Monday, January 28, 2013

Tango Till They're Sore

I just recorded a cover of the Tom Waits song Tango Till They're Sore, which is available below for your entertainment. On a side note, I was watching The Book of Eli on cable a couple nights ago and was surprised to see our craggy-faced friend playing the owner of a junk shop. If a movie involves classic horror or an end of days scenario, there is a good chance Tom Waits will have a bit part in it, either playing a creepy drifter, a preacher, or a crazy dude that eats insects.


What kind of name is Theme Park Mistress?


About three or four weeks into the second semester of my freshman year of college at Purdue, I really wanted to quit. I don't really want to go into the story; it's old, sour, cliche, and embarrassing. But this incident got me sidetracked, and I lost what little focus I had and just about flunked out. I failed calculus, barely passed Latin, quit my programming class--I'd changed my major from journalism to computer science--but I became obsessed with writing music. I'd learned piano as a child and played alto sax in the high school band and taken up guitar some time during my early teens. Thankfully, those early tunes I composed while depressed and drunk in Lafayette are lost to time. I do remember listening to a hell of a lot of Bob Dylan and the Band, as well as Johnny Cash. I used my nice university internet connection to download album after album, resulting in a digital music collection totaling around sixty gigs. I spent the next couple of years trying to join or start a band to no avail. It takes awhile to become good at something--the 100,000 hours rule is often misquoted (explanation)--but everyone agrees it takes a lot of time to become a phenom or just an expert. Most novelists fail to write their magnum opus the first or second time out, and the same goes for musicians. (The ones who have lasting careers, that is.) Not to say I've reached that level as a songwriter; I'm just saying that I sucked as a guitarist, a singer, and a writer, for probably about three years until I reached my current level of awesomeness. (Which all must agree, is beyond compare.)

Theme Park Mistress is the first and only band I've ever been in. We formed the summer of 2010 and have been rocking out in Cincinnati, OH ever since. Our first out of town show in Dayton, OH is approaching. I like to think of us as a throwback band--our sound is a blend of classic rock, 80's college rock, and 90's grunge--and I think we could have a universal appeal, that is, if we could ever play a packed venue. If you want to see us play, go down to the Mad Frog in Clifton on Friday.

We're some decent-looking fellas. 

Jon Oravec is the guy on the left. He's of Slovakian/Vampiric descent and is a former amateur lightweight boxing champion, so look out, folks! He's our guitarist and plays a Stratocaster that he "liberated" from a Hard Rock cafe somewhere out in Vegas where the cacti and strippers flow like water. Been known to pick with an English sixpence. Don't mention Morrissey around him--he'll go apeshit. 

Andrew Aragon is the fella in the middle. He's seven feet tall and works part time as a Chris Cornell/Prince impersonator. He keeps the rhythm, as well as the most consistent facial hair, in the group. Keep the beer away from this guy--he's a raging alcoholic. 

I'm the bastard on the left. I don't need to sing my praises; just let it be known that I've switched from rhythm guitar to bass, so now TPM has all the fat bottom it needs. My ass has also gotten fat from doing squats all the time, so I guess the previous sentence works on two levels. 

Visit our Youtube channel or our Facebook page to listen to our music. We've been working on an album for a while, and I can say with confidence that we'll have it available some time this year. 

Until then, I'll leave you with my current top ten album list, since I almost love making lists as much as Cracked.com does. 

1. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere--Neil Young: No one plays guitar like Neil Young. Nobody sings like Neil Young. Nobody can make a messy song work like Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

2. Good Morning Spider--Sparklehorse: Druggy, melancholy, seeped with sadness and beauty. Look, I'm Robert Christgau!

3. Aphex Twin--Selected Ambient Works 85-92: The kind of music that rewards close listening as well as background listening. Techno with a soul. 

4. Elliott Smith--Roman Candle: Double-tracked vocals, sparse accompaniment, touching lyrics, and pop chops on display. Like listening to that sad, wise friend you never knew.

5. Led Zeppelin VI: I could probably never hear this one again, for classic rock radio has beaten all of its songs into my brain, but debts must be paid. 

6. The Knife--Silent Shout: Weird Swiss duo releases the perfect album for driving around at night in a rural landscape. You can almost feel the naked tree branches reaching out to touch you. 

7. Weezer--Pinkerton: Yeah, Weezer kind of sucks, but this album fucking rocks. Every song is pure pop gold, and the guitar skills on display are awesome. No filler, all killer. 

