Sunday, March 28, 2010

Headphones Only

Why did 98Rock have to play "Headphones Only" so late, and only on Tuesday nights? Tony "Mad Dog" Colter's hour of "progressive rock, art rock and fusion" was relegated to one o'clock in the morning on a school night. This fact, and the headphonic nature of the music itself, made staying awake for the entire show nearly impossible, but I gave it my best shot, week after week. T.C. played music that simply could not be heard elsewhere on the radio. He introduced me to Kraftwerk's "Autobahn," which despite its brilliance was a tough twenty-three minutes to survive awake. He dug up some great old Moody Blues, Yes, Traffic, Genesis, Weather Report, Vangelis and Baltimore's own Crack the Sky. Unfortunately he also loved Pink Floyd, and he tended to play "Welcome to the Machine" every single week. Most of what he played was amazing, especially through headphones.

It was during those first couple of years of the 1980's that I became best of friends with Chuck and Staub. We were nerds, by and large, but we always managed to create a relatively good time for ourselves. We were a little slower than our peers to outgrow video games and when we finally did, we grew straight into weird music. None of us particularly cared for the mainstream. It was this mentality, plus a magazine article or two, that had led us to lucid dreaming.

Simply put, lucid dreaming involves being aware enough during dreams to consciously alter their course. All three of us tried it and compared our experiences. We were fiercely competitive and tried to one-up each other's dreams, to the point where we all were undoubtedly resorting to wild exaggeration. We kept notepads by our respective beds and, in accordance with the articles' instructions, tried to jot down whatever details we could so that we'd have a better shot at recalling the dreams in the morning. Half the fun was trying to decipher the notes the next day, as they were written by 3/4-unconscious fourteen-year olds in the pitch dark. Staub's notes were completely illegible. We liked to think he was channeling some ancient spirit whose primary mode of communication was hieroglyphics but sadly, he just had really frightful handwriting.

On Wednesday mornings there was no competing with my dream experiences, lucid or otherwise, because I'd gone to sleep the preceding night to Headphones Only. Chuck and Staub always had dreams like, "We were riding our bikes on Edmonston, over the train tracks toward the Pike, and a train was coming, and Amy Peters was on it, and it wouldn't stop, so I turned my bike into a motorcycle and caught up to the train and made her get on, and we like, totally made out." Mine, especially on Headphones Only nights, were different.

"We were in Mr. Mohpstein's class, and Mr. M caught Billy Stein helping that guy behind him cheat on his make-up test. Mr. M stood up really fast and his chair flew back and crashed into the wall. Everyone just sat there staring at him with their mouths hanging open. Except Chuck. Chuck was turned around in his seat, talking around me to Heather Moore. Mr. M goes, 'I'll deal with you two in a minute,' and he was looking at ME and Chuck! He took Billy and what's-his-name over to the math office to kill them or call their parents or whatever, and came right back. He slowly picked up his chair and put it back, and walked over – like really, really slow – to Chuck's desk, and just stood there, rocking on his feet and smiling at him. He just kept grinning his evil Mr. Mohpstein grin at Chuck, until after forever Chuck goes, 'What?' and Mr. M goes, 'Chuck, I like you. And if Joe here is your friend, then I guess I like him, too. But enough is enough. Come with me.' Heather just sat there, knowing that her life had been spared, and gave me this 'who, me?' look. As we reached the door just ahead of Mr. M, I decided that I didn't like where this dream was headed. So all of a sudden there was this really loud rumbling sound outside the classroom window, like a helicopter was landing on the tennis courts. Mr. M turned around and three Marines Special Ops commandos crashed through the window and yelled for everyone to stay down and promptly blew Mr. M to a million pieces with a bazooka, then shot Heather about 75 times with their M-16's. Then they saluted me and Chuck, climbed back out the window, one by one, covering each other's retreat, jumped back into their chopper and took off. Then, Chuck and I went and found Amy Peters and Katy Griggs and totally made out with them."

After a night when Tony the Mad Dog had taken up a quarter of the show with Kraftwerk's "Autobahn," I gave this report:

