For a Real Buzz, Touch This Microphone!

Photo © 2010 CC BY-ND 2.0

Isn’t it funny, the snippets of life that our memories recall?

Lately, my online buddy and comrade in words, Jim “Suldog” Sullivan, has been talking about his days as a garage-band bassist. On Monday, he told a story of how one of his bandmates electrocuted him as a joke. And that reminded me of one of my own stories.

Okay, first of all, I must say one thing, as a fellow musician with experience in electrical engineering: Futzing with the ground wires is not a funny joke, dude. I don’t think I would have forgiven as readily as Jim did. He’s clearly a bigger man than I. (Or maybe that shock was simply bigger than either of us suspect.)

About 10 years ago, I was a keyboardist/bassist/guitarist/vocalist in a band called Priority One. Primarily, I played bass. But both D and I switched instruments between songs. So when I was playing keys, for example, he would pick up my bass. On one occasion, we gigged at a venue that had wiring problems. I knew they had wiring problems, because whenever I touched my keyboard’s metal chassis while also touching the microphone, I got a jolt. Either my keyboard or the mixing board (or both) was not grounded properly. As soon as I discovered the situation, I should have immediately done something about it. Maybe find a foam windscreen to insulate my lips from the mic. Or try plugging my keyboard into a different outlet. Or just run a wire from the microphone to the keyboard. (And if that shorted out the electrical system and blew a circuit breaker—or caught the place on fire—so much the better.)

Instead, I figured I could just avoid touching those two things at the same time. We were performing, after all, only one song where I was singing lead and playing keys. But during that song, I realized I needed to tweak the sound on my keyboard. Without even thinking, right in the middle of a verse, I reached up to move one of the controls. Before I knew it, I had almost blacked out from the current frying my synapses. But ever the professional, I continued with the song. People in the audience noticed a strange glitch in my performance, but they didn’t know I had just experienced my own version of the homemade defibrillator.

By the way, Jim says in his band, they typically closed the performance with a song called “Last Stand.” Interestingly, we frequently closed with a fun, bluesy tune called “Last Train Out,” which D had written. Here’s a recording we did of the song, with even less quality than the old recordings Jim has been posting:

Click here for the audio

The Girl Not in the Love-Idiot Book

In Love through the Eyes of an Idiot, I mentioned a few girls I knew growing up who would have made fine companions, but whom I avoided. And I mentioned some others who would have made fine nemeses, but whom I pursued. I also knew a couple girls who made good friends, but I didn’t remember many details of our friendships, because they didn’t manage to screw me up.

One such friend recently contacted me on Facebook. I did remember her, fondly, but I couldn’t even search for her, because I didn’t even remember her name until I saw it there on my Facebook page.

We took German together—and maybe Computer Science, too—at about the same time I met Erika (the “blonde in the pink sweater,” from chapter 3 of the Love-Idiot Book). I loved that German class, because the teacher did not just have us recite vocabulary—unlike a French class I took after I moved to Massachusetts. Rather, my German teacher played games with us. For example, occasionally, we cleared the desks from a space on the tiled floor, and we played German Scrabble: Giant-Size Edition. The same teacher also taught Comp-Sci, and he encouraged me to enter a state-wide programming competition. I made it to the finals, and I still have the program listings from that project. I also remember writing a program to generate cards for German Bingo, which we also played in his class, and another program that created word-search puzzles (for German Word-Search, of course).

Back to this girl I was friends with, whom I’ll call “Bee,” which is not her real name. I remember Bee being kinda cute, short, and she had a boyfriend. (I don’t remember him or anything about him. Not that it mattered, because we were strictly just classmates and pals, as you’ll see in a moment.) Aside from German and Comp-Sci, Bee and I also took a gym class together, and one day they made us do square dancing. (I guess we had to learn it eventually.) Of course, the first thing we had to do for a square dance was to find a partner, a task I absolutely loathed, because I was no good at it. But Bee came to my rescue, and I breathed easier. She told me she wanted to be my dancing partner, because she knew I was “safe.”

Now, many boys might have been upset at such an insult. And I vaguely remember rolling my eyes in disdain. But deep down, I remember feeling touched that she would think that highly of me. And that’s the memory I carry of her.