Saturday, March 24, 2007

Deaf Tones

I had this friend named Billy growing up. Besides myself, Billy was the only other non-hispanic kid that hung out in our local Hollywood arcade, incessantly feeding quarters into whichever was the most current of fighting game rages.

"You ready to get buttfucked?" he would always ask me before we started a new game.

"You ready to get buttfucked" pretty much sums up Billy and his outlook on life. Hardcore as they come, Billy loved video games and music, and not much else. He'd ramble on and on about the system and how it held back progress, and about how society forced us to conform to its standard instead of it conforming to ours. That was just Billy.

When everybody had long hair, Billy shaved his head. When we were all buying hair dye and getting mohawks, Billy kept his short and combed. When we wearing torn jeans and leather jackets, he wore a shirt and tie. He hated trends with a passion.

He was different, god dammit, and that's how it was going to stay.

Now I'd love to tell you about how he's changed over the years. Talk about how he got married, had kids, and finally settled down with a nice job, but then where would the world be if Billy, the last rebel standing, became a slave to the machine. Nope, our friend Billy still has a mohawk, still preaches about how we're all just pawns to the corrupt, and I'm fairly certain he still doesn't shower regularly.

About the only thing that's changed about Billy is that we started calling him Boxcar Billy a few years ago. Boxcar, as he's now affectionately referred to by his friends, would always have Boxcar by The Ataris playing. No matter what time of day it was, no matter where he was - whether you got into his car that was being held together by duct tape or if you showed up at his closet of an apartment at three in the morning, Boxcar was playing.

None of us had the heart to argue with him that Boxcar was, indeed, a popular song. Instead, nobody ever spoke of it. Every time we'd hear it and Billy would start rocking out, a few of us would glance at each other and give an almost paternal smile. Boxcar Billy was forever ours, our adorable son not without faults, and who were we to take those two minutes away from him.

So one night, as Ruth and I sat on his couch that "someone just threw out, can you believe that shit?" Boxcar by The Ataris came on. I had told Ruth about Billy and this very story before we went over, so as soon as the song came on, she elbowed me in the ribs.

I laughed.

His girlfriend Kim rolled her eyes so far back into her head I was ready to call for an excorcism. Instead, I just gave her an understanding smile - and we all sat there quietly, watching as Billy switched from playing air guitar to banging on air drums, depending on how into the song he was getting. As the song was wrapping up, Billy threw his hands up into the air and counted along with the song, "1, 2, 3, 4 - Who's Punk? What's the score?" and headbanged his way into the close, "You're all alone... you're all alone... you're all alone."

Kim, having waited patiently for Billy to go through the routine she'd too had undoubtedly witnessed hundreds of times, immediately jumped off of his lap after the song ended and announced, "Alright, how about something different!"

She put in a Deftones CD.

And as the first song "Change" from her burned CD came on, my eyes widened as I looked at Ruth in utter fear. Neither of the poor girls knew what they were in store for, what sleeping monster they'd just unleashed.

"What the fuck!" Billy jumped out of his seat. "How can you like this garbage?"
"I love the Deftones," retorted Kim, obviously baffled.
"How the fuck don't I know that?" asked Billy, equally confused.
"I don't know, I guess it never came up," she said, her voice cracking.

Billy was disgusted.

"Can you believe this?" he directed towards me, knowing I shared his sentiment about this particular band. I shrugged noncommittally.

Ruth was beginning to understand the situation we'd just inadvertantly stumbled into. She put her legs up over mine, and from the look of anticipation in her eyes, you'd think the only thing missing at that moment was a bucket of popcorn.

Billy began his tirade.

"Deftones is garbage!" he said definitively. "They're called the Deaf Tones. Get it? The mother fuckers are tone deaf, that's why their music sucks so much!"

"It's just fucking noise. And just because the unwashed masses are conditioned by grass roots radio marketing movements to think these fags are hot shit, it doesn't change the fact that they suckle upon the teat of your wallet with their formulaic screaming."

I laughed, and Billy nodded at me in a show of brotherhood. I was more amused by the fact that he was referring to masses other than himself as unwashed, but this was probably not the best time to point that out. I nodded back at him, in a fight the power way.

"Damn the man," I said sarcastically.
"Damn the man!" confirmed Billy.
"Damn the man, Billy!" Ruth laughed, now fully grasping why those few of us who knew Billy well were so fond of him.
"Damn the man," accepted Kim.

Damn the man indeed.

Love you, Boxcar Billy.

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