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Conversation With Robert Schneider (Will Cullen Hart)

This song is by Neutral Milk Hotel and appears on the demo Beauty (1992).

Will: But we fucked up that remedial English class because we were smoking pot and not in college

Jeff: Right

W: Now we're not in college are we?

J: So how do you move on to that new place to shop if you haven't taken that remedial English class and you've got these pieces to the puzzle that won't fit together and your parents are like... eating blood wafers

W: Grow sideburns

J: Sideburns?

W: They really help

J: Really?

W: Yeah. They give you that distinctive look

J: They do

W: Like standing out in the crowd. They really do. And I... that's why I don't think I fit in

J: Because you don't have any sideburns?

W: I can't grow them

J: Why not?

W: They just always don't look right, I just cut them off

J: That's terrible

W: See the problem is you can't find the puzzle with the guy watching "Price is Right" and eating blood wafers. See, they have one with your family, you just haven't been to the right place, you haven't seen the ones - it makes it easier to put together when it's your family members face right there, right in front of you in puzzle pieces. It's just that you don't know the fat man. But when it's your family... you realize what it's all about

J: But you see, I bought the puzzle with the rat on the treadmill and the farm and the, uh, decapitated goats

W: That's the problem. You have to get the ones with the wafers and the bloody trousers and your family

J: But I've already got all these puzzle pieces that are stuck together now, that are a part of me now, I mean you can't say like, once you become part of the puzzle piece you can't really separate yourself from it anymore

W: So that makes you an artist

J: I know but, I've got to get some more puzzle pieces

W: You're an artist. You make your own pieces. Use wafer, use pieces of wafer, use pieces of thumb tacks

J: But what am I going to do with all these weird puzzle pieces that weren't even supposed to be part of me in the first place? I mean I tried to keep my eyes open, I tried to like, be very aware of what puzzle I was buying and when I opened the box I tried to be very aware of like, the pieces and make sure all the pieces were what was on the box. But then I shoved the pieces together and it was too late! It was all these disjointed like, body figures and I tried to convince myself it was a flower but it was not a flower, man! It was not a flower! And

W: You know why right? I'm telling you, I know the answer and it's this: do you remember when you were talking about putting the thumb, the push pin and the blood

J: Right...

W: Doesn't it all make sense now?

J: No!

W: Did you, did you find the sideburns in the puzzle?

J: No!

W: They're in the bottom, they're taped to the bottom. Can I use them? Can I please staple them on? That is the key

J: You can do whatever you want. What you don't understand is that I thought it was a flower. But it wasn't, ok? It was part of the rat on the treadmill and it was this dude's legs watching "The Price is Right". Ok? And it was part of the blender. And I - I convinced myself for so long that it was a flower, I mean I spent years and years and years convincing myself that these puzzle pieces added up to a flower when it wasn't at all and then once I woke up I realize: how do I trust other pieces? How do I take new pieces and put them together with this much you know, vigor as I once did? Because what if, what if they're not a flower either, they're just like

W: They've got to be animal pieces, they might be animal pieces. Pieces of goats?

J: Well, that's what I was trying for! There was like, a rat and a goat in the whole thing and the goat just like didn't have any hands

W: And you bought this at Wal-Mart?

J: And that's all I wanted. That's all I wanted, I mean since I was a kid. Since I was a kid! And you know, and it was just

W: So you never have gotten the puzzle together?

J: No...

W: Ever?

J: No... they're all these disjointed pieces that I convinced myself to be flowers

W: You have a serious problem, young man

J: I know I do. But I don't think I'm much different than anybody else. I bet everybody else has got a bunch of like, pseudo-flowers in their pockets that are really just pieces of this weird puzzle that aren't supposed to fit together

W: No

J: I mean I hope I'm not alone in this thing, you know?

W: You are

J: Well, it sure feels that way, you know when I go to the newsstands and stuff and read the magazines and everybody seems to have their flower so perfectly put together, you know? Because what they do is like, they can take you into a studio and they can take your photograph and make it look like you've got pieces puzzled together really well, you know, and they can do anything these days. They way you package

W: It's all computers. They've got their shit together

J: Right, they can make it look like you've got your flower together when you really don't. But it makes the people who don't have their flowers together feel really small and insignificant

W: You are... but that's what makes all the difference. You're an artist

J: But I'm not insignificant. Because my flower isn't any more pressed together than anybody else's flower. I mean, and I guess if I had a record company or something that could like take my photo and make it look like my flower was together then I'd be ok, but I'm not, I don't want to do that because then all these people with their flowers pressed together would be coming to me like, treating me like I was someone who had my flower put together when I don't, and it would be a big lie. And then I'd be doing Swanson TV Dinner ads when I was 15 and be real smug and commit suicide on the Brooklyn Bridge. There wouldn't be much point in that, would it?

W: No... you're an artist. I've told you a hundred times. You see, the part that you don't understand... what is there to not understand? I, I, it's so hard for me to explain it to you because, I see that you, you're a bit off actually

J: I'm very off. I didn't realize how off I was until I pulled my pieces of my puzzle out of my pocket and saw it for what it really was

W: Did you try tape?

J: It was stuck together! I wish I could pull them apart. If I could pull them apart it'd be ok but I can't. They're stuck together

W: I see

J: Now I came home and showed my folks, and I was really proud of my flower and that's when I realized...

W: You should be in college

J: I should be in college, yeah

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