This is the best thing I’ve read on Medium so far.
This was early on when Julie and I lived in Chicago. We were invited to a dinner party by someone in the dance world. She sat on the board of a number of committees determining who would get grants for performance work. She was friendly. And this particular evening she and her husband invited us to her home with two other couples for dinner. None of us had met.
We had the address and it was in Old Town in Chicago. We drove around a bit before we figured out where it was. It was difficult to see the addresses. If you’ve never been to Chicago, Old Town is a residential neighborhood right next to downtown. Very much “city living,” the closest residential area to the primary business district. When we finally found this place, it was up some steps from the city sidewalk into a building concealed from the street and covered in greenery. This is a little hard to describe, but from the outside, it looked like some random apartment building. Just a one-story thing on a city street. But once you were inside, this place was palatial. One of the largest and most impressive homes I’ve ever been in. Soaring vault ceilings. Beautiful fixtures. A huge space, like the size of a small mansion but it was concealed on this non-descript city block so you would never know it. There was no indication from the street that a rich couple was living in a city mansion in this space.
We said hello, and we stood around having some drinks for a few minutes. The woman’s husband was a man named Bob. She was in her late 40s and he was in his 70s, I believe. He was retired. I made a point to chat him up when were standing around. He was a very interesting guy. He seemed warm and curious and very smart. I told him I was an editor for a music magazine. He told me that his daughter used to be the lead singer in a band called Veruca Salt. i told him I had heard of them. They were not reunited at this time, it was a few years ago. He also told me that he used to be CEO of the company that invented Nutra-Sweet. So I knew he’d made a few bucks.
We sat down, and we had dinner. The dinner was quite good. After we’d finished, Bob asked for everyone’s attention because he had something to say. He told us that one of our guests had brought a bottle of some nice port wine, so perhaps all of us would like to retire to the area of the living room by the fireplace to try it? That sounded very good to me. So we did that.
I don’t know why, but for some reason I admired Bob for directing his guests to his fireplace to drink port wine. Maybe part of me admired his wealth, that he had a fireplace at all. But I also admired the way that he directed the flow of the evening, asking these people he didn’t really know to join him in a glass of port.
We walked over to the fireplace and the wine was opened and Bob’s wife said it would be nice to hear some music. Since I worked at a music magazine, it made sense that I would choose it. So I walked over to the closet where they kept their stereo and I started flipping through the iPod they had hooked up to it. I saw Feist’s The Reminder and I knew immediately that was it. I walked back to the living room and everyone seemed to love it.
This was the early days of the iPhone. I still had a flip phone. But Bob, even though he was well into his 70s, had an iPhone. And he sat near us by the fireplace but he was mostly looking at his phone. Sometimes the conversation would move in a direction where there was a stray fact unknown and he would look it up without prompting. He loved this iPhone. And I loved that this older man loved this iPhone. To me it represented curiosity. He was fascinated by what new technology could do.
We started talking about movies. Bob asked that we all go around and state our favorite movie. When it came back to Bob, he said his favorite was the Paul T. Anderson film Magnolia. This was very strange and interesting to me, that a man about 75 who had seen films going back to the 1940 chose as his favorite film of all time Magnolia. It made me realize that we all grow old in different ways.
"There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" by a big margin.
I wrote something once and then I mentioned it on Tumblr so I will quote it here:
Probably clear to anyone who knows me that one of my favorite songs of all time is the Smiths’ “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”. I have this idea that everyone who loves this song thinks of the person in their life who might have been riding in the other seat when the song played out in real life. In the Smiths song, the narrator wants to confess his love to the person in the other seat, and I understand how central that idea is to the song. But to me the most important part of it is the friendship: One friend leaning on the other to lift him or her our of this miserable situation.
Many years ago when I was a kid I had someone like this in my life, the person in the other seat, and his name was David Alizo. He’s also the person who made me appreciate the Smiths. We went to high school together. He was a huge influence on my life, one of a small handful of people who really changed who I am as a person. In 2006, I wrote this column, which is sort of rambling without really getting to the point, about my friendship with David and what it was like to hang out with someone who introduced me to a new world. He did that. I see now that in many ways this column was a direct predecessor to one I wrote this year called You Masculine You, which was about Grimes and Bill Callahan and identifying with music in different ways based on traditional ideas of masculine and feminine.
I’m not sure if this old column is any good, but it’s live on the internet and there for you to read if you want to. I’m linking it because last night I found out that the friend I wrote it about, the person I imagined when I thought of the Smiths’ line “driving in your car,” died two days ago, suddenly. I’d only seen him twice in the last 20 years, so it’s been a long time since we were close. But I have thought of him often. And six years ago I wrote this clumsy piece trying to figure out what his friendship meant to me during a formative time, when music played such an important part in my life and I was learning so much every day.
Not to speak of, some comps here and there but nothing that stayed with me. Can you suggest some?
In 1993 I bought a friend’s VW bus for $800. It had a pop-up camper, could sleep four comfortably. My mind was turning with all the adventures my friends and I would have in this van. Here I am changing the oil. I bought a Chilton’s manual and I was going to learn how to maintain this thing. Turned out the bus had some serious mechanical issues, including one that made stopping very difficult. It never made it out of the East Lansing city limits. Shortly after this photo was taken I parked it behind my parents’ house and left it there for quite a while and they got really mad about that. Eventually my father arranged a sale to the ex-boyfriend of a woman who worked in his office, and the ex-boyfriend wound up living in the van for a couple of years. I never changed the oil on an automobile again.
A 1979 piece from Didion that overlaps a bit w/ the quote from the review of Carl Wilson’s book going around on my dashboard.
The awesome literary journal Meanjin tweeted in response to our last post:
@waouwwaouw This is great! I’d also add try not to be apologetic or self-critical when pitching and submitting: “Sorry, it’s a mess” etc…— Meanjin Quarterly (@Meanjin)June 16, 2014
@waouwwaouw … I find it a hard habit to break, but why set an editor up to have low expectations of your work? But SO MANY do it (me too!)— Meanjin Quarterly (@Meanjin)June 16, 2014
Good advice for all of us.