DECEMBER 8th 2014
As a few of you may OR may not know, last week I got engaged! Since then, Annie & I have been simply floored by the amount of heartfelt congratulatory texts, emails & social media responses we’ve gotten from friends, family and fans of the band. Thank you so much to all of you–we are truly blessed.
Though we’ve done our best to let everyone know the good news, it’s sometimes impossible–logistically speaking–to be able to share the details with all our friends & family abroad without doing so in or on some kind of mutually-accessible forum. Hence, someone suggested I post the gritty details of of the big day last week in a blog on the website . . . . and so here we are.
So for those interested in hearing/reading about it, the following blog and subsequent video are for you.
Once again, Annie and I thank you all for the outpouring of kindness, congratulations and support!
Much love and thanks to all,
One Ring, Numerous Lies & A Fake Photo Shoot
It takes time and careful planning to trick someone who is much smarter than you.
I know this from years of experience.
So when the time came for me to propose to my best friend/love of 5+ years every action had to be calculated in advance; the seeds planted early. And so it began a month ago when I came home from the studio telling Annie we were putting the finishing touches on our upcoming EP (to be released Feb/March 2015). I went into the specifics of timelines, press materials, promotional campaigns and as we sat at dinner talking I dropped a kernel of false info into the conversation:
“We’re thinking of album cover ideas right now–and leaning towards a kinda ‘The Freewheelin Bob Dylan’ album art idea (see album cover below) except maybe in a different setting.
“Would you be up for being in the photoshoot with me as the muse/female accomplice’?”
I knew the answer could go either way with this woman. Most women would instantly agree to do it out of vanity OR because the prospect of their boyfriend hugging up to another girl in an album cover photo would drive them mad. Yet I knew I was dealing with a paradox: She doesn’t get jealous and when it comes to vanity she absolutely hates the limelight and abhors any kind of special attention. Admittedly, it’s one of the things that drew me to her in the first place years ago. Which likely seems odd from the outside looking in given my chosen career path and her blatant ‘not giving a sh#t’ about the things most people get starry eyed over. (After all this IS the girl who called me as soon as I exited the stage one night—after playing a blast of a show for 11,000 people–only to say “Hey, don’t forget to pick up milk on your way home .. . and make sure you shower before you come to bed–it looked like you got all sweaty and gross up there tonight.” Then she hung up.)
Thankfully–for whatever reason–she said she’d be happy to take part in the album photoshoot. The seed was planted.
Finally the day came. I thought I had the plan ready–and all was set. So last Friday, so began the photoshoot trickery. Telling her I’d been at the studio all day I’d actually been hiding out at Micah’s (friend/guitar guru) house going over the game plan. Soon, Christian (our bass player) arrived and I called Annie to let her know we were coming by to grab her on the way to Sullivan’s Island where the album cover photoshoot was taking place. She wasn’t close to ready–and apparently I was ‘early.’ This didn’t make her happy Upon our arrival we were quick to find a fuming mad female who was letting me have it all the way to the car. This was off to a rip-roaring start.
To get a little perspective on exactly how mad at me she was, I’ll say this: Annie loves Christian and Micah, treats them like brothers and has known them for years. Yet she was literally SOO visibly pissed off at me that both males including myself didn’t say a word in the car for the first two minutes of the drive. Then–in typical Micah fashion–he reached over in the passenger seat, slapped my leg and said “This is gonna make this whole thing even better”
When we arrived at the ‘photoshoot’ location behind Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, my friend—and the absurdly talented–Brooks Quinn was there waiting on us. We had worked up a charade in advance where he’d tell us that our drummer Ben Scott was running late (a hilarious concept since he’s the ONLY one who is ever on time) and that we should snap at least a few photos by the water until he gets there. We obliged and carried our guitars and bags towards the beach with Annie in tow. Things had progressed: She was now joking with the guys—yet I was apparently still resting comfortably in the dog house. For once, it was actually a relief—because it solidly confirmed that she had absolutely no idea about what was getting ready to take place.
Charleston had been experiencing days of rain and depressingly gray weather for nearly a week, yet even during the course of our drive to Sullivan’s Island the weather changed dramatically. ‘Thank you Jesus!’ I thought. Earlier that day I’d worried about the gray weather and cold winds along the water but thankfully it was now of little concern. The sunset was one of the finer ones I’ve seen in Charleston–basking the aging brick walls of the nearby Civl War fort in an orange-ish hue and coaxing long shadows from beneath the tiering palmetto trees lining the shore.
