Let me set up the scenario. Lizzie and I had gone to the grocery, and I decided to take the scenic route home, 3.2 miles instead of 2. After I started the car, LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” popped up on Spotify, so I turned it up.
My thoughts are scattered, but I am getting better at collecting, organizing, and reproducing them. I wrote that because I went from thinking about the unusual number of birds dying and acting weird to Lizzie enjoying the chicken tenders that she and I were eating to the article I have wanted to write to James Murphy. When I turned onto Museum Road, I began thinking about my friends.
Since leaving Athens, I have struggled to create the routines I used to meet people, such as joining exercise groups, going for group rides, running clubs, writing groups, and doing triathlons. The pandemic and moving to different cities twice within two years does not help my cause, but I am also slow at making friends. To compensate, I have been better at reaching out to those I haven’t spoken with for a while. Sending “Thank You” text and Facebook posts, I have told many people that I appreciate their presence in my life. Although I am happy to connect through social media, I still miss hanging out, going on bike rides or hikes, and all the little things that having friends nearby consists of. Then I started to realize that this is the story of my life. Even in Athens, with many friends around, I still spent a lot of time alone.
As I let Lizzie out of the car, I began thinking about the different music I have listened to throughout my life. Prince, Tears for Fears, Def Leppard, Ben E. King, The D.O.C., Ice Cube, and Boyz II Men, to name a few of the earlier-in-my-life artists and bands; The Grateful Dead, Phish, LCD Soundsystem, Anderson.Paak, Sault, Policia, and Brijean are some of the musicians I have focused on lately. From childhood to the present tense, music and those who make it have been the friends that I sought advice and comfort from.
Queen’s Flash Gordon (check out the official video in the link) and Disney’s Peter Pan are some of my earliest memories of music. I listened to both on vinyl, and they stimulated me far more than they ever should have. When I was about six years old, my friend Ben Hoying and I ran around his house to Flash Gordon, pretending to fight Emperor Ming the Merciless. At home alone, I listened to Peter Pan many, many times. “You can fly/you can fly/you can fly,” meant I ran as fast as I could, jumped in the air, and landed on the couch. Crash.
Lyrics infiltrate my brain, for better and for worse. I apologize to anyone I knew during my NWA and/or NIN years. Who knows which era was worse? A young, 14-year-old boy running the streets of Camden, Ohio, or the 20-year-old trying to leave the house wearing a “Fist Fuck” shirt? How the hell did I make it to 45?
I found better influences throughout the years. The Grateful Dead calmed me down in my early twenties. Live jam bands were an outlet to dance, lost in the music for hours without talking to anyone. And Dave Matthews and “#41” off of Live at Luther College. That album, but mainly that song, helped me get through my mother’s death. Listen to this song. Read the lyrics. “I’m playing time against my troubles…” “All at once, the ghosts come back/Reeling in you now…” “I came in praying for you/Why won’t you run/into the rain and play/and let the tears splash all over you.” I still cry almost every time I hear it.
Even though I have never spoken to any of the musicians that helped me get through my teenage years, my twenties, my depression, and my divorce; celebrate birthdays, life, and my and Camélia’s wedding, and understand relationships, friendships, and philosophies, I have had some of my favorite conversations with them. Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool provided me with some of the most touching, quiet stories and ideas I have ever written about. Mike Gordon shows up in my upcoming novel Syd R Tuh as my character’s contemporary Gotama. And James Murphy…well, he is the one I want to have a real sit-down conversation with. Not an interview, because I think he is the one musician that would share an honest moment with me.
But who knows? I’m a writer, and music is my muse. Maybe I am never supposed to have a real, concrete moment with the musicians I have listened to throughout the years. Perhaps it’s that unspoken conversation that I am good at taking part in. Words that elegantly pour onto the page like abstract art but unintentionally fly out of my mouth like spit. Maybe when I am busy writing, dancing and lost in the music, and riding in a car with my favorite album steering the conversation, I am the best friend I can be. In the end, that is what I want: to be a great friend.