by Michael Botur
Black ocean, orange fire. Taxis. Traffic. Bottles screaming as they smash. Rain steaming on heat lamps. Skinny cheekbones shivering in grey wool coats. Fedoras, cigarettes, black ties, white shoulderpads. Youngsters in fives and sixes, arms folded, standing with you round StraightShooter under a heat lamp with people who aren’t really friends, though they might become Somebodies in future, which is why it’s essential to Friend them.
They all play in bands and this one girl has a necklace and brooch designed by the same Moroccan artist who does necklaces and brooches for La Roux. You add six friends on your phone within 12 minutes, then when the conversation starts to get slightly weak and they look at you funny for guffawing at one of their in-jokes, you say, ‘Well, drinky time’ and leave for the bar before they make you leave. You don’t have any money – your money’s all gone on data for your phone and white menthol Marlboros and breath mints and bourbon and Xanax and all that’s in your purse is taxi chits and free download vouchers and business cards of Somebodies and the asshole at the bar won’t trade those for drinks – but you tell that dreadful bore Spittle, the rapper-slash-poet, that you like his hoodie and let Spittle wrap an arm around your neck and give you a noogie and as soon as he pushes a drink into your hand (oh my God that’s refreshing, the sting of cranberry, the roar of vodka) you tell him you have to go to the bathroom and get the fuck away from his table, and you’ve almost lost him when you spot – is that? Yeah, you’re 99 percent– yes it fucking is, oh my God, James Fucking Murphy from LCD Soundsystem is at StraightShooter. Because your day job is all about handling the social media for people like James Fucking Murphy from LCD Soundsystem you know he’s obsessed with vintage 1980s Nerf water guns so you get talking about those and you hang just off the edge of his elbow until there’s a break in the conversation then you have to drop in a mention that you’re the SMC for Universal Music and it means Social Media Coordinator and the Somali model with the shaved head who was in that David Bowie video in 1991 nods and sips her drink and her trans friend with the frosted hair crosses the circle and gives you a hug and says ‘James said to give you something,’ and lets you follow her to the toilet and crush a Molly on the toilet tank. It’s funny to hear him called James because underground he is James Fucking Murphy and as you’re trying to hold onto the entire bar and tell the Somali model from the Bowie video that James Fucking Murphy should never be referred to as James, Ashley Bradley Coyle arrives in your perimeter.
Ash works in your office putting discs in digipaks and special editions, couriering flashdrives with album promos to influential people, copying autographs onto CDs with a silver Sharpie. Your desks are across the room from each other. His wife and two year old kid come to pick him up sometimes, always looking needy, tired, parked in the foyer heavy and damp like airport luggage. They drain Ash. He once told you he tried to make his baby watch Pink Floyd Live in Pompeii and his wife pulled the TV power plug out of the wall. He spends as much time being an indie rocker outside of work as he can, to revitalise himself. Tonight, breathing celebrity air, he’s very nearly Somebody. Ash has hardly any friends at work, but the Ash at StraightShooter has 1000 fans on Band Camp, not to mention 2300 likes on Facebook. Ash – who’s been tagged in photos with Michael Stipe, Q-Tip and Lana del Ray – will be Somebody if he stops his family pulling him up where the daylight burns off all his underground cred. His band M.O.R., formerly Middle Of The Road, formerly the Ashley Bradley Coyle Project, opened for Dinosaur Jr at the Powerstation one time. He’s talented on the guitar and people adore his lyrics, which reference early 90s childhood nostalgia. Families want a person to wear comfortable bluejeans and eat between meals and buy your underwear from a supermarket.
