Tuesday, January 22, 2013

music to like boys to, volume 2: old days, new days.

In the old days, here's how it went. Boy meets girl. Boy has a bit of a thing for girl. Boy and girl tell each other all their best anecdotes and flirt shyly with each other across cafeteria tables and library study booths. Boy makes girl mix tape/CD. Girl listens to mix while lying on dorm room carpet or living room throw rug. Girl swoons quietly and asks boy if he wants to come over later. Boy says yes. Girl convinces herself that she can play it cool, oh yeah, for sure.

These are the new days. Here's how it goes. Girl sends boy message online. Boy responds. Boy and girl tell each other all their best anecdotes and flirt shyly across invisible fibre-optic networks. Boy moves out of province. Girl gets a little bummed out. Boy and girl spend an inordinate amount of time talking online and on the phone, forcing girl to confront her crippling fear of telephone conversations. As it turns out, it's not all that bad. Boy makes girl a playlist and uploads it online. Girl cannot for the life of her figure out how the hell to get playlist link to open. Boy calls girl. Girl and boy spend about ten minutes doing quasi-tech support, come up empty handed, and then talk about their respective prom nights and troublemaking pasts for two and a half hours. Girl goes to work the next morning extremely fatigued.

The next day, boy messages girl and apologizes for keeping her up half the night. Girl demurs. Boy vainly attempts, yet again, to help girl download the damned mix. Boy downloads Dropbox. Girl sifts through a zillion emails trying to locate her Dropbox account information. Girl manages to download playlist but can't upload it to her media player. Boy calls girl before bed and gently suggests she might need to upgrade her operating system. Girl and boy quote the Simpsons to one another for awhile. Boy tells girl he really wishes he'd asked her out before he left Ontario. Girl listens to playlist on an iPad she doesn't entirely know how to use. Girl swoons quietly and then moonily prices out eastbound flights. Girl doesn't even bother trying to play it cool, as it has never gotten her anywhere particularly interesting anyway.

A lot of things change, but the parts that really matter stay pretty much the same.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

music to like boys to, volume 1.

You meet on the internet. It's 2006, and online dating hasn't quite reached its forthcoming ubiquity; it's still weird to admit that you do it at all. Over the summer you tried it out--you're in a new city, newly on your own for the first time in years, nearly recovered from an epic breakup. For the most part, the internet is a horrifying wasteland. You come up empty-handed but for a few great war stories of dudes who tell you they're falling in love with you on the second date, dudes who bring inflatable butt pillows to the restaurant, dudes who reveal their frontal lobe damage and twelve-step program attendance with an offhandedness that you find alarming. You spend some time feeling wildly sorry for yourself and drop out for a few months, then drop back in in November. It's late autumn in Ottawa and the days are short. You start to get the feeling that you'd be okay with something more, that something more might be out there.

You send him a message because he says in his profile that he's looking for a girl with good taste in music. Well hell, you think to yourself, I've got this one on lock.  He writes back soon afterward and you engage in the deceptively intimate exchange that comes from knowing someone only through words on a screen. He wants to meet, and you do too. You give him your real email instead of the dummy one you reserve for other suitors. You are cautiously optimistic.

Your first date is at a bar in the Market with the best jukebox and burgers in town. He's nervous, you can tell. He's sweet and shy and funny and you are charmed. You have a car, but you walked downtown in case you drank too much (you're not one for following the First Date Sobriety Rules). After dinner and a few tipsy pints the two of you walk slowly up to Rideau Street, talking about comic books and Thrush Hermit. Your shoulders brush against each other's in that tentative and  lovely way that is both purposeful and accidental. As each bus goes by you think to yourself, oh please, don't let this one be mine. Just a few more minutes.

