart even knows what's happened I have ever-so-surgically changed the subject because one cannot reason with a drunken ASS very stylishly.
It's rather like kicking a kitten. Really can't be done stylishly. Best to just walk away.
Like I said, sweet memories. Eventually I turned to music. Learned all the band names, and many of the band terms; even bought myself a CD or two. Music is my true calling, I think. Oh, facts and figures have their place. But frankly I suspect I had taken science pretty much as far as it could go. It just didn't nourish my musical side. Not the way music does, anyway.
And yes, it still happens: I will be there of an evening, nursing my warm Guinness and otherwise quietly minding my own business, speaking extemporaneously about the relative importance of the local music scene. About real hip-hop (not that corporate stuff) and my adventures in the mash pit and how to truly listen to this rich and funky double-LP entitled Life. And comes a cocksure young intellect, full of swagger (and a touch of tipsy?), to enter into a spirited game of one-upmanship. Finding out what he's made of, maybe; testing his young wings. All well and good and been there and done that.
But things are so different now. You see, music isn't about facts and figures. It's about passion, and what's inside of you. So there's no need for a dispiriting riposte on my part; in fact, it would be inappropriate. Now the rest of us just listen to the young philosopher and sip our warm Guinness and think quietly: thanks for sharing your "feelings," Dweezil. You don't even know all the band terms the way C. Matthew does. You sound like a drunken ASS.
So that's how it all began. That was three long years ago ... can you believe it? And I share this with you now because I believe that if you are going to value my opinions, it would help if you knew why. But don't just take my word for it. Read my music review, which follows. You'll find it quite interesting now.