Once on the beach, Brooks went into his pre-scripted parts perfectly! He politely asked Annie if it was okay that he snap a few shots of the band (minus Ben) on the beach prior to us getting into the Luke/Annie photos? She of course said that was perfectly fine. Since Ben Scott had ‘yet to arrive’ Brooks proposed the idea of a photo of Christian, Micah and me playing/singing acoustic on the beach in a kind of semi-circle—almost as if we were at a campout. The plan was going accordingly. This is a rarity for me.
So, with the incoming tide and white sea foam nipping at the heels of our boots–we began strumming as Brooks had instructed. Christian played dobro, Micah strummed the acoustic guitar. Lacking a guitar (because the ‘fake’ one I’d brought to fool Annie was really just an empty guitar case filled with three bottles of champagne wrapped in t-shirts) I was left to sing and fidget nervously –wondering “What the hell am I supposed to with my hands while singing if there’s not a guitar hanging around my neck?” (I’ve never been able to figure that out. Nor navigate similar circumstances in the past without awkwardness.)
Unbeknownst to Annie–who had now sought brief refuge away from the ‘photoshoot’ further up onshore–Brooks was actually NOT taking photos but rolling film as we started strumming. And instead of just messing around as we were instructed, Micah, Christian and I began the intro to a newer song I’d written for Annie called In Another Life. We had previously agreed that we’d do just the intro and one chorus—at the end of which I’d walk over to Annie, get down on one knee and propose.
I tried–but failed–to contain my excitement/nervousness. And without paying respects to any of the normal essentials like timing, pitch or melody, I instead opted to eagerly sprint my way straight to the finish line and to the very last word of that chorus.
Did I storm a flaming building as the floors filled up with fire
Saving all the children when the orphanage burned down?
Or help a blind man cross the road?
Truth be told, your guess is as good as mine
Reincarnation baby never crossed my mind
But suddenly you got me wondering ’cause the way you look tonight
Makes me think I done something right in another life
She said ‘Yes!’
No sooner had the word left her tongue when Micah loudly blew a whistle he had stashed in his pocket earlier. The resounding whistle—intended for the 30 or so friends and family hiding behind the walls of nearby Fort Moultrie–signaled those in waiting to release a flurry of red balloons from just beyond the horizon. One by one they soon then joined us on the beach. We retrieved the champagne from the guitar case, uncorked then–as the red balloons rose parallel with a brilliant setting sun and then off into the evening sky–we celebrated!
Thanks to our dear friends, my bandmates & our close family for being a part of it. Surprisingly, for a bunch of deadbeat musicians, dimwitted fools and people of questionable character your guys are actually really good at keeping a secret.
And most importantly, thank you to Annie–my best friend & the love of my life for simply saying ‘Yes.’
Included with this post is footage of ‘the deed’ filmed by the wonderful Brooks Quinn. Out of the 1:30 seconds of material, I think my favorite part hands down might be Annie’s first words when I got down on one knee–which classically were “What are you doing?!”
(Typical ‘Annie’ question.)
Thankfully, Annie–I now can look forward to a lifetime of figuring that out with you.
10 THINGS ABOUT TYLER MECHEM HE DOESNT WANT YOU TO KNOW
An investigative essay by luke cunningham
As songwriter and former Crowfield frontman Tyler Mechem plays his last show in Charleston this evening (he will soon relocate to Indiana), many fans and fellow musicians here in town will muster up teary eyed farewells, feel nostalgic about the not-so-distant past and hope that maybe–just maybe–the bearded one will croon their favorite tunes onstage Friday night. That’s all fine and dandy for those saps, however I’m not one of them. In fact, I’m downright tired of this fraud Mechem’s repetitive lies going unchecked. The truth is out there people. And since I’ve always been more Mulder than Scully—I think it’s high time that I Luke Cunningham let music fans know the ugly truth about this jerk.
