An attempt to relive the past, results in a reshaping of the future.
Living in the crudeness of Detroit, Michigan and working in the refinement of the metro area suburbs, first year teacher Conor Batey is having difficulty adapting to a world plagued by greed and vanity. In his college days, the response was to rebel against society through music and art, but with age creeping in and a recession on the lookout for those in the undeserving working class, he chooses the suit and tie life.
Quickly, however, anticipation rises and fears are avoided as Conor, together with his past musician friends, are offered a record deal for their fairly successful but recently defunct band Listless. The group doesn’t immediately see the value in this brief stint of regression and avoidance of their everyday existences. However, with adult/professional life during the recession looking so bleak and their past dreams so close to realization, they choose to take this one last chance to tour their favorite music venues and play with some of the their favorite bands.
Along the way, the band meets the beautiful young journalist Ellie Cruz who opts to travel with the indiepop rock group and document their sometimes funny and other times awkward jaunt around the East Coast. The story ends in a realization that takes the characters (and reader) right back to the start in this vicarious ride through the cyclical reality we call life.
Hey everyone! Today I have an excerpt from Steven Mohr's The Listless, which I am super excited to share with you because part of the story takes place in my hometown- Detroit! Steven has also given me a copy of the book to give to you! So sit back, and check out the excerpt, and I'll see you at the end over by the Rafflecopter! Happy Saturday! (Giveaway is International, open until Dec 12,2012)
Chapter 20 – The Adventures of Pete and Pete
“I don’t like it because it was their biggest hit on the Billboard charts. I like it because I like it! To me Experimental Jet Set took them from just some band to a great band that I’d be willing to buy LPs from.”
“Not me,” Owen replied, “I like their eighties albums before Geffen much better.”
“Yeah, I heard the first time,” Kurt said in annoyance.
“Hey, speaking of Sonic Youth, I swear Amy looks just like a young Kim Gordon. If only I could get her to play the bass.”
“Or get her to do anything. Man, I don’t mean to bust any hopes, but that girl just plays with people. She cares about you as much she cares about her ten other semi-boyfriends. Besides, you only see her a couple times a year.”
“Yeah, but that’s enough for me.”
“Well, speak of the Amy. Here comes your vixen now.”
Kurt saw the beautiful blonde walking down the fishy smelling sidewalks of Delancey Street towards the two of them. Her white one-shoulder blouse danced in the wind while the tight black low cut dress underneath clung to her skinny body tightly. In pretend ignorance of her good looks, she wore thick rimmed glasses and tousled hair, worn up in a haphazard twist with the help of a pencil.
Every time Owen or Amy was in some part of the country near each other, they would meet somewhere. Together, they made the most unbearable music snobs any of us had ever met; even Kurt had a hard time stomaching the inane back and forth dialog about bands no one else had ever heard of. We all knew it had nothing to do with what either of them liked to listen to and everything to do with trying to look like the more deeply entrenched arts aficionado.
While there was a little more time in the day for Kurt and Owen to be tourists before they had to get back to the Cake Shop, the plan was to meet Amy at the Bowery Ballroom in the Lower East Side and see a daytime show being put on by the cast members of the long defunct cult classic series The Adventures of Pete and Pete. To Owen and Amy, anyone who was anyone was a huge fan of the eccentric nineties cable television show. And, while I’m not too big on playing into hipster sentiments, I also think it’s a must see. Between off the wall writing and a penchant for great songs written by great bands, few other shows have found such an awkward yet genius combination of entertainment.
“Hey boys,” Amy said with an alluring smile and an innocent tilt of the head.
Kurt rolled his eyes discreetly. “How much do we owe you for the tickets?”
“Guy’s all about dispensing with the pleasantries, isn’t he?” she jokingly inquired, looking at Owen. Turning back to Kurt, she continued, “We actually have to pick them up first at a friend’s apartment. But he lives just a hundred yards down that way.” The three started walking.
