I Love the ’00s

A few years ago in Chicago, 92.7 was a radio station called Energy and it was dedicated entirely to dance music. It was awesome. It was the perfect driving soundtrack about 90% of the time–going out with your girlfriends, running errands on Saturday, going to school in the morning, driving home from the movie extra late at night, road-tripping…it was just upbeat, high BPM, synthesized goodness. Also they used to have these promo spots where listeners who had called in would read lines like, “Hi, my name is Kimberly and I’m a cheerleader from Naperville and I. am. ENERGY!!!!!” Great, right? Yeah, well some people didn’t think so, and I remember coming home for winter break my freshman year of college and flipping to 92.7 and it was no more! Sob. No more “Two Times” or “Heaven” remixes or “I’ll Fly With You.” WHATEVER WOULD I DO?!
Anyway, it was easy to get over the death of Energy, because it was such a niche station and it wasn’t like I was going to hear Basement Jaxx on mainstream radio, so it was forgotten pretty quickly. But lately I’ve been hearing a bunch of singles on the radio that would have fit in perfectly with Energy’s format:

  • Chris Brown, “Forever”
  • David Guetta, “Love Is Gone”
  • September, “Cry For You”
  • Rihanna, “Disturbia”
  • That one Latin song by the chick who died

I’m really not sure what it all means; I just saw a photo of one of the Olsens wearing Docs, cutoffs, and a flannel, which means the 90s are coming back. But Energy didn’t really pop up until, like, 2000 before fizzling out a mere year later. It was like a candle in the wind, if you will. I guess what I am trying to say is that there is obviously a market for this music, so can I have my Energy back please! CLEAR CHANNEL, ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?!

On Poetry, and Gerard Manley Hopkins

I don’t really like poetry. Shock! And this coming from someone who majored in creative writing and in English literature. But there you have it. I find it really awkward, for the most part, both in reading and in writing, and I feel like I have the authority to say that as someone who

  1. wrote a lot of really bad, maudlin poetry as an angsty adolescent,
  2. has received a lot of squirm-inducing poetry from boyfriends throughout the years, and
  3. once endured an impromptu private recital of Lord Byron’s “She walks in Beauty”, courtesy of a “boyfriend” who was probably as enamored with the sound of his own voice as he most likely was with his own good looks, and who had probably been researching Byron’s poetry as part of a role anyway.

With that said, I make some exceptions. I will always be obsessed with anything Pre-Raphaelite and so the Rossettis make my list. In more recent years, I’ve explored Neruda and Rilke. And out of a sort of nostalgia for high school English and college survey courses, and the jealous way they cling to canonical texts, I’m also partial to Whitman’s wide-eyed wisdom, the drug-addled portents of Poe and Coleridge, Shakespeare’s sly wordplay and Dickinson’s idiosyncratic, world-weary innocence. I really don’t have the patience for someone like T.S. Eliot, but I love “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Finally, I can’t really leave John Keats off this list, not after hearing my Australian Brit Lit professor read stanzas of “Eve of St. Agnes” aloud in a darkened lecture hall. (The words “silken Samarkand” are burned indelibly into my mind.)

Anyway, a poem I have always loved is “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It first came to me under rather unspectacular circumstances–a reading assignment in English 100, in college–but at the time, 9/11 had just happened, so it held a different kind of significance for me, I guess. Judging from the date (1918), I would guess that Hopkins wrote it in response to WWI and its aftermath, but I think it has a timeless appeal, and the imagery kind of reminds me of the Mussorgsky/Ave Maria suite in Fantasia:

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

LCD Soundsystem

I love when this song comes on when I’m out.

************************

That’s how it starts
We go back to your house
We check the charts
And start to figure it out

And if it’s crowded, all the better
Because we know we’re gonna be up late
But if you’re worried about the weather
Then you picked the wrong place to stay
That’s how it starts

And so it starts
You switch the engine on
We set controls for the heart of the sun
one of the ways we show our age

And if the sun comes up, if the sun comes up, if the sun comes up
And I still don’t wanna stagger home
Then it’s the memory of our betters
That are keeping us on our feet

You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan
And the next five years trying to be with your friends again

You’re talking 45 turns just as fast as you can
Teah, I know it gets tired, but it’s better when we pretend

It comes apart
The way it does in bad films
Except in parts
When the moral kicks in

Though when we’re running out of the drugs
And the conversation’s winding away
I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision
For another five years of lies

You drop the first ten years just as fast as you can
And the next ten people who are trying to be polite
When you’re blowing eighty-five days in the middle of France
Yeah, I know it gets tired only where are your friends tonight?

And to tell the truth
Oh, this could be the last time
So here we go
Like a sales force into the night

And if I made a fool, if I made a fool, if I made a fool
on the road, there’s always this
And if I’m sewn into submission
I can still come home to this

And with a face like a dad and a laughable stand
You can sleep on the plane or review what you said
When you’re drunk and the kids leave impossible tasks
You think over and over, “hey, I’m finally dead.”

Oh, if the trip and the plan come apart in your hand
Tou look contorted on yourself your ridiculous prop
You forgot what you meant when you read what you said
And you always knew you were tired, but then
Where are your friends tonight?

Where are your friends tonight?
Where are your friends tonight?

If I could see all my friends tonight
If I could see all my friends tonight
If I could see all my friends tonight
If I could see all my friends tonight

Places I Could Retire To

Jonestar challenged me recently on a bold statement of mine: “You could never last in Hawaii. You’d get bored after 2 weeks. You’d get lonely!” I countered that teaching has made me something of a misanthropist; I still stand by that statement.

