Anne Frank & The Frankfurters

Posted in Uncategorized by anna on July 2, 2009

Mike jerked off a lot. Like “four times a day – stop what you’re doing – in a Dunkin Donuts bathroom” a lot. He knew it was becoming compulsive, but he also knew the root of it wasn’t specific to sex, just fantasies in general. So by not jerking off, he would be removing the symptom, but not the cause.

His dad had been a computer programmer for the past twenty years and didn’t seem to do much fantasizing. He was a good father, methodical and rational and slow to anger, and had a severe peanut allergy. The only thing Mike had inherited so far was the peanut allergy.

He was turning seventeen, and asked his parents for a $150 starter Yamaha kit for his birthday because he’d just read an article in Rolling Stone about his favorite band in which the lead singer mentioned it all started when he got a $150 starter Yamaha kit for his birthday.

He told Dave Miller, with whom he smoked weed down the street on school nights, to do the same. Dave was generally less carried away by romantic notions of rock and roll than Mike was, and had to be convinced that a beginners’ electric guitar, basic chord book and amp the size of a balled fist was worth three shifts at Domino’s Pizza.

“Give me some Adderall,” Dave said, “and tell Kacey to stop calling me without making me sound like a dick, and I’ll think about it.”

After Mike completed these tasks and a series of similar favors, Dave was on board. He was also on the JV track team with this kid named Sam who had once mentioned on the bus to a meet in Lawrenceville that he played drums. So Dave texted Sam and Sam was also on board and the three boys formed a skeleton crew of rock.

Band practice was always at Sam’s house, partly because of the drum set in the basement but also because his TV was big and his mom was hot. Every Wednesday after school Mike and Dave flew out of standard pre-calc, grabbed their guitars from the back of the band room and waited for Sam to get out of AP English Language.

Sam was the kind of guy who always had a girlfriend, and Rachel was the kind of girlfriend who always gave them a lift to band practice in her battered Seville even if it meant blowing off Philosophy Club (she was the president) to shuttle the boys through the semi-projects that circled the high school over to Sam’s upper-middle-class neighborhood.

Rachel wasn’t the hottest girl at school by a mile but she was okay-looking and smart and well-liked by everybody except Mike, because he fucking hated that she always parked the car on a side-street and helped them carry their shit into Sam’s house and sat silently in the basement watching, judging, as they jammed.

It drove Mike crazy, Rachel sitting there. Sam never talked about having sex with her, so Mike figured Sam was still a virgin like he was, and it was retarded to be pussy-whipped without getting the pussy. Rachel thought she was too good for all of this, Mike figured bitterly, being an honors kid and all up on extracurriculars and shit. She was in an SAT prep class, too, and probably didn’t even know what weed smelled like.

The first real hurdle the band overcame was figuring out the name. Dave thought of “the Pinballs” but Mike, being well-versed in these things, said it was too derivative. They went to Pinball Machine, then just The Machine, which felt too metal. Everyone was getting frustrated, except Rachel, who was obliviously hunched over her Kaplan test prep book at the counter.

Just then Sam’s big sister Talia, home from college and tan in her rolled-up Soffee shorts, padded through the basement looking for her cell phone.

“How about the Assholes?” she said as she rummaged between the couch cushions. And that was that.

Their first real song was “Border Woman.” Mike wrote it about Nancy Ortega, a chubby Guatemalan girl who sat diagonal from him in study hall and for the past three months had worked on the same doodle of her name in bubble letters on the front of her binder. He’d never spoken to her before. Mostly because she was in ESL and he figured it’d be a waste of breath.

The chorus went:

Border woman, desert skin
Open your gate girl, let me in
Sand in the hourglass, shake your hips
Taste tequila on my lips
Ooh, ooh, border woman.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, border woman. (x2)

From behind the drum set, Sam raised his eyebrows.
“It’s about Salma Hayek,” Mike said.

The Assholes’ first real gig was at the Yak Association for Men, an organization that Sam, Dave and Mike’s fathers were all members of. It was the annual Yak Cotillion, a cookout and semi-formal for the Yaks, their wives and children. Sam’s dad, the chapter secretary, got them a five-thirty slot right after the potluck appetizers and in the thick of pre-dinner Smirnoff hour.

