Breakin' the Law

A.    The following shall be unlawful:

i.    To conceal, carry or use an unregistered instrument of extreme rocking power for the purpose of harassment, humiliation, intimidation, alteration either physical (i.e. transmutation) or mental (i.e. persuasion), of persons square or otherwise.
ii.    Any and all rebellion and/or awesomeness that could upset the public decency or otherwise be detrimental to the faint of heart or conformist of action & mindset.
iii.    To use in combination leather jackets, electric guitars, & excessive make-up in a non-stage setting.
iv.    The commandeering and/or reclamation of one’s own musical recording from a place of business without proper transaction.

-VA State Code 1984, 32.5-48.

I mean, I understand where you guys are coming from, about the obligation. Believe me, I fully understand about the obligation. But that’s just it: we didn’t used to care about that kind of thing. Not at all, not at all.
Do you still care about the makeup and the wigs and the angry faces and the leather jackets? Do you? Do you ever wonder what it might feel like wearing white? Or, or dropping the whole “Pilgrim thing” altogether? Okay, bad joke. I’m sorry. It’s just a weird time.
My point is, we used to really relish the whole experience. And I don’t anymore, and I don’t think you do either.
It’s always the same entrance. Dave, you approach cattycorner to Jeff and I while Jeff drops me off and I jump out of the car. No, I don’t think switching off will help. We’re beyond that now. We come in, we do the point, I with my finger and you with your guitars, all phallic imagery of course, big deal, and the teller looks shocked.
He’s faking it. There, I said it.
Because our grimaces used to be expressions of pure adolescent anxiety and rage, our swaggers intimidating, our forms towering. What do we give off now? Weariness and confusion. Oh, I’ll have to pick up the laundry later. I need to get my prescription refilled. People can tell, I’m sure.
Those tellers don’t care about what we do there. They’ve been drilled about it and I honestly think they look forward to it. They all do. They get to keep their jobs. It’s not anyone’s fault if the bank get robbed, if Wachovia or Bank of America loses somebody’s money. They’re doing everything they’re supposed to do, and they learns a thing or too in the process. Nobody gets hurt, nor should they. Maybe some businessman gets his glasses broken. That’s not enough for me, but I’m also not willing to go any farther. Well I don’t know what the solution is, but just hear me out, okay?
So Jeff and Dave, you’re howling and wailing and maybe even arpeggiating, doing slides and utilizing the whammy bar and really just letting everyone have it. Tim’s drums are all set up, he’s thrashing.
And I’m yelling—melodically, of course—at everyone’s who’s down on the ground. I’ve always done that, and I feel bad about it every time. I don’t have anything against those people. They writhe and squirm and put their hands over their ears—I think they’re the only ones who aren’t having fun. Do you remember the woman who sued us for damages to her ear canal? The only legal action that’s ever been brought against us. My worst fear as far as these people are concerned is that I’m not even threatening to them anymore. That they can see how exhausted I really am, and how ambivalent.
And maybe that’s what really upsets me. That this routine we’ve worked out now involves the very people we were supposed to be rebelling against. I mean this guy has grown up on whatever of our recordings he could get his hands on, right, he’s heard all the stories, maybe even gone to police academy just for this chance to see us one day. He knows we tour America all the time. Maybe the bank manager one night took him to the vault, got the record out and played it on the gold record player and they drank from a bottle of bourbon, broke into an arrhythmic, ecstatic dance briefly then had a semi-deep conversation about, I dunno, women or something, and that was the best night of both of their lives. He could be a huge fan. You ever think of that?
And finally we get to the safe and there isn’t even a spark, let alone an explosion, when it opens. You simply draw your instruments towards you, Jeff, Dave, strum a barred G major, maybe do a hammer-on, but purely for show, and the thing opens. Well I know that’s how it works. I can’t stop thinking about how it works. Because I literally don’t do anything else. Maybe you’re content with that but I’m not.
The song is always about what we do. Robbin’ a bank, robbin’ a bank, y’know. Takin’ that gold, takin’ that gold. You ever think about writing a song about something else? Love, or, I dunno, having another thing coming?
No, I’m not quitting. What would I do if I quit? I didn’t finish college, I have almost no job experience. I’d end up in some ice cream store or something.
I open the bars with my hands, roar, and like clockwork the cop ceases to be angry and looks like he’s filled with admiration. I look down and, oh, there’s a gold record with our name and track listings on it. A record of songs about using songs about breaking into a bank to break into a bank and steal that record that has those songs on it. I thrust the framed gold disc out against everyone, and you guys rock some more and we make our escape—as always, no one seems to have been alerted to the robbery, nor will any cops be waiting at the next logical bank for us to appear—and the security guard on duty has now been blessed with a flat, no-string guitar straight from the source of our collective industrial angst, which of course comes through the security camera, through the screen he was watching which is now playing those silly neon-filtered polarized videos of performing, and he’s puffing his lips out and chugging along like a teenager, pretending to play.
But what does he do after that? Make a record? I don’t think so. He still can’t play. He sees our poses, but it’s not like we’ve given him music lessons or something. No, he just keeps listening to some pirated album of ours, maybe it’s even someone else’s but mislabeled, and he keeps going in to work every day, having his coffee, sleeping anyway, anticipating our next convenient appearance. And the president of the bank still gets an unbelievable bonus every year, and we make a new record and that record goes back into the vaults and we have to go back overseas, drive around, and get every record of ours in the most towering, bombastic manner possible, give some out to some people, over and over until we die. What’s the point? What do we do this for, if it’s not even fun?
I don’t even care about the records anymore. Is it selfish of me that I don’t care if I or anyone else hears another of our songs ever again? Another power chord again, for that matter, or snare hit? Do we really need all these gold records? I have one, I gave one to my mum, what else? We certainly don’t have to hit every bank in the United States for one, for Chrissake. At least agree with me there. Anyone?

“Good afternoon, would you like to try one of our specials today, they’re up on the board: The Chunksplivo has banana nut fudge—”
“Uh, no, heh-heh, okay, lemme get—”
“—raspberries and cream, almonds…”
“Lemme get a sundae with gummy bears, extra fudge.”
“Of course, sir. Thank you.”
“And make it quick, alright? Last time it was all runny and I couldn’t even eat it. I remember it was you back there because you kept running around shaking your fist and grimacing at all of the equipment.”
“Yes, sir, I remember that. Let me just put in the order…” I reach down underneath the countertop and pick up Dave’s guitar. My hands form an E major and I strum it with such force as to knock the customer across the room, through the window, his cargo-pants-and-t-shirt-clad-pear-shaped body shattering the glass and cocooning itself in a huge sign that reads “Come in and Beat the Heat,” and blood soaks through the lime green construction paper that holds him there for just a moment, then snaps off and drops him onto the sidewalk, and perhaps he feels for a moment some perfect sensation of peace, even enlightenment, as he succumbs, some glorious simultaneous warming and cooling in the back of his corpus callosum, filling him with the absolute pure knowledge that everything is going to be alright, and maybe he even feels this sensation for eternity; but more likely he spends the rest of existence trapped in a car driving in an eternal rush hour where he has to pee but can’t and his foot’s asleep and he’s stuck on the phone with someone who’s arguing a point that he the customer knows to be untrue, but he can’t prove it, and he has this funny taste in his mouth.

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