Derek & Cam's Post-College Blog of Confusion, Joy, Geekery, and Man Stuff
guys I’ve listened to the new Taylor Swift song twice already
DK— I’m on my second watching of the music video. She seems to be channelling Jennifer Lawrence in some of her facial expressions/movements, giving her an endearing quality that I normally would have punched myself for ever attributing that to T-Swift.
…also, NPR’s discussion about the song/music video was longer than their article titled, "With Ferguson, Obama Forced to Confront Race Yet Again." Maybe they covered most of the hard-hitting questions about identity and responsibility in the other articles about Obama confronting race… or maybe this music video is literally more important than one of the biggest social protests in the last five years.
Or maybe NPR is just shit these days.
"It sounds like you two have quite the plans for this weekend!"
A small plane had crashed in the parking lot of the airport, and Lizzy, my mother, and I were trapped in the resulting traffic. It actually felt pretty routine, making small talk after we picked up my mom, all things considered.
"Oh yes, well, Derek seems to think I need to be entertained all weekend… It’s a shame you won’t be around to go adventuring with us!" My mom put just enough edge into her voice to let Lizzy know she was being guilt tripped.
Lizzy nodded in the front seat. She was initially put-off by my mom’s choice to sit in the back, having leapt from the car to help her load her bag, and offered the passenger side. Knowing my mom’s stiff neck, I think the back was the right choice for her, but Lizzy is always trying to avoid slighting people. She’s just too polite. Especially to my guilt tripping mom. “I know, it’s pretty poor timing, but it’s the only week my brother could do a family vacation… Just poor timing.” She reached out and patted my arm, “Besides, it will be great mother-son bonding for you two.”
I snorted. In the back, my mom laughed as well. “Bonding? There’s nothing left for us to bond over. We’re all done bonding.”
When I typed the title, all I could think of was Arrested Development, and the “Motherboy” dinner and dance. There are so many times in my life when my mother has said, “I should have been rich,” and having that show as a reference point, I’m glad that she never was.
I’m not going to go into a laundry list of how being an only child raised by my mom was different than other childhoods. All the concepts have been explored ad nauseum in popular media, including during my mom and my most recent bonding event, watching the movie “Guilt Trip.”
All the classics were in there: references to awkward teenage discussions about intimacy; prying into your personal life; the eponymous guilt trips about not appreciating your mom enough. Then some great lines about voicemails and menopause that hit really close to home, all in hilarious ways.
I loved it. It made me smile. It made my mom cry. I gave her a big hug.
One of the big things it hit on though, was how they had failed to communicate on some key topics, and though it lead to some hilarious mishaps (her bringing up a breakup in front of his happily married and pregnant ex: Classic!), it really hits an underlying point: sometimes it is really really hard to open up about important things to the people you love.
In the documentary, “Stories We Tell,” the director is trying to give equal light to all parts of a story that shook her life apart. At one point, she’s trying to keep the truth from her father, because she doesn’t want to hurt him.
"Oh I’m just kidding," my mom said in the car today as she, my cousin, and I were driving home from a Scottish festival. She unintentionally struck a nerve while joking about my cousin getting in trouble during her Freshman year of college. "I don’t even want to know the things that Derek did in college."
I thought about all the things I did at SLU… Before and after I graduated.
"You know mom, that’s good, because I don’t want to tell you."
It’s funny. My mom and I have bonded a lot in the last few years, and it was never because of some contrived Hollywood-plot about traveling across the country, or even my attempts to show her Buffalo in its best light.
Instead, it’s been moments like in Stories We Tell, where she shares deeply held secrets, or personal truths. Not just dumb mistakes made while drunk (like the stories I’ve withheld regarding my time in college and as a dumb 20-something in general), but the moments when she says, “I’ve never told anyone this before,” or “only your aunt knows this,” or “I can’t believe I’m telling you this,” usually assisted by a glass of wine.
Those moments are the ones I cherish most. When she shattered my conceptions about who she was. When she made me empathize with bad decisions she’s made, and hard choices she was forced into. And yes, even when we could laugh sharing bad dating experiences, or drinking stories.
My mom and I don’t have a great relationship- it’s a healthy one, I suppose, but one still defined by those cliches of voicemails guilting about “not calling enough”, or prodding into my relationships with the subtlety of a rhino plowing through a tea shop, and me getting annoyed, and lashing out, and largely ignoring her since I’m an awful son who moved 10 hours away from his only parent.
But when it’s at its best, my mom and my relationship isn’t defined by those other cliches (appreciating her wisdom or guidance; inspiring her to take a new lease on life; etc, etc) most movies play up.
