A scripted, absurdist take on history, pop culture, animals, religion, conspiracies, music, books, language, the paranormal, insects, Johnny Appleseed, The Harlem Globetrotters, McDonald's, Satan, God, humanity, crows, Reptilians, alternative medicine, bees, Eddie Vedder, Americana, Esperanto, Platypuses, me, you, him, her, them, and whatever Chris Gaines was supposed to be. Rife with lies. Sometimes there are songs.
References and allusions include, but are not limited to: God, Jesus, Mork and Mindy, NASA, Armageddon (movie), Aerosmith, American Idol, the United Nations, Freemasons, Bill Nye, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Degrasse Tyson, the New World Order, Satan, New York, Lutherans, Facebook, YouTube, PIZZA HUT, Disney, Metallica, Isaac Newton, "God Bless the U.S.A.", Pokemon Go, Feminism, the Coriolis Effect, Admiral Byrd, Red Bull Stratos Felix, Apollo 8, Strawberry Kiwi Shasta, Carl Sagan, Albert Eistein, Apple, Reptilians, and Mole People.
The First Night of College
It's 2001, and I have just arrived on campus at the University of North Dakota in the city of Grand Forks for my first year of college.
I am excited, slightly nervous.
Grand Forks is only 81 miles North of my hometown, Fargo, and several of my friends are going to be here as well. This will be a lot like high school, only better, I assume, but I don't know, really. Most of my knowledge about college life comes from Saved By the Bell The College Years and I can't imagine that's very accurate.
I'm excited to learn, I'm excited to party. I would very much like to lose my virginity. I am very typical.
I've driven to Grand Forks in my Cobalt Blue 1994 Chevy Cavalier, a terrible plastic car. I wanted to, as a joke, get a personalized license plate that said FNKYDVA. I am now glad I didn't do that.
My father has followed me to Grand Forks to help me get settled. He and my mother have just divorced. I am glad to not be in Fargo for all of that.
We unload my stuff. Some books, clothes, a gorgeous blue iMac, fresh from Best Buy. We say some unsentimental goodbyes, and I sit on the curb to smoke my first cigarette as a free man and contemplate my new life.
My prospects are good. I'm out of the house, finally. My parents are divorced, finally. That was a long time coming. This isn't the greatest college in the world, but it's fine. I'll maybe stay here for a couple of years and then transfer somewhere else. What do I want to be? A writer, mostly. Maybe a teacher. I think most writers also teach. Journalism? Maybe journalism. I'm not so concerned about any of that now. My social life is what I'm concerned about. Meeting girls. I want to meet girls. And I want to drink. Drink to meet girls, that's the goal.
I am intelligent but not smart.
I am perhaps the most free I have ever been or will ever be. I could get in my car and leave here. That option has always been in the back of my mind. I could, theoretically, walk up to any kid here, theoretically start a conversation, and begin a new life path.
I don't do this.
My friends begin to arrive. Brady, Jake, Jamie, Travis, Tony. I've known all of these guys since we were kids. I have not gone far outside of my comfort zone.
Once we're moved in, we gather in Jake's dorm room to make plans for the night. Jake's dorm will become a central meeting point as he will soon have driven his roommate out with a plan of making himself impossible to live with and leaving dildos everywhere. Jake's room will soon become barely inhabitable. One night, ripped on whiskey, with whiskey left, but out of chaser, we will take some pudding cups out of his mini-fridge while he is in the bathroom and chase the whiskey with that. He will be furious that we have stolen his pudding. He will become more furious when he notices that we are getting cigarette ash all over his floor, as though he's not the worst offender. He will yell at us. Jaime, who is an a*****e, will look him dead in the eye, drop his cigarette on the flour, and grind it into the rug with his foot. Jake will lose his mind and kick us all out. By the time I get back to my dorm, just down the hall, he will have left a message on my answering machine. It goes like this:
"I'm sick and tired of you guys coming into my room, eating all my pudding cups, and putting out cigarettes on my floor!"
He will then call my mother at 2 in the morning and make the same complaint to her.
This quaint anecdote is my freshman year of college in miniature.
This is a digression.
