Monday, April 21, 2008

Even When I Was 17 / Even When I Was 12

I made a the perfect playlist tonight for all of the things I needed to do: clean the bathroom, make a sandwich for work tomorrow, eat a really good tomato with hummus I bought on sale, and read my book on fundamentalist Mormons. Like every playlist I make, the Scrubbing The Toilet Slicing Avocados Dripping Tomato On My Shirt Joseph Smith Was Weird playlist consists of one song ("Fuck and Run," Liz Phair).

I was thinking about this the other day when I was walking up towards Union Square from work, listening to another single song over and over ("Lucky Guy," the Muffs). The way I listen to music is psychologically disordered. People don't listen to one single song for days on end, regardless of its empirical quality ("Adoptduction," Les Savy Fav) or cheesiness ("Misery Business," Paramore, you shut up). I never even set my iPod to repeat on its own. If I want to listen to "You're Black and Blue" by Exploding Hearts twenty or so times on the F, which I frequently do depending on a complex equation of mood, outfit, weather, and day of the week, I will skip to the beginning of the track every time.

Not every song is right for every day, and some are blatantly wrong. Hearing anything but the song I've determined is THE song must be what it feels like for a cat when you pet its fur in the wrong direction.

Okay, so, anyway, I'm walking up to Union Square, repeating the Muffs, repeating the Muffs, repeating the Muffs, repeating the one song I know by the Muffs that's not that "Kids in America" cover they did, repeating the Muffs, and then I realized that this is exactly the way I deal with people. It was such an epiphany. Enough that I think I actually said "Whoa!" out loud, over my headphones, which were still repeating the Muffs way loud.

I am not good at meeting new people and I am not good at meeting new bands, because in both cases the prospect of all that stuff I don't know that I have to figure out makes my stomach hurt. But. Say you are a stranger (or worse, an acquaintance I am obligated to say hi to but have zero actual relationship with, which I swear makes me more uncomfortable than a subway masturbator) and we're at some crappy bar and waiting to get beer kind of near each other and some douche is wearing very tight pants and his butt crack is hanging out a little. Now imagine we both notice this and maybe you say something to me about it and we laugh about it, and then kind of say hi the rest of the night when we pass each other on the way to the bathroom. And then maybe we see each other on the street a few nights later and I'm all like, hey, well, at least my butt crack isn't hanging out, and then you make some gross joke about smoking crack, and then I say something about getting up at the crack of dawn.

That is the Muffs. I am comfortable enough with the Muffs to harp on the one thing we have in common, which right now is "Lucky Guy." I have approximately two billion songs and people in my life that are at that level.

Okay, but then say you actually know a bunch of my friends, which is so weird, I thought you were some stranger. Consequently we end up hanging out at another party and I'm more than a little concerned because I'm fresh out of crack jokes. But, thank god, you say something in passing about how much you can't stand Beyonce because you think she's probably extremely judgmental in real life. Me too! I say, and there, we have something else to talk about. From there we have the whole of pop culture to talk about, which is comfortable, though not particularly probing. But at least I'm starting to get you. Maybe we don't agree about everything (I like Penelope Cruz a LOT for no reason, you think she's creepy), but we've had a conversation.

That is the Walkmen, the Ramones, the Pixes, and the New Pornographers. I've got more of a relationship with them than one song, but I wouldn't invite them to my birthday party.

Then there are those bands, those people you call when you're weepy about boys, or when you're walking down the street and need something familiar, or when you're doing your laundry and need to hear something that's like a conversation. Those bands, those people: those are friends. You know how they go.

This is the peril of dropping out of Psychology of Personality two weeks into the course. My personal therapy is makeshift and insane.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nobody on the Road / Nobody on the Beach

Resort towns are such a romantic mystery to me, although I'm pretty positive I got that impression from the Don Henley song "Boys of Summer." Incidentally, I really hated that song when I was a kid. Couldn't stand it. Then I heard it last year and was like, whoa, wait a minute, this song is at once depressing and brutally 80s. Cha-ching. Same for "Dancing in the Dark," a song whose lyrics I never really listened to until I was about 22 and wanted to change my clothes! My hair! My face! And then it hit me that they call him the Boss for a reason.

