Mar 21, 2015

Robot Love - Songs From The Last Q*Ball Album

She was a surprise.

It had happened to me before - more than once - and every time it did, I acted on it.  I was not accustomed to being wanted, so on the occasions that I was, it was always a surprise.

And who doesn't like surprises?

It's always a nice surprise to discover that you are wanted.  Right, Kristen?

There was a problem, of course.  I was with someone.  There were other practical complications, but this one was the biggie - my relationship, which had become unwanted.  A partnership which - on its own merit - was already deep in the shit box. 

In my romantic life, surprises have been rare, and they have almost always come at times when they should have stayed packed away.  And so it goes.

But Ron, did you ever consider that your other relationship just wasn't doin it for you anymore?  Wasn't this "surprise" a sign that you needed to move on to something - and someone - new?

Of course I considered all that.  Isn't that the first thing we always consider when temptation comes a-knockin?  Don't those of us in unsatisfying relationships - or even satisfying ones - weigh our options, even just for a second, before deciding if and when to act?

"If I was so happy with my partner, I wouldn't feel this way about so-and-so."

What bullshit.

Sometimes love isn't a choice.  But commitment is always a choice.  Now I'm no Liam Hemsworth - shit, I ain't even a Jason Priestley - but I've been lucky enough to be in relationships with some attractive women, and I've also been lucky (?) enough to discover that other attractive women have been attracted to me while in those relationships.  

Who doesn't Like to be Liked?

Some would argue that capitalist society's new way of measuring "worth" - thru Followers, Favorites, Hits, Views and all those Likes - is the sort of validation that keeps people more secure in their own relationships - a safe reminder of our relevance in spite of being "tied down."  But it's that same system that creates issues of envy and jealousy.  Distractions.  Temptation.  Not to mention more platforms to stray and scheme.  Can loyalty exist in a world overtaken by smartphones?

In every generation, there are those who eagerly pick forbidden fruit from the vine - like it's the last piece of fruit on earth.  Some go looking for it like it's their job.  Blame genetics, blame vanity, blame society - just don't blame yourself.  Shit, some of our greatest heroes are life's biggest romantic scumbags.  Right, Don?

I have never been one of those people.  But I am no angel.  I have been tempted.  Plenty of times.  When I was younger, I often acted on that temptation.  I set morality aside for a night or a week, sometimes for a summer, before my conscience stepped in and put an end to my selfish fun.  "You're an ungrateful shithead."  I believed in karma.  I could lie as well as anyone.  Managing the remorse that would inevitably follow proved much more difficult.  But the remorse was often short-lived.

I recognized that I was being a bad person.

I knew what I was doing was wrong and yet I did it anyway.  And in those younger dumber days, I got my comeuppance.  Feeling guilty wasn't enough, the whole "What they don't know won't hurt them" excuse no longer washed.  None of my selfish excuses for my shitty behavior ultimately held any water.  I was smart enough to fool the one I loved but I couldn't fool that bitch Karma.  It resulted in some dark times, it was my hardest lesson - harder than a failed marriage, harder than a hurricane washing me out of my house - and I carried that lesson into the next decade of my life.

And then she showed up - this surprise, another twist of fate.  I didn't ask for this woman to connect, even if I was looking for an escape from my unhappiness.  But we connected, it wasn't a choice.  It was a circumstantial situation that evolved into a major crush.  And the pull was strong.  I had felt that pull before, that inopportune invasion into my heart and my loins.

There was that time a female co-worker and I were having an innocent lunch in the office kitchen together.  The next week, we were making out in the elevator.  She knew I was with someone and she didn't care.  The pull was coming from both ends and we just went with it.  Magic Time.  I played up all of my problems at home - embellishing the truth in order to sustain this new forbidden romance.  Hey, you're already lying to one person, why not lie to everyone?  Let them know they're part of the solution, lure them in deeper just in case your conscience allows you more than one taste.  We all want to feel special.

Being young and dumb didn't excuse that dalliance.  It was wrong - for everyone.  Because the feelings, of course, intensified.  The passion intensified.  The lying intensified, the half-truths, the risks of getting caught, the guilt.  The hole was being dug deeper and deeper until there would be no way to climb out without someone getting hurt.

Things weren't great in my real relationship at that time, that much was true.  There was less of a spark even if the love still existed between us, even if we were still committed.  Things weren't terrible, they were just unspectacular.  Back then, I saw that as a sign of an inevitable sad failure.  That complacency.  But I've learned a lot since those younger dumber days.  Real relationships are not great all the time.  And they will never be great if you don't put the work in.  They require communication and compassion.  They require consistent sex and consistent trust.  They require sacrifice and patience.  If you choose to focus on cultivating something new instead of tending to your own back yard, you might as well just sell the entire farm.

But few do.  We don't want to give up that complacency that we simultaneously fear.  Think of the kids.  Think of the dog.  Think about your bank account.  Think about your reputation.  Breaking up is such a bummer, man.  So we create excuses for straying, the more convenient option.  We rationalize something that is indefensible.  We want the comforts of home side-by-side with our dirty little secrets.

That's how selfish people see the future.  With them getting everything they think they're entitled to.  Right, Tony?

The subject of Robot Love was never someone I felt entitled to, even if I felt entitled to happiness.  It was an unwanted love, and ultimately an unattainable one.  I didn't orchestrate our meeting.  I didn't orchestrate this new pull - it happened, quietly discouraged by the few people who knew about its existence.  How was I to suppress it?  How was I to stop feeling what I was feeling?  There was no switch to turn it off.