Hello, friend. Welcome back to The Irrationally Exuberant. I hope you're taking care of yourself in these troubled times. Which brings me to our topic: Self Care, specifically, dealing with depression. I have it, you, I assume, have it, since you're listening to this show. Your Mom's probably got it. Your Dad's in denial about his, has never done the work needed to overcome it and has instead repressed the deep sadness he feels intrinsically, but also about dreams unfulfilled, potential untapped, relationships irrevocably harmed, and maybe expressed that hurt as anger and resentment over some perceived change in the world that has left him behind, a victim of some ambiguous other.
Little Timmy Messerschmidt: Dis isn't funny, Weid. Dis is pwetentious pwojection and not neewy as cweve as you fink it is. Why do you even botha? Does anybody even listen to this widiculous show?
Oh, hello Little Timmy Messerschmidt. Ladies and gentleman and ungendered friends, this is Little Timmy Messerschmidt, a little boy/physical manifestation of my depression. Timmy, I thought you were sleeping?
LTM: I don't neva sweep, I jus west. Isn't dis show just a futile attempt to mask the meaningless of wife wif artistic pwetensions wifout actuwawy physicawy exposing youself to the outside wold? Isn't dat just a wittle pafetic? Yo a gwown man doing goofy voices in his basement.
God, Little Timmy, you're just awful, but also painfully insightful. You know, that may be somewhat true, but that's what everybody does, or just about everyone. I understand that life is meaningless, probably, but that's fine. There's literally nothing you can do to give it meaning, so why worry about it? Even if I were somehow performing this show in front of thousands of people and effusively praised and rewarded, you wouldn't go away, right? You'd still have negative things to say about it - probably something about selling out or being an imposter or whatever, right?
LTM: Hey wememba all dose times wen you were wiwy dwunk and you cawed wike evwyone you know and just wambled on wike an a*****e? You fink they forgot about dat? Or do they just constantly have in da back a der mind how widicuwous you weawy a?
Uh. Timmy, I'm trying to do an episode here. I don't have time for this. Why are you a little boy, by the way?
LTM: Dunno. I fink you jus had dis dumb voice and fot it would be funny to make it say depwessing fings. So owiginal.
You know what? Since I've got you here, and this show's about depression, why don't you just plop down in that chair and I'll ask you some questions. You're going to be here whether I want you to be or not, so you may as well make yourself useful.
LTM: Weawy? You wusuawy jus igno me. Wew . . . okay. Dis is all jus a finly veiwed and gimmicky pwemise dat you have aweady done befo wif Foam Chomsky.
Great. How old are you?
LTM: I'm dis many!
He's flashed all ten fingers three times and then held up eight of them, so thirty-eight. Same as me. Makes sense.
Let's try this another way. Can you think of any reason you might look like a little boy?
LTM: Wew, maybe I'm da age you were when you stahted to wealize dat maybe wife wasn't pewfect and yo pawents wasn't pewfect and evewyfing didn't wevolve awound you.
I assumed I was a bit older when that realization came. You seem like, three, maybe an immature four.
LTM: Wew, I guess you assumed wong. You pwetty dense awot of da time, even do you fink yo soooooo smart, or act wike you do, anyway.
A few years back I got the itch, as I often do, to start a new podcast. I mostly ignore these itches as scratching just makes it worse, but this time I could not. I began writing and planning a solo show called Reid Messerschmidt Gets Metal. I was going to start it like this:
Hello. I'm Reid Messerschmidt - a 34 year old father and husband. I have a house and many things - four vintage globes, a vinyl collection, and a desk job among them.
I'm a culture snob. An elitist. What's charmingly known these days as a libtard cuck. A low T Beta, as they say. A snowflake.
I enjoy musical artists like Belle and Sebastian and Jimmy Scott and The Smiths and Edith Piaf and, sometimes - a lot, really - Neil Diamond. I think he's criminally under rated and I like to talk about that opinion as though it were objective and important. I’ve spent significant time with the Pet Sounds boxed set and I love documentaries, Ingmar Bergman films, calling movies films, feelings, books about feelings, bike rides, progressive (not prog) agendas, and quietness. I don't love injustice and toxic masculinity. I say things like toxic masculinity.
I’ve been known to sport a cardigan.
As such, I am not a metal guy. I like to think that I know good music when I hear it, regardless of genre, but metal is a blind spot. A big one. And I don’t just mean the music.
