Monday, June 25, 2007

Twenty % Tippers - Part 1

While taking the C train downtown, I found a series a flyers taped up along the 14th Street station platform. They were all promotions for the Twenty % Tippers, a quirky NYC band that may or may not be making a comeback, and their latest CD that you can get free.

While long copy isn't usually advisable for a band flyer, it works brilliantly here because waiting for a train leaves many of us with nothing better to do than read, especially when the writing is this good.

Since the type is too small peruse, I'll reproduce it here:

It was not a good time for the arts. We barely worked at all, and could not obtain a commission to present our songs during the five-day festival of Minerva. The atmosphere was grim and deteriorating daily. An occasional lyrical collaborator of ours, primarily a writer of Atellan farces, had just been burned alive in the ampitheater for penning a line which had an amusing double-entendre. Another collaborator, best known for the short poem in hexameters titled "Reply to Brutus' Eulogy of Cato," was accused of homosexual relations, both active and passive, with Mnester the comedian, and, as punishment, was sewn up in a sack with a dog, a cock, a snake and a monkey, and cast into the river. All pantomime actors and their hangers-on had been expelled from the city. People could now be executed for carrying a coin bearing Augustus' head into a lavatory or brothel. Foreign kings were detained in the capital - Maroboduus the German, Rhascuporis the Thracian, Archelaus of Cappadocia - all of whose kingdoms had lately been reduced to provincial status.

We survived on meager payment from the occasional private concert given on Sunday afternoon in the quarters of a wealthy family originating from Aricia, which boasted many ancestral busts of senators. Woe to us, the payment from these private concerts was made in barley bread instead of the customary wheat ration. While we played for varying members of the family, others congregated in the anteroom and gesticulated violently, plotting an attack on the Senate House to kill as many senators as convenient, bickering and accusing one another of incompetence for a recent failed attempt in which the ringleader did not give the agreed upon signal of letting his gown fall to expose the shoulder.

We waxed reflective on more prosperous times. Gone were the days when out great patron and protector held sway, and we were paid handsomely for our performances: ten pecks of grain and an additional ten pounds of oil, fresh hand-pressed cheese and green figs of the second crop. Back in those days of vanity, we would find the time to soften the hair on our legs by singeing them with red-hot walnut shells. Who among us cannot recall our great benefactor, resplendent in his glory, the abolisher of the half-per-cent auction tax, attending the garrison Games and throwing down javelins at a wild boar let loose in the arena? On the discovery of his passing, because of the dark stains which covered his body and the foam on his lips, poison was greatly suspected. With his death announcement, the populace threw their household-gods into the street, and princes shaved their beards as a token of profound grief. Not knowing how to survive in this difficult environment, we debated whether to consecrate all our songs jountly to Neptune and Mars, and cautiously venture far back into the wild interior, with the intention of subsisting there indefinitely. How else could artists such as we hope to practice their craft in such godless times?

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