Monthly Archives: October 2008

No Language In Our Lungs

I haven’t written even once this week (aside from those unfortunate moments when school requires me to.)

Blame it entirely on the best show to ever be put on television. Freaks and Geeks.

There’s a pattern of me going through obsessive periods of TV-watching with shows that either define my high school experience or sense of humor (see My So-Called Life and Undeclared for the former and 30 Rock and Arrested Development for the latter.) Yet, there is something about this particular program, a program that is half as old as me, that is completely transcendent of television.

Freaks and Geeks ran on NBC way back in 1999, before producer and sometimes director Judd Apatow was famous for not-quite as amazing things like Knocked Up, Superbad, 40 Year-Old Virgin, etc. You may have heard of them.

The show followed, for one cancelled short 18-episode season, the two siblings of the Weir family during the school year of 1980.

Sam Weir, the geek, was a freshman with no armpit hair and a ridiculous crush on the prettiest cheerleader in his grade. He had two friends. Neal, a oddly-confident, sometime-ventriloquist with a sense of humor a little too old for his peers. Bill, a too-tall kid with too-big classes that loved television and was quite possibly the funniest person to ever grace a Pennsylvania high school 10 years before I was born.

Lindsay Weir was the recovering geek who slowly eased her way into a new identity as one of the burn out freaks who hung out under the stairs and sat on top of their cars in the parking lot after school. She was the brilliant covert mathlete while her friends were in turn the kid who got held back for two years, the pothead with a 29-piece drum kit, the sarcastic jerk waiting for his rich father to die, and the angriest girl to ever intimidate an underdeveloped teenage boy by threatening to kiss him.

It’s been said before that the show was honest, brutal even. A lot of people already know that it was the stepping stone for actors like Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jason Segel (Apatow picks ’em.)

But let me say, I may be 28 years removed from the god-awful, spirit-wrecking experience that was these kids in high school… Well, I guess the self-awareness in that sentence speaks volumes more than anything else I could write would say.

These freaks (I was one of the angriest and most bitter at my own high school), sitting in their basements with Rush records on full blast. They tried out the punk thing by dancing too hard and yelling too loud at sweaty back-alley shows. They tried the disco thing, awkward shiny shirts and awful attempts at rolling their hands around each other. They didn’t get any closer to truly being themselves.

These geeks (something I’ve accepted being since emulating Billy the bespectacled Blue Ranger as a kindergartner), standing awkwardly shoulder to shoulder in hallways, in lunch rooms, in kitchens. They’re the only ones who really see the world the way it is, and they’re perfectly happy with the way they see themselves. Though perpetually discussing the impossible aspirations of those freaking cheerleader girlfriends.

To clarify any questions, the real reason I’m obsessed with this show is that in the first episode one of the main freaks attempts to make out with his female friend and when she turns him down he tearfully tries to cover up his near-maul by saying that he’s a wreck because John Bonham just died.

Brilliant, sad, awesome, hilarious.

This is Bill:

This is Nick (the 29-piece drum kit guy, “Lady L” is Lindsay):

Enjoy.

Optimistic

As a responsible eighteen-year-old who is fully registered to vote, I consider this my blogging duty.

Here you have (vaguely music-related) campaign buttons for Obama:

All other eighteen-year-olds (and up, I suppose) who read this, I urge you to participate. Regardless of who you want to vote for, just do it.

Read, write, buy some buttons, talk to people that you know, and then, maybe, eventually, go vote. For anybody, who ever moves you. That choice is the most beautiful thing about our country.

You can even vote for Nader.

Really, do it. It’s super fun so far.

This Modern Love

Some of the greatest lines ever written about being young and in love with the tune, with the line, with the winding and unwinding possibilities of song. And maybe also with that boy or girl on your arm.

It was a nice way to end the evening, reading these lines.

“The song was never really over, but now I have an ending–I don’t know how I’ll phrase it, but it will involve our returning, it will take the strange pink light and the Sunday-morning quiet. Because the song is us, and the song is her, and this time I’m going to use her name. Norah Norah Norah–no rhymes really. Just truth.

I shouldn’t want the song to end. I always think of each night as a song. Or each moment as a song. But now I’m seeing we don’t live in a single song. We move from song to song. From lyric to lyric, from chord to chord. There is no ending here. It’s an infinite playlist.

………

My heartbeat accelerates. I am in the here, in the now. I am also in the future. I am holding her and wanting and knowing and hoping all at once. We are the ones who take this thing called music and line it up with this thing called time. We are the ticking, we are the pulsing, we are underneath every part of this moment. And by making the moment our own, we are rendering it timeless. There is no audience. There are no instruments. There are only bodies and thoughts and murmurs and looks. It’s the concert rush to end all concert rushes, because this is what matters. When the heart races, this is what it’s racing toward.”