“So how’ve you been, Owen? You’ve been so busy; we haven’t been able to have any of our long midnight phone chats. But I’ve been hearing some good stuff about this tour you’re on.”
“Oh yeah? What’d you hear?” Owen asked He wasn’t used to finding out about interstate buzzes going on vis-à-vis Listless.
“I had a friend at that Harrisburg show. He said you guys were great. And I trust him. He knows music,” Amy said in her elitist hipster way. Kurt groaned. This time it was too much for discreetness. He wasn’t even sure he wanted a compliment from someone who claimed to know music. What does that even mean?
“I can’t wait for the Athens show. I wish I could drive down with you guys, but I have some business to attend to. I’ll be down there to see you and Jeff Mangum for sure, though. Oh! Here we are.”
She pushed the intercom. “Yeah?” was the mechanical response.
“Ethan, it’s me.”
“K. It’s open, babe.”
Kurt and Owen both looked at each other in confusion. At Amy’s beckoning, they all started up the steps. Before entering, Kurt told me later that he had wondered how some lazy hippy could afford to live in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, not that he knew anything about the guy, but the blow he had just dealt Kurt’s best friend was enough for him to be criticized in every unjust way. As they walked up the steps, though, things made more sense. This rat-infested building couldn’t have seen too many renovations since it was first built years before to house war torn immigrants looking to restart their lives. And even they moved up and out as soon as humanly possible.
Once the three made it to the door, they were greeted by a short, muscular guy with shoulder length hair. “Hey babe!” He grabbed Amy, put his huge arms around her, and locked lips. After a few seconds, he looked over her shoulder and saw the two guys awkwardly standing in the hallway. “What’s up, dudes?”
“Boys, this is my friend Ethan,” Amy introduced the Tarzan lookalike. Then she turned, “These are Owen and Kurt from—”
“Yeah, yeah, from Listless. I know. You guys were great the other night!”
“Thanks man,” Owen said with a forced smile. All sorts of things were wrong with this situation. Why did Amy have so much respect for the musical knowledge of some meathead, and why was she dating him? Well, I guess that last question might be a little easier to explain, but the first still lingers!
After walking into the small apartment, Ethan and Amy went into another room to get the tickets.
“Dude, this is weird,” Kurt whispered.
“Yeah, you want to know what’s even weirder? This guy’s got a 1966 first edition seven inch single of Good Vibrations sitting right over there on that table.” He pointed to the coffee table sitting beside an old record player. “Who is this guy? And why does gorilla man have a music collection that laughs in the face of my own?”
Owen’s face contorted with a deviousness Kurt had seldom seen in his pacifistic friend. He unzipped the backpack he had been using to carry a water bottle and some snacks for this long day. He took out his large water bottle and placed in on the table. In its stead, he gently inserted the vinyl copy of The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations into his backpack. Just moments after zipping the bag back up, Ethan and Amy walked into the room.
“I’ve got the tickets, gentlemen,” she said, waving them in the air. “You should thank Ethan; he’s giving them to us for free.”
The gentlemen looked at each other with guilt in their eyes. “Thanks a lot, man,” Kurt finally let out. “We should get over there.”
The three left the apartment and walked back down the unkempt staircase. Once out the door, Owen felt it was okay to talk.
“What does that guy do?”
“He’s a civil engi—”
Amy was cut short by an angry scream coming from above us. We all looked up and saw a head peaking out of a small window in the building we had just left. Kurt ducked as an unknown object came whizzing down towards him. It was Owen’s water bottle.
“Hey! All of you stay there!”
The evolution of expressions on Owen’s face since this emotional incident had begun finally led to one of complete fear. He yelled, “Run!”
Owen and Kurt took off dragging a confused Amy with them.
“Where’s the nearest subway entrance?” Owen asked impatiently.
“Turn left here!”
They ran down the concrete steps of the J Train subway station, jumping over pop bottles and suspect paper bags strewn all over the public area. When they got to the gate, Kurt urged Owen to move faster, saying, “Gorilla guy is close behind! Why are we trapping ourselves in the subway?”
