True Strokes
by Some Guy with a Dream: Andrew John Paul Johnson of Duluth Minnesota

"Centipede" -- Jared Ricardo1. A stroke: a brain attack.

5,019,333. The Strokes: a band. A rock band. The music that races through my young adult life. My immaturity. My energy. My piss-off style. Albert Hammond Jr.’s guitar chords, Nick Valensi’s electricity solos, Fabrizio Moretti’s drumbeats, and Julian Casablancas’s nonsensically illuminating, ruminating lyrics that keep me confidently crazy. When I listen to The Strokes, I understand the world, which is why I don’t like it.

74. When I was ten or eleven or some age when Styx beat The Strokes or when I hadn’t yet lost my mind, my father’s father had a stroke. Wheelchair man after that. All gibberish after that, with some of it making sense. It’s funny how we can make sense out of nonsense. My only Grandpa who was around, he had generally only been there to either preach some serious sermons or count his monetary blessings, but not after the stroke. He was a pastor: Pastor Don they called him. He was a Navy man back in World War II days, the glory days, a “Brave Patriot,” they called him. I suppose losing his words made him more of the Navy man again, fighting time like a Brave Patriot. But he had lost his words already, a possible victory for my childhood. Because when I was ten or eleven, when I hadn’t yet lost my mind, I could have gone a lot of different ways. I might’ve detested The Strokes the first time I heard them if the Patriot Pastor could have talked to me.

98. “I like music, you know. Music is like, I just—it’s like something that like when you hear the best kind of music that like hits you in a way where you’re just emotionally moved, it’s just—that’s where it’s at. That, like—that helps you out in life. That’s like, that’s more than a fucking—that’s like almost like a friend sometimes, like a friend to like turn . . . If it can somehow summarize the way shi—Whatever, I’ll stop talking, if you want.” —Julian Casablancas

2. The first time I golfed was the last time I golfed. Pike Lake Golf Course with Dad. I was three. I couldn’t see the point. Swing and whiff. Swing and whiff. If I had a golf club now, I’d chuck it somewhere else or use it to destroy the TV I watch too much.

99. A stroke in golf: “the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke.” —Brent Kelley, Golf Expert

13.Pastor Grandpa Patriot Don berated Great Uncle Neil, the Harry Truman impersonator, when I was nine or ten or when I hadn’t yet lost my mind for buying Japanese. His golden Honda Accord was too much of a reminder of Pearl Harbor and the 2,500 dead fellow Patriots. I think Uncle Neil generally skips the part about dropping 10,000 pounds of atomic genocide resulting in the death of 100,000 citizens born and raised in a different place they didn’t choose.

3. “I don’t know. I know—I think—I think uhh it’s . . . it’s weird. I lived with my mom. I didn’t—they, you know. They divorced when I was young. So, I—I just . . . I think life felt a little more normal—that was the weirdest part. That was the weirdest stage of my life, personally. And um, ’cause my dad—you know, he’s Spanish. He grew up in—he grew up there. I think there was a war at the time, so he was sent there. And, um, he just thought it would be—because I was fucking up in school, he thought it would be a good idea for me to go there. And um . . . You know, I think that was like one of the things. Everything in life, you learn from. So, I don’t regret it. I’m not ashamed of it. It’s just, it’s—yeah, I think, I think . . . It’s just, it sounds, maybe—whatever. It’s whatever.” —Julian Casablancas

6. I spent five days a week serving breakfast at the Econolodge Hotel in Hermantown. It was my first real job, a summer job. Every task was working to neutralize any ambitions I had. Trash, countertops, waffle-mix, cereal, coffee, tables, strangers, mini-doughnuts, muffins, eggs, chemical spray, yogurt, vacuum, small talk, orange juice, oatmeal, dust, dishes, lights, milk, hard-boiled eggs, mop, bagels, cups, questions, microwave, and again tomorrow at 7 am. I finished the day because of two things: “The Strokes Conan Someday” and “The Strokes — Hard to Explain — Live” on YouTube.