That said, I’ve always had this vision of myself as an old lady, living at the end of the world somewhere. Maybe that place was a remote, tropical island like Tahiti or the Azores or somewhere in the milky turquoise waters of the Indian Sea. Maybe it was the Skeleton Beach of Namibia. Maybe it was the American West or the Australian Outback. Either way, I do not think I will live in a city my whole life; to do so would be incredibly limiting, I think, and certainly not in line with my Romanticist ideals of negative space. Here is a list of places that I’ve visited that seem to strike a nice balance between the two extremes:

  1. Newport, RI
  2. Mackinac Island, MI
  3. Galena, IL
  4. Savannah, GA
  5. Rincon, PR
  6. Marfa, TX (so I haven’t visited here, but I’d like to)
  7. New Hope, PA

Memory #10: Cornfields

The farmlands are alternately emerald green and saffron yellow; patchwork squares that glisten in unadulterated sunlight. The morning sun: a buttery white disc afloat in a sea of clean cornflower blue. When we drive past, the squares shoot by and seem to blend together. Green, yellow, green, yellow. Every now and then, a clump of healthy trees, a wooden farmhouse, a billboard emblazoned with Bible verses.

The rock star sits in the seat in front of me. He has toured in Japan. His very presence seems to speak to me of black jeans, electric guitars, cigarettes, booze. Hours later by the campfire, after my clothes and hair have dried, he will say to me, “Cool jeans,” and my heart will skip a beat. For now, it is hard for me to picture such a character on a canoe in the river. I am silent, in the back, watching flatlands as they pass, content to study the back of his head, the nuances of his voice as he converses easily with the other people in the car.

“Look at that house,” he says, pointing at a neat construction of blue- and white-painted wood, tiny in the distance. A long white gravel ribbon cuts its way from the black of the highway to the fluffy golden swath of cornfield. “That’s what I’d like.”

“What?”

“A house like that. That’d be great…get a wife, move to the country, live on a farm. Just get away from it all, you know? That’s what I need, man.”

I do not understand him at the time. I cannot think of anything I’d want less. I am in high school and scrambling to grow up. On weekends we trek into the city and giggle our way through the thrift stores and fetish shops around Belmont and Clark; at nighttime we drive aimlessly around the thick black woods of Barrington and take midnight repasts at Denny’s and IHOP; on Friday nights we go to suburban teen clubs, clad in skimpy polyester and adorned with glitter, and dance to pounding music with young Marines in training–all out of the searing desire for something more exciting, more glamorous, more independent, more grown-up. Every day I feel myself reaching for something indescribable. I can’t help but feel that somewhere in the world is a more memorable way of life that I am missing out on.

To me, the rock star encompasses everything I want at sixteen: the cachet of urbane coolness and the lifestyle of an international troubadour. In my head, I see the rock star navigating his way through a swirling world painted entirely in gritty blacks, grays, silvers, and neons. Why would anyone want to exchange that for a static life colorized in Crayola?

But I am just sixteen. I have yet to feel the heartache of being utterly alone in a metropolis of millions. I have yet to know the soul-crushing weight of starting each gray day before dawn and returning home each day feeling ten years older. I have not yet learned to yearn for sunlit air, wide plains, breathtaking vistas. I have not yet grown to appreciate certain qualities. Stability. Security. Simplicity. Serenity.

***********************************

In time, I will know. In time, the fetish shops around Belmont and Clark will be replaced with fast food franchises; the gutter punks will wander off to some other soon-to-be-gentrified enclave. In time, the woods of the Northwest suburbs will gradually ebb, making way for McMansion developments with generic, bucolic names and status SUVs. In time, Club X will be shut down, and stretchy black pants and body glitter will fall out of fashion. In time, I will find myself halfway across the country, on a schoolbus at an age way past the normal schoolbus-riding age, sitting across from ____________ from Indiana. He looks too young and too sheltered to be moving to the gritty city to teach foulmouthed children. Like me.

We sit across from each other on the bus home from summer school. The grotty vinyl of the seats sticks to my legs; my face is coated with a fine film of oil and sweat; wisps of hair are glued to the edges of my face, neck, and scalp. The windows of the bus are open, letting in the oppressive humidity of a mid-Atlantic summer and all the offensive smells and sounds that come with it. But the look on ___________’s face tells that he is miles away. He leans his head against the seat in front of him in a way that is effeminate and boyish all at once. “I miss the cornfields,” he says to me.

It’s all he says, but between two Midwestern transplants, it’s all he needs to say. And in time, I will miss them too. I will realize that my mind keeps coming back to them at the strangest times. And by that time, _______________ will have already left the city.

A G-Chat Conversation #9

5:52 PM me: UM
5:53 PM Kasko: thats just weird
5:55 PM me: LOLOL
YOU CLIMB IN IT!!!
Kasko: i knew a couple girls in college you could do that to
one leg at a time though, ‘less you want to hurt yourself
5:56 PM me: that is TERRIBLE
Kasko: what? they were sluuuuuuuts
there was one girl we did always make fun of for her cavernous vagina
5:57 PM (it wasnt you or anyone you knew/cared about)
5:58 PM if that makes you feel better

A G-Chat Conversation #8

Smakapon: dude i love oasis

i wish they would go on tour with guster
that’d be amazing
i saw regina spector [sic] today
you know her?
10:03 PM how was your weekend?
10:04 PM me: it was great
yeah i saw a regina spektor a year and a half ago
she’s great!
10:05 PM Smakapon: yeah, she was doing a concert for the 60th celebration of isreal [sic]
it’s funny because right next to it was the Philippine festival
so it was like you
half jew half Filipino
haha