THE VOICE WAS UNMISTAKABLE. Sharp and high-pitched as it pushed its way from the ceiling down to the floor. I listened more attentively trying to peg the voice. Then it hit me.

“Is that that Billy Corgan?” I asked my wife.  We were walking into a popular clothing store.

“Sure sounds like it,” she said.

“Did he make a Christmas album?”

“I do believe those are jingle bells.”

“Cow bells also. And a xylophone,” I said.

A young man, roughly twenty years of age, approached us as we entered in full. He wore a bright smile and headset. A mic was positioned just at his mouth. He looked like a telephone operator.

Gaydar had spotted him some twenty feet back. Less Red October. More Pink November. He wore a light blue button down oxford. The sleeves were pushed up to his elbows. Like the Brawny Man. Or Chuck Norris when he’s cracking skulls. Or the Brawny Man in earlier photos because the Brawny Man in earlier photos looks like Chuck Norris wearing flannel when he is about to crack skulls with his sidekick, Trevett.

“Good afternoon,” the retail clerk said.  Beaming.  Slightly effeminate voice.  Looking in my wife’s direction. “If I can be of any assistance, please let me know. And one last thing: May I direct your attention to our new line of jeans that just came in this morning?”

Just came in from a Chinese sweatshop, I thought to myself. How many knuckles of overworked child laborers bled over this curvy fit, dark denim?

‘Stop being cynical,’ the internal narrator of my life, whom I call Jason, countered. ‘Your clothes were probably sewn together in an Indonesian sweat shop by a woman eight months pregnant who is enceinte for the sole reason that she was raped by her sweatshop boss. Really, there is no use in fighting it. You could tiptoe through life all you wanted and you would never escape the effects of globalization. Even if you wore a garbage bag as clothing you’d never escape. Do you know how many garbage bags are imported from India each year?’

I had no idea how many garbage bags were imported from India each year.

“Oh I like these,” my wife said to me. “Now help me find a top.”

She had not dragged me along. I volunteered to help her clothes shop. I can’t dress myself for shit but do have a considerable eye for what looks good on the ladies. I am the white reincarnation of Leon Phelps and usually stop off for a fish sandwich sometime after my time spent as a heterosexual fashionista.

Being a fashionista is oftentimes exhausting work and requires a reboosting of blood glucose levels. Glucose is a fancy way of saying “sugar.” 1 in 3 American children will be diagnosed with diabetes in their lifetime and 1 in 3 are already considered overweight or obese partially because of jacked up glucose levels from most everything they eat containing high fructose corn syrup.

“If we’d drop the damn embargo against Cuba and bring in some real sugar cane to this country we wouldn’t have this problem,” my old college roommate Kelly McDowell-McCormick used to say. He’s Irish. In case you couldn’t tell by the name. “You ever drink any Old English 800? That’s good shit.”

He used to always fill the top row of our apartment’s refrigerator with OE800; that, and Chinese take-out. He spent a summer in China and came back with a bootlegged copy of Thank You for Smoking and was so inspired by the Chinese culture he took a job as a rickshaw driver when he got back to the States.

The two of us scoured the store high and low in what was becoming a somewhat futile attempt at piecing together a single outfit.

“What about this,” my wife asked holding up a thin, long-sleeved pink shirt that appeared to be made of spandex with a ruffled front.

Spandex, or elastane, is more durable than rubber and can be stretched up to 500% from its original size and still retain its original form. Because of this statement alone, “more durable than rubber,” spandex should never be worn as an outer layer of clothing.

Because of the second half of this statement (“can be stretched up to 500% from its original size and still retain its original form”), spandex should never be worn as an outer layer of clothing.

Unless you are Heidi Klum. Or Eva Green from the film The Dreamers.

“Their selection is sort of eh,” my wife said. Her face turned sour. “What about this?”

“It’s okay but, I mean, it won’t exactly keep you warm either. Winter is fast approaching and it’s already cold as balls out. And balls are pretty cold, usually 1-2 degrees cooler than normal body temperature. It’s the only way the male species can produce viable sperm and continue the human race. How about this sweater,” I finished.

Inquisitively she responded, “With the buttons on the shoulder?”

“Yep. It’s different. I know.”

“No, I like it actually. I just didn’t think you’d go for something like that.”

“That sweater is hot like Tex Pecante,” I said.

“What,” she said.

She grabbed the two items, paused, found the “Fitting Room” sign and proceeded in that trajectory. I stayed close by her side as if a small puppy with its owner.

I began searching for the man chair but only found, the closer we walked toward the fitting room, another man standing. His hands were in his pockets. He rocked back and forth on the balls and pads of his feet. He wore somewhat dirty and scuffed Adidas running sneakers, a black cap with orange and red flames, which is truly the type of hat that should never be worn in public and why firing squads still exist in Somalia, and had unkempt facial hair.