Metal is more than a genre, it seems to me. It has a built in culture, and that culture feels impenetrable and scary. I've dabbled around its edges, sure. I went through the requisite Metallica phase in Junior High-school. I saw Corrosion of Conformity live once. Also, Korn. I liked the former and not the latter, though, to be honest, I went into the Korn show with a pretty bad attitude.
Let’s see . . .
That Roots album by Sepultura is pretty rad. I predictably kind of like Deafheaven, as they are the metal band that guys like me are supposed to kind of like.
I enjoy what I’ve heard from Hawkwind, but I haven’t gone very deep with them and I'm not sure they’re very metal.
I think occult stuff is fun, but I didn’t care for the Lord of the Rings movies and I’ve never read the books.
I don’t care for dragons.
I’m not particularly angry. Occasionally perturbed? Yes. Often annoyed? Sure. Riddled with angst? Less, in my old age.
And not angry.
To me, at this point, metal represents rage, a spectrum of masculinity that I find completely foreign, and a complete disregard for fashionably good taste that a big part of me admires. It’s a home to a lot of unrepresented folks in the ongoing culture wars, some that I get, many that I don't.
So I want to get metal. And that’s what this podcast is all about.
I’ve made a list of every metal band that I can come up with, From Sabbath to Cannibal Corpse to whatever the f**k is going on with metal right now. I honestly don’t know. Based on some cursory internet searches, it looks to consist mostly of skinny guys with neck tattoos and Hot Topic haircuts calling each other fags and arguing about absurdly specific genres designations.
For the most part, I only know the band names. I’ve purposely tried not to really listen to any metal yet or find out too much about any one group.
I’ve chopped that list up and put it in something very metal – a skull to which I've applied Norwegian Black Metal makeup – and each week I’ll draw a name out of the skull, deep dive into whatever band comes out,
The last two episodes of the show were heavy, so this episode is just a compendium of weird things that people said to me when I worked at a grocery store.
* I'm strolling through the meat department on my way to the back of the store, undoubtedly to eat a "damaged" box of fruit snacks or take a brief nap behind a pallet of store brand soda, when a woman stops me. She's maybe 30 or 35. A white woman, no accent. Looks put together. No "this person is insane" alarm bells are going off. I tell you this because an unfamiliarity with the English language or severe mental illness would seem to be the only logical explanations for what happens next.
She's holding a box of Suddenly Salad, a pasta salad starter kit. She's pointing to a word on the back.
"What's this?" she asks.
"Um, pepperoni?" I say, reading the word. Perhaps she's dyslexic.
"Yeah, what's that?" she replies.
This woman did not know what a pepperoni was. Clearly she was an alien disguised as a human but missing a few key pieces of human information. I tried my best to explain that pepperoni is a slightly spicy meat commonly found on pizza. She seemed satisfied. I remain perplexed.
* There is an old man named Pete. He is a regular. He pushes a cart around the store nearly every day, his breathing apparatus in the child's seat, griping about this and that, occasionally trying (unsuccessfully) to convert me to Conservatism by misquoting dumb lines from Winston Churchill, who, though a hero, was also an a*****e, just like Pete.
Today, he pushes his cart up to me, with a stern, unhappy look on his face, a bag of peanuts in the shell next to his breathing apparatus.
"Your peanuts are stale!" he says.
"Well, Pete," I say, observing the thick coat of peanut dust on his breathing apparatus, "that doesn't seem to have stopped you from stealing them."
Pete goes on his way, eating more stolen, stale peanuts.
* Another regular, whose name I don't know, pushes her cart up to me. She is Eastern European and very nice, but her accent is thick and communication is sometimes difficult. I'm happy to do it though, as she is very patient and appreciative. And she's doing exponentially better than I would if I were in her home country.
"Where . . . is . . . karakas?" she asks?
Thinking fast, despite a hangover, I reply, "Eastern Europe, I think?"
I am wrong, of course. Caracas is a large city in South America.
"No, no," she says. "CARACAS." She puts her hand to her mouth and kind of pantomimes munching.
"Oh, CRACKERS!" I exclaim. "Aisle 9."
* A co-worker approaches me.
