Earlier this year, in a song called “I Should Live in Salt,” The National’s frontman Matt Berninger claimed that his abandonment of a former lover should receive the punishment of living in salt forever, twisting and turning in agony as the salty salt agitates his lovestruck wounds. Since recording this song Berninger’s prophecy has been fulfilled and he has been forced to live in a house made entirely out of salt, making for the worst episode of MTV Cribs that anybody has ever seen.
“So, this is my crib,” says Berninger to the camera as he points half-heartedly to a big pile of salt, “as you can see everything is made out of salt. This is my T.V. – as you may know, it is very difficult to get any sort of signal on an aerial made out of salt, in fact, it’s quite difficult to even craft a T.V. from salt, seeing as it is a loose, grainy substance and I don’t have any kind of glue or any other welding materials, due to the fact it is not possible to make such products when your only ingredient is salt, so my T.V. is just a pile of salt about three feet wide. Sometimes I pretend that I’m watching an episode of Breaking Bad on my salt-based television, and I pretend that some of the salt is Walter White and some of the salt is Skyler and occasionally I shout at the salt, saying ‘damnit Skyler, Walt has done so much for you, just give him a break once in a while.’ It is like watching the real thing.
“People often say to me, ‘wow, you live in a house made out of salt, I imagine your life is like that depicted in Richard Brautigan’s 1968 novel In Watermelon Sugar, in which the characters live in a place where everything is made out of watermelon sugar.’ This is a common misconception that people regularly have, and it is incorrect for two main reasons. Firstly, while Richard Brautigan’s novel is undoubtedly an under-appreciated classic from the Beat Generation movement, it is still a work of fiction, rather than an accurate guide to help people construct houses from unusual materials. And secondly, in Brautigan’s novel the fictional town is built out of watermelon sugar, which is a very different substance to salt, despite the similarly white and grainy appearance and molecular structure. While watermelon sugar is actually quite a convenient building tool, salt is far less amenable than its helpful brother from another subatomic mother. I don’t even know what salt is made out of or how it is derived, which is surprising given my circumstances.
“I don’t know why I thought this would be a good idea; it turns out it is very difficult living in salt, and only having furniture and household accessories that are constructed from salt. To be fair, when I said that I should live in salt, I wasn’t really planning on following through with the idea – it’s just one of those things you say, like giving up porn or going vegetarian – I didn’t realise that song lyrics could act as a legally binding contract.
“But then one day I was kidnapped by an anonymous stranger and dumped on a patch of land in a town I didn’t recognise. I was told that I must live here for the rest of my life, and that I was no longer allowed to live in a salt-free home. As far as I can see, the only way out of this mess is to write and record a contradictory song called ‘I should not live in salt any more please,’ in the hope that the arbiter in charge of enforcing the claims made in pop lyrics will take pity on me and return me to my home, where the only contact I need have with salt is to liven up a rather bland potato-based meal. Even then I may give up salt altogether.”
“But why?” says the shocked cameraman, inadvertently breaking MTV Cribs cameraman etiquette, “it’s such a cheap and effective way of bringing flavour to an otherwise tasteless meal.”
“Oh… you know… because of the memories and stuff,” replies Berninger, and as he says this a tiny tear rolls down his cheek.
And then that tear rolls into his mouth and the taste of his own bodily salt makes him vomit, and then he cries even harder, and then he vomits even harder, and the camera pans away to a long-shot of the large pile of salt, accompanied by the muffled sound of Berninger caught in an infinite loop of crying and vomiting, before Snoop Dogg emerges, ready to show the MTV camera crew his swimming pool in the shape of a pair of ladies’ breasts.