Once a Slacker, always a Slacker

Aging has been on my mind a lot lately, since I turned 39. It’s a crazy age to be, really. I think I sort of thought that I’d never be this age. Not that I thought I’d die or something, just that I imagined myself being, somehow, a completely different person by this point. I never thought that I’d feel like the same exact person who walked down the street at age 16 with my best friend (who is still my best friend!) and heard some middle-aged guy sigh and go, “Oh, to be 18 again...” That girl is still me, and I’m still her.

That was 23 years ago, which does and does not seem like a long fucking time ago. When I was that age, 23 years ago was 1966. And yes, that did seem like another age, another world. My parents hadn’t even met, yet. The Beatles were still touring. Woodstock hadn’t happened. Things were different.

The teenagers I see now don’t seem so different from me and my friends. We still did the same stupid things, acted the same stupid ways, thought we were smarter and better than anyone else. We were sarcastic, superior and sullen. Of course... the internet didn’t really exist. No one had a cell phone. If you wanted to listen to music, you had to buy it. In a store. Instead of marriage equality, we were talking about finding a cure for AIDS. So, yeah, things were different. But they didn’t feel different, at least not to me. I’m pretty sure that a teenager from now could be transported back to 1989 and fit in just fine, with a little bit of technological adjustment. We were assholes too, just like the current crop. I have a feeling that my parents’ could have said the same thing about 1966.

So. Now I am on the cusp of middle age. I have a hard time reconciling that with the person I think I am, but there it is. You can’t argue with the calendar.

I recently went to see a performance by The Baseball Project. They are a kind of super (or sort of-super) group of famous and semi-famous middle aged rockers who write and play songs about the beautiful sport of baseball. Does that sound intensely sad and boring to you? Because, I can understand that. But to me, it sounds beautiful. I love it. Steve Wynn, Mike Mills, Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, singing about fucking baseball. Guh. It gets me. But that’s me. I happen to love these men, and I love baseball, and I love that they love it. I find it impossibly adorable that they would give the game such unabashed love.  

This show was at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ. It’s a tiny venue, with a ton of history, and I couldn’t help but feel like these guys were basking in some kind of beloved rock and roll past by playing there. Peter Buck was standing two feet from me in the audience during the opening act, and passed close enough to me that I could have touched him on his way to the bar. I could have said hi, but what where could I have gone from there? “Dude. I love R.E.M.?” Yeah, okay. Me and a million other Gen Xers.

But anyway, my moment of truth didn’t really have much to do with the guys on stage. Sure, it was a little weird to see grey and grizzled Buck and Mills up there, in stark contrast to the sweet, cute boys on the R.E.M. poster I had on my wall in high school,  back when Stipe was still sporting those angelic curls. But they’d been around for a long time, it’s not like they’d gone away and I was shocked by their aged appearance. No, the shock for me was in the audience. I was standing in a sea of Chuck Taylors, rock t-shirts, and grey hair under baseball caps. These old guys were all of an age I clearly remember my own father being.

And yet, I knew these men. Over there, I could see the guy in the Big Star t-shirt, who talked earnestly to me about Pet Sounds for half an hour before I made out with him. Down the wall from him, the annoying little asshole who wouldn’t shut the fuck up about Primus. Across the room, the guy who sold me tabs of acid with Ren and Stimpy on them, having lost his pretty blond hair, but still retaining his haunted fishbowl-blue eyes. These were my boys, and I suddenly loved them more than ever.  

They were old, and they were paunchy, but that’s not really what I saw. I saw the boys I had loved, way back when. I looked at them, and I wanted to give them all a big hug and tell them, “It’s okay. I know. I don’t judge you for not wanting to grow up, and I don’t judge you for having done just that, anyway. I know who you are.”

I have long since been aware of the annoying and somewhat sad tendency of my generation to compulsively reference the pop culture of our youth. So, I scrupulously avoid making references to Evel Kneivel or Kevin Arnold, and I hardly ever call anyone “Pony Boy.” But I have to admit, when Mike Mills took the mike and sang “Rockville,” I was shouting out the chorus just as loud as anyone else there, and I felt a sense of belonging that I had, for so long, resisted. That melancholy lyric, so full of longing and regret, summed it up for me as well as anything ever has. I don’t want to waste another year, ever, because they get more scarce by the day. And you shouldn’t either, no matter how old or young you are.

I Am Not Like I Was Before

This is going to be about geezer stuff that may only be interesting to me (and maybe my geezer friends who don't know about this journal), but nevertheless I feel like writing about it. 

In the last ten years or so since I've had an iPod, I don't listen to music the same way I used to. No one does. The way I listen to music now how more in common with how I started listening to it, when I was 11 or 12, than the way I listened to it in high school or my 20s. My iPod plays me the same songs over and over just like Top 40 stations did when I was in 6th grade, although the selection is much larger and of far better quality, of course.

