Saturday, December 1, 2007

Abandoned Projects

REGRETS DEPT., Dec. 1 - Is it actually better to regret something done over something undone? In the spirit of control versus experiment, here's my list of undones:

K1C2 (1992)
This was a short-lived band with my friends Eric and Keith. K1C2 stood for Korea First, Communism Second, a disastrously bad band name, but one that should only be judged on the sliding scale of every other terrible early 90's indie band name. Technically this would have been a side project / vanity band, because we were all in other bands.

Specifically, Eric Wood was in Man Is The Bastard, which meant a lot to me and my pals; Wood was a mythical figure in all our lives, no different from having Paul Bunyon or the Wendigo monster on bass. I'd glued a large poster of him performing live to the wall of my basement office, which made for an awkward moment when he finally flew out from California to practice.

The next time Eric visited NYC it was to record with Bootsie Collins and Iggy Pop for a Buckethead LP, and we had little time to even meet for lunch. I've since read an interview with Eric where he'd cited eminent singer/songwriter Ted Leo as drummer in one of K1C2's two rehearsals, a detail I support - because it makes my own past a shade more interesting - but is almost definitely not true. REGRET FACTOR: Six.

This was my unrealized nautical-themed thrift and record store in Richmond, Virginia. A friend worked at a different thrift store - a future competitor - and every day for several months I would "buy" a trash bag full of nice clothes through her register and then stash my new merchandise in a storage space. Through the diligence of the criminal, I had a store's worth of crap in six weeks.

A guy named Buddy accepted my cash deposit of $250 for a colossal storefront on the corner of Broad and Goshen streets. Buddy dressed like Jim Varney and his face was good-natured but suspiciously shiny, and deeply pitted with adult-onset acne. I eventually learned that Buddy was not actually the landlord but just a guy who occasionally slept on the floor of the storefront, and when he absconded with my deposit I joined the ranks of Americans victimized by crack cocaine. That the cash I lost was roughly proportionate to the clothing I stole is, I still feel, immaterial to this tale, and not at all some kind of apt moral.

Having since visited the Mcsweeny's pirate supply store in San Francisco, I realize now how poorly executed my own space would have been. I am grateful that I was spared the agony of retail in urban Virginia. Buddy was a pleasant enough fellow, when he wasn't robbing me, but Buddy's buddies would have been my client base in that pre- gentrified neighborhood, and I and my wares would have been annihilated. Years later, NASA named a prominent Martian rock formation "Barnacle Bill", and I finally understood the rage, humiliation and sense of personal persecution that moon-landing conspiracy theorists grapple with on a daily basis. REGRET FACTOR: I miss my $250.

I'm not quite sure when I started clipping the very worst stories I could find in the newspaper, but once started down that path, I found it easier and easier to sniff out such stories. By 1996, I had compiled a very large folder of terrible, terrible articles: blindings, botched kidnappings, murdered pets. My intention was to compile everything into a fanzine called Bottomless Pit and then sell this fanzine to other people. Perhaps the idea was to remind everyone how awful we all are as a species, and how very little hope there is for any of us. In the end, the project became too depressing to work on. Also, I was probably concerned that the people at Kinkos would act strange around me afterwards. REGRET FACTOR: Negative ninety.

This was a fanzine Neil Burke and I thought up on tour, and some time and effort went into the logistics. The basic idea was to provide a comprehensive listing of every public restroom in the United States, ranked by a series of criteria (cleanliness, graffiti, lighting, menace, etc) for the use of touring bands. I do not recall that the staggering nature of the project was ever discussed. After all, how many public restrooms can there be in America? Like, two hundred? REGRET FACTOR: zero.

Horse Optne was conceived as the sequel to my well-received Horse Ockney fanzine, a collection of drawings I'd made using the Kid Pix program on my 1990 Macintosh SE. For some reason I never finished the second issue. Here are the surviving pages:

The Mac was too bulky and inefficient to bring with me to California, but trashing old computers is bad for the environment, and no thrift store wants ancient novelty electronics. My only ethical option was reverse shoplifting; I calmly walked into the Salvation Army on Clinton Ave in Albany, NY, calmly placed the computer on the counter and then calmly bolted out the door and down the street. Perhaps some lucky customer discovered these drawing on the 2MB hard drive and completed the zine. REGRET FACTOR: eight.

Exact details of this scheme have been lost to the ages. No emails or letters survive. I do remember someone contacting me to have my band, Men's Recovery Project, play a bar mitzvah in Madison, all expenses paid, and that the offer mutated into a jaunt through Milwaukee, Green Bay and perhaps La Crosse. There was talk of screening up some hilarious four-city tour shirts. The whole thing was basically an excuse for Neil and I to make a pilgrimage to that most mysterious of American mystery cities, Sault Ste. Marie, which is not even in Wisconsin. Maybe I dreamed this? REGRET FACTOR: J.

In spring 2006, Neil and I decided to start a t-shirt company that would only sell fake band merchandise. Here's my logo;

I logged significant man-hours coming up with plausible band names; Divorce, Plasmic Transfer, and Blöed, an Afrikaner heavy metal act whose graphic was just a skull ringed in barbed wire. The venture foundered on the rather simple shipping-weight-to-profit-margin-ratio of shirts, esp. for shirts for bands no one has ever heard of before. I must have been upset when this project deflated, because a quick search of my hard drive shows no traces of all the other great band names I thought of, several dozen in all, some of them deeply stupefying doozies which have now been lost for all time. REGRET FACTOR: always.