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Excerpts from the book


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Here are two excerpts from the book:

From the title story, "My Life in Heavy Metal"

"For seven months, I handled weddings and obits. Then the pop music critic quit, and the managing editor, lacking other recourse, allowed me to sub. El Paso was, still is, part of the vast Spandex-and-umlaut circuit that runs the length of I-10. I reviewed virtually every one of the late-Eighties hair bands at least once: Ratt, Poison, Winger, Warrant, Great White, White Snake, Kiss, Vixen, Cinderella, Queensryche, Skid Row, Def Leppard, Brittney Foxx, and Kiss without makeup. At my first concert, Metallica, the band's new bassist introduced himself to the crowd by farting into his microphone. This was the heavy metal equivalent of a bon mot.

Because we were a morning paper, I had to bang out my copy by midnight. I operated on a template involving an initial bad pun, a lengthy playlist -- adjective, adjective, song title -- and a description of lead singer's hair. The rest was your standard catalogue of puking yayas, flung undies, poignant duets with the rhythm guitarist back from rehab. I loved the velocity of the process: an event witnessed and recorded overnight. I loved the pressure, the glib improvisation; I loved seeing my byline the next day, all my pretty words, smelling of ink and newsprint.

And the truth is, I loved the shows. I remember standing in the front row as Sebastian Bach, the lead singer of Skid Row, screeched "Youth Gone Wild." Bach was the quintessential metal frontman, a blond mane and a pair of cheekbones. He strutted the stage like a dragqueen, while the lead guitarist yanked out an interminable solo and the drummer became a shirtless piston of flesh. It was formulaic and mercenary and a little pathetic. But when I stared down the row, I saw twenty heads banging in unison, like angry mops. These were kids lousy with the bad hormones of adolescence, humiliated by the poverty of their prospects, and this was their dance, their chance to be part of some larger phallic brotherhood; the notes lashed their ribcages, called out to their beautiful, furious wishes."

From "How to Love a Republican"

"There are so many competing interests on the human heart. For those of us truly terrified of death, intent on leaving some kind of mark, ploughing through our impatient twenties with an agenda, there are moments when chemistry -- the chemistry between bodies, the chemistry of connection -- seems no more than a sentimental figment. And then something happens, you meet a woman and you can't stop looking at her mouth. Everything she does, every word and gesture, stirs inside you, strikes the happy gong. The way she throws herself into a fresh field of snow. The delicacy of her sneezes, like a candle being snuffed. The sugary sting of whiskey on her tongue. Chemistry in its sensual aspects. Chemistry the ultimate single-issue voter.

We were both tipsy and tangled in my flannel sheets. We'd talked about not letting this happen, this sudden rush into the secret bodies. But Darcy, her neck, the length of her torso, the wisp of cornsilk above her pelvic basin, and the gentle application of her hands, her generous, unfeigned devotions to my body -- which I secretly loathed, which shamed me for its deficiencies of grace and muscle -- and her hair reeling across my chest.... All these came at me in a tumble of violent emotion, stripped from me the language with which one crafts cautious deferrals, the maybe I should go, the sudden pause, the stuttered breath and step back, the gallant bonered retreat to the bathroom.

No. We made instead a ridiculous flying machine in two clamped parts. In the thick of our clumsy desire, pungent and shameless, we clutched one another by the cheeks, let the skin of our bellies smack briskly, and flew."

2003, Steven Almond