Thursday, July 22, 2010

Talkin' That 1996-Style Ambiguity Blues

I wonder if we're all inclined to feel a connection to certain times in our past more than others. It seems obvious that the answer must be "yes" once I've said it. I know it's true for me...and particular parts of my past feel more prescient at certain times than others.

It's been a real "summer of 1996" time lately, and these are my theories as to why: K.C. and I just moved, so there's been a lot of manual labor going on (I stripped paint off houses as my summer job in 1996). Moving is/has been an emotional thing for me (I was in the turmoil/aftermath of a break-up in the summer of '96, questioning a lot of things, and also added a relationship with another girl to the mix, plus an unrequited pining for a third). It's summer now, and it's hot. Change seems to be in the air, as well...I feel like the way things have been for the last couple of years might not be the way they'll be in the near future, and that might ring some similar bells as the reality of heading into one's final year of college (as I was about to do in the summer of '96).

The music of that summer for me was diverse, compelling, and mostly not at all what those around me were listening to, with a couple of exceptions. Beck's "Odelay" was all the rage, and it was something I was raging to as well. Prince and Frank Zappa were probably my two most prominent obsessions of the moment, and I was rapidly expanding my collection of both, CD-wise. My brother had made me a mixtape of his favorite Warren Zevon songs, and I listened to it almost every day at work. The first Ben Folds Five album was out, and even though most of the world hadn't discovered them yet, I was already a fan for life.

Sometimes that summer seems like an impossible oasis surrounded by ridiculous awfulness. I would proceed, after it was over, to go back to college and get back together with the same girl/woman who I had broken up with, resigning myself to another two years of borderline misery with her (one of which would be spent married to her). After college, all my illusions about what my post-college days would really be like shattered into a million pieces, and it would take me a few years to recover. "Wake Up Time" by Tom Petty, from the "Wildflowers" album, felt prescient during that 1996 summer, but perhaps was even more so post-college.

I'm not entirely sure why I felt the need to blog about this here. It's only minimally related to music, but for me, everything is related to music. My life is much different now, but I think, right now, my life is more similar to the way it was that summer than at any point since. How? It's an emotional space, I suppose...but I don't think I could explain why I feel "like I did then" if I tried. I sent out a tweet earlier tonight that said, "Things are changing and I'm not sure into what, exactly. Maybe they're not and I just wish they were."

Truth is, I'm less sure of what I want now than I have been at any time in the last two years. Maybe that's why now is like that summer...there was so much ambiguity. And I bathed in it...swam in it every day, as I scraped paint, and listened to "Reckoning" by R.E.M., or "Lovesexy" by Prince, or one of a myriad of mixtapes (one in particular that began with "I Wanna Be Sedated" by the Ramones got spun almost as many times as the Zevon tape). The idea that I'm ambiguous about what I want right now will probably come as a surprise to most people reading it (at least, those who know me). But I am. And maybe that will all change in a week. But right now, I just want to put on some Zappa, some Zevon, some Beck, some Petty, have a few beers and soak in this. It seems like the only sensible course of action.

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