Round here we’re carving out our names
Round here we all look the same
– Counting Crows, “Round Here”
I left Austin on January 6th, and have missed that place every day. Certain people in particular, of course. Finally, last weekend, I was able to make a little jaunt south to visit with some of my most favorite people in the world. The Masons, otherwise known as my Austin family.
We had no set plans other than to hang out together and catch up on the last few months. It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and SXSW was in full force, but we ended up just hanging out on the back patio – drinking Lone Star, eating salmon from the grill, talking/laughing, and playing guitar.
At some point in the evening, my friend Bear told me that he had a neighbor that knocked on his door pretty late one night. This neighbor was holding a beer, and they talked on the front porch for a bit. Then the neighbor finished his beer, crushed the can, and threw it into Bear’s front yard. Now Bear is a super guy – nice to a fault – but he is also a big fan of respect, and the previous action had none of that. Bear is also the biggest badass I know. He must have been feeling really, um, forgiving that night because the neighbor is still alive.
But here is the main reason Bear told me that story: This neighbor claimed to be the brother of Adam Duritz, the lead singer of the Counting Crows. We both called BS on that bit of braggadocio and had a few more Lone Stars. And then a few more. And that is when I came up with something I thought would be fun and funny (for Bear and I).
“What if”, I asked, “we went to his house and knocked on the door, and when he answered, we would talk to him using only lyrics from Counting Crows songs?” Think about it. There are endless possibilities.
It’s raining in Baltimore.You get what you pay for but I just had no intention of living this way.
But I decided that “Mr. Jones” would be my choice. So, around 10:30 or so, we ventured across the street and knocked on his door. When he answered, his daughter was with him so that slowed our roll a bit. We waited until the daughter went back in the house before launching into full “bit” mode. That’s when I started telling a story that was totally unrelated to anything we had talked about previously.
“So I was down at the New Amsterdam, and I was dancing with this yellow haired girl. And then Mr. Jones started up a conversation with a black haired flamenco dancer!” Dude had no clue. No lyric recognition at all. So, since this was so much fun for Bear and I, we told him that I had a guitar with me and asked if he wanted to come hang out for a while. Of course, he said yes.
We went back to Bear’s backyard, and this guy played guitar and “sang” for beers. And every time a story was told, Bear would ask “Was there a yellow haired girl there?” Eventually, I was able to coerce the guitar from his hands to mine (my guitar, after all) and then I played for a bit. But then he wanted the guitar back. And he was really rude about it.
People who know me best know that I hate confrontation. Abhor it. My favorite person from American history is Henry Clay, who was known as “The Great Compromiser”. I can get along in almost any group of people, or at least not cause trouble. So I don’t know what happened this night that caused me to look at the neighbor and say the following:
“You know, you’re kind of a dick.” (See? I even used the phrase “kind of”. For now.)
Bear lowered his head and tried, without success, to stifle his laughter. The neighbor feigned shock. “What? I’m a dick?”
Me: “Yeah, you’re being a dickhead.” (No “kind of” this time.)
And when the neighbor began to argue with me, and with Bear knowing how easy going I am and how much it takes to really set me off, Bear finally stood up and said “Mark, you need to leave. Now.”
Then Mark (yes, in mid-story I finally remembered his name) started pleading his case to Bear, who would have none of it. Pacing around the backyard ensued as Bear tried to control his temper. Finally, when a large part of the fence was damaged with one punch, Mark got the message that it was, indeed, time to leave. Then the craziest, ballsiest thing happened.
On his way through the kitchen to the front door, Mark yelled “Do you mind if I grab a beer on my way out?”
Yes, that happened.
Step out the front door like a ghost
into the fog where no one notices
the contrast of white on white.
And in between the moon and you
the angels get a better view
of the crumbling difference between wrong and right.