18. “The way we’ve been portrayed, you know, is not us.” —Julian Casablancas

0.102. I’m supposed to be a psychologist. I’m supposed to be an accountant. I’m supposed to find a nice girl and be some sort of gentleman or wear a jelly-striped cream dress shirt or say “Excuse me, my dear lady, I’ve got to transport my membrum virile to the washroom for some relieving micturition. Then I can go back to boundless and endless admiration over your perfection under the immaculate pulchritude of the cosmos” or something. I’m not supposed to swear. I’m supposed to hang out with some no-friend and fret about how much my classes suck and someone who said hi to me in a premeditated disingenuous tone thirteen days ago instead of reading The Conspiracy Against the Human Race or Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures or watching Koyaanisqatsi or In Bruges or listening to “Bankrupt on Selling” or “The Court of the Crimson King” before naysaying that no-friend after he leaves to my other half-friend because he didn’t sympathize with me enough. I’m supposed to possess a teeth-grinding intensity about Coke vs. Pepsi. I’m supposed to text some asshole throughout the every day who has no time to talk to me in person. I’m supposed to meekly memorize meanings of meaningless terms and squeal about the difference of the first four letters of the alphabet. I’m supposed to be a Lutheran. I’m supposed to be a patriot. I’m supposed to be a Lutheran Patriot Gentleman Psychologist who got an “A++” on his last test before handsomely paying for two assassinated snow crabs on a Red Lobster dinner date and posted about it on Facebook. I’m supposed to be Andrew John Paul Johnson of Duluth, Minnesota, thank you very much. But I’m not.

731. “Anyone at any age can have a stroke.” —WebMD

14. I licked across my size 10 ½ oily ocean blue Nike’s dirty white sole for $1 in eighth grade. Pebbles—miniature moons stuck in valleys—dislodged and met my tongue. I would have done it for $0.99. Dirt, grass, places I was dragged to, hikes I went on with my friends, tracks of my past endeavors, caught up with me. I would have done it for $0.98.

?. Some Symptoms of Stroke:
“Loss of vision or dimming (like a curtain falling) in one or both eyes.
Loss of speech, difficulty talking or understanding what others are saying.” —WebMD

16. I spend hours every Septemb-Octob-Novemb-Decemb-er and January Sunday watching the National Football League on TV, and I can be spiteful when the Minnesota Vikings lose. I don’t take pride in being from Minnesota. I don’t prefer Minnesota to any other state. One time I realized I didn’t choose where I was born or whom I was born to. Another time, I realized I didn’t choose to be born at all. I have absolutely no logical reason to root for the Vikings.

16. At Gloria Dei Lutheran church, my parents could often find me spending the eternal hour playing Yu-Gi-Oh! with Peder Norr behind the choir up in the balconies. Other times, Peder and I would acolyte together, thinking about Yu-Gi-Oh! or football. We got to play with fire, though. Pastor David would light up our candle-lighters and we would adjust the wicks, trying to burn off as much as possible. We would light the fire of God one candle at a time. Then, with the ushers as accomplices, we got to handle the money we robbed from the congregation in those hollow, polished wooden plates. We would collect it and thank the ushers with a nod and then bring it up to the altar for God. But we had to hear the elderly women, who had more passion than talent in their hymnal chords, and beer-bellied men sing about salvation in scripted unison to uninspired organ chords. One time, I looked down from the choir balconies during a minute Yu-Gi-Oh! break and fellow acolyte Lisa Rodgers had her head bent back like she had been headshot, snoring God away.

1,944. “Did you ever see that . . . No, that’s not interesting. I’ll censor myself right there.” —Fabrizio Moretti

58. The hero of the Minnesota Vikings, Adrian Peterson, instructed his four-year-old son to pull his pants down before Adrian de-leafed a branch he had yanked off a tree and inserted the leaves into the four-year-old’s mouth. Then the six foot one, two-hundred-and-twenty-pound millionaire struck the four-year-old in the nuts and legs with the branch a bunch of times, breaking skin. When pictures of the four-year-old’s bloody, bruised body went public, Peterson was suspended indefinitely. When he didn’t have to serve jail time, he pleaded to a misdemeanor, and his suspension dissolved. Once enough fans and sponsors commented, called, or threatened enough business, the suspension (with pay) reappeared. In a seventeen-minute press conference, the three millionaires and billionaires in charge of the Minnesota Vikings sombered some sort of variation of the words wanted to get things right twenty-eight different times. A year later, Adrian has forgiven the Vikings for suspending him. He’s back to being the fan favorite, and overall he’s performing well. The first game back in Minnesota, fans chanted, “AP! AP!” When AP fumbled three times later that day, fans quickly criticized him. I never did learn the four-year-old’s name.

