#RealLife is a monthly feature where Consequence of Sound staffers join forces with a diverse cadre of writers to share personal stories inspired by one legendary album. This month we’re tackling Veruca Salt’s American Thighs. Some of the stories may be inexorably linked to the album itself; others may just share its themes, tone, and atmosphere. Regardless, they’re all real.
If “Seether” wasn’t the first song I ever moshed to, it was at least one of the first. Some school dance, we’re all babies, and the Wetmore twins were tossing staples at me (they seriously carried a box of staples around). It’s been four slow songs in a row and us three are probably the only ones sitting, our friends all doing their best to suck face while still leaving room for the Holy Spirit. The Wetmore Twins rode the bus with me, and every morning I had their flicks and gleets to look forward to, their asses pumping farts in my general direction as I silently gazed out the window. I never said a word, never fought back. At the dance, I pulled staples from my hair and thought about calling my dad to come pick me up an hour early.
And then “Seether” came on. The girls piled to the side, fists pumping up and down as the boys coalesced near the cafeteria’s stage, slam-dancing like MTV taught them. The Wetmores pocketed their staples and joined the fray. I planned on sitting this one out — just like I sat all of ’em out — but something pulled me from the plastic folding chair and into the maelstrom of moshing bodies.
As forearms rocked me to and fro, I scanned the pit for the Wetmores. I saw them, driving their fists and knees into every young buck in sight.
“Can’t fight the seether”
“Can’t fight the seether”
“Can’t fight the seether”
But here, I thought, here I can fight.
And I rocketed forth, arms outstretched, slamming Wetmore #1 against the stage, repeatedly, in tune with every crunchy guitar riff. Wetmore #2 grabbed my sleeve, and some blessed soul leveled him with an elbow. And then I was swept up in the bodies, the sweat and communion that was catharsis for so many pent-up punks.
The Wetmores didn’t stop making fun of me, but they at least stopped with the staples.
“Seether” first rocked the radio 20 years ago, and the album it heralded — American Thighs — gave us 12 more tracks of blissfully fuzzed-out grunge pop. In the years since, Veruca Salt’s had its share of ups, downs, and lineup changes, but in the band’s own words: “hatchets buried, axes exhumed.” The original lineup is back, a new album is coming, and singles, like “It’s Holy”, are already floating around the web.
Here’s hoping they soundtrack some school dances.
By Wren Graves
One day, in 9th grade biology class, as the teacher demonstrated dissecting a squid, I decided, with no experience or training, that what I really wanted to be was the class clown. A lonely boy, I wanted to bump fists and feel a friendly hand on my shoulders. I craved connection, to touch and be touched.
Another boy was holding his hand in the air, gesturing to a group of classmates. Would a class clown burst through the crowd and high-five him? Would that be funny? Probably not, although I tried it anyway. I gave his palm a thundering slap and he began to scream.
Moments before, his knife had slipped and sliced off the tip of his index finger. He had been holding up his hand to get some help, and to show the blood to a table of girls. I would later learn that in my flailing I had dislocated his thumb.
By the end of lunch, I was infamous. Here began a months-long period of shame, the deep ache felt by criminals and children who know they’ve done something wrong. I complained of headaches on school mornings and spent long hours in bed. On days my mother made me go, I spoke to no one and sat on my hands.
All Hail Me
By RK Arcenaux (@diddlemepink)
At the end of my novel, my brother-in-law kills my baby. He’s been a junkie for over a decade (my BIL, not my baby), and he’s never gotten into trouble. That’s not fair and it really pisses me off. He’s been able to convince his parents that for the last 10 years he’s been a victim and not like, a huge piece of shit.
He got fired from his last job because he got drunk off his ass and tried to steal syringes from the storage room at his work. He was working as an LPN and caring for people with disabilities and dementia and was going to work drunk and giving them their medicine and oh my fucking god, right?! But really, he only got fired because his boss was a lesbian and hated him. (He has had the misfortune of working for many man-hating lesbos.)
When all the facts were presented to his parents, all they heard was, “MAN HATING LESBIAN! OUT TO GET ME!” and not like, the whole going to work drunk while administering drugs to and caring for people who cannot advocate for themselves and the silly trying to steal syringes thing. Not to mention the drunk driving that had to occur from his apartment to his work so that he could steal the syringes. By some loophole in the law, he didn’t lose his nursing license. Shit. Is. Cray.
