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Dancing Centaurs, Sleeping Guitarist: I Am So Sorry

March 30th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon



Robbie Guertin of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Originally uploaded by Staciaann Photography

It sounded like a bunch of centaurs were following an exercise video upstairs, right above my bed this morning. Interesting visual, but at 7 AM there ain’t a damn thing more fascinating and beautiful than the backs of my eyelids underneath the blankets.

The sound clarified, resolving itself in my ears the way blurry, doubled vision clears up. There was maybe only one centaur upstairs. It clarified a little further to where it sounded pretty much like what it was: a large woman — or slender man — doing a bunch of jumping jacks.

The apartment immediately above my bed belongs to a guy named Robbie (or Robert) Guertin. Those of you who are into your bigger indie bands will recognize that name as the guy who plays guitars and keyboards for the band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

He’s a nice enough guy, as near as I can tell. We go about our business and say “hi” politely when we see one another. A couple years ago I interviewed him and photographed the band at the Virgin Fest and he was real nice then, too.

A few months ago, Robbie and/or a female friend were practicing some music in their apartment above me at about 1 AM on a school night. And the song wasn’t bad, either, as near as I could tell through the ceiling. It did go on, as songs do when you’re practicing them at home and you want to get them just right.

And after a while I had just had enough, but I felt awful about it. I like music, miss playing music, and I know what it’s like to have to work some music out in the apartment, where you feel so comfortable but sounds travel so far.

I never thought I’d be that dude, but here I was, banging on somebody’s door to stop the rock ‘n roll because I had a big meeting in the morning. Robbie was real nice and understanding about it, and everything was cool.

Then came the jumping jacks this morning. And even though it has been maybe six months since the band practice, I was like “oh for FUCK’s SAKE. NOW WHAT.” I am an ugly, short-tempered thing before noon, barely rational after eight hours’ sleep and 3 cups of coffee.

But getting woke up by your upstairs neighbor’s jumping jacks workout … that’s just the worst thing about New York right there.
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Reverend Al Sharpton Hates Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band

November 14th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

During the time that I was in Royal Quiet Deluxe (chicken band), I was invited to a large dinner with the Reverend Al Sharpton. Everyone had to go around the table and describe who they were and what they did. I was neither an accomplished member of the community in Norfolk, nor was I African-American. Everyone else at the table was both. I just kinda ran with a description of the band.

It did not go well. At all. In fact, the evening rippled throughout my life for about ten years, causing tremendous embarassment in a comic book store this summer.

Here’s a video of me telling the story on stage at The Moth:

I think I’ve just about milked this chicken band thing for all it’s worth now …

You can see the companion to this story here:

Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band

A story by The Moth’s Jim O’Grady here:

Jim O’Grady on “Respect”

And a story by The Moth’s Juliet here:

Juliet Tells the Tale of ‘Mannequin Dan’

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Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band: Now the Story is Told on Video

November 3rd, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Today is national fix-the-country day, and it’s gonna be a long one. No matter what side you’re on, you’re probably sick of the campaigning by now. As a little distraction from all the election-related news you’re sure to be drowning in, I thought I’d post a video of me telling the story of Royal Quiet Deluxe, (chicken band) at The Moth.

By way of comparison, you can read a written version of the story here.

The story links to one of our recordings, made with a primitive drum machine, delay/loop pedal, and my tireless prattling.

The following track, though, is a different sort of sound collage. We recorded it on the front porch of Tim’s parent’s place out in Botetourt County, VA, one hot summer evening. You can hear crickets and locusts in the background, something I think is pretty cool. I am playing the typewriter as percussion here, Tim is playing guitar, and the chickens are pecking and vocalizing. Tim mixed in a recording about Exotic Newcastle Disease in Southern California that was recorded over the telephone many years later, and presto — you have:

Exotic Newcastle Disease, by Royal Quiet Deluxe

There’s one more story in this saga. I’ve told it onstage at a Moth event recently, and I’m waiting to get ahold of the video so I can crunch it and post it here — and I’m working on the text version for those of you that want the full-on boxed-set experience. Suffice it to say that while the Internet has helped me find a whole new audience for this band that I never thought existed, I am 100 percent positive that the Reverend Al Sharpton still thinks the whole concept of Royal Quiet Deluxe is the stupidest thing he’s ever heard.