8. Love--Forever Changes: I listen to this album constantly when I first met my wife. It's not particularly romantic, but it's forever married to that particular time, and because of that, as well as its general excellence, I cannot forget it. 

9. Nine Inch Nails--The Downward Spiral: When I first bought this album at the tender age of fourteen, I thought it was fucking evil. I still think it's an incredibly nihilistic piece of art; however, it sounds like nothing else--no one knows how to marry heavy guitar with keyboards like Trent Reznor. Remember when you could hear a song with the chorus of "I want to fuck you like an animal" on the radio? Damn you, Justin Timberlake, and your groping hands!

10. The Beach Boys--Pet Sounds: The romantic's album. Exquisitely layered instrumentation, quality songs, high-register vocals with soul. Makes you want to fall in love. 

Bonus mention: Tom Waits--Bone Machine: They'll play this album when the world ends. "Bring me some water; put it in this skull." Tom, you were everything I expected when I saw you in Louisville. Best show of my life. 



Sunday, January 27, 2013

First Post

This blog is intended to chronicle my progress as I try to become a published author, a "successful" musician, and an amateur powerlifter. I've just finished my second book, as well as decided to continue to compose music, and my interest in weightlifting has gotten nearly out of hand as of late, so I figure this is as good a time as any to utilize the power of the internet to share some of my obsessions and any knowledge I have gained. So, before I begin, a little background: my name is Nathan Sauerhage, and I live in Cincinnati, Ohio and work with my father at Backyard Orchard. I'm currently twenty-seven years old, and I just got married last May. I've spent much of my life unfocused and uninvolved, and hell, time is fleeting, so I'd like to accomplish some things before I grow old or into my couch. Human-beings work best when they are able to measure their progress, and this blog is something of an attempt at that.
 This is me. Self-portrait.

Pointless Venture. There's not intended to be any irony in that, honestly. To put anything out in the vast wasteland of the internet is something of a futile effort, yet it's so easy and the possibility of an equally vast readership lingers. No one ever got anywhere by not trying, despite what Bukowski might tell us. I'll use my mentioning of the King of Creeps to segue into a discussion of my literary history.

I graduated Ball State University in 2009, completing a college career that spanned four universities, several changed majors, and five and a half years. I ended up with a BA in English, that most derided of degrees. How often is someone impressed when you tell them you have an English degree? Never. They are never impressed, especially after they find out you didn't earn a teaching certification, and that's because people think it's a stupid major. There's no money guaranteed to English majors, no jobs necessarily waiting because it's a broad degree that lacks specialization. People think you earned an English degree because you were unfocused and lazy in college. Well, in my case, there's certainly some truth to that. But I always possessed the desire to become an author of fiction. I was one of those kids that roamed around the woods, head down, absorbed in the creation of ridiculous stories that I'd act out while climbing through old barns, brandishing heavy sticks. We express experience through stories; we attempt to tell one another about our own lonely lives. The desire to create worlds, as well as the need to communicate, are why I want to be a writer.
This is me in college.

I did short stories and poetry in college, but I didn't try to write a novel until I quit my first post-graduation job at Pet Smart, where I worked as a dog trainer. It was a sales job, and to say that I wasn't suited for the work would be an understatement. I wanted to write about the post-college ennui many experience, and my efforts produced Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere, a surreal tale that follows a family of three brothers as they try to manage their dysfunctional lives, as well as prevent the destruction of their familial home by a race of presumably malicious gophers. Yeah, it didn't get published, as you might expect. It's kind of out there, and a little amateur, and I'm probably not the best writer of query letters. I plan on revising it in the future, and maybe I'll share it. Maybe I'll upload the whole damn thing.

Black Box is my current book, and I just started editing it. Why give a proper summary when I can just mention some of the things it involves? Black Box features: a video game company called Huerto; a literal succubus; a cantankerous old apple farmer and his deformed side-kick named The Goon; a sixty-year old boy/man who was transformed into a Sasquatch because of his inability to control his carnal desires; a pompadour wearing, gun-toting prepper hipster wannabe; a reality program called People Watching People Watching People; and a quest from God. Sounds a little interesting, right?


You'll find the first chapter of Black Box below. This is just from the first draft, so things will probably change. Regardless, enjoy.