The latest shit to hit the fan is that he stole a few pieces of sentimentally priceless family heirlooms to pawn off while the family was at the ER because Popaw’s kidneys were failing. This dick is pawning old rings while his grandpa is dying in the hospital, and he still hasn’t been given the big FUCK YOU by the fam. What does this fucker have to do to get a swift boot to the ass?! I’ve had enough. There’s only so much injustice in the world I can turn a blind eye to. At the end of my book, he is going to kill my baby, and he isn’t weaseling his way out of this one. #poeticjustice
By Tyler Clark (@iceofboston)
It is 1997. You are 13 years old and know more about Game Genie codes than you do about human interaction. You are sitting by yourself at a youth group meeting when Megan Pruett sits down next to you. Megan Pruett, who inherited her older sister’s Discman, obsession with Kurt Cobain, and dislike for school work. Megan Pruett, who you’ve recently begun dreaming about.
“You listen to Nirvana, right?” she asks.
“Yes,” you lie. “All the time.”
“This is like if Nirvana were girls.”
She hands you her headphones, and you experience for the first time the fearsome, initiating gift of coolness. You are 13, and though you won’t say the words “I love you” for six more years or mean them for nine, there’s a nervous grasping inside your chest that feels like something close.
It is 2014. Late on a Saturday, you type Megan Pruett’s name into Facebook. Megan Pruett, the girl who wanted to marry Kurt Cobain, or maybe be him. Megan Pruett, the girl who’s still in your hometown, married to a man who works for the county. She has two daughters. You wonder what they’ll listen to, and who’ll listen to it with them.
By Chuck Sudo (@bportseasoning)
The night before I report to boot camp: I’m engaged in some “under the sweater, over the blouse” groping with Paula, a Weber High School cheerleader I’d been crushing on for years. Paula’s mother (one of the reasons I can’t get past the blouse) regularly peeks her head from the kitchen to ensure my hands don’t go too far with her daughter.
Somewhere between dinner and the heavy petting, I handed Paula my class ring and a 32-page letter — margin to margin, front and back — recounting the story of my young life in honest, stark detail. It was the first time I bared my soul to someone. I was as scared of impending adulthood as Paula (and her mother) was of my hands’ true intentions. And joining the Navy was as an adult decision as one could make at 18.
I wrote Paula religiously. It would be four months before she wrote me back. Her long-awaited reply was two pages of how she was enjoying summer in Chicago with some guy named Jeffrey. She didn’t have to explain. I would be 43 before I bared my heart to another woman.
At least I didn’t lose my class ring the second time.
By Chuck O’Connor (@OConnorChuck)
Ye Olde Tap Room pools like a cynic’s spit inside the Detroit border. A mocking Grosse Pointe Park to its immediate North. The joke goes,
“How many Tap Room drunks does it take to change a lightbulb?
One hundred –
One to change the burnt bulb –
99 to complain about how the old bulb was so much better.”
My ex-wife L frequented the Tap Room, after the surprise pregnancy that ended in a semi-botched abortion.
I was her counsel as she drew a violent love triangle; setting its centroid amidst the peanut-shelled Tap Room floors.
She’d brag about her heroin-boy and how she stole him from the “tattooed whore.”
Until the time Dave Grohl was seen making out with her rival beyond the fooseball table.
“How could he do that to Louise?” L cried. “I bet the spider monkey line in ‘Forsythia’ is about Grohl. It has to be. Men are liars.”
Not soon after L discovered the tattooed whore locked on the cock of her boy as he nodded in pleasure.
My counsel became consolation.
And thus began a romance that ended up jaundiced like a baby with too much bilirubin.
By Keith Ecker (@keithecker)
As your friends poured a beer down your throat while you lied on the grass half-unconscious, I had a hunch that we wouldn’t last much longer. My hunch was right. Over the course of five years, the good pastor’s son had slid downward, starting as my lover then my fighter then my anchor. We both wanted to blame the pills and booze, but the truth couldn’t be found in a bottle. Your resentment was a bitch, and my insecurity was a dog howling to be let in. What can I say? I thought you were cheating, and my thought was right.
