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“I am Justin,” said the stage manager at the Jackpot! Saloon in Lawrence, Kan.
“I too am Justin!” I excitedly replied. Meeting another Justin is always a thrill. Justin routinely makes the top 40 most popular names on the Social Security Administration’s baby names database.
“Well, Justin,” said Justin. “You’ll love our sound guy. His name is Justin, too.”
“Hot damn!” I replied. I looked forward to meeting this “sound guy.” Two hours later, my dream came true.
“Hello,” said the sound guy. “I’m Justin.”
“I heard that you are Justin!” I said. “I too am Justin!”
“Yep,” said Justin. “There are some other Justins running around here too.”
“Hot damn!” I said. “A veritable Justin paradise!”
“Yep,” said Justin.
“Justin, how long have you been here amongst these Justins?” I inquired.
“Since I got out of the U.S. Air Force,” said Justin.
Movie previews employ a technique called “the needle scrape.” This technique—-an audio sample of a needle abruptly scraping across a record—-highlights an awkward moment or faux pas. A virtual needle scrape ran through my mind upon hearing the words “U.S. Air Force.”
“Wait—-Justin,” I said. “You were in the U.S. Air Force?”
“Yep,” said Justin. Little did Justin know that I have been fascinated with indie rock enthusiasists who pursue military careers since my band stayed with a Navy punk in New Orleans in 1998. This Navy punk had been thrown in the brig for dereliction of duty after blowing off a superior to attend a Warmers show!
“Justin, tell me all about your U.S. Air Force experience,” I implored.
“Well…” said Justin. Justin talked for half an hour. Justin spoke of a childhood on the outskirts of Omaha, a military family tradition, frequent trips to air shows, an aimlessness after high school, a desire to escape his hometown, an aptitude for math, his enlistment, basic training, eventual placement in an obscure position at a nuclear weapons site in the Midwest, his discharge, and his newfound career as a sound engineer.
“Holy fuck,” I said, when Justin had finished his tale. I do not say “holy fuck” very often. “Will you go back?”
“Into the air force?” said Justin. “No way. You have to get up way too early!” Justin finished wrapping up his XLR cables and retreated to the bar to get a drink. I packed up my band’s drumset and considered a career defending the shores of my great nation. I already have the haircut, I thought. Then, I realized I was very hungry. Instead of joining the military, I went to Taco Bell and got a “vegan” 7-Layer Burrito sans sour cream and cheese. At 2 a.m. in Lawrence, Kan., this was the only nutrition available.