Feb 13, 2016

Landscape Calrissian - Songs From The Last Q*Ball Album

She loved Star Wars.

She had a framed Empire Strikes Back poster in her apartment, her passion for movies and music surely rivaled my own.  She was the real deal.

We sat on her couch, finally next to each other.  Finally - and fleetingly - close.  It would be the only time.  The last time.

She clutched the remote, scanning through the seemingly endless stream of saved media in her Netflix Queue.  She wanted to watch a movie but I just wanted to watch her do anything.  It would be the only time.  The last time.

We knew a lot about each other but we had only met in person once before. We both loved a lot of the same things - Star Wars and Jim Henson, Halloween and Led Zeppelin.  We developed a rapport based on a similar work ethic in a cutthroat industry, surrounded by idiots and tyrants, yet plowing through with integrity.  We both cared about doing a good job even when we hated what we did.  We respected each other.

I asked her to shut the TV off.  We needed to talk.  It was already well past midnight.  Her roommate had mercifully gone to sleep.  I would be on a plane the next morning, flying back to reality.  Harsh reality.  I had been waiting for this moment for months and this would be my only chance.  My last chance.

Music brought us together, another familiar tale.  I didn't orchestrate any of it, the universe did.  The fates blew us into each others world even though we were thousands of miles apart.  We don't ask to get hit with the love sledgehammer any more than we ask for cancer or for a hurricane to destroy our house.  It just happens.  Life has a way of constantly reminding us that what we want and what we get are often miles apart, over the hills and far away.

She put the remote down and turned to me.  Finally, I had her full attention.  I could feel the weight in the air.  We were inches apart.  She was in shorts and a t-shirt, no makeup.  She wasn't glamorous at all, but she was beautiful.  We only had one day together, and this was the first time we would have alone.  The only time.  The last time.

She had a pretty, paper-thin smile, her voice was a lullaby.  We had talked on the phone only a few times, once into the wee hours of the night, one of those long-distance convos that stay with you long after you hang up the phone.  Hearing that voice now seemed a gift.  Being here next to her seemed surreal.

"Are we okay?," I asked.

I didn't have a speech prepared, I barely had a plan.  She had orchestrated this moment in her own way, had helped me book my flight, had invited me to crash on her couch.  She did her part to put me exactly where I was in this moment.  It's possible that her intentions were entirely professional, but I'd like to believe that we both knew better, that this was something more.

"Of course," she replied.

I had already made a few mistakes.  I was nervous as fuck, and my slip was showing.  Before lunch, she caught me staring at her boobs.  Before dinner, she caught me blowing up her bathroom.  Unspoken transgressions, but transgressions all the same.  In my own back yard, I wasn't this careless.  I was in control.  Here in La-La Land, in just one day, I was not.  I was a pile of melted goo in a Karate Kid t-shirt.

She could sense me prying that door open - taking it from casual convo into the confessional.  She resisted as best she could, but once it all came pouring out, she had no choice but to engage.  She read off a short list of reasons explaining her own stance.  It seemed like a list she kept in her back pocket for moments like these, moments a woman in her position had likely experienced before.  All her reasons for keeping things platonic made sense.  Practical sense.  We already knew what we had was impractical, but only one of us was willing to take the leap.

I challenged her.  It would be my only chance.  My last chance.  "I considered it," she admitted, only slightly defensively.  Was she placating me?  The monkey was finally off my back and had landed firmly in her lap, and I sat there watching her wrestle with it.

Was she letting me down gently, stroking my ego on my way out the door?  I don't believe she was.  She was being honest.  I asked what prompted this 'consideration'.  "Similar interests," she said.  No admission of physical chemistry or emotional longing.  Similar Interests.  Purely clinical.  Star Wars and Jim Henson and Halloween and Led Zeppelin.  But who doesn't love all these things, or things just like them?  Liking the same shit isn't enough, there has to be electricity and magic and - a yearning - otherwise, you're just spinning your wheels.  I've seen enough online dating profiles in my day to validate this.

Surely I knew the difference.  Because my wheels were already spinning.   Back home, I was with someone else.  This wasn't a secret, not to her or to anyone.  My real life relationship was deep in the shit box and she knew it.  She had bonded with me over this fact, sharing stories of her own romantic folly.  Encouraging me to be brave.  She was providing all the things I wasn't getting at home, encouragement included.  She complimented my music and eventually inspired it.  We complemented each other in a lot of ways, and sometimes found ourselves admitting this aloud - even tho the timing was all wrong, the obstacles great.

I wasn't withholding information nor stretching the truth.  I had done that when I was young and dumb - embellishing things to further my own selfish desires.  It's a lecherous practice, any way you slice it.  I dated someone recently who made that sort of behavior an art.  Seeing her in action gave me a new appreciation of how wrong and shitty it is.  We paint pictures of ourselves that make us seem much less ugly than we can often be.  

So I kept it real.  She could have let me in, but that would have been a mistake.  I was with someone else.  It didn't matter that my heart wasn't in it anymore.  It didn't matter that the store was closed and practically abandoned - I still owned the property.  I still had some unfinished business to attend to.

I didn't kiss her.  I wanted to, of course.  I wanted to do a lot more.  Maybe she did too.  But she was built differently.  Most women are.  Not all, but most.  Anything more than a conversation would have been unfair to all parties involved.  The burning in my chest and my loins was already unfair enough.  Why now?  Why her?  I didn't pick her out of a catalog or off a website, I didn't ask for any of it.  It was all laid out in front of me, another one of life's shitty morality tests.  The only reason I passed was by failing, and you never really pass when you fail.

