SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: The following column contains such controversial terms as “jew” (in the context of “Wandering jew,” a spiny-leafed green plant), and “bisexual” (in the context of Elton John). If you are a Sensitive Reader, we suggest you proceed with caution, because you never know when one of those words might (BISEXUAL!) come up. Thank (JEW!) you.
You will be pleased to know that I am now in a band, called “Eccentric Eric and the Wandering Jews,” after the spiny-leafed green plant of the same name (not the religion. Please. Don’t write in). If you would like to know why that title was chosen, too bad, because I’m not going to tell you.
Ha ha! Just a little humor there. Actually, I am going to tell you, because that is my job, and I won’t get paid unless I do. The title already existed, even before we became a band, only it did not include the “Eccentric Eric” part. It just referred to four of my acquaintances (named, from tallest to shortest, Mike, Tim, Aaron, and Ryan) who one day decided that if they were going to be an official, respectable group of friends, they would naturally have to name themselves after a plant. “Tradescantia fluminensis” (the botanical name) didn’t have quite the right ring to it, so they went with “Wandering jews” instead.
The Wandering jews soon became a mutually exclusive bunch of merry men, limiting their numbers to only four. That is why the name of our band is “Eccentric Eric and the Wandering Jews” and not just “The Wandering Jews”: I am not an official “jew” and therefore cannot call myself one in any sense of the word for reasons centering around the facts that 1) I am a Christian, and 2) I am not a plant.
At any rate, the five of us are now a band, and we will undoubtedly become the Menudo of the ’90s, if only we can overcome our minor problems, such as:
1) Aaron, the bass player, cannot, in a physical sense, actually play the bass.
2) Mike and Ryan can both play the drums, but no band needs two drummers, so we suspect that Mike and Ryan may wind up attempting to kill one another, which, if we get it on film, will make for some amusing footage when it comes time to make a video.
3) Tim plays the guitar quite adequately, but his hair, which he let grow for the sole purpose of being in a band, sometimes gets caught in the strings and the fire department has to come in with the Jaws of Life to get him loose, but only if we can get the 911 pesons to believe us. (“You say your friend’s hair is stuck in a guitar?”)
But other than these minor difficulties, we’re a perfectly normal band, except that we’ve never actually played a song together. We do have one planned, though. I wrote it, and I think we’ve all been practicing our parts individually. I know I have. My part involves playing the piano and singing, and, thanks, to the wonders of modern technology, I won’t have to do them at the same time, or even correctly. I could (and frequently do) sing like a dying chihuahua in heat and play like a blind man with no fingers, but if I turn a few knobs on the recorder, I’ll sound like Elton John, only not nearly as bisexual.
We do have every intention of playing the song together sometime, but as of so far, we don’t have anyplace to practice. My house is out of the question because it would mean the other guys would have to actually meet my family, an experience from whence no one has ever returned without a severe facial tic and major hair loss.
(A recent family incident: We were eating a nice Sunday dinner and enjoying a peaceful silence when my 8-year-old sister — the one who is so cute and small and delicate and precious that we have nicknamed her “Bunny” — emitted a belch that would make a drunkard stand up and applaud. The next night, we all went out to Sizzler, which, as fate would have it, is where Aaron the Bass Player works, only he was off that night, which made me a much more religious person, if you get my drift. I just thought I’d share that with you.)
Anyway, if you would like to donate the use of your home, we would greatly appreciate it, and we might even give it back when we’re through.
Hoo-boy, was this ever a column! As you can see, it's pretty average in its humorous appeal, but that's beside the point. It's the behind-the-scenes stuff that makes it interesting.
First of all, in publication, Laneta Meeker the copy editress got nervous and pulled the entire first paragraph. That's better than the rest of the editorial staff, though, who wanted the entire COLUMN removed. This was just a few weeks after the school paper, which I worked for, had been involved in a major racial controversy/misunderstanding, so people were kind of nervous about anything that mentioned any specific groups, such as Jews. (The title I use here, "New Rock Band: Jew-2," is new. The headline used in publication was something about "Will Eric's Band be Banned?," which seems remarkably prescient now that I think about it.)
Also, I made the mistake of not mentioning to the Wandering Jews, whom I really didn't know very well (except for Aaron), that I was going to talk about them in the column. They were upset about it, mostly because it caught them by surprise, and because they were afraid people were going to take the whole "jew" thing the wrong way. It really IS the name of a plant, and that really IS where they got it from, but I know there are many people in the world who think that merely to MENTION something is the same thing as mocking it.
So the Wandering Jews, except for Aaron, got mad at me, and that bothered me. Coupled with that was the fact that I'd been struggling in my writing lately anyway. My columns had been somewhat more juvenile, violent and gross lately, and people had noticed. So I decided to take a few weeks off, to get my creative energies back again, and to go off to Walden and find myself.
(The whole story is told in my first post-hiatus column, found here.)
It's unfortunate that this column should be the one, but this was the first time I mentioned my friend Aaron Heyden. He was my best friend for my last couple years in high school, and I mentioned him numerous times in later columns. This makes sense, since nearly everything I did during that era, I did it with him.
Aaron was a fun friend. He was forgetful and rather flaky, but he was charming, and kind of sweet in his good-natured worthlessness. He was also quite the ladies' man (which also was in stark contrast to myself), though he denied any such prowess. We met when we were cast in the same student-directed one act plays at the end of my sophomore year. He was supposed to have been in "Shakespeare Shorts" (read this column for more about that show), as Macbeth, but he failed to learn his lines and was kicked out by director Craig Duke and replaced with the weaselly but line-learning Marvin Thompson. Aaron and I started hanging out around that time, and we were more or less inseparable (except when he had a girlfriend) for the next couple years. We drifted apart when I went to college, and I don't know where he is now. Last I heard, he was living in Washington and had killed a guy, although that story may be apocryphal.