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The Order of Oddfish


The Death of Dark Yellow

July 31, 2008

Our dear friend Dark Yellow turned thirty, so last Friday Heather and I hosted a surprise funeral / birthday party for him. (We call him Dark Yellow because that was the name of his old one-man band. I hated the name so much that I vowed to call him “Dark Yellow” for the rest of his life. Now mellowed in age, Heather and I just call him DY).

Brad, Liz, Nathan, Stephanie, Maria, Cynthia, and Paul secretly came over during the week to prepare. We built a coffin, painted it pink, and lined it with a glittery purple cushioned interior. We spelled out “DY” in dark yellow flowers and mounted it on the wall, and decorated the house with ridiculous pictures of him from throughout his life.

About forty-five people came. When DY came in, everyone was dressed in black and crying. Nobody paid any attention to him; he was dead.


I took him aside, put him in the coffin we had built, and then we all lined up for the “viewing.” One by one, everyone passed his corpse, commented on how natural he looked, or muttered under our breaths we’re glad the rascal is dead.

Then the eulogies started.

I’m wearing white here because it’s the happiest day of my life.


Paul Hornschemeier (who did the wonderful illustration for my story in the Chicago Reader back in 2004) delivered a hilarious speech revealing his and DY’s secret life as longtime companions.


Brad did a slide show of Zelig-like photos of DY.


Heather read the will.

Stephanie Morris, the designer of this website and the other half of DY’s current (good!) band The Pawners’ Society, led a tearful sing-along of “Come As You Are.”


Paul Hornschemeier also led a sing-along, but his was of a song from DY’s high school band “Citrus Boy” — the mortifying “Jock Girls Suck.”

DY’s girlfriend Cynthia did a speech too, as well as Maria, Nathan, and Jon Rosenblatt. In terms of sheer comedy, the best speeches of the night were from the aforementioned Paul Hornschemeier and Jonathan Messinger, below.

Jonathan met DY at Pioneer Press, where DY still works as a reporter (and has a blog). Jonathan read us ridiculous ledes from news articles DY had written:


“Smelly. Gross. Disgusting. That’s how most people think of garbage.”


“He’s no Jack Sparrow, but he’s no landlubber either. Peter Fray may live in Oak Park, but he’s a man of the sea.”


“If a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, would a brick by any other name still pave your street? Residents on a two-block stretch of Wenonah Avenue in Oak Park don’t think so.”


Possibly just to exasperate me, DY’s favorite movie is Weekend At Bernie’s. To culminate the eulogies, I announced that DY’s dying wish was that his corpse be used in a remake of Weekend At Bernie’s. So I handed out scripts and we all did the party scene from the movie with DY as Bernie. Infuriatingly, DY was able to mouth along all the lines.


At the end of the eulogies, we did a ritual and resurrected DY. A magnificent bastard like him just won’t stay dead.


Saturday Heather and I escaped our still-uncleaned house and went to a fun beer-tasting party at Kate and Mitch’s. Various beers were placed in unmarked containers and we had to rate them; those guests who brought the winning and losing beers received appropriate prizes. The comments were read aloud at the end, which turned into a gleefully vulgar, absurd version of when Sebastian and Charles raid the Marchmain wine cellars ( “It is a little, shy wine like a gazelle.” “Like a leprechaun.” “Dappled, in a tapestry meadow.” “Like a flute by still water.” “And this is a wise old wine.” “A prophet in a cave.” “And this is a necklace of pearls on a white neck.” “Like a swan.” “Like the last unicorn.”)


On Sunday Brilliant Pebbles played with Secret Chiefs 3 and The Scarring Party at the Double Door. Wicker Park Fest was going on just around the corner, but luckily, it didn’t seem to hurt the draw too much. I was very excited to have a poster done by Nate Murphy, our old friend (and Monika’s former housemate). Unfortunately, he moved to Atlanta right when I started to get to know him. I love his obsessive-compulsive attention to the smallest detail. Check out the poster above: both the ghost and the goo from which it rises are made entirely of tiny, furiously interlocking worms! That’s all hand-drawn!


The opening band, The Scarring Party, was from Milwaukee. Based on their Myspace, I had described them on our promotional email as the “ye-olde-tymey-apocalypse jingles of The Scarring Party, whose peppy, accordion-banjo-tuba-clarinet dirges sound like a gamblin’ riverboat preacher come to rain twangy hellfire on your picnic.” That turned out to be fair. The accordion player sang in a nasal, 1920s-y drawl into an old-fashioned microphone about how “people are the evil of the world,” or about writing a novel at the bottom of the sea, as the banjo-man and tuba-lady plinked and puffed along, and the percussionist occasionally used a typewriter or large iron bell to keep time. I liked it.


We went on second, and I was mortified that once again, in the very first song, my bass strap broke and the instrument went crashing to the floor. And then it fell off again, in the second song! (I must remember to buy locks for that strap.) And yet the crowd didn’t seem to mind. It was a chaotic, just-barely-held-together set — Monika was nowhere to be found when we had to start the first song, so we played half of it without her — and yet this was the most positive response we’d ever received. I was frankly intimidated to play with a band as polished, pedigreed, intense, and just plain amazing as Secret Chiefs 3, but to my astonishment they honestly seemed to like us.