“Back in a minute,” my wife said smiling walking toward the fitting room. The man with the unkempt facial hair pulled out his cell phone and acted like he was checking for missed calls or text messages but he wasn’t. He wasn’t because I was getting ready to pull out my cell phone to see if I had any missed calls or new text messages. Because that’s what you do when you can’t find the man chair.

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JEFFREY PILLOW is a contributing writer for The Nervous Breakdown and Hoops Addict. He lives in Charlottesville with his wife, daughter, and dog -- three separate entities. A certified basketball junkie, he also loves cheddar cheese and poorly crafted science fiction thriller films involving cold-blooded animals and bad acting. SEE Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. His work has appeared on Yahoo! Sports, USA Today, and 16 Blocks magazine et al. Visit him online at www.jeffreypillow.com.

23 responses to “In Search of the Man Chair; or Was that Billy Corgan?: Part I”

  1. I totally love that you call your internal narrator “Jason.” Do you know if that’s his real name, or is that just the name he gave you when he started?

    I have to admit I was going to make a correction re: glucose and sugar, but I know you were going for comic effect, so nah. Mainly because your overall point about high fructose corn syrup is pretty well supported, for the most part (I’m not entirely convinced, myself. I tend to think the leading cause of obesity is lazy).

    Awesome post, though. I’ve so been there. I like the stores where you get a man couch, but then sometimes you have to share it, which can be awkward.

  2. Jason entered my life when I was a wee young man. He was my imaginary friend. I don’t remember him that well now. I just remember he committed suicide by jumping off the diving board into the swimming pool. That’s about it. It was late autumn. There is no water in the pool in late autumn. My mom will bring up Jason on occasion even today. So everytime I get that voice in my head… not a crazy voice mind you, a voice of reason more than anything. Some people call it a Conscience. I call him Jason. Everybody deserves a proper name in my opinion even if they don’t have a social security number.

    As for glucose not being the same as sugar… I’m going to kick my grandpa’s diabetic ass for lying to me about that. We shall see who does and doesn’t get chocolate covered candy canes in their stocking this year. We shall see.

    • Oh, no, don’t do that! It’s a scientific distinction: glucose is a sugar, but it’s a specific name for a specific form with a specific structure. Fructose and sucrose are others. Which is why you’re right about fructose; it tends to trick the body. Also, it’s, like three times as sweet as glucose.

      And wait, your imaginary friend committed suicide? Am I misunderstanding?

      • I’ve always assumed it was suicide. I didn’t push him. And he would have known better than to have gone for a dip in late autumn. They used to drain the pool not long after Labor Day. What’s strange to me is I’m not a morbid person so I kept trying to figure out why my imaginary friend would be taken out by a concrete face plant. I mean, I was like 5 or 6-years-old tops when that took place.

        Then one day, years later, YouTube got big. I was on YouTube one evening and one of the recommended videos for me was for the Drug Free America commercials from back in the 1980s. I have no idea why. I had been searching for funny videos. The one recommended was the “I learned it from watching you, dad” bit. However, it was then I realize that the commercial I was most terrified of when I was a kid was the one where the woman is all high on drugs and decides to go swimming. She jumps off the diving board and in mid-air, the camera shows the viewer and the jumper that there is no water in the pool. I used to always be afraid that would happen to me when I jumped off the diving board. So… I guess that’s the missing link to the death of my imaginary friend in childhood. Ironically, I do still enjoy running and I love fried eggs.

        • By the way, do you happen to know how long it takes a gravatar to switch over? I’m trying to match it with my bio picture and it’s still pulling my old gravatar picture when I comment. E-mail address matches and I actually deleted the image that’s appearing and only have the b&w photo remaining as my default.

  3. D.R. Haney says:

    A welcoming list for you, sir.

    1. Jason is the name of the narrator in my recently published novel, who’s something of an alter ego, so that’s something we, in a sense, share.

    2. Here’s another: I used to live in C’ville, where, to be more exact, I was born and raised. I’m usually asked if I went to UVa, and I always say no, but I went to the frat parties, which I did, starting at fourteen, unconvincingly (I thought) passing myself off Cavalier frosh. I was asked to rush St. Elmo’s.

    3. I had a feeling you were about to make your TNB debut when I noted a well-worded comment by you on Brad’s podcast post, and I have been proven right. I love being proven right. Much obliged.

    4. Although I think Billy Corgan is a terrific songwriter and musician and so on, I can’t stand the sound of his voice, which reminds me of Geddy Lee.

    5. Was the store in question on the Corner? If so, I doubt any Indonesian factor in the goods on sale.

    6. Do you know TNB’s Doug Mulliken?

    7. Is the name Breece D’J Pancake ever whispered in the UVa English Department? I know it must have been whispered a great deal at one point, but I’m curious as to whether that remains the case.

