As you doubtless know by now, in 2010 I went and gave a plenary at UMW on the Liberal Arts in an era of Just-In-Time Learning, drank more than any human really should at the various parade of after-events, predicted the coming onslaught of xMOOCs in a drunken vision, and ended up going back to Jim Groom’s place at like 3 a.m. to drink some more.
It was at that point, where my liver was already in the process of packing its bags and moving to find a home in a saner individual that Jim Groom asked me a fateful question.
“So,” he said, “What do you think of my den?”
I looked up and noticed we were sitting in a den.
“It’s nice,” I said.
I don’t remember much more about that night, but I did wake up back in the hotel, so that’s good.
It would be the last time I would drink to that level, because, no joke, I was hungover for three days. Welcome to age 40, time to stop acting like a teenager.
I forget the next time I saw Jim in person, but it was at one conference or another. Someone tried to introduce us, not knowing we go way back (2007?) and Jim said something to the effect of “Oh, I know Mike, we go way back. Last time he was over my house he insulted my den.”
I tried to piece together fragments of that night.
“I said it was nice,” I said.
“Yes,” he said, “Nice. You said it was ‘nice’. I worked hard on that den.”
This was the beginning of #denwars, which would come up anew at every conference.
But this week, heading to ELI, I realized there is another side to the story.
On the way back from that 2010 UMW event I took Amtrak, and I started writing an album called Double Phantasm. (The title is a pun involving John Lennon’s Double Phantasm album and the Derridian notion of hauntology. This is why I’m currently outselling Taylor Swift).
The first song on it, Queen of America, was loosely based on an events of that week. And until yesterday I thought that was the only song that bore any relation to that trip. The rest of the album is a science fiction concept album that details the dying romance of a man and a woman during a post-apocalyptic future. (Again, these hot song ideas are the secrets to my stunning success).
But giving it my first relisten in several years on the plane, I was suddenly struck by the last song, “Like a Great Big Meteor“. It’s the final scene of the four song apocalyptic romance.
And there it was, in the setting of the final scene of that album. It was Jim’s den:
If all we have is now,
then what did we have then
as she sat across me nervously
in what used to be a den?
Here, in this verse, looking for a scene which would contrast former suburban opulence with post-apocalyptic decay I could find no better setting than Jim’s den. The world is over in this song, but what we miss is the den.
The song is rough, as all my songs are (I spend hours writing and tinkering with synth settings and textures, and then basically record a demo-level version of the song in thirty minutes, because I like writing and synths but hate production and singing). Sometimes this style of production works, and sometimes it doesn’t. It sort of half-works here.
But if you listen to my rough vocal on that track you can hear the raw and powerful emotions that Jim’s den stirred in me.
So there you go Jim. I did say your den was “nice”. But that was only because the depths of my feelings for your den could only be expressed through art. Perhaps we can now lay to rest the den wars.