1. No one cares. They’ll say they do, but they don’t. Not like you. They care as much as you care about the weather or money or white after Labor Day. No one cares whether that’s Earl Palmer smacking the skins or James Jamerson holding down the low-end. They don’t read liner notes like box scores, committing quartets to memory as if we’re only a blackout away from an oral history. Music is vibrating air to those who don’t care, more like traffic than anything else. Each passing day, it becomes more of an annoyance, omnipresent yet never really memorable unless something exhilarating provides them a reason to snap the shutter. They’re comfortable in their well-worn routes, laid down around the time they were sixteen. Anything after is pierced by a poison arrow of impermanence, launched unknowingly from their own bow. It’s not their fault. It’s not your fault either, though you’re the one asking a dog to look at the stars.
…2. Don’t explain. If prodded about your predilections, offer as few words as possible. “It’s complicated.” Never say it’s hard to explain, you’re only inviting an inquiry and then you’re right back at rule number one. If pressed, hand the interrogator your phone for them to peruse. If needled further, provide the iPod full of the stuff you think you should be jamming. The one filled with the Before I Dies. The one you always carry with you in case of a dead battery or an urge to live wildly through music no one else would dare play while driving. You do this sometimes. You wonder aloud, “How many people around the world are listening to Aka in their cars right now?” You smile imagining the number, praying your unique, and in turn justifying your right to have another second and another and another and another. When you think about it, you realize you talk to yourself a lot.
…3. For tonight, they’re right. It’s not worth the argument. What are you really fixing? Will the world spin off its axis if too many people believe “Without You” is a Harry Nilsson composition? Will Saint Peter refuse entry if someone confuses Stealers Wheel for Bob Dylan? You don’t think so, yet you feel yourself flush when someone refers to Iron Maiden as speed metal. Your eyes become magnetized to the tip of your nose like a scolded Siamese claws deep in a recliner. You want to yell. Scream. Correct. You’ll remain quiet, swallowing injustice as if it were a glass of scotch from an open bar. Occasionally, this will lead to instances of absolute anguish. You foresee yourself on your deathbed, your grandkids slipping on Third/Sister Lovers instead of #1 Record while your life leaks out. How many times did you tell them? Maybe you never said it, but you always played it. That should’ve been enough. They’ll pet your head and smile as you expire to “Kizza Me.” They won’t know you held your breath to make it go faster. Soon after, they’ll scatter what they believe is your body along a shoreline you never walked while your picked-over soul provides sanctuary to a fungus in the back of a thrift store.
…4. Don’t get hurt. You’d think this would eventually stop, that the nerve would be deadened after a series of scratches. It still stings. Every spin. Even years later, you wince remembering them laughing at Kim Bendix Petersen. They laughed without knowing him. It’s different for you. You think you know him, so you could laugh if you wanted. If it was funny. You rationalize it like tripping in public: If you laugh, they can laugh. Otherwise, how do they know you’re not injured? How does anyone know… Christ, okay, first rule: No one cares. So, be them. If it’s your house and your mix, pretend it’s not. Because, when “The Crusher” goes into Zoogz Rift, they’re not chuckling because you’re clever. It’s because this is absurd. This life of yours is absurd. Why can’t you like boring things? Why can’t you spend Friday getting so drunk you forget you do it every Friday? Why can’t you be normal? Why is your perfect ideal always on the next mix, the next bin, the next blog? You skip back to reality when someone makes a comment. You go to the player and press a few more buttons than necessary. You curl your legs under yourself like Schrodinger’s fur-ball while shuffle calculates, simultaneously happy to be out of control and miserable because you know you never had it in the first place.
…5. Remember. You’ll be home soon or they’ll go away. You’ll then be surrounded by a thousand familiar conversations. You’ll relax and run your finger along more spines than a chiropractor. You’ll once again join your one-sided friendships and their amber days kept from ending like stuck-grooves. Envious of their immortality, you’ll extend them the common curiosity of do unto others. You’ll wish. You’ll hope like hell, one day, someone will open you up, take out your true inner self, sit back, and just listen.