“No More Shows” – Everybody Makes Mistakes

We are celebrating Day 50 with one of the best, “No More Shows”.  This song’s got swagger.  It is catwalk strut.  It is cocky, sassy and glam.  And I love it.  It’s probably the closest thing to the sass of I Am The Portuguese Blues that we hear in the early albums.  If I am ever in a situation where I have walk in front of someone who has given me shit before, I should play this song in my head so I can get my strut on.  

The drums are bombastic.   The bass walks up and down.  The guitar tracks are grounded by a gritty acoustic.  The fuzzy guitar from “20 Dollar Bills” is back, but I can tolerate it this time.  There’s enough sound around it to support it.  The lead guitar has a shiny tone.  Rather than taking up all the attention in the room, it weaves in and out of the rhythm and bass, breathing more life in the hook of this song.  The synths play a counterpoint to the hook, sometimes sounding almost pensive.  It adds complexity to what would be a straightforward rock tune.

The vocals are almost thin but that works out with the attitude of the song.  This song is not about expressing some weighty truth.  It’s about being here but yet untouchable.  We’ll hear this kind vocal approach more in later albums where it becomes more nuanced.  The vocals slide long with the hook in the guitars and joins in with the drum punctuations.  The vocals functions more as another instrument in the mix.  That works on this song.

When there’s no heart
Yeah, I wanna live again
Can’t delay it no, no more
No, you’ve got no heart

After my breakup last year, my ex peddled a hard luck victim story to any who would listen and possibly believe it.  She wanted a white knight to swoop in and give her a place to live.  As it turns out, she found two of them – a couple who used to go to our church until they moved out of state.  They believed the tale and gave her a place to live.  Where there is a victim in a story, there has to be a villain and, of course, I was given this role.  The couple believed this too as I figured out when I was unfriended on FaceBook.   I didn’t think much of it until the couple walked back into my territory one day.

They traveled back here to deal with some family business.  They attended church during their visit.  I walked through the church door to see them and their children buzzing about and talking with people.  I decided to chill and see how they behaved.  They seemed to be trying very hard to avoid me so I didn’t push it.

As the service wound down, it was time for communion.  We run our communion by having two servers at the front and anyone who wishes comes up and partakes of the elements.  As I walked up to serve the bread, I thought, “I am going to serve this bread like a fucking boss!”  A loose translation of this is that I wanted the love of God to shine through and that the tension between us would not be a barrier to the ritual.  It was not a time to hold on to grievances.  More important work was at hand.  The entire family filed past me, taking the bread as their eyes were cast on the floor.  I thought, “Well, maybe they are just deeply communing with the Lord.”  

After church, most of the regular church members and the family decided to go out to eat at a Mexican restaurant.  I debated on whether I should even go but decided that I could sit next to some of my friends and make it through the meal unscathed. I stayed behind to help some folks that dropped by to get some things from our community clothing closet.  I joined the part about 20 minutes later.  I’ll admit it; I was stressed on the drive there wondering what sorts of awful things they would be saying about me.  I tried to wipe the thoughts from my mind, but fear tends to be persistent.

I walked into the Mexican restaurant and saw that they put three tables in a row for our party.  There were regular church members at the table on the right and the left.  The couple sat alone at the table in the middle (the kids didn’t come).  The only place for me to sit was directly across from the couple.

I stood under the door frame and growled under my breath, “Oh shit.  This is going to be awkward.”

I try to sleep but I think a lot
I’m driving streets that just never stop
When you know there’s gonna be
When you know there’s gonna be no more shows

My brain screamed, “Abort! Abort!”  My stubbornness ended up winning the day.  “I’m going to sit right there and I’m going to own it, no matter what happens.”  Stubbornness can be a bitch sometimes.  

I sat down, leaned back and discerned the situation.  They were so intent in not acknowledging my existence that they practically had to focus all their attention on the view under the table to avoid it.  I observed this and pondered what it was about.  Were they still so mad at me that they could not look me in the face?  Were they feeling shame because I was the butt of some joke they had been repeating for months?   Were they just tired from their trip and family business?