Chapter One
I sat in the parking lot with a can of lukewarm beer and a snickers bar and waited for Art Howard to emerge from the monolithic black building that towered before me. Inside the car it was hot, and I could already feel the perspiration sliding down my sides from my armpits, each bead leaving one long wet trickle. My window was cracked just a tad because I didn’t want any one of Huerto’s nearly one-hundred employees to notice their Vice President of Operations drinking in his rusty old Grand AM at two-thirty in the afternoon. The air conditioner’s compressor had burned out some time last summer, and I had never gotten around to getting it fixed. Rodrico, my boss, often asked why I didn’t buy a new car. “Memories,” I told him. “This car helps me reminisce about times long past. High school girlfriends. Hills overlooking valleys. Fumbling hands and misplaced contraceptives. You understand?” He would just shrug and laugh and go back to whatever nonsense he was busying himself with. The truth was I didn’t have any particularly special memories about times had in my old Grand AM. I just found it hard to throw things away.
The snickers bar was melting in my hand. Chocolate and caramel oozed down my fingers, leaving peanuts and wafer exposed and looking like the scat of some herbivorous mammal. I rewrapped the uneaten bar up and tossed it into the console, where it was destined to be forgotten and later rediscovered after having transformed into an amorphous mass. The heat was getting to me, making me malodorous and dehydrated, and I let it. I sipped my beer and leaned back into my worn seat. Looking westward past the obsidian edifice one can see the rearmost vestiges of the Rodrico Family Fruit Farm. For miles the orchard stretched, ending eventually within the city limits of Hillsdale. The old trees were in my view, with trunks as big as a man and branches that reached out like the limbs of ogres, twisted relics that had grown nearly wild with age and neglect.  A desire to climb those ancient boughs seized me, but I remembered the beer in my hand. It wasn’t drinking itself.
I could see the humidity rising up from the asphalt, and I clutched my head and rolled the window down further. It was a huge parking lot, and I estimated that only about a fifth of it was ever used. A sensible explanation for the size of the parking lot was only one of many answers I desired regarding Huerto. For instance, why was the building leaning westward like a sharp and rectangular tower of Pisa? Was there a reason for it looking like the mad architectural project of a Soviet engineer concerned with maximizing the menace in utilitarian design? What sorts of oddities were contained in its subterranean bowels, inaccessible even to me? Why was there a skyscraper rising up above the farm fields of a dilapidated Indiana village?
            I chugged my insipid beer and breathed a long tired sigh. I reached back behind me and grabbed another and popped the tab. Any minute now they’d be swiping their time cards and pouring out, heading for their cars, most going toward Cincinnati or northern Kentucky. They were computer engineers, computer programmers, computer scientists, artists, animators, writers, psychology majors, game testers, human-resources personnel, security, and Larry Stevens, the most unqualified, besides perhaps Art, of the bunch. I wondered what was going on over at the orchard, which was still operated by Sam Pasteur, an old rival of Rod’s father who was finally bought out and coerced. Technically, the Rodrico Family Fruit Farm fell under my authority as VP of Operations; yet Rodrico let old Pasteur run the business. He was an incomparably shrewd man; I once had to listen to him give a twenty minute monologue on the glories of purchasing worn slacks from Goodwill. Since then I’d stayed away, although every so often I ventured out into the older parts of the farm to see if I could find any antique apples among the weeds and brambles, and every once in a while I’d see the Goon, as he was known, Pasteur’s chief man, a townie in his twenties who always wore baggy pants and a checkered shirt with a Reds hat and an impish grin on his asymmetrical face. I’d give him a stern look and he’d look at me with a bizarre expression on his inexplicably pale visage, and after a while he’d light a cigarette and go scurrying away in that odd half limp of his. I never knew what the Goon was doing out in the abandoned recesses of the orchard or why Pasteur had chosen to make him the face of the business at farmers’ markets. But I let the old man run the farm his way. As long as it paid for itself, I was happy, and so was Rodrico.
            The exodus began, and I saw that Art was among the first to emerge. He was a fairly recent hire, an addition to the company after a strange occurrence on his nearby property threatened the security of Huerto, or so Rodrico ensured me. I heard from an associate of Dr. Niles Frasier’s that when he arrived, Art and his brothers were watching vapidly as their house sank into the earth, while a disproportionate number of gophers scurried amongst the rubble. For some reason, Rodrico wanted the property, so a sale was negotiated. The other two brothers wanted cash, while Art desired a job. He was given a janitorial position, but after taking a liking to him I promoted him to game tester, where he thrived. After only a year he was the chief tester of the Game, Huerto’s main product and claim to fame. I like him because he was an incorrigible drunk, and also because his girlfriend Maria was the most attractive female I’d ever encountered.
