It's 5:08 AM. In the past 24 hours (constituting my "today"), I spent a remarkable amount of time at Digg, slept way too long, then accomplished nothing. And here I sit in my room, 5:11 AM...
Sure, I could present my half hour trip to the convenience store to buy dish soap and yogurt in a humorous fashion, but, ultimately, that's a really boring story. So, instead, I'm going to talk about me. Not me right now, this blog has already gone into lots of detail about the current me. No, I'm going to talk about a past version of me. Without further ado, I present to you, the reader(s) of my blog, to Matt Brinn circa 2006...
College Chronicles Serial 1: The Lonely Semester
I had just returned to my room from dinner. Another meal alone, fifteen minutes of pacing the empty corridors of the ABE basement waiting for a quarter pound of pasta to cook on a grimy stove. Tonight's meal was a bit better than usual, somebody had left a plastic container of Parmesan cheese in the community fridge, and I was happy to 'borrow' some. Plain pasta with vegetable oil and a pinch of Parmesan. Delicious. That's an absolute lie, don't believe it. Plain pasta is boring as hell and only serves to remind you that you have no food. I was poor but refused to sit alone in the dining hall eating shitty food all by myself. Better to eat dollar pasta cooked to perfection then the dog shit that was served at Eikoff. If I was going to eat alone, I'd at least cook for myself.
I plugged in my guitar and played along to the Porcupine Tree song blasting from my speakers. Everybody else was eating dinner, I could play as loud as I wanted to. Just as I began ripping a solo in C Lydian, I felt a familiar vibration repeatedly jabbing at my right thigh. It was my cell phone. I put down the guitar, turned the amp off, and answered the call. It was my roommate, Greg.
"Hey, man. I know it's short notice, but I was hanging out at my friend's house and I'm bringing a girl back. I'll be back in about fifteen minutes, can you give us some alone time?"
Cell phones don't click when they hang up. That was added for dramatic effect...
What to do, what to do. I scoured the internet trying to figure out someplace I could go for the next few hours. Jazz club? None were close enough. Restaurant? I just ate, and I can't afford it. Besides, who goes out to eat by themselves? Open mic night? Perfect. Now then, where can I find an open mic on Monday at 9 PM? I found a website that had nationwide open mic listings searchable by zip code. Thank you internet.
My destination was The 449 Room, a shabby three room building (Bar room, Stage room, Back Entrance Storage room) in the center of Trenton. I knew where to find it because I had seen my guitar teacher's band, Disciples of Groove, perform at the place next door a few months prior. It was a ten minute drive, half the time it would take to walk all the way across campus to my car which, for some reason, was the lot designated to me.
It was a particularly cold December night with a heavy wind. These days I'd say it adds to the solemn mood of my story, but at the time I was just mumbling, "Fuck! It's cold as fuck! I hate fucking winter! Fuck this shit!"
I'm a poet, I know...
I drove through Ewing, a quaint suburb town filled with tiny little houses side by side, tiny strip malls, a plethora of Chinese takeaways, and a nice Shoprite supermarket. A couple of miles down Pennington Road, however, changes everything. Suddenly, as if pulled through a vortex into an alternate dimension, I found myself avoiding dangerously neglected potholes as I drove down the dark road. I passed an Acme supermarket. As the once over-quoted Dave Chapelle once said, "I was driving down the road, and I see a liquor store, liquor store, liquor store, gun store, liquor store, crack head..SHIT! I'm in the ghetto!!"
Right smack in the middle of this strange and dangerous world was The 449 Room. I parked a couple of blocks away, then totally oblivious to the parking lot behind the building, and made my way to the entrance. I walked into the bar area, populated only by a plump thirty-something bartender. She looked tired and annoyed. She was wearing sweatpants. I said hello, then walked passed her into the Stage room. Three tables, a pool table, and a plywood stage. At least the sound system was decent. It was easy to tell where The 449 Room's meager budget was going. There were five people in this room. I would meet and become friends with all of them, so I'll introduce them by name.
Jo was the first to catch my attention. He was wearing a button-down shirt covered by a leather jacket, his long greasy hair pulled into a ponytail. He was the MC. His days were spent working a crappy job that he hated so that he could drink his nights away in places like this, inspiring the next generation to embrace art in the way that he once did. Jo was the ultimate eccentric genius.
Kelly Carvin was a hippy. She owned a 1985 conversion van with over 200,000 miles on it that she used to drive across the country, playing shows and dropping acid along the way. It doubled as her house. She had the voice of Janis Joplin and loved The Grateful Dead.
Dana helped start open mic night at The 449 Room. He wrote humorous songs like "About a Song". He was a chilled out guy, but I barely got to know him because he stopped coming to The 449 Room a few weeks after I started going.
I don't have Youtube videos for Shane and Bill. These two were my age, but had chosen a completely different life path. After dropping out of high school, they got minimum wage jobs and tried to make it on there own. I stayed at Shane's house for a night once when I was in a pinch. He lived with a Mexican couple that had a cute two year old daughter. The mother had cancer or some other disease, I didn't ask any questions, but she was definitely in bad shape. The walls of his house had cigarette smoke embedded in the paint, the toilet didn't flush, and there was no food. I stayed one night. Early the next morning, I was jolted awake by a loud knock on the door. It was a very angry landlord demanding three months overdue rent. I left shortly thereafter.
I met these five that night. We all sat around in our private venue, playing songs and making jokes. It was 2 AM when I left. As I drove back to campus, I thought about the previous month, how I had gradually stopped hanging out with my friends from freshman year, how my girlfriend dumped me for getting too drunk at a party, and how I'd spent the last month and a half sitting in my dorm room alone watching movies and eating Oreos. I was in a bad place and needed an escape route. I didn't know it at the time, but The 449 Room would be exactly what I needed...
To be continued...
Now it's 6:52 AM. Still not tired, but now I feel productive. Let me know if you guys liked this, I might turn it into a late night/early morning insomnia inspired series..:-)