    8. Nice “print” touch, with the opening line in caps.

    9. Please don’t feel a need to respond to all, of any, of this. I’m just wasting time because, as a writer, it’s part of my job.

    10. I have nothing to add, but ten is always a favored number for lists.

    • D.R.

      Small world. You being from C’ville and all. After graduating from the University of Virginia I decided to stick around. Actually, I tried to leave. I wanted to go to New York City and one of my old professors had a job lined up for me as an editor’s assistant but I couldn’t get my then-girlfriend-now-wife to take the bait on NYC. So I’m still here. And I have to admit, I love it. It’s vastly different from where I grew up and there are a number of readers and writers lingering around.

      Nope, not the Corner. We were at the lovely Fashion Square Mall up 29.

      Breece D’J Pancake: I actually HAVE heard that name. He was quoted in one of my lectures oddly enough. Never read anything by him but maybe I’ll have to now. I haven’t heard that name in years.

      Doug Mulliken? No, but I’m guessing he’s from the Charlottesville area.

      I appreciate the welcome aboard. Look forward to reading your work as well.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        You can call me Duke. Do you go only by Jeffrey, or also by Jeff?

        Doug Mulliken is a contributor to TNB. He’s originally from Southern California, but he went, I think, to grad school at UVa — the English department — and he’s still in Charlottesville. I thought maybe you might have bumped into him at some point, or possibly had found your way to TNB via Doug.

        Breece Pancake, meantime, was long ago an English grad student at UVa, where he was taught by, among others, John Casey. He killed himself under very strange circumstances, and his collected stories were published posthumously and praised — overpraised, I think — by critics and the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, who called his debut the most exciting since Hemingway’s. He was only twenty-six at the time of his death, so only a few of the stories really stand up. I mean, they’re good, all of them, but some feel a bit stiff and student-ish.

        Charlottesville is a fine place if you aren’t forced to grow up there. Many who did, I’m sure, love it, but it’s a very, very snotty town in ways that may escape transplants, particularly those affiliated with the university. I could never master the preppy thing, and I was immune to the scenery and bored besides, so I could hardly wait to get out.

        Thanks for responding to me. I was afraid, after the fact, that my comment may have been off-puttingly flippant.

  4. D.R. Haney says:

    Per #9: That was meant to be “or any.” Typos are part of a writer’s job too.

  5. Welcome aboard, Jeffrey and Jason! Nice to have you aboard.

    Oddly enough, my old nom-de-plume/alternate persona was also Jason. Funny, that.

    Ah, yes, the old pretend-to-be-checking-my-phone routine… how many times has it saved the day?

    • I think we all choose Jason subconsciously because we are part of the Friday the 13th generation. Either that or it just seems more of a strong name as compared to something like Bob. Not that there is anything wrong with a name like Bob. If your name is Bob and you’re reading this I mean no offense.

  6. Mary says:

    The first time I heard that Billy Corgan Christmas song (is it really him? I still have trouble believing it) I figured everyone in the world had already accepted that one of our favorite former alt rock stars had finally sold out for real to that most evil of evils — the Chistmas music industry. I mean, really. Ugh. Nothing makes you realize how bad a musician’s voice really is quite like hearing them sing a hokey Christmas song. It’s almost as bad as when I realized how bad Eddie Vedder’s voice really is after hearing that song about the girl dying in a drunk driving accident. I mean, what the hell, Eddie? Anyway, what made him think he was going to save the world by writing “pro-choice” on his arm in Sharpie? Remember that? Rock stars are such dolts.

    Right. Nice piece. Nice to have you here! 🙂

  7. I like Jason. I wish I had a narrator like that in my head. Instead it’s just a confused mess up there.

  8. Barry says:

    Ironically enough, my internal narrator IS Billy Corgan.

    Also, you may want to listen to this song: “What if the Guy from Smashing Pumpkins Lost His Car Keys?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYu-85fvEYc

    • Every time I see an image of Billy Corgan, I am reminded of the scene in Star Wars when Darth Vader, also known as the Dark Lord of the Sith and/or The Supreme Commander, takes off his helmet and reveals his pale, white, and misshapen head to Luke. Maybe one of the more disappointing moments in film history. I was really young when I first saw this. I believe it was the first time I ever cursed out loud, saying something like, “James Earl Jones–what the fuck?”

      When the new Star Wars movies came out, that moment in cinematographic history was somewhat redeemed but still…

  9. Barry says:

    Ironically, BIlly Corgan IS my internal narrator.

    Also, take a listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYu-85fvEYc

  10. […] Continued from my first TNB post one year ago, “In Search of the Man Chair; or, Was That Billy Corga… […]

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