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DJ Spooky

     Back at the end of last summer, I was ready to swear off of relationships for awhile. I had just gotten through a pretty rotten one that had ended in a pretty rotten way, and I was in no mood to get involved again. At the time I laid the blame all on her, and I'm sure she laid it all on me, but you're older-but-wiser now and you realize that, just like the song, it's your own damn fault.
     C'est la vie. C'est la guerre. C'est la mode.
     To top it off, that was when Traci finally started dating someone seriously for the first time since we split up, more than two years ago now. Some part of me was saying, "Hey, bubba, she's your EX-girlfriend, you should be happy for her," and I knew that part was right, but lay off, okay? Yeesh. You can't tell me you don't get a little jealous when you think about that girl you went to prom with... a joke:

     Bill says to Hillary: wow, how would life be different if you married that guy you went to prom with?
     Hillary says to Bill: well, I guess that *he'd* be President now.

     Hyuk, hyuk, anyway, at the time I needed something to occupy my mind and keep me off the streets, so training (and of course, good old cold smoke ) provided ample opportunities for both. I hatched out a plan to run consecutively longer races throughout the winter, culminating in, hopefully, an 18 miler in January. To do this, I needed to beef up my long runs of the week, starting with seven milers and working up to the eighteen. At the pace of the Golden Tortoise, seven miles is about an hour, and twelve miles is two. One hour of running will calm you down and drive all thoughts of anything else from your mind; two hours of running puts you into a dizzying, numbing mindset; and two and half hours (my longest training run of 14 miles) puts you at peace with the world. And the endorphin jags from those long runs last for hours, and let you get to sleep, and make it all worthwhile (I have waxed poetic, or at least loquacious, about this before). All in all, it was exactly what I needed at the time, so I dove in with both (flat) feet on unbended (but sore) knees.

     On and off, off and on, I occasionally go running with other people. Jim and I have put in our short milers together, Julie and I have run long and hard, and various people that I've met along the way have become one or two times running companions.
     One of these companions was a fella' named David, and another was a friend of his named Jong.
The RC-6066 from www.panasonic.com
Coming soon: The Clock Radio vs. the Gaussian Blur!
I hope no one ever tells David this, but I called him up to see if he wanted to go running earlier last summer because Traci asked me to. I can hear Traci now, "Alan, David can't get motivated to go running. You call him and get him to run with you. Here's his number. Don't let him get out of it." Uh, sure. Whatever. I get his number, call him at some unearthly hour like 11:00 on Wednesday night, and ask him, "Hey, bubba, when do you want to go for a run?" And it turns out the he and Jong are going at 6:30 the next morning, and that I'm welcome to come along. "Perfect!" I tell David, inwardly fuming at Traci because I am not, and never will be, a morning person. "6:30 AM" seems as far away as "630 AD" to me, but what the heck, I can get out of bed once or twice a year that early. And it's for a friend. No, make it "for two friends." Traci and David.
     Long suffering martyr Al is up early on Thursday morning and I meet David in front of Jong's apartment. I've run the 1/4 or 1/2 mile from my place, so I'm ready to go, but I settle in as Jong and David stretch and chew the fat a little. We plan to go for a short run, maybe two miles, and now that I am actually up at 6:30 I am feeling pretty good. Someone put it perfectly once: "the natural bonhomie of those up before dawn."
     So we go for our run, and I push David and Jong through a bit more than they're used to, but not too much more, and we end up walking the last 1/2 mile or so home, joking and goofing around at 7:30 in the morning.
     This was the first time that I can place Jong as someone other than "Traci's friend."

     Well, "Traci's friend" is being a bit disingenuous. I met Jong through Traci, and Traci met Jong through law school. Or to be more particular, through a mentoring program in law school. As in, Traci was Jong's mentor. The first time I remember meeting Jong was when Traci, Jong and I went to eat Chinese food one time at a place called Pao's (great food, but whenever I went with Traci, they explicitly ignored me, Golden gaijin Tortoise, and would literally only talk to Traci. It was extremely frustrating). Jong insists that we first met at an old hippie kind of Austin Chronicle kind of place called Martin Brothers, and as I type this now I can, yes, vaguely remember seeing her there. I remember because I always hated Martin Brothers, so it was unusual to go there, and I remember how Jong stuck her tongue out when she laughed... which is actually a much more flattering habit than that sounds.
     So I remember seeing her around for a few years. Just one of those people who's a bit of an acquaintance, someone you know well enough to stop and talk to at the super market, but not someone that you'd talk to on the phone or send an email to. She was year or two behind Traci in law school, and she was good friends with David, who knew someone that Traci and I went to undergrad with, and who knew someone that I worked with at my first job out of school, and isn't life just like that sometimes.
     Oh, did I mention that Jong's a knockout?

