Monday, October 01, 2007

Pretty Much Perfect Records Pt. 2 - The Celebrated Summer

The summer of 1995 I rode down to Indianapolis with Deva Saroyan and Dallas Cavinaugh to see a show. I was a few weeks away from graduating from high school. We stopped in to Missing Link Records before the show and I knew that I wanted to buy something, but I didn't really know what, so I bought a 7", a split record of two bands that I had heard of but had not heard. The 7" had a silkscreened cover made out of a manila envelope, and inside there were various small pieces of paper. There was one that really got me though. This is what it looked like:

celebrated summer paper

I realize how stupid this may seem now, but at the time, these were all things that seemed really heavy to me. "The sun will never shine the same, the stars in the sky will never set the same." It was true! Everything felt so important and big and life-changing. So many of my wonderful friends were leaving, going away to various places, doing various things, just at a time when it seemed like everyone was finally starting to be honest with each other.

"I remember a bunch of crazy, confused kids staying up all night on porches, in kitchens, even in a closet, trying to solve questions that may never be answered."

There was something about this happening in kitchens that seemed so familiar to me. I drove my parents' car to my friends' houses, we hung out in strange places, we wanted to live it as big as we could. It felt like the only thing that we knew how to do.

When I got home and listened to the record, I realized that not only did it have the greatest little pieces of paper inside it, but it also had what felt like the coolest, most perfect songs I had ever heard. The bands were Ordination of Aaron and Indian Summer. The names of these bands completely confused me. They weren't the tough-sounding hardcore band band names I was used to hearing. Their music was so many crazy things to me: sloppy, emotional, angry, celebratory, nostalgic but so new. Who were these people? What were they experiencing? Did they live with their parents? I knew nothing about them, and there was not really very much I could do to find out.

What the heck, download the 7". It might not sound like much to you now, removed from what I realize is a very specific context, but when I heard this record it was a total revelation. Everything about it was so perfect to me. I felt like it was the soundtrack that had been missing from my life for a long time. No sound felt more alive.

Like the summer described in the photocopied record insert, it came to an end. "We cannot live this summer over, but we cannot let it die." Over ten years later, I ask myself, have I let it die? "I remember running into friends in far-off places and loving them just as much as I did when they left." I think that it holds. I think that if I was in a kitchen with Ping, Ursula, Deva, Fumiko, Paul, Jerry, my brother, or anyone else, that I would love them as much as I did then. What wonderful people we were and still are! Not to sound pretentious, or like I am bragging, but sometimes I feel like I grew up around the smartest and most interesting people possible (for living in Indiana, anyway).

What is interesting to me now is that I still feel so much excitement about the hugeness of a summer. I feel so excited, I feel so powerful, so hopeful of what could happen. I feel like I have so many wonderful people who I would love to embark on an adventure with. It's a pretty wonderful contrast to how I felt for so many months up until now.

celebrated summer cover

One time when my parents were out of town I drove their car up to see Ursula in Chicago. It's crazy to think of going anywhere out of town without MapQuest, but back then I did it all the time. Directions, written on a sheet of paper, dictated over a telephone via a long distance phone call. It's a lost art form. Ursula's parents had just moved to Evanston, and she was staying up there with them, but frequently let it be known that she wanted visitors, and I had decided I wanted to be one of those visitors. I had liked her for a long time. Honestly, I had liked her since the 8th grade, but didn't really know what to do about it. She was so unlike anyone else at school. Such a strange person with interests that were so different than anyone else's. She was nice, she was happy, and she was interesting. She wasn't into much music, so I thought we didn't have a lot in common. I had effectively ruined my chances a year or two earlier by dating her close friend, LaRonika (another story all in itself, p.s. she wasn't black). It seemed doomed, until one day, shortly after we had graduated, I found myself with her and only her at Tapawingo park on the night of my 18th birthday. We walked around, talking easily, probably musing about how weird it was that we were all going our separate ways. In this case, "going our separate ways" meant that she was going to Princeton, and I was going to continue to live with my parents and go to Purdue. It was cool. We walked around Tapawingo park. They were playing a movie outside. The Mighty Ducks, starring Emilio Estevez. We though that was funny. We wanted some drinks, or some snacks, so we walked across the street to the Village Pantry. As we headed that direction, she held my hand, and it was absolutely thrilling. It was my birthday, things were cosmically happening, the stars in the sky would never set the same again, and it was wonderful.

