5.1 – Voice Training

The next year at Artsy Lawless I signed up for Voice Training. It was taught by The Voice Professor, an old Downtown NewYorkCity Reality who always wore a bright yellow and green sweatsuit that made her look like a parrot.

First she needed to figure out whether to put you in Amateur Group Training or Expert Private Training, so you hadta do an audition where you sung something you already knew by heart. I had never sung before without The Radio being on at the same time and couldn’t remember the words to things without it. When it was my turn I had to be honest.

“I don’t know anything by heart,” I said.

“Uh huh,” The Voice Professor said. “See that’s not true, cuz everybody at least knows how Happy Birthday goes.”

“Happy Birthday” is a song about wishing someone is happy on their birthday. All the words are known by every Reality everywhere.

I did know that song, and sang it for her, but it didn’t give me a chance to match any high and powerful vocals. I couldn’t help sounding like a kid who just wanted the song to be over so they could get cake and presents.

“Uh huh,” she said. “We’re gonna put you in Group Training.”

Group Training was me and several other Realities. The Voice Professor would make us stand in a row, and she’d go down the line and sing nonsense words at us like “wawamamawama,” and then we were supposta sing it back. Some Realities were able to repeat it exactly, and then she’d go “uh huh” to them. But most Realities just quietly mumbled the wrong pitch, and then The Voice Professor would ask them if they could cry.

“Yeah,” they’d say.

“Well,” she’d say. “If you can cry you can sing. Now go ‘Waaah!”

Then they’d try to go “Waah!,” but they still wouldn’t do it right.

It was like this for a long time until one class The Voice Professor said we could finally sing a line from a real song of our choice. The only thing I could think of was the “oh whoa whoa whoa oh,” part of Journey’s “Faithfully” cuz it didn’t have any lyrics to remember. I knew there was a good chance the class was full of MeNotzies who hated that song, but most of them had also embarrassed themselves by poorly singing nonsense words so I went for it.

“Uh huh?” The Voice Professor looked confused. “Could you sing that again?”

“Alright,” I said.

Then I sang it again, and she squinted her eyes and leaned her ear in right next to my mouth. Her eyes suddenly widened.

“Ooh!” she said.

She hadn’t said that word in the class ever before.

“Can you sing the rest of that song?” she asked.

“Not the words,” I said.

“What about the sounds? Can you just sing the sounds?”

“Maybe.”

Then I did the song just singing ‘la’s’ instead of the lyrics, and I realized I did know the melody and was actually nailing it.

“Uh huh!” The Voice Professor said. “I think you may… I think just maybe… You’ve got It.”

“Got what?” I said.

It.”

“What’s It?”

“You don’t know what It is?”

“No.”

“Uh huh, well, It is The Gift.”

“A Gift from whom?”

“The Goddess of Music.”

“Ohh!”

After that I didn’t have to go to Group Training anymore, cuz I was in Private Training.

4.17 – The Black Dragon

“It’s alright, Kat,” I said.

“RRROWWW!” HateKat said.

“It’s alright, Kat, It’s alright, It’s alright…”

“NO, IT’S NOT!”

“It’s alright, maybe there’s another Chinese place we can go to.”

“NONE OF THE OTHER ONES ARE ANY GOOD!”

“It’s alright, let’s just go anyway.”

“FINE, WE’VE ALREADY GONE TO THIS MUCH TROUBLE!”

Then we got back in the car and she hate-drove us to a place further down the street called The Black Dragon. It was in a dingy old stripmall, and their window had a picture of a horrible, mean-looking, flame-mouth, flyingbeast with chopsticks in his claws. I didn’t want to go in at all, but arguing with HateKat about it was out of the question.

When we got inside it smelled bad, and everything was stained, and there was no hostess.

“THIS PLACE IS SO BAD! HateKat said. “THEY JUST EXPECT US TO SEAT OURSELVES?!”

Only half of the tables were set, and the one we picked wobbled. Then HateKat made us move to another table, and that one wobbled, too.

“THEY PROBABLY ALL WOBBLE!”

And then we just stayed at that one.

“THE SILVERWARE IS SMUDGED! AND WHY IS IT TAKING THEM SO LONG?!”

“It’s al…”

“STOP SAYING IT’S ALRIGHT!”

