The Guy from the Counting Crows
I was telling them that I used to have long hair, and they wondered about what I used to look like. “A homeless rock star, that’s what!” I had big hair in tight curls with hoop earrings and all manner of jewelry, and they looked at me in front of the chalkboard with my red tie and white shirt, and they couldn’t believe it.
Back in those days, people used to tell me I looked like the guy from the Counting Crows. They never told me the guy’s name. I guess he was famous, but he was not famous enough to know his name. It was always the guy from the Counting Crows. I could be running in the rain in the middle of the night, trying to get back home without an altercation in my sketchy neighborhood, and a man would be turning away from the dumpster where he was occupied and he’d say, “Hey, you look like the guy from the Counting Crows!”
I knew the band but didn’t know what any of them looked like, so I assumed it was true. One day, I was at a nice outdoor cafe with my girlfriend, and we had ordered cabernet sauvignon with our splendid lunch. My girlfriend was the hottest girl in sight. The San Francisco sky made the atmosphere on that little stretch of sidewalk shine only for us. When we took sips from that wine, it came with a slight olive aftertaste that could only be experienced to be comprehended, and I couldn’t believe it was just five dollars a glass. I went inside to go to the restroom, and when I came out, the entire staff of the establishment was lined up on both sides waiting for me, and the manager brandishing a large smile told me, “You’re the guy from the Counting Crows.” I told him I was not the guy from the Counting Crows. But they wouldn’t believe me. He kept asking me if I was sure. I guess they thought I was putting up a front because stars don’t want to be bothered while taking time with their hot girlfriends. Maybe the staff were determined because they had a bunch of autographs I needed to sign or something. I told them I was not the guy from the Counting Crows, and the manager said, “Okay,” never dropping the smile. Back at the table, we ordered two more glasses of that amazing wine, and when I got the bill, I noticed the wine was twice as much as I thought it was. That made the wine the largest accessory of the bill, and I got the waiter’s attention to tell him I thought there was some kind of mistake. The manager came out with the same large smile and he said that there was no mistake but that it was okay, that they would charge the amount I had assumed. And then he gave me a wink.
If I were the guy from the Counting Crows, I probably wouldn’t have said a thing. Think about it. Well, things went on like that, with the occasional outburst when someone thought I looked like the guy. I was now convinced that I must have been his double. And then one day, I saw him. It was a chilly Thanksgiving. My girlfriend and I were out of town in a cheap hotel, and it was one of my only opportunities with a TV set, since I did not own one. She was sleeping behind me as I sat mesmerized on the bed, flipping through the channels when I found a guy in dreadlocks and some scattered facial hair talking to a mike, and under him it said that he was the guy from the Counting Crows. It’s a shocking experience to come across your double. There’s a primal danger to this, as if there were really some truth behind the stories of doppelgangers, and I was wondering if I were his doppelganger or he were mine. But the worst part about it was that not only was he not good-looking, he looked like a bum that needed a wash, and yet there was no denying that I was looking at myself.
I finished my story in my red tie and white shirt, and they never interrupted. I was telling them it was uncanny, because it wasn’t just that the guy looked like me or that we partook in the same fashion styles; he had a certain something beyond words that matched my certain something. They were like oh my god, they couldn’t believe it, but they had never heard of the Counting Crows.
Yes, it is very much like a recipe; it is a recipe for making a bomb. The kitchen is a donut shop. Here are the ingredients.
Eat donuts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is the life intake a person who works in a donut shop follows. If you are this person, you argue that you’re doing it to save money since the donuts are complimentary to workers of the donut shop. You spend most of the day at the donut shop, going in and out to take care of other life matters.
Agitate these ingredients with the requirements of children, taking them to school, feeding them, taking care of them when they’re home, and then going back to the donut shop to do the evening shift before closing it.
Stir in a limit of two hours of sleep a night since you need to go back to the donut shop to make the donuts at 3 am. When you return at 5 am, you need to start getting the kids ready for school again.
It’s important to take a wide view of life, arguing once again that you’re doing it because you have kids. Likewise, you smoke cigarettes, and you’re doing it because it’s the only thing you do for yourself. And yeah, you already know they’re not good for you.
Add in generous amounts of coffee. You need the coffee because you need to stay awake, and it isn’t always easy, and you need the coffee to thin down the donuts.
Once you have all these elements boiling in a kettle, clasp a lid over it, and lower the heat to a simmer for about ten years. Even though you made this, you will be caught by surprise one day when you discover the simmering concoction you left on the farthest plate of your stove all those years ago, and that is when your ear detects the ticking sound.
As familiar as this story sounds, it always catches us by surprise. As familiar as I am with these scattered details, this is a story that was told to me. And though we all recognize this recipe, the very specific ingredients are one of a kind, and they belong to this one man who has lived life in this one way. I don’t know who this man is, but these are all the facts as I received them. I can only guess at what the results will offer.
No doubt, this becomes a reality to the man when that strange sound begins harassing his inner ear. The ticking sound finally comes to disturb this man when it gets louder, when it actually affects the way he makes donuts, the way he pursues his livelihood, and the way he takes care of his family. When the sound gets so loud, it actually gets in the way of everything, he will no longer concentrate on keeping everything together because the sound won’t allow it.
Since this is a concern, he goes to doctors, and the doctors urge extreme measures. During open-heart surgery, his time bomb is only seconds away from exploding in their faces.
Rey Armenteros is a Los Angeles-based painter whose expressionistic brand of surrealism was largely shaped by the Far East iconography he encountered during his several years in Seoul, Korea. He writes a blog on the methodologies of art titled, Through Concentrated Breath.