Uncovered from eyewitness testimony, signed affidavits, recorded conversations and by feeding Whitt Algar a gallon of Jamison scotch—the following classified papers and facts therein were obtained against the wishes of Tyler James Mechem. Yet the people have a right to know. So I give you:
10 Things About Tyler Mechem He Doesn’t Want You To Know
10: No one truly knows what Tyler Mechem’s voice sounds like through a phone. His Salinger-like existence has been punctuated with an outwright refusal to speak on the telephone; instead he opts to use the phone’s ‘typewriter mechanism’ to transmit correspondence to those he’s screening.
9: Tyler hates making finite decisions. Even his proposal to his lovely wife Anna came about not out of conviction, but because the other members of Crowfield put it to a band vote while he was in the bathroom at an Applebees in Greenville.
8: Tyler’s unique vocal talents are not natural. In fact they belong to someone else; a 210 yr old black southern church choir leader who—while attempting to reach the north via the underground railroad–became slightly overzealous when he sought refuge inside Tyler’s chest cavity. Doctors say that if they remove him, he will die.
7: Tyler loves Applebees. Not like—‘Oh, there’s an Applebees and a O’Charleys at this exit, let’s go to Applebees because I like it better than O’Charleys.” More like “I have eaten all of the reheated, freeze dried and shipped items on this menu 1,000 times and genuinely wished they had catered my wedding.” It’s perplexing, I know.
6: Tyler Mechem is the funniest person on planet Earth. It’s a distinguished honor he shares with Whitt Algar and one that remains undisputed among those who know him best. Tyler actually launched a high price legal effort to suppress these facts during the course of his Crowfield days—yet his jokes were eventually leaked to the public along with other state secrets when Edward Snowden released his classified documents in 2013.
5: Tyler takes hours to do sound checks. Hours. The only reason no one has never really called him out on this is because they know he could always respond with “Well, it sounded better than when you were singing, right?”
4: Tyler—much like Benjamin Button—is aging backwards. By all accounts, he’s presently 72yrs old. Scientist have approximated this latest estimate based solely on his affinity for naps and his newfound hobby of wood carving. His frequent donning of cardigans however is merely coincidental.
3: Eyewitness accounts have confirmed that Tyler Mechem once threatened the life of a fellow musician/tour mate in a Myrtle Beach hotel room in 2011. According to testimony of Luke Cunningham—Mechem awoke him in the early hours of the morning to address Cunningham’s snoring issue. Though disoriented and fatigued at the time, Cunningham and the other 6 occupents of the two-bed hotel room did confirm the next day that Mechem threatened Cunningham the night prior saying “If you don’t stop snoring I’m gonna cut off your big f-ing nose and shove it down your damn throat.”
2: When Mechem moved to Charleston, he and piano player Jimmy Don Walls agreed that—in order to infiltrate the town’s local rock scene–they would need to both take on pseudonyms in an effort to make themselves sound more interesting. As their moving date got closer, Mechem’s commitment to the plan wavered and he never saw it through. Jimmy Don Walls on the other hand has been stuck with the stage name ‘Joe Giant’ ever since and currently resides in Minnesota.
1: Tyler Mechem, you are truly one of my favorite souls. We’ve spent many years, nights and long drives together and—aside from being one of my favorite songwriters—you’re also one of the best guys I know. I’m fortunate to have made music with you, to have laughed alongside you and to have been a very small part of your time in Charleston.
The legion of fans and devoted listeners you’ve rightfully earned over the years—as well as the magical things you and Crowfield accomplished—pale only in comparison to the innumerable amount of friends who love you dearly. I feel lucky to be one of them.
Have a great show tonight buddy; the rest of us will be in the back row wearing scowls and judging you.
Love ya man,
THE GOOD NEWS: Volume 1
Deep In The Wheat
I feel like TV news and print media have followed the same path as music since the invention of iTunes, iPads, Facebook and Twitter. There is now more content and music online than we can ever hope to digest—which can be good and bad I suppose. Sometimes people ask me whether—as a musician/songwriter—I think music is better off or worse today because of the countless distribution channels like iTunes, Pandora etc. My usual answer—and one I feel confident in—is that there’s unquestionably more diverse and potentially-groundbreaking music out now than ever before; the downside is that you just have to look a little harder in order to find it.
