For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.
Took the red-eye flight back to NYC and arrived home around 6am. Slept all day, hoping maybe I’d dream up a real good story idea. Now it’s 11:20 and I’ve got 40 minutes to make magic happen. The page is blank. My brain is blank. To be honest, I don’t know what I’m about to write, if anything. I’m just going to start typing and see where that gets me.
It Was Weezer!
I’m listening to an old Frank Black album and remembering the first time I heard it. My friend John and I were driving back to Brooklyn, where we shared an apartment at the time. We had driven to Texas to visit friends and family for Christmas, and I had picked up this CD at a used bookstore. My car stereo broke on the way home, so we had to listen to music through a battery powered portable “jam box” we picked up somewhere in Arkansas.
John was always my favorite road trip partner. When we lived together we spent a lot of time in the car, from short day trips to overnight mini-vacations. One key to our road trip success was that we were always in good music-sync, meaning we always agreed on what music to listen to at any point during the drive. We didn’t have iPods back then, so we’d spend hours putting together a travel kit of essential CDs–a mix of indie rock, weird prog rock, an assortment of 80s New Wave bands and five years of 70s “AM Gold” compilations.
Usually by the end of the trip, though, we’d get bored with all of our CDs and start making up other ways to entertain ourselves. This included making up our own songs, our own jokes and our own travel games.
The songs were ridiculous a cappella anthems full of silly pop culture references. There was one about Blossom and one about Bill Cosby. The only one I really remember was called “Bebe’s Kids” –a song that simultaneously honored and (unintentionally) insulted the stand up comedy of Robin Harris. We sang this one in harmony and ended it, as we did all our songs, with “Sha la la la.”
The jokes we made up later became published articles–I guess cracking each other up was the best way to workshop our material. Like our celebrity knock knock jokes that kept us entertained from Ohio to Bedford-Stuyvesant:
Knock knock. Who’s there?
…Wiliam Shatner. William Shatner who? William Shatner mouth.
…Tempest Bledsoe. Tempest Bledsoe who? Tempest Bledsoe much she passed out.
…Ed Begley. Ed Begley who? Ed Begley, Jr.
The best were the games, though. John came up with this modified 20-questions game, in which one of us would think of a band and the other would have to ask questions to try and guess it. And John played it pretty sincerely, asking smart questions that would narrow down his options until he guessed the right band. Whereas I would try to think of the most unhelpful questions in the world, like “Does anyone in the band have brown hair?”
After days of driving, this is the kind of thing I found hilarious.
I also liked to trick John by making him guess his own bands. John had been in more than 20 bands in half as many years, so I would pick one of them when it was his turn to guess. He’d ask questions like, “Is it a well-known band?” and I’d answer, “Everyone you know knows this band.” It would take him forever to figure it out, and even longer when I did it again on my next turn.
But I think we both share our favorite round of this game. John was trying to get me to guess and had given up on me asking the right questions, so he was just giving me clues. He said things like, “popular early 90s band,” and “very influential,” and “people don’t always admit it, but everyone has their first album.”
I perked up at the last clue, and said, in all seriousness, “Oh! I’ve got it! Is it the California Raisins?”
I don’t know if the hilarity of that moment really translates well here. I guess to a couple of music nerds, the very idea that The California Raisins were an “influential” band was more than we could take. I could barely keep a straight face through “raisins” and started to laugh so hard that I began to cough. I couldn’t breathe. I was afraid I was going to pee my pants. John was crying, he was laughing so hard, and looking at him made me laugh even harder. I had to pull over and park so that we didn’t crash the car. John, who could barely speak, managed to choke out the words, “It… was… Weezer!” before collapsing into laughter again.
I’m sure it’s not the first time someone confused Weezer with The Raisins. Right?
I eventually managed to get it together enough to drive the rest of the way home. But it was the end of our game. John put something in the jam box–maybe even this Frank Black CD–and we headed for the Williamsburg Bridge.