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The Karl Hendricks Trio's The Jerks Win Again Reviewed While Cleaning Out My Closet
Dwight A. Chambers

Eminem did it (and he's sorry it hurt his mama). Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Fab Five do it (in usually successful attempts at helping straight guys). And I'm sure Martha Stewart has done it a million times. (Most recently, I'm guessing, it was to get rid of anything that could be used against her by the SEC). That's right, I'm cleaning out my closet. I'm rooting through my past, sorting through my crap, and simplifying my life to The Karl Hendricks Trio's latest CD, The Jerks Win Again. And if the paring-down process fails, this jerk will lose to his inner pack rat yet again.

God, am I a nerd. That's the first realization I come to as I begin my journey. And if the publications I have stored in an old, black, milk crate are any indication, I'm a special kind of nerd. The sci-fi TV nerd. Formerly of The X-Files faction and most recently a member of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer contingent. With over thirty-six magazines featuring X-Files-related covers (the oldest dating back to 1995), four Buffy-themed ones (including an issue of the official Buffy the Vampire Slayer Magazine!), and one random TV Guide with both Xena: Warrior Princess and Star Trek Voyager's Seven of Nine on the cover, there is no doubt I'm a dork. Self-discovery sucks. Ignorance was bliss. And to top it off, I just can't physically bring myself to throw any of them away.

And although I can't ditch the nerdy mags, I can take or leave "New Wave Situation," the second track on Jerks. The so-so instrumentals and the warbling vocals are reminiscent of any band formed by a few friends in any high school. But what I think of now, thanks to the yearbook I find at the bottom of a cardboard box, is one high school in particular. My high school: Technical Memorial High School in Erie, Pennsylvania. Renamed Central High School the year following my graduation, "Tech" was a vocational high school, which I didn't realize until college conjured images of stoners, dimwits and any number of other cretins with dead brains. Again, ignorance was bliss.

Man, I couldn't stand those people. Flipping through the senior class section leads me to this realization. The potheads, homecoming queens, jocks, nerds, bullies, wimps, valedictorians, dropouts, everyone—they were all just so boring. I have to believe that everyone comes to this conclusion at some point in their lives. But if not, don't hate me for being cynical. While ignorance is bliss, hindsight is 20/20. I close the book and look at the cover's theme: "Simply Stated—Unforgettable." Thank goodness that isn't true. Give me a couple months and I will forget once again, at least until I come across the yearbook one more time. But I can't part with it, this book full of pictures of people I'll probably never see again. I guess—dislike 'em or hate 'em—they'll always be a part of me.

It's fitting that "The Night Has No Eyes" is playing now. Lyrics like "Make a joke and no one laughs / Cringe in the corner for days / Hide your shame at the bottom of the trash / Can't wait for the men to come and take it away" mirror that feeling of not being comfortable in my own skin in high school, and the long instrumental stretch at the end of the song would befit any great end-of-an-era anthem from my college days. Semisonic's "Closing Time" is brought to the forefront of my memory. I come across a picture of Dana, one of my best friends from college, and her then-infant daughter. We talked on the phone the other day, and she reminded me that it's been six years since we graduated from college. She also realized that we might be old. "We're not old, Dwight, are we?" she asked. "No," I responded. "In five or six years we will be though." We laughed, but I think we both knew that "old" is getting younger and younger every day.

I find myself remembering a time when we were definitely young. There was a bomb scare at Slippery Rock University. Dana and I ran all over campus trying to get the scoop for a story for The Rocket, the student newspaper. We got eyewitness reports from students and a campus police officer (a rent-a-cop, as we called them) barked "stand back, stand back" at us, although we weren't near anything. I would later compare us to Mulder and Scully (nerd alert!) in a column that ran in the issue after the bomb scare occurred. It was a dud. The bomb, not the column. Well, maybe the column too, but I'm not sure, since I can't find the issue of The Rocket in the stack I'm still saving. (Ignorance is bliss.) Why do I have these? Even if I got back into journalism, would I want to use old college newspaper clips from more than half a decade ago to try to procure a job? I don't think so. But I won't be tossing them into the trash.

And I won't be tossing this CD into the trash either. It works great as the soundtrack on this journey. Just the right amount of stimulation, but, when you need it to, it can fade into the background, just like my desire to simplify my life by paring down my crap. Eminem did it; the Fab Five do it; and Martha probably did it a million times, but this jerk has lost to his inner pack rat yet again.

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