That's a Fact, Jack

  • April 7, 2018
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Hello, friends! Rob here.

We all have certain ideas about ourselves. We think we're charming, or awkward, or good at math, or bad at golf. I, for one, believe that I tend to be patient, forgiving, and pretty egalitarian. I try to put myself in other people's shoes and not to sweat the small stuff. I appreciate when someone is trying their best, even if it's not really getting the job done.

But the moment I set foot in an airport, all of that goes to hell. It's every man for himself. There are so many phases of air travel- check-in, security, boarding, just trying to walk to anywhere- and each presents another opportunity to get jammed up by a slow employee, an inexperienced traveler, or some oblivious, five-foot-wide moron trundling up the jetway so slowly that you'd swear they were actually walking backwards. When I'm in Airport Mode, I don't give a somersaulting fuck about other people, because there are no "other people-” only the thousands of obstacles between me and my objective.

It doesn't bother me that this runs counter to my overall self-image. That's life. People are full of inconsistencies and contradictions. More importantly, we aren't just one thing all of the time. Our personalities are much more fluid than we realize. We all behave differently at the office versus catching up with old friends, eating dinner with our parents, tailgating for a football game, and so on. If I started talking to police officers the same way I talk to my college friends- or even vice versa- I'd probably get myself into some trouble.

What bothers me is that Airport Mode can be downright gratifying. Sure, it basically amounts to an adversarial relationship with everyone within a thousand yards, but there's a certain clarity of purpose that comes with it. Clarity- even a nasty, misguided sort of clarity- can be comforting in the adult world, where stuff is complicated and even the easy answers are usually hard in their own way. I looked into this a little, assuming I'd be able to drop some science here- something about "dopamine channels” or "evolutionary instincts-” but all I found out is that "dopamine” might be the most widely misused science-noun this side of "negative reinforcement.” (Sorry, but you've never used that term correctly.)

Nevertheless, there does seem to be a perverse satisfaction to go along with emotions like indignation, enmity, and my omnidirectional airport rage. I'm venturing deep into armchair territory here, but I am inclined to think that this is based in something primal. There have been obvious adaptive benefits to teamwork and cooperation throughout human history, from our days as hunter-gatherers to the efficiency of the modern workplace. So maybe it's just the other side of the coin: we can't be an "us” if there isn't a "them.”

I'm not saying we're wired towards hate or anything like that. But I do think it's easy- particularly in this day and age (oh God here he goes again)- to focus on the "other” in "other people” when the "people” part should be way more important. We do it with politics all the time: we are rational and compassionate, whereas they are mutants who crawl out of the sewers on moonless nights to creep into our children's bedrooms and suck out their eyeballs. That's why it's so gratifying to watch videos of your favorite political firebrands "EVISCERATING REPUBLICANS” or "OWNING LIBS with FACTS and LOGIC." They are the enemy. They must be destroyed. Don't get me wrong, a bit of confirmation bias every now and then never hurt anyone, but it's important to remember that that kind of stuff is like junk food. It gives you this perfect mix of chemicals that somehow fills you up and leaves you wanting more, but if you consume too much of it, it'll probably give you cancer. Be good to people. Most of them deserve it.

And please stay to one side when you're walking up the jetway.

Anyway. Strictly speaking, shouldn't the phrase "a dick-measuring contest” refer to a competition to see who can most accurately assess the dimensions of a given dick?

Normally this is where I'd apologize for my extended and unplanned hiatus, but you know what? Screw it. I was busy. I had houseguests to host. Weddings to attend (including two in the band family! More on that later). Frozen pipes to deal with. Part of the time I was busy not being busy, which is definitely a thing and you should try it sometime. The rest of the time, I was busy doing band stuff.

It's probably not a huge secret at this point that we spent most of last month in the studio. For almost all of March, your favorite oversized rock band that lives in New Orleans and once maybe stole somebody's dog (my colleagues were confident he was a street dog but I'm still not totally convinced) has been recording sounds.