Night is swirls the ugly cringe away, creeps up your legs and licks the heatlamps. People pull off their glasses and wipe the rain off. You lose your purse then someone hands it back to you, dropping some reference you can’t remember sharing her. E is melting your mind, your thoughts have overflowed, trickled to somewhere you didn’t want ‘em, and James Fucking Murphy’s groupies are breaking up, there’s that guy who everyone says is secretly Banksy is in conversation with Del the Funky Homosapien, but now there’s talk of Dizzee Rascal getting beaten up at ElectroCity and you slot your arm into the arm of that Peep Of The Week columnist and she says, ‘Oh, hey,’ and you clink glasses with her and she asks you for a white menthol Marlboro which means an opportunity to jump in her taxi with the chain of Somebodies she’s attached to – including Ashley Bradley Coyle – and you find a seat on Skrillex’s cousin’s lap and someone tells the driver to take you over to The Venue where Fleet Foxes are doing a private birthday party gig for 200 people only, but Ashley Bradley Coyle reveals in the taxi – with shoulders mashing his face against a black window and flashing headlights – that he’s Facebook friends with Billie Joe Armstrong who’s friends with Joel from Good Charlotte and he comps you all into the private Fleet Foxes birthday gig and you all apologise as you find bar stools to sit on and, fuck, what’s her name, from The Deliverance Project calls out ‘Oh, sup, Ashley,’ and in the part of your mind where you register people’s importance, you make a note: Ashley Bradley Coyle just became a little bit more of a big deal, so when everyone spills into the convenience store to buy chips and smokes and hot dogs, you pay for Ashley Bradley Coyle’s ridiculous bag of 5a.m. candy floss and he says thanks and you register the Thanks because when Ashley Bradley Coyle becomes HUGE in three years, everyone will need to know that one time he THANKED you, but hang on, he’s fallen on his bum and there’s a bouncer standing over him with an afro and earpiece and you’ve got one of your high heels off and you’re smacking the hard stiletto heel right into the bouncer’s skull, hoping it connects hard enough to kill that bastard so you can be The Somebody Who Saved The Life Of A Guy Who’s Friends With A Guy Who’s Friends With Billie Joe FUCKING Armstrong.
You’re so deep into the night that the sky is blue when the police take you into the cells, and you can hear a tree full of screaming birds as the police car slows for the gate to open to let the cop car into the compound and they give you a thin wool blanket but it’s pointless fighting to get comfortable. You spend an hour reading all the artist names people have scratched in the wall, evaluating the taste of people who have been held in here. Someone has scratched The Angels Rulz. So retro. You want to cut the piece of wall out and frame it as a conversation piece.
When the jailers come around to collect people to put into a van to take to court, you’re terrified, briefly, but you are left behind because you’re being released without charge. Anyway, you could see through the porthole window of your cell the breakfast the jailer was handing out to each arrestee and the breakfast was like wheat, sugar and starch, it was all carbs, seriously awful shit. God, the only reason you ever ate the crap in your life was cause you wanted to get the guitar-shaped fridge magnet at the bottom of your box of Jem and the Holograms cereal when you were, what, eight? Seven?
You lie on a concrete bunk and almost sleep, thinking of famous rockstars who’ve been in jail. Johnny Cash, Scott Weiland, Tommy Lee, Courtney Love, Juliette Lewis. You wonder where Ashley Bradley Coyle is. You wonder if he’s gonna transcend some day and if this naughty night will get a mention in his VH1 Behind The Music special. Do crazy shit while you’re young and beautiful. Only then can you die at 27, and only when you die can you become immortal.
They hand you back your phone and sunglasses and purse and cigarettes and guide you through three steel doors. You wonder if paparazzi are waiting for you outside with their flashbulbs and questions. You emerge into an alleyway behind the station coloured with vomit and torn posters for gigs. Cold wind slaps your brow. The sun is unbearable. You push the cooling shadows of your Ray-Bans over your eyes and head straight for work, taking off your one remaining high heel and binning it. you have no hunger for anything other than alcohol and smoke and little pills. You pass the convenience store and take a mental photograph of everyone who was with you last night so you can make a status update and tag them all, form a bond, associate yourself, lift off from your old average self a little bit. Subvert. Descend.
Your feet are cut and dusty and rough from the tree roots cracking Ponsonby Road. You burst into work, limp to the lockers without anyone fucking with you. You have more clothes at work than you do at home. A good blast of deodorant and lining your eyes with a black marker pen helps you to look reasonably good.
‘Whoa,’ your manager says, leaving the web designers’ table and approaching you. ‘Are you okay?’
