The art of letting strangers into your home
When service people come, it feels like a home invasion movie. So why do I want to impress them?
I’m not sure in which ring of hell “having service people in your home” is. Maybe third? Definitely not one of the most damned rings, but it’s a hellish experience for sure.
Yes, I’m aware of how shitty this sounds. These are the people who fix our toilets and connect our internet—two services that, when combined, make up about 70% of how I spend my day. To diminish the people who make my home more livable is the worst kind of privilege.
But. They’re strangers. In my home. Home invasion movies are among my favorite type of horror films, but I like them because I’m not living through them.
Despite how uncomfortable these situations are, I still have a tendency to be overaccommodating to service people. I’m pretty sure my ancestors were golden retrievers, because I have a regrettable trait of wanting to please everybody This is especially true with service people, whose hard work I most definitely-subconsciously fetishize. I try hard to appear down with them, even if that clashes with my discomfort. If they were a serial killer pushing a knife into my heart, I’d still be saying, “Yes, mmhmm, sure, sure, I appreciate your hard work!”
I try to suppress these conflicting feelings when the two men arrive at my home. They’ve arrived to install air conditioning/heating mini splits. At first glance, these men are an odd couple in the classic sense. One’s gruff and loud, the other’s quiet; one’s the brain, the other is the brawn. I immediately assign them names Goofus and Gallant in my head—you know, everybody’s favorite and very relevant dichotomous comic characters from Boy’s Life Magazine circa 1940.
I show the two men where we want to put the compressor. Goofus loudly asserts his idea of connecting the compressor to the two AC units by running lines across a number of exterior walls, which would essentially give our house the aesthetic of having braces. Still, I’m ready to sign off on this because, hey, I’m cool, man, I’m down. Whatever you say. Shaka, brah.
Gallant says, “Well, that’s definitely an idea,” which is lovely and incredibly undermining. Gallant’s idea is to run the lines underneath the house to cut down on the aesthetic headaches.
I say, “Cool! Let’s do it,” as if I’m part of the team, and then I retreat to my office and stare at a computer screen.
From my office, I can hear bits of conversation, which sounds one-sided and monopolized by Goofus. Classic Goofus, I think.
“That’s why I told you earlier I wanted to do it from the inside out..Huh... Say what?... What’d you say?... I’m not in the mood for all that shit...This drill, it’s probably it’s last day today....[high pitched laugh]”
I don’t know if Gallant is responding, or if he’s just letting Goofus ramble. I think about Gallant’s undermining comment earlier and wonder about their work relationship. Is the animosity real? Is this how men work together? Is this how men “bust balls”? For a few moments, I’m like an android, trying to decipher male-male working relationships. I wonder if working from home has turned me weird. No, I decide, it is them who are weird.
I hear Goofus tell Gallant “I need to pee.”
Oh no. Interaction time. I try to position myself to look nonchalant. I contemplate doing a half-turn in my office chair to let him know that I’m aware of Goofus’s approach, but not too far around so that I look eager. I hit the perfect chair rotation when Goofus arrives in my office doorway. “Sir,” he says, with a vague, pseudo British-servent accent that sounds like sehr. “May I use your bathroom?”
“Oh sure,” I say, Midwestern-y. “Just right across the hall.” He leaves the doorway, and I sit for approximately one minute, analyzing how the interaction went and conclude that it went A-OK. I’m a little confused about the accent, but that’s nothing I could control.
A few minutes later I hear Goofus ask Gallant if they should play some music.
“Music soothes the soul,” says Goofus, which is always such a strange thing to hear in that moment. Poetic, even. I wonder how many hours per day Goofus actually spends thinking about his soul.
The footsteps come down the hall again. Goofus pokes his head back into my door frame. “You don’t mind if we listen to music?”
“You go right ahead.” My smile stretches like a grotesque Ren & Stimpy frame.
The music starts and it’s like that type of nü metal that would be country if the distortion was turned down. It’s the opposite of soul-soothing. Generic pop punk follows, then actual country, and then a hip-hop song that repeats the chorus “BLAST MOTHERFUCKERS!” But the truly astounding thing is the Rockabye Baby songs shuffled into his playlist. Soft, twinkly covers of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” and Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” drift back to me. I now understand that Goofus is a complicated man. He contains multitudes.
