Tuesday, July 30, 2013

summer mixtape.

Prompted by the fact that I never update my iPod anymore, and also by my obsessive love of summer playlists, here is a short but sweet compilation of albums by bands I have been listening to for a depressing amount of time (more than ten years, to be precise) and who, as such, remind me of my own horrible mortality.

The Strokes--Room on Fire

Even though I've been listening to this record fairly consistently since it came out ten years ago, it really reminds me most of my first summer in Kingston back in 2009. I think I put Reptilia and The End Has No End on every mix I made that summer. Arriving in Kingston I felt freer and younger than I'd felt in years. That August I drove out to Almonte along the gorgeous back roads of Frontenac County, on my way to my best friend's wedding, listening to the Strokes and Plaskett on repeat. I felt like I'd finally figured out where I belonged.

Weezer--the Blue Album

I know I reference Weezer and kissing boys a LOT, and I don't want to put too fine a point on it, but look: If I'd had a baby with the first dude I kissed while listening to this album, that baby would now be nearly finished college and asking if it could move back in for just a few more months while it got its independent coffee shop/performance space up and running (my imaginary babies are INCREDIBLY creative and intellectual).

Thrush Hermit

I've loved Thrush Hermit ever since they did the theme song for Street Cents on CBC back in the early 90s (I have been a public broadcasting nerd for a long, long time). I found a used copy of Smart Bomb at Dr. Disc when I was 13 or 14 and listened to it all the damned time. I couldn't get over their clever, poetic lyrics, the wordy jokes they made; I'd found my nerd-rock gods. A little while later, my best friend made me a series of amazing mixtapes to listen to on a family trip out west, and she put The Great Pacific Ocean on one of them. I rewound it and listened to it over and over again. We had a complicated, overwrought, intense friendship, and I missed her like crazy while I was on the other side of the country. Listening to that song I felt my heart leap and sink and break and mend a thousand times.

Elliott Smith--Figure 8

Here's a fun story about this record: I bought the CD at Chapters on Bloor Street in Toronto, during my second year at Trinity. The dude who worked in the music department there was really cute and nice, and he seemed pleasantly surprised to be helping someone find an Elliott Smith album rather than something operatic or otherwise Yorkvillian. "Are you a Nick Drake fan?" he asked me, and I admitted that I had never heard of him. "He's an amazing singer songwriter who killed himself before he really got recognized," he told me, and found me a copy of Way To Blue: An Introduction To Nick Drake, which, naturally, I bought. I stopped by my boyfriend's residence room on my way back to St. Hilda's to show him my purchases. "You didn't know who NICK DRAKE was?" he asked incredulously. "Well, did YOU?" I countered. Of course, he did. He then got really sore about the fact that a cute boy had prompted me to buy a record and we got in a fight. A year later, we were both in a Canadian Literature class and there was this British guy in the class who looked and sounded EXACTLY like Nick Drake, and when I pointed it out to him, my boyfriend declared me a genius. It was one of a handful of running jokes that somehow carried us through an ill-advised year of sharing an apartment. A year or two after that, Elliott Smith killed himself, and I wondered if I had somehow made it happen by buying his album at the same time as another misunderstood suicidal genius.

Belle and Sebastian--Lazy Line Painter Jane

The same boyfriend put this on a mix tape for me once. During our first summer, both of us lived back in our hometowns, and we'd take turns hopping on the train from Hamilton to Oshawa to visit each other. One Friday night he picked me up in the dark at the Oshawa GO Station, and blared this song on the drive back to his parents' place. It was dark out, and chilly for a June night. I'd heard Belle and Sebastian plenty of times before, but never this song. The sound of it made me want to lean against him, burrow down, nod my head till I nodded off. But we weren't that close yet, or maybe we just weren't that honest yet. So I just told him, "I really love this song." It was a time when it was easier to tell him I loved a song than that I loved him. "I figured you would," he replied. "It's on the tape I made you."

Friday, July 5, 2013

music to like boys to, volume 2c: postcards from tiny islands.

Third in a series. Catch up here, and then here.

You arrive on a rainy Thursday, feeling somewhat crazed. He's not waiting for you by the baggage carousel and for a moment you wonder, did I make him up? Is this a trick? And then suddenly there he is, and suddenly you're hugging awkwardly, and suddenly you're in a taxi to the Best Western downtown. You lean into him carefully as the cab crawls down wet streets. Don't tell them you're sharing the room with me, you warn him, suddenly certain that you want him to stay. Do you WANT me to share? he asks. Of course, you reply, I just don't want to have to pay the extra ten bucks. It's more than that, though. It's also that you like sharing a secret.

One day you rent a car, and at first neither of you see quite sure what to do with it. You drive to his house so he can pick up a change of clothes, and then downtown, and then finally back to the hotel to park it before walking back up the block to the pub. It's cool and drizzly out, and after a walk along the waterfront you scurry back to the hotel for a nap. You fall asleep as he bearhugs you close. When you stir, and decide to roll over, he doesn't seem to wake up, but he loosens his hold, opens his arms, lets you get settled before gently wrapping them around you again. Oh man, you think. Oh man.