You stumbled to your feet and sauntered off with your friends to watch the next band take the stage. I never found you, but I did get a call. Your mind, soaked in booze, had decided to leave the park by bike. For a moment, a parked car took my place to become your greatest obstacle and knocked you on your face. You chipped your front teeth, and a friend accompanied you to a hospital. Animal Collective was playing. I figured they’d be more entertaining than seeing your broken smile choke down another beer. I figured right.
By Amelia Buzzell
My dog has a tattoo. It’s of the name she had before I adopted her, and it’s written in that country-kitsch font with dots in the place of serifs, the one my friends’ moms used to hand-letter onto birthday party invitations. At least the tattoo is on her inner thigh, which I only see when she dive-bombs my yoga poses on the living room rug, so I rarely have to think about how someone used to tell “Whisper” to come before hitting her with a stick or leaving her out in the snow.
My dog is missing chunks of her front teeth. When she drinks, she pours a fountain of water on the floor, no matter how thirsty she is, because she can’t keep it all in her mouth. The edges of her ears are ragged from bites from other dogs, and there’s a scar on her back that matches. Things she’s been scared of recently include my Swiffer, a patch of leaves blowing in the wind, a cloud of lavender-scented smoke from a nearby dryer vent, and the deep voice of my boyfriend Skyping in the other room.
When I wake up in the morning, her nose (or sometimes her butt, usually her butt) is on my pillow. I tell her she’s a good girl if she eats when I’m not in the same room with her to keep her safe, and I tell her she’s a good girl if she dares to do her business even if a strange man is on the sidewalk a thousand feet away. At the dog beach, I holler out praise when she chases a pointer or sniffs its owner’s hand. Every moment she acts like a regular dog is a celebration, especially when she’s around anyone but me and her squeaky dinosaur. When I lift the bedspread at night for her to crawl underneath, she becomes the perfect little spoon between my knees and my hips. It’s not my fault that she’s afraid, but it will be my fault if she feels chilly in the middle of the night.
By Michael A. Van Kerckhove (@mvankerckhove)
Bass lines like this live in days when Zima thunder-rumbled with Marlboro and clove as substitutes for blood, those empty bottles cluttering the edges of photos taken at the legendary (to us) house at Four Two Four. One caption of us all: “Can you spot the heterosexual?”
Two of you in particular, a December game of kitchen floor spin the bottle:
One: your back against the oven door. You land on me, and we reach across to show them how it’s done, if just in fun. Even though later in May, baked on Mother’s Day watching The Wiz on BET, I think: Wouldn’t it be nice to hook up all friendly-like today or some such other lazy Sun- or Saturday? Though I’m too shy to try, fearing botched results and reply, or else I’m not so good at sharing things like feelings. Wait, we still have to call our moms.
Two: you’re the straight mate among us who I’ve pined for under pine trees, and Oh no I’ve never wanted something I could never have before. You don’t tap away the drained Strawberry Hill Boones Farm bottle between us but instead let me in, if only for a severed second. I know where we stand, but man, come May you take forever to go away. Wait, don’t forget your mix tape.
Number One Blind
By Roy Ivy (@royivy)
When we watched him shoot up under his nutsack, trashing the last remaining vein in his lanky body, it was obvious that Junkie Dave didn’t have long to live. And that was a real shame because we were getting very attached to him. As the Cosmo Kramer of our crummy South Austin apartment, Junkie Dave (he tolerated the nickname) burst (and sometimes crawled) into our dingy dude pad on a daily basis with free pot that he didn’t want (“hippy-shit”). Then he’d slur tales of Austin punk-a-tude circa 1984, bum our cigs, and shoot up as casually as a co-worker of mine who eats his own boogers. But this was 1995, and Junkie Dave’s great big clipper ship looked sunk. Luckily, two days before he retired his sailor’s suit and cap to die in an alley, we gave him what might have been his last laugh.
Me and the Matts were what you’d expect from a trio of 19-year-olds in 1994 Austin. Skinny, cute, and shiftless stoners. Terrible, but persistent, songwriters. And in that summer of drugs, we were goddamn immortal … but still too chicken for smack. Now the alley behind our house — where Dave dies two days later — often yielded the same fruits: diapers, furniture, empty cassette tapes, unused Magnum condom wrappers apparently discarded in moments of clarity, and Magnum condoms that had been well used. It was no surprise when Matt D, the drug-savviest of the trio, brought home an unlabeled bottle of big blue pills that he’d found in that alley. Without internet or common sense, we each gulfed one down, not knowing where this would go, but fuck it.