"I was lost in the woods somewhere near Lake Needwood, looking for you two. There was no path, and I kept getting spider webs in my face. I had Staub's dog with me, and she kept wandering off and coming back with weird stuff in her mouth. First she brought me an umbrella, then a history book, then an old Atari cartridge РI think it was 'Maze Craze' Рand finally she came trotting up to me with a Nike running shoe Рwith a foot still in it! It was all nasty and full of flies and maggots, and one of the flies was Mrs. Palmetto, and she was yelling at me to hurry home and to make sure Chuck brought his sister's bike home. I tried to tell her that it was actually Staub's sister's bike, and she flew away, laughing. I thought I heard you guys, so I yelled and yelled and ran toward your voices. A guy dressed up as Hitler came up behind me, grabbed the dog and flew away. I came out of the woods beside what I thought was Avery Road, but it looked more like the Beltway Рfour lanes on each side, with just a grassy median between them. And every car was a red Ferrari Testarossa, Porsche 928S-4, Lotus Esprit Turbo, Mazarati Bora or Lamborghini Diablo. All red. And they must have been going at least 150. And they were all being driven by Gary Coleman, who kept yelling, 'What chu talkin' 'bout, Willis,' out the sunroofs and t-tops. I started walking along the road, and all the signs were in German or Austrian or something Р'ich' this and 'ein' that Рand what looked like a speed limit sign said, 'H̦chstgeschwindigkeit 200 k/h.' It was getting late, and I was gonna get in trouble if I came home after dark, so I made one of the Lamborghinis pull over. Turns out it was Katy Griggs with a Gary Coleman mask on and she was wearing her cheerleader skirt and a tube top. She drove like a maniac and got us to the elementary school parking lot behind my house in like 15 seconds, so we had plenty of time to totally make out, before I ran home through the back yard and she turned into a horse and galloped away."

The night I failed to stay awake through the entire 12 minutes of Tony's favorite Jon & Vangelis song, "The Friends of Mr. Cairo," was the most memorable. I perched at the border between conscious and unconscious for at least a half-hour after it had ended, then went lightly under:

"We're at Putt-Putt and you two are playing Xevious, and Chuck is totally cruising through every level and you're getting totally annihilated right and left. I go to get some more tokens and the machine goes crazy and starts spitting out hundred-dollar bills, tons of them. So I just keep grabbing them and stuffing them in my pockets as fast as I can, so no one can tell what's going on, and a line starts to form behind me, and kids start yelling at me to hurry up. It goes on forever – money just flying out, and me just grabbing and stuffing, grabbing and stuffing. Finally, when I can hardly walk 'cause my jeans and shirt and jacket are so full of money, it stops, and I just head back toward you guys like nothing happened. But Joan Lunden is patting you down and putting handcuffs on you, and former First Daughter Amy Carter is reading you your rights, and you look at me and your faces are switched and your eyes are bleeding. They stuff green putt-putt balls in both your mouths and put you in a red plastic Bradlee's shopping cart and wheel you out to their ice cream truck, and I'm like, 'Hey, what's your problem?' and they start flinging Chinese throwing stars at me. So I run back into Putt-Putt, only now it's some kind of meat locker, and I'm freezing and I turn around and the door's gone. So one of the sides of beef says, 'And that's the way it is,' and I turn around and it's that old evening news guy, in a scuba suit with blue and yellow flowers all over it. He kicks me in the chin with one of his flippers, but it doesn't hurt, so he whacks me over the head with a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee. Now I'm mad, but he just laughs and kicks off his flippers and runs away, disappearing among all the sides of beef. Next thing I know, there's somebody pushing me – forward, right, left, forward some more – and all the meat is doing Humphrey Bogart impressions – badly. Then I'm pushed through a door and into a room with ceiling fans and potted plants and huge wicker throne-like chairs. Willie the Weatherman from Channel 9 is there, and he's going, 'Well-done, well-done Mr. Cairo,' and that guy from 'It's a Wonderful Life' is crying about something being useless, and there's a really hot girl there, totally sitting on this Cairo guy's lap and messing with his tie. He looks up and sees me and says something about how the word on the street is that I want more than my five percent, and how he thought I had more respect for him than to go around yakking about my cut behind his back. He nods at one of his goons, and this huge dude pats his underarm, winks at Mr. Cairo and says to me, 'Let's you and me take a little walk, Johnny.' I'm like, 'Dude, my name's not Johnny,' and he's like, 'Whatever you say, kid – but let's go, just the same.' So I'm not liking this at all. I make the guy turn into Kelly McCleary in a bikini, but she still has the underarm holster and the Lugar, and she's still leading me back into the meat locker – and she's really strong. So I try to turn the meat locker back into Putt-Putt, but it ends up looking more like the gym showers in the boys' locker room, and Doug Hardy and Mr. Atkins are there with machetes, hacking toward us through thick bushes. I change Kelly into a Kawasaki 650 with dual chrome exhaust, and get the hell out of there. Once I'm out in the hall, the bell rings and Harvey Korman starts chasing me up the stairs. When we get to the top of the stairs, I'm like I have really had just about enough of this, and he turns into Becky Winkler and we go into the band room and totally make out."

Chuck and Staub didn't feel like sharing any more lucid dream stories, after that.

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