Secret Pop

Sep 24, 2003


I was paging through some old emails from a former friend I no longer hear from. I don't remember why I started. Maybe just masochism. Maybe the desire to get details for the calendar catalog I sometimes update, containing the sketchy details of what I did on any given day. The emails I wrote to this person were often very detailed and usually contained summaries of what I had been up to or was about to be up to, so these were particularly useful, and that's what kept me reading. I reached his last scathing email to me from last year and it still managed to rile me. I had composed a response but never sent it, deeming it pointless. I composed several responses. (I was very hurt.) But I never communicated with him again, despite the fact that I continued to feel an overarching sadness about the mysterious collapse of what had once been a formidable friendship. And it occurred to me that he probably isn't rereading these messages or wondering how it all fell apart. And that makes me feel the fool.

I do this a lot though. Run my fingertips over the scars and remember what the wounds felt like. I miss people who I'm certain have long-since stopped missing me. I nostalgicize mundane things. And I try and keep the history alive. This can have its downside. Keeping the history alive also keeps me from being able to let go of certain aspects of it. It keeps me steeped in the anguish of previous days. This mechanism in me that constantly reminds. It acts as a strange, isolationist armor.

Last night, at the White Stripes concert, it occurred to me that sometimes I collect experiences rather than actually experiencing them. In much the same way that I collect DVDs and then leave them in cellophane on my bookshelf. I buy them for the sake of having them. And I'm well aware that this is a dumb way to go about. When I was at the concert, I caught myself just standing there, and I wondered if I was actually enjoying myself, or if I was just glad to be able to say I was there. This is a foul indictment, and I'm certain that my being honest about it makes me terribly noble. But that's not the aspect that makes any difference.

I go to a lot of shows. I do a lot of things. And sometimes I wonder if maybe I'm only doing any of it because I feel that I should. As if going to see an exhibit at the museum is the fulfillment of some unwritten core curriculum, as opposed to a voluntary bit of enjoyment and edification. Because when I go to the museum -- because I'm a member and don't have to pay admission -- I often don't stay for very long. I don't linger on very many works. I don't really take the time to absorb anything. I just cruise through. And then I can say that I did. I'm not happy about this.

In the final analysis, I think I did enjoy myself immensely at the White Stripes concert. But I think that what got me there in the first place was a conviction that I SHOULD go rather than a certainty that I wanted to.

Or maybe it's just that I go to so many shows and do so many things that they really have little way of distinguishing themselves. Seldom do cataclysmic events of fantastical proportions take place. A show is a show is a show. I buy t-shirts and CDs to commemorate my participation because the ticket stub and the wristband and the rote memory are not enough to make the memory stick.

Maybe it's that I do nearly everything I tell myself I want to or should. So nothing feels like much of a treat. I live in a city where a lot of bands and comedians come to play, so if I want to see someone, I can. And I do. It takes away the thrill of looking forward I had, for instance, when I saw my first rock concert: INXS when they played Guam. Precious few bands came to Guam. This was a big deal. And I won my tickets on the radio, by calling in and answering some trivia question about the band. Then -- because my mom insisted (and I think this was her clever way of trying to keep us from going at all) that she would have to go with my sister and me because we were too young to go alone, so she wouldn't allow us to go unless we got another ticket -- I called the radio station the very next night and won two more tickets and gave my sister's name so we wouldn't be disqualified. My mom was foiled. So she took Sarah and me to the show. And she used the extra ticket to bring my younger sister Beulah along, too. (Which means that Beulah got to see her first rock concert when she was six. She sat on the back bleachers and slept with her head on my mom's lap, if I recall correctly what I was later told.) Anyway, my point is back then it was a huge deal. I was so excited. I planned what I wanted to wear. I fantasized about somehow managing to meet the band. And when I got there, I stood right up front and sang along to all the songs I knew and was convinced that various band members made eye contact with me at various points throughout the show. Today, I'm usually fine sitting off in a corner near the bar, if there is one. I spend a lot of money for choice, up-front seats in certain cases. But I never think that I'm being noticed and I make no effort at all to get backstage. I'm a grown-up about it. And maybe that's what has depleted the magic content. I have grown up enough to not get overly excited about much of anything anymore. It's been so long since I've said, "I can't wait!" and meant it. I can wait. Much of the time, I'm even delighted to. Honestly. You go ahead. I'm fine. I'll just go when it's my turn. These are not the thoughts of a child. And whereas I have managed to maintain certain aspects of my childlike self, I cringe at the thought that this is a battle I am losing or have lost. When you get old enough to be able to do all the things you've always wanted to, there's no triumph in it. It's the very fact that I can afford it that makes it less of a thrill. And if you compound that with the fact that I probably really can't afford to do half of the things I do, that makes it even less joyous.

Maybe I'll cut back. Pass on a few must-see shows. I've already managed to not see Duran Duran in three of the appearances I seriously considered going to. And I was nuts over those guys at one time. Nuts. And if you've seen how good John Taylor still looks, you might call me a fool for not getting that wristband in my fishbowl (a metaphor which probably makes no sense to anyone, least of all me as I do not keep my concert paraphernalia in any container, much less a fishbowl). I guess I hope I will see them. And I envy my friends who already have. But I also suspect that I would go and sing along and leave feeling sort of nothing about it. I would notice the absence of the breathless, agitated blathering that would have consumed me for days if I had been able to see them when I was a smitten adolescent. I would probably not say, "Oh my god!" once.

I used to feel such venom for my parents who explained to me that I would get over Duran Duran. That I would be sorry for having spent all my money on the magazines and posters and crap. They were emotionless and implacable. Sarah and I had to sneak around and shop for teen magazines on the sly. We even got caught once with magazines stuffed under our sweatshirts when we returned from 7-11. Truth. Anyway, I hate to think that I am the fulfillment of their passionless prediction. I'm all grown up now and I have learned that rock music and schoolgirl crushes and 16 Magazine don't matter. But I think I'm sorry to have learned those things. I'm ready to regress. In my grown up world, the music is still paramount. It just isn't as important whether the person making it is too cute to be believed. That's as grown up as I'm willing to be today. And I think I will try to spend the rest of today looking forward a bit. A lot of what's behind me is muck.

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