     Fast forward back to the start of fall from my rewind to the middle of summer, and we find the Tortuga gutting his way through these increasingly longer weekly long runs. Tuesday, for whatever reason, was Long Run Day, and I was starting progressively earlier so that I wouldn't be running in the dark. So at 4:30 on Tuesday afternoons, I would gather up my gear and tell Chuck (remember Chuck? ), "Hey ya, Long Run Day, off I go for a run!" And boom, boom, boom, I was out on the trail, cruising along with my thoughts and my knees.
     One night I come home from a night of drinking with Cantone, and there's a message on my machine:
     "Uh, hi, this is Jong.... uh, Traci's friend... and I was wondering if you'd like to go running sometime?"
     She rambled on for another minute or so until my machine cut her off (oh, how I love that my machine cuts people off in mid stride. Keep it concise if you're calling old Al) and I thought, "Hmm, that's strange." But sure I'll go for a run with just about anyone once or twice, so I jotted down her work number so that I could call her the next day at a reasonable hour. When I did call, I got her voice mail, so I left her a message:
     "Hi, this is Alan... you know, Traci's friend..."
     And eventually we got back in touch with each other and made plans to go for a run. On the phone she said, "Traci never told me that you were so funny." Hmmm.

     Off for the run.
     We did the normal four miler, and Jong kept up a good enough pace, but one thing I've been taught is to never really punish people who are just starting out running. We kept a talking pace, and Jong told me about her trip to Korea, and how she had just broken up with the guy she had dated in law school. She was enjoying being single for the time being, and felt like she needed time for herself. "Lord Nose!" I told her, and gave her my brief and biased account of my recent tribulation. I thought one of the big problems with that last relationship was that I was more focused on the relationship than the girl, that is I was lonesome rather than in love, so I was going to wait a while now for someone who I really liked to come along.
     Very reasonable, we both agreed, oh yes. Jog, jog, along, and I'm telling myself, "My, how adult I am that I can be jogging along with this gorgeous woman and we're discussing, like two rational adults, our disjointed and disinterested love lives, and we're not interested in each other as anything more than just friends."

     So that weekend I call up Traci and we get to talking, and she asks me how the run went, and it all went good, and I get kind of quiet and Traci, bless her heart, always knows when something is up. So she says, "Well, Al... what's going on?" And I tell her, "Hmm, I kind of like Jong."
     Traci and I talk some more, and I tell her that I don't plan on pursuing things very hard. "I mean, we kept talking about how neither of us wanted to be in a relationship. I just like her, and maybe if I wasn't still screwed up over this last thing, then maybe I'd be after her, but whatever. You know? What. Ever." I could hear Traci agreeing on the other end of the line, and I could see that annoyed look she gets when she thinks that she knows me better than I know myself. "I'll just ask her out on a run again, how about that?"
     "Don't you go and hurt her Alan. She's my baby, you know."
     Sure, Traci, it's just a run. Neither of us wants a relationship, didn't I tell you about that part?

     So I called up Jong, and we talked for ten or twenty minutes, and I suggested that we go for another run the next week. She was up for it, and we set the date for the next Tuesday. I'd have to sacrifice Long Run Day, but hey, life's about flexibility. The one sticky in the wicket was that David was coming along on this run.
     We agree to meet down at the Garden Escape office on Tuesday evening. At work that day, my buddy Michael (whom I worked with back at Apple, and happens to be the one that David knew from high school or some such, and isn't life like that) calls me up and invites me to the Poetry Slam that night at the Electric Lounge. The Poetry Slam is something all to itself, and if you don't know what it is, I'll have to explain it at length at some other time...
     So Jong and David show up and we head out for the run. After our first run, Jong and I had gone with lucky Jimmy and Ezell over to the Chili Parlor for dinner afterwards. I figured that I would work the precedent and suggest that the three of us eat dinner afterwards. Which I did, and we went to Frank and Angies for the "great freaking pizza." During dinner, the Poetry Slam came up and I told her that I was going to go. Would she like to go?
     "I don't think that there's a Poetry Slam tonight," Jong tells me. "DJ Spooky is playing tonight at the Electric Lounge."
     Hmmm, well, okay, I was still planning on going, to see my man Michael and just hang out. Would she like to go?
     "Well, I actually really like DJ Spooky... and the slam might be neat. I have to go home and change."
     Well, great, I'll be there, and if you show up, that'd be great.
     "Great, great," she says.
     David's staring at me with disbelieving and disapproving eyes. Why is that? What? We're just two adults... who aren't interested in a relationship... maybe going to the same show....
     "Great, great." I beam.

