The Al Distraction
As some of y’all may be aware, I am something of a “Weird Al” Yankovic fan. An aficionado. An enthusiast. That’s why one of the greatest moments of my life and career was when he asked me to collaborate with him on the coffee table book that eventually became Weird Al: The Book.
That’s also why I decided to make the Weird Accordion to Al, a song-by-song exploration of Al’s entire oeuvre, one of the foundations of the first year of Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place. The column has been a wonderful, if modestly read challenge.
At times it’s been too much of a challenge. I originally ran the column five days a week before realizing that 5000 words of commentary about even a figure as endlessly fascinating as “Weird Al” Yankovic would be exhausting just to read, let alone write. As a neophyte small businessman, I also couldn’t help but notice that the supply outweighed the demand when it came to that column so I reluctantly moved it to a thrice-weekly schedule, with a week break between albums.
Even that proved a tremendous challenge. It was a little bit exhausting, to be honest. I took the week between Christmas and New Year’s off but when publishing resumed, I took longer than expected to return to the Weird Accordion to Al.
Some of it had to with anxiety: the moment I found out about Al’s 2018 Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour, I knew that I wanted in, but to make something like that I would need to make a whole bunch of things happen. This wasn’t something that I wanted to do, although of course it’s something that I want to do. On a deeper level, I felt like it was something I needed to do, like it was the logical conclusion of the Weird Accordion to Al, the climax, the big finish.
I wanted very badly for my Self-Indulgent Vanity Tour adventure to happen. When you want something that badly, it makes you vulnerable. I think I let my anxiety about whether I’d be able to realize my 2018 tour plans get in the way of love and appreciation for the work of “Weird Al” Yankovic. I suspect I stalled on returning to the column because listening to Al’s music would remind of my anxiety about the tour, and, on a broader level, my place in the pop culture world and my ability to realize my creative and professional aspirations.
Then things started to come together and I returned to listening to, and writing about, Al’s oeuvre and almost instantly the anxiety I was feeling melted away. Of course, it did not hurt that my 2018 tour plans were coming together nicely.
Re-immersing myself in the Weird Accordion to Al, I was reminded of why I decided to pursue this project in the first place. Even when your work prominently involves obsessively chronicling the work of American pop parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic, his transcendently silly oeuvre is a glorious, much-needed escape from the inexorable horror of everyday life.
That was driven home in a dramatic way when one of the members of my Facebook group, Society for the Toleration of Nathan Rabin, posted that en route to his father's funeral he played "Weird Al" Yankovic songs all the way there as a way to make an inherently difficult day more palatable.
Al’s music is an escape from the workaday world even though much of my daily work-load involves writing about “Weird Al” Yankovic. I was grateful for Al as a distraction from all of the crap the world serves on a daily basis, and my re-immersion in Al’s work only served to get me more and more excited about the upcoming tour.
Yes, Al’s body of work is a glorious distraction even if, like me, listening to Al is work but more importantly a source of enormous pleasure. When I stop writing about Al, if I stop writing about Al, the work element will be gone (as it is now with Phish, whom I love, but can’t envision getting paid to write about ever again) but the pleasure will remain. And that’s a beautiful thing.
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