            I examined him as he walked toward his car. A short, skinny man with a youthful face and black, greasy hair combed back in a pompadour. He was looking at his phone, doubtlessly texting that gorgeous woman of his. I rolled my window down further and called out to him.
            “Hey, Art. Come here.” I said in a hoarse whisper, my chin resting on window. Sweat leaked down my face in great flowing streams.
            “Louie!” He veered course and removed a cigarette from between his right ear and lit it as he walked. He was wearing a white t-shirt that said in red letters “what is life but the Game?” I had given him that shirt. I gave every new employee that shirt.
            “Hey boss, what’s up?” His cigarette dangled right next to my window and fumigated my car’s interior. “Getting out early, eh? One of the privileges of the job, right?”
            “Let’s go down to the Angry Bear and have a couple after work brews. My treat.”
            “Looks like you’re starting early.” He pointed to the can in my hand. “Don’t mind if I do.”
            “Get in the car first. But put out that cigarette.”       
            We pulled out of the parking lot and passed the orchard, heading down the pothole ridden road toward Hillsdale. We passed soybean and corn fields and groves of thin ancient trees as the road wound its way around a hill. Little shanties stood by the road, with ruined machines and plastic furniture littering their rotted porches. We passed trailers, as well as nice houses with horse pastures and man-made ponds. Deer signs were everywhere. Art chucked his beer can out of the window, aiming for a carcass that lay swollen on the shoulder.
            “Next time throw it in the back.” I told him. “We recycle around here.”
            “You’ll get a ticket for an open container.”
            “I’ll get a ticket for drinking and driving.”
            He shrugged and popped open another beer. I watched him chug it down out of the corner of my eye. There weren’t many people who could drink like him.
            “You ever seen Robocop?” he said after finishing.
            “Of course. I love Verhoeven’s work, although Total Recall is probably his best.”
            “If Hillsdale were a bigger city, it would look like Detroit in Robocop.”
            “Detroit’s had that reputation for a while. Didn’t there used to be a Ford factory around here?”
            “Yeah. I’m the only local working at Huerto, aren’t I?” He took a gulp of a fresh beer.
            “Well, I think maybe one of the security staff is from Hillsdale.”
            “Humm,” he said, easing back into his seat.
            “Where does Maria work? Does she need a job? You know you can ask me.”
            “No, she’s doing fine,” he said. He sipped his beer until we reached the bar.
            The Angry Bear was located on the main strip, right at the end facing the river. Hillsdale had a nice main street full of old brick buildings, although many of the businesses were hanging by a thread. After the closure of the Ford factory, many had thought that the town would vanish. However, a riverboat casino had moved in, and soon the roads were clogged with compulsive gamblers and the elderly. Much of the town became employed through the boat, but soon afterwards gambling was legalized in Ohio. The boat announced its intentions to move, and the town had settled into a steady depression ever since.
            We parked in front of the bar and as we exited I took a moment to look at the river. The current was moving fast, and I noticed several huge limbs floating down the Ohio that could capsize a boat. Perhaps one would crash through the hull of the casino. Such an occurrence would lessen some of the antipathy local residents felt toward Huerto. Besides Rodrico and Art, I was the only employee who had frequented any of the native shops. We had done little for the town, said most folks, and the fact that Rodrico was a native son had soured many people to our company. I didn’t care. I had my little apartment on the edge of the city limits, which meant that I was technically a local resident. Hillsdale was my home as well, so any antagonistic feelings toward me were completely unjustified, as far as I was concerned.
             We walked through the door and into the empty bar. There were a few pinball tables near the entrance; the bar was located against the left wall while much of the floor consisted of cheap plastic tables and space for dancing. There was a stage, although I made sure never to come here when there was a band. Gordy Weaver had a sorry knack for booking the worst groups possible.
