This Must Be the Place

Photograph by Jose Padua

Tonight I let out a Tourette’s grunt just as Heather was trying to record a greeting for the voicemail on her new phone. When she played it back, the first thing you heard was me in the background—my voice deep and coming up from my gut—going, “HUNNNGGGGGAAGGGGGHHH!” Following my vocal tic was the sound of Heather’s voice saying, “This is Heather. I can’t answer your call right now…”

Heather’s new voicemail greeting, I thought, sounded beautiful. In fact, we all loved it—Heather, Maggie, and I (and, if he had been listening at the moment, I’m sure Julien would have loved it too). It was like Heather and I had inadvertently collaborated on some sort of combination sound poem/found poem. We laughed at its absurd grace. We were in awe of how it seemed to get to the heart of everything.

Maggie and I each told Heather she should use it as is for her voicemail greeting. But, since she gets a lot of calls from her office on her cell phone, we agreed that it might be better for her to re-record it—without my part. There isn’t much room in the professional world for odd, grunting noises. Or for sound poems or found poems, for that matter. People would be asking for an explanation, saying, “What was that?” And “Are you OK?”

Or, they might not say anything, but think us odd, weird, or perhaps even scary. Which was fine, but we have to make money, and so often money looks down on what is odd, sneers at anything it deems weird, and steers completely away from anything it thinks is scary.

This is why, at home, we are artists, driving away the money we make at our day jobs. Driving it away except for that little bit that’s fine with our being odd, the leftover cash that pays for the weird things we love, and that tiny fraction that doesn’t fall from our hands because it’s scared. This is where we live the best part of our sometimes hard, sometimes just sort-of-hard, and always peculiar lives.

This is, indeed, the place.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua


2 responses to “This Must Be the Place

  1. What a lovely observation of life. I’m sure many of us secret and not so secret poets and artists can relate to this. It also made me laugh and remember younger years when answer phone messages could be weird because we didn’t care for “normality” and thought we would make it as “we” wanted. One message had my classical guitar playing as an intro and accompaniment, another involved 4 of us impersonating a hamster doing a parachute jump, another was just us all singing Wonderwall by Oasis. You get the idea. Shared houses and the beautiful naivety of youth. No wonder we didn’t get much freelance work and mostly ended up with payroll jobs…. 🙂

    • shenandoahbreakdown

      Ah, thanks! Yes, back in the day, when we were all younger, the Not-at-home phone messages were almost invariably created at less sober/less serious moments. I think the kids now use instagram or something like that for the funny stuff. Or maybe it’s just that our generation was the last one to be truly funny!

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