Eventually a waitress appeared and we were able to order General Tso’s Chicken. When it got there, it was somehow just as good as Golden Lion’s, maybe even better and maybe even better than Wolf’s. It’s goopy brown batter was so sweet but also so spicy, and the chicken was piping hot, and the rice was pure, and the broccoli was crunchy, and it had lots of adorable baby corn.

“Yum” we both said.

It was so good it actually helped calm Kat down out of her HateKat state.

“Well, I did always like getting General Tso’s with you,” she said.

“MeToo,” I said.

“So we didn’t really get a chance to talk last night. Why are you out West again? For school or something.”

“Kinduv.”

“Like grad school?”

“I don’t really wanna talk about it.”

“But I actually have no idea what you’ve been doing for the last couple years.”

“Oh, ya know, nothing really…”

“Why’s it got to be such a big mystery? Just tell me.”

“Maybe cuz it’s something you don’t like.”

“What is it? RockNRoll School? Are you trying to be a RockStar, cuz the odds of you making it are so…”

“No, you’ll hate it worse than that.”

“The only thing more impractical than that would be trying to be a Reality Traveler or something.”

I didn’t say anything.

“But you’re not a Reality Traveler,” she said.

“Actually…” I said.

I flinched back waiting for The HateKat to strike across the wobbly table with knifey claws that I’d have to Roll With. But it didn’t come. Instead she just let out a deep sigh.

“You?… but aren’t ‘reality travelers’ supposed to go out and meet lots of people. You never made any friends at ALC except for me. You never even left Our Own Place.”

I shrugged.

“I mean, isn’t it just something insecure kids make up to feel important anyway?”

“No, it’s a real thing. There’s a whole Training School for it I just graduated from.”

“But what are you going to do for a career?”

“Deliver pizza very part time.”

“Seriously?”
“Maybe drive a cab very part time one day.”

“But those aren’t Adult jobs.”

“Reality Travelers aren’t supposta become Adults. It makes us sick.”

“That makes no sense.”

“It’s alright…”

“Why didn’t you tell me all this before?”

“Sorry. I wanted to be in Love with you more than Reality Travel. But then I realized it was time for me to fly. Like the REO Speedwagon song.”

“Well, I do like Speedwagon.”

“MeToo.”

“But, I just feel bad for you.”

“It’s alright, Kat.”

Then we didn’t know what to say after that. The waitress came back with the check.

“I guess I’m getting this,” Kat said, and I let her.

“I’ve gotta go cat-sit now,” she said.  “You’ve got a place to stay tonight, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. “El Puma Reality.”

Then we left.

4.16 – HateKat

After calling The Professor I knew I desperately hadta go to The Reality Travel Training School. He told me to finish my degree at Artsy Lawless, cuz getting my ass kicked by all the fake Traveler MeNotzies would be good for me. And he told me I hadta tell Kat I was a Reality Traveler and going to Where-ThePlains-Meet-TheMountains, no matter what I thought her reaction might be.

It was hard cuz I didn’t want Kat to ever become The HateKat. She was starting to turn into it a lot. Something would go wrong, or the weather would change, or there’d be no reason at all, and she’d come at me swinging with claws and leave scratches.

“What’s wrong with you?” she’d suddenly say.

Then she’d hit me with something from The Great List of HateKat MeNots.

  • YOU’RE SO LAZY
  • YOU GET UP TOO LATE
  • YOU’RE SO MESSY
  • YOU’RE A BAD DRIVER
  • ALL YOUR CLASSES ARE STUPID, ESPECIALLY PSYCHOLOGY OF ROCKNROLL BANDS
  • YOU HAVE NO FRIENDS HERE
  • YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO ANYTHING
  • YOU’RE THE WORST ADULT EVER
  • YOU’RE PROBABLY GOING TO END UP DELIVERING PIZZAS FOR A LIVING
  • YOU’RE A BIG HELPLESS BABY AND YOU WANT ME TO BE YOUR MOM AND DO EVERYTHING FOR YOU
  • YOUR ALLERGIES AREN’T EVEN THAT BAD
  • YOU’RE JUST A COWARD
  • YOU’RE NOT NORMAL
  • YOU NEED A THERAPIST
  • YOU NEED TO CHANGE
  • LOU GRAMM IS A WAY BETTER SINGER THAN STEVE PERRY
  • SOMETIMES I JUST HATE YOU

When I heard things from the list I wouldn’t know what else to do but say, “It’s alright, Kat,” and duck.