“Yeah, music helps a lot!” Goofus yells while hammering. “HELPS ME FOCUS!”
Time passes. My eyes redden from staring at a computer screen, trying to focus on editing a cat video. The men’s hammering is incessant. I can’t remember how long these guys have been here. Hours? Days? My belt digs into my stomach from slouching. I resent being forced into a situation where I have to wear pants. Perhaps if I could leave the house to get some exercise, my stomach wouldn’t be so hangy-over-y, but no. I have to stay here. Trapped. I’m so, so tired. I wish it wasn’t such a bad look to take a depression nap while men install a luxury item in your home.
“I don’t get paid enough for this,” Goofus says, unprovoked. I hear you, brother.
Gallant pops in and lets me know about a structural hiccup they’ve encountered. They can’t drill through the foundation to connect the compressor, or something. I nod my head vigorously and say “yeah, yeah, right on, no problemo, whatever’s best, whatever’s easiest.” I don’t fully comprehend what they’re telling me, just incredibly humbled that they’d want to clue me in on their progress. I immediately feel bad for thinking any negative thoughts about them. Listen to whatever the fuck you want, dear sehrs. Let the music soothe thine souls.
Just as I’m settling into this feeling of relaxation, Gallant returns and apologizes for taking so long. Huey Lewis starts playing at the exact moment he enters, which is the worst music to be listening to when trying to impress people. I want to affirm him George Constanza/shrinkage-style. It just came on! It just came on!
More hours pass. Shadows stretch. I know they’re having other issues that they’re not telling me about, and I wonder if it’s something I should be mad or apologetic about. My default is apologetic. Sorry for existing is my unspoken mantra.
They finish right as the sun goes down. They’ve been here the entire day, but it’s hard for me to feel sympathy because I’ve also been housebound, protecting my home from the guys I also want to impress.
“Oh shit, a bird just got into your house,” I hear Goofus say.
Indeed, a tiny brown bird has flown in through the door they were working out of. I watch it slam into light fixtures and crash into photos with dead-eyed resolve. I follow the bird from room to room holding a towel like a matador cape. I want to blame the workers for this, as if their job was to prevent birds from flying into my house and they failed at it.
The bird stuns itself by crashing into a mirror. I cover it with the towel and carry it outside.
“Did you get it?” Gallant says. “Nice work.” His words flood me with happiness. I go on to explain how I used the towel, but Gallant only seems interested in packing up. That’s fine, I think, cutting myself off. Let’s just enjoy this silence, the fruit of our hard work. We’ve both had a big day.
THE ONLY CONCERT CALENDAR THAT MATTERS™
The Parker Meridien
Wednesday, Nov. 13
OPTION 1: Cave In, Helms Alee, The Primals @ Soda Bar. Cave In’s Jupiter is one of my favorite albums ever, which is a little funny because it’s the only Cave In album I really know. In high school, I had a lot of hardcore friends who were mad that the band had ditched its metalcore sound for more of an experimental rock sound. But Jupiter has held up way better than the metalcore stuff, so take that high school friends that I no longer speak to! Plus, it’s been forever since Cave In has toured, so get on it.
OPTION 2: Hours, DR3AmBr05, D.Wrex @ The Whistle Stop. Speaking of bands that don’t play very often, San Diego’s elusive Hours will tear apart The Whistle Stop tonight. The doom-noise-shoegaze group features members of Hexa and OhCult, and their music is the sonic equivalent of a Dostoyevsky novel: a journey into darkness that’s somehow also cathartic.
OPTION 3: Built to Spill, Slam Dunk, The Hand @ The Casbah. Last week, I mentioned Built to Spill’s Nothing Wrong With Love being my favorite album of theirs. Apparently, their three nights at the Casbah are to celebrate everyone else’s favorite album, Keep It Like A Secret. Sorry for not knowing the real classic Built To Spill album, everyone. It was an accident. Stop threatening to “Built to Kill” me.
