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Click to view individual song lyrics
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  • Thief
  • Juice
  • Le French Movie
  • This Isn't Just A Car
  • Buddy's Not Ready
  • Orbiting Monica
  • I Lie The Truth
  • The Habit
  • Gun Day
  • Capitalism
  • Architect or Doctor

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  • I'm very, very small. I'm sitting in Miss Gelsenleiter's first grade class (or third grade...I can't remember...I had her for both). She's very upset, and is saying "If the person who did this very bad thing would please just raise their hand, I promise not to punish them". There's a ton of tension in the room, but no motion. She's looking right at me now...ice rays...but she's also on the verge of tears. "This is a chance for someone to learn about honesty and responsibility. Please...just raise your hand."

    I don't move a muscle.

    What....is she crazy? This very nice, thrift-shop quilt of an old lady (she'd even taught my mother), was asking me to admit to the whole class that I'd slashed their pictures with my penknife. My father had given it to me...it was a house key that someone had split open length-wise and then inserted a little knife blade that folded in between the halves.

    I'd slashed all those dumb pictures because she hadn't picked mine. It was a good picture...a black car and a pretty lady in a white dress. Well, she hadn't picked it to go up on the wall, and that had really made me angry, so I'd waited 'till no one was looking, snapped open the penknife and sliced each picture in half. Zzzziiiippppp ...right down the middle.

    How dare she not pick my picture? I might have been small, but I knew the significance of this moment....of what she was really telling me about who I was, and who I was going to be.

    I knew that I would forever be someone whose picture would not get picked (even though it would be a good one and just as good as anyone else's), and I knew that I would have to take revenge for this constantly. I was going to have to be sneaky and sly, and patiently watch for good opportunities to put things right. And I knew that I'd be spending my whole life among all the other people whose pictures had never been picked. I would not be playing with the better- off kids at the north end of our street. No, my friends would be the Slovenian D.P. kids who lived in a rented house on the other end of our block...kids whose clothes didn't fit them very well. Later on it would be all the black kids who nobody liked...not just for all the traditional reasons, but also because they smelled like discount store soap. And later it would be all the crazy girls with deep, deep hurts and the bikers and the rock 'n' rollers and the weirdos and the cranks. But especially, I'd be lumped with all the poor kids...the hard luckers....the unwanted and undesired...the ones who for some reason hadn't been picked for anything... ever. We were all destined to be prey for the rich, the pretty and the favored.

    This was my first secret...and if I told it, Miss Gelsenleiter, I'd lose it.

    I'm big now. And I'm driving a car down a highway outside Boston. And my thoughts are smashing into each other: "Weston and the Massachusetts Turnpike Exit...only a mile away? Think fast, pal . 'If a car's traveling at 60 miles-per-hour, it will take one minute to go-'...but I'm doing 95, so that's...you're stalling....no, I'm not. '5280 feet divided by-'...oh,yes you are....NO! NO! NO! Look, are you going to do it or not? Well? WELL??? "

    I pull over to the side of the road and turn off the car. Things needed sorting out. First off, I don't like sweat- ing inside my only suit. Black's my best color, and whatever I decided to do, I'd want to stay as crisp as creased lightning. Of course, radical states of sharpness are never achieved by clothes alone-the right accessory is essential. In this case, I'm wearing a Jaguar. A Limited Edition Vandan Plas. Also schwartz. Like my suit, you don't just "get in" this car. You put it on.

    This road yacht's not mine, of course...it belongs to my future father-in-law...and no, I'm not here in Boston to get married either. My fiance had been picked as the maid- of-honor in her big sister's wedding, and so I'd come up from New York City early to lend a hand with the prepar- ations. Actually, it's more accurate to say I'd been drafted. I'd have never volunteered, since I was broke again, which is not the best position to be in when hanging with one's future (and solvent)in-laws.

    Besides, I hated weddings. If you've ever worked on one, you know how much they resemble military operations. Despite late summer thunderstorms and even floods, I'd spent a frantic week in the Matrimonial Quartermaster Corp sailing a supply ship/station wagon through Boston's back streets, trolling for crinolines and damning the torpedoes to get the flower girls to their eyelash-dyeing appointments on time. Although I'd racked up many hours of active duty, my efforts were minor compared to the bride's. She'd spent over a year putting this show together, and even though we were staying under the same roof, our paths had crossed only once. She'd allowed herself the luxury of a ten-minute cave-in, and was sitting on a sofa in the living room numbing her nerves with a G & T. I was roaring out the door on an errand of great importance, when she'd looked up at me and mock-threatened, "Heh, heh, heh, see what you'll have to go through!"

    Heh. Heh. Heh.

    It was only today...the wedding day...only fifteen minutes ago and only after the bridal party had left in a limousine for the church, that it felt like all this work might actually result in a wedding. My fiance's father had left the Jaguar for us, handing her the keys after loading two cases of very good champagne into the trunk. He'd also left his wallet and check book in the glove compartment because the pockets of his rented morning coat were sewn shut, and having recently under-gone hip-replacement surgery, his pants pockets were out, too, 'cause he couldn't tolerate any pressure in that area of his body. "Careful with that wallet," he'd told us. "There's two thousand dollars in there. The caterers are insisting on cash".