Still The Professor seemed like the kinda person you should do everything he says. So I came up with a plan to break the news to Kat. First I was going to play her “It’s Time for Me to Fly.” REO Speedwagon was the next closest thing to our other favorite bands, and I figured she’d MeToo it, and it would keep her from becoming The HateKat. Then I’d tell her the truth about me and Reality Travel.

I was just about to do it too, but then we had The Last Talk.

“We have to talk,” Kat said one night when she came back from work.

“Alright,” I said.

“The lease is running out on Our Own Place, and I don’t think we should renew it.”

“You want to get another place?”

“No, I think I should move back in with my parents, and you should move back to The Dorms.”

“Why?”

“Because you don’t care about me at all anymore.”

“That’s not true.”

“If you did you’d be trying harder to be an Adult.”

“I’ve been trying.”

“Maybe a little at first, but lately you haven’t been trying at all. It’s like you’re distracted with something else.”

I knew it was time to tell her about Reality Travel, but I couldn’t stop looking at her mouth. I could too easily imagine how it would start turning into the shadowy skull fang mouth of The HateKat. I didn’t want to annoy it and cause it to say the worst thing that could possibly be on The Great List of MeNots, “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

“Yes, you do,” she said. “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

“No, there’s not.”

“Now is the time to say it.”

“Everything’s al-fucking-right, Kat!”

Then it happened. There was a screech and a roar and a bony dark claw swiped at me.

“You’d talk if you were in Love. YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS AT ALL!”

I couldn’t think what to say, except, “Leave me alone, you horrible mean HateKat!”

Then I went into the bedroom and closed the door and never explained anything to her. And she never asked me to again. We just kinda stopped talking all together. Then we moved out and stopped seeing each other all together. It made me sad, and I didn’t like it, but at least she didn’t turn into The HateKat again and get to say the worst thing that could possibly be on The Great List of MeNots.

4.14 – Track #6 of The Great Trip Mix – REO Speedwagon’s “Time for Me to Fly”

Our Own Place had a garage with enough room for one car. Since Kat was way better at parallel parking we decided to let me always park in the garage while she parked on the street. One day I came home from school, and her car was in the garage tho. I hadta double park and run inside and ask what was going on.

“It’s only fair I get the garage sometimes too,” she said.

“But what if I can’t find a spot?” I said.

“Eh.”

Then I hadta go back outside and try to park on the street, but none of the gaps were big enough to fit in. The best I could find was way down the street, and its gap was still only the exact same size as my car. When I started to back in it seemed like I was going to hit the car behind me, and then I hadta pull out and try again, and then it seemed like I was going to hit the car in front of me. I pulled in and out several times like that but still wasn’t getting any closer.

“Need help?” someone on the street said.

It was a tough, gritty looking Just-Outside-County guy with eyes that popped out of his face like a bug. I wanted to shoo him away so he couldn’t watch me anymore, but he buzzed right on up to the window.

“I can get it in there for you,” he said. “I’m a Great Driver.”

I liked the idea of someone else parking for me but also wondered if it was some kind of MeNotzie trick.

“How do I know you’re not just fucking with me?” I said.

“Why would I do that?” he said. “We’re neighbors.”

I didn’t actually know he was my neighbor, cuz I hadn’t Traveled to any of the Realities on the street before.

“Hey” he said and held out his hand. “I’m Fly.”

When I rolled down the window and shook it, I got the strange sense that I could trust him.

“I think this gap is too small tho,” I said.

“Nah,” he said.

Then he motioned for me to let him in. I got out and went to the passenger seat, and he got in the driver’s seat and took the wheel. In one swift move he perfectly backed the car in without touching the other cars.

“Wow,” I said, “thanks!”

“It’s nothing,” he said. “I’m better at driving than anything else.”

“I’m worse at driving than anything else.”

“You could get better.  You’re young.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, what’re you in college or something?”

I told him where I went.

“No kidding?… You a Reality Traveler?”

“You know about Reality Travel?!”

“Yeah, I usta be one.”

“I was gonna be one once, too.”

Then I told him the whole story and how ALC was actually a MeNotzie school and how thank god I met Kat who Loves me and now we’re going to be Adults together.

“I bet you’re starting to get The Malaise tho, aint ya?” he said.

“What’s that?”