‘Yeah. James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem hung out with me for a bit. He’s sweet but it was like, ‘Gimme some space,’ y’know? Like seriously clingy.’
Your manager puts both hands on your shoulders. ‘I saw your tweet about… actually, you shouldn’t joke about that if you didn’t really go to jail. We thought you were locked up. You’re two hours late.’
‘Lots of famous people get locked up. I’ll stay late to make it up.’
‘But honey, that’s the problem. How come you’re wearing shades? Did somebody hit you?’
‘What can I say,’ you chuckle, ‘I’m a vampire. Daylight sucks.’ She tries to stroke you again. You eel your way around her, slot into your chair, imagine a suit of responsibility slotting onto your body like Batman armouring up. You open Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. There’s a queue of emails. You search the list of senders’ names. Adele’s agent needs you to try and find the talent a good Cambodian vegan restaurant in the city, somewhere small and dark where the Somebody won’t get hassled.
You’ve noticed a faint reflection of your manager in the shiny black plastic frame of your twin monitors. ‘It’s honestly okay,’ you tell the reflection without looking around. You look across to the desk of the boy known as Ash at work. He’s wincing. He’s prepared to be torn in two to satisfy both the family and the underground, but it’ll kill him. When he leaves his seat to go deal with his family it’s as if he’s wading through glue.
Your fat, pink-cheeked, white-bred baggy pants untucked flannel shirt family meets you and Ashley in a Western buffet place that’s all ribs and salad bar. It’s between a water tower and a Mitre 10, for god’s sake. You spend an hour messaging Ashley before you meet, apologising in advance. He tells you to treat the lunch as an ethnographic odyssey. His words.
Good album title, you point out.
Your family squeezes into their chairs with wobbling plates of French fries and jelly and full-sugared Coke. Them being chubby and untanned is bad enough but the fact they have no ambition to be known underground is enough to vomit over. Of all the things that disgust you about your family (apart from their boring Anglo names and their polar fleece jumpers and their melting fat faces) the worst has got to be the way they gather at LUNCH to eat, cousins and aunties and your dad loading up their plates when they’ve only been awake for five hours, people with skin the colour of seashells wrapping spring rolls they don’t need in napkins and jamming them into their handbags. Of all the meals you don’t eat, lunch is the most obnoxious. It’s conspicuous, people can SEE you eat. Lunch is greedy. Buffets are obscene. Eating as recreation is greedy and dirty. You excuse yourself, tug Ashley away with you, lock yourselves inside a disabled toilet stall. You hand him a bottle of nail polish and you each paint a picture of someone dead and happy on the toilet stall. Jim, Jimi and Janis. Kurt and Cornell and Chester, somewhere in the universe, together having THE SINGLE GREATEST party in history.
You come out a little bit purer, refreshed, clean. You feel like you’re stripped to the bone. You’re setting an example for all the fat jolly Santa Claus fucks related to you, the people who dragged you to malls when you were a kid where you squeezed CD shop headphones against your ears and eyeballed posters til they became 3D and you could walk onstage with Twentyone Pilots.
You keep shrugging at Ashley and fiddling with your cigarette packet to let him know YOU know everything about your family is cringeworthy. If you were followed by a documentary crew like The Office it’d be okay, framing things under a camera makes it all bearable, flattening the jagged spikes of embarrassment with layers of irony, knowing a Somebody out there watching empathises with you, but in this ground-hugging limp fat daytime life, there is no film crew, no irony, just shame.
The Family Stone was a cool family. The Partridge Family was a cool family. The Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash. Jack and Meg White. The Carpenters. All you have is a surname so average you used to look for your home address in the phone book and it was impossible to find yourself amongst every other Jones.
Your dad draws his chair up close, tips his head onto your shoulder and tries to nuzzle you like a big cat. You see his bald spot has gotten wider. Ech. It won’t even look good if he shaves his head. You have to have the cockiness of Billy Corgan or Moby to rock a shaved head.
‘So is this here Mr Right?’ your dad asks.
‘Or merely Mr Wrong?’ his brother adds.
Dad seizes the joke, smears his eyelids thin with his fingertips. ‘Or Mister Wong! Chinese Gweengwocer! Me so solly! Ah so!’
