Issue 1 Addendum
With a special appearace by the Canda Verses
and the premiere of Character Bank and Harmolipi Twp.
Featuring Works By:
Vera Bestonka, Sara Cole, Sonja Crafts, Heather Phillips, Luke Meeken, Teresa Nieman, Andrew Negrey, Andrew Purcell, Amy Stokes, Chris Tandlmayer, and John Andrew Dewey Young
"Oh," Karl responded.And then she left.
Their voices had woken the bunnies, and the rabbits sat nervously in their part of the kitchen, noses twitching, spooked. It was before breakfast. She took them, along with the silverware and the sheets, and packed everything carefully in the backseat of her Volvo. It had been a very domestic scene--drawers opening and closing, the clatter of forks and butter knives, even the smell of fresh laundry wafting up from the basement where it'd been sitting half folded since the previous night. Karl stood near the bay window, watching her pack methodically. She’d wedged the bunny cage between two large amps and a wooden box filled with distortion pedals and was now making sure everything was secure. Her guitar case was already buckled in the passenger seat, riding shotgun. She closed the rear passenger door, got in the car, and pulled out of the driveway. A faded sticker of The Clash clung to the back bumper, but probably wouldn't survive the winter. Karl watched the Volvo drive down Delaware, make a left on Buena Vista and disappear.The sun was just coming up, illuminating the small front yard with little tendrils of light, and Karl flicked the switch to turn off the porch lamp. He sat down at the CZ-3000, mentally removing the harmony parts from every song he’d written, and thinking. By the time he'd finished, it was mid-morning. He called his agent.
"What's up, Karl?""She left, Robert."
"What? When?""Today, a few hours ago. She took the bunnies."
"Christ."Karl heard Robert breathe heavily into the receiver. He pictured him looking out his office window at the downtown skyline, posters of past successes gazing solemnly down on him. Robert's sigh rumbled across the phone line and Karl could hear the past two years, the first album, the single, the upcoming tour rumbling with it.
"But don't worry, I've figured something out. We don't need them, listen to this." Karl put the phone down on the top part of the keyboard. He could just make out Robert's faint voice saying "Karl...""Just listen."
And Karl played a song.
If you wanted to summarize it, you could. A half-decent paraphrase might be: there was a kingdom, and the kingdom is no more. That's literally what the song is about, but you miss the remarkable thing by doing that, by shaving off the edges. People don't know how to write about popular music. They use buzzwords and talk around the core of it, or worse, they get caught up in the drama of musicians. Musicians exist to deliver their songs-- that's their importance to us. You don't care about the delivery truck, you care about the medical supplies. Karl knew that. Karl knew he was the method of delivery. And when you heard the song, you knew it, too. It was a motherfucker of a song.You hear the melody everywhere these days--when you're on hold or when a commercial is trying to appeal to the aging youth demographic. There's been at least one rap song that samples it and any number of covers, all inferior to the original. It's not a commercial tune, is the problem. That song doesn't exist to sell a product, though they keep trying to co-opt it, because the thing is, when you ask somebody where they were and what they were doing the first time they heard the song, they remember. They remember and tell you with all manner of clarity exactly what they were doing. If the suits could figure it out it’d be like marketing JFK's assassination or 9/11--it normally takes great tragedies to get Americans to remember things like that, and that's where if you just went by a summary you'd miss everything. You'd think it's about regret and sorrow, some sad song about lost love, when it’s really about something else.
Here's how a woman in her thirties responded when asked what she was doing when she first heard it. This is from a twenty-year retrospective article Boot did, just first names.Lucie: I was making out with my boyfriend. He wasn't a very good kisser, all teeth, if that makes sense...God, I don't know why I remember him so well...we broke up after only a few weeks, just one of those things. My parents always listened to talk radio, so I'd heard about the song, but it wasn't until he put the album on that I actually heard it. We were on his bed--he had some ridiculous poster on his wall, some science fiction film or something, but he was a junior...you know, it's funny, the color of his ceiling was off-white, and there were all these little wiggly lines I could see, like the skin of a cantaloupe...it was like time slowed down. I heard the first chord, you know, doooooo, and then everything extended out forever. It's strange, because I've listened to the song so many times since-- who hasn't?--but that first time, it seemed like it would go on forever. It wasn't slow, it was infinite. Or felt that way. It was like you'd entered this exciting world where the hours didn't cycle back after midnight, but kept getting later and later, so there'd be 13 o'clock and 14 o'clock and on and on...no, I've never felt that way again, not outside of, you know, dreams...