Once I started really caring about music (shortly after I transitioned from Wham! to The Smiths, which should date me pretty clearly), I listened to albums. I loved the way you could get lost in an album and it would tell you a story. I'd put my headphones on in the morning while I walked to school, and although the liquor stores and rundown rowhouses were actually in west Baltimore, if I was listening to The Pogues' "If I Should Fall From Grace With God," I could pretend it was Dublin. Or I could listen to something like John Wesley Harding's "Here Comes the Groom" or Elvis Costello's "King of America" and spend the whole time trying to pick out every clever turn of phrase sung in those deep, compelling voices. 

Several albums that I loved back then are still on my personal Top 15, including the aforementioned three albums, Lou Reed's "New York," They Might Be Giants' "Flood," Billy Bragg's "Workers Playtime," and the one I'm currently listening to on Spotify, Sinead O'Connor's "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got." My main memory of listening to this album was when I would walk from school to my first job, which was about four miles away. I listened to a lot of music on those walks, and since I didn't have much music in those days, I got to know it all intimately. This is the most intimate of albums, and as I'm listening to it now, I'm amazed at how beautifully it holds up. It's a gorgeous album. I hadn't heard it for many years, because I never had the CD - I had it on tape (so I could listen and walk, of course), and by the time I got around to buying only CDs I was in a completely different musical phase and never replaced it. 

Some of the songs on here are nice to hear on their own ("Black Boys on Mopeds," "I Am Stretched on Your Grave," "Nothing Compares 2 U"), but they seem much more slight when taken out of the context of the album. Listened to from start to finish, it's an experience.

I could listen to albums on my iPod, I realize this. But I rarely do it. And in fact, when I put music on my iPod, I rarely put whole albums on - I take out the songs I don't particularly like. But really, that's cheating. When I listened to albums on my Walkman, it was a pain in the ass to fast-forward, so I would listen even to the songs that were more challenging or not as pleasant to me, and I often ended up liking those songs. Like "Wild Honey Pie" from the White Album, for instance - it makes sense in the context of the album. But on an iPod, you don't want to get blindsided by that while you're driving, so you leave it off.

If we only listen to what is immediately pleasant to our ears, we will be missing out on so much, and embracing mediocrity, and I feel like we have done that to a large extent. The popular music industry has always aimed at the lowest common denominator, which makes sense for a money-making venture, but it seems increasingly like even talented indie artists are trying to put out loads of singles instead of an album that holds together. Again, this makes sense considering how we listen to music, but I can't imagine it being anything but harmful to the music.

So, there's my crotchety history lesson for the day. Listen to albums. And eat your vegetables. It's good for you. 

There's a way out of this room we don't know about.

I was looking for Mad Men fic, trying to find one to rec in honor of the long-awaited and much anticipated Season 5 premiere. I haven't found anything that really works for me (yet), which I guess might mean I'll try to write something. I'll give it some thought, anyway. 

It's 8am and no one else in my house is up yet, so I turned on the tv, and one of my favorite episodes of Mad Men is on! It's "The Suitcase," which is an episode in which very little happens, but it focuses on what is really the heart of that show - the relationship between Don and Peggy. It's a beautiful kind of relationship in itself, full of the kind of understanding that sometimes happens between people who, by all rights, shouldn't have it. But as a driving force for the series, it is such an elegant illustration of the way in which women pushed forward in the work force. Don, as an avatar for all men, is so aggravating, pathetic, and immature, so resistant to change, yet there is something in his character that wants to move forward. He has no thoughtful respect for women, but he clearly needs them, and sometimes seems to have an awareness of that. He is irresistible to so many women because he is the ultimate fix-it project, and the ultimate mystery. He will never give you what you want or what you need, but he holds out infinite promise.

This ep is so funny, so sad, and so touching. You could watch it, having no past knowledge of the show, and still get something out of it. That's how good the writing and the acting is here, and how compelling Peggy and Don are. 

My Very First LiveJournal Post - About Me

Hello. Since I'm going to be using LJ more, I figured I should start using my journal a little bit. 

A little about me - I'm in my 30s and married with two kids. 

I love music of many kinds - lately country has been a main interest (classic country and alt-country mostly), but I also love many other types of music and my only requirement is that it speaks to me on a personal level.

I love good TV, and I believe the personal relationships are what make a show great. My favorite show ever is The Wire, and my favorite show currently is Breaking Bad, followed closely by Mad Men. 

In terms of fic, my favorite (and the only one I write in) is Justified. My work is archived at Ao3: http://archiveofourown.org/users/thornfield_girl/works I've written a little fic in the past, but this is by far the most I've written in any fandom, and the best work I've done.

I also love to read Sherlock and Merlin fic, and a few others from time to time.