And it was all too familiar - the overwhelming urge, the swelling heart, the impossible choices.  It has happened to most of us at some point in our lives.  I submit that I have often been helpless to stop myself from embracing those emotions.

Amongst my radio co-workers, I'm The Hard Luck Guy Who Loves Love.  And I understand why they see me that way - they watched me dive in with those less worthy of my attention just for the sake of Being In Love.  They watched me get screwed by being impractical.

Based on my recent romantic choices, it's hard to disagree with their assessment.  Pursuing types who I should have been avoiding instead was becoming a habit.  I was accepting flaws and shortcomings as beautiful scars rather than tiptoeing out the door, no less running away in horror.  It's a habit I still find myself trying to break.  But I submit that we are lucky to feel so deeply for someone or something, even if it is all wrong for us.  Passion is a gift even if it can also be a curse.  Sometimes it can be both at the same time.  

I never acted on my feelings for the subject of Robot Love - we never made out in an elevator or had a summer-long tryst.  Instead, I made the worse mistake of confessing my burgeoning romantic crush.  I was counting on more Magic Time and the only magic that followed was the disappearance of all the flirty friendly sparks that had been flying between us.  I felt like I had blown something that never really had a chance to be anything in the first place.  I felt cursed, remembering the high school kid crushing on his band mates' girlfriend, watching them dance together at the prom with a sick feeling in his stomach.  My Duckie days were over......  Weren't they?

So I shut down the passion machine.  I became a robot.  I cut out another part of my flawed human heart in order to preserve my morality and restore my sanity.  I cursed the gods for another bout of bad timing and I gave up.  I tried to forget.  The circumstances made it easy once my professional relationship with this person effectively ended.  But we never forget, not completely.  We can delete all the correspondence and the photos, we can even cease our online stalking.  We can destroy all the evidence but we still can't erase our memories.

Forgiving was easier - this woman didn't owe me her devotion, she didn't owe me an explanation.  We both knew the reasons why we would never work.  She was smarter and stronger to steer clear of what was growing between us, even if she didn't exactly handle it with total grace.  The fade-away that followed came as no surprise.

There haven't been any surprises since my Robot Love days - not good ones, at least.  My most recent relationship taught me that surprises can also be unpleasant.  It reminded me that you should never be surprised about anything anymore.  Right, Tiger?

Does that mean I'm done taking risks?  That I'm still a robot, that I'm damaged goods, that I fear commitment?  I don't think so.  I'm still trying.  I just refuse to be arrogant about it anymore - as if this amazing love is something I deserve.  It will come when it comes.  There is no urgency attached.  That doesn't mean you've gotta stop taking chances.  If you're not willing to try, then why put yourself out there at all?  Why open your wallet?  Why open your heart?

This woman who I fell for - she kept referencing her last relationship, telling me about some lazy loafer who she fell for who wound up wasting her time and screwing her out of money.  So now she had all these rules.  Her biggest?  "I don't date band guys."  I'm not sure if she applied this rule because she thought "band guys" were wolves who only cared about their narcissistic selves and the greater pursuit of pussy.  I think she probably meant that "band guys" were complicated, complex.  Projects.  And she was right.  We are.  I always considered it a musician's birthright, wearing your heart on your sleeve - and I've always been more musician than "band guy."  The truth is this - there is no rule book.  When the love sledgehammer comes crashing down on your skull, the rules go flying out the window along with all your common sense.  Right, Boss?

And sooner or later you find yourself with your own set of rules.  Welcome to The Cult of the Practical.  Take a seat, have some whiskey.  You can be picky.  You can be superficial.  You can do whatever you want, you can walk away from anyone or anything that doesn't make your heart flutter.  You can feel however you want about whoever you want and you can pursue those feelings with a clear head and an open mind.  Freedom of choice.  Keep the bar set high.  Don't settle.  Don't be careless.  

Yet, deep in your heart, you know these are all rules that you would set aside if that next surprise showed up, if you found yourself being pulled by someone who was letting you pull back.  You're no robot, you're an imperfect human being.  You are who you are and life is as short as it is fragile.  The clock is ticking.  That Magic Time - that electricity - doesn't show up often enough for it to be taken for granted.  And so it must be harnessed.  You can convince yourself your armor is thicker, you can keep your bullshit radar on high alert, but at the end of the day, you can't deny that you're still Love's bitch, living and learning from the ghosts of a more naive past.

The Last Q*Ball Album by Ron Scalzo
Available now on iTunes and Amazon
Limited edition CD now available at


I must have been such a fool
To think that I could deal with you
I'm not supposed to feel emotions
I'm not supposed to feel a thing at all

Something put you in the way of me
Becoming the man I'm supposed to be
You're not supposed to feel emotions
You're not supposed to feel devotion
Cuz you don't owe me anything at all
In this fucked up world
Who am I supposed to be?
I guess I'm a robot
At least now you know not to play with my circuitry

Is it my imagination?
Did we make a strong connection?
It's gonna die from complications
A chronic case of misdirection

Not supposed to feel emotions
So what am I supposed to feel?
In this fucked up world
Who am I supposed to be?
I guess I'm a robot
At least now you know not to play with circuitry

How can I erase you from my memory?

Ron Scalzo - piano, vocals
Chris Pennie - synths, loops, drums
Brett Aveni - guitars

Music and Words by Ron Scalzo
Copyright 2014 Bald Freak Music (ASCAP)

Recorded at Hurricane House, Staten Island, NY and The Boiler Room, Princeton, NJ
Engineered by Fight Mannequins and Ron Scalzo
Mixed by Fight Mannequins

Artwork by Joseph Milazzo
Mastered by Michael Judeh at Dubway Studios, NYC

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