This is anecdotal. But ask anyone who has heard the song, and you'll get a similar story. Chances are you remember when you first heard it, too. But what is the song about? I don't think Karl knew. He never spoke about its genesis, or why it's called "A Gift from the Bunnies" or about the incredible success it achieved. Certainly the lyrics offer some clues, but it seems the essential piece of the puzzle is missing. I refer to the controversy surrounding the final line of the song, where Karl sing/speaks "this is what I said to make you leave", which is of course an alteration of the first line, "this is what I sing to make you stay". The first pressing had a colon printed in the lyric booklet after both lines, but this was removed from all subsequent pressings without any explanation from the label. Fans clamor to know what--what did Karl say? And there's more than one forum frequented by those who claim to know. In fact, there’s even an Internet meme that resurfaces whenever a new version of the song comes out that shows a picture of a bunny with some speculative answer to that question, often ridiculous or obscene.It isn’t just fans who are intrigued by the song, though. There's been exhaustive exegesis of the lyrics by noted academics and poets, and those waters are muddy and deep. One thing everyone agrees on is the sense of hope that courses through the song--the imagery of spring, of rabbits climbing out of their winter burrows--is impossible to mistake, both musically and more literally in the lyrics. The experience of stretched out time, the sensation of a world that does not recycle itself but churns endlessly on, which is felt almost universally by those hearing the song for the first time is harder to trace to a specific textual source; empirically, however, it is impossible to deny.
Scientists find the fact that the phenomenon cannot be repeated less troubling than that it occurs at all. For what else behaves this way? There was a small movement to ban the song, but it was never pursued seriously, since there’s nothing in the content of the song that is controversial. Quite the opposite, in fact. But because it raises questions that science has been unable to answer, there are still some who have deliberately avoided listening to it. Their abstinence is often a source of envy for the rest of us, as many would love to return to a point before hearing it, to listen with fresh ears and experience the feeling that to most these days is locked away forever in an unusually precise memory.Critics maintain that we are all addicts of the "gift from the bunnies", and have made much of the reality that it delivers something which cannot be delivered again. They believe this makes our lives poorer while the goal of art is to elevate. This seems ungrateful. For what more can we require from a song? Is it not enough that it makes us feel we are entering into a new world of hope, of infinite joy? Is it the fault of the song if we discover, ultimately, that the world is not new, that the joy is not infinite?
"This is what I said to make you leave," Karl sang quietly as the last chord resonated in the immaculate front room. The light of late morning had crawled its way from the window to cover half the hardwood floor. There was no sound from the phone, but when Karl picked it up he heard Robert weeping."That was beautiful, Karl, Christ, where did that come from? It's gold!"
“Thank you.”Karl paused. The faint scent of timothy hay drifted from the kitchen.
"I don't know what's happening in my life anymore, Robert. Things are ending and beginning. I think I'm through. She took the bunnies.""Woah, slow down there, pal, what are you saying?"
"I'm saying I think I'm through."Karl looked out the window as Robert tried to talk him out of it. A robin whirred by, its pale shadow flitting across the floor. He saw the mail truck across the street pause in front of a mailbox shaped like a locomotive, put something in, and then continue on. A light changed at an intersection, green to amber, and three white cars in a row, all different models, sped through the far lane. It might always be like this, he reasoned: no grief, no wrath, no desire. He was letting himself be convinced. They'd be in Red Vine by now, if traffic were light, if God was willing.
“Huh? Oh yes. Yes, that’s it, I believe. For today,” replied Karl.“Alright then, I guess I’ll see you next Friday?”
“Yes, ‘til then,” replied Karl gathering his leather satchel and his cell phone off the table.Karl Chakravarthy was a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania whom Lucie had been assigned to as a graduate research assistant. His seemingly incongruous name was a gift from his parents who had been West Bengali Marxists. Lucie was still unsure whether his work was, well, engaging and ground-breaking or inscrutable and irrelevant.
This ambivalence she felt towards Karl’s project sunk into her thoughts as she was heading towards the Blue Line to catch the metro to meet her friend Anna for drinks. Wry, cleverly hyphenated phrases, fractured images loosely hewn together—worse than Ezra Pound and less earnest, that was her dim perception of it. It also struck her in some sense vulgar… there was no plumbing or forging. It wasn’t a craft, but a party game.“The waters long to hear our question put/ Which would release their longed-for answer, but.” She couldn’t place it, but it slunk across the back of her mind like a ticker-tape.
The subway steps smelled like piss, and she could hear a couple yelling at each other on the steps above as the evening eased full on.“Two-hundred fifty dollars,” said a man in a blue-grey trenchcoat matter-of-factly.
Lucie felt like she had almost been hit by a car rounding the corner, caught in the horror of approaching headlights. “Huh?”“Two-hundred fifty dollars,” he repeated, now in a whisper.
Karl briefly noticed Lucie’s slip showing. He pushed it quickly from his mind, not because it titillated him, but because it mildly surprised him. Surprised him in such a way that he was not quite sure why it surprised him at all. It was the same feeling he had had when he noticed a pack of Newports sandwiched between pens and highlighters in Lucie’s bookbag while she was fishing for change to buy coffee with.He noticed the skyline dimming and thought of his wife who has probably at this moment beginning to pour a glass of sherry and becoming irritated.
A question. Karl muttered a reply- he was not quite past the slip. A slip? Really? He was sure slips were the domain of itchy little girls in their hooped Easter dresses and secretaries with silently graying hair. A twenty-something year old woman wearing a slip seemed wrong. It bothered him on his walk all the way home.Moonlight battled lamplight much of the walk. Maybe it was not sensible to walk through Philadelphia by oneself this time of day. “You have been insensible to my feelings,” she would say. Always unnecessarily formal. Nevermind, nevermind.