You can see a story by The Moth’s Jim O’Grady here:

Jim O’Grady on “Respect”

And a story by The Moth’s Juliet here:

Juliet Tells the Tale of ‘Mannequin Dan’

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Fast Food Frankensteins : The Dessert Edition

September 10th, 2008 by D.Billy

As we near the one-year anniversary of Jeff’s McDonalds-as-pizza-toppings post that the internets loved so well, the Universe has seen fit to bestow upon us a sequel of sorts.  While traveling through Nebraska, Flickr user matthewnstoller and one of his friends happened upon a food cart touting this lovely piece of work:


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Goodbye, Marisol Caceres

August 6th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

flower

I’ve been staring at the screen for days trying to write this and I don’t have any idea what to say. The newspapers have it easy here — they just have to report the facts about strangers. Writing a memorial for the twelve year old sister of a good friend, that’s hard.

When that little girl’s been murdered and the whole thing’s been all over the Washington Post already, it gets even harder.

The father of 12-year-old Marisol Caceres was arrested in her killing and jailed without bond yesterday as more grim details emerged about the girl’s strangulation Tuesday in her family’s Northeast Washington apartment.

I’m just putting this here for the strangers, and I really, really hope Jose and Marisol’s family understand that I’m only repeating this so that strangers understand the story. I’m going to let the Post do the heavy lifting here and just explain my angle …

I met Jose Andrade through the Youth Action Research Group (YARG) early in 2006. I interviewed Jose for this blog back in 2006, about a walkout he and YARG put together at his high school to support a just immigration reform.

Not only was he the most thoughtful, intelligent, precocious and wise 19-year-olds I’d ever met — he may have been one of the wisest human beings I’d ever met. Once he opened up to me a little, he was this busted fire hydrant of knowledge about philosophy, classical music, video games and maybe jazz, too. The only organ bigger than Jose’s mind is his heart. I remember a lot of late nights at our friend Danielle’s place, him telling me about growing up in Columbia Heights while I made us dinner. He was telling me about his apartment when he just trailed off and gaped at the burritos I was putting together.

“You just like, made that right here, man?” he asked. “Can you teach me how?”

I think that may have been one of the most fulfilling nights of my life. We saw each other a lot over the next year, talking about all kinds of stuff — his girlfriend, his dog, school, and his family. He loved his little sister so, so much.

From the Washington Post‘s article about Marisol’s memorial:

“She was open to new friendships and always creating new ones,” her family said in a statement. “She always found a way to make us laugh. She was the youngest of the family yet she was, in many ways, the oldest because of her demeanor. She lived her life vividly by visiting museums, taking up martial arts, and sharing new thoughts and interests.”

She liked soccer, too.

She always took very good care of her little nephew.

She loved her dog, Moe, and her pet birds.

She liked video games and movies.

She never hesitated to share her cosmetology techniques.

And she was always a princess on Halloween.

I never met Marisol, personally. I saw her waving to Jose from across the street, heard him talking about her a lot. It’s hard for me to memorialize someone I never knew directly. But I’ll say this: I saw her effect on Jose, and I could feel his love for her just pour out of him when he told me how smart she was, how kind and giving she was even as such a little girl. Jose and his family had it tougher than most of us can imagine for a very long time, and they had a lot of reasons to be cynical. But when they looked at Marisol they felt pure love and a tremendous, giddy hope.

Now Marisol’s gone, and I’m all the way up here in New York. I have no idea what else I can do. So I’m doing this:

Marisol’s family needs money now. They need it badly. Her mother does not receive generous bereavement benefits. Cell phone bills still need to be paid, laundry needs to be done, and people still need to eat. And above all else: they have to move as soon as possible. Imagine having to come home to that same apartment every night.

***UPDATE***According to my friend Danielle at YARG, the family has since found housing. This does not at all change their need for money, mind you, but they do at least have a new place to sleep and try to rebuild their lives.***
I’ve never asked for donations on here before, and it’s going to be a long, long time before I do it again. But this is really, really important, and every little bit helps. It’s so easy to spend money — five bucks to download the new Radiohead album, thirty bucks on dinner and drinks — and this is so much more important than pretty much anything we could spend money on. I’ve seen users on Reddit buy thousands of dollars worth of flowers for Helen Thomas, seen the Web bail a woman out of credit card debt and help a guy trade a paper clip up to a brand new house. Those are cute stories, and they say something important about the power of crowds and commerce online. But this is a grieving, devastated family that needs real help.

If you’re reading this at work, you can afford to double what you spent on lunch and drop it into the family’s Paypal account. If you’re reading this in a coffee shop, double your check and donate it. Don’t let me stop you from dropping in more, all I’m saying is that doesn’t need to be much — and please pass this on.

