April 01, 2011

Solomon's Cranium

By Paul McGuire © 2011

"I always wanted to be an artist."

"Well, you are...in a way."

"I'm a musician, sure, but I wanted to be a traditional artist. I wanted to become a painter and when I was a kid I used to draw all the time."

"But what happened?"

"My parents got really angry and outlawed drawing in my home."

"What? Where did you grow up? Russia? Nazi Germany?"

"Boston suburbs. Okay, it's a really long backstory but you promised you won't think I'm weird or something?"

"How could I think you're weird? You're a lesbian with a purple mohawk and orange-dyed armpit hair."

"Okay, so my grandfather was some World War II hero or something and he was working for the government. My mom said he was a 'G-Man'. Are you old enough to know that term?"

"G-Men? Like FBI agents in trench coats and hats?"

"Exactly. That's what my generation knew them as. You guys call them 'Men in Black' after that Fresh Prince movie with Tommy Lee Jones."

"Awesome movie. Was your grandfather chasing aliens?"

"I don't know what he was doing. He died before I was born. I saw old black and white photos. He was always in a drab suit with a scowl on his face. Anyway, both of my parents were anthropology students when they met. My mother said she never expected my father to propose because he was one of those 'free spirit' types but when he returned from a nine-month long field assignment in the Solomon Islands, he started acting really strange but everything was strange then, so she chalked up his peculiar behavior to the incendiary political climate of 1968. She was too excited about getting married and she overlooked the drastic changes. Those were the first of the warning signs, but my mother ignored them."

"Of what?"

"Nightmares. My father had horrible nightmares. When I was a kid, I noticed that my father never slept. When we were all asleep, he was in his study or in the kitchen reading books or writing various letters to the editor. But my mom said that he had nightmares about something that happened to him in the Solomon Islands."

"What was he doing there?"

"I think he was studying tribal behavior, I don't know for sure, because he wrote some boring text book instead of a sort of Indiana Jones type of adventures. So let's fast forward a decade or so. I'm eight years old and I'm at the peak of my curiosity. Both of my parents were professors and I spent a lot of time being watched by an elderly neighbor who babysat for a couple of hours a day. Anyway, I used to hide in my father's office and snoop around. I learned how to pick locks that summer and I picked open a lockbox that he had unsuccessfully hidden in one of his desk drawers. That's when I saw the photograph dated 1968."

"Where was it taken?"

"The Solomon Islands. But it's the skull that freaked me out."

"The what?"

"The skull. My father was standing over what looks like an excavation site. The skull is the size of a VW Bug."

"Like a 'punch buggy' bug?"


"Was it a dinosaur?"

"It looked human to me."


"Yeah, it had a rib cage which was big enough to fit all of Parliament Funkadelic inside. The femur was as long as a city bus."

"Wait, so you found a picture of your dad with the bones of a giant?"


"Was it pre-historic? Was it Godzilla?"

"I don't know what it was. I put it back, but I couldn't get image out of my head, so I started drawing images of giant skulls, or stick figures of my father in a ditch with giant bones."

"Holy shit."

"Yeah, and when my father saw the drawings, he went berserk. He demanded that I hand over every single drawing. I remember that day -- he ripped one off the fridge and followed me into my room where I kept most of the drawings in a large folder. He grabbed the entire folder and went outside in the backyard and set it on fire. My mother was screaming at him. I was crying, but not wailing, more like silently pouting with a trickle of tears. That's when he outlawed drawing or anything related to art. I think my father felt guilty about what happened, so he encouraged me to pursue music. They let me pick any instrument and paid for lessons and in six years, I went through five or six different ones before I finally settled on a guitar. They hounded me about practicing on days I didn't want to, but they were always supportive of my music even to the point of not objecting when I said I wanted to drop out of school and move to Portland and play music. You would think that academics like them would have been wicked pissed if their daughter dropped out, but they were totally cool with it. I can't help but think all of that loving support stemmed from their guilt about restricting my access to drawing. All because of those silly skulls. I wouldn't have a career and a kick ass band and be talking to a music writer like yourself unless I didn't have that amazing support and encouragement from my parents."

"So what was the skull?"

"I don't know. But my bass player has a theory that my father was working for the government on some sort of top secret mission because they knew he could be trusted if my grandfather was an FBI agent. So Harvard sent him to the Solomon Islands to study the people, but the entire time it was just a cover story for a covert op in which my father was helping the CIA excavate the remains of an ancient alien race."

"The skull is alien?"

"I have no idea for sure. It's just a theory. A half-baked theory that my bass player concocted in the back of the tour buss after drinking one too many shots of 151."

Paul McGuire is the author of Lost Vegas.

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