by Brandon Ryan
We sit and watch as Regis the cat arches his back and begins a series of kind of slow, loping figure eights around my ankles & calves.
“Are you allergic?”
We being Micah & I.
“Very,” I say, knowing that when someone invites you to interview them in their home, it’s best to make potentially life-threatening allergies to pet dander known in a calm & timely manner.
“I think cats like somebody that doesn’t want to be around them.”
“This is all OK,” I say, “My throat will start to close in 30-45 minutes, and that’s how I’ll know the interview should be over and I should let you two get back to your lives.”
Regis lumps himself beside me on the couch and makes of his tail a fur-fitted metronome.
Micah looks petrified on my behalf.
Micah & I sit in the living room of his and Emily’s third-floor apartment, a room which faces out onto the same block of Florence Street where in February of last year Philadelphia police arrested a neighbor of theirs for his involvement in a million-dollar LSD ring operating out of Drexel University.
When Emily joins us it’s with a bowl of applesauce in one hand and her & Micah’s one-year-old daughter, Nico, angled atop her opposite hip. She sets Nico in her high chair.
The raid & arrest & utter absurdity of the LSD sheets’ illustrations served as the first topics for the couple’s now weekly podcast, Talk Time.
“[The bust] was a big deal,” Emily starts, “but we were actually in Colorado when it happened. [When] we were at baggage claim in Philly I was looking at my e-mail and someone had sent me the story. It was crazy because everything happened directly across the street.”
While Emily elaborates further, Micah whisks Regis away.
All while she talks, Emily’s brow bends & straightens & bends like a diving board being put through its paces in a high-summer heatwave. The motion, though, relates not at all to her attempts to recall the details of the bust, like the fact that each of the LSD sheets had been disguised as elaborate illustrations of Homer Simpson and stored in Sponge Bob Square Pants children’s books or that more recently she has seen in the neighborhood a steady up-tick in the number of white males sporting dreadlocks which, for all intents and purposes, appear to be of the same DIY, home-made-drug-manufacturing ilk which Philadelphia PD shuffled out with a bowed head & cuffed hands just one year ago, but rather the careful choreography required to feed Nico.
Micah returns and sits again at the dinner table. Emily begins to explain that Talk Time came about when–
“Ah bah boohl!,” Nico intercedes.
“Do you want to talk about it?,” Emily asks Nico, “Do you want to talk about the birth canal?”
Nico picks up her hairbrush and extends it toward Emily, who responds, “Go ahead. Tell us everything about the birth canal. And your journey.”
Nico, for whom most all tabletops still require a toe-tipped stretch to touch, has finished her applesauce and crackers and now totters about in a pair of purple sweatpants & a pink, long-sleeve Hello Kitty shirt while her tongue’s tip stretches to touch something-like-speech; her each sentence is a bouncy smattering of vowels rounded with bah-bah-bah-bah’s or dah-dah-dah-dah’s, which she punctuates with a giggle & a smile so heartfelt & proud that it insists on not just your polite assent but rather your utmost agreement with whatever it is she says.
“How Talk Time came about was Nico was just born & I was home all day with her,” Emily says, “and I wasn’t getting calls to do shows. It was just a silly something. It came out of that.”
Micah adds, “And now every time I try to start telling something to Emily she tells me to shut up & save it for Talk Time.”
The couple laughs.
“Or that’s when we’ll turn on the computer,” Emily adds, settling herself on the couch.
“But one thing which I think is really nice is that our friends say that it sounds just like hanging out with us.”
“We don’t have guests right now,” Micah starts, “Maybe someday we can—”
“No. No guests. I like the format. We can keep it boring.”
Micah walks over and takes from Nico the comb she offers. He leans down and smiles at her and begins to brush his hair. He goes slow and repeats the action over and over, his each downward stroke a kind of attempt: “for now, let’s let actions express the things we can’t share in words.” When he hands it back, Nico will begin to brush her hair and smile so big the room brightens.
Nico then hoists her comb & levels another vowel-heavy contribution.
“[Nico]’s in several Talk Time episodes. Just screaming in the background.”
