He was coming into the S-curves on I-5 just south of Seattle, listening to radio KYEZ, "Mellow Sounds Of The Spheres," when the music transported him into a trance-like state and he crashed into the side of an 18-wheeler bringing engine parts into Boeing.
I called Randy on his cell-phone moments before his death. We had planned to meet at the Kingdome for a Promise Keepers convention and he was late. Outside in the parking lot I could hear they had already started the sobbing and back slapping without us.
Our last worldly conversation went as follows:
I sued radio KYEZ. My case was basically that a lethal brew of whale calls and flaccid piano playing drove my brother to his death. I lost.
Smooth jazz killed my brother and KYEZ assassinated his character. All it took was their lawyers mentioning the Santana CD in Randy's car and the jury started muttering and pinching fingers to their lips in the international sign for "tokin' on a fatty." I knew Randy would never have taken drugs before a Promise Keepers meeting, not even hallucinogenics, but never mind that. Soon the KYEZ lawyers were contending he was a classic rock listener. They started talking demographics: smooth jazz listeners were peaceful law-abiding citizens, but classic rock listeners, like my brother apparently, were middle-aged losers slumped on bean bags in their parents' basements, plotting half-assed crimes under the wane glow of a grow lamp. This was an alarmingly accurate portrayal of my brother, but completely circumstantial. The judge, who looked to be eating peanuts the whole trial, overruled every one of my objections, and merely snickered when a KYEZ lawyer mentioned Foghat and flapped his arms in a derisive way. Never once did one of those lawyers look me in the face or acknowledge my brother's tragic death. They seemed to think I was a crackpot.
When I stood up to make my closing statement, the courtroom grew dark and cold, like a great cloud full of snow had crept in to hear the verdict. I faced the jury and tried to make my voice sound like Gregory Peckish.
"Mellow Music Of The Spheres, ha! Most people worry about satanic lyrics by those long hairs that bite the heads off of bats and pee on their fans, but smooth jazz is far more insidious and harmful. Smooth jazz has an opiate affect that makes people imagine they are standing under tropical waterfalls or feeding cookies to deer. That's why people who work the cash registers in greeting card stores always look startled if you ask questions, but if you say 'Those deer sure like fig newtons,' they will say 'Yes. Newtons,' in a glassy-eyed, Stepford Wives monotone.
"Mellow Music Of The Spheres, ha! More like banal tripe for people too meek for real jazz and too stupid for classical music. Smooth jazz is played in the elevators of giant corporations to keep the drones complacent. It is even the soundtrack of the porno industry! Around the world swarthy men are watching moist crotches ricocheting all over the place to the warbles of an off-key tenor sax and the kerplunk of a drum machine.
"I believe The Lord handed us a pristine world, and we, like paper wasps, masticated it into a modern-day Babylon of concrete, tar, non-biodegradable plastics and smooth jazz. The radio station KYEZ, like the drug dealer on the corner, is keeping the good people of Seattle dull-eyed and slack-jawed. Please avenge my brother's death and stamp out this blight on The Great American Dream."
I was laughed out of court. You haven't felt low until your family honor is beaten down by a musical genre.
It was then and there I decided to focus on one man.
I used to respect John Tesh when he worked for Entertainment Tonight. He seemed like a decent guy, and I spent many an early evening watching him and Mary Hart chuckle over the zany criminal misadventures of former child actors. But then one day he quit all that. He quit so he could grow a goatee - or "chin vagina" as Randy used to call them - and tour the country playing smooth jazz piano.
I became the point man in the war against John Tesh. I began my duties as point man in the war against John Tesh by repeatedly calling his publicist down in Los Angeles and making fart noises, asking for John Tush. Sophomoric sure, but it felt good to finally put a face on my anger, on my sorrow for Randy's misguided FM listening habits.
I tried soliciting funds for my crusade. Relatives and people at work were generally unsupportive, but I managed to drum up $3.47. Only my lesbian friends, Joyce and Darla, pitched in. We made posters and brainstormed slogans and t-shirts amongst the bruised fruit in the Co-op where they worked. They were teeming with suggestions, and I felt renewed strength in the cause knowing that the lesbian movement supported me.
