Where Are All the Single Men?

Rough Draft
By Joel Achenbach
Sunday, April 30, 2006

My brother, Kevin, is a rocker and a sports fan. He lives in Colorado in a rented house with five guitars and four televisions. He likes to play his guitars really loud and drink beers and smoke cigars and watch a ballgame on his 52-inch flat-screen high-def TV while barbecuing giant slabs of meat on his Weber grill. Kevin's place is Guy Heaven, a realm devoted to all things masculine. The only way it could be better would be if it were a cave.

Let me be clear that he is too much a Renaissance man to kick back with a stogie and watch a ballgame on the big screen and do nothing else. No, he also will watch a different game on a second television, the 27-incher, which is on the shelf above the fireplace. He is as deft with his TV remotes as he is with the frets on his guitars.

I've argued that his house ought to have a table to eat on. You know, like the thing that civilized people have for "dining." He has no available horizontal surfaces on which to eat, other than the coffee table and the floor. I asked where he ate, and he looked at me as though I were a madman. The recliner, he said. Right in front of the TV. I showed him the area between the kitchen and the couch where he could put a dining room table. "I need that for the guitars," he said. And for the concert speakers. And the amps and the recording gadgets and all the cables and wires that are necessary if you are a rocker.

He started playing at age 13, which was 33 years ago. In the early '90s his band, Rox Diamond, was in a studio in Los Angeles, recording its first CD in the genre of "melodic rock." During a break, the lead singer, Paul, went to the adjacent studio and listened to some stringy-haired musicians who were also cutting an album. They were terrible. Their music was just . . . noise. The awfulness of the group bolstered the lead singer's confidence in his own band's future. But Rox Diamond was destined to be, at best, a cult success. The horrendous band next door did quite well. Its name was Nirvana.

Years ago, Kevin lived with a woman he wanted to marry, but she married someone else. He's not bitter. He is content, works hard as an office manager, is well-liked by his colleagues and sticks to a routine. I know a lot of women who ask, "Where are the single men?" You can find one of them in a suburban cul-de-sac, in a house with no decorations, lawn ornaments or hint of life within. It's a demographic no doubt overlooked by statisticians. Hidden men. Lone rockers.

My most recent visit occurred during the NCAA Final Four, when our childhood team, the Gators, was in contention for the national title in college basketball. "Sportsfest!" Kevin announced. We would have to have a barbecue of heroic dimensions.

The guys showed up randomly over the course of the afternoon. Some played guitars, some just showed their talent at beer drinking. Kevin made a pot of beans, then took up his position in the recliner. He went through a lot of beers and a lot of cigars and shouted "Gators!!!" every few minutes. Occasionally he paused to make an observation, such as:

"They found this ancient text, written in 5000 BC, instructions on how to live your life. One of the instructions was, 'He who drinks a lot of beer must drink a lot of water.' That was the wisdom of the ancients."

Kevin had bought steaks as thick as mattresses, plus we had chicken, sausage, a leg of lamb, gumbo and halibut caught by Kevin's friend Bill in Alaska. Bill had also shot an elk, and there was a rumor he was going to add elk to the beans. "Elk beans," they call that.

Never once, despite the prodigious display of food, did we have a meal. We ate standing. We just sort of . . . grabbed the meat.

"Do women ever come to these things?" I asked at one point.

Kevin nodded, but grimaced.

"They get scared," he said.

As the night wore on, and the meat smoke merged with the cigar smoke in a nearly impenetrable fog, I got a little edgy, for I sensed that any moment there might be demands for a human sacrifice. Kevin probably wouldn't notice if the other fellas announced that they were going to grill me.

But I survived, and you surely know what happened with the Gators: They won the national championship.

"This validates our entire existence," Kevin said.

The genius of DNA allows a nearly infinite range of recombinant possibilities when two people contribute genetic material to their offspring. Thus brothers of the same parents can be so different as to be barely of the same species. I got all the angst genes. I worry; he rocks. Sometimes I think Kevin could live his life differently, and I lecture him to that effect. He nods politely, thanks me for my advice, and then he keeps on rockin'.

Read Joel Achenbach weekdays at washingtonpost.com/achenblog.

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