But back to the issue at hand, which is that towns with a seasonal rhythm are attractive to me in the same way sleep-away camp or boarding school was when I was younger. That you can be surrounded by an insular population for some of the year and inundated with a steady stream of strangers for rest appeals to both parts of my melodramatic brain--the I Hate Everyone But My Three Friends Lobe and the I Love Watching Strangers Cortex.

I spent five or so days up in the middle of nowhere New Hampshire with Kai, who is the friend I've had for the longest. We realized recently that we've known each other for more than half our lives. I'm older than two twelve-year-olds, which is what we were when we met. Anyway, her aunts own a condo on Lake Winnipasaukee that's crammed to the gills with food and booze and cable television. They weren't using it last week because why would they be? There's no point in being in New Hampshire lake territory when there's still snow on the ground and all the moose-themed ice cream shops haven't yet opened for the season.

Except it was fantastic. You could go for a whole day without seeing another person. We drove to North Conway a few times when we needed something to do. Conway is an even older resort town with kind of a honeymoon history; Kai's grandparents, parents, and most of her aunts and uncles all trucked it up to the White Mountains after they got hitched. We crashed the Eastern Slope Resort (the oldest and largest and whitest and most be-columned hotel we could find) for a minute to see what it looked like inside, talking the entire time about our nonexistent wedding plans to our nonexistent woodsy boyfriends. Otherwise, we hung around mostly on the "scenic railway" train tracks.

The trains were all parked for the winter in front of the aggressively old-timey station. I mean, during the tourist season you can take sepia-toned pictures of yourself in a boa with a gun and a jug of XXX-marked "whiskey" in a shack in the parking lot. That's how old-timey I'm talking, here. But the obvious emptiness of the town helped make the station a lot less Chuck-E-Cheese for me--more like walking around in a carnival after they close the gates and switch off all the blinking bulbs. Especially when you you factor in the weird looks we got from the eight or so bored teenagers hanging around in the parking lot, which just cemented the idea that "townie" is an identity I really like. Seriously. The ability to give that look that says "who the fuck do you think you are?" to anyone you haven't seen before is a skill I will never master like those kids had it down.

The other thing North Conway had going for it was a surprisingly cute coffee shop that sold a bucket of Americano for less than the price of a tall regular piece of crap coffee at Starbucks. It was the highlight of our first trip to the town because we found their stack of communal journals, in which a handful of high school kids had chronicled the entire summer before they left for college.

And then, on the second day, we were cornered by a woman who began her endless stream of conversation by asking "Wanna hear a weird story?" and then telling us that her dog was a hermaphrodite, which she thought was funny because she used to date women and she was currently married to a man who used to date men. This was all completely unprompted. Other things I learned about her before Kai rolled her eyes so far back in her head we had to leave, lest they get stuck that way: she has chinchillas; she has a tattoo of the Grinch on her leg and she does not shave the skin inside the outline of his face; she does not have a television but will recite the plot of several clips from the last episode she saw of "America's Funniest Home Videos."

Totally nuts, yes, but the most I get at my coffee shop is a stroller to the shin and a punch on my frequent buyer card.

I love New York, I do, but I love it uncomfortably. I don't know, maybe like how Marines feel about boot camp in retrospect? Like, when I'm here it's exhausting and too loud and a trial to get anywhere and you feel like crap half the time and everyone is on top of you and your outfit is never, ever the coolest one in the room and you are broke no matter how much money you make and people who are clearly dumber than you give you snide looks and ask to help the "following customer," which I still maintain is not entirely gramatically correct. But then I leave. And I walk around a town of fifteen people and two stores and scenic panoramic views and fresh air, and I buy coffee from a girl who compliments my tattoos and offers me the wireless access code for free because she is just plain nice. Then she turns back to talk to her friends and it makes me feel tough, because living here has made me able to handle life without the safety net of pleasantry.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

You And I Fall Together / You And I Sleep Alone

Well, here we are again. It's the middle of the night and I'm so awake it hurts, in my neck and in my bones, and in my eyeballs, and in my jittery legs, and in my lip that I keep biting for no reason, and acutely in my cuticles because it's after midnight and I no longer have the willpower to keep from picking off my nailpolish.

