Saturday, December 18, 2004

cover me, I'm going in

Today is the last Saturday before Christmas, and in a couple of hours I am going to work at the mall.

I wish I could really convey...anything...about this experience, but suffice it to say I am facing it with a mixture of dread and weird exhiliaration. I've discovered a new, disturbing, previously unsuspected facet of my personality: I like to win. Winning, in this case, means two things. One is making a lot of money--which leads to a little dance of capitalist joy every time we knock our budget over. The other is making people smile at this, possibly the crappiest time of the year. I don't care what the songs say, everyone is on the verge, even people who don't celebrate Christmas. In fact, I think the songs are part of it. How many times can one person tolerate "Sleigh Ride"?

I suppose I'm going to find out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

twenty-nine, the sequel

When asked to guess my age, people regularly pin me as anywhere from five to eight years younger than I am. It could be just politeness, except that when I tell them how old I actually am (thirty), they tend to react with astonishment, sometimes grabbing passersby and asking them to take a guess, just so they can be the ones with the surprise. It's kinda funny. spook has me trumped, though. For example, he got carded at the beer store the other day, even though he's been of age to drink for...eleven years.

It happens enough that when I was fussing about whether or not my dad liked him ("Do you think he's freaked out that spook is trans?") one of our friends suggested that possibly he was freaked out because he thought the spookster was seventeen. This seemed plausible enough that I actually checked it out. ("Dude, you know he's not seventeen, right?")

However, none of this had prepared me for the phone call I got yesterday morning.
"Hi, I'm calling from [yer local friendly bike shop]. Your son dropped off his BMX this week..."

Oh dear.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

high fidelity

There was a time when it seemed that everyone in my life communicated in song lyrics. When we were miserable or in love (or sometimes both) we would write each other notes with little snippets of favourite verses. Sometimes, if we were miserable or in love enough, we would write our own, leading to band introductions like "Hi, we're Under the Attic, and our songs are about pain. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely 'cause y'all deserved it."
I know some people believe that being too attached to the words means you're somehow missing the point of music, but I disagree--how else can you explain that some lyrics which transport you out of yourself when you hear them look downright stupid on a page? It's only when you put them together that they really take off.
Today I was thinking about all the lyrics that people have sent me over the years and how they've made me feel. I'm vulnerable to that sort of thing--I'm terribly vain, and I like to know what kinds of words bring me to mind. Does anyone else have those moments when you're listening to a song and you think, I wish someone would say that about me? Does anyone else have a short list of song lyrics in their heads that they're waiting to receive? And if so, would you post them so that I don't feel so embarrassed about my narccicism? I'll go first.
I used to really want someone to quote Tom Waits about me:
I wish you'd known her, we were quite a pair
She was sharp as a razor and soft as a prayer

On my birthday this year I actually received a card with lyrics from my mental list. I cried. Come on, wouldn't you? They're from a Weakerthans song (surprise) and they go like this:
you are a radio
you are an open door
i am a faulty string of blue christmas lights

I love that, and the implied second half of the verse:
you swim through frequencies
you let that stranger in
while i'm blinking on and off and on again

I'm not sure how those two songs could be reconciled, but let's just say that in this case, moving from Tom Waits to the Weakerthans was a case of positive evolution.
Lyrics are a huge part of my emotional landscape. My mom is the master of sending me nice lyrics that make me cry. We don't have the same taste in clothes, decor, or for that matter, music, but give that woman a lyric sheet and hand me a kleenex. After a particularly traumatic breakup, I posted Dar Williams' song "My Friends" on the wall beside my bed and read it every day. More than once I have received a mixed tape and spent hours, days, freaking out about which songs were significant. Does she like me? Did she mean this? What about this other, much less flattering song that comes later?
There are some songs that are so attached to one part of my life or one person that they're always together in my thoughts, part of the same fabric. It all makes me wonder about people who don't much like music, or aren't interested in the words. What goes in this space in their heads? How do they conduct friendships, romances, apologies? Is life different when you always have to use your own phrases? And how do they get through it when they just don't know what to say?

I think it would be great to see which lyrics people would use to describe themselves and their lives. It's a new way to look at folks you thought you already knew. So assuming my ego is not monstrously inflated, and that other people do have those thoughts...'fess up. As bribery, I offer you this:

if I had a camera
showing all the light we give
and showing where the light extends
I'd give it to my friends

(Dar Williams, "My Friends")