Secret Pop

May 8, 2005


My parents' home is near a school. It appears some child lost one of those red four-square balls in the wasteland near their property. It's been out in the sun so long, its faded, misshapen, once-spherical form now looks dimpled and cratered and dull where it once shined, like a stray planetoid, poking up out of the dirt. There are snakes out there in that dusty, brushy open space. I just know it.

Last week, I drove down with Beulah and Justin to pick up the car I will be borrowing from my parents until my insurance business is settled. I was tired. Stressed. Maybe a little sad. The whole weekend had felt that way to me. A lingering sense of endings. Anticlimax. The doldrums. And I had a smidgen of headache. Exacerbated by a number of the hair band choices in Beulah's playlist that day. But somewhere along the way, I changed my mind about my mood, and we sang along to power ballads that require the stretching and straining of vocal limits. Night Ranger. Extreme. Steelheart. Sheriff. G N' R. It was hoarse goodness. Poor Justin. I'm sure he hated every minute of it. We sing like banshees, Beulah and I.

I hate to sound unbearably earnest, but music sure is magical. And it's really just recently that I've recognized that I don't always have to be so vulnerable to it. Certain songs evoke memories and feelings and pangs of things. But many of them have been around long enough in my life's radio that there are layers upon layers of these memories. And it doesn't take much excavation to unearth a memory beneath whichever one you first encounter. Especially if that one makes you want to cry or call someone you shouldn't or buy something you can't afford. I was listening to Aimee Mann and Elvis Costello harmonizing in The Other End (of the Telescope), and at first it made me sad. I thought about putting this song on many of my mixtapes. Hearing it in the car with this guy or that one. Thinking things about the lyrics and wondering if what I was thinking showed. Or hearing it more recently and having the memory of remembering it and feeling sad for all that has and has not happened in the interim. But clicking back a few iterations to the earlier memories -- the not-sucking one -- has its charms. I was running the other day, and I got bored of my usual running playlist and started playing road trip mixes from ages ago. And it was perfect gorgeous outside and the running was super difficult but also wonderful. And I hearkened back to a much, much earlier listening of this song, riding a Greyhound bus from Ithaca, on my way to go visit my high school sweetheart. It was snowing and grey outside for most of the trip. I leaned my head against the window. The glass was cold and damp. I was poor. A college student. And I never did get a warm enough pair of shoes in the time I lived there. And there were flecks of melancholy in that story, too, but it did not hurt to think of them. One day, I expect the layers will mount, and I will be similarly unmoved by the stories that now abrade. They will be buried by everything else. More important things. The hierarchy of recentness. Everything will be forgotten. And as I forget, I cringe a little, knowing that I am also being forgotten. A great Etch-a-Sketch being shaken, if slowly. But you can't erase just one part of it. No matter how careful you are. Eventually the whole thing goes blank, and you start over. And wonder why there isn't more color in the world.

I have been in San Diego for a couple of days. Friday night, my family and I went to Tip Top Meats and ate meaty German food and the many cabbage dishes that come with it. Afterwards, I met friends at Cane's to see Tainted Love, an '80s cover band that helps you gauge how many of the lyrics you know to songs you were sure you used to hate.

We drank and danced and got sweatier than I usually care to. Then we went to Nunu's, and I got an earful from those who knew me about my new hairdo. I've noticed that a lot more people talk to me -- and for disconcertingly longer stretches of time -- than when my hair was not quite so fair. It is requiring me to be more brusque than I normally would ever be. It makes me want to dye my hair brown with grey streaks and wear nothing but sackcloth.

After Nunu's closed up shop, I took Krissy and Mike to that Mexican place near their house, and then we went back to their house and watched Blade Trinity with the housemates. For clarity's sake, I watched it. Everyone else slept, two of them actually sleeping on me in some fashion. I drove home at dawn.

On Saturday (yesterday), I went for a swim. A perfect swim in a perfect pool that made me reluctantly thankful for the sunshine and all the damage it is doing to my skinsuit. Beulah and I met up for some Mother's Day shopping. I had to leave before I wanted to. I had shows to do at the comedy theater. I did them. I had to sit on my hands a lot. But I did play the part of an infertile woman again and got to end a sentence with "unless your uterus looks like a raisin." And a little girl in the front row asked me after the show if I'm really barren, and it was such a precious little moment. The girl who sat next to her then told me that her brother isn't very nice because he sometimes kicks her "in the private." And that was precious, too, but for altogether different reasons.

After the show -- and another encounter with a persistent stranger named Bertrand who thought my hair and shoes were reason enough that we should be the very best of friends -- I ended up at the Lenz house again. I made a pretty good Chewbacca sound for the first time ever. This time I got home by five or so. But still.

Today, we celebrated Mother's Day by having a gigantic barbecue of assorted meats. I spent more time in the pool. I am a temporary frecklepuss. I practiced juggling with balls that are too light and too large for my small, imprecise hands. Beulah and I played games in the water. Audrey swam with me and rode me around the pool like a raft. And then all of a sudden it was now. And there was nothing much more to say about that. Except that I am coming home soon. And I am glad of it.

No comments: