This is a story about the death of a dream. To be less succinct, this is a story about a dream and his dream wife taking their dreamlings to the Dreamopolis Zoo to see the dream hippos. There, they are infected with a rare virus that causes microscopic hippopotamuses to accumulate in their hippocampi, until their skulls explode into geysers of hippo scat. The virus swiftly evades quarantines and overwhelms emergency services, until Dreamopolis itself is a sunken city, trapped under a merciless, roiling tide of river-horse shit.
Imagine this, but a billion times over, on an atomic level.
But to be more succinct, this is a story about my DJ career.
Step #1: Suck
When I was 15, I decided to become a DJ, because I didn't do sports and musical theater wasn't doing me any favors.
Mystifyingly enough, my dramatic turn as the rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof did not make me
the most sexually active teen in the ninth grade.
I saved my birthday money to buy a "DJ Starter Kit" I saw in the back of The Source, next to the phone-sex ads. The kit consisted of two rickety belt-drive turntables and a mixer that was likely gummed up with baby rat skeletons. I had to wait another birthday to save up for a single non-garbage turntable, the Technics SL-1200MK2.
Nowadays, most everybody DJs on laptops. But in the post-impeachment years of the Clinton administration, you needed vinyl. (You could've bought CD turntables if you were a billionaire from the future or something.) This meant cobbling together a sizable record collection. Mine mostly consisted of thrift-store garbage gems, like Jesse Ventura's heavy-metal single and that one record that's at every Salvation Army that everybody's grandfather wanked to.
You know, this one.
I also had a copy of "Strawberry Letter 23" by the Brothers Johnson that Satan hid in my Sunday school classroom to tempt me with funk, plus a few new albums. The new records cost more than $2 and weren't riddled with spider eggs or haunted by jazzmen. They were mostly by rappers who chided other rappers for not being rap enough.
I really had no clue what I was doing. I didn't know any DJs. Given that my previous hobby had been Magic: The Gathering, the only parties I'd ever attended were pizza parties. In my idiot man-cub brain, the party solely existed for the DJ's edification. One day I'd swagger down to Ibiza and drop a He-Man audiobook over Kraftwerk, and Josie and the Pussycats-era Rosario Dawson would be so agog she'd let me see her butt from a few yards away and we'd kiss with no tongue forever.
Cloud Eight Films
"Dear 2001 Me, I have sent you a gift from the future. It is a DVD copy of director Danny Boyle's Trance.
You will not own a DVD player for another three years, so hang in there champ! Yours, 2014 You."
Back then, a sliver of my record collection even nominally qualified as party music. You had one request, Mystikal's "Shake Ya Ass" (and by "you," I mean "my Labrador retriever, who didn't give a shit because music isn't hamburgers"). My heroes were producers like RZA, Prince Paul, and Dan the Automator, guys who had dismissible luxuries like "studios" and "a basic understanding of 4/4 time signatures." I, on the other hand, owned more than four Alvin and the Chipmunks records and worshiped Public Enemy during a period in human history when DMX was responsible for half of America's GDP.
"Hey guys, who wants to listen to Fear of a Black Planet?"
So, yeah, despite my lack of usable equipment, musical training, social capital, melanin, wholesale awareness of the entire universe, and an audience who defecated indoors, I practiced for hours. I mostly practiced scratching, because one can mix a 1967 ethnographic survey of kabuki theater with Quiet Riot's "Cum on Feel the Noize" only so many times.
And guess what? I didn't completely suck at scratching. In fact, after two years of dutifully dicking around, I wheedled my way in to my friends' band. Sure, it was mostly a Weezer cover band, but that didn't matter. The year was 2001, and to be a band of note, you needed a DJ who stood behind the drummer and read a magazine.
"Dear 2004 Me, it's 2014 You again. Stop watching Trance. My timeline is crumbling around me. Untold thousands are dead.
You forgot to take the SATs. Alexander comes out in November, you stupid son of a bitch."
I ghosted away after a few months because lugging a turntable that weighed as much as a small cabin to a four-hour band practice (only to spend 39 seconds making The Beastie Boys sound like The Beach Boys having sex with each other) wasn't really worth it. (Plus, it was cutting into my busy teenage schedule of discovering mysterious caches of XXX mags hidden in the trees behind my house. When you live next door to the Boo Radley of porno, you better get your priorities straight.)
Step #2: Forget You Suck
After the band, I didn't really DJ for three years, as making fart noises with phonographs all the livelong day is a fine ploy to get a dormitory full of strangers full of Natty Ice to hate you. But after four years, I moved to an off-campus flophouse. The basement was empty. It was the perfect party space, if you ignored the asbestos and mycotoxins and Hantavirus. So, in September 2005, I resurrected my solo DJ act for a bipedal audience. I never could mix, so I replaced the dog-shit turntable with a third-generation iPod.
I grew haughty, as the iPod did not smell like burning rubber when you turned it on.
For a few weeks, I DJed cast parties for a campus sketch comedy group. Like my old dog, they enjoyed hamburgers. But unlike my dog, they were nonjudgmental and drunk and not dead, so my gigs worked out better than anticipated. My signature flourish was to wear a Jagermeister flag as a toga, either because I was lampooning college assholery or because college had turned me into an asshole. I don't remember, so don't go to college.
Anyway, I was banking on having the photo of my Jagermeister sarong for this article, but I lost it. As a placeholder, here I am in my 10th grade production of Annie.
Please imagine this song playing in my head.
I'd be lying if I said there weren't good times. But I also know that's not how the Internet works. You didn't click on this for the good times. The only way you'd want this story to have a happy ending is if it was about a friendly mule who turned out to be my long-lost father (and even then, a third of you would be secretly rooting for my dad to die of mule cancer in the second-to-last paragraph).
No, you didn't come here for the good times. You came for the worst night of my life ... well, and this:
You always wanted this. You just never realized it.