-From Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Mishto!

“Danced.
Touched eugene.
Had eugene put mic to my mouth.
Sang.
Screamed.
Danced.
Ran to the bathroom.
Puked.
Fell in love with them.
Again.”

-Text message sent to my mother at 12:16 a.m. October 10th

I have seen Gogol Bordello before. Last year, Bumbershoot, on the lawn. I danced, screamed, sang, was kicked in the face by a crowd surfer, had a practical out of body experience, left, and then became profoundly sick on the ride home. The show was beautiful. The after wasn’t pretty, at all.

When I went to see them Thursday night at Seattle’s Showbox, I made sure to only eat a small breakfast of things that wouldn’t look too ugly when they came back up later (not that it really helped at all.)

I packed minimalist. I wore jeans and a spaghetti strap shirt under the cardigan that I later tied around my waist.

I made friends in the line. We talked about gypsy folk and gypsy punk alike. I was between one girl learning banjo and another learning accordion. The girl at my side had learned a phrase in Ukrainian to scream at the Eugene I texted my mother about. It was something along the lines of “I love you. You’re sexy. Hello.”

We all had similar sentiments about Gogol Bordello’s unconventionally attractive lead singer. We all girls rushed to the front of the stage.

Opening band Kal was fun and sounded like punk mariachi at moments. I developed a crush on the accordionist.

There was an inebriated dude behind me who kept using my back as a headrest. I wanted to punch him, but his girlfriend looked too scary.

Gogol Bordello took the stage.

I screamed. I danced. I danced. I danced. They played Ultimate and Sally. I screamed at the top of my lungs when they played Not a Crime. Eugene looked at me. I was front and center. He looked at me and smiled. I screamed. I thrust my fist hard into the air and felt completely outside of my body.

They began to play I Would Never Want to Be Young Again.

Eugene leapt off the stage and near the barrier. We touched him, hands scrambling for purchase, security guards looking uneasy. He was sweaty and bare-chested and disgusting. We touched him.

He looked at me. He pointed at me. He screamed “You!”, barely audible but I’d be damned if I didn’t hear it.

He put the microphone to my mouth.

I screamed. I screamed. I screamed.

Someone nudged the mic away and took away my ending.

I teared up, pushed at all sides by a pulsing crowd, my mouth dry and raw, me entire body covered in sweat, my bangs falling wetly over my eyes. I started to cry.

Songs passed. We danced.

Short interlude for me to run away and get sick, surreally listening to Alcohol while hunched over in the ladies’ disgusting bathroom.

I danced on the sidelines, I watched a crowd of people that swayed with joy. I listened to the rousing chorus of hundreds of people screaming Start Wearing Purple in unison. I laughed and smiled because this was a proper family of people joined together by one man and his technicolor band, running around in circles and creating chaos in their wake. A devastated economy and a pile of crap else to sift through in the morning newspaper. Student loans and babysitters. Divorces and random violence.

Our violence created out of joy in a petri dish of a club where evaporated sweat dripped down from the rafters.

It was escapism to the greatest degree. Even the men sitting in their seats, far to the back of the bar, swayed their hips and shouted the words.

We are joined by this band. We’ve lived them and we’ve breathed them and we know more of the world for them.

Mishto.

Kiss Them For Me

The acknowledgments page in the back of his book read as a who’s-who of every writer I’ve wanted to meet since 8th grade. Every hero and heroine of over-enthusiastic music writing that I have ever had.

Rob Sheffield has always been on that list, but I think he has transcended that too-slight title.

This man wrote a book that made me cry and laugh in unequal measure. He made me mourn his losses and celebrate the fact that he was able to come a decade this far.

Rob Sheffield wrote a beautiful book about a woman that he loves. A woman that no longer lays on the couch listening to Pavement with him anymore.

Yet, it was more than that. He wrote about the music that made him fall in love with her. That the songs so entwined with the girl he fell in love with are constant reminders of what he lost when she died over ten years ago.

It was a book about mixtapes and a book about love and a book about the fact that those two things are almost inextricably linked. At least that’s true for the music geeks, the ones that live their lives through the music they love.

The book is called Love Is A Mixtape. By Rob Sheffield.

“Have you ever been in a car with a southern girl blasting through South Carolina when Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Call Me the Breeze” comes on the radio? Sunday afternon, sun out, windows down, nowhere to hurry back to? I never had. I was twenty-three. Renée turned up the radio and began screaming along. Renée was driving. She always preferred driving, since she said I drove like an old Irish lady. I thought to myself, Well, I have wasted my whole life up to this moment. Any other car I’ve ever been in was just to get me here, any road I’ve ever been on was just to get me here, any other passenger seat I’ve ever sat on I was just riding here. I barely reconized this girl sitting next to me, screaming along to the piano solo.

