Antonio’s Nut House is the bar in Palo Alto you go to the day after Thanksgiving when you want to bump into people you went to high school with — it’s kind of like a real life facebook. I sat in a corner booth with E, J, and N, and nursed a beer. At one point K came in and I gave her a big hug. F swung through a few times — it was great to see him and reminisce about the old days.
On the way out, a voice shouted at me, “Raizin! Where’s your flashlight?”
It was S, the prettiest girl in the entire sixth grade. I was pretty much in love with her for six months straight seventeen years ago.
“Where’s your flashlight, Raizin?”
I knew immediately what she was talking about. When I was in middle school, I duct taped a flashlight to my bicycle helmet so I could ride my bike at night. At the time, it didn’t strike me as a particularly weird thing to do, although picturing it now I can see why the image might have stuck with some people.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I didn’t bike here. I drive a car now. Where are your pencils?”
She stared at me blankly.
“Remember?” I said. “How you used to put pencils in your hair? I always thought that was so cute.”
She rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe what a nerd I was in middle school.”
“You were not a nerd,” I said.
“I was,” she said. “I was a total nerd.”
“Actually,” I corrected her, “I was a nerd. I duct taped a flashlight to my helmet. I told people to call me Raizin. You were cool.”
She laughed. “No, I wasn’t. I was such a nerd.”
“You were the most popular girl in the class,” I said, my voice raising slightly. “Everybody liked you! I was a nerd. And I was a nerd before it was cool. Now that being a nerd is cool, you don’t get to suddenly be a nerd too.”
She grabbed my glasses off my face and put them on.
“Look,” she said, “I’m a nerd! I’m a nerd, like you, I’m a nerd!”
“Fine,” I said, “you’re a nerd. Can I have my glasses back?”
She handed them back and smiled brightly. “I told you I was a nerd.”
“Great,” I said, “you’re a nerd, congratulations.” I wiped the dust off my glasses with my sweater. “I’m a nerd, you’re a nerd, everybody’s a nerd.”
When I was in high school, I took a pill to help me deal with my ADHD. I recently came across some old blog posts I wrote while using it. This is from September 24, 2001:
I should really go to sleep. I have to wake up early in the morning, and do my hair and shave, and I have to do the anouncements tomorrow, and there’s an econ test, and did I study? Well, kind of. Ha ha, and you know what else? It feels like I’m typing really fast, but i’m not. Wow, is it only 10:21? It feels a lot later. And earlier.
Ha ha, new paragraph! I almost wasn’t going to do that, but then I did. Hey, did anyone see the Miss America Pageant? Anyone at all. Because they had this graphic that kept coming up for this so-called ”September 11 fund” and every time it did, I swear to God, that the ”11” looked like two towers. Seriously. isit just my imagination. Dude, what if the Ocean’s eleven remake with all those famous people gets postponed because of the word ”11”? Man, what a country.
I really should go to sleep. Like my body really is tired, like the muscles are dripping off my bones. But my mind is going at like a million miles a minute. It’s like I’m full of ideas.
Hey, who can guess what drug I took tonight?
you know what, though? You should know, it helps me focus. It doesn’t focus for me. Like I tried to read psych tonight, but I couldn’t. I mean it was still boring. Maybe i should double my dose.
And like I keep thinking. Like I went outside and watched the rain and just thought. Like I know it sounds stupid, but it seems like I never have the time to think anymore. Like there’s a dozen things all trying to get through my head, and with this pill, I can just concentrate on one thing at a time. It’s crazy. With a capital C, and that rhymes with p, and that stands for ritalin.
I was looking over the side effects to my perscription the other day, and besides loss of apetite, insomnia, depression (blah, blah, blah) it mentioned trouble urinating. And I thought, do I have trouble urinating? It’s hard to say. I mean, it always comes out eventually. What’s normal?
And this is something thousands of people choose to go through all the time? MAn, taking drugs for recreation is pretty fucked up. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to take these things if they didn’t have to.
I mean, sure, i feel focused now (despite what you might think by reading this journal, I actually am very focused; it’s just that my brain is moving too fast for my fingers), but I’ll bet you anything I’m going to sleep through my alarm tomorrow. If i come in to class wearing a hat, and I’m not shaved, you’ll know.
