Whose Torture?

‘Is the pink tie going to match?’

‘Will there be a music stand? Will I remember the chords? Am I going to Los Angeles next month? I haven’t run in two weeks. I’m so fat. My head aches. I think I have seasonal affective disorder. Will Tommy book my live recording at Rockwood? Should Walker play drums? Or Ryan? Man, what if we suck? How about a double album? I have to call Bill Isler. And Bill Moyers. What if my bonus blows? My hip aches. Should we move to Brooklyn Heights? Or Dumbo? Maybe we should stay on the Upper West. If we save $500 a month for two years… shit, we’ll never be able to buy a place. I should’ve bought that blue paisley tie; I’m not sure the pink one is going to match.’

There is a constant buzz saw of worry in my head. This morning, it woke me up at 3:30. This morning, the voice — my voice, a dull roar of questions, comments, haranguing and harassment — was accompanied by a soundtrack: a single, repeating verse from The Replacements’ “Torture.”

809 is rockin
With a party full of lies
And on the tenth floor smokin’
‘Til the sun’s about to rise
There’s trouble in 302
Can’t you see it in my eyes
Whose torture?

I rolled over and over in the sheets, struggling to hush the din. Nearly three hours later, as the alarm threatened, all fell silent, and I slipped into a brief sleep.

Later, walking north on on First Avenue, I set my iPod to “Torture” on repeat. The sun was peeking over the East River, brushing a thin whisp of clouds a brilliant pink.

“You’re tighter, and tired, and tied up too,” Paul Westerberg told me.

The city was waking up, and with it, my strange, sudden sense of punch-drunk resolution.

“Whose torturin’ who?”

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