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Where in the World is Edgar White?

By Dom Sinacola & Edgar White | 27 December 2005

It’s not often that non-musical calamity makes it into the conversational ranks of CMG; even rarer is the presence of the same calamity among published CMG pieces. Which is why I’m reluctant to divulge the following when 2005 is so ripe for be-all investigation. Even so, I need your help. We need your help. We’re in something of a disastrous situation: we’ve lost one of our own.

He hasn’t died, for all we can fathom, he has just disappeared. Completely. If you have seen or heard from Edgar White in the last week, please contact someone at CMG immediately. He is direly missed, and his absence is devastating, not to mention befuddling, for anyone lucky enough to have met and/or talked to him in the last year or so.

The mystery does not end there. We have scanned and printed, below, the last known correspondence from Edgar. It’s a letter, addressed to me, found on the foyer table in the apartment I’ve shared with Edgar since August. As his handwriting is slightly illegible, I’ve transcribed the text, changing little except for glaring aberrations. We are only trying to provide as much information as possible in the hopes that someone will be able to garner something important from his writing, something that we may have missed. You can see the pages of Edgar’s original letter here: Pg. 1 | Pg. 2 | Pg. 3 | Pg. 4 | Pg. 5 | Pg. 6

The (much easier to read) transcript:

Dated: 12/20/05

Dear Dom,

I need to be frank about some things because I don’t have much time. Or, at least, I don’t think I do. This is all very strange and confusing, but how strange and how confusing are measurements better left for another time; when there’s not a wall-sized portal to another dimension pulsing in the middle of our living room.

I’m leaving that empty space as a pause in the letter because I know this will be hard for you to understand. I know you’re thinking that I couldn’t possibly know what this thing is, or where it leads, or how it got here, or what it’s made of—although, from here at the coffee table, it seems kinda gelatinous with a penumbra of blue mist. It’s making this high-pitched liquid whistle hiss noise, and it looks, well, like a vaginal ovoid, only not very inviting, to me at least. ME! FOR ME!! Why only for me, this amazing sight? I’ll be the first boy in my family to leave Earth!

I don’t think you’ll trust how easily I’m taking all this, witnessing a huge, incomprehensible gash in Space/Time erupt in the confines of our living space, calmly scribbling something for you, frankly not caring whether you can picture the situation or not, because you read Young Adult novels and eat up this hackneyed teenage angst shit. I’m not going to pretty up real, cold life for you so you can digest it tidily. I’m not Steven C[hbosky] or whatever the fuck his name is. You pansy.

But then again, 2005 catered to the likes of you, didn’t it???

There was something sissified about this year, something bloated and precious in the air. It hasn’t become clear to me until now—poised before the Seams of the Universe—the manifestations of such a Grand Whimpification, and I want to leave you with some thoughts (half-fulfilling a half-promise to Scott, and halfly because I’m trying to work up the nerve to leave). Such [are] my parting, y[ear] end ruminations.

I’ll keep it reactionary because, as you know, I don’t listen to music, I go to shows.

In February we saw the Single Minded PRós open for the Perceptionists at the Abbey Pub. Both were pretty tame, the PRós unable to get past some slappy gangsta schtick, despite being fronted by flimsy EV out of Evanston (how can we forget the label that sucker your nuts until you said something remotely negative about Copperpot?), and Ak getting flustered by the audiences’ cigarette smoke. Then Lif gave us a lecture about lung disease and acted like his freestyling was undeserved amongst our unhealthy ranks. This is from a guy who’s in a group called the Perceptionists.

In March I saw Aesop Rock at the Metro without you and with sweet little Sally. Aes had gravel-scoured diction, which wasn’t a surprise, but surprisingly clear over the mic. SA Smash waved his nuts around, wandered into a hooded gimmick after one song, and did little to save Hangar 18 from tripping over their own lyrics. Lif was back being Lif: Choruses were cropped and b-boy stances sidled out of the lights to let DJ Big Wiz scratch a belated valentine to his doughy girlfriend, doe-eyed offstage. Then they all got back to being all tough. “Tell em Aesop Rock sent ya just to hear his horn blow.”