Wow, what if Fernando and Emika had a baby?
Wouldn’t that be freaky? Or maybe it would be so freaky… it wouldn’t be freaky at all.
I’m going to go think.
Sometimes I look back and it’s amazing to me that I survived four years of high school. Also, hey guys, can you help me pick out a senior portrait for the yearbook? I’m leaning towards 1.
I’d like to speak seriously about this video if we can get past Robert De Niro’s ludicrous haircut (tall order, I know).
Elia Kazan was a controversial pick for the lifetime achievement award. In fact, he had already been denied such accolades by the American Film Institute and many film festivals and critics associations due to his testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952 in which he named former members of the Group Theater he knew to be communists.
When Karl Malden nominated Kazan for this award, he gave a presentation to the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in which he said (all quotes via Wikipedia), “as far as I’m concerned, there’s no place for politics in any art form.” (!!!) He expected a big debate, but, as the LA Times reported, “he was greeted by a rousing burst of applause.”
Kazan himself was unrepentant. In 1976, he said in an interview, “I would rather do what I did than crawl in front of a ritualistic Left and lie the way those other comrades did, and betray my own soul. I didn’t betray it. I made a difficult decision.”
When someone wins a lifetime achievement award at the Oscars, they are traditionally given a standing ovation. As you can see in the video, several audience members clapped politely but would not stand for Elia Kazan; others refused to applaud. On the other hand, many Academy members did stand, defiantly, making a point of their own on the line they saw between artistic achievement and one’s personal or political actions.
So, if you were in the Los Angeles County Music Center on the night of March 21, 1999, when Elia Kazan received his honorary award for lifetime achievement, you could either stand up and make a point, or stay seated and make a point. Those were your options. There was no way to stay neutral.
And as a barely politically aware 12-year-old watching from home, I was gobsmacked by this realization: You can’t recuse yourself from discourse. Silence is a statement. Abstention from voting is itself a vote for something. The food you eat, the products you purchase, the words you use, all of these decisions have weight, both subtle and profound. You can’t claim neutrality or plead ignorance.
What you’re doing matters, so you may as well know what you’re doing.
Study up. There’s going to be a test. Every single day.
But actually, that wasn’t quite true, because it was a democracy, it was just a flawed two-party system with a vastly unfair distribution of electoral votes. Oftentimes the general public was pressured to settle for the least objectionable of a series of unpalatable options. There were also powerful special interests that could obfuscate proper voting procedure and push pieces of legislation through without the electorate even noticing. Additionally it was incredibly hard to keep money out of politics and it seemed like all the major decisions were made by those with the most income. In fact, sometimes it hardly felt like a democracy at all. So I guess in a strange way it was the best democracy we could possibly hope for.
I certainly appreciate all the time, money, and energy you and the other actors have poured into this project. I know it hasn’t been easy for you and I know every decision you’ve made was made with the best of intentions. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t like what’s been done to my play— I feel like it’s been rewritten by someone who doesn’t understand it and directed by someone who doesn’t care.
[This is an email (lightly annotated) I wrote in the spring of 2006, my senior year of college. It is my final correspondence with a young woman whose NYC-based theater company was producing my first full-length play as their first full-length production. I had titled the play It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This, but the company had changed the title (among, as I discovered, many many other changes) to Good Enough To Be True. I thought that the new title was good enough to be terrible, but at this point, we were long past that.]
I would be very grateful, energized, and excited to have a play produced off-off-Broadway [This was a not-so-subtle jab at the email I was replying to, which claimed I should be thrilled to have my play produced “off-Broadway.” I added an “off” in my response, but even the phrase “off-off-Broadway” conjures in the imagination a production more glamorous than what the show actually was— “off-off-9th-Avenue” might have been more appropriate], no matter how rough around the edges it was, but the simple fact of the matter is this is not my play. Lines have been mangled, characters have been changed, and entire scenes have been deleted. [This was all true, but my real complaint was not that scenes had been rearranged and deleted (although I did hate that), but that, unbeknownst to me, a new writer had been brought in to create large swatches of dialogue out of whole cloth, dialogue which to me sounded painful and forced, a crude approximation of the characters I had created.] The notes I gave [DIRECTOR’S NAME WITHHELD] three weeks ago and the notes I gave you two weeks ago were only the problems I thought could be changed easily given the time constraints you were under. They were a small portion of my dissatisfaction and disappointment with what this play has become. It is hard for me to swallow my pride and smile after witnessing something that has been so close to me for the last six months be torn apart and thrown back together. It is difficult for me to sit back and let you do your job as an actor, when I haven’t been allowed to do my job as a playwright.
