Flowers in the Attic

Guinea pigs, string theories, and old-timey music at the Attic

One can't help but feel a bit melancholy when one's guinea pig dies. I buried him in the front yard under the fig. Not exactly his favorite spot, but then again I don't live on an alfalfa farm. After I placed him in the hole, I spent the night worrying that the roaming pack of pit bulls in the neighborhood would dig him up and play hacky sack. Or worse, that the incantation I muttered as I lay him to rest would actually work, and I would soon hear the persistent scrape and guttural squeak of an undead rodent at my front door. But mostly I missed him. Go quietly into that good night, Quetzequatl.

Quetzie was still cold in a Corona box in the fridge awaiting burial when I went out to buy some more baby pigs; purchasing the newly christened "Petunia" and "Precious Moments" is how I dealt with his loss. Well, that and string theory. String theory is right handy when you want to remember the big picture and not get hung up on death. Essentially it creates one neat model of the universe by saying that instead of masses of particles roaming around willy-nilly, existence is actually bands of vibrating necklaces. Or something like that. The main trippy thing about it is that, if it's true (hasn't been proven yet), then there are way more dimensions than four, entire universes could be right next to us yet invisible, and the chances of there being other planets in other galaxies with life-forms on them is, like, totally possible. No shit, scientists at Berkeley and Princeton are actually talking like Art Bell, not Albert Einstein. Anyway, long story short, I'm sure my pet is chillin' somewhere nice out there in the chubby South American prey dimension.

I decided to mourn and ponder existence over a Boont Amber at the Attic at 24th and Mission. String theory talks a lot about gravity, and I couldn't help but question my own pull to return time and time again to this place in search of the elusive DJ Fancy Feast. (Loyal readers will remember my previous attempts at hearing the no-show DJ spin 78s on his Victrola on Wednesday nights.) The good news was, he showed up last week. The bad news was, his Victrola was in the shop. D'oh! He did, however, have an old record player that managed to do the job almost as well.

There is nothing better than listening to corny '30s jazz when you're sad. He played stuff like "Minnie the Moocher," but also '50s R&B, '40s standards, and old gospel. Slowly the bar filled up with hipsters of various shapes, sizes, and makes, though there is nothing pretentious about this place at all. The bar itself is festooned with rummage-sale gimcrack 'n' gewgaw (hence the name "Attic," methinks), dim lamps, and the scattered dots of light from an out-of-place disco ball. Elsewhere Cookie Monster rides in a big plastic go-cart with a pirate monkey, a bronzed couple dances underneath a lampshade, and old bus seats cordon off makeshift booths. And then, of course, there was Fancy Feast, a tall guy with mutton chops, rooting through his records in the back.

I first needed to apologize for saying he was lame in this column a few weeks back. Once that was out of the way, we proceeded to chat amiably about the Ink Spots, the Mills Brothers, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Fancy is shy and pulls at his clothes a tiny bit when he's talking to a girl, but after a few whiskeys he was happily humming along with the music and we sat quietly and listened together. People who are record geeks are soothing. They are always in search of some long-lost gem, and this quest keeps them going day after day, steadily plodding along. I guess that's also why I like string theory. Physicists are scrambling to find something called a graviton, a gravity particle that could prove the theory right. They are spending years digging through the effluvia of thousands of collided atoms trying to find the right vibration. They haven't yet.

I took a break outside and ran smack dab into a conversation between a guy and a girl about life and death.

"So, you're in outer space," he said, holding his hands the way someone would, er, hold his hands if he was floating in space. "You are running out of oxygen, you only have five more minutes! Then four, then three ... oh God, what are you going to do?"

The woman gave him a look like she didn't want to hear the answer. She knew this guy pretty well.

"Then you have no air at all," he continued, gravely. "You only have five minutes to get back to the ship. You're just about to make it, but in 30 seconds you will have brain damage if you don't get some oxygen. There is only one thing that will save you: You have to inhale one of my farts. Would you do it?"

We both agreed that we would but couldn't ignore the nagging question of whether or not farts have oxygen in them.

Back inside, Fancy was playing a co-dependent Peggy Lee song. We both got a bit somber, and I decided to tell him my sad news about my guinea pig. "Oh!" he said sweetly, putting his hand on my shoulder. "I'm sorry." He proceeded to tell me about his guinea pig who died when he was a kid, Petunia. "Petunia?" I said. "I just named my new piggy that!"

Whoa, synchronicity, or, like, closed necklaces. Big time. We sat still and listened to the requiem for a rodent, and just like that, I was over my sadness. My universe had reunified.

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