You missed the show recently at the House of Blues. I saw Victor Wooten’s Soul Circus with Karl and Liam, and Bootsy Collins was supposed to be there, but I guess he flaked out. So…the Soul Circus sucked ass. They actually played two versions of a song whose lyrics were, “My name is VICTA/ Playin’ like a playa play” and Victor held out his arms and did a tiny shuffle under the weight of his bass, kinda like what you would imagine Michael Flatley to do before ushering his legion of clovered minions off stage. Then “Lady Divinity” plucked a bass riff and rapped about what Cornell West might rap about if he were less eloquent. But supposedly she’s the only one in the world that can do that. At least the Wooten Brothers can put together some trippy free jazz shit when Victor isn’t worried about leading and being Mr. Flecktone. He’s got fast thumbs…and a bald spot he seems to want to cover up, barely ever looking down.

Thinking back, I’m starting to get a bit annoyed by how devotedly we followed Colin Meloy. I really don’t give a shit about all that Capitol talk and when we were demurely tsked at his solo show at Schuba’s for knowing cuts off Picaresque before the release date, I thought it was cute. It wasn’t until Intonation (and, then, after hearing Karl’s account of Vegoose) that I started to fight back urges to find Meloy at one of his many area shows and slap that goofy comb-over off his forehead. Sure, we seem to be the only ones complaining about muddy acoustics and the bass turned up too loudly at Intonation (oh, and it happened again at Vegoose? Are we just crazy?), but really, the Decemberists hide behind “literary” costumes, exist as competent, consistent, and likable songwriters but ride the crest of being the smartest band around, viable off the gumption of a unrequited quirk and a fine sense of anachronism, and then come out with a thoroughly unimaginative stage show. Predictable set, predictable antics, STEALING from Les Savy Fav. I liked it at the time, so maybe I’m lost inside the curse of saturation.

Speaking of hiding, Sigur Rós spent like 25 minutes behind a translucent white sheet as part of their new tour. OK, so, seeing them at a venue the size of the Chicago Theater was a mistake. Sure they got loud, that’s their thing, and they made well on promises to surround and enclose the audience, but patience was also a prerequisite, and most of the kids there couldn’t sit still or refused to SHUT THE FUCK UP. Two years ago, the crowd was enraptured. This year was more like being at Modest Mouse Lite. Which wasn’t a problem at the White Stripes in Detroit or at Illinois in Illinois. But both these artists are indelibly attached to the places I saw them at, the Stripes by proxy of Detroit garage legend and Sufjan obviously because of subject. The audiences didn’t need patience, they knew every song and expected special shows. The crowd fueled the spectacle more than the actual playing, maybe, which is alright considering the vibrancy of a live White Stripes stage at the Masonic Temple and the utter charm Sufjan’s able to carry. Anyway, I’d say they had their work cut out for them, but the opposite it true, whatever that may be, because I’d imagine having an ocean between the performance and performer’s Home would do something to the performance’s crowd.

And then there was Spoon, where you collapsed outside the venue because you couldn’t hold your alcohol. I’d say that’s pretty representative of this past year: either the image of you slumped against a brick wall with chowder in your beard or the quiet, pathetic little sound of someone’s insides lurching to the surface. Ya know, right on for Spoon, for naming their record Gimme Fiction during a year of fake chain mail. Sufjan has his adorable, maybe even transcendent naivete, Jack and Meg have a molester moustache and a duo, Sigur Rós have a home in Iceland and frustrating nospeak, Def Jux has it’s ego, Evanston rap their alienation in Evanston, Victor Wooten his indomitable forearms and fireworks; at least Spoon is being honest about wanting to be more than Spoon…or they don’t try to represent all minimalist indie acts out there even if they might be the best…or they don’t try to represent all spoons. Of course, Sufjan doesn’t bathe his music in demanding morals, but he lifts a million years of pain and failure on his back and hopes to purge the soul-sucking grease from his gut by means of a grocery list. No dice. And Sigur Rós won’t change “Music” when the majority of the globe can’t get past their gibberish, and the rest have been waiting patiently since Agaetis. Takk…? Saying thanks sounds like they’re giving up.

