Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stuck: A Tale of Woe by Al Butterman

by Al Butterman

I have this song stuck in my head.  “Istanbul, not Constantinople’ by They Might Be Giants.  It’s a good song but I don’t want it rattling around in my skull all day.  ‘Istanbul, not Constantinople, now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople.”  That’s pretty much all I remember which makes it even more annoying.  There have got to be more lyrics than that.  This has been going on for several months.

I went to a psychiatrist.  He told me this was my brain’s way of telling me I was stuck in a rut, that I need to move forward in my life.  So I left.

I don’t think I’m stuck in a rut.  I think I’m stuck in a song. 

Anyway, if the guy didn't want me as a patient, he should have said so.  I mean, he did say so, but he should have told me on the phone, so I didn't have to go all the way down to his office.  Next time, he should have called.

Back in my car, as I was listening to my tape deck, I received a vision from one of my ancestors who gave me some sage advice.  I think he was one of my  ancestors.  Roy, the ancestor, I call him. 

Roy was dressed like a stereotypical Native American: full feathered headdress, beads, moccasins, war paint, the works.  I wasn't sure why he was dressed like that since the guy was obviously not Native American.  It turns out a lot of my ancestors were jerks.  Speaking in a fake Indian accent, Roy said, “Listen, Dipstick, why don’t you just stop listening to the song?”

 “Because it’s the only tape I've got,”  I said.  I was starting to get pretty tired of Roy and all his nagging.

Roy said, “You need to get rid of the tape deck and go get a CD player, and then you should get rid of that because it’s obsolete also.”

I was like, “But I just got the tape deck.”

I went down to complain to the guy who sold the tape deck to me.  I forget the name of the company, but I think it was something along the lines of ‘Going Out of Business.’

When I got down there, I found the salesman and he said to me, “You know what your problem is?  You’re living in the past.”

I adjusted my Ferrari sunglasses contemptuously.

The guy told me, “I knew as soon as I saw you standing there in your bellbottom pants and your Izod shirt.  I said to myself, ‘This guy will buy a tape deck.’”

I said, “Listen, I’m not here to argue about the tape deck.  It’s a good tape deck.  It plays one small bit of one song in a continuous loop.  I don’t know of any other tape deck that can do that.  I just want you to get this song out of my head.”

“Well, I could hit you on the head with a mallet.  Otherwise, it’s not my department.”

“That’s what my psychiatrist said.  Okay, that counts as a second opinion.  Let’s go with the mallet idea.”

But he changed his mind.  “My liability insurance won’t cover it.”

Meanwhile, in my head, all I heard was “Istanbul, not Constantinople.  Istanbul, not Constantinople.”

“Listen man, I paid $11 dollars for that tape deck.  The least you can do is sit here and listen to me whine about my problems.”

The salesman corrected me.  “The least I can do is not do that, but I tell you what.  For only $26 I can sell you a state-of-the-art eight-track player.”

I was flabbergasted.  “I don’t have $26.  I had $11 dollars, but I spent it on a tape deck.  What have you got for $1.50?”

I left with a new tape.  Well, technically it was an old tape.  It was from the band U2.  Pretty decent band, I must say.  So, problem solved, right?

Yes, but only temporarily.  So no.  My tape deck only played one part of one song, and now that part of that one song is stuck in my head too.  It’s the one that goes like this: “You say blah blah blah blah blah blah now you’re stuck in a moment, and you can’t get out of it.” 

I can’t get out of it.  I sing it everywhere I go, complete with the blah blahs since I don’t understand what Bono is singing during that part. 

Anyway, I drove down to the Quick Stop for an oil change and while I was there I shared my problem with Mike, the oil change guy.  “Your mind is like a car,” he told me.  “It’s got to stay lubricated.”

Now, Mike is normally a pretty smart guy, but this struck me as a pretty strange non sequitur.  Turns out, my idea of staying lubricated is very different than old Mike’s. In my version, first you get drunk and then you masturbate.  This is actually much harder than it sounds, especially with that stupid U2 song stuck in your head.  I keep picturing The Edge and then lose my erection.  It comes back after I picture Bono, but only momentarily.  When I explained this to Mike, he told me he just meant I should drink more water.  Looking back, that should have been clear to me.

Anyway, I drank a ton of  water, but I was still hearing U2 and sometimes They Might Be Giants.  The lyrics started alternating like this, “You say blah blah blah blah blah blah blah now you’re stuck in a moment now it’s Istanbul not Constantinople now it’s Istanbul not Constantinople now you say blah blah blah...” and it goes on like that.  As you can imagine, I immediately stopped drinking water.  From now on, it’s orange soda or nothing.

My wife caught me singing the mash-up in the shower and I ended up telling her the whole story.  My wife usually has pretty good advice about these things.  She’s a psychiatrist by trade.  You know, looking back, I probably should have gone to her with this in the first place. Live and learn. 

Anyway, she told me this was my mind’s way of telling me I needed to get out and do something.  I had to keep moving forward, follow a straight line of thought, any line, wherever it might lead, or else my mind would return to its default state, which in my case is atrophy.  I figured this was just her way of telling me I needed to get a job.  Geez, haven’t we been over that enough?

She went on.  I tend to compartmentalize, she said.  I have all these different locations in my mind where I store information and these are usually paired with a specific location. She pointed out that there are certain times and situations in which I don’t hear the song playing, like when I’m arguing with a grocery store clerk or while I’m trying to find videos of people getting punched in the crotch on YouTube.  She said that whenever I hear the song playing, I should try and figure out what compartment I’m in. 

“I hear it right now,” I said. 

“What compartment are you in?” she asked.

“I’m in the kitchen.”

“That’s not what I meant,” she said, but I had already followed her advice and walked into the living room.

“I hear it here too,” I said.  I figured it was time I stopped listening to my wife. 

It’s amazing to me that a person can marry someone so far below their intellect.  I hope she never figures it out.

I decided the best course of action was to buy more tapes, so I told my wife it was time I took control of our finances.  I mean, if she’s doing such a great job, then how come I only have $1.50 in my checking account?  How do our bills get paid?  I wish I knew. 

When I  asked her why I only  have $1.50, she said it was because I don’t have a job.  Again with the job?

I decided I would give her one more chance and take one last piece of advice.  She told me to write down everything that was happening, starting with the song that’s stuck in my head and to follow it through until I found some kind of resolution, or else I just stopped thinking about the song, so that’s what I’m doing.  Only now I’ve run out of things to say and I still hear the song.  I guess I should leave the writing compartment.  Maybe I’ll try again later.  Right now, I think I’ll go out to the garage to listen to my tape deck.

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