Huehueteotl part III
1. Deep in his underground bunker, Axl Rose is listening to the local reggae show on low-power radio. Tears run from his eyes like jewels down the emerald Buddha's cheeks at Wat Phra Kaeo. A strangled low keening sound escapes his throat from time to time as he rocks back and forth in half-lotus. He does not know the names of the songs. They change over so much from week to week. Much of the time he can't understand what the singers are saying. But they sing so beautifully, so evenly. And the echo on the electric keyboards: each studio might have its own echo imprint, Axl imagines. You might be able to tell the producer just from a particular reverb sound. He gets lost in this reverie, allowing his mind to wander this way and that. On a stone pedestal under a bell glass across the room, bound with wire, Eminem is running out of oxygen. No one can hear his cries. The sounds of reggae issue tinnily from the small radio in Axl Rose's hand.
2. Deep in the motionless center of his mind, Marshall Mathers is listening to the still, small voice within. It is telling him to run and never look behind him. The ninja rap fantasies of his twelve-year-old self play across his mind like 8mm loops and he can't seem to stop them. A toilsome grunt escapes his clenched teeth from time to time as he strains against the ties that bind him. The fog on the glass around him beads as he breathes. Faintly, through the glass, he hears the radio on the table just a few feet away. Dimly, as through a suffocating mist, he sees Axl Rose nodding his head in time, mouthing a chorus here and there. Feeling the beat. Marshall, too, nods as he strains. If you have to go, you should go on your feet, he reasons. Stepping lightly. Never looking behind you. The music in his ears takes on an impossible sweetness.
3. Deep within the belly of the radio, something incredibly exciting is happening. Once, in a different time, many amateur radio enthusiasts might have described it readily, as automotive hobbyists might explain the workings of fuel injection. Their explanations have now vanished into the world of the invisible everyday workings of things, passing into smaller and smaller groups of hands with each generation. A house without a radio is a poor house indeed, but where is there such a house in this day and age?
4. Within the grooves of the white-label 12" presently spinning on the turntable at the low-power radio station, a Jamaican MC has just said "batty man" for the 45th time in three minutes. It has a certain hypnotic quality to it after a while. And in a dormitory nearby, a college student is beginning to feel uncomfortable about it all. If the words were sung in an English he understood better, would he still be listening to this set, whose every song seems obsessively focused on gay men and the biblical judgment awaiting them at the hands of marauding dancehall warriors? He wouldn't listen to a Christian rock band singing lyrics like these even if they were the best band in the country, would he? Still, this music is so good. One has to be honest about it. Some of the voices he hears have hung all on character, after manner of a Brando or a Christopher Lee: no two tones quite the same, every syllable overwhelmingly rich. He wonders briefly if any parallels with kabuki can be drawn. He tries to focus on his homework.
5. In a studio whose air conditioning is atypical of its Kingston neighborhood, a mixing engineer feels bored. He is a very talented engineer and has a reputation for working fast, so the bigger-name producers in the area often seek him out. This weekend he has already mixed five tracks, three for a prominent producer in need of a hit and two for local up-and-comers. The engineer listens now to playback at high volume. He is satisfied with his work, but somewhat numb to it. Bass response is the main thing he cares about, because he learned from the old school, but drum timbre is all the rage lately, and so that's where he's spent much of his talent today. When he can focus hard enough on the drum sounds he's spent all day calibrating, he does experience some satisfaction, but no more than he might have if he'd stayed home and mowed the lawn, or gone to play football with his friends. It seems that work has taken him away from his friends, yet he feels less passion for his work than he did when he wasn't nearly as good at it. Maybe it's just the state of dancehall; there's so much of it lately. Two or three new ones every weekend, it seems. Boom and bust! It must be like this everywhere, in all kinds of music, now and again. He leans back in his chair and shuts his eyes.
6. Deep in his underground bunker, Axl opens his eyes, emerging from reverie. He looks over at Eminem, who, under his bell jar, gasps for air. Their eyes meet: both pleading somehow. Volumes of information are exchanged in this moment, but Axl still hasn't found the secret he was hoping to uncover, and Eminem still can't breathe. This has gone on long enough, Axl thinks. He clicks the remote control in his hand and the glass jar slowly raises itself ceilingward. Eminem collapses, breathing deeply. Axl increases the volume on his radio. Dancehall reggae fills the room. It feels so good now. Tanto Metro's voice erupts through the musty air, beat heavy behind him. His voice bubbles like an idling motorcycle's engine. Beep beep. Beep beep. The singer got the keys to the Jeep.
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