October 5, 2009

Dow Da Bah Bwamp.

In Rural Somewhere, a boy enters his room and closes the door. His age is irrelevant, as is the year of this story. For simplicity's sake, the boy is timeless and infinite. The time, however, is 1:22 AM. He plugs his PRS guitar into his pocket-sized amp with his left hand while his right hand searches his nightstand for a lime-green pick. The white noise escaping the petite tubes is amplified at 10.

Holding the pick between thumb and forefinger, he plays a riff. It is the only riff he has played in the last 4 years and it is the only riff he will play until he dies. It is 4 notes. "Dow da bah bwamp" is the sound as described by the boy's neighbors, who have heard the noise reverberate from the boy's bedroom in the basement for the last 1,460 days at 1:22 AM. They have never once complained. In fact, some set their alarms for 1:20 AM, opening their windows or stepping out to have a sit on their porch while the riff is played. It is, for lack of greater definition, a tradition. Every day, at 1:22 AM, he has played the riff at full volume. No one can say why, exactly. The boy has never spoken of his affinity for the riff. In fact, outside of his room, it seems the riff does not exist to him.

Passersby in automobiles have been known to pull off to the side of the road when they hear it.

Some say the riff is so monumentally original and pure that nothing like it has ever been plucked before. For those who have heard it--and the millions of future passersby who have yet to--the experience is life-altering. Letters neatly stacked beside the boy's amplifier tell him that his 4 notes are the closest they've come to looking God in the eyes. A hand-written letter from Oakdale, Michigan hastily lays claim that the author disowned all of their tangible possessions in a quest for the inner purity they experienced during the 14-second riff. In St. Joseph's church at Sunday mass the pastor proclaims to his flock that "dow da bah bwamp" (or the "lime-green riff") is possibly the sound a deaf man hears when he has reached enlightenment. After the service, an elder member of the congregation whispers to the priest that she "has heard the infinite reaches of space being defined in 4/4 time." Another, when eating breakfast with his family, will liken the sound to "riding a horse made of fire while wearing flame-retardant marshmallow knickers."

Because of its unique characteristics, detractors have taken to stamping their feet and shaking their fists in outrage that they did not play the sound first. They will then tell anyone within ear's reach to listen to Jimi Hendrix's Manic Depression in reverse, in slow-motion to hear where the lime-green riff really originated. No mind will be paid to such outrageous accusations.

The riff is almost a religion to the surrounding counties. Countless times they have requested to have the boy play the 4 notes at a birthday party or even a festival. But what the fanatics may never understand is that the boy will never play it unless he is in his room at 1:22 AM. It's the only place that it feels "right." So while the boy's phone beeps 33 messages by lunchtime most days, he will leave them unanswered and unheard, because he knows that all but one of them will be requests for him to play "dow da bah bwamp."

The boy ignores adulation-soaked stares in the hallways at school. He does not accept donations from neighboring residents for the culture he has brought to their community. When congress finally gets around to passing a bill mandating that all television sets and electronic devices issuing any type of noise be turned off within a 4-mile radius from 1:18 to 1:28 AM, the boy will not gloat. Nor will he pay attention to the politicians arguing from behind desks on CNN about how much of a tax break should be given to a family containing America's foremost "national treasure." (It will eventually be decided that the family pays no taxes and that the rest of the state will be taxed additionally to pay for a bigger amplifier for the boy, which he will not accept.)

The boy will sit by himself most of the time. He will only open his mouth to speak around his immediate family. He will choose a life of solidarity (but not the type of solidarity that comes from being a monk, in which he would show his solidarity with a bunch of other people). The boy will die alone at the age of 74.

But today, tomorrow, and for the days that follow, the boy goes to sleep every night knowing that there is such a thing as a perfect moment. And he will experience that moment every night, in his room, at 1:22 AM. Until the day he dies.


  1. awesome story and writing! Seriously! I'm gonna share it with the fam (one daughter plays bass guitar)

  2. I loved it. Wish I could hear that riff.