But a slip? It was almost a ludicrous as a gentleman he had seen when he was exiting Fisher. The man stood like a strip of celluloid smoking slowly under a street light. If that wasn’t enough the man wore his hat low over a blue-grey long abomination of a coat.He had to push it from his mind. There was the question of which wine with dinner and the museum or the arboretum this weekend. Not that Maria would notice (did she ever notice?), but the principal of the matter urged him to give her his full attention since he was gone a long many hours in particular today.
He rounded the cobble stoned street; the heels of his shoes were every day a bit more worn. The door gave a creak; painted toenails peeked over the sofa.
What everyone except Karl Chakravarthy seemed to understand was that Maria, his wife, was clumsy, obnoxious even. She was not clumsy in the same way that a cloyingly sweet waitress is clumsy. You know the type: she’ll nervously rattle off the specials of the day with a over-sized smile only to drop a whole tray of drinks later. No, that sort of clumsiness still suggests a slight charm in its ineptitude. Because of her husband’s stature, perhaps, people expected something of Maria when they met her. Instead she came off like a renowned concert pianist who drowsily selects a F# when a simple F is wanted, or worse yet comes to an important concert inebriated, fumbling brashly over the keys, the whole house silent and aghast.Maria was unusually alone this evening however despite her penchant for different women’s groups and airing her grating personality which she merely viewed as ‘outgoing.’ Sunk between two oversize chenille pillows, Maria watched detergent commercial lap into sitcom only to be proceeded by yet another commercial ‘til the tide receded back to reveal the evening news. Maria’s body subtly attuned itself with the rhythms of the glowing lights and the incessant, almost imperceptible buzz. She was dimly aware that Karl was late and was annoyed not because she really cared, but because she felt obliged to be. He had said eight at the latest, hadn’t he? Fuck it, sherry lapped over the brim of another glass. The evening news proceeded undaunted.
Like many things of import in waking life, the dim flicker of inconsiderateness or any other potentially distasteful behavior on her husband’s part washed over Maria’s lowered eyelids, propped up on those oversized chenille pillows. Lulled by the sherry and the weekend weather report, Maria couldn’t have given a toss if she had heard that the moon was going to be blown up as she drifted still further away, supine freshly pedicured toes alighted on the loveseat’s edge.
Anna breathed heavily and pushed the door open with her strong hands. The sky almost followed her in, heavy like a wet stone. She sat at the farthest end of the bar by the jukebox. Red, blue, red, blue…eight o’clock, the bar half-dead, the barkeep flipped a switch behind a wood-paneled divider. She glanced down and realized her legs were dirty; she had been walking around all day.A chorus of cigarettes flickered up behind her in the same nonchalant fashion and soon stale laughter was heard. Coats gathered in the booths, some would be left there all night whereas others would never be forgotten no matter the level of the owner’s inebriation. Someone punched a couple bucks in the jukebox, “I fly like paper, get high like planes”— wry smiles all around and someone knocked over the first drink of the night. A whole lot of ado about thinly disguised irony.
Anna was aware that she stuck out sitting by herself at the end of the bar, a glass of water in front of her. Usually she would have brought a newspaper or a notebook or a sudoku or something for Pete’s sake, something to keep her attention diverted from other’s noticing that she was sitting by herself. Did they notice? Well, either way the idea of it made her uncomfortable, nothing more uncomfortable both to the noticed and the noticer than someone too obviously alone in public. Where is Lucie? She pulled out her phone, blushing quietly to herself. Even though Lucie had not called and she had already ascertained the time, Anna stared at the phone display a little longer in a desperate attempt to urge time on. This was one of those instances in which transience was a gift.A man like that had no family of any kind. He lived nowhere in particular. He probably did not exist outside of this moment either before or after. But here he was lit up with all the smoldering intensity of a cigarette put out on one’s bare skin, and as frightening as he was she recognized something utterly natural about him, disturbingly familiar, a thin blue vein bisecting the back of an ankle. And as goofy as he would appear out of context, blue trench coat, smoking (Was he smoking? He seemed the type.), all shadows and lamplights, he was utterly alive and humorless before her making his inscrutable demands. There was no telling how long he had been following her or how they had reached this impasse here, but it seemed like Lucie would now have to answer to whatever it was about this man that rooted her to the spot in front of him.
“I won’t say it again. You know why.”Did she? She instinctually felt that she did owe him something and perhaps this is what frightened her the most. But damn if she had any idea what or why or under what circumstances.
One thousand other people were falling asleep watching t.v., deciding dinner, having drinks with their friends, but here she was for absolutely no reason at all, or at least for no reason she could tell, detained by a man the human equivalent of an ellipsis.“I, well, but I don’t have it. I’m not sure exactly…look, no, just no.”
“Alright then, if that’s your attitude, then fine.” He nodded and slunk back from the gaze of the streetlight, seamlessly rounding the corner he had come from.As she walked away she did not feel liberated, but as if she was dislodged from the jaws of the world.