Talk Time is neither Emily & Micah’s first nor their only comedic collaboration.
“Emily is the comedian, I’m just along for the ride. I mean, I write songs with her, but I wouldn’t do it except for her. How we started recording was, we were writing birthday songs for our nieces & nephews, and then Jaime Fountaine, who does Second Stories at the Dive on East Passyunk asked us to… Emily, what did she ask us to write for?”
“Who?” Emily asks over the clatter and rattle of a tambourine Nico has found with her toys in the corner.
“Oh, It was a writing workshop where people bring stories that they’re working on & then they read them, and they were looking for something funny and music to break it up, and so we did that. Then a friend in California did a compilation of his friends just writing songs, and so people after that were asking for us. We did a few shows. I was in a sketch group, The Sixth Borough, when we started. When that group broke up we did a lot more.”
[Check out Emily & Micah’s music at: http://emilyandmicahmcgraw.bandcamp.com]
One track, “I’m Extra Special”, is sung a cappella for the reason that that is how Emily first sung it in the couple’s kitchen.
[Check out “I’m Extra Special” at: http://emilyandmicahmcgraw.bandcamp.com/track/im-extra-special]
“That song happened because Emily was singing it while I was cooking, and getting louder and louder until I was like ‘shut the fuck up!’” he laughs, “and she thought it was hysterical, so we started playing it at shows. People loved it… Now I like it.”
“We lucked out, though, in a big way in that our friend actually works for NFL films, he has this big fancy job, but he wanted experience recording music and so we got to go there, to NFL films, and record all of these songs on like, state-of-the-art equipment.”
“It was amazing.”
“And he kept asking for more things to record, and so we recorded [I’m Extra Special] at the last minute.”
“Then he was like: ‘You guys, thanks for letting me record you. Thanks for the opportunity.’ ”
Emily & Micah take what opportunities they can to perform. The two tore down the house at the Secret Pants’ annual Christmas show, A Banner Year at the Ol’ Bender House. Their set included such staples as “Tasers,” an ode to Philadelphia’s most helpful & illegal personal defense device, and “This Christmas,” Micah’s soulful petition for his lover to quote unquote stop fucking around. When the couple left the stage, the audience, their cheeks sore from laughter & wet from the same, began chanting for one more song. One more song. One more song.
The night begins to wind down. Nico’s laughter turns more and more to languor, more and more to a kind of fidgeting and frustration; exhaustion being the price of such boundless interest in all that goes on around her. It’s time for her bath, Emily says, and to be put to bed. It’s nearing 9 o’clock. Someone sets about starting the water in the tub. Someone sets about clearing away what of Nico’s toys & books are scattered about. Who does what I can not recall, the two worked in such perfect, wordless concert. The room is somehow all at once cleaned & reset & made ready: so that tomorrow they can wake & begin it all again.
I begin to make my way toward the door. I need to let them get back to their lives.
In the hour and a half I spend with Emily & Micah they invite me in & in. The couple recounts for instance how, after marrying, they settled in Silver Lake, California, in a neighborhood which bordered the Rampart Division of East Hollywood, Emily, for context, noting that it was members of Rampart Division LAPD who beat Rodney King, and that the couple actually once saw a police chase on television that, realizing it was happening in their neighborhood, they scuttled to the roof to see pass, in & in, recounts how they eventually left L.A. because they were day & night always working and somehow still barely able to eat, in & in, recounts how when their friends began to one-by-each move, there was less & less a reason to stay, in & in, recounts how they wound up in Philadelphia so that Micah could be with his at-that-time band, how Emily let Micah pick the city because he had moved from Colorado to California for her when they first got hitched, in & in, recounts the nights when Nico first came home & sleep was scarce as sunlight, how they are never not parents now, in & in, meaning that now their wants revolve around little Nico, in & in, how they want for her to be happy, want for her to be safe, want for her to have a good time on her journey and want for, one day, just maybe, her to be extra special.
Brandon Ryan currently resides in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia. If he is not writing, he is most certainly reading. Or attending an event he is supposed to write about.