The same could be said for ‘good news.’ We all know that corruption, sex, scandal, violence and political mudslinging is what sells newspapers. But that gets old real damn quick. I’m an optimist I suppose, yet the fact is that I find myself running into good people doing good things quite often—and it stands to reason that this is not a geocentric phenomenon and also occurs in other places around the planet. So why don’t we read about it more often? After all, politicians, celebrities and criminals make up just a small fraction of the Earth’s population—so there has to be some ‘good’ going on somewhere among the other remaining billions of people, right? I believed so—even if perhaps it’s just because I wanted to believe so.
So I went looking for a few stories about real people and real human actions that may not have made the headlines; a little ‘good news’ that was overlooked in favor of ‘marketable news.’ The stories honestly weren’t that hard to find. And since I’m not a news conglomerate—I don’t have to give a shit about what the monetary potential of these stories is. I just like some good news every now and then and—in the event that you like a little good news too, I’ll be occasionally posting these stories and others like them (along with perhaps a short ramble of my own) on this essay section of my website from time to time for your reading enjoyment.
NEIGHBORS HELP INJURED WHEAT FARMER HARVEST CROP
Article by John Paul Schmidt-Havre Daily News
A Rudyard farmer, who was unable to harvest his fields due to two broken legs, watched from his wheelchair as his neighbors rallied at his farm to help him.
The English philosopher John Locke once said, “To love our neighbor as ourselves is such a truth for regulating human society, that by that alone one might determine all the cases in social morality.”
This rang true for Joe Becker as he watched the line of his neighbors’ combines harvesting the fields he was unable to attend to.
“I had six combines, several trucks, a tractor and all kinds of help today and yesterday,” Joe Becker said Wednesday. “To have those combines lined up like they were cutting their own crops was great. Once they got together, nobody had to tell anybody what to do or ask anybody to do anything. They just did it.”
Becker spent five days in the hospital at Kalispell after falling 12 feet while helping his son build a cabin. He broke the tibia in his left leg, in which 10 screws had been placed, and his right leg had to be set in a cast after developing a hairline fracture and breaking bones in all his toes.
“It was bad timing on my part,” Becker said.
Becker said while he was on mandatory bed rest at the hospital, he received a call from one of his neighbors, who told Becker he had enough to worry about and he would not have to worry about his farm.
Becker said he was told he did not have an option.
When harvest time came around, around 14 neighbors and friends showed up with their own equipment at Becker’s farm about 9 ½ miles north of Rudyard to get to work.
“They did in 2 ½ days what I usually do in seven,” Becker said. “They wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was pretty awesome. It was like something that happens in the movies. I knew I had good neighbors, but you really find out what kind of neighbors you have in a time like this.”
Becker was quick to add that he could not have done any of this without his wife, Jean. Jean Becker attempted to say through tears how grateful she and her husband were.
“It’s just so nice to have people who are willing to drop everything and help us,” Jean said. “It was so wonderful and we couldn’t appreciate it more.”
“It’s the neatest thing I’ve seen in a lot of years,” Becker said. “I’m eternally grateful for all these great neighbors.
The ‘One Year’ Proposition
an essay by luke cunningham
Cleaning the kitchen floor today, I sat in my living room waiting for the sheen of Swiffer wet chemicals to dry. I left the book that I just bought in the kitchen; so reading for the next 10 min was not an option. I needed to pass the time, yet didn’t want to jump into emails/read online stuff as I have a propensity to get sucked into such tasks much longer than I ever initially intended. So, I sat in my living room chair and for the first time in a long time had absolutely nothing to do but think. It was a strangely nice–albeit forced–use of my time. And while gazing across the room at the miniature Christmas tree my girlfriend decorated in the corner of our apartment, my mind kept coming back to one central thought:
“A lot can happen in a year.”
It was just a year ago that my album Heart Pressure was released. It seems like just yesterday until I begin to recount the shows, the travel and all the fortunate opportunities that we as a band—and me personally—have been blessed to experience in that time. A year ago, I could have never imagined that so many good people, so many supportive fans and such an array of encouraging individuals would rally around Heart Pressure like each of you did in 2012.
I’m not famous or rich, nor am I on the cover of national magazines—but I’m probably just as happy these days as if I were. Because there’s a silent value that exists and there are riches in life that have absolutely nothing to do with money. For me, being able to make a living—no matter how small—by writing songs and performing them on stage with 3-4 guys who are talented beyond belief is one of those riches. There’s no way to put a price tag on it, the way it makes me feel or how blessed I feel just knowing there are people who support the music I make. Thank you to all of you who stood behind Heart Pressure, the band and me over the course of the last twelve months. The year 2012 was one hell of a ride and we have you guys to thank for that. Bless you.