30 minutes later: nothing
60 minutes later: nothing, but Matt H., digging for anything, said he felt “a little trippy.”
90 minutes later: There is a child in my stomach. A very fat child. A very fat child who might be a boxer. The sounds of my guts go from comical farty gurgles to Mercedes McCambridge. I’m in trouble.
91 minutes later, riding a wave of inaudible laugh tracks, Junkie Dave swings through the door to bum a cig and immediately knows something’s wrong with his boys (meaning us, not his numb testicles).
“Junkie Dave, we took these pills and I don’t know what they are and my belly hurts,” I whimper.
“Toss ’em on over.”
Perusing the big blue pill up and down, he picks up our mammoth cordless phone and dials a seven-digit number he apparently knows by heart.
“Hello, Poison Control … Uh, yeah … my girlfriend’s asleep and she took these pills, and I need to know what they are. Uh yeah … blue … on the hazel side … yup, the numbers are [I surely don’t remember] …OH? … Yeah. Okay. Good. Thank you.”
“Well, Junkie Dave, what’s the scoop?”
“Any of you boys got explosive diarrhea or irritable bowels?”
“No,” we chime in unison, as my bellyache has become our bellyache.
“Well, you certainly won’t now. That’s shit’s the highest grade bowel blockin’ medicine there is. You boys won’t be shitting for a week.”
Oh, Junkie Dave was wrong. I shat two days later. The kind of blood, sweat, and tears shit you never forget. A towel-rack was ripped off the wall. The face of God floated in midair, snickering as my young prostate was scraped like a ’70s Oldsmobile losing its side-mirrors as it sparks down a narrow alley. And speaking of alleys, Dave may have been having his last shout in the land of rubbers and mystery pills at that very moment, as he just couldn’t wait 30 more damn seconds to shoot up in my home. But I still hope, during his twilight’s last gleaming, that he shuffled off giggling to the blasphemous, quasi-orgasmic caterwauls of the my pill-borne breach brick baby.
By Collin Brennan (@collintbrennan)
I sat and listened to the old man talk about everything and nothing: his beloved weimaraner, last summer’s pilgrimage to Poland, all the tricks he used to make a sale. Occasionally I’d jot down a word or two, but mostly I pretended to listen. It was a late afternoon in early August, the heat nearly as oppressive as the notion that I would be spending the next several months in the San Fernando Valley, editing this man’s memoir into something worth reading. As he dredged up a dozen cliches to describe the day he met his wife, I checked the light on my recorder and began to realize the Sisyphean task that lay ahead of me.
Twenty-two years old and only weeks removed from college, I was ready to make my own (far more interesting) stories. But I had student loans and a girlfriend in LA, so I begrudgingly accepted my parents’ offer to move back in with them until the New Year. This “old man” who had solicited my skills as an editor was a father of a good friend and the recently retired owner of a hi-fi stereo shop in Encino called The Sound Factor. He had decided that his first act as a retiree would be to write a memoir, which he had done entirely by hand in the seven months before our first recorded meeting.
Perhaps sensing my boredom, he stopped in the middle of a story about how he used to tear apart transistor radios and piece them back together, just to find out how they worked. This hobby had served as the prelude to his lifelong interest in stereo equipment — an interest he maintained to this day, despite having sold the store and given up his life’s work.
“Here, let me show you something cool,” he offered, and my ears perked up. He led me into the living room next to his office, where the largest (and presumably the most expensive) sound system I had ever seen was set up on the far wall, separated from the rest of the room by an actual velvet rope. I looked up at the ceiling, which had been carved in strange geometries that didn’t quite fit the rest of the house.
“I had this room specially built when we bought the house. Everything is acoustically perfect, so when you sit right in the middle, the music sounds fucking huge.” I laughed, caught off-guard by the sudden swear word and the impressiveness of my surroundings. He then opened a closet to reveal 12-inch records stacked from floor to ceiling.
“Pick one,” he said and gestured toward the stacks. I nervously scanned the rows for something familiar and stumbled on Who’s Next by The Who.