"There's an angry woman in the cheese section. Can you go talk to her?"
I sigh, and head toward dairy. There is a woman standing by the cottage cheese looking furious.
"You're out of 2% Cass Clay Cottage Cheese?! How is that even possible!"
I think, "I don't know lady. Dairy shortage? Tipped over semi? Tainted batch? Other customers, hungry for delicious cottage cheese? The answers to your question are endless. Maybe try one of the other THREE BRANDS of the exact product you are looking for or go with the 1% version of the same brand!"
I say, "I apologize. We should be getting more in tonight."
She is unsatisfied.
* There is a man who has been brazenly stealing from the store. His MO is as follows: He takes a cart,
The idea of sobriety, to a drunk, is terrifying, far off, and totally necessary. To maintain the delusion that you are a reasonable, functioning, GOOD person, you must always have it in the back of your mind – Someday. Someday I will get sober, of course. This isn’t forever, just for now.
Sobriety is a fiction – like writing – you wield to keep yourself drinking.
Someday I will stop. Of course. The voice that whispers this is the same voice that says f**k it, and it says them both with utter conviction, utterly convincing, so long as you don’t stay sane long enough to really interrogate it.
When you do start the interrogation – if you do – the voice reveals itself as a serpent in the potential Garden of your mind. Not Satan – you’re not getting off that easy – but a great deceiver nonetheless.
The interrogation begins with visibility. You have to shine the light on the voice, like a haggard detective teasing a confession from a smirking criminal. You have to admit to yourself that it is a problem, that it lives inside of you, and that it does not live inside most people. You have to see it. To identify it. To name it.
Faced with the actual, impending, absolutely necessary reality of sobriety as opposed to the abstract idea of it you’ve lived with for years or decades, the serpent raises its voice, talks faster.
“Turn off that f*****g light! Let’s talk, in the dark, quietly, like we always do.”
It doesn’t want you to know its name. It certainly doesn’t want you to speak it.
It took me a while to say to myself that I was an alcoholic, and even longer to say it out loud.
When I finally did, I was writing a story for a storytelling competition. I led with,
“Hello, my name is Reid, and I’m an alcoholic,” knowing damn well that every other alcoholic in the audience would immediately chime in with, “Hi, Reid.”
It was a joke. I had to make a joke of it to speak the truth. That’s almost always the case for me.
The first time I said it to my wife – Said, “I am an alcoholic” – I was reading her this story, probably two years after I’d stopped drinking.
That’s how stubborn the serpent is. Two years of being sober and I hadn’t summoned the strength to name him aloud.
Until that time I acted as though I was doing it for Kelly. For us. She said she didn’t want to have a baby until I had a year of sobriety.
That seemed reasonable.
So, as the good folks in Alcoholics Anonymous say, I white knuckled it.
I just didn’t drink. I wrestled the serpent, all the time, and there’s a reason snake wrestling isn’t a recognized sport. It’s hard and no fun to watch.
When the serpent’s words aren’t working – “She’s gone for the weekend, she’ll never know. What harm could it cause? No one will know but you and it will be such a RELIEF”– it starts to squeeze.
Some squeeze harder than others. Mine, like me, wasn’t particularly brawny. I didn’t have much for withdrawals. I didn't drink every day at the time I quit, just on weekends, so my body wasn’t relying on a daily intake, didn’t depend on it.
But, for some people, there are major physical consequences to quitting cold turkey. There can be seizures. You can die.
I got lucky, but don’t use my luck as inspiration. Talk to your doctor. Don’t dry out alone.
So my serpent didn’t squeeze very hard, but goddamn can that thing keep talking in the face of scorn and resistance. And its memory is pristine.
I will admit I wasn’t sure what I was getting into , but in glad I stopped by lol I will be back for more, I love learning and laughing 🤣... very entertaining ✌🏼❣️~Lydia
Excellent find! We came across your show and decided to give it a listen - very glad we did! The hosts are a breath of fresh air and a joy to listen to - the topics are interesting and bingeworthy. Keep up the great work <3 Yergy & Drewby
This podcast is sooooooo good
I didn’t know what to think when I heard about it but this podcast is so much fun, you learn a whole lot and laugh a whole lot more! This podcast also deserves waaaaaayyyyyyy more attention