We have probably finished the phase of album creation where we make noises into microphones. That's right! The noises have been made, people! THE NOISES HAVE BEEN MADE. Now, we're at the part where we all sit on our hands while some highly experienced and motivated individuals do things with those noises. I do not know exactly what those things are, but from what I understand it involves blood magic and a fair amount of chiseling. These individuals chisel our noises into audio files known as "rough mixes,” and as those "roughs” (that's a bit of insider industry lingo for you) trickle back to us, we provide feedback (sometimes referred to as "nitpicking-” another industry term), and like twenty-two thousand emails later, we'll have some songs, at which point we'll have to figure out which ones to use and how to package them and a bunch of other stuff.

It's a process.

In the meantime, our touring outfit is now 15.38% more married! Our dashing bassist, George Gekas, and our often-spotted-dashing-across-the-stage production manager, Amy Pertuit, both had like, just the BEST weddings. Amy, the newly-styled "Queen in the North,” had a stunning mountainside ceremony followed by a lot of drinking and dancing. It was featured in a listicle! George, on the other hand, stayed close to sea level with a beautiful waterside ceremony officiated by a close friend, also followed by a lot of drinking and dancing. Highlights included an inspired reading of a modified version of Mary Schmich's famous "Sunscreen” column and the sassiest lip-sync performance of the Spice Girls' "Wannabe” in the history of music. Congratulations, everybody!

I blew my nose the other day and when I pulled the tissue away, my eyes were stinging and there was a chemical odor hanging in the air. I thought that maybe the tissues had caught a stray misting from some bathroom cleaning product, but after a brief investigation I realized that I had mistakenly purchased not my usual Puffs Plus Lotion, but rather Puffs Plus Lotion "With the Scent of Vicks,” which apparently exists. Who asked for this? How did it get past quality control? What focus group sat around a conference table at Puffs HQ and agreed that yeah, the thing that their soft, soothing tissue papers needed was a fresh coat of menthol dust? They must have known this was a terrible idea. The Vicks logo is pretty easy to miss. Could they have done this intentionally, knowing that the only way they could sell such an inferior product would be through chicanery? Their website describes the scent of Vicks VapoRub as "comforting,” which- unless you spent your formative years downwind from an ammonia plant- is a lie.

Also, why isn't there an apostrophe in "Vicks?” According to this timeline, they apparently dropped the apostrophe sometime between 1919 and 1931. Why did they do this? Did the printing company try to charge extra for punctuation? Was it because of Prohibition? Too many flappers dancing the Charleston? Whatever the reason, I am outraged.

On that note, the friend whose album I'm plugging today is Jennifer Hartswick!  Jen is an old friend of the band. Between her work as a solo artist, as a member of the Trey Anastasio Band, or maybe just the like forty-bajillion times she's sat in with us on vocals and/or trumpet and burned the place down, she is probably a familiar face to many of you. Anyway, Jen recently dropped a single with her friends Nick Cassarino and Christian McBride, and it's lovely:

Nick and Jennifer have been touring as an acoustic duo. There are only a few dates left on their current tour, but hopefully they'll do more soon, because this is a really special show. A couple of us had the opportunity to catch them in Nashville last week, and BELIEVE ME it was electric. When musicians have real chemistry, they develop a sort of ESP and they can move and stop and shift and crash together in perfect sync, like a school of fish suddenly changing directions all at once. It's really something to behold. Plus, like, good songs and singing and instrument playing.

And yes, technically I'm plugging a single, a tour and kind of a general concept rather than an album, but I think I'm going to broaden this segment a little so I don't have to wait for someone I know to release a long-playing record of eight songs or more every time I want to tell you about people I know who are good at stuff.

Anyway. Jen Hartswick. Good at stuff.

That's about it! Yeah, I think that's it. Definitely, definitely nothing else coming up in our world that's worth talking about here OH WAIT WE'RE GOING ON TOUR NEXT WEEK. Heavens, I miss it so. See you there hopefully!