(As published in the West Virginia University Daily Athenaeum ... )
Johnny wasn't sure how to tell his girlfriend Sue that he had faced up to the Hard Facts of Life again and that now he had to wear ripped T-shirts and maybe even get a mohawk. After all, the last time he had faced up to those Facts and burned his Billy Joel records, she nearly divorced him.
Well, not exactly divorced, but you know how serious kids are these days, what with soap operas and MTV and all.
He'd put off telling her for almost a week. But he could delay no longer. So he went to the phone and began to dial. Then he stopped, realizing that he'd forgotten to put a record on the stereo before making the call. What a klutz he was being! He'd been using records playing in the background as subliminal telephone suggestions ever since the time he was playing The Wall while his mother phoned the principal to say that, yes, Johnny really was sick.
The tactic was foolproof.
What should he play? He flipped through his records, only to realize that nothing quite suited the moment. Zappa's Sheik Yerbouti, which Johnny had used when he told Sue that he wouldn't be caught dead at the Junior Prom, was outdated. Zeppelin's "Black Dog," which Johnny had used to clue Sue in as to which pet-store puppy he wanted for his birthday, was irrelevant.
He flopped down in front of the TV to soak his troubled brain in The Flintstones, when what should pop onto the screen but an ad for Husker Du, "the memory game." "Hüsker Dü!" cried Johnny. "That's it!"
He ran as fast as he could to his record crate. Honeydrippers, Hoodoo Gurus--ah, Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade, the Sgt. Pepper of hardcore, the Never Mind the Bollocks of the eighties. This was just what he needed.
He put on Side Four and began to dial. As Sue picked up the receiver and cooed, "Hello," "Turn on the News" tore through Johnny's speakers.
"Hello?" she repeated, able only to hear a distorted wall of feedback and frenzied drumming on the other end. "Hello?"
"SUE," Johnny shouted, "IT'S ME, JOHNNY! HOW YA DOIN'?"
"Johnny, what's wrong? I can barely hear you. What's all that noise in the background? Johnny?"
"SUE, HEY, I JUST WANTED TO TELL YA THAT I'VE FINALLY FACED UP TO THE FACTS OF LIFE IN THIS AGE OF OURS AND--"
"Johnny," she interrupted, "is this gonna be about sex? 'Cause if it is, I don't wanna hear it."
"SEX?" he shouted back. "NO, NO! THIS IS ABOUT IMPORTANT STUFF LIKE NOT EVER WEARING THAT POLO SHIRT YOU BOUGHT ME FOR CHRISTMAS AGAIN AND MAYBE SHAVING MY HEAD IN PURSUIT OF A HIGHER GOAL LIKE--"
"Johnny," she interrupted again, "if you don't turn off that noise and stop shouting at me, I'm going to hang up right now and never speak to you again."
"O.K.! O.K.! I'LL CALL YOU RIGHT BACK!"
"I'LL CALL YA BACK!" As he slammed down the phone, "Reoccurring Dreams" came on.
What had gone wrong? Never in his life had music or his shrewd sense of timing (not to mention his understanding of women) let him down so badly.
He picked up the album cover and carefully analyzed its crude graphics, searching for some sign of overlooked irony that might explain why his plan had backfired.
Suddenly, it hit him. He ran to the turntable, scratched the needle off in the middle of a grisly bass line, and put on Side One's "Never Talk to You Again."
Revelation: Hardcore band uses acoustic guitars and not only audible but even clear singing to tell anonymous girlfriend to, 'ow you say, hitch ride on slow boat to China? Well...
Where had he heard that before? The Velvet Underground? Buffalo Springfield, Yea, even perhaps Merle Haggard? Was this fair? Johnny didn't know.
He put Zen Arcade away and grabbed the Carpenters' Singles 1974-1978, placing the needle on "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft," his favorite.
He closed his eyes and began to dial. "This time," he thought, "I'm gonna do it right...."
(More from my college daze: http://arsenioorteza.blogspot.com/2010/07/chicago-et-cetera-1985.html;