Stratfool and Err Guitar:
Two Neat New Bands for the Next Millennium

What's a music critic got to do to get free admission in this shitty little town?
Before it was closed down by the Health Department back in '89, the cute little Fremont disco Buggsie's used to "reach out to the community" once a week by offering special Discount Nites for selected groups who otherwise -- because of social prejudices -- were not welcome. Along with their popular Ladies Nites and Seniors Nites they offered a special Breeders Nite, during which the admission price for heterosexuals was lowered to $5, with gay patrons, as on other nights, getting in free.
Nice idea; but not as simple as it sounds, if you think about it. What with evolving trends in fashion, mannerism and the way we see each other, today's young people all pretty much seem gay. The question, then: how to charge customers appropriately without treading on anyone's basic rights. I mean, you can't just ask them. That's a privacy issue.
But sexual preference is all about preference. What sort of sex arouses you? Sex with sixties screen idol Bobbie Sherman? Think about it scientifically. That's what Buggsie's did. Prior to payment, would-be patrons filed past a large color rendering of Bobbie -- his dimpled smile captured perfectly in subtle half-hues -- receiving a vigorous prostate exam. If such a thing were to be arousing to you, you'd be able to tell, as would your neighbors. Heterosexuals in any given batch were highlighted in bold relief via their lackluster efforts in this regard.
But consider those two seemingly harmless little words. Noticable Erection. That's exactly as they appeared on the sign. Alas: as a result of two drab, tiresome little words, what seemed at first blush to be a plan elegant in its simplicity evolved into one of those tiresome philosophical debates about words, and what they "mean." As in: how a thing is defined, and for how long, and of course by whom, my god a man knows his own body. Suffice it to say that I have no interest in this kind of "debate," and grew weary of it (sometimes I wonder if there's such a thing as having too much class). So, yes, they got their crumpled Lincoln-bill. They even got a peckish smile. And please, readers, don't hate them for what they did; it's not as if they have some sort of "mental problem" or something. They're not "completely oblivious" persons or something like that. To use an example, I know for an absolute fact that when their clogged toilets backed up raw sewage onto the dance-floor, they "noticed" that. And how. So it would seem they just have different priorities.
Well, that was in the 80's. And now we are here in modern times; and things change. You can't discriminate on the basis of sexual preference anymore. You have to find other ways. And now comes a hot new club onto the Seattle scene which is endeavoring to revive the old principles of psycho-sexual clientele sorting ... with a lesbian twist! Clambanger's is a cozy little hole-in-the-wall conveniently located on Capitol Hill. They warmly welcome each customer using a sliding scale based on an elegantly simple notion: they don't discriminate based on sexual preference -- that's a hate-crime -- but rather on sexual preferableness. It's free entry for lesbian-patrons who please the eye; ugly ones, fork over a fiver.
No, this is not simply based on some sort of opinion; that could lead to argument, or hurt feelings. There to greet patrons at the door every night is Nancy Herkimer -- the club's gregarious, mildly-retarded owner -- along with her retainers. Attractiveness is confirmed when a patron passes Ms. Herkimer's learned eye and she issues a bold amorous tone and struggles against her restraints. It sounds unpleasant but it works.
It's also more than reasonable, as it turns out, because in the first two weeks following the club's opening not one single dyke was ghastly enough to not summon forth in Ms. Herkimer a prominent excitation. With those kinds of odds, it makes one wonder how many frugal fellows, out for a night of revelry, have had the idea that they might hunch up their shoulders a bit, get in touch with an inner anger, and stroll into the popular Seattle fun-spot as non-paying lesbians. Only to then be bluntly confronted with a grim realization: so, it's as I've long suspected. I am an attractive man, to be sure ... but it seems I am a very ugly woman.
Disputations in this regard are managed with a surprising near-absence of rough handling. And yes, they got their prized Abe-spot. I'm sure I flipped it onto the counter with the utmost air of unflappability. And, as it happened, my five dollars bought me a delightful evening of music and camaraderie. Later, as I exited, I informed a member of the crack Clambanger's management team that something absolutely awful had happened, that there was Sapphism all over the dance-floor. But she just looked at me. Again, it comes down to priorities.
Or does it? I don't know ... I'm starting to think that perhaps it was that old problem of words, and what it is that they mean. Because, although I had indeed taken the selfless step of alerting the young woman, I realize now that I neglected to do so using the expedient of slang. Yes, that must have been it. I am to blame, then. Oh, don't worry, I won't chastise myself unduly. After all, it's not my concern anymore. It's in the hands of the Health Department now.
The band Err Guitar performed there that night and they were awful.
Say, are you familiar with the phrase, "Birthdays are where you find them"? If not, acquaint yourself with it now. It means that a birthday is not merely some sort of day; it is a feeling. A feeling about celebrating one's life on this old globe by receiving gifts and regaling one's friends and acquaintances with clever tales and asides.
I learned this wise truth when I was a lad, from my parents. Remember the old ice cream parlour and restaurant Fratelli's, over on the east side? Birthday kids ate free on weeknights. As my folks would dine quietly in the main room, I was being feted in the Fun Room. Party poppers, horns, siren. An enormous clown would sing my praises in stentorian tones, as the spotlights whirled and I serenely ate my complimentary sandwich and chips. And during the ride home, my parents would nestle me between them in the front seat and tell each other that, truly, the best gifts in life are free. And because, as I explained, a birthday is not a particular day but a feeling, they would do this 20 or 30 times a year, because that's how often they would have that feeling. Interestingly, I sometimes think I could blame all my adult neuroses on this one unique childhood experience if I had any.
Well, old Fratelli's was closed down years ago. But the Fratelli brothers are back, with all their old marketing genius intact. At their cozy new club, The Frathouse, birthday celebrants receive a free beverage. I'm serious. You just breeze on up to the bar, tell them it's your birthday, and lay claim to your free beverage. Catch? There is no catch whatsoever. And then, because birthdays are meant to be celebrations, you are treated to a complimentary Frathouse "hazing."
Ah, hazing. Takes me back to my college days, when I would hear of such things. Forty bare-bottomed spanks laid down by callused, lingering hands. And I said, "This ... is ... [sip] ... this is derivative and unoriginal!" In the early days, before commercialism and what people call "fame" ruined the innocence, we didn't spank for money or for "fame." We spanked for the joy of it. The sheer damn joy. But now things are different. The gents at the Frathouse found this fascinating. And then I had to wear a jock-strap on my head that had not been washed for thirty days.
Oh, and the Guinness? Yeah, man. It was warm, sudsy. It was good.
It was free.
Free. Thanks Mum. Thanks Pap.
The band Stratfool performed that night and they were perfectly fine I suppose.

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