This questioning is a funny thing.  It’s a trick that you learn for survival if you grow up in an unstable environment.  Observe behavior.  Question motives.  Do it enough and you begin to see patterns.  If you can see the patterns, you know what will happen before it does.  You know when to duck.  You know when to acquiesce.  You know when to cajole.  You know how to survive. You may even be able to bend events to your will, if you are clever and swift.

That knowledge to predict future and possibly bend it to your will is power.  Next to procreation, it’s probably the closest us mere mortals can come to the power of the gods.  That power comes at a price.  You can never stop driving down those well-worn streets in your brain, those streets that lead you to calculating probabilities and making educated bets.  Those streets just never stop and you can never stop driving on them.  If you do, you render yourself blind, an immobile target for anyone to hit.

I drove down those streets in my brain as I watched them across the table.  I factored the probabilities and checked them against known behavior patterns.  I decided their avoidance of me was 20% shame, 80% anger.

When there’s no goals
Yeah, I wanna live again
Can’t delay it no, no more
No, you’ve got no soul

This period of observation and prediction lasted about 30 seconds, then I spoke to them.  My mom did teach me how to act, after all.  I told them that it was good to see them again.  There was silence for about 5 seconds.  The husband (the beta of that relationship) lifted his eyes to about the level of my stomach and muttered something about how it was good to see everyone and then looked at the floor again.  Now I knew for certain who I was dealing with.  They showed their hands and they weren’t particularly good ones.

Stubbornness piped up again in my brain, “You own your space.  They ain’t got nothing on you.”  So I owned my space.  I leaned back and stretched my arm across the backs of the two chairs to my left (I have long arms).  No defensive body language from me, oh no.  I owned the middle.  I jumped from conversations on the left side of the table to the right side.  I leaned in.  I laughed.  I kept other people laughing.  I verbally strutted from one side of those tables to the other.  I did my little turn on the catwalk, on the catwalk, as the old song used to say.  And it felt good.  I felt alive.

I try to sleep but I think a lot
I’m driving streets that just never stop
When you know there’s gonna be
When you know there’s gonna be no more shows

Even in the midst of all my open, confident body language and my jokes, I still was driving down those streets in my brain.  Those streets just never stop.  I watched what they did, calculated their behaviors and crunched probabilities in my brain as I danced from one conversation to the next.  Their insistence on ignoring my existence meant that they locked themselves out of conversations with the people they came to see, the people they missed.  And I felt pity for them because of it.

What would cause a person to do this?  They were holding on to something so tight that it was more important than spending time with people they loved.  What did they need so much that they had to hold on to it with such a death grip?

It goes back to the victim story, I think.  I know how my ex operates.  She will love bomb someone into oblivion if she thinks she can get something out of them.  They were the white knights who saved her and I’m sure she played that up.  They need to believe they are the white knights, I suppose.  It must fill some void within them.  Holding on to that belief was more important than anything else at that moment.  Questioning that I might be the villain I was made out to be would make them question the rest of what she has told them.  That was too much of a risk.  And I felt pity for them again.

I was having a particularly funny conversation with the pastor’s wife as we were sharing our theories on the “Abducted in Plain Sight” documentary.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the couple look up.  They wanted to know what we were talking about.  I turned to them, looked them in the eye and included them in the conversation as if it were the most natural thing to do and there was no tension going on.  It actually was the most natural thing to do.  I didn’t let the tension stop me.  They seemed energized to be included (“The father did WHAT with the abductor in the car?!”).  As we left the restaurant, I looked them in the eye again, smiled and wished them a safe trip home.  They both responded positively to me that time.

I wish I had thought of this song as this was happening because it would have been so appropriate.  I’ve had plenty of tense experiences with people.  My pattern has been to endure it as best as I can and contemplate it afterwards.  This time was different.  It was the first time I understood what was happening in the moment.  It was the first time that I acted out of that understanding in the moment.  The confidence, the humor, the owning of my space was genuine.  I knew I held no shame and no one could make me hold it.  It was no show feigning a confidence that did not exist.  Now that I know what that is like, now that I know who I am, there will be no more shows.  

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