It’s at its best when she opens up about something in her past, or even in her present, that means or meant a lot to her. That’s when I feel like I have the strongest bond with my mom: when I don’t only feel like I have a loving parent, but a friend.
"I used to think about this a lot," Quentin said. "I mean, it’s not obvious like it is in the books. It’s trickier. In books there’s always somebody standing by ready to say hey, the world’s in danger, evil’s on the rise, but if you’re really quick and take this ring and put it in that volcano over there everything will be fine.
"But in real life that guy never turns up. He’s never there. In our world no one ever knows what to do, and everyone’s just as clueless and full of crap as everyone else. And even after you’ve figured it out and done it, you’ll never know whether you were right or wrong. You’ll never know if you put the ring in the right volcano or if things might have gone better if you hadn’t. There’s no answers in the back of the book."
- The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
I read about 300 pages of a B-level fantasy series today. I had big plans to go to a Burmese Water Festival, and to go into work, and to go for a run, and to maybe go to a brewery. Instead, I read the type of book I loved to read growing up: good ‘ole junk sci-fi/fantasy.
I spent hours riding through Arad Doman, skirmishing with the Seachan army on the shores of Toman Head, summoning the heroes of Artur Hawkwing, and battling the Dark Lord himself while floating above the city of Falme.
I wonder if most people look at fantasy novels the same way I look at Romance books and Rom-Coms. After all, they are both fantasies, indulgences, and escapism… even if one has more cosmic impact, while the other is focused on the pursuit of love.
Though, I guess finding love can have a pretty cosmic impact as well.
“Is this seat taken?”
Her brown eyes blinked
and she removed her earbuds
hair pushed by hands
pulled by gravity
“Oh. No. It’s all yours.”
She smiled warmly.
We sat quietly
the rapid clacking
of furtive fingertips
to future selves
and distant friends
without ever saying a word
to one another
despite sitting two feet
from each other.
She closed her keyboard
put on her jacket
but said nothing
and was gone.
She passed by the window
right in front of me
by a reality
that with a sentence
could have been
would never be.
A silent moment
as our destinies
then separated indefinitely.
There’s a scene in the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close where Oscar’s grandfather is writing a letter to his wife, and, after a beautiful woman asks him the time of day, he says, “My bones creak with the lives I’m not living.”
I used to feel that creaking a lot. Every time a pretty woman passed me, I would think, “Maybe she’s The One.” Usually, the stars didn’t align, but sometimes I’d get a poem out of a brief infatuation. (see above, from February of 2013).
What is it about our brains that crave companionship, desire love, or at the very least, to be held at night?
"Are you OK, mom?"
For some reason, silence on the phone feels so much more oppressive than in person. When you’re with someone, and they go quiet, you can at least see their face, see if they’re thinking, or smiling, or choking, or abducted by aliens, or crying.
She was on the porch. She threw out her back recently, and she says the biggest frustration was that she was stuck in bed for a week when it was so beautiful outside. I think she’s making up for the lost porch-time.
I miss that porch. The summer after I turned 12 was the first I was allowed to spend summer break home by myself. When I wasn’t over friend’s houses, or Instant Messaging friends about how bored I was, and whether I could I come over, I would sit on the porch and read. That was how I spent three summers— 12, 13, 14, and half of 15 before I got my first job. Reading on the porch, alone, surrounded by trees, with the only company being the sounds of birds and animals, and of course, my books. Now, I would kill for that environment, for the luxury of spending hours upon hours, days upon days, reading outside. Back then, though, it was unbearably boring, and intensely lonely, and my books were the only escape in those pre-driving days.
My mom doesn’t like to read.
"I’m just bored," she said. I could almost hear the birds chirping in the background, the only other company she has other than our cat. "I think I’m going to go for a drive."
I don’t need to ask my mom if her bones are creaking, and even if I did, I’m sure she would think I was asking about her back. Like books, driving is one of the only ways to escape a house in the woods that’s too big, and too isolated, for one person to be in alone for too long.
It breaks my heart knowing its not just the house my mom can’t escape, but the lives she should have lived, haunting her, weighing down her bones, creaking so loudly I can hear them through the phone.
I don’t get love.
I don’t get how it makes me feel better than a long run, or drunker than four-shots of Jameson, or giddier than reunions with old friends, or lighter than being in an elevated state at a Rubblebucket show.
I also don’t get how it makes me feel jealous over laughs from other people’s jokes, or angry at a two-word texts, or unappreciated, less because of their actions, but because of any number of my own neuroses.