[The last sentence is a direct response to a complaint from the previous email: “the playwright HAS TO be willing to let the actors make character choices and let the director have his/her vision. I didn’t appreciate your notes after our first run through on thursday before opening saying that our character choices were wrong, or that they would never do that, or whatever it was. We are actors, and if it’s in the script, we find justification for everything.” Perhaps I had been a bit prickly at that Thursday rehearsal, but my complaints were with the very script the actors had been trying to justify. A month after giving the company permission to make “some small changes,” I visited the city for a rehearsal and discovered the mess that had been created. That night I met with the director and we went through the entire script, page by page, addressing my concerns and reaching compromises. When I came back down the next weekend, none of the changes we agreed on had been made; she hadn’t even presented them to the actors. When the director left town a week before opening, I emailed the cast directly, pleading with them to recognize the holes and inconsistencies in the script and offering specific, detailed alternatives. The actors responded positively, but when I returned to the city for their final dress rehearsal I discovered again that my suggestions had been largely ignored.]
But you’re right: what’s happened happened and there’s no changing that now. If we knew then how things would turn out I think we all would have acted differently and I am certainly not without blame. [How very diplomatic.] I agree that all we can do is make the best of the current situation. I would have stayed after Saturday’s show and talked but the play got out a half hour later than I expected and I needed to get downtown in a hurry to perform with Olde English. I’m sorry if that came across as rude. However, I have taken the train down to the city every weekend and been to every performance possible and I’ve brought people with me to almost every one. [How selfless and noble.] I have been civil, polite, and courteous, even though I spend the majority of each show cringing, and I haven’t said anything disparaging about the play to any strangers or members of the press [How impossibly gracious.], so I don’t like being told that I’ve been unsupportive and ungrateful.
[In truth, the main reason I came to so many performances was so I could catch people I knew and warn them emphatically that this was not my play.It was a very complicated time for me, feelings-wise. I had recently broken up with [GIRLFRIEND’S NAME WITHHELD] and suddenly my weekends were empty. I had nowhere to go and no one to see. I would spend my days wandering around Manhattan, sitting in coffee shops, shuffling through museums, discovering the city for the first time by myself. Everything felt foreign, strange. The city as I knew it no longer existed and I felt, for the first time in a long time, like a tourist.
I also like how overwritten this email is. Clearly I had been writing a lot of college papers and was in the habit of using redundant synonyms to take up space— I had been civil, polite, AND courteous? I would be “grateful, energized and excited”? If this is what my play was like, no wonder they wanted to rewrite it.How precious to be over my own material is something I still struggle with. Art requires collaboration and trust, but it also requires a singularity of vision and a specificity of voice. There’s a thin line between a desire to please others (an impulse that separates art from masturbation) and the mistake of pleasing nobody by trying to please everybody. It’s the difference between being persistent and being stubborn, between working with others toward a shared goal and selling out your vision for the sake of getting things done. It’s a line I’m still exploring. I certainly didn’t have a handle on it five years ago.]
I would appreciate it if you would not send this script to [ACTOR’S NAME WITHHELD]’s agent, and I would have appreciated it if you’d asked me before submitting it to the Fringe festival. I will not be in New York City on Thursday, but if you’d like me to take part in some sort of talkback Friday night, Saturday night, or even Sunday afternoon, I will. The reason I didn’t want to participate was not some sort of screw-you gesture [although as an audience member, I find “talkbacks” after new plays boring and indulgent; they already sat through your play— let the audience go home already]; I was afraid that it might come up in conversation how displeased I am with the play and that would be embarrassing for all of us. I was afraid someone would ask, “What did you mean when you wrote this line?” and I would have to admit that I didn’t write that line and in fact I hate that line and think it’s nonsense.