I could punch any and all members of The Replacements right now for writing songs that only get more significant the later it gets. Listen to "Kiss Me on the Bus" at one in the afternoon and it's cute, but listen to it nine or ten times after midnight and it's visceral and you are old and life is crap. But great crap, painfully wonderful crap that only makes being awake and in an empty room more intolerable. And let's not even get into "Left of the Dial." Fuck that song! Fuck that pretty song that has the gall to say growing old and I'll try to find you and the station started to fade, which are the three of most loaded and depressing phrases I can think of at the moment.

What is it about insomnia that makes me so melancholy? Is everyone like this when they can't sleep--a big knot of butterflies and inexplicably weepy urges and a trigger-happy repeat finger? I guess not sleeping is, biochemically speaking, enough to tax your emotions, but then there's that whole part about being alone and awake when everyone else is not just not here, but unconscious entirely. I don't just have my room to myself, I've got the entire state of consciousness to walk around in sans company.

Sing it again, Paul Westerberg, you fucker.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Sid & Nancy & Me & You & Everyone We Know

The Chelsea Hotel (the Hotel Chelsea? I'm never sure which way is wrong and which way is pretentious) is one of those places that you think you won't really care about being inside until you're there, and then you think that it won't really feel weird, but it does, and then you think you're just being nuts, but you're not. It's completely one of those places where the history (or your idea of the history, or the idea that you got from watching Sid and Nancy and also that endless Bukowski documentary) is way louder than the present, like answering your phone in a car with the radio turned way up.

Edit: That was written before I found out that the party I attended there on Saturday night was held in the room where Nancy died. I am 100% creeped out that I was by myself in that bathroom. And that we played the Sex Pistols. And that all of the stupid fortune-telling readings we did ended in divorce and terrible accidents, so much so that we gave up on the cards because it wasn't even fun. And that we all had the a vague tragic feeling about the party all week, even my slightly psychic friend who didn't come. And that that room was motherfucking creepy. And that it wasn't supposed to be our room. Sorry, Nancy.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Sleep is for Losers

I am a caffeinated, sleepless mess of big hair and seven layers of eye makeup that you could probably excavate like an archeological dig to analyze where I've been every night for the past week.

It's not even like it's so warm out today, but when the weather starts to change from winter to spring I tend to hit a patch of ruthless insomnia. It's unbearable because it's the kind of insomnia that can't be sated with some late night tv and maybe the rest of my Easter candy. It's an insomnia that can only be fed by the kind of hormonal, teenage experiences that my brain thinks I should be having every time summer vacation approaches on the horizon. The fact that I haven't had summer vacation in years apparently means nothing. I keep finding myself on Full Red Alert for no reason whatsoever at the crack of dawn.

Because trying to sleep is basically useless (although I did completely pass out on top of my computer on Tuesday night at 10:45, fully dressed to go out, and woke up hours later--still in the middle of the night--to approximately two hundred distressed text messages), I've been going out a lot more than I usually do. There was Free Beer Tuesday, and 1am Diner Trip Thursday, and a particularly gnarly Bushwick Houseparty With a Whole Bottle of Southern Comfort In My Purse Saturday, all of which ended in very little sleep, a very fuzzy morning, and still that very real pit in my stomach that just will not go away.

And this strange urge to listen to uber-90s music. Where did that come from? I listened to L7 and the Blake Babies all day yesterday. What the hell?

I think I've told four people that I'm writing a book, one of whom was a drunk thug who chatted me up on the street while I was waiting for someone to get off the subway. (If anyone has ever doubted my nerditude, let it be said that my answer to "I'm wild, I bet you're wild...whatchu into?" was "I like to write.") It's the kind of thing I don't like to say out loud because I'm only 30 pages in and what if I never finish it?

But on the other hand, 30 pages is more than I wrote for any single assignment in any workshop in college. What if putting it all out on the internet makes me finish it?

The book I'm writing is a young adult novel, because I am thirteen years old. It's about growing up in a boring town (my thinly veiled hometown) and takes place over the course of one night (my thinly veiled favorite kind of movie) and each hour is dedicated to a different story (my thinly veiled life experiences). It's narrated by an inanimate object.

Can someone just pay me to sit in the Tea Lounge like the rest of the assholes I see sitting in the Tea Lounge writing all day? Or all night? Because I'm never sleeping again.
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