I don’t get how I can still be disappointed when the pretty girl playing guitar at the coffee shop says, “This song is for my fiance,” and I don’t get how being in a relationship gives me more confidence around beautiful women than I’ve ever had in my life.
I don’t get how some days I’ll think about her for hours straight, and other days I’ll go hours without thinking of her at all, but always, getting a text from her makes me smile, and hearing her voice sets off a reaction in my brain sharper than if someone had drilled a spike of happiness through my head.
I don’t get how some days I feel like I have Midas’ touch, and everything around me is gold, and other days, like I have Midas’ loneliness, unable to sustain the joy that comes from unexpected emotional wealth, helping cope with the times when you feel like a 13-year old, or a 52-year old, trapped in a house in the woods, looking for an escape from stifling solitude, but really just craving absent love.
The three best friends I have had in Buffalo are moving next month, all within one week of each other.
Lizzy shared an article with me recently about how friendship, in a lot of ways, is more beautiful than romantic love, and a lot more emotionally difficult to lose. The crux of the argument was that strong romantic relationships come from giving up a little bit of yourself to grow with someone else, whereas strong friendships come from two individuals not only respecting the others’ complete individuality, but encouraging it, and helping it flourish. The ability to maintain a great friendship, while simultaneously encouraging them to be completely separate, made it far more powerful, and beautiful, to the author of the article.
At first, I thought it was a crock of shit, but once I realized that my ideal “romantic relationship” also included many of those elements from the ideal friendship, I bought into it a little. Though, mostly just the “more beautiful” part, and less the “harder to lose” part.
Now, with my three best friends here leaving, I’m not so sure. With a romantic love, you’re allowed to replace those positive feelings with something awful— it’s acceptable to be bitter, and angry, and sad, and allow yourself to succumb to those feelings to help you drown out the memory of love in your limbs.
With friends, however, you have to be supportive, and indeed, part of you feels incredibly happy that they’re leaving, and following their dreams, and becoming better versions of themselves.
It just means you don’t have the luxury of all-consuming negative feelings to drown out the creaking of your bones as you imagine life without them.
In this junk sci-fi/fantasy novel, they have this concept of “Ta’veren”, or individuals whose cosmic importance pull not only themselves closer to other ta’veren, but once they interact with you, you’re swept up into their mission, into their web, and are now part of the cosmic importance yourself.
"The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills."
This mantra is the books version of “shit happens,” but with a pre-determination slant. No matter what unfolds in your life, it’s all part of a plan, and if you’re ta’veren, it doesn’t matter if you try to get away from it, the Wheel of Time will pull you back in, weave you back into the flow of the universe, wherever it’s going.
As my friends prepare to leave, I suppose I should take comfort knowing that the Wheel has woven our lives together, and that, as a result, it’ll be easier to stitch them back in once they’ve completed their own narrative weaves for a while.
For some reason though, part of me feels like I did as a 13-year old, looking out at the woods and wondering where my adventure was, feeling trapped, without anything but books to help alleviate the weight on my bones.
I wonder if my mom knows her bones are creaking, and if I will ever get as used to it as she has, or if even after all these years, she’s just as haunted by the noise as I am.
I woke up with this song playing in my head. 25 seconds into the song, it jumps into a few runs of this four-note string that I find absolutely mesmerizing.
When I woke up this morning, it was that four-note section, with the ting-ting-ing of that one piano key, ringing through my head.
I never learned how to play any instruments when I was growing up, so for the most part, listening to music is the equivalent to watching someone fix a car: I understand that this is something you can learn, but mostly it’s just magic to me.
My roommates have a lot of instruments, and when no one is home, I’ll pick one up and play around with it. I tend to find a two-or-three note combo I like, and play it until my brain melts. It’s not music, per se, because it’s kind of like having an iPhone, which has more computing power than NASA had when they first went to the moon, and only using it to play Bejeweled. Even though it’s practically abuse to use so little of the instrument’s potential, I really enjoy making my little three-note combos. It’s meditative. Calming.
This song is nothing special. It’s essentially an entire composition of three-note combos. Literally, aside from one solo, the only job the piano has is to play the same note over and over and over and over.
And it’s amazing. There’s something hypnotic about it.
Maybe not to everyone. Probably most people hear those simple three-note combos and see something lazy and boring.
For me, I have the same feeling with this song as I do when I sit and tap three or four keys on the piano, or quietly pluck guitar strings on the couch when I’m home alone. It’s consuming, but in a comfortable way. Like having your brain osmosis-ified by a pillow.
So yeah, I get that feeling a lot, but I love it. It’s comforting. Compared to other things my brain releases in 2-second intervals, I actually enjoy these little song-snippets.