“We’re good,” he responded. “When I grabbed his Good Vibrations single, I also took his metro card. It’ll take him a while to get a new one.”
“You took what, Owen?” Amy said with a look of shock on her face. Despite the attempt to amplify her expression, though, she didn’t seem quite as angry as Owen had expected. There was even a hint of a smile. “He paid a lot of money for that…”
Her lips budded into a full blown smile. “He’s gonna be so mad. Owen, you just ruined my longest lasting relationship. Four months. And my only relationship with a guy who can actually buy me things instead of some gumball who has to ‘borrow’ from me every time we’re out.”
“Hey, I take offense to that!” Owen joked as he used the metro card to get all three travelers through the gate.
“I think, I need a replacement,” Amy said looking at Owen. “Why don’t you stay here with me in New York?”
Kurt gave his friend a warning glance, but Owen ignored it. “I’d love to!”
“Then it’s settled! Who needs Cincinnati? We’re in the Big Apple!”
They reached the platform in perfect timing. A train had just pulled up. Once on, they could get away, stop off at one of the many exits, and live happily ever after, out of the range of gorilla man and in the range of good music and a beautiful girl. They boarded the train and looked out the window, making sure they were in the clear. Owen looked over at Kurt to tell him something he had noticed during their flight when all thought was wiped from his mind. He told the rest of us later that he saw Kurt’s face completely drained of color and replaced with a plaster of fear that told Owen all he needed to know. After the incident, when he related this dramatic narrative to us, it would have been more suspenseful if we hadn’t known the ending… When Owen saw Kurt’s face he looked out the window and saw Ethan running towards the train with a burning anger in every leap. Like some classic commercial break moment, they seemed doomed.
The intercom chimed to warn passengers the doors would soon close. Owen made a silent prayer. I think the only reason he ever told us later what was said in this prayer was because he thought his quirkiness was so amusing, or maybe he just made the whole thing up. In all truth, I can’t really picture Owen praying for just about any reason. God, if you let us get away, I’ll never steal anything ever again! And I’ll never call anyone a gorilla just because he or she feels the need to convince others of his or her importance through brute intimidation!
The doors closed. Ethan’s face smashed against the window as he tried with every ounce of effort in his body to reach the train in time.
“Wow…” Kurt’s succinct response was the last thing said for nearly an hour as the group maneuvered their way through the subway system in order to throw anyone off their trail and make their way back to the Lower East Side in safety.
As they walked into the Cake Shop and down into the stage area, they saw the other members of Listless starting sound checks. The risky travelers had made it back alive, in time, and with none the wiser… well, at least until they told us the whole story later that night. Those two aren’t known for their secret keeping abilities.
In His Own Words...
Spending my formative years in the Rust Belt towns of Toledo, OH and Detroit, MI, from a fairly early age I and my friends knew all about the sudden changes in fortune people could see through fluctuations in the economy. So when the Great Recession hit in 2008, it was nothing new to us in the automotive capital. It was life as usual. We continued to struggle our way through college and eventually into the cutthroat workplace.
We had found ways to allay the intensity of our daily struggles through music and other art forms. We searched back into our hometown roots and found the genius of Motown, with its solid harmonies and its smooth bass lines! It’s almost as if its predictable chord structures and its established history provided that knowing of what’s coming next that all of us needed. We incorporated this past pop flavor into our music and played our way into some interesting music festivals around the country.
In due time, though, life did catch up with us. By this point, my family had moved across the country, my friends were leaving town for bigger, cooler, more vice filled locales (with character fading quickly), and I didn’t see any reason to stay. I moved to Raleigh, NC, where I rejoined my family and found the girl I want to spend the rest of my life with.
And this is where I am. There are certain elements of the past I miss and would love to retry, but there are more elements in the present that I enjoy and want to continue. In one last attempt to somewhat immortalize (and definitely glamorize) the past, I chose to write a mostly fictional account of our final tour. The Listless is that story. I hope you enjoy!
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