So, Intonation made sense. Not the heat or the list of bands, but the moods of those in attendance. Yes, there were all kinds of people there, a lot smiling and dressing for the heat and staying hydrated. Dancing in the DJ Tent. The schedule was on time, Les Savy Fav was raucous, Broken Social Scene told us about violence in New York, etc, these are known. What we know, Dom, and what I think a lot of people don’t want to admit, was the tension brimming there. What would’ve happened if some bands were late, or if sanitation became a problem, or if some nor[th]sider got hurt coming out of the park? It was Pitchfork’s baby, and now maybe Chicago’s, but wouldn’t that make that Modern Independent Music’s baby, or Hipster Unity’s baby, or even Validation of Internet Music Criticism’s baby? Well, no, nothing that drastic, but the people that were there could act the part.

A lot of shouldering this year. The Year of Teary-Eyed Passivity. And we know better. Acting like a signpost for social, communal pain doesn’t really do much to strengthen inner character. You know what it does? It chips away at your insides, it bites your tolerance, and there you are with all your “responsibility,” acting big and whimpering in the bathroom. Sissies! All sissies! America is full of sissies!!! You’re a sissy, Dom, too, but you’d be the first to admit it, which is a sissy thing to do anyway, acting like you’re the fucking Internet Criterion of Sissiness. I dunno. I just think most of us don’t have it in us to do what needs to get done, and we should probably leave well enough alone. Are we suffering another lack of leaders and heroes that are able to actually represent, serve, protect, purge, or advance formative social causes, from major religions to, say, tiny sects of musically adroit sound experimentalists? I at least think it’s telling, the sine wave of Johnny Cash obsession since “Hurt” and his death. He was no sissy. And here he is filling in important gaps, carrying the weight of his time even though he’s a corpse.

Or maybe this is just your fault. OK, my fault too. I’m kinda involved. Putting labels on these artists, wanking in superlatives. It’s not Antony’s fault he’s a sissy; it has nothing to do with the whole transgendered part. But I do think it will be Sufjan’s fault when he crumples under the weight of another state.

I’m just going to go ahead and try not to be a sissy anymore. Our kind thrived for a time, and it was a ball, but now comes a decline, obsolescence, and extinction. Things will either become more whussified, or everyone will start being open and honest about their places in our culture[s], carrying only the burdens they deserve to carry, are capable of carrying…and those of us in the middle will be gone. I know this is hard to grasp…basically the portal told me all of that. Through telekinesis probably. It had a relatively soothing, if wizened, female voice. Anyway, I think it’s about time I skate out of here, exercise some spontaneity and assume I won’t die after stepping into the portal. I’ve never left Chicago, and now I’m about to leave this dimension, I think. That’s ironic, right? This is also more ostensibly erotic than I think you realize. That frightens me. Here, I’ll draw a picture:

I had a coffee and then I tested the vortex a bit. A teddy bear slipped through pretty easily and a toaster dropped when I let go. A golf club (yeah, sorry) lodged, then sank. I’m guessing it’s safe. I’ve reevaluated the texture of the front part and it’s more liquid than anything. The surface of a lake, murky and smothered in particles.

I’ll leave my shoes. Who knows, maybe this thing’ll still be open when you get home, you’ll see this letter, and you’ll decide to join me. How’s that sound? We can be brave together. If, instead, the fissure’s sealed, you’ll see my neatly placed shoes and get a hardy whiff of butterscotch in the air, because, I’ve learned quickly, that’s what intradimensional portals smell like. This isn’t goodbye anyhow. I expect to be back. I do. Swathed in light? Or maybe with some kind of stone core?…and in time to pay rent. I guess that’s it. All my best.

Your Friend,

Edgar White

P.S. Tell Newell to stop e-mailing me those Sudoku Puzzles. They are dumb and I don’t want my inbox clogged when I get back. And please don’t worry about my family, I left them a voicemail message with everything.

*****

Do not let the absurdity of Edgar’s words lessen the severity of his absence. If you have any information regarding Edgar and his whereabouts, please contact Cokemachineglow immediately. I have already filed a police report and have communicated extensively with Edgar’s parents. Please do not send money. We are only making this a larger case in order to widen our reach.

Personally, I doubt his story and, when discovering the message later that night, never smelled any butterscotch. His shoes were placed against the wall and a coffee cup held down his letter, but any other evidence doesn’t exist, as far as I can tell. I apologize for using Edgar’s words as a year-end culmination of my own, but this is only coincidence, and I think it’s something of a testament to his name to include them here. This is just how the year ends. Keep Edgar and Mr. and Mrs. White in your prayers. Thank you for your support.