If you take a good strong look at the entire rock ’n’ roll canon, Eric Elbogen was a tiny wisp of a speck of dust on a forgotten page. Another way to look at it was this: if bands like The Rolling Stones or The Pixies were the tallest mountains on a continent of the world, his own Say Hi To Your Mom was a dirty band-aid buried deep beneath the Earth in a landfill somewhere. It was still contributing mass, but it was of little consequence.
This is unsurprising, given his averageness. And some might say if he’d been 20% more attractive or 35% more dangerous, that the buried band-aid might have actually been a nice smooth pebble resting in a pleasant National Park somewhere. But choices had been made and responsibilities hadn’t been shirked, so there he was on the eve of his 40th birthday, staring at the chalkboard of life with an eraser in his hand.
He liked to tell people he was relieved, that all the fuss wasn’t for him after all, but those who knew him well could see him clench his jaw just the tiniest bit when he would tell the lie. The hardest part was admitting that all the people who had been telling him to throw in the towel for almost thirty years now had been right all along. He knew what needed to be done, so eventually he accessed the storage boxes in his mind, the ones containing his hopes, fears, and dreams, and rearranged them in a manner which allowed him to ALMOST believe that what lay ahead would somehow be better. Naturally, the world outside — full of cars and buses and power tools and children playing and birds chirping — didn’t even stutter.
First up: a résumé! That should be easy, he could do it all! Compress some drums, graphic-design the heck out of some line-art robots, wrangle ISRC codes, write a bio, drive a van, sell some merchandise, tour manage. Sweet! Résumé done! He sent it out and waited for the telephone to ring. But the lengthy drum roll only ended up summoning the crickets.
The problem, he would learn, was that he hadn’t had an actual job in 15 years, so when he did get called into interviews, human resource specialists with many-syllabled names or department managers 15 or 20 years his younger would look him up and down, eyes stopping briefly to take in the grey in his beard. They’d stand up, thank him for coming in, politely gesture toward the door and let him know that they would let him know. Of course, they would never let him know. One of them had even told him that he thought his dad had a copy of one of his, what were they called again? CDs?
The weeks went by, and then the months, and the already meager residual checks began to get smaller and smaller. Eric Elbogen would scratch his head while he tried to think of new and creative ways to start the next phase.
Perhaps the white-collar life was not for him? That’s better, even. Who wants to wear starched trousers all day long anyway? But as it would turn out, he’d encounter the same troubles in lives delineated by every color collar imaginable. The food service industry wouldn’t hire him as a server, for example, because he had never waited tables and they wouldn’t hire him as a busboy or dishwasher because his hands were too smooth, a definitive indication he couldn’t tackle the tasks at hand.
As a last resort, after he had sold off not just his collection of boutique guitar pedals and analog synthesizers, but his fancy DI boxes and cables too, he finally figured out what Linked In was and created an online account. That was an exhausting ordeal in and of itself and, once his profile was posted, he needed to embark on one of his marathon strolls.
Like many introverts, he liked to walk to clear his head. It was actually how he had lost a bunch of weight at some point between 2011 and 2014. He would tell people (so many were interested!) that he had simply cut down on the number of quesadillas he would consume on a daily basis. This was true too, but his long, pensive walks or marathon paces around the house did the brunt of the heavy lifting. In fact, when moving out of one apartment on Capitol Hill, his entire security deposit was used to repair the wear on the hardwoods that was a result of his pacing back and forth while he was enthralled by all five Game Of Thrones novels. He had tried to come up with a joke that ended with a “Splinter Is Coming!” punch line, you know, because of the wood, but his landlord apparently didn’t have that kind of temperament.
Anyway. He began walking. It was summer, the time of year in Seattle that was misunderstood by most of the rest of the world. During all of his time travelling as a musician, he would consistently hear people say things like “Oh, you live in Seattle? I hope you like the rain!” He would try to conjure for those people the kind of non-humid, warm Puget Sound days that made the flora pop more than usual, where you could sit sweater-less on a wooden neighborhood bench, eyes closed with your face pointed toward the sun, and feel what some people called happiness and others called religion. Whichever way you looked at it, he would say, there was a tingle. But that was a hard thing to articulate to those who had never experienced it.
It was into one of those days that Eric Elbogen went walking. He was doing his best to resist pulling out his hand-computer. The impulse to check the screen every two minutes for any messages or mentions seemed to be perpetual these days, but he forced himself to leave it in his pocket and enjoy the urban scenery instead. Had the next moment taken place in a film, or even a fancy podcast, there would have been some audible winds of change coming in from the mysterious, wooded mountains to the east or the stately water of the Sound to the west. But since this was real life, there was little fanfare or foreshadowing when Mr. E saw a help-wanted sign in the dressed, old window of a shop he was about to learn was called Werewolf Diskdrive.
Once, many years ago while he still lived in New York City and before he had owned an Apple, he had needed a specific kind of accessory to connect a peripheral device to his personal desktop computer. He had found a shop in the East Village that seemed to be the only destination in town that carried it. His vivid memory of that shop, something straight out of a 1980s Byte magazine, came to mind here. It was silent, but with the expectation of the sound of a dot matrix printer and the faint smell of heated solder on a motherboard. Back then a shop like this was really a shop like this, but today you had to take a good look to make sure it wasn’t some kind of McSweeney’s art piece or a pre-conditioned Instagram café. By all accounts, for the moment at least, this one seemed legitimate.
What he had recalled about the New York City shop was that the clerk’s demeanor was much like a record store clerk’s demeanor of that era (oh, boy, remember record stores!?). It was like a character from a movie called Ferris Bueller’s Day Off he had seen in the theatre when he was a kid (oh, man, remember movie theatres!?). During a scene where the main character and his friends try to go to lunch at a fancy French restaurant, the maître d’ scoffs, making it crystal clear that they aren’t important enough to be catered to. Since it’s a John Hughes film from the 80s, revenge is exacted, but Eric Elbogen had never had such luck when he had gone to buy a Wilco album from a clerk in a Black Dice t-shirt or a USB 1.0 cable from a clerk in a “Mulder and SCSI” t-shirt. What briefly passed through his mind when he closed the thick, glass door to Werewolf Diskdrive behind him was the notion that if this, indeed, was where he’d be working, he’d want to make certain to be as kind and inclusive to the patrons as possible. Never snooty or snotty.