“You know once you get The Calling there’s no going back, right? If you stop Traveling you’re letting down the fucking Gods, and they’ll make you sick and depressed.”

“Sick like how?”

“Like that congested voice, and those red, watery eyes you got.”

“I have a cat allergy.”

“Trust me, it ain’t the cat. You’re allergic to being an Adult.”

“You can be allergic to that?”

“Oh yeah, if a Traveler tries to do shit like work a lame job or watch TV all the time or start taking their clothes to the dry cleaner, it will really fuck with your system.”

“Is there any way to get rid of The Malaise?”

“Only one way.  You gotta start Traveling again.”

“But my girlfriend hates Traveling. I’ve gotta be an Adult for her.”

“You could try, but The Malaise is just gonna get worse and worse.”

“What do I do about Kat then?”

“Hey, if she can’t accept you for what you are, maybe it’s time for you to fly. Ya know, like that one Speedwagon song.”

REO Speedwagon’s “Time for Me to Fly” is a song about leaving a MeNotzie. Sometimes you let someone Dominate you for a long time until you finally get fed up and can’t take it anymore. Then you don’t want to waste any more time in their Reality and escape in the fastest possible way, which is flight.

I knew the song from The Radio and always liked it, especially the high and powerful way frontman Keven Cronin sings the word “fly.” It makes you want to start suddenly soaring thru the air no matter what you’re doing.

“But I can’t leave her,” I said. “She’s probably my SoulMate.”

“I don’t know,” Fly said. “Wouldn’t a Reality Traveler have a Reality Traveler SoulMate?”

“That does make sense.”

“Look man, you don’t wanna end up like me. I usta be the best Traveler. I was SuperFly, and I was quick and fierce and no swatter could get me. I MeToo’d via fast cars, and I’d drive to any Reality anywhere anytime without getting tired or losing my mind. But then I got seduced by a MeNotzie wife and had a kid with her, and then I hadta get a fulltime job to take care of them. And just like that I was trapped forever like one of those fucking flies that buzzes between the window and the blinds until they slowly die.”

“So you have The Malaise?”

“Hell yeah, I got The Malaise. I’m a truck driver who delivers Dr. Pepper to the local gas stations. I’ve had a runny nose for like nine years straight.”

“Oh.”

Then he took out his wallet and pulled a card out of it.

“Hey,” he said. “If you do start Traveling again, you should take this.”

He handed it to me and it said…

THE REALITY TRAVELER TRAINING SCHOOL

WHERE-THEPLAINS-MEET-THEMOUNTAINS

And there was a phone number on the bottom.

“It’s a Calling Card,” he said. “You hafta receive one to get into the Training School.”

“What happens there?”

“A select few are chosen to become better Travelers.”

“How did you get it?”

“This might sound a little crazy, but I got it from a bird.”

“What kind of bird?”

“I dunno. I dunno the kinds of birds. It was blue.”

“It handed it to you?”

“Kinduv, it was on a tree outside my place, and I couldn’t stop looking at it for some reason. I mean, it was very blue. I said ‘whaddayou want bird?’ and then it swooped over me and the card fell from the sky right into my hands.”

“Wow… but you didn’t go?”

“Never even called em.”

“Maybe you still can.”

“Nah, it’s over for me.”

“Am I allowed to call this number tho?”

“Why not? You’re a Reality Traveler.”

“Well, isn’t a bird supposta give it to me directly?”

“Sometimes this is the way Reality Travel works. For all we know the bird gave it to me so years later I’d give it to you.”

“Wow.”

Then Fly noticed the time and started to get nervous.

“Shit,” he said.  “I gotta fly now. The wife’ll squash me if I’m gone too long.”

“Alright, thanks, man.”

“Yeah, now what’s the goddam saying again?… Oh yeah, be brave Traveler and don’t forget The Gods are on your side… unless, ya know, you quit.”

Then we said goodbye, and he got outta the car and flew to his apartment, and I never ended up seeing him again.

When I got back to Our Own Place, Kat looked at me suspiciously.

“It took you that long to park the car?” she said.

But I ignored her and went straight to the bedroom and closed the door and called the number on the card.

“This is The Professor,” he answered.

“Hey,” I said. “I think I just received The Calling Card.”

“Yes, you have, Jonathan.”

I hadn’t told him my name tho.

