My New Band Is: Fructose Melancholy

Apologies to real life Will Eno, should this ever become Google-able. And: recommendations.

Thank you for subscribing to MY NEW BAND IS, despite that fact that no one paid you to do so, and you very likely have never met me in person. Below is something that is medium-to-long in length that I hope you will enjoy, and below that, some recommendations. If you make it through the feature.

The first edition of MNBI is an imagined scene from the Will Eno-scripted “Skittles: The Musical”, which you can read about here for context. I love Eno’s plays, and was very sad that I missed the real thing which sold out immediately, so I worked through my grief by imagining it:


act one

Enters in darkness. TODD THE TAUPE SKITTLE is wearing an expensive but intentionally slouchy taupe cashmere sweater, and dark skinny jeans that are a bit distressed. As is Todd. He pulls a vaping device out of his pocket, inhales deeply, and then exhales a voluminous puff of vanilla smoke.

I don’t even like musicals, so this is fine, I guess.

Hi.

There are many, many, when I think about it—many things—I’d prefer to do than watch a musical. Than to hear its supposedly enjoyable noises enter my head holes and stimulate my brain with some constructed parallel narrative that has a satisfying arc culminating in an all-hands chorus at the end that will drive soundtrack sales and franchise royalties for decades to come.

I thought about those many things while waiting to see my optometrist on Tuesday, and wrote them down, only because I knew we were going to be here, in this place, talking about these things, and I hate being unprepared.

Then I crumpled up my list and ate it, because not everything needs to be permanently documented.

You know what I mean.

Winks at audience.

I should introduce myself.

But I won’t. You already know who I am. You paid the 200 bucks. You’re holding a copy of Playbill. You can read. Presumably. And yes, you’re here for a musical, and well, sorry.

To be honest… or maybe to be fair? To be fairnest? I have specific complaints with musicals that you may disagree with. Here’s one: Musicals often revel in nostalgia. I don’t know if you’ve actively reveled in nostalgia before, but if there’s too much of it, you can easily suffocate. Keep that in mind.

Todd pulls a bag of Skittles from his pocket, opens it, then pours a handful of Skittles into his hand, and pops them into his mouth. Chews a bit. Maybe for an uncomfortably long time. Swallows hard.

Perhaps you’re wondering how I can just eat these. Later we’ll discuss cannibalism! But not right now.

Musicals. Musicals also encourage the maudlin tendencies of a certain type of person who views his life as a series of highs and lows, the vacillations of which are naturally accompanied by a soundtrack of sorts, marked by big bold saccharine chords when everything is swell. Then someone gets rectal cancer and hello, E major. Then someone dies or lives, and never seems to just drift inexorably toward the grave dully burdened by boredom, sexual dissatisfaction, and student loans. I prefer to drift exorably--it’s carbon neutral and good for the knees--but you never see drifting of any sort in a musical. You never hear jarring discordant patterns, or pointless meandering with no satisfying resolution.

I’m tempted to use the phrase “I just can’t” because it’s descriptive of everything, including my current predicament. But I don’t want you to think less of me.

That said, I like it. It feels appropriate. I’m not 17, of course, and I’ve never personally been on Snapstagram, but like many of us who were conceived in 1974…

Gestures vaguely at audience, as if to say, all of us.

I also just feel that I technically, and existentially, can’t. Like, I can, functionally. I get out of bed in the morning, and take some fish oil and endure the commute, but why deal with the rest of it? What’s the payoff?

I never got a payoff, but you know that, or you wouldn’t be here. I guess you want to know what happened. Fine.

Here I introduce my former colleague, Red Number 3.

Red No. 3 enters. Is played by a small vial of potentially carcinogenic food coloring, wheeled onto the stage by an actual oncologist.

Red Number Three was never an ingredient in the original Skittles lineup, but Red Number Five couldn’t be here, because as Red Number Five puts it, when your stepdaughter gets an interview at Williams, you don’t miss that unless you want a divorce.