Link to this post if you want, or write me through the “Contact Us” page up there and I’ll send you the code for the donations button above. The Web’s an incredible, weird place that can really do some good. If you don’t do it for them, do it for me. And if you have a problem with me, fine, whatever, just please do your part to help this family out.

Jose’s family will be accepting donations through Darling Andrade’s (Jose’s sister) PayPal Account. We chose this method because it is safe, secure, and makes the funds be available to the family immediately. To make a donation, click this button:

Paypal online isn’t comfortable for everyone, and that’s fine. If you would prefer to make your donation in cash or by check — or just want to send a card to express condolences — mail to:

YARG
Attn: Jose Andrade
1419 V St NW
Washington, DC 20009

The family would also be grateful for donations of food. Please the executive director of YARG at danielle@yargdc.org if you are able to prepare food for Jose and his family. She’ll help you coordinate the best way to deliver food to the family, as they will be in different locations throughout the week. Meals are best if they require as little preparation as possible, i.e. meals that can just be reheated or eaten cold.

Jose left this in the comments, and it really sums it up for me:

My family is going through a very difficult time.. and has it becomes clear whose responsible for this hideous act.. strange feelings arise and we have to deal with them in a peaceful and intelligent ways.

Thanks so much for all your help, friends.




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The Beauty Of A C-Cup Face

July 22nd, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon


Here it is, half-past 2 pm on a workday and my fly is ALL the way down. Again. I can’t even remember the last time I went to the bathroom here at the office, but it was definitely before lunch. I can, however, remember the last time this happened.

Yesterday.

And definitely a time or two last week, too. It happens to the best of us, but still. At least twice a week since I started this job, I’ve looked down midway through the afternoon to see the zipper on my suit pants gaping open like a grey and hungry Venus Flytrap.

I have absolutely no explanation for this. I’ve been zipping up my pants for thirty-some years now, so it’s not likely that I’ve started forgetting that particular task. I’m not sure that it’s the pants, either. Honestly, I don’t know what it is. I’ve got two suits, one grey and one black — one for laundry days and Fridays, one for the other times — and zipper lightning strikes them both right in the crotch without honor or pity.

Still, it could be worse.

I was in the cafeteria yesterday assembling my lunch at the salad bar when I switched directions unexpectedly, mistaking tofu for chicken cubes and fixing it when I bumped into a woman in line behind me. I’d guess she was just past her first promotion in the marketing department for one of my company’s cooler media properties. She wore brilliant white pants, pants that perfectly matched two rows of blinding shiny Chiclets in her smile.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s okay, don’t worry about it,” she said. “I made the same mistake yesterday. Enjoy your lunch!” she said, smiling, and turned to walk away, stopping to wave at some friends on her way to the elevators.

When she turned, I saw the copper-colored streak creeping up the back of her perfect white pants. It spread slowly, a Rorshach blot that every lady reads as her worst nightmare.

I was able to grab her just before she got on the elevator. “Uh, I think you’ve sat in something,” I said. “It’s urgent.”

She blushed and said “Oh God. Thank you so much,” backed her way onto the elevator and vanished. Then I noticed my zipper, right as a crowd of people came around the corner.

That’s how it goes. You think you’re so cool, so put together with your unassailable public armor on. Then it turns out you’re the king of a crumbled castle and everyone knows it but you.

There’s this guy in my neighborhood. He’s an older guy, maybe in his sixties — always dressed sharp in creased slacks, a guyabera and a fedora. He stands as tall as his posture will allow. Age is creeping in, but he’s ramrod-straight, always looks you in the eye when he says “hello.” And he always says “hello.” He’s got a really, really large fatty tumour on the side of his face.

Like this, but much bigger. I’d say the side of his face is at least a C-cup. But there he is, walking upright, looking people in the eye, taking that walk all the same.

We’ve all got flaws. Big ones, most of us. They’re like scars for the soul, the spirals that give our personalities their fingerprints. So what’s better, really … primping and preening up a big lie about how slick you are and having everyone else see the truth? Or just getting that tumour out in the sunshine and tanning that thing until you’re laughing in your coffin?

My fly’s still down, and it’s staying down. And when I get bored I’m going to feed that hungry flytrap bits of burger meat, just to see what happens.

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25 Pounds of Dead Ferrets in the Freezer: Just TRY Not to Judge

February 1st, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

All kinds of dorky hobbies are out of the closet now that the geeks have inherited the earth. Sci-fi’s a big enterprise now (har har) … now that “Lost” and computer programming is big business, all the nerds like me are out of the closet and partying in the light, blinking while our eyes adjust to the brightness of the pop-culture spotlight.