Uncle Ashok starts braying laughter and a little bit of fried cabbage hits the clean white plate he’s lined up for this third helping. A line of uncles elbow each other. Your dad comes from a warm, secure position, third out of five brothers. They all do jobs where they serve other people and get dissed by students and builders and quantity surveyors and have never had anything written about them on a website. They are teachers, heads of department, network administrators, building inspectors. None of them have their own brand. They all wear reading glasses and won’t consider coloured contact lenses. They have huge garages, three cars, pool noodles, jet skis, boogie boards, popcorn machines, stacks of Coke and Sprite in the garage, holiday homes, pensions, oodles of kids, kids running behind you, making noise, coming up and staring at your flat chest then giving you concerned 11 year old nephew-y immature eye contact that says, ‘How come you don’t settle for less, aunty?’
Growing up, there were always uncles to pick you up from motocross, your dad came to your school musicals, they let you practice CPR on them if you were particularly stimulated by Girl Guides and wanted to experience the excitement of walking the edge of death and bring someone back. They would roast big haunches of meat on weeknights. There was always someone to babysit you, no money ever changed hands. You went on these holidays to fucking Egypt and Japan, brought back souvenirs that you’re embarrassed to have once prized. You didn’t wander the railroad tracks armoured with a guitar, weeping. They didn’t let you suffer til you became a Jewel or a Tina or a Springsteen. You went soft and that’s why fame hasn’t come earlier for you. God, they didn’t even give you a distinctive name which is why you went down to the court house and paid your ninety bucks and changed the spelling.
Your mum’s squeezing your arm. ‘Angelpuff,’ your mum is going, jiggling a toddler on her knee while the toddler chews on one of her earrings, ‘We are just SO proud of you.’
‘For what?’ you snarl, turning your disappointing phone over. No new Tweets in ages. Piece of shit.
‘Heard you’re kicking ass in the music biz,’ says Uncle Robert from across the table, balancing two nephews on his knees while they pull off his reading glasses and play with them. He bought the glasses from a fucking supermarket. Yeah supermarket glasses will become ironically hip some day, but not today. ‘So tell us already: you been schmoozing with Santana? Robert Plant? How about Eric Clapton? GOD I love me some Eric Clapton. So who’s the most famous person you’ve dealt with?’
‘Depends,’ you go, and sense a vibration which may’ve been your phone or may also have been the brats kicking the underside of the table. No new messages. It was the brats. Fuck. ‘Ummm,’ you go, and give your biggest shrug, ‘Do you consider playing Foosball with Sia’s entourage conversation-worthy? God. I did Zayn Malik’s baby shower invitations the other week? He got some groupie pregnant in Sydney. They flew us over. You probably wouldn’t’ve heard about it.’
Something sickening in their smiles is saying that they don’t envy you. They’re grinning with pure love.
‘And can you guys stop laming me out? Seriously, the talent’s right here.’ You elbow Ashley. ‘This guy opened for freaking LORDE. I mean, seriously.’
‘But you must have a boyfriend by now, my little baby waffle?’ your dad is going, ‘What say you, good sir?’
Ashley pushes his sunglasses on and shields his brow. He doesn’t do unironic people.
‘Take off those sunglasses, let’s see those gorgeous eyes,’ Uncle Porky is going.
‘We can help find Mr Right,’ your mum goes.
‘Plentya good cousins down this enda the table!’ Uncle Whatever goes, from down the end of the table, and someone is laughing so hard they spill their wonton soup and someone else goes, ‘Taxi!’ and Taxi is about the only sensible suggestion these howler monkeys have made all day because a screeching-to-a-halt TAXI! has two empty seats built exclusively for you and Ashley Bradley Coyle and it’s roaring towards the cemetery corner of K Road and Symonds Street where ironic-loser-rap crossover genius Streetcred is doing his EP release party amid the tombstones and there are only a few dozen people there and a generator, tiny amp, turntables and a microphone but that’s all that Streetcred needs, and he asks who you are as you kiss his cheek and a harsh little jab in the crook of your arm from the hypodermic needle everyone’s passing around like a joint and it’s okay if Streetcred doesn’t know who you are right now because he will, soon enough. You and Ashley Bradley Coyle, the undiscovered element. He’ll see you underground.