My father–the best writer and storyteller I know–used to tell me this fable when I was a little kid. It goes something like this:
In the 1700s the czar of Russia throws a rural peasant into the Kremlin dungeon for a crime he did not commit. When the man was brought before the Czar for sentencing, the peasant was neither afforded a trial nor a chance to even defend himself. And so the czar—without hesitation—condemned the poor man to be hung immediately in St. Petersburg Square. As the guards began to take the poor man back to the dungeon, the peasant made one last grasping attempt to hang onto his life.
Yelling to the czar, he said “Czar, please hear a proposition that I think you will find most interesting!”
This was not normal and the czar was for some reason strangely intrigued in what this condemned peasant could ever have to offer a man of his position and stature. So the czar gestured for the guards to let the condemned man speak and upon doing so, the poor man’s proposition was heard.
“Czar, give me one year in the dungeon,” proposed the peasant, “and by the end of that year I shall be able to make your horse speak words just as a human does.”
The court erupted in laughter while the peasant’s face and demeanor remained stoic. The czar asked if he had heard the man correctly, and the poor man again repeated his proposition.
“Yes czar. Spare my life for one year and at the end of that year I will by then have trained your horse to speak.”
The czar had nothing to lose and the mere thought of the idea itself was as humorous as it was outlandish. After all, the man would die at the Czar’s hand either way—whether today or a year from then when he failed to make the horse talk—so why not entertain the idea? And so the czar agreed to the foolish man’s wager and the peasant was taken back to spend the next year of his life in the cold dungeon of St. Petersburg.
By the time the peasant was returned to his shackles and cell, the emaciated prisoner chained to the far wall had already caught wind of what had transpired in court. Having heard of his fellow prisoner’s proposal to the czar he immediately inquired, “Are you a fool? Why would you propose such a thing?”
The peasant’s answer was simple.
“A lot can happen in one year,” he said. “I could be set free, I might escape, the czar may be overthrown or he might even die.”“Or . . “ he said looking his fellow prisoner in the eye, “the horse could talk.”
So what does this story have to do with anything and why the hell did I tell it to you?
I do so because this fable told to me as a child by my father resonates with me more today than ever—especially as I sit here reminiscing about the past year. A lot has unfolded. And while just 12 months ago things were uncertain—and sometimes just plain bleak—I can honestly say that since then, a new light has begun to shine through. And today it burns bright.
So if by chance you’re reading this and you’ve had a tough year. If you’re struggling with your life or career—regardless of whether you’re a songwriter, day laborer, businessman, factory worker or CEO. If you face this New Year with worry in your heart or if—as you read this—you’re hurting in some way or another, I say to you “take comfort.”
Things can change. A lot can happen in a year. The horse could talk.
The Mystery of The Referee
an essay by luke cunningham
(Side Note: This essay is a revised version of similar post from a year ago. Kinda like a ‘remastered’ edition of an album you already have. Just louder, more up to date.)
Having spent X amount of years as a touring musician and songwriter, I’ve found that my profession and the excessive travel that comes with it has allowed numerous types of individuals to casually come in and out of my life. I always love meeting people and—truth be told—think that every conversation I have with a stranger is something special. Because at the end of that conversation, you know one more story than you did when you walked into the room. Maybe it’s something my father ingrained in me as a child when he once told me “Every time someone dies, a library burns.” I admittedly thrive on other people’s stories. It’s who I am I cannot change that.
Given such an infatuation and a traveling profession along with it, the last few years have allowed me to meet all kinds of individuals with unique stories, tales, jobs and missions. They hail from all walks of life with myriad intentions yet they arrive with zero warning—almost to the point of being a tad absurd. Along the way, you meet people you never thought you’d run into and occasionally a few you never wanted to know in the first place.
But when I look back collectively at the random individuals I’ve known, it’s actually ‘who I don’t know’ that has become my most recent obsession and unsolvable mystery. And the alarming realization that that’s been keeping me up at night is simply this: I don’t know a referee!
Sounds idiotic, right? The answer at face value is Yes.
