Your Ears You Keep, and I’ll Tell You Why

“Harry, you know how much I love watching you pretend to work, but I’ve got Reagan’s 100th birthday to plan, my re-election to fumble, my legacy to cripple, and professional liberals to frame for it. I’m swamped. “
—President Barack H. Obama

My ears have been ringing for over seven years now. I can pinpoint the precise moment this began—an explosively awesome gig in spring 2003 where my thunderous bass rig got augmented by a massive in-house subwoofer—but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. The left ear is definitely worse, but at least it’s consistently and predictably bad. The right one falls in and out of dog-whistle range at radically random intervals, and the doctors all say that it’s a progressive and permanent case of tinnitus. All rock stars get hit with this sooner or later, but I haven’t wanted to be Sting or Pete Townshend for a long time, and it’s a wretched feeling that I’m, like, totally over, you know?

Now, I don’t expect any sympathy for my condition—I did this to myself, after all—but as with all the ravages of age, it’s the little things that I miss here and there that make for a big fat bummer. I mean, I love headphones and earbuds just as much as any sane person, but I can only stand to listen to music that way for so long before the ringing comes back and my brain just tunes out. I don’t play many big gigs anymore (even though both of my bands have been revived in 2010 after years of inactivity), so the best times I have listening to music are 1) my daily commute, and 2) the ten-to-fifteen minutes I take every night to—like Jarvis Cocker told me—do the dishes.

I’m completelly serious, dude. Doing dishes is never a chore if I can rock out at the same time, and lemme tellya, you haven’t lived until you’ve lathered up a sponge with detergent as Them Crooked Vultures rip apart your cochlea. You haven’t experienced anything like the true bliss of scrubbing away the most stubborn gunk while Prince or the Roots supply the low end. I dare you to reach the same peaks of aural pleasure while cleaning the bathroom or vacuuming the floor. Not with a hundred funky Man/Miracle songs could you do this. My wife claims that she has, but as with so many other things she must know wisdom I don’t, because I’ve tried replicating her experimental behavior and it hasn’t worked.

But that’s okay—sometimes you feel like housework, and sometimes you want to just sack out with a beer and tell the universe to fuck off. Like tonight—a prime Friday night for rock & roll degeneracy, and here I am bashing away at this stupid keyboard with only a bottle of Blue Moon to fuel the last reserves of my psychic energy. Good goddamn, I’m tired. I’m not complaining, mind you—2010 has been very good to me, project-wise—but I feel like I’ve been working my ass off with programming and design for fourteen straight months.

And I have plenty of ass to work off, man. A decade of various sedentary office jobs, plus the occasional streak of unemployment, has guaranteed me plenty of posterior real estate, and no one needs ass assets like that. Oh sure, I bike sometimes—but it doesn’t help much. And yet, I don’t really care—because I can finally sleep at night. Hell yes—righteous beauty rest is now my truest friend, even on the nights when I’m up ’til 2am painstakingly piecing together dastardly PHP and e-commerce modules. For that, I have only the Byzantine Empire to thank.

Yeah buddy, you read that right—because for me, medieval religious warfare, barbarian invasions, mystical iconoclastic debates, and declining, collapsing societies will always equal major Z’s. I’ve finally found a history topic that will put me to sleep. I mean, it absolutely knocks me out—there is no considered musing on the nature of Life, the Universe, and Everything like I do with other interesting periods of history (the Age of Discovery, the American Civil War), or even the head-slapping parallels with today’s wild party of decadence (classical Greece, Rome, and especially the intervening Hellenistic era). No, there’s just a pathetic and dumb succession of Byzantine emperors and empresses who gain power via coups, and then do awesome and/or terrible things like argue with the Pope over the nature of God, or destroy the imperial army by fighting Arabs, Slavs, or Bulgars.

Reading Byzantine history is so stunningly predictable that insomnia will never afflict me again as long as I can crack open a biography of Justinian or Basil II or Bardas Phocas or Empress Zoe. Those crazy people always ended up on the wrong side of fate, but reading about their successive, similarly gruesome demises (often at the hands of their own rabid children or feral servants) is way better than counting sheep—especially when you throw in a scholarly author of such stereotypical pip-pip and tally-ho aristocratic, elistist English condescension as John Julius Norwich.

So pretty please, pardon me if I can’t bring myself to give a fuck about the melodramatic travails of the biggest asses in the country—the feckless Democratic Party and our goofy, Boyd-Langton-crossed-with-Steve-Urkel president. I mean, shit—I enjoy watching Republicans lose elections as much as the next squishy suburban liberal (and a good many of them did lose last week, especially here in California), so I probably won’t be supporting any no-hoper “primary Obama” efforts for 2012. Unless I myself am the candidate. Hell yes—why not? I’ll be over 35 by then, and I can write a Facebook and Twitter post without taking all morning. Maybe Alan Grayson can give me some money-grubbing tips. I have more guts than that fat bastard.

Wait, what? Jesus, let’s get control of this useless tripe. Next thing you know, I actually will run, and then lose—and no Democrat wants to lose in 2012. No way, dude—one wrong move and every losing candidate will end up like all those wretched Byzantine ex-emperors. Their eyes will be gouged out, their noses cut off, and their heads tonsured (even the women!) before getting shoved into sack-cloth undies and condemned to live their remaining time on Earth in some isolated monastery or convent, far out among the wild neo-Christian tribes of Nebraska or North Dakota or Saskatchewan. Oh yes, they will become extremely familiar with what “to the pain” means, my sweet Westley.

But not me, old sport. No—I’ll be safe in my cardboard California condo, secure in the comfort of a relatively low (for 2007) mortgage interest rate, and nothing bad will ever happen to me again. Well, except that infernal high-pitched whine between my ears. That will be one hell of an endurance test, dude.

So pray for me. Send, like, care packages or whatever.