This little girl – she can only be about 19 years old, wearing sneakers for god’s sake –comes in saying she’s got a package for Ashley Bradley Coyle and he says thanks and opens the papers and the girl says, ‘I have to inform you you’ve just been legally served notification of grounds for divorce’ and he stands up and punches his palm and the manager’s trying to tell him to please go outside if he’s going to act upset and you know Ashley hasn’t slept in 55 hours ‘cause you went out with him last night and the night before. There was no fucking, just lots of photos with lots of Somebodies. He says he has to get out of this mad place and your boss points to the stack of booklets on his desk, each of which has to have Action Bronson’s signature stickman doodle put on them, because they’re supposed to be Christmas cards from Action Bronson himself, and ABC tells his boss she’s interfering with his creative satisfaction and he puts his fedora on and storms out and you follow him to the Cambodian Vegan place, a place made instantly hip now that Adele’s gaze has fallen upon it.
You try to tell him about Adele’s vegan mission and how Kimye wants an authentic XL Tongan Pride t-shirt from the Avondale market, complete with real hot dog tomato sauce spilled on it, and how you have to proofread RiRi’s Hall of Fame speech and send it back to her asshole manager by end of business. You try telling him about your manager’s children running round the office playing with business cards and breath mints and how your boss was pregnant how you spent like $300 on that CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR NEW BABY JOY cake but you can’t remember the fucking kids’ names. Ashley Bradley Coyle gets given a table in the smoking section out front, on the laneway, and you both keep your coats on and your satchels in your laps. You don’t tell him he looks hot; he doesn’t say he loves your labret piercing.
‘I seriously don’t wanna go home to my kid and shit,’ he says, exhausted, slumped face melting on the palm of his hand.
‘Hang out at work, maybe?’
You each take out your packets of white menthol Marlboros and begin to smoke til you feel distinct. Different. Hated, a little. So misunderstood you have to be onto something.
‘Does daytime ever, like, piss you off?’ he says.
Ashley Bradley Coyle has a bottle of clear Absinthe in his bag and after the waitress has given him water and he’s thanked her in Khmer, which makes your blood pang with jealousy, he pours the Absinthe into water glasses and winks at you. Ashley Bradley Coyle lights fresh cigarettes only when you do. He has a Kiss lighter and cufflinks with a logo on them you don’t recognise. He notices you looking.
‘You’re right about the blocking and ragging and whatnot. This chick I married, she… .’ He punches his forehead and winces. ‘AUSTRA. Let’s talk about what’s actually relevant.’ He tilts his wrist so you can see the cufflinks. ‘From Ontario, Canada? They’re pretty alt right now.’
‘Hang on. Lean in.’ You extend your phone and snap a selfie. Hashtag: Lunch with a man from the underground. ‘Sorry. How’d you learn that language, anyway?’
‘I Picked up a little Khmer when me and Sufjan Stevens did that thing together, that EP.’
‘I… I knew that. He’s actually playing, tonight, up at the Biodome in Newmarket, did you know?’
‘Pfft.’ Ashley Bradley Coyle stabs his cigarette to death in an ashtray. ‘That guy’s, like – he’s like a stalwart, know what I’m saying? Like if you’re gonna be a singer-songwriter, you’ve got to innovate, you know? Plus he’s a dick in person. He wanted me and Bjork to do guest vocals on that side project-thing, The Treasury, but it was like Nigga, please.’
Nigga. Khmer. Sufjan Stevens.
‘I was just gonna diss him,’ you explain, lamely.
‘You did diss him. Member band practice, back in school? Like everyone was watching the girls’ soccer, like the whole entire school and we were like ten times cooler than everybody, all by ourselves in the music room trying to figure out how to tune Mr Pruitt’s bass? And you did that Sufjan Stevens cover, bass only, with those lyrics about his wife and it was like… .’ You click your fingers to try and nab the right metaphor, which has to be floating around in the air. ‘People said we should’ve got married and shit… .’