Loving comic books was once an express ticket to a lonely lifetime in Mom’s basement. Now they’re big, big blockbusting big business. I dated an actual human woman once who took me to see “300″ and “Spiderman 3.” It was her idea. Here in New York, a grown man can wear a Batman t-shirt out in public without shame. It’s a beautiful thing.

Now that all us nerds are out basking in uncloseted comfort, we owe something to the rest of the world. We shouldn’t forget what it was like to be punished for something as simple as liking things the rest of the world didn’t get. We got to be respectful, got to be patient with strangers’ weird obsessions. Even when it’s really, really tough to get.

Seeing a guy on a unicycle just breaks my heart. I imagine him in a completely empty apartment, empty save for a pile of burger wrappers and dust bunnies … and a unicycle lying in the middle of the floor. He says aloud, “Well, that’s it. Everything’s gone, all of it. The worst is over, but one thing’s for sure: I’l never get laid again. Might as well learn to love this unicycle …” Heartbreaking. But it’s not my place to judge.

A Segway — that’s the unicycle 2.0. It’s even more pathetic than a unicycle because it doesn’t even require any physical skills to operate. Cops that ride Segways around might as well be on My LIttle Pony big wheels for all the respect they inspire. But I digress.

On one level it’s pretty easy to keep an open mind. Live and let live and just work for the weekend, and it’s all gonna be cool.

However, ferret lovers exist on an entirely different level altogether. Ferrets are kinda cute, I’ll give them that. But so are subway rats. Ferrets are long rats, plain and simple. And there’s something about die-hard ferret lovers that really, really creeps me out:

I keep watching this thing, over and over, and I’m trying to stop judging, trying to get beyond to a higher place. But man, NOTHING’S gonna make that okay.

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Book Rental Service: The Tower Is Crumbling

January 29th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Bookbuster2

I was talking with a programmer at work the other day about the development of the Internet and web-enabled discourse. He was saying that back then, in the ’80s and early ’90s, pretty much anyone you talked to online was going to be pretty smart — you had to be, just to know what the Internet was and how to use it.

Now the worm has turned, and it’s choking on mouthfuls of its own nutritious excrement. The very thing that’s brought so many smart people together and fostered an exchange of ideas is making our kids stupid, filling their soft little impressionable skulls with marshmallow fluff and grey dishwater.

The Tower of Babel is crumbling, people. Look at this and try to tell me I’m wrong.

The illustration above is by my talented friend David William — pretty sharp, huh?

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Hate The Hair, Love the Balls

January 25th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

I posted something last night about the worst haircut I’ve ever seen, complete with a cute little drawing to illustrate it. At about 6 pm, both BoingBoing and Gawker linked to it, increasing my traffic tenfold.

“Oh look,” I thought. “Everyone thinks I’m witty, brilliant and wonderful. It must be true if the Internet says so!”

Then I left work and got on the subway — and saw the owner of said haircut. I felt really, really bad. On the one hand, this guy was obviously seeking attention with his ‘do, and now he’s gotten it. But then again, taking cheap shots at strangers kind of sucks, I think, even if it does pay off in the dizzying sweet nectar of Internet attention.

When I got home, I saw this comment, which really made me think:

Style is a product of Risk Taking… & those of you who laugh @ people who take risks are simply too scared to be true inventors…

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Hair, Not Commentary

January 23rd, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Last weekend I saw a haircut ugly and evil enough to impregnate a nun just so it could kick her down a set of steep stairs. I’ve seen some stupid haircuts in my day, rocked more than a few regrettable ‘dos my damn self. My own hair in high school was shaven on the sides and back and semi-sorta-not-really-at-all long on the top in a ‘do that would have looked like a brain handle had I been able to pull it into a ponytail. I used to wonder why girls didn’t take me seriously.

I used to pour concrete with a man whose braided mullet hung low enough to tickle the tanned top third of his ever-exposed ass. I’ve seen cuts on the subway here in New York that I found personally offensive, hairdos whose cheeky chunkiness screamed of disposable income, willful ignorance and a powerfully asexual aesthetic retardation.

I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where ironic commentary on the fashion choices of the American working class has collapsed in on itself warping into a white dwarf shaped like a Mobius strip: a one-sided form that slows down light and the passage of time so aggressively that silver tights underneath ’70s running shorts seem like a good idea.

But I have never seen any shit like this.

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