Portland Anonymous: Fragment One

He was a hard man to know, I thought to myself as I pondered the assignment I had been given.  It was no easy thing to convey our appreciation of someone who so resolutely disliked the fawning attention of fame whores, and who was so terribly, so pathologically shy.  It was not as if he was an unlikable person, as is the case with some people who might be considered recluses.  He was instead someone who appeared to take the ideals of Portland Anonymous perhaps more seriously than most, indeed, too seriously in the eyes of many.  And look where it got him.  On the one hand, I find it puzzling and somewhat inappropriate that I would have to be the one to frame our view of this particular singer, songwriter, raconteur, instrumentalist, and ambivalent celebrity who was responsible for our label’s greatest success.  After all, he told the world what he wanted the world to know about himself, which was a somewhat embarrassing amount of his struggles with mental health and his crippling anxiety and shyness, and very little about the content of his personal life.  Of course, he may not have thought that there was much to report on to begin with, which means that the great interest that people have in the autobiographical detail that informs what writers write may not have been of interest to him to share.  As far as he was concerned, his private life was private and not very exciting, and I am inclined to agree with him.  But still, something must be done to honor him, and so here I am, trying to glean what I can of insight so that we can thoughtfully honor this man.  And yet it is hard to do so when I scarcely understand him myself.

***

I don’t know if I would have called him a friend, the friendly and somewhat overweight rapper said to the camera with an air of forced nonchalance.  I mean, it’s not as if we went to the bar and drank or chatted about our partners or had a personal kind of friendship like that.  But I didn’t hate him, even after things went bad after “The Mean Streets Of Tanasbourne.”  It wasn’t his fault that he was so uncool and that we wanted to earn a reputation as hard, street rappers.  He just didn’t fit in with that image, even if he had that ridiculous needlepoint that said “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangster.”  You know what I mean, who was less gangster than he was?  He was good with a hook, though, that’s for sure.  I would never talk smack about someone whose singing gave us our biggest hits.  Who could forget how enjoyable it was to record the video of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice If She Was Older?”  I’ll never forget that scene as long as I live.  You want me to talk about that more?  I’m sure there will be plenty of time for those details to come out.  This isn’t the time or place for that.  But yeah, it’s not as if I hold a grudge against him, even if things went badly after that first album.  Business is business, man, it’s not personal.  It’s not as if anything was ever personal with him.  And if it was, it wasn’t as if he was ever going to let you know.

***

How did it all begin?  That’s not an easy thing to say.  I suppose I am responsible for all of this getting together.  I thought that in light of the way that so many people were seeking to become famous and to push their image throughout social media that it would be truly rebellious to start a group of musicians who were interested in gaining attention by not seeking personal attention at all.  I had earned enough money in my life, and thought it would be worthwhile to promote a mysterious group of people who wanted to remain anonymous, who wanted no personal attention at all.  And having decided that, since I owned a music studio on the west side of town where there was little traffic and a great deal of serenity, I thought it would be worthwhile to advertise the endeavor so that I could get a wide variety of musicians.  I didn’t know what kind of musicians would answer the call; I know we have a large group of active and talented people in the Portland area and I was sure that we would get an eclectic group of people, and that is exactly what happened.  He was certainly one of the most anonymous people I could have imagined for the group, and it was clear right away that he was someone who was genuinely talented and also with a real interest in remaining anonymous.  I didn’t know why he didn’t like personal attention.  One could see very quickly that he was shy and somewhat awkward in his social dealings, but it was also obvious that he wasn’t the sort of person who meant or did harm to others.  And he ended up being the key to the success of the whole endeavor.  Yes, all things considered, I think of Portland Anonymous as a success.  We had hit singles, hit albums, and all of us got plenty of attention out of it, more than we would have if we had tried to buy followers for our instagram accounts or if we had slaved for years trying to perform in seedy bars and clubs.  No, it worked out very well, all things considered, and that’s why I gave you the assignment to figure out what to say about him on our behalf.  I haven’t forgotten that assignment, and I like what you did with your initial statement in which you thanked him for his efforts and his hard work and his commitment to the well-being of the group rather than his own selfish interests.  Although, truth be told, if ever there was a man who needed to take more care about his selfish interests, he was certainly that man.

