LP: Naked City by John Zorn
2016 1972 Records, if34, Reissue
Favorite Track: A Shot in the Dark
The jazz in my nose was getting out of hand. Fingers of it zooting and scatting around like an unfinished melody. Blood in my face constricted thinner than a sixteenth note. Walking diagonal through the crowd to get away from the stage but it’s brighter at the bar counter with twice as many tough guys acting petulantly. I should have brought a book; had a quiet night. But, no, I’m trying to escape myself for one night–like truly escape myself. I want my thoughts obliterated. My ego exterminated.
Oh, hello there reader, you are trapped in the hell of my mind’s narration, which, I should warn you, is faulty. Since you are joining me in this song and dance, I should introduce myself, although if you find me talking in third person, please get our your eraser and finish me off. You are as much a part of me as I am of you, so don’t get confused. My name, for this number, is Zorro X. I’m 27, male, mostly white but I suspect my grandmother for some dalliances during the war, and a bit on the scruffy side. I used to write novels that got me in all sorts of trouble, but that stopped after I fell in love. She kissed me once and said my mouth tasted like peaches, which is strange because fruit and I haven’t seen each other since the second grade. We married for a bit, but then she left taking my typewriter with her. My eyes are hazel, sad-looking, and I nervously chew my lower lip some times. I’d go around nude in a cape and call it fashion but the police have to protect the children or someone these days. Maybe all their hands are itchy. Instead, I wear the same orange turtleneck, dark pants and darker shoes. I walk around like I’m pretending to be Tim Buckley, but, if I were to sing, I would hiss.
Why am I so determined to lose myself for a night? Well, you are here reading about me so I see you want to lose yourself too. But I can’t read and anyways don’t have the time for it. I’m all for kinetic energy. Death will come when I can no longer dance.
The band is really doing strange things on stage: the saxophonist is popping balloons with the horn and the drummer keeps making rainbow showers wet the front row. I’m getting a vibe that they are secretly summoning monsters. The creep factor is all over the place like a particularly hungry moss. There is a back exit just past the bathroom but I’ve got a pair of eyes on me from the shadows. A boy and a girl. The boy is an obvious nerd: skinny, glasses, poorly cut hair, nostalgic T-shirt. A real stereotype. The girl is a bundle of red curls, jewelry, and awkward bone structure. They are pretending to listen but they are trying to read me like you. If you are working for them, I’m going to ask you to stop. Double-crossing the author is a bad idea.
My fear only grows the closer I get to the bathroom. At first, I don’t even see the line, but then the people in the line are weird. Like something is going on in the bathroom that just may be very untoward…and this excites the line. There’s a couple of shooters, some pocket hands, a vomiter, and an old man making his own music like he was center stage and it was Woodstock all over again. I can’t see over all the shoulders and trench coats to see what is happening in the bathroom, but the light is flickering on and off. Smoke or steam has the mirrors fogged. There is a glimmer of movement.
And another glimmer as the boy and girl approach me. After this dance and song combo is over, reader, you and I have to talk. Sometimes I just don’t want to be myself but I always have to be someone when people talk to me. You are ruining my ride.
“Excuse me, Zorro, excuse me,” the girl says, her eyes wide and imploring. She’s not timid, I can tell by her gait, but she is timid now. Do I scare her? Intimidation is a weird game: you always do it when you don’t mean to.
“Yeah, who are you kid? Can’t you see something queer is going on in the bathroom and I don’t mean the fucking kind.”
“I’m Beets and this is the Count. He doesn’t talk much but we are big fans of yours.”
The boy is looking for an autograph. He holds out a copy of Pantless Capeman Goes to Summer Camp with it open to page 137, which is my most illegal work. I tell you, dear reader, I always pick the wrong days to get all jazzed up.
“Look, don’t be flashing that in public. And besides, I’m a shell of a man I was. My name ain’t worth the ink in your pen.”
“But Zorro, you work Lizard People in Sacramento single-handily ousted a president. Love Bumps popularized orgies for years. And what can be said about Beefheart’s Undies, a collection so vulgar as to–”
“Yes, yes, Beets. I know my own career. The less said better. Look I’ll autograph it, take a photo, whatever makes you happy. It’s not that I don’t want to meet you fans, it just should have been one of the other 300 days in the year. Tonight, I need to not be Zorro X. Got it?”
The boy nodded and started to put the book away, but I snatched it out of his hands and started to scribble my autograph until I realized I drew a pair of titties wanking off an erect penis. Damn. I swear I was writing my name. Now the reader and these kids know I’m a full-fledged pervert. Well, this song is almost over and there are monsters out in the hallways now (I can hear the bloodcurdling screams and the rendering of flesh) so there is no time to worry and I sketch my name around the balls because if you are going perverted you may as well let it all hang out there.
Beets continues to talk, “You’ve inspired me to do lots of things, Mr. X. I only drink coffee at 3 a.m., I listen to Tim Buckley but sing like a cat, I haunt the inside of people’s minds and I don’t wear underwear.”
Shit. These kids really studied up on me. And the underwear thing is bothering me in another way.
The bathroom line breaks up as what was going on in the bathroom reveals itself in shuddering, soul-destroying horror. Only one goofy tall man with wispy facial hair remains, pockethand working furiously.
“Okay, kids. We may as well snap that picture. I always thought that a book should end with a picture. You know, to let you know that you imagined everything wrong.”
They hugged me tightly as the camera flashed and then we were swallowed up.