Wednesday, November 10, 2010
one armed bandit
posted by forrestrose @ 6:54 PM

choose your words carefully, like you always do
don't want them to be the last you'll ever choose
I fear I didn't come prepared
for my life to hang on some paper and woven thread

I see so many different sides
(try to see it through your eyes)
I hope I'm not worth ruining your life
(I hope it's not worth taking my life)
o hilarity, be still me, bring me to reality
guts wrenching, senses flailing
futility wafting through the air
(my mind's everywhere but here)

so pull the arm down
and you'll lose more than you have found
(will I lose all I've helped to found)
so pull the arm down
all my change will come pouring out
(and the change will come pouring out)

I feel like I have to write this post, because I've been putting it off for so long. and I want to say I think it's hilarious how much meaning I place behind each seemingly simplistic line of my writing. instead of using my perpetual verbosity to explain what I mean, I write vague lines that are often specific references to things I've read or events I've experienced. I find this endearing in a way, but it's also very frustrating because I've never actually sat down and written down what all of these references are (which is what this journal is for, really). so all of that gets lost on listeners/readers (do I have any of those?) or even lost from my memory and I'm left with vague, simplistic lines and not much to show for my writing skills. that said, I want to go into what the song "one armed bandit" is about a little bit.

the drummer of my favorite band, vinnie from less than jake, wrote a blog entry about getting mugged (the only copy of this blog post I was able to find is here, it's the one entitled "50 STATES. part2.," his blog is located at while his description of the incident makes it seem like he wasn't actually in any real danger, the thought of him getting shot made me feel horrible. for some reason, I put myself in his shoes and wrote this song in first person (the second person is him[me] speaking to himself[myself], confusing, no?). this granted me a little artistic license to include some ideas that I feel like he may not share about this particular situation. specifically, I thought about how when someone goes from petty robbery to murder, that's a life-changing event that is sort of a point of no return, until that point there's still hope that a person can turn their life around. the line about not being prepared is not only talking about being mentally prepared, but about him only carrying a small amount of money and the dangerous position it put him in when being robbed, and of course "paper and woven thread" is a reference to money, even though he didn't actually have any paper money, and money is neither paper (it's made of linen) nor woven, but it sounds nice anyway. "o hilarity, be still me, bring me to reality" is obviously talking about him laughing, with a bit of a shakespearean/old style writing twist, that "O ____" is something I find myself saying a lot (I once said "O Gratuity" in reaction to The Lovemakers' on-stage antics), I probably picked this up from someone (and not from the writing it originated from) because I'm not really that clever. the "be still" is from "be still my beating heart" which has become a cliche in itself, and I just thought it fit with the writing style. the line "guts wrenching" is talking about the knot in his stomach, but is supposed to invoke the thought of gore, since I'm talking about being shot, and that and "senses flailing" are my way of twisting cliches around to suit my purposes (which I love doing), and the latter makes me think of the band "senses fail" which has nothing to do with this song, other than the fact that I'm writing about someone in a band. I have to apologize for my mispronunciation of "wafting," I guess I'd only ever seen it in print before including it in the song. I like the long A vowel sound in the song, and I think the short A sounds bad, so I've thought about changing the word entirely-- I've considered the word "drifting" because the short I sounds better than the A, but that doesn't have the benefit of invoking the thought of a smell. that line is about him smelling the food he was on his way to buy, but no longer could, and also the futility of the robber's attempt. when talking about "the arm" I'm speaking of vinnie's reference to a slot machine, but it's also metaphor for the trigger of the gun. the robber is taking a gamble by robbing, since he doesn't know how much he'll get and he runs the risk of getting arrested, but if he resorts to shooting someone, then as I said previously, his life will be irreversibly changed (hence the double meaning of "change will come pouring out"). the title is a slang term for a slot machine, and also a reference to the robber, both that he's one (as in singular) "armed" (as in carrying a weapon) bandit, and "one armed" as in not very good at what he does, or not well equipped, based on vinnie's description of him.

I'm not sure if this song is actually finished, but I like it where it ends so it's fine for now. some of this description may seem obvious to some people (especially after reading vinnie's blog post), but I felt the need to explain it, and I know I love reading lyricists' explanations of their writing (I just wish my actual writing [and not my lyrics] was a little more eloquent and well-formed, this is probably pretty painful to read).

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