4.13 – El Puma Calls

I was in the middle of another Full House episode when El Puma called. El Puma is a LoverMan Traveler from the far off and exciting Realities of South America, who I knew from my last year at Artsy Lawless. He was living in NewYorkCity now, and I’d told him I was gonna Travel to his Reality that day.

“I am at the NewYorkCity Department of Driving and The MeNotzies have taken over,” El Puma said. “If you are near you must come at once.”

“I’m still in Kat Reality,” I said.

“How soon can you be here?”

“I dunno. What are The MeNotzies doing?”

“I was taking my written Driver Test when my pen ran out of ink. I then very politely asked the man next to me if I could borrow one from him, but he said ‘Are you crazy? That’s against the rules. We’ll both fail the test.’ I said ‘My deepest and most sincere regrets for bothering you, sir.’ Upon which he then did hand me a pen and said, ‘Just fuckin’ with you. Here ya go.’ I asked him why he had not been honest from the beginning, and in response he told me to ‘Lighten up.’ Needless to say I did not accept his pen. Traveler Jonathan, have you ever heard of such a MeNotzie?”

“Sure, he’s one of those I’m-Just-Fuckin-With-You MeNotzies. They could easily MeToo you but choose not to for a cheap laugh.”

“Yes, that is exactly what he was! Tell me, how do I respond to him?

“I dunno.”

“But I assume you have learned tactics in your Reality Travel Training for such a situation.”

“I guess so.”

“What is the matter? You do not sound well.”

“I’m just tired.”

“Ah yes, I can imagine one who Travels to so many Realities must become quite fatigued.”

“Sortuv.”

“Perhaps tho you can summon enough strength to Travel to NewYorkCity?”

“Maybe. It’s pretty hard to get there tho.”

“I believe it is really not too difficult. You take the train from Just-Outside County Station and then transfer to the subway at…”

“Eh.”

“Eh? What is ‘eh?’”

“You hafta remember the subway is very hard for a non-NewYorkCity Reality to figure out.”

“Ah yes, I did not think of this. Perhaps you can drive here in your car then?”

“Yeah, but then I’d have to parallel park somewhere, and that is also very hard.”

“Ah yes, I did not think of this either.”

“I think I’m just going to stay in this Reality for awhile. Kat’s being the LoveKat so far.”

“Ohh, why did you not say so earlier? Love with a chick is the most important thing, and you must not leave if there is a chance of having it.”

“Yeah, and I usta show LoveKat what Love is like all the time, so we might do that again.”

“Then stay. But if you want to Travel after the Love, you may find me tonight at Artsy Lawless, where I will be having my own Love with Mi Amor who is still a student there.”

“Alright, maybe.”

“Do not worry, Traveler Jonathan. If you do not make it, I will understand and feel joy for you.”

“Thanks.”

After the call I started watching Full House again.

“Hey, wait,” I said to the TV. “How come Uncle Jesse’s not getting The Malaise at all?”

4.12 – Full House

When I woke up the next day at Kat’s parents’ house, she was gone at work. Your Son was lying on my neck and licking me all over. My face was so snotted up I hadta do a full head-dunk in the sink before I could do anything else. I took a double dose of Benadryl Perception, grabbed some Fudge Grams and went to the couch. It seemed like maybe there were other Reality Travel things I was supposta do that day, but I watched episodes of Full House on TV instead.

Full House is an old TV show about Reality Travel. In it a Musicman Traveler, known as Uncle Jesse, is trapped in an overpopulated house of nothing but Adults and Children who adorably say Adult things like “How Rude?!” He is supposta be MeTooing the World with RockNRoll, but instead the Full House Dominates him into becoming a babysitter. They make him do things like take the Kids to School, and enforce bedtimes, and change diapers. He’s so busy there’s never enough time to Travel on his motorcycle or make MeToo songs.

My favorite episode was when Uncle Jesse is finally sick of Domination and tries to break free. He rides his motorcycle far away to his old Reality Traveler allies, and they play music together again, and some of them are pretty girls who really like the way his voice sounds.

“Yes, Uncle Jesse!” I said to the TV. “Stay there forever.”

But talking to the TV didn’t help. Eventually the Full House lured him back by tricking him that one of the Kids was sick and he was the only one who could make her well. Then Uncle Jesse was brainwashed into realizing he actually Loved the Kids more now than Reality Travel, and he never left the Full House again.

“Aw,” I said. “I guess you can’t blame him too much. The Kids are very adorable.”