            He was at the bar when we entered; a good-looking man with a round, smooth face that always seemed to shine beneath the soft lighting like the waxed surface of a car. Polo shirts were his uniform; he always paired a polo with a pair of oversized pants and some white sneakers. Gordy was loud and broke things constantly. Every pool stick in the bar had suffered his wrath.
            “What’s happening Cap ‘n?” said Art. Gordy smiled his huge grin and extended a hand.
            “Not much, bros. Shootin’ the shit and vise versa. How you doing, Louie?”
            “Same old, same old, I guess. Get me a beer, damn it. Something better than the High Life I’ve been drinking in my car.”
            “How ‘bout a Yuengling? Nobody around here drinks it, but I like it.”
            “Sure Gordon, get me one of those.” We sat down on the stools.
            “How’s business?” I asked him.
            “Shit, I get an old buckeye bastard every once in a while, but mostly it’s slow. What do I care?” He poured himself a glass. “I get to drink beer all day.”
            “You making your payment?”
            “Yeah mostly, although you owe me for those tires,” he said to Art.
            “Talk to him, he pays me.”
            I gave Gordy a raised eyebrow and smiled. “Why don’t you call Maria? We’d like to enjoy her company.”
            “Why do you guys always assume she’s available?” said Art rather sullenly.
            “Because she always is.”
“It’s a Friday, Art,” said Gordy. “Get in the spirit.”
A middle-aged townie with a considerable beer gut and a mullet sauntered in. He waved at Gordy and stopped at one of the pinball machines.
“Give me a second,” he said. “I got to take care of a client.”
“Do what you will,” I said. It was nice to be drinking cold beer. I looked around the place. Gordy hadn’t made any additions since I’d last been here. The walls were still littered with Cincinnati sports memorabilia. There was a signed photo of Barry Larkin across from me, next to a picture of Boomer Esiason. A shirtless Mark Wahlberg stared out from behind the stage, arms flexed, eyes smoldering. It was the most provocative piece of Gordy’s Marky-Mark collection, most of which was spread throughout the bar. A newcomer wouldn’t notice a picture of a space jumpsuit clad Wahlberg from Burton’s awful Planet of the Apes movie if it was placed strategically between Pete Rose and Ken Griffey. Nor would he or she think to look up to spy an enormous poster from M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening located in the middle of the ceiling. And if one was relieving himself in the restroom, he probably wouldn’t pay too much attention to the shape of the urinal cake. If he did, he’d likely notice the cake’s uncanny resemblance to a certain thespian from Boston.
“How was testing today?” I asked Art. I’d been daydreaming a lot lately, letting the details of the job slip away from me.
“We need to revamp the achievement system. There are too many rewards for performing mindless, repetitive tasks. The Game starts to feel like a Skinner box after a while.”
“Well, operant conditioning is at the heart of The Game, and every piece of electronic entertainment like it. You’re right; we need to be better at hiding it. The Game will change in a big way soon, as I’m sure you’re aware.”
“So explain YETI to me.”
“Damn it, Art, be quiet.” Gordy was still talking to the man with the mullet.
“Gordy doesn’t listen to any of this stuff. He probably thinks we’re talking about Bigfoot.”
“You don’t think we’re being monitored?” I subtly nodded toward Gordy’s patron. “We don’t know who that is. He could work for a rival company. Or maybe the government is keeping tabs on their project. We simply don’t know, and for that reason I don’t want to hear you mentioning anything that’s classified. Understand?”
“Yeah, sure boss. I understand.” He looked down at his phone. “Maria is coming.”
“You don’t tell her anything, do you?”
“No, of course not. She doesn’t really get video games. I don’t think she understands what Huerto does. She’s behind the times in a lot of ways, really.”
“You don’t know what you have there, buddy.”
“Oh I think I do,” he replied quietly. I didn’t ask, but there was something peculiar about how he said it.
I sensed that there was much going on between Art and Maria that I remained unaware of, which increased the already troubling degree of fascination I had with my employee’s girlfriend. By herself, she was a remarkable woman, although I struggled to define exactly what it was about her that made her so attractive. She was beautiful, yes, with vast green eyes and a perfect oval face and legs that seemed to stretch into the horizon. Around her, my own eyes watered and goose bumps prickled my skin. She exerted that Je ne sais quoi feeling, something intangible and intoxicating, and I was a bit worried that Art would eventually find out just how obsessed I was. Gordy was in love with her as well, but he loved all women.
Gordy came back from conversing with the rotund gentleman, who was now engaged in a rather physical dance with the pinball machine.
“You look like you need another,” he said to me, vanishing behind the bar and emerging a second later with a dark purple bottle.
“I’m not halfway finished with this one…”
“Lilith’s Dark Delight. A fine specialty brew. Crafted deep down in the underworld by naked women and snakes.” He removed the tab and pushed the beer forward.
