I Can’t Quit You Baby
by Molly Lambert
I encountered Alex Carnevale for the first time freshman year, at a mini-festival of staged readings of one-act plays. I don’t remember if we actually ever met that night. We occupied the same room and made immediate value judgments, which is almost the same as meeting. It wasn’t until later we discovered our brains had been switched at birth. The theme for the evening was “States of Matter.” My play was about an aging Las Vegas showgirl and her daughter trying to sell a casino’s neon sign. Alex’s play involved sleeping bags, a birthday party, and lesbian incest.
We finally met for real in a thuper silly experimental music-based playwriting class sophomore year. Despite being preternaturally self-aware, I have only the vaguest concept of what it’s like to interact with me. Much like the way one is unable to really visualize their own face, I can’t step outside of myself enough to imagine what knowing me is like for other people. Alex called my personality a construct but I swear I was born talking this much.
I knew right away that Alex and I were on a similar plane. It helped that he wasn’t a completely insane drama kid, like most of the class. He understood that when I presented a six minute long “sound composition” of guttural noises I’d recorded into a makeshift mic in the second class I wasn’t being serious, though I managed to keep kind of a straight face. Soon I was exchanging glances with Alex every time something crazy was said. So, a lot.
This awesome ubertwink wrote a musical about gay preteens prostituting themselves for Barbie Dolls. There was YMCA locker room action and BDSM and Jerry Falwell getting sodomized. The professor kept very calmly objecting to it on the grounds that it promoted negative stereotypes about homosexuality, and would ask the kid who wrote it what he thought about that. He was just like “waaaaaaaaaaaaaat“? You could not have composed better awkward comedy with the writing staff of The Office and Andrew Bujalski at the helm.
My friend Sean, who was also in the class, wrote a rock opera about Joseph Smith and the founding of Mormonism. I wrote a musical called Bake-Off! and I believe Alex wrote some short stories about Middle Eastern politics and made them into a Power Point slideshow with a soundtrack. All of these works remain unproduced professionally.
Sophomore year I still had a radio show on BSR called “Live From The Masterdome.” It was ostensibly a Radio Drama show, but I quickly figured out that recording and editing radio dramas is incredibly slow and difficult. I mostly just played Bob & Ray recordings. Somebody eventually snitched to the station manager that I had played the David Byrne/Brian Eno record “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” in its entirety on two separate shows (not true) and I got axed. Working there sucked by that point anyway so I wasn’t too upset.
The only real original content I ever solicited for the show was a story that Alex wrote, which he read on tape. I don’t remember if I sat there in the station while he recorded it. Maybe he does. The story is also very hazy in my mind except that I remember it being in the first person, and that there was a section where the narrator describes trimming his pubic hair with nail clippers. This prompted an outraged caller to light up my in-studio phone line for the first and only time ever.
“What kind of a show is this?” she rasped.
“What?” I said.
“What do you mean filth?”
“Trying to make me sick…”
“Why did you listen to it?”
“Why would you say such disgusting things on the radio?”
“It was a short story. What didn’t you like about it?”
“YOU KNOW WHAT!”
Apparently there are still some things too obscene to describe on the radio, personal grooming among them. Alex and I became real friends more or less after that. Especially once he persuaded me to start writing a column for the arts section of the school newspaper, which he edited.
It wasn’t until junior year that we realized we shared a birthday. This was in the dark ages of social networking websites, so it was actually learned in person through a conversation about astrology. Alex loves to talk about astrology. We are both Virgos. Alex is older by a few hours and taller by like a foot. Much of our friendship was conducted in alleyways and over IM, but it was there that our plan for world domination took shape. Like Bill and Hillary, we mapped out the next twenty years of our lives in painstaking detail and promised never to get weird about the whole ‘open relationship‘ thing.
I’m going to turn the radio incident into a play. I am thinking Liev Schreiber should definitely star as Alex. Rather than break the WGA strike or my personal Dramatists Guild strike, I am going to be the First Playwright of YouTube. Everything will be incredibly talky and abstract. You know, like Samuel Beckett. To recreate the theater experience, you will have to sit in a really uncomfortable chair while somebody lingers behind you watching over your shoulder the whole time. And then you’ll have to go eat something and discuss it afterwards. Viral Theater! Get ready for it in 2k8!
Alex Carnevale. Congratulations on bagging Naomi Watts.
Thank you Alex. You are an awesome friend. You are the Mulder to my Scully, the Isaac Bickerstaff to my Poor Richard. We are kindred philomaths and it has been a pleasure and a privilege to blog with you thus far.
Molly Lambert is the senior editor of This Recording. She wasn’t serious about the open relationship. She would not put up with that bullshit for one second, much less twenty years.
TIME TO GET THE LED OUT
Babe I’m Gonna Leave You – Led Zeppelin: mp3
Your Time Is Gonna Come – Led Zeppelin: mp3
Communication Breakdown – Led Zeppelin: mp3
I Can’t Quit You Baby – Led Zeppelin: mp3
How Many More Times – Led Zeppelin: mp3