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2008-10-29 - 3:30 p.m.

So I guess I'm fascinated by black culture. I wonder if everyone who's not black is. I know that's oversimplifying it, but you've got to say it's a remarkably easy culture to grab hold of, to be grabbed by. It's true, I didn't grow up around a whole lot of black culture, but then again, I grew up in the time of MTV, BET, youth dances in which it seems the DJ played "Da Butt" every time. The stuff that black people made or were excited about was everywhere. We all made medallions in middle school, out of fishing line and cardboard, with anti-apartheid slogans on them (and kind of meant it, too). Rap was king. We spent all our money on rap cassettes. We gave ourselves fake MC names. My friend Brandon was Kool Moe B.

For example, a guy I work with just said that one comedian "swagger-jacked" another. As in, comedian 1 stole comedian 2's gimmick. Another guy I work with--his name is Phineas--just said that he expected something would have happened "from the jump," or from the beginning, but didn't. I love that kind of thing. Assuming we're about to elect a black guy as president, I'm actually surprised there isn't more talk about race. Maybe there is lots of talk around, and maybe I'm just not around it. Probably some of that talk's not nice. I think probably more talk's better than less.

Mostly, I'm fascinated by the very different ways of looking at the same thing. The swagger-jack guy, he was just telling me a story about how, in college (Frostburg State, which happens to be very close to where I grew up and is, without a doubt, in the heart of Appalachia), he had a side business selling plain white T-shirts. I said, yeah, I guess most students don't have cars or cash. And he said, even if they did have cars, where would they go to buy these shirts? And it struck me, he wasn't talking about the kind of white T-shirts I or my brothers or dad or friends would wear. Instead, he's talking about the kind of huge, baggy, down-to-your-mid-thigh T-shirts that black dudes (and white guys or Asian guys or whatever, too) tend to favor. He assumed, I think, that I knew he was talking about the big kind of T-shirt. I assumed he was just talking about the kind of white T-shirts you get at Target, the ones you wear under another shirt when it's cool out, the kind you don't pay much attention to. What I'm saying is: I find it fascinating that two guys, about the same age, can think about a plain white T-shirt and have two pretty different images in their heads.

And now, something that has nothing to do with black people at all. Went and saw a friend's band at the Ottobar last night. Cold out, windy, and I wore a pair of gloves for the first time since last winter. We got there early, around 9. My friend's band was already a song into it. We got beers and found our friends. Not very many people there. Lots of empty, dark space in a dark club. They went through their set and they were OK. They sound like mid- to late-90s alternative rock. Kind of glum guitar-driven music with hard-to-understand lyrics. But then the second band and they were much more bouncy, happier, easier to hear, not so much a wall of wailing noise. You could pick out lyrics and guitar lines and the guys smiled and had fun. We got a little drunk. Then the last band. They were young, fresh-faced, also bouncy. Lots of them on stage: two keyboards, a guitar/trumpet player, and an Asian front and center, playing cello (and sometimes shakers and other hand-held rhythm things I couldn't identify). They were softer rock, gentler, like maybe the Ben Folds Five on red wine. They ended one of their songs by doing the Addams Family tune, where you snap twice at several points.

And this is all by way of saying that when we got home, as I was falling asleep, the ringing in my ears, the soft thumping in my chest, that all-body feeling of being wrapped in a thin glove, that feeling of having climbed many flights of steps though there were no steps around, it all felt like a certain kind of living, a mode of being that wasn't perfect by any means, but was definitely something, a mark in the blank book, a morning pee after a night full of dreams that weren't, after all, real.

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