But wedged somewhere between the idiocy and my neurosis is a mathematical paradox; a statistical illogicality that is actually more interesting than the subject itself. And it’s that probability—or lack thereof—that leaves me flummoxed.
Consider the following:
In your average NFL game, there can be as many as eight officials presiding over a contest (sometimes more). With 32 teams in the league, this means that 256 referees are suiting up every Sunday. Considering that the same referees are not used week after week, let’s err on the side of caution and suppose that 50% of these referees—a generous approximation—do actually work every Sunday. Using this formula, we would figure that there are roughly 1,500 professional NFL referees nationwide. Now add those numbers to the referees from other pro sports such as basketball, baseball (umpires), soccer, hockey, lacrosse, horse shoes or whatever other sport you’re into, and the numbers become staggering.
Despite this massive number of black and white striped individuals—whose total head count rivals that of some African nations—I still somehow don’t personally know a single professional referee. Not only have I never known one, I fear that I’ll most likely die without having ever known one. Have I been hanging out in the wrong bars? Are my social and economic status tiers below these officials of modern day sport—so far in fact that I’m not good enough to even know where they ‘kick it’ in their off time? Where the hell are these guys and why don’t I know any of them?
Sometimes just to send my head into even more of a tailspin, I confront the fact that I’ve—up until this point—only discussed professional refs. The college ranks, with its multiple leagues and divisions, has even more referees that I don’t know. As if this wasn’t enough to blow my mind, I then take into account high school athletics—at which point I develop vertigo. How has this happened and what have I been doing all my life?
Perhaps what’s most shocking is this: The only thing more confounding than the situation at hand is the fact that not only do I not know one referee, I don’t even know someone who knows a referee.
Have you passed out yet? Because I have—twice in fact since I began typing this.
What affords me my only comfort is thinking that perhaps I’m not the only one. Yet, I say this optimistically because—truth be told—I’ve never heard referees mentioned in a social conversation aside from those evaluating or questioning the officiating in a certain sport/event.
I’ve heard: “Dude, that referee really screwed the Eagles on that call.”
I haven’t heard: “Dude, my hot neighbor is screwing a professional referee.”
I’ve heard: “Man, that referee is blind.”
I haven’t heard: “My blind date last week was a professional referee.”
Because of this social chasm and the occupational void of refereeing itself, the profession has been added to my personal list of ‘Things I’ll Never Fully Understand.’ (A list which contains other such entries as: ‘the 2004 presidential election, live rap performances, and ‘how the heat index is approximated’.
Perhaps if it’s really true that “there’s someone out there for everyone,” I might one day find my referee. I can just picture us both right now: Sitting side by side at the bar we’ll flip coins to decide EVERYTHING and the term ‘bad call’ will quickly become an overused euphemism we never grow tired of.
ANATOMY OF A WAFFLE HOUSE
an essay by luke cunningham
This menu is so large it’s embarrassing.I fully understand the restaurant is utilizing colorful pictures to make the Grade D steak-n-eggs look more enticing, but was it necessary to have a photo of the meal printed in actual size on the menu?
A college professor once told me that during the Carter administration, the average military IQ was at an all-time low and in order to cater to the intellectual drought, the manuals used by helicopter pilots were actually printed in comic book format; this is not so different. Oversized pictures, cartoons, bright colors—the works. Just so one can get a better idea of what an egg looks like sitting next to bacon, as opposed to a sausage link or splatter of grits.
For those unfamiliar with the Waffle House, you must not be from around here. That’s quite all right. We southerners have a hospitable nature, and wouldn’t want you to feel left out. So allow me to show you around.
It’s 2:45am and the one thing that everyone in this ‘diner’ will need to confront is this: We all failed tonight. Those of us who went out to the bars downtown have hence shown up here empty handed. The charm, our pick up lines and the purchase of many over-priced drinks have still somehow failed to alter the evening’s outcome and as a result we now all sit here feeding our stomachs while our libidos starve. Those of us who are here by choice and not lack of late-night options are just as bad as those of us who struck out tonight, seeing it’s widely known that consumption of grease and fatty platters at 3am may result in such traumatic deformities as the ‘triple chin’ or the ‘freshman fifteen.’ Many Yankee prom queens attending college in the South have fallen head over heels for these types of breakfast joints. Returning home to Rhode Island or Northern Virginia on their freshman Fall Break, they’re often locked out of their own homes. Meanwhile, their parents stay crouched behind the living room sofa wondering why a strange chubby girl is beating on their front door.