Thank you for coming, Red Number Three.

Unfortunately, Red can’t speak because it’s a toxic additive that lacks the vocal apparatus for communicating and has no working neurological system whatsoever.

We all have our flaws.

Moving on.

Oncologist bearing Red No. 3 exits with Red. No. 3.

Red and I were contemporaries in the Skittles lab, when management was busy churning out little globules of corn syrup for mass consumption in the mid-70s. I was a major prototype. I was supposed to the ur-Skittle, the apotheosis of whatever it means to be a Skittle. If you combine all of the other Skittles into one synthesized color and flavor, you get me.

Todd.

The problem, according to the higher ups, is that I, the ostensibly lower down, am an unappealing shade of beige. Beigy-gray. Taupe.

I am the color of generic white lady pantyhose. The shade of your Aunt Gina’s Camry. But even worse: the shade of rotting fruit.

I was the lime Skittle on his second divorce after his boss told him he needed to familiarize himself with Facebook Business Manager. The lemon Skittle depressed, insecure, and undermined against her will by the bright cheery exterior that was forced upon her, struggling to get off of painkillers. The purple skittle, secretly loathed by everyone, but so loud, so determined to be the center of attention, that everyone just goes along with it till he shuts up, and eventually heads home alone to watch re-runs of Seinfeld and fall asleep on the couch drooling into what’s left of a Hot Pocket.

Hot Pockets don’t include Red Number Three either, which is kind of a pleasant surprise.

Slowly extracts a few red Skittles from the package. Looks at them in his palm. Throws them behind his back.

So the color theorists employed by Skittles—they were all laid off recently by the way. Turns out Trump tax cuts only trickle down in the avalanche-y will-kill-you-if-you’re-not-already-at-the-top-of-the-mountain sense. The color theorists determined that the color of beige, or taupe, or whatever you want to call whatever this is…

Gestures at self, in an exaggerated way.

…mostly just engenders a feeling of ennui in the people who consume Skittles. Lime makes them think of vacationing in Bermuda. Orange makes them think of adventure sports. Red makes them think of a kind of sex they’ve never had.

I make them think of entropy. And entropy is just slow barely noticeable death.

No one has ever accused me of Pollyanna-ism, but I think this is unnecessarily negative framing.  What’s wrong with entropy? Especially in fruit! You say entropy, I say fermentation!

But no one sees it this way. It’s systemic.

Fuck the lime Skittle, by the way. Lime is the color of bile.

Extracts the lime Skittles, lines them up on the stage, then stomps them one by one.

I’m sorry. That was deeply necessary. I can’t talk about why.

But back to you. What is it we were we discussing? Why are we here again?

Oh, right. Football. The Super Bowl.

Well, admittedly, I have nothing to say about that. I went to Bard.

But competitive brain damage really is a metaphor for our time, is it not?

Pulls out the vape again, inhales deeply. Exhales. Vanilla again.  

Sorry; I just quit smoking. Baby on the way.

By now, you’ve probably noticed that there’s no music in this musical.

No music whatsoever.

Are you angry? Do you want your money back?

Do you feel deprived of the final descending triad in the inevitable E major and the concomitant emotional resolution that you paid $200 to artificially experience in the middle of Times Square, the commercial void that people often mistaken for the heart of the city because they no longer remember what defines a city or a heart?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, look at it this way: the music is in your heart. Likely somewhere in the left atrium. If you’d like to pay a medical professional to extract it, well, no one’s stopping you.

What are you missing anyway? The opportunity to revel in nostalgia?

Euphoria? Delight? Joy?

As you’re probably aware, joy has been commercialized, like everything else. It’s a brand of dishwashing soap. There is also a cereal called Life, which on some level, you have to admire for its unabashed grandiosity, which you rarely see in wheat derivatives.

Remarkably, there is no major brand called Orgasm, which seems like an oversight. The limits of commercialization seem to stop at actual hedonistic pleasure, and if it did exist, it would likely be trademarked as a type of garbage bag.