You go out again a few days later, for brunch at your favourite pub on Elgin Street. You drink too much coffee and he offers to walk you home, and of course you say yes, because what else is there to say.  The two of you walk up Elgin and cut past the canal and over to First Avenue, climb the stairs up to your attic apartment, sit down on the couch, and kiss. It is the warmest you've felt in a long while. He has a tattoo of the X Men symbol on his shoulder. It's the middle of the afternoon. You feel a little dizzy. Later on he goes home and your best friend picks you up, and you drive to a party together and you tell her, I think this is something. Sure, she replies, having heard that song before.

A few days later you meet up with him again. He's made you a mix CD, and you're thrilled to discover that you love everything on it. Along with the mix is a list of the songs he picked, and the reasons why. Oh, my heart, you think to yourself. There's an obscure Plaskett song on there, an Interpol track you've never heard before along with the story of the time he saw them in New York City. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Folk Implosion, and oh my lord your favourite Dears song. Get out of town, you think to yourself. This is too good.

It is, and it isn't. The two of you will be inseparable for awhile. When you sleep over at his place he'll sometimes walk you home in the morning, snow falling from steely skies. He'll tell you he loves you and you'll echo his words as you've longed to for weeks. Then you will start to feel trapped and bored and nervous. Maybe a deep and silent part of you already knows all this is coming, as you lie there on the floor in the early days, listening to a Blur song you haven't heard in years. Maybe you're not ready to admit it. Not yet. 

Six months or so down the road you'll be the one who ends it, and as you do that same deep part of you will know it's a mistake.  You're still wounded from your last broken heart, though, and you tell yourself it's easier to do the breaking this time, rather than just wait around for him to shatter you. These are the stories we tell ourselves, over and over again.

Years later you'll still think of him in that fond, wistful way that is so tritely typical of all lost loves, as the one that got away, or maybe just the one you pushed away. You'll hold onto that CD for a long time. When you buy a new car you'll move it over from one glove box to another. You'll still listen to it every once in awhile, because you can't help but wonder. And really, regardless of all that mess, it's a really goddamned good mix.

Friday, January 4, 2013

winter break mix tape.

Given my previously explained love of the mixtape, I'm trying something new on the blog this year, in the form of occasional mixes for particular moments. Eventually I'm hoping to become tech savvy enough to create an actual downloadable file on some sort of a computer and post it here (I am told that such a thing can be done! I shouldn't have broken up with that DJ I dated last spring before he showed me how! Ah, regret), but for now, you're just going to have to live with a Youtube playlist.

Anyway, this first installment is music for a winter vacation. This year, for the first time since probably grad school, I had a period of time that actually resembled a Christmas break. Sure, I worked a day or two here and there, but there were no snowbound car-treks down the 401, no frantic rushes back to an underheated apartment and an ornery cat. I had the chance to actually settle into the holidays, and I even had a couple of days following Christmas with nothing but time to hunker down and hole up. It made me both nostalgic for Christmas breaks in years past (surreptitious trips to the park in the snow to meet pals from highschool, late nights in the basement watching television, the glow of the Christmas tree in a darkened front window) and utterly thrilled with my Christmas Present. So in that vein, here's a mix of songs, old and new, to celebrate the end of a long and lingering holiday, to anticipate with both dread and relief the dark days of winter ahead, to burrow, and of course, to dance like a motherfucking fool in your living room.

Here's the breakdown:

1. Pearl Jam--Corduroy (everything has changed, absolutely nothing's changed.)
2. Joel Plaskett Emergency--You're Mine (because he's always on my list.)
3. Jack White--Missing Pieces
4. The Lumineers--Classy Girls (a song I hope to live by this year).
5. M. Ward--Lullabye and Exile (a song for late nights and moony thoughts.)
6. Django Django--Hail Bop (I like some harmonies with my indie dance pop.)
7. The Flying Burrito Brothers--Wild Horses (oh man, oh man.)
8. Sloan--Bells On (the song that has always and will always slay me dead.)
9. Vampire Weekend--Taxi Cab (a song for a snowy walk at dusk.)
10. New Radicals--You get What You Give (the guiltiest pleasure.)
11. Robyn--Dancing On My Own (my JAM for 2013, mark my words.)

You can also listen here.