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Riding on the Dotted Line

By Nathan Payne | pablosmoglives | 22 Dec 2022

Tonight, while picking limes from the tree out back so I could prepare my nightly bowl of boots & cream, I decided against watching the news, the amateur battle of the bands that is a proxy war between the heated elite and most of humanity, held in a sinking high school made of worms.  If the Syrian conflict was a proxy war with Russia, the U.S. elections are a proxy battle of the bands between an amateur hardcore band and a bunch of accountants who play beer-belly rock on the weekends.  Which side are you on?  Will you save the world and rock out with Tardlicker 2024?  Or do you prefer The Absolute Suits?

Is Tardlicker a hardcore band, a political affiliation, or a wrestler with dementia?  Are The Absolute Suits really playing their instruments, or is it karaoke night for air guitarists and professional lip-sinkers?  How are we supposed to synch our ships when we can't even sink our lips?  All we ever do is fight.

Is there any hope at all?  Or will Tardlicker win again?

Let's ask Wilco.  Apparently, they've written the Gen X "Touch of Grey."  Finding this song was like finding a winning Bingo ticket on the floor of a Tardlicker show.  It didn't help my state of mind, unless sprinkling some musty glitter from the 90s on a bunch of memories you thought you were finally rid of is somebody's definition of "helping."

I tried Wilco back in the day, but never got into them.  But I love this song.  Great video too.

Y'know what.  I don't care.  It did help.  It helped a lot.  I don't feel any better, but I'm not as unhappy about being sad as I was a few hours ago.  Thanks y'all.

The first lines in the song aren't true, of course, but John Lennon's "God" is a true song anyway.  It also happens to be one of the best and most beautiful songs ever written.  The suits and professional content conveyors at the Mind-Cookie Factory will never understand.  The world is their sugar-coated legal document, and we are all blood oaths, riding the dotted line to its grisly, unavoidable conclusion.  Here's a dotted line I signed in Utah:


Here's the same dotted line in Nevada.  It's a long and winding contract:


I signed my signature over a space of several hundred miles, with a giant Sharpie made of burning rubber.  I had to pull over and take a leak somewhere toward the end of my first name, and spent the night somewhere near the "y" in my last name, but I finally signed it.  I've actually signed it a few times.  I've signed it so often, I stopped using my real name, and started signing "Pablo Smog Wuz Here" instead.  The next time you're lost in space, look down on Highway 50 between Fallon, NV and the intersection of I-15, and tell me you can't see "Pablo Smog Wuz Here" written out in rubber like crop circles, symbols spilled like a giant bowl of marbles by an alien with Tourette's.

The windshield is dotted with the corpses of a thousand squashed regrets; bugs and bad decisions baked to the surface of the glass through which I view the world to the point that there's no way to traverse the document without doubting the validity and value of your existence.  By the time you get to the "wuz" part of the deal, you start to wonder, "what, exactly, am I doing here?"

What does the contract actually say?  Wuz I even here, really?  This piece of blacktop upon which I have scrawled my existence in a blackout, like a phone number on a napkin.  Am I here?  Have I signed my birthright away to some chick at a rest stop, in exchange for a place to crash, like Esau and his bowl of soup?  Should I have put my sticker somewhere else?  On a million-dollar bill instead of a billboard in the middle of nowhere?  What do these roadsigns say?



What does "Welcome To Nevada" actually mean?  Not in English.  In English it means "Welcome to the North Pole/No Hunting."  I mean, what does it mean, in the esoteric language of the nomadic drunken blood oath.  In the lexicon of the open, empty road, what does it mean?  Have I wasted my life?  Am I an in-valid?  Have I invalidated myself, like the size of my fanbase suggests?  Am I an effective invalid?

Or have I gotten what I paid for?

Bobby Fischer thinks so.  He discusses the art of songwriting between the 3:00-6:00 marks of the video linked below, and it's nice to hear.


He gets it!  Somebody gets it!  I'm not an invalid, invalidated to the point of needing other people to feed me.  What I do is legit.  Thanks, Bobby Fischer.  Though, to be more exact, it's not the words that are precise.  It's the syllables.  It's not an accident, singing "childern of the wilderness," as opposed to "children."  Children doesn't whryme with wilderness.  Childern does.  It matters.

And if you're not aware that the "ts" sound in the "z" of "Mozart" mirrors the "st" sound in "roasted," just a few years later, I mean words not years, in the song "San Francisco Here I Come," then you're not playing nano-ball with the microscopic wrenches of syntactical precision reserved for the mechanics of subatomic clown cars that explode directly into your bloodstream, releasing a rush of compressed, brightly-colored dopamine that carbonates your mind until your brain cells begin to bubble back to life, and should probably stick with the monosyllabic insults of the kind commonly heard at Tardlicker rallies.

You know.  "We're so change," and the like.

Unlike the monosyllabic shouting reserved for the gyrating, venomous snake-handling contest that passes for art in a society in which political debate resembles an open-mic night for professional wrestlers relapsing on methamphetamine, in real songwriting, every subatomic clown car counts.

I'm not telling you about it to boast about it.  I just want the other and/or future mechanics out there to know it's intentional, and to encourage them to deconstruct words at the sub-syllabic/cellular level, which will give their lines an even finer point.  Cut words in pieces like so many worms writhing around in a Biology lab.  You won't hurt them; the syllables will writhe around on their own, independent of the word they were formerly attached to.  And who knows?  Maybe you can graft them on to something else.  Create another line entirely.  A language.  Possibly even a false belief system, a narcissistic mirror you will be tempted to construct to fawn over yourself in the event nobody pays any attention to what you're doing.  You can do anything you want.

When it comes to the writing, the only relationship that matters is the relationship between you and it.  What other people think about it, one way or the other, good or bad, is of no importance.  If your relationship with your writing isn't solid, if you're insecure about it at any level, you'll embarrass your writing in public like a girl you don't really love.  If you actually need to hear your work complimented so you know other people approve of the relationship, you will out yourself as a loveless fraud, a worthless husband who has no business with a pencil, or a wife.  Or, you can cheat on your writing by taking other people's disdain for it seriously.  You will break your writing's heart, either way.  Don't do it.  Have a monogamous relationship with your work, or have no relationship with it at all.

Of course, it's always possible to wear your writing on your sleeve, like medals on a uniform.  Your relationship with the songs shouldn't be based on the finished product, it should be in the process of writing them.  That's when you really hang out with them.  The finished product is great, obviously, and hopefully inevitable, but songs are not medals.  They are the grease on your hands, and you need to wash them off before hanging out with people.  Nobody wants to see your fingerprints on the potato chips.  Music is not something you wear to receive compliments.  The reward comes in hearing the engine purr, alone in the garage, after tinkering with it for hours, or minutes, or decades.  That's the fun part.

If, in spite of all your efforts to remain true, they do attempt to invalidate you, and you're neither invalid nor an invalid, and have a solid, monogamous relationship with your songs, remember:  It's themselves they are invalidating, not you.

Thanks for listening,


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Nathan Payne
Nathan Payne

I am a songwriter and bandleader who travels the world in search of the golden ticket.


Replacing my blog at

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