You both slump back, push your seats out from the table a little bit. You write something on your phone, as does Ashley Bradley Coyle, but he finishes whatever he’s writing first and stares hard at you.
‘The fuck are you writing, anyway?’ he demands.
‘Just checking Weezer’s tweets for them. I do their twitter account.’
More silence. He goes to the toilet, comes back, picks up his satchel, yawns. ‘Dan the Automator and Sampha are playing tonight down at Inferno, just so you know.’
‘I’ve got free tix.’
‘No, I’VE got free tix. And I’ve also got work tomorrow. And my wife’s got this… thing on. Coffee group for mums or whatever.’ Ashley Bradley Coyle scrunches up his face and thumps the table. ‘It’s like… see, my wife had a kid so… .’
He makes it to the door. You follow him to the bus stop. He punches the glass. He keeps lighting smokes then crushing them.
‘You can go home to your family, dude. Settle down. Go suburban. I’ll take care of shit.’ You stroke his arm. His thumping the wooden bench in frustration. Ashley is 26 and three quarters and he hasn’t even recorded an album yet. A lot of his idols have already peaked by now. ‘I’ll tell Dan the Automator you said hi.’
He holds his head between tense fingers, shakes it, gargles air then stands up and declares no, fuck it: he’s not going home. His kid has a mother. She’s an independent woman, after all. Plus it’s not as if he has a choice. He’ll die if he’s not famous by 30.
‘Let’s jet to Newmarket.’
Inferno is a river of people pooling in a basement bar built from a multi-level underground carpark. Several streams of people trickle out of taxis and down the stairs. If you’re Somebody, you do a Bro Shake with the bouncers, who pull you into their chests and pat your shoulder hard. Ashley Bradley Coyle goes in for a Bro Shake. Good, Ashley. You’re becoming Somebody.
The river pools on the dingy subterranean Level 1 of the Inferno, though by the end of the night we’ll all be so deep under Level 1 will seem like daylight.
You try to yell something in Ashley Bradley Coyle’s ear to remind him that his wife and brat don’t matter that much, that he need to focus on this fleeting chance to soak fame into his flesh, but he can’t hear you. Ashley Bradley Coyle and Lars Ulrich from Metallica is asking his opinion of Infinite Jest and Ashley Bradley Coyle is yelling in Lars Ulrich from Metallica’s ear that Infinite Jest IS a magnum opus but it is SO overrated because EVERYTHING DAVID FOSTER FUCKING WALLACE FUCKING WROTE IS A FUCKING MAGNUM OPUS, DUDE, I MEAN WHO DIDN’T GET TO THE END OF THE PALE KING AND GO RIGHT BACK TO THE START AND RE-READ THE WHOLE THING OVER AGAIN TO PICK UP THE REFERENCES TO 1970S MEXICAN SOAP OPERAS, AND SPEAKING OF MEXICO, DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON ROBERTO BOLAÑO, and since Ashley Bradley Coyle is preoccupied you’re free to get a fresh cup of gin and ice shards and lemon wedges from the bar where they serve spirits in jam jars because that’s how you do it in indie movies, and you return to Ashley Bradley Coyle and nudge him because while Lars Ulrich from Metallica is definitely Somebody, if you get to the second level down there’s Modest Mouse having a hilarious jokey rap battle with Mike Patton from Faith No More and on the level beneath, past that stinky smokey Wu Tang contingent on the stairs, there’s Ryan Adams, who won’t shut up about blood diamonds, and Ashley Bradley Coyle has a few lines of argument from a book he reviewed for the company newsletter arguing that blood diamonds actually do make some contribution to the GDP of west African countries, but you’ve heard below on Level 4 there’s this girl who was in a love triangle with that toured with PJ Harvey and Regina Spektor and en route to talking to her you get stuck in this HILARIOUS story with, God, what’s his name, the one on the left from Daft Punk, who has his helmet off, who you recognise cause you take care of the typography on the band’s website, and while it’s pretty interesting hearing about how Justin Timberlake is actually really fucking rude if you talk to him while he’s trying to chillax in the sauna, on Level 5 you and Ashley are just in time to play Hopscotch with Nikki Minaj, who’s like super sweet and actually rather childish in person, but that can only hold your attention for so long cause Julian Casablancas – who is obviously tripping, probably on shrooms – insists you HAVE to come and play naked ping-pong with The Flaming Lips and finally you get to the bottom and there’s been this nagging, dragging sensation behind you, but it’s only Ashley Bradley Coyle, his eyeballs bulging, and you notice the phone in his hand, and you know his phone is full of selfies that he’s posting as he goes, and on the bottom layer of the inferno, where the lights and smoke machine make the air blue and white and violet, there’s all the guys from Mastodon trying to get a sound out of a mandolin and Ashley Bradley Coyle approaches men who are pretty much Titans to him and they hand him the mandolin and he says he can get a sound out of it cause Questlove showed him one time and Brent Hinds goes, ‘Dude, you know Questlove?’