We talked some more, then hugged each other goodnight and retreated to separate rooms.  She turned out to be smarter than me, more sensible.  If she would have let her defenses down that night, I would have turned my whole life upside down, and all that weight would have been on her shoulders.  I was ready to burst, and she knew it, and so the shields were already up.  

After returning home, I wrote her a long, heartfelt letter.  I made her a mix.  I was a lovelorn 17 year-old again, only 17 was well in the rear view mirror as I typed typed typed my feelings.  I don't remember what was in the letter, but I'm sure the more practical Ron typing this blog would have slapped the guy who wrote that letter right upside the head immediately upon reading it.  I'm sure there were good intentions attached to my words but they probably reeked of desperation, one final plea from an infatuated idiot.  I was in deep, as deep as I've ever been.

I don't remember what songs were on the mix, either, but I do remember the last song on the playlist - "The Rose," by Bette Midler.  If closing a mix with a Bette Midler song isn't a sign of how far gone a dude truly is, I don't know what is.  At least it wasn't "Wind Beneath My Wings."

I put the mix and the letter in an envelope and brought it to the post office with my heart in my throat.  It wasn't the first time I had done something like this - the guy leaving a note for a woman he has never met, surprising a girl he likes with flowers, showing up at the supermarket and buying ice cream just to talk to the girl behind the counter.  Sure, I was much younger when orchestrating these encounters.  And sure, some girls actually find little missives like that romantic, but others equate them with the words "creep" and "stalker."

The common thread here, at least for me, is that none of those moments have ended in a victory.  All of the loves in my life have been presented to me - in college, at my job, playing a show in a club.  I, of course, still had to make the first move in those situations, but it was always easy.  I didn't have to chase any of those girls.  Sometimes they even chased me.

It's only when I have played the bumbling fool, the obsessed idiot, that I have crash landed.  Nowadays, I find myself putting up walls and employing radio silence quickly, secretly wondering if I'll ever feel a spark like this again.  Crash landing hurts no matter your age, your gender, or where you are in your life.

Landscape Calrissian is about that spark, and the short-circuit that followed in the wake of one unfortunate late-night encounter.  I say unfortunate because, given a little more time or opportunity to communicate, I could have come down from Cloud City and handled things in a more mature, sensible way.  I say unfortunate because I only had one shot, and it's pretty hard to convince someone you're The One in less than 2 hours.  In 2 hours, you can decide that you love Star Wars, but deciding that you want to take a chance with a dude with baggage and a price on his head usually takes at least one sequel, sometimes two.

Those are the worst type of defeats, never knowing what could have been and choosing to turn off instead - forcing yourself to do something that doesn't seem inherently 'right' just to protect yourself.  Getting hit by lightning is never a choice, but turning off the power always is.  It has taken on new meaning in an online world.  We Unfollow and we Block, our passive aggressive way of relaying that we're angry or wounded.  We stop Liking photos, we cease sending e-mails and Instant Messages.  Just a bunch of dummies deleting contact information and text messages from our smartphones.  Ghosting.  Out of sight, out of mind, or at least that's what we like to believe in our simple little minds.

It is such nonsense, the harsh reality of 21st century interaction.  But that's what it is - reality, a practice reserved not only for romantic disconnections, but also for band mates, friends, and sometimes even family.  There is little sense of longing when it's so easy to connect, disconnect, and even reconnect.

That doesn't mean our brains have stopped working or our hearts have stopped humming.  That doesn't mean the memories of what existed, even for a fleeting moment, have faded.  The world finds a way of reminding us of what we once had, or worse, couldn't have.  Do we ignore these signs?  Can we?  Do we just take another punch to the gut and keep on truckin'?  Are we meant to resurrect relationships with zombies who were once dead and buried from our everyday lives, if not our own consciousness?

We're made to believe that Love Conquers All, that whatever hard journey that you took to get to the top of the mountain was worth the price because the reward seems so great.  But the deeper you dive, the more you stand to lose when it all comes to an end.  Life is just a series of chapters, of moments, good and bad, and love surrounds the best ones but also the worst ones too, suffocating you with joy one day and squeezing the tears out of you the next.

Landscape Calrissian is one of those moments put to music.  It's a beautiful scar.  I bear a few.  I bet the girl who loves Star Wars has a few of her own.  I bet you do too.  Each scar tells a different story, but ultimately they're all the same, borne by our belief that we are meant to be part of something bigger than ourselves, that we aren't meant to be alone, rather destined to stay connected.

However fleeting the moment is, however poorly it might end - be it in the form of an untimely death after years together or an awkward hug after hours together - it is a real, tangible thing, as honest as anything you'll ever experience in your life.  What's a few scars compared to that feeling?

Love in all its forms reminds you that you're alive, that you're significant.

There is no greater gift.

The Last Q*Ball Album
by Ron Scalzo
Available now on iTunes and Amazon


We're almost there
We were almost there

We don't talk anymore
We don't talk about the things
That should have mattered so much more
It's so easy to ignore
Now that we're stuck in this cold war
We're suffering

Sure we say a word
But not one that's heard
And those empty clicks are just a wall between us
That's the problem with me
I keep on trusting my feelings
The best way of dealing with it
Is to tell it like it is

But people always need convincing
And my blood's already splattered on the wall
And you're just like me
Yeah you're just like me
How can I make you believe
That we're almost there?

We're almost there

Ron Scalzo - vocals
Chris Pennie - synths, loops

Brett Aveni - guitars

Music by Chris Pennie

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

Recorded at The Boiler Room, Princeton, NJ
Engineered by Fight Mannequins
Mixed by Fight Mannequins

Artwork by Joseph Milazzo
Mastered by Michael Judeh at Dubway Studios