***

It was the strangest thing, he said as he looked meditatively into the video.  I remember when I heard the announcement on the radio station as I was getting my car fixed.  I mean, it was a little bit after work and my engine light had been bothering me for months, and I was finally doing something about it, getting my car fixed, and on the radio station in the mechanic’s shop there was a call for musicians in the Portland area who wanted to be anonymous, along with a phone number.  I gave the number a ring and explained who I was and after chatting a bit with the receptionist I was invited to come over later that evening and do an audition.  And so, after my car’s engine got fixed, it was an issue with the serpentine belt, I drove over to the studio and rang the doorbell and went in and did my audition.  I sang some songs and they were pleased, and when I said I did some writing and that I played the viola and was willing to learn how to play other instruments like the drums or bass they were even more pleased.  And I would go over there often in the evenings after work and lay down vocal tracks for various acts.  I thought it was fun and others seemed to enjoy what they heard as well, and from those evenings spent recording quite a lot of songs were done.  Some of them were covers, some were hooks on the tracks of others, and quite a few of them were songs I had written myself.  Eventually we got around to recording some albums, and it was all enjoyable.  At least I thought so at first.  I wasn’t looking for any personal attention, in fact, I’m still not, but it was nice to be able to make music and listen to it with all of the other parts in it.  There are some people who get sick of songs after they become popular because they are hipsters and only like what is too cool for others to get, but I never minded hearing people sing the songs I had written and sang and I never felt anything but fortunate that other people liked what I had to say.  I know, most people take being liked for granted, but when you’re the sort of person I am, who has always been a bit an outsider, always been unpopular, it is a pleasant thing to be liked, even if it is for something as silly as a love song.  I wish I was still anonymous; life would be a lot more fun if I was able to go about my regular business without anyone knowing that I was the voice on the radio.  I could go and get my groceries without people ambushing me for photographs with their partners or children, or telling me that what my music meant to them.  It’s nice to have a positive role in the lives of others, but sometimes people don’t realize that sometimes other people just like to be left alone to live their boring and lonely lives without being forced to interact with other people or receive attention.  Of course, I suppose it was foolish to believe that we could remain anonymous for very long, but while it lasted it was certainly a lot of fun.  No, I don’t have any bad feelings about the way things ended up with the other guys.  I understand that they wanted to be real, that they wanted to have a reputation for being hard, for being street, and no matter that I had spent a lot of time living in the ghetto, no one was ever going to consider me to be street; I was and am far too intellectual and far too bookish and nerdy for that, so I simply didn’t fit in with the image that they wanted to have.  There’s always time, I suppose, for things to work out better in the end, for the reunion tour and the reconciliation and all of that after everyone pursues their goals and seeks to have the image they want.  It’s not like my approach to being my shy and awkward self is going to change.

***

He was definitely one of the most distinctive people we had to work with.  I remember when he called in after that radio blast and scheduled his audition, that he was so nervous-sounding, and when he came in he was just the sort of shy and anxious person one would expect.  I was the receptionist on the evening shift, and I would see him most of the time when he would come from work and record and write for a few hours.  He was always polite, you know, not revealing a lot of personal information but at the same time he wasn’t a jerk like some talented people are.  He really seemed to be the nervous and anxious person he was at the beginning, no matter how big things got.  He didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke, like most of the other ones did.  He just coped by writing, I think.  I think that’s how he made it through life, by turning his anxieties and frustrations into music, beautiful music.  I loved listening to the tracks that the group recorded, it was really amazing and I’m sorry things got out of hand.  I just wanted them to get along like a happy family but that’s not how it works out sometimes, I guess.  I suppose he can’t be blamed for that; it’s not as if he wanted the fame or the attention.  Our whole goal was to gain attention by not seeking attention, and he took that to heart more than anyone else.  I guess it was because he was plain looking and clearly had lived a difficult life.  You could tell that someone as bookish and nerdy as he was would have been made fun of a lot, and you could tell that he wasn’t the sort of person who was often very attractive in the eye of others, and that really bothered him.  He didn’t talk about that sort of thing but you listened to the songs he wrote and sang and it was clear that he was the sort of person who was deeply hurt by the way that other people treated him, and he was right to think that fame wasn’t the solution to his sort of situation.  You know what happened, you know what people said and what they wrote.  He knew all of that would happen if he got famous, and he was right not to want that sort of fame.  It’s a real shame we gave it to him too.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Musings, NaNoWriMo and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Portland Anonymous: Fragment One

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The Portland Anonymous Project | Edge Induced Cohesion

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