Birth of Tragedy


Ernest Pipe sat inside the moving car during his lunch break and felt stoned even though he had only drank a thermos of freshly ground free-trade coffee.

He was a passenger in the car. The driver looked like a British comedian. His name was Omari.

“I think that’s my girlfriend in the car behind us,” said Omari. “I’m pretty sure it is.”

Ernest Pipe twisted his neck around to look at the girl.

“I’m going to let her pass to see if it’s her,” said Omari.

He popped the car into neutral. The speedometer started to drop.

“What’s your girlfriend’s name?” asked Ernest Pipe.

“Sahara,” said Omari.

Ernest Pipe nodded, as if that name was more than just another name.

When the car cruised beside them, the girl, Sahara, looked at Omari and waved.

“That’s her,” said Omari. He said, “I wonder where she’s going.”

“What does she do?” asked Ernest Pipe.

“She’s a musician,” said Omari. “She’s actually a pretty big thing. She was on the Letterman show.”

“What did you say her name was?” asked Ernest Pipe.

“Sahara,” said Omari, as he turned up the volume, “Sahara Smith.”

“Haven’t heard of her,” said Ernest Pipe, “but I’m digging this music you’re playing.”

“It’s Baths,” said Omari, popping the car into fourth and accelerating.

“I feel like I’m floating,” said Ernest Pipe.

Omari laughed and said that was how he was supposed to feel. It was part of the design, built into the music.

The University of Texas football stadium came into view. Thousands of burnt orange seats climbing into the air, empty on a Wednesday.

Ernest Pipe wondered if anyone had ever taken a photograph of the stadium from the highway when it was full of fans. He wanted to be the one to take it even if someone already had.

“Austin looks cute from up here,” said Ernest Pipe. “Look at all the cute little buildings. They’re so fucking cute.”

“Austin is cute,” said Omari, “don’t fight it.”

Ernest Pipe let his eyelids hang low. He didn’t know if being cute was a good thing. Puppies are cute. But puppies also do a lot of things that suck.

“Did you go listen to that guy talk last night?” asked Ernest Pipe.

“I did,” said Omari. “He was badass.”

“Who was he again?”

“Marc Ribot, the guitarist for Tom Waits.”

Omari launched into a discourse on Marc Ribot’s interpretation of the blues solo. Ernest Pipe caught bits, pieces. Something about the solo being similar to the birth of tragedy. Something about the solo being a voice pitched against the machine of the drums and other rhythm instruments. Something about how the solo guitar goes on talking, but the machine doesn’t listen, the machine just goes on chugging. Something about how eventually the voice realizes the machine doesn’t care.

“And the end of any really good blues solo,” said Omari, “culminates in an explosion, noise, a final rebellion against the deaf and looming machine.”

Ernest Pipe felt like he understood what Marc Ribot, by way of Omari, was saying.

Ernest Pipe bobbed his head and lowered his window and threw his arm out to experiment with lift-to-drag ratio.

They had thirty-three more minutes left in their lunch break.

November 30, 2011 8:07 pm

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