22. “We invite this kind of relaxed vibe. Don’t get me wrong: I like it when people go nuts. But, um, I just don’t appreciate it when people are like intentionally aggressive to their neighbor. It’s like what is it that we’re doing that’s—that’s, er, like, I don’t know, instigating this anger inside of you? You know what I mean?” —Fabrizio Moretti

11. A stroke: “an act of hitting or striking someone or something; a blow.” —Oxford Dictionaries

21. “All the quotes that we say are not actually things that we say.” —Julian Casablancas

22. After Grandpa Don couldn’t articulate a simple “Buy the cheap one” and sat in constant frustration on his wheelchair in the living room, my dad rushed me over Saturday morning to cheer him up. This was before I was funny and, thankfully, before I found my love of swearing at inappropriate times, when I was ten or eleven, when I hadn’t yet lost my mind. My first hardworking job was to cheer up a mad old man in a wheelchair in a supremely religious mindset in his last years. And fuck, I did it most Saturdays. Grandpa Don couldn’t talk anymore, but he sure could laugh. Most of my memories of Grandpa Don are filled with laughter. No one else I’ve ever met can say that about him.

65,098. The Strokes’s “Hard to Explain”:
“Was an honest man.
Asked me for the phone.
I tried to take control.
Oh, I don’t see it that way.
I say the right thing,
But act the wrong way.
Oh, man, can’t you see
I’m nervous? So please,
Pretend to be nice,
So I can be mean.
I’ll try, but you see,
It’s hard to explain.” —Is This It (2001)

39. What to do if you have Some Stroke Symptoms:
“Immediately call 911 . . . Immediate treatment can save your life or increase your chances of a full recovery.” —WebMD

4,311. I’m a writer. I’m a comedian. I’m neither of those things yet, but I am both and will be some day. I make people laugh, even the too many people I don’t like. I have one or two real friends, and that’s fine. I don’t have a girlfriend, and the ones I have had don’t like my views of marriage, something I would throw in the garbage disposal if it were an object presented to me; or wealth—I don’t want it; or religion, a made-up word to me. I’m self-involved, verging on narcissistic. So they break up with me. I say, “Fuck that rotten son of a bitch!” and “Eat my shit, asshole!” to both friends and enemies, partially why I have so few friends. I’m a B student with C ambitions. I read Fool or No Country for Old Men or watch The Big Lebowski or Memories of Murder or listen to “Picture me Gone” or “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” when I should be reading textbooks. Stories. Stories are a holy flood in my head. I love to watch them, read them, and make them up. I don’t like clichés, so I don’t like real life as much, but I love lying. I love when things go wrong, because it’s a story. And I tried. When things go wrong, it’s because I tried. What a glorious way to fail. I’m going to get dumped several more times. I’m going to lose a few jobs. I’m going to be criticized for so many things by so many people. Instead of looking back at the end of my life and saying, “I was so successful; my life is such a failure,” I will someday look back and say, “I was such a failure; my life is so successful.” I’m just Some Guy with a Dream who knows he doesn’t know everything but still tries. I’m one lovely fuck-up.


Casablancas, Julian and Nick Valensi. “Nardwuar vs. The Strokes.” Nardwuar the Human Serviette. 12 Aug. 2001. Video.

“Heart Disease and Stroke.” WebMD. WebMD, 28 Feb. 2015. Web.

Kelley, Brent. “What Is a Stroke?” (Definition from the Rules and Other Examples).” The About Group, 17 Feb. 2016. Web.

Moretti, Fabrizio. “Fabrizio Moretti Interview.” YouTube. 8 Apr. 2013. Web.

“Stroke.” Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press, 2016. Web.

The Strokes. Is This It. RCA / Rough Trade, 2001. Album.