[SoundStage!]Paradise with James Saxon
Back Issue Article
May 1998


T.S. Eliot once observed that "April is the cruelest month." He could have been an audio dealer in Paradise. Every year since 1991, the month of April has brought a sales drought to Casa Saxon, and the April of 1998 was exceptionally sere. Unlike in past years when customers merely stayed away, this year they brought equipment back. Granted, some of it self-destructed due to power surges, and a percentage was inadequate sonically. But some of it was returned merely so its owner would have something to do, as in "I think I’ll run over to Jim’s, and bust his chops." As a result of this month’s business debacle, I have found little to laugh about. However, April was not a total loss for me personally, and I thought I might share a few non-audio tidbits with the handful of loyal readers who show up here each month.

First of all, I taught Monica the maid to drink. As anyone who works at home knows, drinking alone is a dangerous habit, which is why I tried to maintain a six o’clock happy hour. Traditionally, a customer or two would stop by in the afternoon to share a toot with me. Since the end of March, however, I have been solidly alone all day and into the night, and thus I’ve found no reason to delay until six. In rapid progression, I re-scheduled cocktails for 5, then 4, then 3 PM, and finally decided lunch hour was a good time to brace for the rigors of nightfall.

In order to avoid a rapid descent into darkness, I vowed not to guzzle the high-octane "M" drinks: martinis, Manhattans, and margaritas. Instead, I experimented in the kitchen with recipes designed to provide quasi-health benefits through the addition of freshly squeezed fruit juices. After several trial-and-error episodes ended with me flat on the floor, I sought help with the beta-testing. Monica, who prepares our lunch, had begun to question my activities. In order to protect my behavior, I offered her complicity—a chance to share the tasting, to which she reluctantly agreed as a good employee should. Monica, who is in her mid-thirties, married with four children, brings a fresh palate and a virgin liver to the proceedings. At this point in her life, she could also use a stiff drink once in awhile.

I immediately mixed a libation that met Monica’s criterion that a drink should not taste of liquor. By artfully blending lime juice, orange juice, tequila and sugar, I invented a fruit punch worthy of our casado (rice, beans, plantains and a main dish). The recipe was a miracle of intuition. Monica nearly melted with delight. I christened this fruity eighth wonder of the world "Jimbo," in honor of its creator.

Monica, however, insists on calling it "margarita" and so when she asks for her "daily," I know she does not want the potent tequila/triple sec concoction that makes one disrobe, but rather the harmless Jimbo, which causes catatonia. Served on the rocks in a glass rimmed with salt, the Jimbo is a fragrant trip to lotus-land for the battle-scarred and weary. It is also packed with health benefits. Since the limes grow in the backyard, I feel as though communing with nature while picking them. Five minutes of sunshine is enough to last all day.

After taking her Jimbo with lunch, Monica heads home to an afternoon of calmness amid the roar of family life. I, on the other hand, am forced to remain in the trenches, enduring, as they say, "hours of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror." I steel myself with delicious nectar. A fear of being caught short by a sneak attack leads me to juice a dozen limes and a bag of oranges every other day. By ingesting fruit punch at the first sign of trouble, I am able to weather a barrage of bad news, as well as weeks of no news at all.

Stasis under fire has proven beneficial for both Monica and me. As a result of discovering the Jimbo, I no longer take out frustrations on the maid. Monica no longer troubles me over money. In fact, we now share our ups and downs like cheerleaders on the sidelines. The game doesn’t matter as long as we look and feel good. Monica appreciates me for introducing a palliative to her life, and since her husband hasn’t complained, I may continue the Jimbo lunches even if business picks up later in the year. As long as no one asks me to do anything complicated in the afternoon, this tradition should wear well.

In addition to creative drink-mixing, I have engaged in a second method of self-actualization called participatory television. Although the night is meant for music, I wind up switching on the tube while eating take-out, and I remain transfixed upon the sofa long after the plastic utensils have ceased their chores. In order to counteract the mind-numbing effects of passive viewing, I join in the programs by kibitzing and muttering the whole time. I vocalize most loudly during those shows that use the word "Live!" in the title. Larry King and Geraldo Rivera, for example, draw friendly and unfriendly fire depending on the day’s topic and my blood alcohol level. I also curse, clap and cheer during sports telecasts. The Chicago Bulls bring out the best in me; female boxing matches, the worst (male bouts are sickening enough). I skip the music videos, unless they feature sultry Latinas, which cause me to curse my appreciation in Spanish.

