Anecdotal Evidence: Theremin Party

Excerpt from mail sent in 1999

The Latest Irritation

Saturday evening, I went over to Larry Warner's house for a party.

Larry Warner recently got a theremin, a strange musical instrument. I had opportunity to make noise with the theremin. The control system for this thing is what's strange: it's got a couple of antennae. You control pitch and volume by waving your hands next to the antennae to interfere with their fields. You don't touch anything. It took me a while to get the hang of it, the theremin emitting whoops and twitters the whole time. Finally, I was able to get it to do something remotely like what I wanted.

I looked up from the device. I'd cleared the room of people.

And so I gave up the theremin. Better I should talk to people than play with the spooky instrument.

For Science

Chris B.'s wife, Maria, is from Nicaragua. When Chris handed her a drink, she asked, "What is this?"

"A mint julep," he said.

"What's that?" she asked.

"I don't know," Chris said.

I knew a song about mint julep. Toby, my favorite radio DJ, plays it on KUSF. I'd just heard it the day before on KPOO.

"There's a song about mint juleps," I said. Maria had graced us with her rendition of "Te Quiero Tanto Tanto Tanto Tanto" (sp?), so I felt okay quavering "One mint julep/one mint julep/one mint julep/one mint julep/was the start of it all." (I had to hurry up to get out the last line. I'd made fun of Maria's song because it only had three words, and she was ready to be critical of my American tune on similar grounds.)

"You want to try a mint julep?"

I said, "I'll try a sip."

I tried a sip. It was awful.

"P'*kack*! Puh! What's in this stuff?"

John said, "Whiskey, sugar, and mint."

I believe him.

I ran inside to find a lemon wedge to chew on. Remember--just because there's songs about something on the radio doesn't mean you should try it out.

International Rut Analysis

Ice (his real nickname) asked me if I'd ever been to Victoria, British Columbia. This was a strange question. "Actually, I have."

He asked me: "What did you think of it?"

"It seemed pretty touristy. It reminded me a lot of Fisherman's Wharf, really."

He asked me: "When were you there? What time of year?"

He seemed earnest, concerned. I answered, "Summer."

He nodded: this explained everything. "When the place goes from Winter to Spring, it changes," he said, "It's like a rutting season."

"You mean they..."

"I mean these people go into rut. And it's recognized. Everyone's okay with it."

"We're talking about the place in Canada?"


"So, you're telling me these people are getting nekkid and..."

"I'm saying these people are pairing up in the streets and fucking in public. I'm saying that the culture there is okay with this. This would never happen in America."

"Exactly where did..."

"In America, they've legislated away the rut. This sort of thing would never happen in America."

"Maybe not around here. Winters here are too mild. Maybe in Montana..."

"What are you talking about?"

"Maybe in Montana--they have cold winters there, right? Maybe when Spring comes, when people can dig themselves out..."

"In America, they've legislated away the rutting season. It would never happen here."

"Uh, okay."

"The presence of seasons does not determine the presence of a rut."

"But maybe, it's one of a number of determining..."

"It's like in Amsterdam. I just got back from Amsterdam."

It's a good guess that Ice is, on any given day, just back from Amsterdam.


"Yes. Amsterdam has the rut. Amsterdam has a great tradition of personal... Amsterdam would never legislate out the rut."


"And Thailand! Thailand has the rut."

"It's probably not much like Victoria's, though."


"It's probably more commercial."

"Are you saying that America's way isn't commercial? How many marriages do you think haven't been based on finan..."

"I mean comparing Thailand to Victoria. I mean, in Victoria, they're just freely pairing up, and in Thailand they're..."

"Actually, Thailand isn't like that."


"Well, it depends on how you go in there. If you go in there thinking like a mercenary, then you can have a mercenary experience. If you go in there with no expectations, just living in the moment..."

"Like a Buddhist?"

"Exactly like a Buddhist. All Thai women are Buddhist. Don't you ever forget that. If they see that you are..."

And then something interrupted our conversation. Then Ice started talking at me about Amsterdam's pharm situation, and there were no more surprising revelations. Nothing about Amsterdam could ever surprise me. He didn't bring up Canada again.


When Larry Warner played music from the original Star Trek show on the theremin, his audience couldn't help but laugh with recognition.

The blues jam with Mr. Warner on theremin, John (of the folk band Fatty Lovebuckle) on harmonica, and Chris B. (ex-Huck member) on guitar was also laughter-inspiring. It was just so strange. The theremin is more spooky than bluesy. It just sounds so cheery when it whoops. It doesn't seem like the instrument that a tired guy would sit on his porch and play.

Thither Heath

I asked Ice if he'd heard from Josh Putnam.

Josh Putnam no longer answered to "Josh." He was now "J. Heath Putnam". He was no longer a computer programmer. He was now in finance. Ice had just received a letter from J. Heath. J. Heath had written from Liechtenstein, where he was setting up shell corporations. J. Heath reported that those nations which sold sovereignity (I guess if you want to rule your own island) all have offices in Liechtenstein--in the same building. You can shop around.

Ice didn't know if J. Heath was planning on becoming a nation. I asked if we could say we knew him back when he was just a district.


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