I picketed Tesh's palatial house on Lake Washington with signs reading "A Whale Is Not An Instrument!" and "Hitler Liked Smooth Jazz." Although disappointed that the neighbors didn't rally behind these placards, I persisted for five drizzle-filled days until informed that the house was empty. Clever Tesh was on tour.
So I waited, staking out his house.
You may wonder what kind of work I do that allows me this kind of free time. I'm a sales rep for a small company called Cheeses Loves Me. We sell semi-soft cheeses molded to resemble Christ crucified on the cross. Most of our clients are churches and religious stores in the Puget Sound area; they agree the Jesus cheeses add spirituality to a typical chip and dip tray and give the communion wafer a little extra pizzazz. Monterey Jack and Port du Salut sell well because their yellowish hues give Jesus a nice tan, but the Roquefort is a little too blue and stinky for most people's taste. Marketing has suggested Lazarus as a possible Roquefort alternative.
I do most of my cold calling on Sundays. The church secretaries, docile creatures with seemingly no decision making power, put me on hold while they scurry off to find an authority figure. I don't need to tell you what insipid music oozes out of the earpiece.
When Tesh returned, pulling into his driveway one overcast Tuesday afternoon in a sleek white all-terrain vehicle, I was ready. I watched as he and his wife, Connie Selecca, went inside. After several hours they reappeared. I followed as they drove back across the 520 bridge into downtown to The Genial Asparagus, a vegetarian restaurant they obviously intended to dine at. It was getting dark, and the rain shone on 1st Street like a black snake that squeezes the world in its soul crushing coils, a cruel and banal beast that slithers through our everyday life with such cunning we are unaware of its middling and mediocre clutches until our eyes glaze over and our feet start twitching with little rhythmic taps...The taps of smooth jazz death!!!
I followed them inside, pausing in the foyer while the Teshes took a table in the back. From my vantage point behind a hanging fern I could see the whole dim, candle-lit restaurant. The stucco walls were covered with macramé and plants; the clientele all snotty types trying to acquire bohemian airs by eating tofu and wearing North Face windbreakers. They were all gibbering gaily with seaweed and barley stuck in their teeth.
The Teshes signed a couple of autographs and then concentrated on their menus. A cold feeling of destiny pounded through my body. I reached into my duffel bag and prepared for the final confrontation.
I had dressed a blow-up sex toy in my brother's clothes, complete with Mariners baseball cap, tennis shoes and gloves. Then I had glued a picture of his face to a William Shatner Halloween mask, which I strapped onto the doll's plastic, lamprey-like head. Although the arms and legs flapped at the ends, the posture and overall appearance was pure Randy.
Under the shirt of this effigy I had taped a cassette recorder. I pressed the play button and the poignant strains of "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" by The Hollies wafted out.
I broke past the startled maitre d', and, holding the homage above my head, ran towards my nemesis. People screamed, Graham Nash sang, and Randy flew like some avenging angel out of The Old Testament!
Then the unexpected happened...John Tesh kicked my ass. He's a big man, and I hadn't even started to recite my Smooth Jazz Manifesto when he lunged forward and started to punch me about the face and neck. I went down hard, with Connie Selecca and some of the wait staff kicked me in the genitals and John Tesh yelling, "You want a piece of The Tesh?" or something like that while performing vicious flying elbow drops on my neck.
I barely made it out of the Genial Asparagus with my life. I jumped in my car and floored it. Randy was losing air fast and flying all over the place and I was bleeding and calling my lesbian friends Joyce and Darla from my cell phone when I jumped the curb, hit a telephone pole, and crashed into this Starbucks Coffee shop.
And then you found me, officer. Now you are looking at a man who has failed in all his best efforts, who battled evil and lost, whose belief system has foundered and collapsed in front of his very eyes.
So. What kind of music do you listen to?
Joel Haskard writes stories for cash. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.
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