Someone has their camera out while Ashley Bradley Coyle improvises a story about how he met Questlove on an airport shuttle bus and saw him struggling to string the mandolin and Questlove was so stoked that he gifted the mandolin to Ashley Bradley Coyle and his STORY is also a POEM and WATCH THE LEAD SINGER FROM MASTODON LEARN HOW TO PLAY MANDOLIN FROM QUESTLOVE’S PROTEGEEE and yours is a $5000 gold iPhone that can upload video to YouTube as quickly as you can take it and it’s as if the video has moved virally at a rate faster than reality.
All your manager ever posts as her status updates is pictures of one kid blowing out candles and pictures of another kid attempting to choke down a Bunnings Warehouse hot dog and squirting mustards on its shirt. All she does is work and drive and spend money. Her whole life is daylight. It’s so passé. She gets into work at 6.15 some days, says she wants to beat traffic. It means she lunches precisely at 12, clocks off at 4 and has a hunk of fatty meat roasting in the oven by 4.45. Your days get longer, your bedtime at 7am is usually around the time your manager is getting in. A collision is coming.
You bump into her as she’s heading home one afternoon. You’ve just gotten up, you’re coming into work, smoking three quarters of a cigarette that Macklemore discarded. Also you’ve got a stack of pancakes and a latte smothered in sugar and chocolate and whipped cream, not that you’re going to actually eat that shit, but it’s good for taking photos of.
It all just about gets spilled across the floor as Ashley Bradley Coyle’s wife comes in. She’s big – you want to say fat, but fat shaming is not cool right now– and Marlong Williams has popped in to say his to your manager and is trying to squeeze past her in the doorway and she doesn’t notice him, just points a rigid finger at Ashley and shrieks, ‘YOU SAID YOU’D PICK HER UP FROM THE DENTIST. SHE NEEDED YOU,’ and Ashley’s approaching the window, keeping his back to her, and she’s scratching and smacking him and you approach and find yourself taking photos and she notices and below her hips there’s a child – has the child been here this whole time? – and you’re shielding your man, your man whose band M.O.R. you’re 110 percent convinced are going to be huge this time next year, and you’re trotting downstairs giggling so gleefully you can’t breathe, tugging, yanking his entire sixty kilos of undiscovered flesh out of the building, fuck looking back, you’re pinching his goldfish lips, pulling his face out of the building, yes, and his knees and feet, and you puke laughter into the night and there’s a limousine, yes, and could it be? OH FUCK YES that’s Aaliyah’s grinning caramel face peeking out of the window, her strawberry-fingernailed fingertip curling you towards her, and that’s the big man himself, Patrice O’Neal stepping out, opening the door, inviting you in, head down, black shades on, and you hurl you and your man into the plastic-smelling vinyl interior where it’s all Courvoisier and Veuve Cliquot and everyone’s laughing hysterically that nobody can synchronise the clinking of glasses, the cheering of CHEEERS! and Anton Yelchin is putting his pale yellow finger on everybody’s lips and saying Seriously now, seriously, seriously, everybody shut the fuck up, DRIVER, FUCKING DRIIIIVE! and the limo lurches out into Ponsonby Road but there’s a concrete mixer looming right over the limo so close you can see the driver struggling to find a cupholder to hold his Wild Bean Café mocha and thankfully, thankfully, oh God that was a close one, thankfully the concrete mixer has rolled right over your vehicle and you’re all walking out of the limo, straight through the doors, shaking the cocaine crumbs out of your threads and laughing with your tongues to the sky as Daywalkers shriek and fuss and your troupe crosses traffic in high heels and a bus honks at you and a Chinese food delivery boy on a bicycle with a basket knocks you into the path of a motorcycle with wheels turn your clothes inside out and you’re looking