I also watch a lot of movies and have discovered a fallacy in the home-theater theory that bigger is better. During prime time, I use the 60-inch RCA television in the living room, but spend three AM wake-ups staring at the 20-inch Sony in the bedroom. Unlike the RCA, the Sony portrays without pretense "small" films, such as old Sherlock Holmes or new Brian Dennehy. Movies made before Cinemascope, as well as made-for-TV flicks, do not require a big screen. They are totally compatible with a mini monitor and one-channel sound. Also, bad commercial releases do not seem so awful when miniaturized on the Sony. The videos I rent to watch on the RCA often disappoint in both story line and aural/visual impact. Maybe DVD will change my perception of multi-channel, big-screen home theater, but I still think Casablanca will suit the Sony better. I can understand why practically every household that has home theater also has a smaller TV tucked away. Some things are better seen small.

Finally, as if television and mixology were not enough, I have begun to spend my idle hours writing a book—or rather, compiling short stories. The stories are perverse and morbid, as befits the Age of Aquarius. The weird thing is, they come to me entire in dreams, usually after a night of television washed down with a pitcher of Jimbos. Unlike the stories that roll around in my head during waking hours, the nocturnal versions are rife with symbolism. Also, they deal with death, which I seldom think about in the daytime. Oddest of all, they are not about me, but about someone else, which is a leap of imagination beyond the abilities of this writer’s conscious ego.

With the indulgence of the gentle reader (as well as to fill this space), I would like to outline several of the "night visitors." (For the critics in the crowd: I would welcome any positive comments, but no negatives, please.) The first story is about a man who loves his work, which happens to be selling burlap bags. He picks up a woman hitchhiker and they have an affair, which soon degenerates. The woman belittles him by poking fun at his profession. He winds up killing her and burying her in a burlap bag in a potato field. This story features visual humor: The protagonist wears a burlap suit, upholsters his convertible in burlap, etc. The antagonist, on the other hand, is allergic to burlap and scratches a lot, thinks the burlap tie is stupid, etc. The conflict between them is filled with one-liners and bon mots, until patience and passion are exhausted and murder is the only logical outcome. Can you picture the movie, with William Hurt and Kathleen Turner?

The second story is about a man who suffers a heart attack in his home after eating breakfast at McDonald’s. Members of his immediate family are confused as to the course of action to take. Rather than call an ambulance, they contact a number of people to solicit opinions on the victim’s condition. The group reaches a consensus that he is dead. Finally, the neighborhood drunk appears and, rising to the occasion, signals to call an ambulance because the man is alive. The paramedics arrive and resuscitate the victim long enough to permit him a dying declaration denouncing everyone around him, except the drunk, after which he expires for good. This gothic tale may have resulted from a late-night ingestion of pizza and beer.

Another story deals with a boy who professes to know everything. While attempting to trap a marmot, he is bitten by a golden snake, which is harmless. But because he sees it as a vehicle of retribution for incestuous desires toward his mother (who is "golden" in his eyes), he tells his best friend that he, the boy, is going to die. The friend (yours truly) laughs at him for his silliness. The boy, unable to shake his own belief that he knows everything, lapses into a lingering illness and eventually croaks. This precautionary piece may be derived from mythology or the Bible, neither of which are familiar to me. Less hilarious than the other stories, it has nevertheless been the most highly praised by my publisher.

That’s right, amigos, I have a publisher. Doug Schneider has created a writer’s clearinghouse for manuscripts that deserve an audience beyond the confines of our illustrious ‘zine. I have agreed to send him a small advance payment now, with the rest due when 200 pages are ready. For $1500, I am going to be an author! Doug has also agreed to publish the drink recipes, as well as my views on one-channel television, provided I can flesh them out with movie and talk-show criticism. Then, if I can raise three grand more, Doug will publish the collected works as a trilogy entitled, What I Did For April. We are planning to take reservations on the SoundStage! hot line, 1-800-SEND BUX, although it would be better if people sent the cover price directly to me as soon as possible.

In conclusion, with the help of friends like DAS, Monica, and Geraldo Rivera, I have resisted falling into a depression caused by the business downturn. I remain connected to my peers by engaging in creative endeavors apart from audio. Under current conditions, the pastimes outlined above should occupy my time until the end of May. I also have a few things up my sleeve for June. However, in the immortal words of ol’ Blue Eyes, if there’s nothing shaking come this July, I might just roll myself up in a big ball and die.

...James Saxon

[SoundStage!]All Contents
Copyright 1998 SoundStage!
All Rights Reserved