Robert duncan.

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Center of the Universe (29)

Center of the Universe (29)


The After Party

Guy called Noize sent his new record. A long-time Kiss fan, he’d sought me out on Facebook after the Three Sides of the Coin podcast, a talk show about Kiss. I don’t remember how the podcasters found me, but, despite my many apprehensions, the 90 minutes breezed by — we laughed a lot, even as for the first time my Kiss tie, which is a joke, wasn’t — and they seem to have a gazillion followers. Lots of Kiss fans have been hitting me up.

I may have confessed this previously, but no amount absolves it. I’ll say again: I wrote a book about Kiss. It happened when I was young, broke and dumb, but not-at-all naive. So, that doesn’t excuse it. And while I tell myself and others it was tongue-in-cheek — which it was, it really was — that smacks of revisionism.

Go ahead and judge me.

Noize doesn’t judge me. Immediately after the show, he messaged to say he was a big fan. And then the Three Sides guys explained that, as the first Kiss bio, the book is a collector’s item for the Kiss Army — the worldwide fan-force apparently undiminished since the heyday, despite the diminishments of its footsoldiers: the receding hairlines, encroaching waistlines and grandpa reading glasses that, I’ll admit, came as a surprise when I first logged on for the podcast. Kiss fans aren’t ten anymore, whaddya know. And when, tongue in cheek, I replied to Noize with another riff about being ashamed, he was quick to buck me up. Nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of! Nothing, Mr. Duncan.

Noize, it turns out, is a noice guy.

Anyway, I told him where to mail the disc — our PO Box, not our home — just in case Noize was a nut. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I might never get around to listening to it.

Just as I’m a lasagna guy who eats more spaghettimeatballsausage these days, I seem to have become a music guy who favors silence. The last album I listened to in full was my brother’s. Forget that he’s a great songwriter, great player (guitar, keyboard, drums, vocals) and, judging by the words, an alarmingly bummed-out man, he’s my brother. I gotta listen.

Noize is only my brother-in-Kiss-arms.

But bro aside, I really have gone hardcore hush. It’s my jam, as the kids say. And in one of those exquisite ironies that are actually just boring, everyday life, not exquisite at all, I’m driving Roni crazy. She listens to classical when she’s drawing and painting. But when we’re working cheek-by-jowl in the tiny studio, I can’t. I have to listen to the rhythms of the words, I mansplain to her. And while she never seethes outwardly, I suspect that, beyond the accommodating exterior, a lack of Bach is flooding her with Lorena Bobbitt rage. Anyway, as the auteur of a hagiography of Kiss — arguably, the barbarians at the gates of pop culture and the American Way long before the Big Tangelo — I’ve already got enough to feel guilty about. So, I’ve been testing out coffee shops, throwing my own diminished self into the contest for tables and plugs with that justly maligned — and remarkably nimble — generation known as millennial.

Long hugs, epilepsies of tears, a staggering parade of dear, awkward kid pictures on the wall.

This conundrum bubbled into consciousness because for the last two nights I’ve been submerged in noise. Friday was the DC holiday party — the one for us, not the one we call Tipmas that’s for the rest of San Francisco — which started with roller disco at the Church of Eight Wheels, rolled round the corner to a sports bar plastered with jocky collector crap — including a dubious pair of autographed Ali trunks from the first Liston fight — stopped at Festa Karaoke in Japantown long enough to get thrown out (it really was a private party, like the big sign at the door said, like the apoplectic man was now yelling in our faces), and thence, shedding celebrants as onward we flew, fading comet-tail of a party, hellbent, via Uber and Lyft, into the mixological Friday darkness and closing time.

But Friday was the easy part.

Saturday afternoon, yesterday, was the Chelsea memorial, a perfect mashup of spirit and flesh I never want to experience again. Long hugs, epilepsies of tears, a staggering parade of dear, awkward kid pictures on the wall. Heartrending remembrances that were really just hearts, rended from ribcages, shoved through the mic. A solemn-spinning, blue-lit ball of mirrors and the anxious-electrocardiogram thump and deep-space desolation of house, Chelsea’s home beat. Assuming I knew it was impossible to breathe, let alone talk, a friend and member of the grieving family croaked a single word in greeting: Ativan. Meantime, we were self-medicating with megadoses of Peroni (it’s what they had), before finally OD’ing on a liter or two of Rhone red. Even Roni, in her sauvignon blanc way, was day-drinking. Eleven hours, and we still didn’t make it to the after-party.

Or, as Homer (the blind Greek poet) said: Alcohol is the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.

I think it’s not even so much the noise as the overwhelmingness. So when I’m reveling in the silence, as I am today, I think I’m really reveling in the stillness. Silence + inertia. Amniotic floating + no one ever again drowns.

White space.

Especially because later this week we’re going to see my sainted mére in Florida (speaking of amniotic), a prospect I have been angst-fully examining and re-examining in forums, public and private, at least since Christmastime of my thirteenth year. My rock star bro will be there, en famille. And our son’s heading down the hill from Asheville, NC, if the 20-year-old pinkish-copperish Lexus he bought all by himself, at 16, with his Fairfax Theater earnings can hack it.

And if under the Stasi-like attentions of our nonagenarian matriarch (who, for reasons I’d rather not, disabled the locks on her bathrooms, but can no longer hear when you’re taking a dump, shouting: Ma, don’t come in!), there is silence and inertia (it is Florida, after all), there is certainly no stillness. More like plugging a latte-dampened finger into a socket at Starbucks — if you can get to one.

Half-a-week of that can take a month of stillness to salve.

But for New Year’s, we’re going home. To our real family — that is, our fake one. Dinner at Sorellas amid the usual suspects — possibly with the addition of Alex and Lisa and definitely with the addition of who knows who — followed by tunes at Nave’s, the town’s premiere dive, which I generally prefer over the town’s other three dives because it has no live music and you can talk, but which, one night of the year, the last, pushes aside the pool table and caroms musical. And this year’s festivities will feature that new R&B sensation of a combo from drum virtuoso and sister Soy hubby John Molloy, another brother.

I gotta listen.

In the meantime, it’s been a deafening 2016 — for all of us, I know — and all I want for Hanukkah, if not Solstice, Juneteenth and Arbor Day, is a little peace and quiet. I’m going to start by shutting up myself. Maybe take a week off from this, if I can stand the solitude. After that, maybe I’ll get around to listening to Noize, bless his heart.

Center of the Universe (30)

Center of the Universe (30)

Center of the Universe (28)

Center of the Universe (28)