Orgasm, TM! Now bigger and stronger!

Peers thoughtfully into the Skittles bag.

You can see it, can’t you? It wouldn’t be surprising at all. Orgasm Trash Bags! You even know what the logo looks like. It’s orange! For no reason! You know the jingle! You can hear the licensed indie music in your head! A nice 1, 5, 6, 4 progression in the key of C!

You can see all of it. Mom in the kitchen, getting ready to take out the garbage.

Wait, dad in the kitchen. It’s 2019.

Dad in the kitchen, pulling a supersized Orgasm bag out of the trash can and then hauling it to curb for pickup. It’s unduly full of paper products that could be recycled, but why does it matter because 98.6 percent of this crap ends up in landfills anyway, but don’t ask me I’m not a climate change expert and if I’m being fairnest, I used to work with carcinogenic food colorings and I slept just fine at night.  

Dad climbs into his mid-range whatever, en route to work, to crush it, or kill it, or otherwise physically destroy it, as white collar types do, and he backs slowly out of the driveway. He looks over his right shoulder, then glances in his rear view mirrors, and accelerates.

Only to be blindsided by an oncoming sanitation truck in his blind spot.

Oops.

And, I know. The irony. Well, who would have seen it coming? Not Matt, who was flattened by Refuse Services of New Brunswick. Maybe someone whose rear view mirror had a wider field of vision, but not Matt.

I feel for Matt. Past tense Matt. RIP, Matt.  

We have some similarities, Matt and I. Matt and Todd. Short generic mono-syllabic names with final hard consonants, and pointless doubling of the last letter, our lives subtly determined by large corporate brands indifferent to our ultimate existence—Matt, Orgasm Trash Bags; me, Skittles. In fact, Matt and I probably have many things in common.

Except Matt is dead.  

Pour one out for Matt.

Holds the bag of Skittles high above the stage, and slowly pours the remaining Skittles out, then kicks them in all directions, including the direction of the audience.

Pause.  

Where was I? Oh, yes.

Cannibalism!

Musical number begins.


Well, I hope that did something for you. Next week, I’ll publish an article that’s a bit more traditional. It involves the darkest shade of paint available to humans, stargazing, pettiness, eco-tourism, art, and existential dread, and includes reporting.

And now, some gratuitous recommendations!

1) Non-fiction books: You should read Michael Lewis’s The Fifth Risk if you haven’t. It was my favorite Trump-related book that came out last year, and unexpectedly timely in the wake of the shutdown. Lewis, who is not exactly a diehard socialist, walks through what can actually happen if key government institutions get destroyed. (Turns out you can’t really maintain a nuclear arsenal in the private sector, and we may have had problems historically with, say, nuns taking shortcuts through contaminated nuclear sites.)

2) Food: I am definitely going to die of clogged arteries because I keep making Helen Rosner’s double stock and just drinking it straight. It’s the umami of umami-ests (unless I am totally mistaken about what umami is and have been confused this entire time) and my blood-poultry fat-levels are probably way above recommended levels at this point.

3) Fiction: Kaitlyn Greenidge’s We Love You Charlie Freeman came out in 2016 and I read it then, but I still think about it all the time. I’m putting it here in part because I don’t really have very many venues beyond Twitter to tell people to read it, and I have a recommendation backlog. This is one of the ones I feel the most strongly about. You can get a sense of the plotline/“about”ness here, but it’s really Greenidge’s formidable skills as a writer and her willingness to talk about race so directly that makes it so powerful. (And it’s not like race is less relevant in 2019, so read it now!)

4) Art: My favorite artist right now is Erin Riley, who, to put it in laywoman’s terms (and I am a laywoman), weaves things. This is her Instagram. And if you’re an art Neanderthal like me: I don’t mean she makes a nice rug. I mean she makes stuff like this.

That’s it for this edition. Email me, if you want. espiers@gmail. DM @espiers on Twitter.