Several weeks later, I was on my way to Chicago to hang out with her in the big city. I found her house, we walked around all over, it was dark by the time I got there, we went to Lake Michigan and swam in the water in improvised swimsuits. We met a really cool guy named Mannie at the beach who jokingly made fun of my Falling Forward t-shirt, and then said he was kidding, and it turned out that we liked a lot of the same bands, and he even knew Beth Jarmon from Lafayette. In fact, although I don't know this, there is no question in my mind that Mannie owned the Ordination of Aaron/Indian Summer split 7". He just seemed like that kind of guy. He suggested that I listed to Lincoln.

Back in those days (Listen to me! I sound so ooooold!), a suggestion like that was worth its weight in gold, especially coming from a cool guy like Mannie. One thing that I regret not doing with people lately is really talking about music. Back then, when I met someone who seemed like they were into good music, I would pick their brains about what they liked and was always trying to find new things to check out. Moreso then than now, the mix tape reigned supreme. It was the lingua franca people used to communicate while exploring one another's musical kingdoms. It's kind of ironic, because lately I have been into the idea of websites like, which claims to be "the social music revolution." I enjoy the concept of, Pandora, etc., in the same way that I enjoy math and statistics (I mean, that stuff has its place...) but I have to say this: If this is a revolution, it's a pretty boring one. There is nothing that exciting about being able to see each and every song that someone has listened to for the last year. When someone who you just met who made fun of your t-shirt and then says he's just kidding tells you to check out a band called Linclon one night on the shores of Lake Michigan, it's rich, full of meaning, context, smell, and life. When I hear Lincoln, there are so many deep associations. I remember 1996, it was the year of holding the phone up to the speakers of some boombox or record player, telling Mike Anderson on a long-distance phone call to Indianapolis "You've gotta hear this" because whatever it was was my new favorite song. Anyway, more about that later. I just remembered a really good story.

Back to the Chicago story:
That night I slept in a guest bedroom. I was sandy from the lake and got sand all over whatever I was sleeping on. I felt bad about dirtying Urusula's parent's nice new house, we tried to clean up as best we could. We went into the city the next day to do fun young people stuff. For example, we met a hippie who was carrying crystals that had special powers. The Grateful Dead were in town that day, and old people all around town kept asking us if we were there for the Dead show, which we thought was really funny. Ursula was kind of a magnet for interesting people. She had this kindness to her that really made people open up. After a long day in town, we rode the train back to Evanston. There were these kids sitting across from us on the train who had a bunch of potato chips, which I thought was pretty cool. We started talking to them, and they said that they were on their way to basic training in the army. They had just graduated from high school just like us. After we got off the train, we talked about how lucky we were that we didn't want to or have to join the army right after high school. I was surprised that they were riding the train, and that they had so many potato chips. It was really fun visiting her. I liked her a lot, but we did not make out. Nothing ever went past that hand-holding at Tapawingo park, and in a way, that's perfect as it is.

I went up to Evanston one more time. We all met up there to have one last time together before everything split up. I had to arrive late because I had to work at Blimpie earlier that evening. When I got there, everyone was at Lake Michigan. I walked over and everyone was in the water, either naked or faking some kind of swimsuit. People called my name from the water when they saw that I was there. Heads popping out of the cold water. We had a wonderful time, talking most of the night. I barely slept. I awkwardly kissed a cool girl (different girl) who I had wanted to kiss for a long time. She was leaving for her scholarship in a few days. It was all so wrongly right. So right that I felt sick. I puked in a plastic bag in the back seat of my parents' car while Jill Clark drove it home. After puking, I fell peacefully asleep and woke up back in Lafayette.

From what I have heard, Ursula is married now, she lives in a big city with a wonderful guy, she makes sacrifices in order to do the things that she loves. The story is not really about her, or me, or any person, but it's about that feeling, the wonderful wonder that comes from being on the verge of change. What's great is that things are always changing. But also, I can think back about something so long ago and still feel so wonderful about it. I guess it hasn't died. I still want those same adventures, I still love those wonderful people, and I am so blessed that things have happened the way they did. I like how the page of the record insert ends with "You haven't seen the last of me." No, we haven't seen the last of each other. Someday, somehow, I really do believe that souls will get together and hang out again. Friendship and connection, these memories don't die as easily as it might seem. Although our brains may fail us, these meaningful experiences can't be killed.

Here's to another celebrated summer. Thank you, beautiful friends, for being a part of it.


No comments: