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“Female mormon crickets Anabrus simplex respond to the songs of a male by fighting with each other for the privilege of mating with him. The successful female climbs onto the male’s back, and if she is heavy enough mating takes place; too light and she is turfed off.”

—from Animal Language by Michael Bright

A friend of mine wrote a Facebook status update that said he wished he had seen the Butthole Surfers on tour, back in the day. When they were in their prime. To quote him, “biggest regret of my life.” His Facebook commenters were quick to comfort him. After all, the live-show reign of the Butthole Surfers was relatively brief—-compared to the Rolling Stones, for example. I would put their peak at around 1986 AD. The overriding response was this: at least you did see a lot of really good bands. The stream ran to cherished recollections of live shows at small venues during that era: REM, Meat Puppets, Black Flag, Beastie Boys etc.

I never listened to the Butthole Surfers. I didn’t like their name. It scared me. I did have a friend in college who briefly dated one of them, a Butthole Surfer, though he was no longer in the band at the time. His name was Scott and he was from Texas. I don’t remember much else about him, because my friend hid him from us when he came to visit. He was cool; we were not. My friend was cool by association. But only as long as they dated, and it wasn’t really dating, and it didn’t last long. This was in 1989 and the Butthole Surfers were already in decline. Cool has a very short shelf life.

But a regret is a regret, and we have the right to have as many as we want. I have my own regrets associated with bands like the Butthole Surfers and the Beastie Boys. It boils down to this: I always wished I was cool. It boils down to this: I was kind of sorry to be a girl.

After college I was living in San Francisco, playing a lot of acoustic guitar, and I wanted to join a band. I decided I needed an electric guitar and someone talked me into buying one from a friend of ours who also happened to be a drug dealer and a con man. So he sold me this guitar, it was a Schön. Ever heard of it? No? Me either. Turns out it was a custom guitar designed by Neil Schön, from Journey. (Not cool.) It was a heavy metal guitar. (Not cool.) I should have gotten a Telecaster or a Les Paul. That would have been cool. My Schön was white. NOT COOL.

I sold it eventually; maybe it’s valuable now.

I called a guy who was advertising in the paper for bandmates. He was looking for a bass player. Since I played the guitar, I thought I could handle the bass; it has fewer strings. We talked on the phone, he seemed to think it would be fine if I couldn’t play the bass at all. So we met for lunch at a gritty Thai restaurant that he knew about, off Market Street. He introduced me to Thai Iced Tea, orange and creamy and stimulating. Then I tried to convince him that Cyndi Lauper was cool because Prince had covered one of her songs. Or maybe it was the other way around, Cyndi Lauper had covered one of Prince’s songs.

Anyway this guy was into GG Allin and Psychic TV and edge “musical” experiences that I couldn’t really even understand. Shockingly, he did not ask me to join his band.

But I was pretty. I had that going for me. So even though I wasn’t cool, he was nice
about it. And if I hadn’t been pretty, I might have been cooler. It would have been a better balance, based on the kinds of things I wanted to do. My friend, the one who dated the Butthole Surfer, was also pretty. Maybe cooler than me, but not by much. She screwed up the cool thing, too. Neither of us could do it. And believe me, we tried. Together and apart.

I did catch the Indigo Girls at a small club in Providence, Rhode Island.
They were never cool. I know that.

The coolest woman I ever came across, when I was still actively interested in being cool (I eventually gave up), was a singer named Thalia Zedek from the bands “Live Skull” and “Come.” She was so cool she was almost dead. She wasn’t pretty. She was beyond pretty. Where is she now? Oh, here. She is obviously still cool. No one ever said being cool would make you happy. She doesn’t give a shit, I guess. That’s refreshing. And cool.