They helped themselves to some salad and Pizza Bagels on the potluck table and chilled backstage, dragging around amps and tuning up. Mike peeked out of the curtain and saw all their parents at the table and Rachel with Sam’s family.

Suddenly his neck began to itch and he excused himself. In the bathroom mirror, bejeweled with stag horns, Mike saw bright welts starting to raise from his skin. He ran out and grabbed Dave around the shoulders. He could feel himself sweating.
“What the fuck,” Dave said, and pushed Mike off.
“I think there was a peanut in my salad.” Mike felt his throat constrict.
“Can you still sing?”
“Yeah,” Mike said, leaned over and puked on the yak hide rug.
At Sam’s family’s table, Rachel put down her calc textbook.

The gig was flawless. Sam’s drums were crisp and precise, Dave’s rhythm guitar was appropriately funky. And Rachel, her hand delicately wrapped around the mic stand, added a distinct touch to “Border Woman” while still delivering the raw sexuality of Mike’s words.
“Ooh, ooh, ooh, border woman,” Rachel sang as the Yaks and their wives swayed on the dance floor.
“She’s got a touch of Janis, don’t you think?” Mike’s mother whispered to his father as Mike puked up Pizza Bagels in the bathroom.
It was peanut extract in the salad dressing. Mike’s father, though afflicted with the same allergy, was methodical and rational enough not to eat anything in a potluck.

The following Wednesday they were sitting on Sam’s patio before practice. Sam’s mom came out with a pitcher of lemonade, smiling, and she leaned over the table to pour some glasses. Mike looked down her shirt and briefly forgot things like his middle name or the first line of the Declaration of Independence. Sam was talking, though.
“What?” Mike said.
“We were just saying how good you’d be at the triangle,” Sam said.
Immediately Mike looked at Rachel. She stared back at him, unflinching.
“Everyone is good at the triangle,” said Mike.
“You can still write the songs,” Dave mumbled apologetically, looking down at his sneakers. “We have a gig on Friday at Starland.”
“Fuck your triangle.”
Mike stood up, downing his lemonade with an indignation usually reserved for straight whisky.
“You guys are assholes.”
“We changed our name,” Sam said. “We’re Anne Frank and the Frankfurters now.”

The Starland gig created some buzz and sold some t-shirts and got written up in the county Time-Out. They got a small-time manager and some gas money for tri-state gigs. Before final exams ended, Rachel started skipping class to hide out in the library and write songs. Dave quit his job at Domino’s.
Mike graduated with a 3.3 GPA and went to a local community college. None of the Frankfurters were at graduation. They had a show in Connecticut that day that Pitchfork Media ended up covering.

By what would’ve been sophomore year of college they were doing regular cross-country tours. Mike talked to Dave on the Internet sometimes and chilled with Sam at a bar once when their schedules matched, over some winter break. They went to McGinty’s, a bar on the highway that they’d always driven past when they were underage. The floors were wet and Mike talked about college. Sam mostly listened, but mentioned they were all on hiatus from school, focusing on the band. They bro-hugged in the parking lot and that was the last time Mike spoke to any of the Artists Formerly Known as the Assholes.

Three years later Mike and his girlfriend were in bed flipping channels. He landed on Saturday Night Live.

“Leave it,” Mike’s girlfriend ordered, so he did. The musical guests were performing.

They looked like the Assholes’ more attractive, slightly plastic cousins. Rachel had extensions. Dave was wearing eyeliner. They were in the second verse of Border Woman, which somewhere along the five-year journey had acquired a ukulele, three ethnic backup singers and a synth player who struck just the right physical chord between alternatively and conventionally attractive and probably had a drug problem.

“She sounds kind of like Janis Joplin, doesn’t she?” Mike’s girlfriend said, and Mike agreed.

Later they turned off the TV and she gave him a handjob, but there wasn’t really any enthusiasm.

If Mike had bothered to re-route Rolling Stone to his new address, he’d have seen a two-page spread on Anne Frank & The Frankfurters that featured a photo shoot in full World War II regalia as well as an interview with all 4 members (in which the synth player, named Josh, discussed his drug problem).

They were lauded as controversial, brash young talents, but amidst all the glory, Dave was the kind of guy who tried to keep his feet on the ground. When Rolling Stone asked how the band had gotten together, he told them it all started when he got a $150 starter Yamaha kit on his birthday.


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