All energy and glee and brio yesterday, and nothing but low-tide spirits today. No reason, no blame, no problem – just one of those days where you run down every duty with rote dispassion. Nothing to say, really. Bored.

Heh: the iPod just kicked up “Welcome for the Working Week” by Elvis Costello and the News. (Did you know that Huey Lewis’s band played on EC’s first album? No? Do you care? Probably not.) Reminds me why I enjoy listening to my preposterously vast collection of pop from the 30s and 40s; it has no personal meaning. Rock music from the 60s I recall dimly, but it belonged to older kids and the guys who worked for my dad, or was played at high volume by the neighborhood bands. I grew up next to a bunch of brothers who formed one of those bands that played clubs and parties and never, ever had a chance of making it – they went from Beatles tunes, which my mother loathed, to grungy druggy dreck that no coincided with their discovery of weed and shrooms. Before them was the band that played in the basement of the Older Couple Who Had No Children, and hence were somewhat of a curiousity on 8th street. It was all families, except for the single lady (Judy) who was always nice to the kids, and the Barren Older Couple. In retrospect, they just had a kid in college, the sort of possibility that never occurs to seven year olds. One night I found myself with other neighborhood kids sitting on the steps of their basement as the band tore into some instrumentals – Venture-style stuff, I’m guessing. We kids loved it, basking in the attention and toleration of really older kids who had guitars.

Whoever lives in that house today has no idea. This is why I don’t believe in ghosts: if they existed, they wouldn’t float down the hallway weeping or make the walls drip with blood – they’d wake you up, whisper “come here” and bore you with a story about how little Jimmy used to sit in front of the window, here, and wait for the mailman when he sent away his boxtops for something. That’s the stuff ghosts would want you to know about.

The Elvis tune reminded me of a few college parties, back when Elvis was King; in 83 my girlfriend liked Elvis, which meant that his 78 debut wasn’t yet ancient history. Her house was one of those carved-up dumps that clutter the neighborhoods around big Universities, a tired old heap with rotten pipes and cheap paneled walls. You couldn’t imagine that it had ever been home to a family, but of course it had; all the houses in the neighborhood had been single-family dwellings in the teens, sixty plus years ago. It had siding over the crumbling stucco, and it looked like some sort of blast shield; it hid the windows, obscured the doors. It covered the house like the hood you’d put over the head of someone about to take the long drop on a short rope. All my girlfriends lived in houses that looked like this. Inside, the same décor: the hopeful plant, the cast-off sofa, the bookshelf made of cinderblocks with the inevitable “Our Bodies, Our Selves” and Whole Earth Catalog, the three-tiered mesh basket hanging in the kitchen, the teapot, the shelves full of Celestial Seasonings and kelp supplements, the endlessly detailed panoply of female items you never encountered until you got into a “relationship,” at which point they became emblems of your blessed connectedness.

Eventually, the party. Eventually, the party with everyone from her social circle, including the bastard who was trying to make some time, and damned if she didn’t dance with him once. It didn’t meant anything; you weren’t insecure, and even if you were, you didn’t want to show it. You sat there on the busted sofa, knees level with your cheeks, watching everyone thrash to Elvis, bobbing your head, wishing you didn’t feel like a big spastic faker when you danced. It wasn’t the dancing itself – you did the idiot twitch well enough when you were alone – but it was dancing with someone that felt like a constant audition. But you smiled and bobbed your head: really, this was okay. You were back on the steps, staying up late, convincing yourself you were part of this. Really!

Hah! Next up on the shuffle: “Controversy” by Prince. That particular girlfriend loved Prince, which was my first clue this wouldn’t last and would end hard. If only I could go back; I’d hit myself hard in the head and shout DANCE, FOR CHRISSAKES. Bounce around and move along. That’s what your 20s are for.

Her house still stands; it’s still ugly. For that matter the house where I heard the basement band is still there, but when my father moved off the block this year he cut the cord. He was the last man from the old times, and he took our memories with him. No one on the block remembers anything I remember. There’s nothing unusual about that. It’s the story of every house, every day, every moment, every one.

Now to write a Joe. If it’s done, it’s here.

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