There is one other faction that deserves to be introduced. I call them ‘Lifers.’ They are Waffle House customers ‘for life’ and their occupations sealed their fates long ago. Members of this phylum include but are not limited to: traveling musicians, salesmen, truckers, hobos, hitchhikers, and any type of person akin to those glamorized within a Jack Kerouac novel. The coffee here is strong. Good, but strong. It has to be. The ‘lifer’ who just exited the booth next to me has a nineteen-hour trek to Detroit. Driving a semi truck full of shrink-wrapped steaks he’ll never taste, the guy needs the effects of caffeine as much as a GED. This weathered soul has most likely been driving for years. So long in fact, that he may not know exactly what year it is. I only say this because he left a quarter, two dimes, and three pennies as a tip for his seven-dollar meal. I haven’t seen someone leave change as a tip since that one Humphrey Bogart movie.
On the other side of the restaurant are three individuals who–if I had to guess- attended a party in a basement somewhere tonight. Currently, they are asserting their bloated sense of self-importance to a waitress through a series of waves and finger snapping. The one on the inside of the booth and closer to the window is semi-conscious at best. Aside from raising his head to laugh occasionally, he’s not good for much else. It’s like watching the movie Weekend at Bernie’s acted out right in front of me.
The sidekick of the pack is stacking saltshakers into a pyramid while the other two watch him. Wearing a stained t-shirt, a headband, and sweatbands on his wrists, his outfit now officially confirms their attendance at a suburban basement party. Since I seem to be on a roll, I’ll also assume that mid-bottle, ‘Mr. Sweatin’ to the Oldies’ found the clothing items in a box next to a dusty Christmas wreath and various board games. Operating on a dare that wasn’t that daring, his friends most likely coaxed him into wearing the outfit to breakfast. But what they didn’t understand before they left the basement was that it’s impossible to be mock ironic in a place where nothing is shocking.
The ringleader of the group has been so rude to the waitress that I’ve promised myself I will interject upon the next infraction. I hope and pray that I won’t have to, seeing as (a) telling someone you got into a fight at The Waffle House is embarrassing and (b) telling someone you got your ass kicked at The Waffle House is a prospect I cant even fathom.
The aforementioned ringleader is also culturally confused. Wearing a confederate flag t-shirt, he also sports a leather jacket with the band ‘Bad Brains’ spray painted on the back. It’s a paradoxical fashion statement to say the least, as his devotion to the confederacy is humorously contradicted by his love for an all-black punk band whose name is spread across his jacket.
At the next table over, there’s a middle-aged woman sitting alone with a cup of coffee. A devout smoker, she exercises her tobacco privileges with such pleasure that it appears the cigarette is actually smoking her. Evidently I must be sitting down wind, seeing as it feels like I’m eating my eggs in the middle of a forest fire. The woman is not unattractive, but she is unapproachable. The main reason is quite simple. Women who are alone at this hour are doing so by their own accord, or because they aren’t able to bring a guest home. My best assumption is that Smokey here finally convinced Grandma to keep her kids for the night so that she could enjoy an evening out at the local bowling ally. Who knows when Grandma would be so generous again? Thus, Smokey is sucking up every minute of freedom she has before she returns home to the little ones, and Grandma inquiring if she met any nice men who didn’t (a) go by a nickname or (b) drive a car with an mythological bird air-brushed on the hood?
The music for the evening may be the best part. The Waffle House jukebox and its play list read like a CD wallet you had in middle school and hoped no one ever found. Somewhat of a musical Rosetta Stone, this archeological mechanism provides reference to bands and singers of the past that we often try, and very easily areable to forget. Billy Ray Cyrus, Color Me Badd, Winger, Right Said Fred, and Snow are just a few of the pop culture ghosts able to be summoned by a simple insertion of two quarters. In any other setting such a catalog would be seen as hilarious by all in attendance. Bet here, at this hour, with these people, such insight—no matter how comical–is in short supply.
I pay for my meal, making sure to leave bills and not change. Rising from the booth, I exit the restaurant to the cadence of another 80s anthem belting from the jukebox. If it’s true what they say about music being the soundtrack to our lives, then me and every last bastard in here needs an intervention.