Dear Dirty America


Music Critic Looks Down Upon Local Music Scene After Out-Of-Body Experience

April 11
21:00 2013
Los Angeles

Up, up, and away…somewhere

I hadn’t seen my music critic friend for nearly two years. His curly hair was tangled up front, and smashed flat in the back. Dark patches colored the skin beneath his eyes. He was more slumped than usual. His absence from my life wasn’t so unusual, because mostly he sat in his rat-hole apartment in Hollywood and wrote lengthy articles about newly released albums. He is not a famous music critic, but he’s eked out a living arbitrarily trashing and praising thousands of artists.

The last substantial time I’d hung out with him, we listened to Open Mike Eagle’s (at the time) latest album, Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes. I wrote a long article about it. It’s considered an LA classic.

I didn’t believe in the soul until it tore out of my body…

Dee-O has never been a man with a lot of energy. He thrives, barely, off of too much Kraft brand mac and cheese, which always has his glycemic level too high, and his energy too low, but when he stumbled to the local coffee shop I frequent, he appeared more beaten than usual. His face was unshaven, and his eyes held the look of a nagged man without relief for too many years.

I bought him a coffee, and we sat at a corner table outside. You look awful, I told him. What’s the deal? You don’t come around here for over a year, and then when you do you look like you’ve been doing heavy factory work for the last few months — widget-on-the-doodad type of tedium. Marx predicted that, you know. Said we’d all become so divorced from the fruits and joys of meaningful labor, due to industrialism, that we’d collectively dip into depression and become automatons.

“I had an out-of-body experience.” He shook his head and stared at the pavement. Two women walked by, chattering about someone named Carrie Underwood. “I’ve been spread out on my bed staring at the ceiling,” he said, “wondering what’s going to happen to me.” Dee-O took a deep drink from his steaming coffee cup and made a sour face.

“I didn’t even believe in the soul, until I tore right out of my body. A silver cord dangled from my ethereal ass-region and connected back to me, in my bed. I floated miles high above Los Angeles, until it became a bed of twinkling city lights.”

That’s a profound experience, I said. I wish I’d taken the trip with you. So now you believe in the soul? You were such a confirmed atheist, you hardly believed in electricity, but were forced to so you could run your stereo and computer.

I thought of Dee-O in bed, on his back, still wearing his soda bottle glasses, contemplating the universe, his soul, and how it was all connected. What are you so despondent for? I asked. This is a boon for your creativity.

Dee-O touched his glasses and shook his head. He stared ahead at the parked cars. An Asian woman walked by. He watched her thin butt until she was out of sight. “Maybe you can help me with this,” he said. “You know about supernatural things.” He scratched his greasy mop of curly blonde hair.

You’ll have to tell me what happened, and be specific, otherwise I’ll have to read the newspaper instead, I told him. I held up that morning’s copy of the Times. I’ve got to keep up on the material world, too. Or at least one version of it.

Shouldn’t the mayor know about this?

“Up there, way up there,” he said and extended his arm straight above us. Dee-O raised his pointer finger. “I floated before an orchestra. All of us high above the hundreds of miles of city lights. I couldn’t see the individual musicians, because each was shrouded in a burning light, but the music…” he said, and trailed off.

Did you contact the mayor? I asked, because that’s probably still in his jurisdiction. He ought to know about that. He’s pretty lousy at getting potholes filled on Sunset and every other major street in this city, but if there’s an orchestra set up in the middle of a flight path, he’ll want to get the LAPD to clear them out. Probably with billy clubs swinging.

I pictured Dee-O’s consciousness actually hovering over Los Angeles, far above his little Hollywood apartment, where his body was snuggled in its unwashed bed sheets. The ethereal Dee-O, but only a ghost, standing naked with slouched shoulders, free from the weight of his own mushy insides, in awe over what appeared to be an elaborate set of flickering candles dancing before the midnight sky.

The music what? I said. You’re a music critic. Surely you must have a better description than that.

“The orchestra, how can I review an astral orchestra? I don’t even know if they are real– ”

Yes, way up there, floating in the ether, they might be real, I said.

“You know what I mean. It’s like the music they played vibrated the air. Each note resonated with a particular frequency in my astral body. Imagine feeling, on your cellular level, Beethoven’s Fifth. Or Marvin Gaye belting out ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine”.

Reading up on the matter…

You’ve been studying OBEs. Sounds like you’ve got the lingo.

“I’ve read every book on the matter I could get for free online,” he said. “Every note that orchestra played shook my atoms in a pleasant way. The vibrations tippled my being and trembled the molecules of my heart. Every vibrating string filled my senses and blasted the fullest sound I’ve ever heard. The richest timbre, at a pitch internal and eternal.”

At that point, I couldn’t understand what he was in such a funk about. This all sounds good to me, I said. Why don’t you write up a review of this experience and send it to Rolling Stone? I can see the byline: From thirty thousand feet up; one critic who has the right to look down upon the local L.A. music scene.