at the underside of a car that’s come from nowhere, and paramedics are shining a torch into your eyes and they keep saying We’ve lost her, She’s gone and you get a glimpse of a – what’s it called – stethoscope? Is that it? – and finally you’re up on your feet and amidst the billion people in the black-and-yellow city at night you find ABC sharing a joint with Drake and unwinding and they’re both complaining about their wives then Li’l Wayne’s making noise and everybody’s having a push-up battle and it turns out Li’l Wayne – God, you never thought you’d have anything in common with that guy – Li’l Wayne loves vintage punk and he pays for the taxi to this King Loser gig in – OH MY GOD IT’S A STRIP CLUB WHERE WOMEN ARE OBJECTIFIED IRONICALLY AND SELF-CONSCIOUSLY, you presume, where the carpet is thick red plush, with lots of cigarette butts on it, and there are strippers with pointy, triangular A-cup tits. Ashley Bradley Coyle gets in trouble for trying to bearhug a stripper but you cool it with the bouncers by holding up your phone and displaying a photo showing Khaled with his arm wrapped around you.
You take the elevator fifteen floors down and find thousands of people in a cavern queuing to get into the premiere of that new Star Wars movie, the type of movie that takes your childhood memories and makes them fresh and polished and sparkling and takes all the cringe out and you pay a donation to get in, and the money goes towards saving this sick kid whose mum works on Shortland Street. Photographers take photos of everybody putting their folded-up hundred dollar note in the donation box. There’s a part in Rise Of The Rebels when Kylo Ren decides that his family is holding him back and the family must be slaughtered and Ashley Bradley Coyle is beside you with his 3D glasses on grinning madly and you lean into his chest and put your breath inside his head. ‘That’s us,’ you tell him as Kylo Ren is stabbing his father’s guts with a hot poker and the father is tumbling into darkness. Cameron Crowe, the famous director who dated Kate Hudson, who also dated Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes, is in the thicket of people oozing out of the theatre and you grab the tails of his coat and get pulled into his taxi, laughing and hugging Ashley Bradley Coyle, and find yourself in Roundhead Studios with Tim and Liam Finn and Nas has opened a bottle of champagne and the cork’s almost shattered the soundproof glass and Amy Winehouse is trying to record her vocal track without distraction and she throws a coffee mug at the glass and everybody pretends to flinch and cower and she goes back to her recording and who’s that on backup vocals – holy fuck, it’s Janis Joplin, with blue blood coming down from her nostrils and staining her lips purple – and Janis and Amy’s saliva is hitting the same microphone and pooling before it trickles to the ground, and ABC is taking out his phone and playfully shielding it from Big Pun with his rotting eyes and blowflies on his scalp, who keeps trying to snatch it, and you stumble back into work around one in the morning after this wild thing in this art gallery where everyone had no pants on, their hairy dark bits were, just, like, there, like little black holes that tried to suck your vision down and it’s SO much fun and Jackson Pollock is honestly personally giving explanations of how he puts his work together and you’re taking all the selfies you can and Jackson Pollock says ‘Hey – you’re from Middleclass, am I right?’ and he tells ABC how he “totally digs” listening to Ashley’s music when he’s composing art and ABC spills taxi chits all over the floor and it doesn’t matter because everyone’s getting in the elevator to go 20 floors down, further than you’ve ever descended, and it’s an exclusive club but not so exclusive that you don’t know how to get inside and who’s that opening the doors? Yup, it’s Uncle Jim Morrison, spreading his arms and showing old dead cream-coloured vomit on his chest, and he greets you by name and tonight’s gonna be huge.