Thursday, Nov. 14
OPTION 1: Strung Out, The Casualties @ Soma. Strung Out are so much better than most of the other Fat Wreck bands that came out in the mid ‘90s. By infusing metal into the pop-punk formula, they upped the scariness of what mall music could be. I mean, I guess it’s scary for pop-punk.
OPTION 2: Art Alexakis, Dude Cervantes @ Music Box. I saw recently Everclear singer Art Alexakis at a margarita fest, and I didn’t realize how much I missed those old songs. Say what you will about the corporate radio-friendliness of “A.M. Radio” or “Father of Mine,” I’ll stand by any song on Sparkle and Fade.
OPTION 2: Built to Spill, Slam Dunk, The Hand @ The Casbah. Once again, I’m so sorry that I didn’t know Keep It Like A Secret is everyone’s favorite Built To Spill album. Honest mistake. Please, I’ll like any Built to Spill album that you want me to, just let me have my cats back. I have the ransom money. I swear I haven’t called the police.
Friday, Nov. 15
OPTION 1: The Parker Meridien @ Amplified Aleworks (Pacific Beach). The Parker Meridien is my favorite hip-hop group in San Diego. Vocalist Parker Edison is so cool that he makes me feel cooler just by listening to him, and bassist John Rieder and drummer Nathan Hubbard are so tight that they could hold water.
OPTION 2: Max Bemis, Perma, Museum Mouth @ Soma. Say Anything singer/mastermind Max Bemis has issues—just listen to Say Anything’s 2005 pop-punk masterpiece ...Is A Real Boy, an album full of cringeworthy brilliance. But props to Bemis for laying out his mental illnesses without sugarcoating. In the age of traumabating thinkpieces, it’s easy to forget that divulging personal ugliness and unlikeability hasn’t always been in fashion, and Bemis has been doing it for a long time.
OPTION 3: Nekromantix, Stellar Corpses, The Strikers @ Brick By Brick. I’m physically unable to dissuade you from going to a psychobilly show, especially if the upright bass is shaped like a coffin. This is a serious medical condition and maybe one day, when I have insurance again, I’ll be able to fix it.
Saturday, Nov. 16
OPTION 1: Blood Ponies Hoax album release, Becky DiGiglio art show @ Vinyl Junkies Record Store (5 p.m.). See my review of Blood Ponies’ excellent debut below. Simply, Hoax is a creepy monument of post-punk darkness, and epitomizes the best of San Diego’s music scene. Go buy a copy.
OPTION 2: Rufus Wainwright @ Copley Symphony Hall. Ican’t bring up Rufus Wainwright without thinking of my friend and former CityBeat editor Seth Combs, who loved sad-bastard music. If you’re also a sad bastard (and, really, who isn’t these days?), get your sad ass to Copley Symphony Hall.
OPTION 3: Twin Peaks, Post Animal and Ohmme @ Belly Up Tavern. I’m a little upset that Twin Peaks sounds the way they do. I don’t know if they’re named after David Lynch’s dark and mysterious TV show, but it’s hard not to make the connection, and Twin Peaks’ music is decidedly not dark and mysterious. Still, their lo-fi rock is pretty good, and their song “Making Breakfast” is one of my go-to summer jams.
Sunday, Nov. 17
OPTION 1: Surrealistics, Shades McCool, The Hiroshima Mockingbirds @ The Casbah. A killer local show. North County’s Surrealistics make haunting psych-rock that sounds dangerous, sultry and retro, and Shades McCool are funny and rocking in equal measure (their song “San Diego National Anthem”—which rockifies local car commercial jingles—ranks up there for best song produced by a San Diego band).
OPTION 2: Youth of Today, Take Offense, Tap and Die @ Che Café. I can’t think of legendary hardcore band Youth of Today without thinking of what Hold Steady said about them in their song “Barely Breathing”: “Summer 88 was all heat and intensity/I saw the Youth of Today at the 7th Street Entry/There were skins in the pit/And some of them tried to kill me/Same club next summer/Now they're called Shelter/After the show I spoke with the singer/And he tried to hand me a packet about Hare Krishna/I said you've got to be kidding.”