Stealing pictures from a web site is basically the same as sampling songs... right?
My God, man, it's SPOOKY and the Return of the Gaussian Blur!
Back to the office, into dry clothes, and over the Electric Lounge. There's a line out front, so you know it's not a Poetry Slam because there's never a line for a freaking Slam, and it turns out that yes indeedy it's DJ Spooky playing tonight. A little tickle jiggles at the back of my head and I remember reading about this guy in an ancient issue (though I suppose they're all ancient issues now) of Mondo 2000. I can't remember anything about him, except that he was some super star DJ from New York City. Hmmmm. Opening is Emergency Broadcast Network, whom I'll later find out has quite a cult following, and a band called "Plastalina Mosh." As I work my way up the line, I find out the downside is the price: $12, where I had $3 budgeted for the Slam. I've only got a twenty, and even drinking the cheap stuff, eight dollars doesn't get you very far. I ask the guy in front of me who the heck Plastalina Mosh is, anyway, and the woman behind me answers instead. They're from Monterrey, Mexico, and she's driven seven hours just to see them. "With that kind of recommendation, sounds like they're worth seeing!" I tell her, so I willingly (if not ecstatically) cough up my $12 and get inside the club.
     Slams are earlier than shows, so it's only about 9:00 and I easily find Michael in the quiet and still lit club. Michael's one of those catch-up-every-few-months friends. Our careers have been strangely parallel: from Apple, where we did contract work, to our next companies, which turned out to be about 200 yards away from each other. Michael's got big news: he's getting ready to parallel me again and is thinking about joining up with a company downtown. It's startup all the way, but it sounds great, and it sounds like a lot of cash, and he asks my advice. "Go see their outfit, and jump on in, my man," I tell him. How cool.
     So we talk some more, and I tell him that I'm waiting to see if Jong's going to show up, and so I fill him in on how we're not really interested in each other because of our conversation but... but... but... Michael smiles like he knows what's going on. We have a few more beers on Michael's tab and watch the club fill up.
     After an hour or so, Jong sticks her head in to the club.
     "Hey ya!"
     Good Lord, she looks great. She's wearing a white blouse and tan pants and black shoes and oh my goodness. I smile my big smile, and introduce her to Michael, and she has to pop back out to actually pay the guy at the door -- she just walked in to see if we were in here.
     Off she goes, and I turn around once, and lo, but here's a ghost of Christmas past: my old roommate from college Jose Pena, and what the hell is he doing here? He's here to see the famous Plastalina Mosh, and even stranger, when Jong walks back in to the club, turns out that she and Jose were talking in line. Isn't life that way.
     Emergency Broadcast Network comes on, and it turns out to be some sort of multi-media showcase thing. Two large screens are brought down on the stage, and the performance starts. EBN does things like take CNN spots and string them all together so that Bobbie Batista is promoting "Government sponsored LSD tests." It all blurs into one long subversive sound bite.
     Michael slips away. Jong and I try to talk during the show. It's obviously loud, so we end up having to lean up against each other and holler straight into the other's ear. Eventually EBN ends and the Plastalina guys get up on stage.
     Plastalina Mosh is a pretty strange outfit. There are about nine guys up on stage, and they range from a black sunglasses wearing gang banger vato bass player to the skinny Japanese kid on the turntable to the frat boy playing the keyboard to the just kind of odd, Incan looking front man. They've got the EBN screens still on stage, and they'll use them throughout the show. More multimedia, I suppose. They'll end up singing their songs in a mixture of Spanish and English that I can almost understand: the words and meanings keep running by like sunlight on a creek, and I can never quite pin down a word before it's swept away.
     By the third or fourth song, I'm really impressed. Or maybe just freaked out. On the screens there is a flashing montage of Hello Kitty graphics interspersed with bizarre Japanese porn manga, and the front man is screaming into the microphone, "I WILL CRUSH YOU LIKE A MONSTER TRUCK!" This is really, really weird.
     But Plastalina is really pretty good, and Jong and I keep hollering at each other through the show. After they get done and the lights come up a little, Jong tells me that she actually met DJ Spooky when she was living in New York. "Yeah, I met him at some party. Let's see if we can get on the bus."
     And, amazingly, DJ Spooky really does have a tour bus. And, amazingly, Jong manages to get us on the bus. The guys from the band are watching "LA Confidential", and everyone except Spooky is stoned out of their gourds.
     Jong introduces us, and the man extends his hand and says, "Hi, I'm Paul."
     "What, " I ask, " you don't go by 'Spooky'?"

     Back inside, and Spooky's on stage now, and he's pretty good, but it's getting really late for a school night. Jong and I dance a little now, holler at each other some more, and decide that it's time to get out of here. Jong offers me a ride home since it's about forty degrees outside and I gratefully accept. We stop by Garden Escape to get a glass of water, and on the way home I end up pouring it all over her. As we pull into my apartment complex, we're both laughing as Jong tries to dry her hair and I spin the little disco ball she has hanging from her sun visor. I'm thinking to myself that I just want to go upstairs and go to bed, but I'd also like to sit here and talk to Jong some more. But the bed is calling, and Jong seems like she wants to go home, too, so I figure it's time to go up. I thank her for the ride home and start to get out of the car.
     Jong catches my arm and says, "We have to talk."
     So I pause, and ask "What about?"
     "I think we need to talk about Traci. I really value her friendship... I would never want to hurt her... What would she think about all of this?"
     I look at Jong for a second and then tell her, "Well, when I talked to her about it on Saturday, she said it was kind of weird, but that she was all right with it..." I watch her closely, trying to decide if I've just said the right thing or not
     Jong blinks once or twice, and then she asks, "You've already talked to her about it?" and I could hear the relief in her voice. In the dark, I started smiling that wide, idiot grin of mine.
     And in the dark, I could feel her smiling back.



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