“I’ve got sixteen assignments to make up,” he said. “I’ve got to write sixteen critiques on sixteen different album releases, and I can’t stand any of them. It’s the most boring, hollow music I’ve ever heard.”

Nobody says you have to give them good reviews. Usually you’re a bit sour anyway. It never gets as good as the 60s. That’s a common sentiment from you. You can write, “If it’s music made on earth, it’s music that’s not worth listening to.”

How loud can it get in that old Honda Civic?

“You don’t understand,” Dee-O said. “Even Bach and Vivaldi ring hollow. I can’t turn the music loud enough to fill my heart like that orchestra could. Everything in this life is plain. On the way over here, I turned my car speakers to top volume to get enough sound, but all I heard was a thin rendition of what could have been. Of what I know is capable. Out there…”

Installing a subwoofer in your trunk can help, I said, but maybe not with Vivaldi. He didn’t write heavy bass lines. But then again, you drive that old Civic. How many speakers does it have? Four? Four dusty, worn factory jobbies? The new Jaguar XK has fourteen speakers and a sub. Maybe that would fill your soul. It seems to help a lot of folks in Hollywood forget about their unhappiness.

“How can I review another tinny record made by four shitheads who strum away on electric instruments and sing about unrequited love?” Dee-O asked. He’d said it so loudly other heads looked at us. A few angry faces. Disapproving mouths with lips bent in stiff positions.

We’re too close to Hollywood for you to say things like that out loud. You’re going to disrupt the obedient music fans around here, I warned him. He’s a music critic! I said to everybody watching us. His opinions are not to be taken seriously. They don’t represent real life.

To Dee-O, I said, You’ve flown too close to the sun. You’ve bumbled around in the hallways of Heaven, and you weren’t even a guest. Nobody had invited you. You weren’t supposed to be there. You were a fly on the wall. Even that was too much to handle. Now your life is ruined. At least until you die and float back into that ethereal sphere.

I pulled out my smartphone and found one of my favorite metal songs. Now that you’re spiritually spoiled on this terrestrial realm, you should install top of the line speakers in your car and home, and listen to songs like this at top volume.

“Jeeeeeeesus turn it off!” he hollered.

My little iPhone speakers were blasting the hallowed metal riffs of Dimmu Borgir. Just imagine, I said, if that was played on a real stereo. You’d feel it in your bones. You’d be tempted to burn down a church. If you had that new Jaguar sports car, your testicles would bounce in your shorts. I turned off the song.

“I can’t take it,” he said. He dropped his head onto the metal table. When he lifted it again, small red circles dotted his forehead. “I can’t take it,” he croaked.

Eat a little red meat, brother, to bring you back down to earth…

In response to my earlier charges that he only ate macaroni and cheese and other processed oddities, Dee-O said, “I had started eating fruits and vegetables a few weeks ago. I kicked the processed meat and mac and cheese diet like you’ve been telling me. But after a few days of a vegetarian diet, I felt my body lightly vibrating shortly after I went to bed for the night. That started happening every night.”

Your vibrations were raised, I said. It’s common practice for yogis to feed their students little bits of red meat to bring down their levels, otherwise they can float off too high when they meditate and drift into trouble. Meat brings us closer to the earth. If you weren’t spiritually inclined, you probably wouldn’t notice it.

“I must be so inclined,” he said. “Gee, lucky me.” Dee-O shook his head and then drank from his coffee cup. “Exactly four days ago I went to bed at my usual time, and about half an hour later I woke up to a windy noise. Like I was standing in a hurricane. I thought an airliner was skimming over the apartment.”

Dee-O lifted the right side of his upper lip, as he sometimes does, and stared at me. Well, what! I said. I knew where he was going with this. I’d heard of these symptoms before. Just before I have an out-of-body experience (which happens once or twice a year), I hear the most powerful roaring sound I’ve ever heard. And it’s all between the ears. The intensity reminds me of being on an airplane, and seated above the engine when she’s taking off. Except that roar is in the head.

“‘Well’, I said to myself, ‘just be calm because there isn’t any damn thing you can do to save your ass if a jetliner is indeed aimed at your home.'” Dee-O rubbed his face with his hands.

You said all that to yourself while you thought an airplane was going to level your building? I asked.

“I thought it in an instant. And I did stay calm. I’ve always been a suicide case.”

Yes, with your diet, I know.

“Leave me alone about that,” he snapped. “I said I was eating veggies at the time this happened, and I think that’s why I experienced what I did.”

Dee-O continued to say that he felt calm and rode “waves of energy” coursing through his body until suddenly he felt propelled upward at an “incredible rate of speed” until before him played the burning bright orchestra in the sky.

“Maybe I’ll have to get myself a burger,” he said, “and get grounded again.”

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