OPTION 3: The Black Keys, Modest Mouse, Shannon and the Clams @ Pechanga Arena. I like some Black Keys songs, but they mostly remind me of Blues Hammer from the film Ghost World. Shannon and the Clams, though, are awesome, and it’s so cool that they landed on such a high-profile tour.
Monday, Nov. 18
OPTION 1: The Ataris, Nights Like Thieves @ The Casbah. Dude, you’ve already seen Say Anything this week. Why not continue with the mid-2000s pop-punk thing? Shame begets shame.
OPTION 2: Pip Blom, Rain On Fridays @ Soda Bar. The first comment on Pip Blom’s video for “Daddy Issues” reads, “The kids from moonrise kingdom really grew up,” which is totally appropriate because Pip Blom’s music has the same barbed tweeness of a Wes Anderson film.
Tuesday, Nov. 19
OPTION 1: Atomic Ape, INUS, Poor, Los Pinche Pinches @ SPACE. Atomic Ape play a spastic concoction of Gypsy rock and jazz with a touch of Tool thrown in. It’s wild stuff. I’m usually not a fan of sax in rock music, but I’ll make an exception for this.
OPTION 2: Stoop Kids, Carter Reeves @ Soda Bar. Stoop Kids are all good-looking white dudes who play a kind of alt-rock neo-soul that reminds me of Cold War Kids. The music’s not bad, but it kind of screams of appropriation. Or maybe I’m just bitter at how good-looking they are.
UNEMPLOYMENT LIFE HACKS
No job? No future? No worries! Ryan Bradford from Awkward San Diego dishes out fun, easy, and affordable ways to keep life's futility at bay.
In this episode, I explain the benefits of taking a depression nap to escape the hardships of life.
Sometimes I’ll review albums, movies, or books in this newsletter because listen assholes I am a SERIOUS JOURNALIST lest you forget, and I am about to dose out seriousness and journalistness, and you're going to like it.
In essence, a hoax is dangerous performance art. The danger, however, comes not from the purveyor of the hoax, but what it does to the audience. A photo of a spirit, cursed found footage, audio of the unknown—these will wrench the vulnerabilities right out of a person. Some of us are so desperate to believe the unbelievable that we drop our emotional and psychological shields in pursuit of it. This is the trick of the hoaxer: to open us up to our darkest and most dangerous desires.
For this reason, the title of Blood Ponies’ debut album is perfect. Their stark mix of goth and post-punk is the kind of music that draws us into the dark regions that polite society has trained us to avoid, and Hoax is filled with songs that belong in steaming alleyways, haunted night clubs, and in the darkness of our hearts
“Still Life,” the album’s opening track feels like an invocation, or the beginning of a seance. Droning synths and driving floor toms push us to a place where we might not want to go, but when singer/guitarist Jeff Cesare unleashes the first soaring guitar notes, we’re in for the ride.
The ten songs on Hoax are cohesive, varying between dark and darker, but what makes Blood Ponies stand out from their influences is the punk rage fuels them. When Cesare screams on “Four Walls” or the jarring “2182,” it sounds more immediate than anything Joy Division or Interpol put out. But Blood Ponies also have panache—remember, a good hoax requires excellent showmanship—and drummer Candice Renee propels the music with beats that are simultaneously hypnotizing and awe-inspiring. Her drums also sound big and haunting as fuck.
If there’s one qualm with Hoax, it’s that it perhaps feels a bit too bleak sometimes. True goths will not mind the unrelenting darkness, but Hoax is not for the faint of heart. Just like any album that wields emotions like playthings (like, say, a Nick Cave album), it takes a while to recover after listening to Hoax.
But ultimately, that’s the sign of Blood Ponies’ success: If the act doesn’t expose us to our own darkness, then it’s not a good hoax.
ONE MORE THING…
So I’m obsessed with the show Succession. Then one night I was watching my cats and considered their dynamic to be much like the family’s in Succession. Will Harvey ever give up his status as Alpha Cat? Does Vincent even want it? Anyway, I filmed them and… well, here’s Catcession. You’re welcome.
Got a tip or wanna say hi? Email me at email@example.com, or follow me on Twitter @theryanbradford