I thought, There is nowhere else in this universe I would rather be at this moment. I could count the places I would not rather be. I’ve always wanted to see New Zealand, but I’d rather be here. The majestic ruins of Machu Picchu? I’d rather be here. A hillside in Cuenca, Spain, sipping coffee and watching leaves fall? Not even close. There is nowhere else I could imagine wanting to be besides here in this car, with this girl, on this road, listening to this song. If she breaks my heart, no matter what hell she puts me through, I can say it was worth it, because of right now. Out the window is a blur and all I can really hear is this girl’s hair flapping in the wind, and maybe if we drive fast enough the universe will lose track of us and forget to stick us somewhere else.”

And it was perfect.

Revealing Too Much

His voice has accompanied first kisses, third kisses, tenth kisses.

First breakup, third breakup, and I can’t be faulted for the lack of tenth breakup.

This guy has been totally ubiquitous during my high school dating and not dating career. And I totally didn’t know his name until this afternoon.

The dude, his name is Jarrod Gorbel (if that’s of any interest), is the whiny voice of the Honorary Title.

And their album Anything Else But The Truth may be one of my favorite albums ever and they might be one of my favorite bands ever and his might be one of my favorite voices ever and it took me over four years to realize it. I came upon this hidden, subconscious secret while singing their entire album to myself as I walked to my aunt’s. I always assumed I was embarrassed to even like them.

The Jarrod guy is passionate to the point of being creepy and sounds like he cries when he sings. My friend Bryan covers his ears whenever they come up on shuffle or on the dozen playlists where I’ve nestled them in-between the Smiths and the Cure. I personally think he sounds romantic and occasionally sexy, but I guess it takes a vaguely emo girl to appreciate such things.

I am still astounded that I missed the fact that I loved them all this time. The band isn’t particularly popular, so I guess there wasn’t ample opportunity to gush. I certainly have put them on every mix CD I’ve ever made and every time I reread Blankets I need to listen to Petals at least once.

I am the queen of overexcited band love proclamations, so my oversight is unprecendented.

I suppose I just have four whole years of love to make up for.

Cue the pity for my roommate.

I leave you with an overwrought music video for an overwrought breakup song. It will make little to no sense why I am obsessed with this band—aside from the fact that they are incredibly amazing. I cannot count with any number of my limbs how many times this song has made me cry.

After Hours

There’s a part of me that feels Hollywood is in tune with my own, generation-specific, misfit wanderings.

How else could I explain the overwhelming appearance of Moldy Peaches songs in an Academy-Award nominated movie (Juno)?

Why would Seth use the Coen brothers to justify his adult film proclivities (Superbad)?

Why would an adolescent prescription drug peddler lean back in a chair and let loose out of his mouth the psychological fixations that bounce around in my head all day long (Charlie Bartlett)?

But it’s Nick and Norah that make me truly realize that screenwriters and young adult writers have forgone representing the majority of my generation. It’s a return to proper John Hughes form–glorifying the characters who will wait patiently ’til their mid-twenties to be remembered by their peers. These people are giving us a chance to be remembered now.

Kids that drink to get drunk are made to look like idiots in these films. Kids who don’t read are subjected to discreet verbal thrashings behind closed doors.

The heroes and heroines of these films are bookish, straight-edge kids with Supercut hairdos and pants that don’t fit right.

These kids are my friends. The girls (and sometimes the boys) are reflecting my movements, my thoughts, my thumb as it circles the pad of my iPod, pressing “Play” at only the right moments.

We are the quiet ones that don’t talk during class. The kids that get into college and spend their nights listening to Morrissey, relishing the quiet and imagining the possibilities of this open-ended new reality.

We go to concerts to scan the crowd through the sweat that falls over our eyelashes, trying to find the soul mates we’d never dare to talk to. That boy with the Decemberists shirt rumpled from dancing, his cheeks pink and that moment full of opportunity? Abandoned.

The difference between my life and these kids’? They step forward, ask the questions, make the occasionally desperate plea for a fake boyfriend. For just five minutes.

So they are the ones that embark on cross-and-across-and-back-and-then-across town journeys that leave them in this place where they have changed and are so different than when they started. They listen to immaculately-chosen songs in the seats of cramped, brightly colored cars. They smile at each other through crooked teeth and finish each other’s exaggerated exclamations of band love at the same time. They kiss in abandoned recording studios and giggle genuinely over extremely awkward fumbling.

They live the band love and the people love and the city love and hold hands in crowded and sweaty places.

These kids are so very different from me it hurts.