Three nights ago my old friend Jackson Hall gave me a ring. It was urgent. At least it seemed urgent. But Jackson is a very serious man and everything seems urgent with him.
“Quentin seems to be doing well.” he said. There was no howdy or hello. No how’ya doing, but there was a distinct sound of ice cubes jingling in a full glass. “It’s faring at least better than its namesake.”
“Yes, I’m surprised that people are actually using it. And I’m glad it hasn’t drowned itself the way its namesake did.”
“You’re doing the world a great service. I met a girl not long ago who told me to check out her blog as a come-on, like ‘Hey, you should check out my blog’. It turns out she’s insane. I was able to tell by reading her blog. I’m glad I was able to find this out before the usually messiness.” I seemed to recall a restraining order sometime in Jackson’s past as he said these words.
The impact of self publishing has hit both of us harder in the past year than anything in memory. Technology that neither of us understand is allowing us to disseminate our respective work to a wide audience, something that would have been impossible a mere handful of years ago.
“This is all madness. There is no controlling any of this, or understanding it. And that is what is great about it. Soon, we’ll need no record companies.” He chortled. Jackson had recently returned to the typewriter and was in the middle of writing an essay on totalitarianism and art. “I’ve been working on it off and on for years. There is simply too much emotion involved to work on it nonstop. And writing is dangerous business you know.”
“Indeed I do.” I said. “Especially when the machinery begins to change.”
The conversation quickly switched to music. There is no avoiding this with Jackson. He is avid listener and his instincts are spot-on. The current sad state of music is something that bothers us both but he has a better perspective on it: “Music’s always been bad. It’s just that we only remember the good.”
“I suppose I can agree with that.” I said, vaguely trying to recall something that could bolster the theory.
“Saying that music is bad is like saying that the grass is green or that Saturday Night Live is bad. It’s one of those things that everybody says. They say it so much that it has no meaning. But people still watch Saturday Night Live.”
“But SNL used to have better musical performers too. Tom Waits played there. Paul Simon. The Stones. George Harrison even did an impromptu version of Here Comes the Sun with Paul Simon. We’re nowhere near any of that now. These days you get Ashlee Simpson lip-syncing to a broken record.”
“You fool.” He snorted. “None of that matters. Fifteen years from now no one will remember Ashlee Simpson or her bimbo sister. SNL will still suck, but people will still watch it.” Jackson’s impatience with my lack of faith in his theory was beginning to show, but he wisely chose to change the subject. “But I’ll tell you what’s really been getting me going lately…sports.”
“Oh yeah. I’m really liking sports these days. When the Sox won the world series, it gave me a high that music hasn’t given me since I heard Sweet Jane for the first time. It was wonderful.”
“Oh, you Boston ex-patriots. You’re all the same.” I said.
“There’s something purely red-blooded American about sports and I dig it.”
“Well you picked a bad time tell me. It’s March. Which means it’s college basketball play-offs.” I’ve never liked basketball, nor any sport that is played indoors.
“Yeah, I hate basketball. I’ve never understood it…but I hear Knoxville’s Lady-Vols are doing well. Is the men’s team any good?”
“Good lord no, man” I said. Tennessee’s basketball team is currently without a coach and has been without a winning record for some time. “Knoxville is a football town. We’ve got a stadium worthy of ancient greece dedicated to the game that is nearly as violent. There will never be a viable men’s basketball team here. And the Lady-Vols will never get the respect they deserve because they’re the girls team. The only girl sport that anyone watches is tennis.”
“True, that.” He said. I could hear him jingling ice cubes in an empty glass, which meant our conversation would soon be over. There was, in between the bombastic sports analogies and the hazy digressions that come from heavy drinking, a certain amount of poignancy in his words. A person who’s always lived on the euphoric frenzy of a rock-n-roll induced adrenaline rush the way Jackson has must eventually seek it elsewhere when rock-n-roll fails him.
I imagined him swirling the melting ice in a near-dark room in Chapel Hill. His eyes very sleepy, but still wide open. Silently contemplating Molly Shannon, basketball, totalitarianism and art, wondering how he could piece it all together.
“I suppose I need to get back to my essay.” He said at last. I looked at the clock. 3:15 a.m. “I’ve gotten a good enough break from it to return to it now.”
“Okay man.” I said. “I’m anxious to read it.”
“Yeah. The barbarians are at the gate and they take no prisoners and show no mercy. I need to finish it.”
“Well, don’t risk too much now.”
“This is art Pike.” he said. “It’s like football and politics. The winners will always have blood on their hands, I think Hunter S. Thompson said that, or something like it.”