An Apology To Frank Black
“Oh my God, I need a picture with you,” one of the girls said. I was baffled. It was one o’clock in the morning at the Universal City In-N-Out Burger, California’s preeminent symbol of Christianity, located across the street from Vivid Headquarters, a world-renowned temple of pornography and sin. I had just left a Pixies concert – they were doing a residence at the Palladium down the road. I was shell-shocked and alienated and not prepared for confrontation, however friendly and visibly drunken it may be.
“Why?” I asked, with all the charm of an embattled congressman. “We’re doing a scavenger hunt, and we need a picture of somebody wearing a Pixies shirt,” said the girl with the camera. The story checked out. I was wearing a Pixies shirt, because I was going through a phase where I thought rock music t-shirts were an acceptable substitute for a personality. So I obliged them, and then they piled into a Volkswagen and sped off into the dark. And I just stood there, surprised as hell that a band I discovered in a community college library in 2003 could result in me getting my picture taken.
A couple years later, I left town and assumed the Pixies would never again figure into my quiet, solitary existence. Shortly thereafter, I discovered Twitter. I loathed the site, with its “people” and its “socializing,” and its myriad hungry comedy writers who by having something to lose were totally unlike me. I just figured I’d start fires until the site found a way to ban me.
A curious result of a hermetic lifestyle is that if you spend enough time alone in a chair, good-natured comedy gets harder to laugh at. It needs to get a bit antisocial. And by this point, I’d been in my chair so long that only one thing really amused me anymore: libeling minor celebrities. So I decided it’d be funny as hell to have a fictitious Twitter beef with Frank Black. Why? Because I live in a town where the lights go off at 8 p.m. and I’ve clearly never had cause to be offended by the man. In fact, I enjoy his band so much that I spent $90 to see them play. That’s $90 I could have spent upgrading my liquor cabinet from a half-finished jug of Evan Williams to several jugs of whatever they put on the shelf above Evan Williams.
So I took to Twitter and started telling lies. I feigned indignation that the Pixies hadn’t recorded new music and I feigned indignation when they finally did. I feigned indignation over the departure of Kim Deal and feigned it again when she was replaced by another woman who shared her first name. I got self-righteous when a new single evidently used a Kim Deal soundalike, as if I was their estranged roadie.
Nobody on earth thought this was funny, but I was drunk on this joke. I got more irrational. I claimed the band was no longer credible because they were both middle-aged and bald, even though I’d be lucky to share that fate. At one point I said “Pixies promo shots have gone downhill since Kim left” and posted a promotional still from the short-lived Jason Alexander vehicle Bob Patterson.
I continued to amuse no one, but I was alone in a chair and therefore the last human being on earth. One cold December day, the Pixies’ new bassist was fired. I had no idea why; neither was I particularly interested. But I got the itch. The time was right to do a bad thing. So I went to a morally suspect website that generated fake celebrity tweets. I entered Frank Black’s name and wrote this.
I laughed my ass off writing the bad thing. It was a narcissistic laugh, full of poison and bile and fear. The only kind that exists, really, when you’re poor and have lost neighbors to meth lab explosions. It’s the kind of thing that only registers as a joke once you’ve heard all the real jokes and have seen too many David Lynch movies (Inland Empire). “Maybe the avant-garde appeals to people from our economic background, because we’re typically rejecting the older meaningful Christian values, but we’re still confused as hell,” Frank Black once said in a real life Melody Maker interview. So me and him have a lot in common, really. He gets what I’m doing. I’m not hurting anybody. I can’t be. I exist and my chair exists and that’s all that exists.
Or maybe I got it all wrong.
Twitter is a powerful thing. It can make your day to learn that celebrities self-consciously delete tweets more than you, or make more typos than you, or go on even more inebriated rants than you. I saw this tweet and my day was immediately ruined. My day was ruined by Frank Black. I made him angry with my lies that I figured no one would notice. And when he wrote “be a classy guy and fucking lose it,” I felt small, realizing the insignificance of my chair. There are more people than me out there. Some of them are classy guys. And according to Frank Black, who I never thought I would ever speak to, I am not a classy guy. I can’t be a classy guy, because I am a despicable liar who really annoys people. Frank Black knows my name, and it’s because I’m a sinner. A sinner forever separated from class.
So I ruefully deleted the post, and thought long and hard about the future of my career in libeling celebrities. I realized, of course, that I could never do it again. All I could do was stand there, shell-shocked and alienated and not prepared for confrontation. I thought of my encounter at the In-N-Out Burger, of standing on the Hollywood sidewalk separating God and Satan. It was a funny story in retrospect. Frank Black would have appreciated it.