Fiction, Tidbits and What-Have-Yous
By Brian Polk
Art By Jason White & Tyler Gross
Published Issue 098, February 2022
ALL MY FRIENDS WHO ARE NEW PARENTS NEED THREE MONTHS’ NOTICE BEFORE MAKING ANY PLANS
And even then, it’s super touch and go. For example, if I wanted to make plans for them to attend my birthday in July, I would need to send out invitations now. And if the day falls on a previously scheduled kid thing — a trip to the zoo, hiking (i.e. carrying a baby through the woods for a few hours), or an all-day nap-a-thon — well then, I’m out of luck. Also, sometimes the parent may have cleared their schedule of kid-related activities, but when the time comes to throw down, they’re like, “Sorry, but I am just too tired. Maybe some time next year.” All this is to say, I miss a lot of my friends.
IT’S KIND OF WEIRD THAT MY UNCLE LIKES GOOD MUSIC
My uncle Joseph watches Fox News all day, says things about immigrants that offend me to the bone, and probably has QAnon ties (I say “probably” because I’m terrified to bring it up). He also has three ex-wives who hate him, doesn’t tip on principle, never shovels his sidewalk when it snows, and has bad things to say about everyone who isn’t straight and white. Yet, the other day I was looking through his CD collection and couldn’t believe the vast amounts of early new wave, proto- and post-punk, surf-rock, and generally badass records he owns. The Stooges’ first record, tons of Ventures stuff, the first three Ramones releases, the first two Television albums, The Cars, The Astronauts, Gang of Four, Talking Heads, New York Dolls — if you can think of something cool that came out between 1965 and 1985, he has it.
I expected him to own every Jimmy Buffett CD ever released, maybe some Kiss, latter-day Rod Stewart and definitely Ted Nugent’s Greatest Hits. But no, his musical tastes are impeccable — especially for someone with his background. It all begs several questions: did he borrow someone else’s CDs and just not give them back? If so, does he even listen to these bands? If so, does he vehemently disagree with the subject matter? If so, then why would he listen to these bands? And should I steal all of the CDs, since someone as closed-minded as him doesn’t deserve such good music? To answer that last question, I would be seriously tempted if they were on vinyl, but I never listen to CDs, so I probably won’t. Still, assholes should stick to their lane and not listen to bands I like so the world can make sense again.
I AM CURRENTLY TAKING SUGGESTIONS FOR MY IMPENDING MIDLIFE CRISIS
Since I’m only a couple of years away from officially joining the ranks of the “middle aged,” I know for sure that I will be embarking upon a midlife crisis. But so far, I have been unable to determine what I should do exactly. (If you have suggestions, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.) Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
- Getting a motorcycle, crashing it, enduring a monthslong recovery process where I have to learn to walk again, and then finding God and thanking him for my recovery (even though I should be asking Him why He let me buy a motorcycle in the first place).
- Trying to date someone either 10 years older or 20 years younger — whichever comes first.
- Purchasing my first tool kit with the goal of using one of the tools one time. (I’m not going to be one of those guys who buys his first toolkit at 45 and says, “From here on out, I’m going to be handy with tools!” Outright lying to myself will have no part in my midlife crisis, I’ve decided.)
- Quitting my job, selling o my records, buying a crappy RV, becoming a permanent resident of Rancho Cucamonga, California after breaking down there, and then growing increasingly bitter at the young people who are all so much better looking than me.
- Getting a new skateboard and repeating all the steps in No. 1 (except “getting a motorcycle” obviously).
- Starting a jam band with the express purpose of bilking neo-hippies out of money and drugs. In fact our first record will be called, Give Us Your Money And Drugs. (If you have suggestions on what I should call my jam band, please send them to email@example.com.)
- Looking at myself in the mirror and wondering what the fuck happened to my youth and dreams. (This is most likely what I’ll settle on.)
THE ONLY TIME I EVER SEE A BRIGHTER WORLD IS WHEN I CLEAN MY GLASSES
And I only remember to clean my glasses a few times a month.
AND THERE WAS THAT TIME I WAS DJING AND BOTH THE GIRLS I WAS DATING SHOWED UP AT THE SAME TIME, AND BOY WAS I UNPREPARED
“Why don’t you come watch me DJ tonight?” I ask Iris. I figure it’s a safe invitation since my other girlfriend, Tanya, drove home to Wyoming for the holidays and won’t be back until next week.
“Sure,” she says. Then she holds my hands and kisses me passionately.
Later, on my way to the club, I get a phone call. Tanya informs me that she got into a fight with her parents and she decided to drive back to Denver. She’ll be at the party too. I can’t think of anything else to say but, “Oh cool. See you there.”
At first, it’s easy to avoid them both since Tanya sits at the bar and Iris dances up front. But then I play “Shout” and Tanya and her friends storm the dance floor as well. My lovers are less than six feet apart from each other.
I spend the rest of the night playing records and then avoiding the two of them the best I can at the far end of the venue next to the bar, bathrooms and emergency exit. At 2 a.m. they’re both waiting for me in the parking lot. However, while I was cowering at the bar, I met a third woman, and I am taking her up on the invitation to accompany her home for the evening.
So now I’ve got 99 problems and three of them are women.
Brian Polk is a Denver-based writer, publisher of The Yellow Rake, and drummer for Joy Subtraction and Simulators. He’s the author of Placement of Character and Turning Failure into Ideology. He likes writing, muck raking, yellow journalism, zines not blogs, cheap booze and punk rock.
Jason White is an artist living in the suburbs of Chicago. His favorite mediums are oil on canvas and pencil & ink drawings. When he was a kid he cried on the Bozo Show. His work varies from silly to serious and sometimes both. Check out more of his work on Instagram.
Tyler Gross is an award-winning illustrator and graphic artist. He has worked for a growing list of national and international clients including The Boston Globe, WIRED UK, The Globe & Mail, Sierra Club, United Way 211, and more. Contact him for commissions and collaborations and check him out on Instagram.
Check out Brian’s January Birdy install, Are You Dead To The World Or Just Plain Dead?, featuring art by Jason White, and Tyler’s last Birdy install and collaboration with poet Zac Dunn, 21 Band Names Or The Road To Hell Paved With Chum, or head to our Explore section to see more work from these talented creatives.