    About half way to the church, my fiance had turned to me with a look of true horror and groaned "Oh my God, we forgot the rice and the crystal goblets!" The rice needs no explan- ation, but the idea behind the goblets was to have a bottle of champagne in the bride and groom's limo. Aside from this being a nice romantic touch, the wine guaranteed that the usually shy groom would be friendly and loose at the recep- tion. Three minutes of swearing and accusations later, I voiced the obvious. "No problem, baby," I said, "I'll drop you off at the church, then go back for the rice and gob- lets." "But you'll miss the wedding," she argued back, "and my father is really paranoid about who he lets drive his car," "He'll never know," I said, "and this car can do 145 miles an hour. Believe me, I won't miss the damn wedding."

    And it was on the way back to the house that the sweet- ness of my situation gradually became apparent. It started when I thought about the thousands of dollars I'd seen change hands in the past week, which contrasted so viciously with my seemingly endless poverty. I was chronically money- sick...and it was the focus of all my brooding. I'd thrashed around for years trying to figure out what it was that everyone else seemed to know about money...but I didn't. As the highway blurred by, I once more ran through what I called the Five Vexations. Why did money invariably gravitate towards the unimaginative and loathsome? How could anyone believe that crap about upward mobility when this was clearly the age of diminishing returns? Why did I have to stop doing what I wanted to do, so I could earn some money so I could do what I wanted to do? Why did we, as a culture, value hustlers and paper-pushers more than craftsmen and laborers, while simultaneously preaching some bilge about how work builds character? And why was money... this artificial construct, this agreed-upon mass halluci- nation...the taboo subject? People were more comfortable publicly discussing the goo that oozed from their private parts than talking about money.

    And then about a hundred feet from the exit I was supposed to take, everything converged into an exquisitely dense, multi-layered and complex temptation. The family had arranged for a friend to house-sit, because lately some not-so-gentlemanly thieves had taken up reading the wedding announcements in the Boston papers, and while a bride was saying "I do", they'd do a little breaking-and-entering. I'd spent most of today polishing three generations of family silver...it was laid out on the dining room table. All I'd have to say is "Dave, they told me to bring this stuff to the reception." He'd probably help me load it into the car. Right next to the two cases of champagne.

    There were other tugs and twists. I'd been driving around all week, and since I didn't know Boston that well, I'd brought a road atlas with me. And I remember joking that "Hey honey, we could get out of this whole thing by taking Rt. 128 North to I-95 to I-93 and it's a clear shot to Canada." I would have the length of the wedding-a full Congregationalist service 'cause First Daughter wanted it that way-plus a few hours head start before they'd catch on. Both the Jaguar's gas tanks registered full, so there would be no need to stop. I even kinda resembled my father-in- law, so I might get away with using his driver's license at the border. And forging his signature on one of his checks wouldn't be too hard.

    So I'm sitting by the side of the road now, being gently rocked by the whomp of the passing trucks. I get out of the car to pace, and reach inside my suit jacket for a cigarette, and discover that I even have my passport with me. The last time I'd worn this suit was on a quick foreign courier flight I'd taken to earn a few bucks. Guess I'd forgotten to put it away.

    I'm standing by a highway in Eastern Massachusetts.... leaning against a Jaguar...leaning against the full weight of my history...smoking a cigarette...playing with a set of keys.

    -Chris Butler


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    All songs written, performed and recorded by Chris Butler except:

    "This Isn't Just A Car" - recorded at Upstart in Hoboken by Chris Gibson who also sang backing vocals, mixed by Scott Anthony at The Crib in Clifton, NJ.

    "Architect or Doctor?" - recorded By Ben Kilmer at B-Jams in Hoboken (with help from Claudio and JP), mixed & edited & remixed by Scott Anthony at Dessau in NYC & The Crib in Clifton, NJ, JP also played the part of Mr. Tourettes, C. C. Chase played the part of Ms. Thorazine, Jim Dillman played bass, Jim & Jack Knife played The Soul Sistahs on the outro.

    "I Lie The Truth" - Ralph Carney - slide clarinet & twitterings, backing vocals- Carla Murry & Mick Hargreaves, Jim Dillman - bass on The Big Part, more editing by Scott.

    "Capitalism" - brass parts composed and synthesized by Chris D. Butler.

    Final mastering and assembly by Dave Steele at DBS Digital, Hoboken.

    Cover: Brighton Beach, UK (c.1988) by Morgan McNeish/back cover photo by Morgan McNeish (c. yesterday), chair by Dollhouse Antics in NYC for all your micro-universe needs and once again Lou Carbone did the assembly and pixel-digitations.

    CD art design by Steven Dono/American Society for NON.

    Final graphics assembly by M. Design.

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    "otium cum dignitate"

    1997 Chris Butler/1997 Future Fossil Music. All rights reserved.