“Okay, sit here and let me know what you think,” he said, returning from the next room a minute later. I took a seat in the folding chair at the very center of the room. He pulled out another, placed it directly behind me, and took a seat as the first few notes of “Baba O’Riley” piped out from the speakers at a volume that nearly knocked me out of the chair. I had never heard sound like this before. It felt almost as if it were originating from inside me, rattling my heart and bones and emanating off my skin. Five minutes later, the track having just ended, he left the room and gingerly picked up the needle as the next song began.
By Rachel Matuch (@RachelMatuch)
When my grandma first met my boyfriend, she was delighted.
“A redhead!” she said. “You know, I once had an affair with a redhead.”
“Grand-ma!” I protested, like she was a dog tracking mud in the house, not an 84-year-old woman who ought to know better. I wished I had a better response, but no well-worded admonishment could have turned on the filter she’d never had.
Her comments can turn my stomach like I’m still a kid learning that grown-ups are messed up. Grandma’s alcoholism. Grandma’s affairs. Grandma abandoning my five-year-old dad, his four siblings, and my grandpa for another man. Coming back after the new guy died, like nothing happened.
Last week, out to lunch with my mom and me, she reminisces about Grandpa. “He wasn’t abusive,” she says, then pauses. “Well, a therapist once said it wasn’t right that he’d buy me vodka if I’d have sex with him.”
I choke on my water, dumbstruck. Grand-ma! Grand-pa! She suddenly smiles and bounces in her seat. “It’s fun being out with the girls!” There’s not a hint of irony in her voice, so we roll with it.
By Mike Madden (@_michael_madden)
In third grade, I devised my last five-year plan — “last” in the sense that it’s my most recent one, and in the sense that it might be my last one, period.
At school, there was the half-court with the eight-foot hoop, and I’m telling you, I dominated that place. I buried threes from all angles. I ingrained my right-to-left and left-to-right crossovers. I developed the stealthiness of my reverse layups.
Eventually, the fourth- and fifth-graders took notice of the kid in the Garnett jersey, inviting me to play with them at the full court, the one with the 10-foot hoop. The majority of these Big Kids, though, were flat-out better than me — and yes, they were bigger too. I was short to begin with, and kids a foot taller than me rejected practically every shot I took.
Whatever, I thought. My hoop dreams weren’t deflated; this was just a reality check. I determined my path for the years up to and including eighth grade. By then, I’d be ready to play varsity.
Traveling basketball — the big leagues — would start in fifth grade, and in the meantime I’d improve my game at recess, at the park across the street from my building, and (in the winter) at the community center. I figured that, when the time came, I’d not only make the A team, I’d be a starter too.
As it turned out, I made the cut, but I wasn’t able to put in all those hours.
During the previous summer — the one between fourth and fifth grade — I had taken a course about music technology, picked up guitar, and vowed to form the next Rage Against the Machine. That phase passed within a couple years, too, and ever since, I’ve been learning that projecting into the future isn’t terribly effective when it’s your one project for the day. Basically, I try to keep on my toes now — whether or not they’re snug inside a pair of basketball shoes.
With that said, I will still exterminate anyone in a free throw contest. Get at me.
Sleep Where I Want
By Scott T. Barsotti (@barsots)
Six movies in a day seems reasonable. I can’t sleep anyway. Maybe I can’t sleep because of the trains rattling 50 feet from my window, or maybe it’s because of the roach problem in my building, or maybe it’s because of Audition. Six movies in a day is a lot of movies, but there’s a video store right down the street for when the USPS can’t keep up with my Netflix demands. The video store has a lot of obscure horror films like Session 9, obscure foreign films like Jamón Jamón, and obscure foreign horror films like Audition. A girl — the girl — in Audition waits by the phone, expecting it to ring, knowing it will. She can’t go on until it does. Six movies in a day is easy when you’re up until 5:00 AM. Maybe I can’t sleep because of her smile when the phone finally rings, or maybe it’s because of her smile when she says kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri, which according to the subtitles means deeper deeper deeper deeper deeper. The video store is underground. You have to go down a flight of stairs. Sometimes I forget to eat dinner. A train screams past, the rails sparking, throwing light so bright I can see into the empty apartment across the alley. Maybe I can’t sleep because my phone didn’t ring today. Not once.