The next morning you head out on the Trans Canada toward the west side of the island, en route to a cottage on a cliff occupied by an old friend. He doesn't have a license, or much of a sense of direction. You hate driving. I hate driving, you tell him, white knuckles on the steering wheel. Maybe let's pull over and check the map, he replies. He's steady, somehow, in spite of it all. He buys you a bag of Cheezies at the gas station. I've been here before, you think.

Having found your bearings, you keep driving. He puts on the latest playlist he made you and tells you why he chose each particular song. Your heart melts and you get only slightly lost on red dirt backroads. At the cottage there are little girls offering copious high-fives, treks through sleeping lofts and power tool nooks and half-built forest forts. Your dear friend leads everyone down to the beach as the tide is coming in, and as you dip your feet in the shallow water, tiny crabs scuttling around your feet, he wanders off and looks at the erosion lines along the red rock. It's pretty neat, he says, interested and excited at the idea that his little island is sinking into the sea. I read somewhere that in a hundred years none of this will even exist anymore, he tells you. Leave it to you to find the endearing quality in someone fascinated with end times.

The girls send you on your way with a bouquet of wildflowers in a juice glass and you drive onward. You choose to trust the insane GPS on your new Fancy Phone and it leads you down every unmarked country road between Bedeque and Cavendish. Everything is so green and so vast. He is an incredibly good sport about following you around Green Gables. In the front entry you spot a 1980s era phone on a low shelf and shout, Look, it's Anne's original touchtone. The historical interpreters are remarkably cheerful about your outburst. Well, she had to call Diana SOMEHOW, one replies. That was surprisingly fun, he tells you in the car on the drive home, soundtracked by Joel Plaskett. You feel warm and tired and if you weren't in the driver's seat you'd lean right over and put your head on his shoulder.

The afternoon nap becomes a ritual, and when you wake up in his arms again you don't move right away. You don't want it to be over quite yet. You order pizza and watch episodes of the Simpsons with the commentary track on, half listening and half narrating the episodes to each other. It's Saturday night, and you head to the bar. The guy working the door is a friend of his and gives you a deal on the cover. Later when he goes back to thank him, the doorman smiles knowingly and says, I didn't want you to look bad in front of your guest. The bar is packed and his cousin's band is playing but you spend most of the evening out on the back porch, giggling and giddy. At one point when you return from inside, it takes you a few minutes to sneak your way back into the seat next to his, and when you make it he tells you, Boy am I glad to be sitting next to you again.

Me too, you reply.

Later on, you walk back to the hotel in the rain. You have an umbrella, but you don't bother to get it out. This is something, you both admit to each other. This is definitely something.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

music to like boys to, volume 2b.

A sequel to a previous entry, which can be found here.

The winter passes, and spring creeps in slowly. Girl is sick, a lot, and spends too much time online, conducting business from the couch with episodes of Homeland playing in the background. Boy gets a new job, and either doesn't have enough to do or would rather talk to Girl online than paint the wall behind the theatre's urinals. It works out pretty well for both of them, at least Girl thinks so. Boy and Girl spend an inordinate amount of time discussing an inordinate amount of things. It's comforting, being involved in and aware of the minutiae of a person's life. Every time there's a blizzard warning Girl looks at the weather online, checks to see if it's coming in from his direction or heading from her toward him, suddenly curious about the patterns of movement up and down the eastern seaboard. It doesn't matter, not really, but she likes the idea that they might both survive the same storm, days apart.

The first truly warm day of the year is a Wednesday in May. That afternoon, spring fever gets the best of Girl. She buys a plane ticket to the island where Boy lives. Boy and Girl ask for, and get, the time off work. Girl trawls the internet for a hotel room and Boy advises her on which spots are okay and which spots are roach havens and which spots don't actually exist. Girl is thankful for the help.

At first the flight feels so very far away, an abstract and vaguely wonderful thing. Girl blinks, and suddenly it's time to go. Now it is high summer, almost too hot to be outside in the evenings. Girl checks the weather forecast obsessively in the days before she leaves, feeling strangely hopeful about the possibility that it will be cooler there.

Boy makes Girl a mix for her birthday, and for her travels. Here we go again, Girl jokes, remembering the long ordeal of their first music exchange. This time, though, it's easy peasy, downloaded in seconds. Girl uploads the songs to her Fancy Phone (things sure have changed on Walton Mountain) and it becomes her soundtrack for sun-soaked walks to work. It's the kind of hot that makes you feel dumb and dreamy. Summer fever doesn't have the same ring to it, but that's what it is. Boy says he hopes she won't find the playlist too weird or jarring, and truth be told, it is an odd one. Girl hears Bowie followed by Snoop Dogg followed by Thrush Hermit and feels more optimistic than she's felt in a long time.

The night before she leaves, Girl listens to the mix. She's overpacking, as usual. It's hard to tell what she might need when she gets there. You can't really trust the forecast; it creates the dangerous illusion that you can be prepared for what's ahead of you. She knows she'll never be fully ready for whatever's waiting for her on that tiny island, but she'll try. It's raining when she leaves Toronto and raining when her plane touches down, and as she walks across the misty tarmac she wonders if the rain followed her across the provinces. Not that it's all that important. What's really important is on the other side of the Arrivals door.