it took being on drugs for me to realize that the song “double vision” by foreigner was about drugs

Perhaps the strangest tale of my long and storied career occurred in 2006, and the professional damage done by the continuing fallout from it is the reason why I finally had to take this gig as an underwear model for the sizes that can no longer credibly have a picture of a guy with Michelangelo’s David’s abs on the package, so they’ve dropped the conceit altogether. After all I’ve been through, I’m most appreciative of the paycheck, but it’s also provided a much-needed ego boost to have been chosen as the guy at the casting call least in need of airbrushing due to liver spots or bypass surgery scars.

After a long silence, former Secretary of Transportation Federico F. Pena was planning to release a greatly anticipated album of his unique blend of electroclash, synth pop, and Afro-Cuban hardcore black metal played on the clavicytherium, and the magazine I freelanced for had been given authorization to conduct an exclusive interview. It was the primal urgency of his early work that had first made me want to get into music journalism (though he had lost a bit of his focus with a 1997 run as Secretary of Energy that I found a bit too ethereal and meandering), so this was a plum assignment.

I lobbied hard to do the interview, and being awarded it represented the high-water mark of my career as a writer up to that point, a standard I anticipated would soon be surpassed by its publication and the many accolades to follow. I felt a rush of adrenaline being charged with the documentation of a musical event that occurred as infrequently as a hybrid total/annular solar eclipse, or the Rolling Stones reuniting with Brian Jones through seance to record a new secret album to be distributed only to elite members of the Freemasons, the Illuminati and Skull and Bones (both events take place approximately 7 times per century).

While busy at work, the only time I have to email or text people is while I’m in the restroom, so I have to construct mental barriers, usually to help me dissociate the girls I am trying to ask out after meeting them online from the various vulgar sensory experiences inherent in the process of evacuating one’s bowels. This practice caused some awkwardness when I opened the email on my phone from former Secretary of Transportation Federico F. Pena containing directions to his place in Brooklyn, as I did not let the standard office restroom protocol limiting verbal communication to coughing or clearing one’s throat stymie my joy at hearing from one of my idols. Security was called.

At the appointed time, I knocked on the heavy metal door to his austere pre-war apartment in Williamsburg. He was reluctant to let me in, explaining that my brown Dickies shirt as viewed through the peephole made me look like a UPS delivery guy, and he only signed for packages from DHL, the shipping carrier least likely to inspect parcels with drug-sniffing dogs. I finally sat face to face with my subject, resplendent in a regal-looking bathrobe purloined from the Four Seasons with a pair of adidas basketball shorts underneath. He offered me a bong hit, which I politely declined, but even clear-minded, I still remembered very little of anything he said over the ensuing two hours. Later that night when I played the tape back, I began to panic upon hearing his response to my opening question about his new record:  “I’m loath to discuss the work before it’s actually released. Just seems like it would make it difficult to judge it on its own merits if the listener already knows too much about my intents or the creative process that birthed it.” I weakly countered (clearly intimidated by being in the presence of this hero of my adolescence) that having appendices and other resources could assist the listener in having a greater understanding of the record upon repeated listenings, but former Secretary of Transportation Federico F. Pena insisted on preserving the integrity of the album’s first impact upon listeners. From that point on, he would only coherently respond to questions that directly addressed his favorite types of ice cream (fudge ripple, pralines and cream, cherry garcia).

Using the interview only sparingly, I drew upon reserves of bullshitting ability I didn’t know I had to stretch the precious little source material into an 8,000-word piece. It never ran, and several other people in the office had to intervene to prevent my editor from cutting off my pinky finger with a kitchen knife. As for former Secretary of Transportation Federico F. Pena, he disavowed the album immediately before its release, necessitating an Alan Smithee credit for all the clavicytherium parts. The album was brilliant but doomed to obscurity, serving only as a minor footnote to history as the first recorded work in the burgeoning musical career of former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, who put down some really solid tambourine work on a couple of tracks.


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