by Kevin Sterne
People love Dad Rock. They love Dad Rock—not be confused with the rock band, Dads—so much that listening to Dad Rock has become some sort of subculture ritual for older generations and snake people alike. But I always thought Dad Rock to be very, well, plain. Like going for ice cream and getting a vanilla cone (Throw some sprinkles on that shit!). Still, I have some friends who swear by Dad Rock, i.e. how it’s changed them for the better. Since I am perpetually on a quest for noble enlightenment, I decided to give this Dad Rock thing a go.
But, as I told my editor, if I’m going to do this thing, I’m going to fucking do it. A week straight. No podcasts. No talk radio. If I go in a room and music other than Dad Rock is playing, I have to leave. I can’t listen to anything other than Clapton, Neil Young, Tom Petty and the like. My editor said to toss in Dave Mathews and The National for good measure. And that I need to pick between either Ryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen. I said, “what’s the difference?” My editor didn’t respond to the question, but she did fax me a waiver that I had to sign.
Day 1, Weight: 170lbs
Day 2, Weight 168lbs
I woke up feeling like hell. So I thought I’d put on some music to wake me up as I showered, brushed my teeth, etc. John Denver did not help. “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” made my ear bleed. Literally. I was using a que tip and found blood in my left ear.
Day 3, Weight 167lbs
My day job is installing irrigation and watering systems so I have to do a lot of driving between jobs. Normally I listen to podcasts. Today I gave the Eagles a try. “Hotel California” is a decent song, I think I used to jam it on guitar sometimes. But for every “Hotel California” and “One of These Nights,” there’s a shrieking banshee number like “New Kid in Town.” I accidently ran a red light trying to skip to a new track, and came inches from T-boning a Geo Tracker.
I feel on edge most of the day, even after switching to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young when I get off at 5. I hardly eat my dinner tonight, even though my roommates cooked chicken and waffles—one of my favorite meals ever. I’m starting to regret committing to this.
Day 4, Weight 165lbs.
I barely slept last night. You ever have those nightmares where you try to run but you can’t? I kept having one where Barry Manilow was chasing me through my high school cafeteria. Needless to say, I wake up in bad shape. I decided to treat myself to a big iced mocha from Dark Matter’s Osmium and a blue berry muffin. Something to lift my spirits, because God knows The National aren’t doing it. This didn’t help, because I had to get my order and immediately leave since they were playing Rx Bandits on the house speakers. In my car, I put on Bruce Springsteen. Eating the muffin and drinking the coffee felt like my taste buds had fallen off. The food just sat in my mouth while Springsteen spat his gaudy New Jersey accent from my Prius speakers. If there’s a radio station in Hell, it definitely plays Springsteen.
Day 5, Weight 163lbs.
As you can see, I’m losing weight fast. I wake up to an urgent email from my editor saying the waiver I signed doesn’t cover the company legally if I die. They want to offer me a kill fee, meaning I’d get about half the totally money for the article and get to quite this electroshock lab-rat experiment immediately.
I decide to call her. She asks me like 10 different times if I’m okay or if I’ve had thoughts of hurting myself. I’m a man on a ledge and my editor is trying to talk me down. “There’s so much to live for,” she yells through the bull horn, “Fugazi is getting back together!” I ask if they will reimburse me for the Dave Mathews wine. Silence. I tell her I’m not quitting and slam my phone, cracking my screen more than it already was.
That night I comb my hair and huge tufts come out. I pull one of my teeth out with no effort. Only two days left, I tell myself.
Day 6, Weight 155lbs.
I call in sick to work. My roommate offers to drive me in my car to the hospital. “Mr. Jones” is playing from my stereo, but it feels like Adam Duritz and Adam Duritz’s hair are inside me, projecting sound through all my holes. My roommate asks if I want him to turn off the Counting Crows. I give a weak, pathetic “no” from under my sweaty blankets.
Sometime in the afternoon I crawl on all fours to the bathroom.
Day 7, Weight 138lbs.
The only thing getting me through today is the idea of listening to the new At The Drive-in album tomorrow. I spend the majority of these hours in an expressionless stupor, deep inside the dark reaches of my mental space. Where Peter Gabriel plays.
Over the course of these 7 days I’ve experienced all-time mental lows, punctuated by brief manic highs. There were moments of Counting Crows-induced euphoria and long lapses of fear and paranoia, specifically when it felt like Jon Bon Jovi was dredging my cranial sediment.
At midnight I walked to a bar listening to Botch in my headphones. It was like hearing music for the first time. At the bar, the women tending asked how I was doing, which to anyone else would be a normal question. But me, given all I had just been through, I shook my head at her and told her I wasn’t ready to get into all that yet. Please just give me a Hamms. I sat near the window, outside it was raining. A giant potted fern leaned over me. I could hear the sound of rushing water and I felt the spirit of the Lord fill me like a balloon. Later I drifted off to some ridiculous well-lit place.