Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Let's Get Deep on Xanax and Chamomile


I was cruising down New Haven Avenue in my black Mazda 626, a dented up stick shift that could only be loved by me. I was listening to The Beach Boys, and loud, but more on that later. It was night time and the street lights were sparse, the avenue long and full of odd turns that forced me to keep ready to downshift. Brick apartment buildings were hidden by should-be-leafless trees. I passed a small hamburger stand. Its lights were out but in the shine of my headers I was able to make out the words “Pastrami Bomb” on a hand painted sign. I thought on that sign for a second, but only one. I was on a quest both physical and mental.

My physical quest was to go to my cousin’s house where we were to barter our respective dork skills. He was to fix my computer which had been losing its war to the Giant Robot Spiders, and in exchange I was going to take a look at a story he wrote for some gaming website and give it a hardy once over with my dorky writing skills. Fair enough.

My mental ran a little deeper than that. I was in search of genius. I had recently watched a documentary called “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” which was, if you haven’t seen it, about a musician who is supposed to be the greatest songwriter of our generation. Daniel Johnston pounded away on a jerry-rigged keyboard and a microphone and wrote music that seemed to come from the mind of a slightly retarded kid who would prune out a silly melody before asking his mom for a fruit rollup and a juicebox. He was short in the head and super into Jesus and shit, and that led to some crazy antics and an interesting documentary, but his story is his and mine is mine, so if you’re interested, it’s worth renting.

Enter the Beach Boys. Among many others, Brian Wilson (to whom Daniel Johnston draws constant comparison) is heralded as a super-genius by the people who get to dub such things. He and Johnston shared so much: manic depressive behavior, a disconnect from the rest of the universe, and a certain simplicity about their art that, seemingly, runs deeper than the surface. I had downloaded a shitload of Beach Boy songs about a month ago on a whim, and had yet to really give them a full bonerfied listen. I will admit that I was pretty hard-pressed. The Beach Boys are cute, melodious, like an after school handjob. But genius? The dude wrote about Hondas, surfing, and puppy love, getting out of school and dancing. Still, I am committed if anything, so I got my Beach Boys on.

It was during “Then I Kissed Her” that I came to some sort of realization. As I passed an unspectacular white church that promised to save me, I realized that all of these songs, buy both artists, could have very well been conceived on the shitter. And it was with that thought that I realized what genius was. It was a viewpoint uncorrupted by popular culture, void of surface cynicism but deep with pain in an intangible way: the tone of voices, the chords of strings. It’s the type of pain that can be felt but not pinpointed. It’s the sound of a small child’s song. It’s music that you accidentally think of when you’re taking a shit. It’s a clean slate left to express itself.

I question this sort of definition of genius, just as I’m sure you do, but wouldn’t it be nice if we were older? Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long. I do not consider myself a genius—far from it. Nor do I think I know any geniuses, and I know some smart mother fuckers who could verbally rip you into shreds. I know people who have natural astroniony (sp?) who could twist the simplest of topics into a manifesto. I know people that can make you laugh, dance, or even just smile—all beautiful attributes in their own respects, but none of them genius. So be it.


Jew Jay said...


joseph said...

motherfucking beauchemin!!!! nice work there.

and you are Brian Wilson, and I am almost livid that I never made that connection in all the years i've known you.

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