The label featured a beautiful nude woman intertwined in a loving embrace with a python. I recognized it immediately as a simple imitation of a famous painting done by the English artist John Collier. As I examined it I saw the original painting clearly in my mind (I had a reproduction hanging in my apartment). The woman was pale and curvy with long, wavy strawberry blonde hair, and she looked as though she enjoyed the serpent’s coils that seethed around her supple frame. Her eyes were closed and a smile was turning on the corners of her mouth. She seemed suddenly very familiar…
“Hey Louie, she’s not real, man. She’s just a picture. Isn’t it modeled after a White Snake album? Lovehunter?” Gordy was laughing and he reached out to smack Art on the shoulder. Art smiled with lidded eyes and lit a cigarette.
“The man’s already imagining the pleasures that await him tonight,” I said.
“Whips and chains and leathery games,” said Gordy. “Is she going to make you wear the gimp suit?”
“She’s going to suspend me by the flesh of my back with hooks connected to ceiling chains,” said Art, with eyes closed and a visible shudder. “If I’m lucky she’ll let me down after a couple of hours.”
“Jesus, really?” Gordy and I exchanged looks. “Are you serious?”
“Guys. When am I ever serious?” His eyes were open now, and he gave us a cold stare before bursting into a chortle. Both Gordy and I cringed. Art laughed like the Joker.
The door opened and we all turned as Maria Delgado walked into the bar. She was wearing a pair of loose fitting jeans and one of Art’s shirts that had a little outline of the Grim Reaper holding a broom. Her hair was scattered about her shoulders, long and dark and unruly, and as she moved a tiny lock of it swung before her face like a pendulum. Despite her casual, expansive dress, I noticed the barest trace of her figure as she walked toward us, green eyes glittering with knowledge as though she could read the desires of my heart.
“Why are you guys looking at me like that?” she asked as she pulled up a stool next to me and slapped Gordy on the shoulder. “Barkeep, get me a beer.”
“Have one of these,” I told her, pointing at my Dark Delight.
She grabbed my beer and took a swig. “Not bad. Pretty hoppy. Oh, and I like the label. Does it look like me, Art? Although the hair’s the wrong color.” She smiled and I felt myself being drawn in like a man tottering on an abyss.
            “Too much so,” he said, avoiding her eyes. He seemed melancholy suddenly, and I sensed something electric in the air. I looked at my hand lying on the bar and noticed that the hairs were standing up on it.
            “We were just talking about Art’s sex life,” said Gordy with a mischievous grin.
            “How he doing?” she said quietly.
            “Well, he seems to have some complaints. Doesn’t like the rough trade, I guess.”
            “You guys shouldn’t slap him around so much.” She took an enormous draught of beer. “He has a delicate frame.”
            “You know, I don’t have a delicate frame,” I said while elevating my right eyebrow.
            “You have a thuggish Neanderthal body, Louis,” replied Maria. “Your arms are as long as an ape’s.”
            “Well that’s about the harshest rejection I’ve ever heard,” said Gordy before erupting with laughter. Art started to giggle and I shook my head at him.
            “Art used to think I was a succubus. You don’t still think that, do you honey?”
            “No, you’ve retired,” he said, eyes on his beer. “You guys want to come over tonight and watch People Watching People Watching People?”
            “I thought we had an evening planned…” began Maria.
            “We never have people over. I don’t want to live in isolation. What do you guys say?”
            “It’s Friday night. I got to stay with the bar of course,” replied Gordy.
            “What about you, Louie?”
            “Well if you all have an evening planned and Gordy can’t come, I wouldn’t want to impose…”
            “You can come over, Louie,” said Maria with a sigh. “Art wants a friend.”
            “We need to swing back and get my car at work...”
            “All right, sure. I love that show by the way.”
            “I hate it,” said Maria before draining the last of her beer.
            An hour later, we stumbled out of the Angry Bear, the three of us more than a little drunk. The sun was setting across the neighboring hills, spilling its pink and orange rays over the wavy waters of the Ohio, and I thought suddenly of how Rodrico was always talking about the “Bosom of Kentucky,” as he called those diminutive peaks. I stood there a minute admiring the picturesque scene. I felt a new sense of ownership and of belonging as I looked down at the muddied waters transformed, sparkling and glittering like the product of a child’s art class.  Alone there on the bank, I was witnessing the town’s namesake while the locals hid in their homes or drank themselves into oblivion like my friends. You can own a thing, I thought, just by being the sole aesthete, the sole devotee of its beauty. Maria laughed at that moment, and I heard Art go into his hideous guffaw, so I turned and left the sun to shutter behind me.