That Robot Took My Job
Midulting — take one.
Crap. My DJ career in New York wasn't panning out. Let's just say free drinks until 4am can go very wrong, even when the music is right. Any job I could pull off after seven hours of straight vodka, probably wasn't challenging me.
DJ-ing was plan B — after the economy crashed — and my Japanese themed pop band went on permanent hiatus. My role as lead singer had been the best nine-year-glitter-filled chapter of my life. I still craved the thrill of live shows — the whomp of a horn section backing me as Kiku Kimonolisa, my stage alter ego, who dressed like a space age cartoon come to life. She was my Japanese-souled Wonder Woman.
Some performers are ready to hang up their tambourines and never look back. But Kiku still lived in my pulse. I'd been extra naive to think that playing songs from a laptop could replace the rush of performing them on stage. Instead, I kept sipping my vodka and dozing off on bar stools. The only thing going down fast — was my own mid-life ship.
It was a matter of change or sink; I chose to evacuate. My plan C:
1. Get out of New York before someone handed me another stack of free drink tickets.
2. Write a memoir about the rise and fall of my band, before my story became even more irrelevant.
3. Get tech skills and find a job. Digital anything was the new game in town, making every other career— the new unemployed.
Midulting — Take two.
At the stroke of midnight, a special someone appeared who helped set my new course. I met a software developer from the Bay Area, while playing my music collection. I didn't have the song he requested (Usher). But he pretended to like my set of rare psychedelic bands from Peru, and stayed until I unplugged at 4am. I pretended not to be impressed by his hobby — flying a fighter jet.
Whoever said 'nothing good happens after midnight'... has never been the the DJ. Despite our different taste in music, I just knew.
San Francisco—off I went. The land of start-ups was the perfect place for me to pull up my yoga pants and get my future on. I marveled the stunning views from every peak: sun rays kissed rows of Victorian homes, the air smelled like plum blossoms and organic weed. The city felt like a pretty-lady-New York, one who'd finally mellowed out and sprouted palm trees.
I was full of hope. I made a mental list of the shit-together person I'd be on the west coast: I'd find new friends and we'd go hiking on weekends. I'd learn to drive, or at least, how to operate a self-driving vehicle. I'd find a tech job where smart people lounged in Eames chairs and made the world a better place from an ipad. I wanted to do that too – I wanted to make the world better-er...
A few glitches on the horizon.
The only problem with making a fresh start in your mid-forties is best described in short sentences: It. Is. Not. A. Fresh. Start.
Finding new friends was hard. Everyone my age already had families and friendships with other people who went to bed at 8:30 pm. I felt like an annoying tourist — One from New York who wouldn't shut up about her stupid band.
Also, writing a book was hard. So far, all I had was the glorious ending — The part when my band reunites for our last hurrah. Reality check: The other members had no interest in a reunion, a fact that instantly turned my ending into fake news.
Also, working in tech startup-central was hard. I could not keep up with the tsunami of apps — I was sinking in virtual meetings, forgotten passwords, and swept by a current of millennial worshiping. Nothing about it added up for a forty-something woman in reading glasses.
And lastly, fighter-jets were scary, and I blacked out from the G-forces.
Every morning I drank $7 cups of artisanal coffee loaded with existential questions: Was my mid-life plot twist working for or against me? Had too much change been a bad move? Is it wrong to spend every day in a pair of soul-less yoga pants?
The Future Sounds Like Shit.
Answers arrived at a fourth of July BBQ. By now, I was used to being the only female guest without teenage kids or a husband in tow. When parents shifted discussions that belonged on a mommy blog, I never felt weird diverting my attention to their children.
Luckily, I knew what teens liked —They liked to hear about bands. In no time, I had a group riveted around the kids' table. Flash a few aging Youtube videos of my pop star days, and they were like puppies eating fresh kibble from my hand.
"That's you?!?" A boy grabbed my iPad. "Check this out..." He handed it back with a new video. The blue-tinted pop singer almost looked human. She gyrated and sang in Japanese before a stadium-sized live audience. I was glued to the screen.
"She's like a robot version of you!" A second teen boy squeaked.
My eyes widened, noticing over a million views. My pre-youtube-band barely hit 1,200... but who was counting? I clenched my jaw.
She was on beat. She had good...um... algorithm? A little too good. Watching her creepy mechanical moves was torture. I noted her perfect legs, perfect boob-to-hip ratio, and that sexy pout – I couldn't have drawn a better rival in my imagination.
But there she was.
"This is what the kids are listening to these days?" I raised my voice.
"Yeah. She's a superstar!" He said with a toothy grin. "She's got over 100,000 songs!"
I just shook my head. "You call those SONGS?" I was trying. But I couldn't make sense of anything anymore. My entire world was falling apart in slow-motion. I felt my past, present, and future devolving into low resolution — into an irrelevant blob disappearing on the screen.
Back in the '00's, I'd been ahead of the curve, sewing my silly costumes, and belting my co-written songs, Wasabi Man, and Go-Go Boot-ist. We did not take ourselves seriously — My bands' initials were: GAGG! We loved irony, arty accidents, and the imperfect sound of a human voice. But none of that mattered anymore; We were past passé — Robots were the new pop stars.
My heart felt like a bag of sand. First Bowie, then Prince — This was another death in music.
And yet, I couldn't stop watching the cheesy fembot, whose songs sounded like tampon commercials for hamsters. It was an assault to human ears. She/It went by the name, Hatsune Miku, which translated to: The sound of the future.
Fuck her! And fuck audiences into this crap! They've traded human sweat and talent for a cyber slut. What does she/it even smell like — Electric farts?
After scrolling through 50 videos, I finally turned her/it off. There was nothing left to do but head for the bar, muttering to myself. That fucking robot stole my act!
My Proverbial Rage Against The Machine
Ok. So I was jealous of a thing – not a person – which felt odd. Some where in the heartland, there must be an unemployed coal miner who feels just as defeated. Somewhere in Japan, there must be an old proverb that could have comforted me, but I was too lazy to google it. Instead, I shamelessly drank an entire bottle of Pinot and made up my own. Then slurred it into a bar mirror:
Jealousy hints to hidden wishes of the soul. (pause to sip) A robot has no soul; but it owns a GPS — to human souls.
This was how I talked myself off ledges. I redirected my feelings. Was my rage REALY about a bot celebrity ripping me off and being more popular? Or, was this about ME wanting to do the same thing THE BOT was doing? Minus all the synthesizers.
I exhaled. Reframing the situation helped. Hatsune wasn't the problem; she was an arrow pointing toward what my heart wanted most.
I dabbed wine-stains from my mouth, stood up straight, and said to my reflection, That's it. Kiku needs a come back.
Midulting — take three.
A year later. I’ve since made peace with artificial intelligence and stupidity. Who cares if I can’t possibly compete with a robot and a bajillion followers who like auto-tune? I may not have finished the memoir, but my B/side fantasy ending has come true! Members of my band, Gaijin à Go Go, will reunite for our first show in 8 years on Sept 28th 2017 in New York City.
Soooooo... BYTE THAT — BOT-BITCHES!
This B/sider is gonna show YOU what the future sounds like.
A Gaijin à Go-Go live studio recording from the archives — Shot in ONE take!
And here's the singing synth-nymph, Hatsune Miku, a cyber celebrity with a "growing user community across the world."