The Knights of the Auto Order Proudly Present: The Auto Body Estimate: Vol. II, #82, May 2008

I have a favorite pair of boots. They’ve been resoled and re-stitched more than a few times. There’s duct tape inside the left boot where the lining tore. As long as I’m wearing long pants, and standing up, they look okay – you can’t see that the tops of the boots have completely worn away. Besides that, the only thing wrong with them is that the right boot squeaks when I walk (I think something went wrong with the last re-sole job).

The squeak is pretty loud, which is fine most of the time, except our office is fairly quiet and I interrupt my neighbors whenever I walk past their cubes. While I can afford new boots, I haven’t replaced them, in part because this exact model of boot is no longer made. To be clear, even when they were new they weren’t spectacularly cool-looking or anything, they just worked for me. I thought about getting them resoled again, to fix the squeak, but part of me suspects it’s time to move on.

Then I came up with the genius solution: wear corduroys! “The ‘Vwip-vwip’ sounds they make as I walk,” I thought, “will mask the boot squeak!” Yeah!

At this point that I realized my thought process wasn’t exactly normal. There are two responses to such an epiphany: either you worry that there might be something wrong with you, or celebrate your uniqueness. “Unique”, as songwriter Pete Morton points out, just like the other six billion eccentrics on the planet. But I digress.

What’s so great about being unique? To me, in a world where so much is greedily mass-produced for mass consumption and aimed at the lowest common denominator, a little uniqueness can offer welcome respite. There’s fun in discovering something you enjoy (whether it’s a movie, a handbag, a religion, or a new flavor of gum) that isn’t for sale in every Wal-Mart on five continents.

I think there are different kinds of “unique” and that they can be viewed on a continuum. At one end are the eccentricities you cultivate to influence how others perceive you: for example, expressing your individuality by wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket (especially if you don’t own a motorcycle), or having long hair. To be clear, I’ve done both, so I’m not pointing any fingers. But I suspect that sometimes the folks who consider themselves totally nonconformist work way harder to fit in with their specific subcultures than do the folks they regard as square.

On the other end of the spectrum is unique behavior that you don’t have any control over, like the guy who wildly flaps his arms and shouts as he walks down the street. While there’s something more “pure” about the birdman’s eccentricities, they’re not particularly appealing. Plus, while it sometimes seems like it’d be best to not care what anyone else thinks – taking this to the extreme can result in becoming a tyrannical world leader who commits atrocious acts of genocide -- or worse – an American Idol judge.

Perhaps uniqueness is like a spice – alone it’s not all that great – it has to augment something else: Nnobody wants a spoonful of pepper.

My original career plan was to become a rock star (actually the first plan was to become Batman, but that was short-lived). Uniqueness can be a real asset as a rock star. Even if your music’s great, folks might forget you by the time they get to the record store – but not if you’re the guy who bites the heads off bats. Or whatever. For me, the career path appeal wasn’t so much the money and adulation, although those might be nice, but more that it would justify my nutty behavior. For example, if a rock star doesn’t do any hard drugs, and has just one fermented beverage every few hours, they’re regarded as very much in-control and a model of moderation and propriety. The same cannot be said for similar behavior at a cube land office gig, where even bat nibbling is often discouraged.

The venue that has become our regular lair, the Minneapolis Eagles Club #34, is not a place you’re likely to see a rock star. It is a bar like many others - it’s got fermented beverages, food when the kitchen’s open, tombstone pizzas when it’s not, lighted wall decorations from various beer makers – stuff like that. What makes it unique is the friendly atmosphere and their willingness to support wildly diverse music. It’s a place where we can all play anything we want, even if it results in western swing spirituals celebrating Volkswagen engine-swapping. (That bit’s got more miles on it than Gerry’s van!)

I might suggest that the Auto Body Experience similarly offers elements many groups offer: a horn section, harmony vocals, drums, percussion, keyboards and guitars, but also has some unique “pepper-ness”, but that starts to sound immodest and goes against my Minnesotan upbringing.

Nevertheless I hope you join us on Friday, May 9th, when we’ll return to the Eagles Club. Our pal Mike Anderson will join us on soprano, tenor AND baritone saxophones, and we plan to play “Class Reunion”, an old Auto Body tune we haven’t played in many years as well some other chestnuts.

The best part? Even if I vigorously tap my toe, no one will hear it over the music.

Scott Yoho, Grand Pooh Bah, Knights of the Auto Order

PS: Like to plan ahead? It seems likely we’ll play at the Stone Arch Festival of the Arts on Saturday, June 14, at 11 AM sharp. Visit for details.

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