[I’m slightly ashamed of the rush I get sending emails like this one (in the last five years, I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure several times). There’s a real thrill in being outraged, in all at once exposing the grudges I’d been quietly amassing with a controlled, civilized anger. The subtext here is I’m going to be the bigger man, but please don’t doubt that I hate you, that I will always hate you. (In truth, I’ve remained friends with many people I’ve sent emails like this to, including the recipient of this email, who is in fact a talented actress and a delightful human being.)]
I’d like to keep this professional, but in all honesty my feelings have been hurt. [That’s not a bad line, because it was true.] I trusted you with something that was very important to me and very close to me and I feel like that trust has been abused. I find the play redundant, self-satisfied, and messy [only now do I appreciate the pot-kettle-blackness of the phrase “redundant, self-satisfied, and messy,” an accusation which hilariously describes itself], but more to the point, it does not represent me as a playwright or say what I had wanted my play to say. [What had I wanted my play to say? Perhaps if I could have clearly articulated that, things wouldn’t have gotten this bad. All I knew was my play had a heart, a point, a real idea there, whatever it was, and Good Enough To Be True felt like a parody, alike in form, but not in content, missing some crucial something; it shared a skin with my work, but not its soul.] I feel like I’ve been betrayed and excluded by people whom I had considered my friends and now I’m being asked to celebrate the success of that betrayal. [That line, I admit, may be a little much.] I’m sorry if this seems like it’s coming out of nowhere or if it reads as unnecessarily harsh. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with all this and I’m sorry for bringing you down during what should be a very happy time for you. [I really was sorry. This experiment had been an unqualified failure for all parties. I had poured my heart into this project, but the actors had poured their money into it. And their hearts. And their money. And their parents’ money. This was the first and last production by the perhaps too adequately monikered [THEATER COMPANY’S NAME WITHHELD].] I hope your talkback goes well tomorrow night and I hope the remaining performances run smoothly.
-[EMBARRASSING COLLEGE NICKNAME WITHHELD]
[Later that spring, my school produced a version of the show as I had imagined it, now titled The long and short of it. (Yes, the lower-case letters and the period were part of the title; drink that in.) I loved the director, who I felt really got what I was trying to do, and all the actors were fantastic. I went to every rehearsal. Caroline told me that after seeing both versions, she really didn’t think they were all that different. That just about broke my heart.]
“You were in half of my classes— I’ve seen a lot of you. And while sometimes that was bad, and I said I really didn’t like you, I’ve decided as of late that that was actually a really good thing.” — B.L., 2002
“Even though we don’t really get along I still enjoyed having you in my class.” — C.P., 1999
“Watup [sic] you fruit, your [sic] such a weirdo, but your [sic] hella funny. stay weird.” — E. (no last name given), 1999
“You’re a crazy freak & that’s the best part of you. Pretty sad, huh?” — S.V., 2000
“As annoying, rude and really foolish you are, you’re a great guy.” — B.S., 2000
“That episode in the Latino Lounge where I was trying to talk to you and you were being antisocial freaked me out. You’re a great guy.” — A.K., 2000
“You’re certainly an interesting person to know. By interesting, of course, I mean weird and/or crazy.” — B.H., 2000
“This class is crazy. Remember when you made both Edwin and Josh cry?!? That was hilarious.” — N.M., 2000
Say what you will about The WB, but those motherfuckers knew how to BRAND. Watching this commercial by myself in high school was far and away the closest I ever got to being cool. I didn’t even really watch any of these shows (maybe 7th Heaven), but I loved this ad. The old “all of our stars hang out with each other” routine is golden, and I don’t understand why more networks don’t utilize the premise. Today, the closest thing we have is Showtime’s everybody-falling-down-athon:
That’s not a bad spot, but there’s something slightly more appealing about The WB’s “The night is young” than Showtime’s “Careful, the floor here might be slippery.”
“Every summer, every summer, every summer gets shorter.”
This is a Sad Song Summer Jam — a song with melancholy lyrics but a deceptively happy melody. (This is also called a Sad Song Sneak Attack.) The music is upbeat, but the song is a bittersweet rumination on missed opportunities, nostalgic regret, and youth wasted on self-doubt and indecision. We can’t go back and be the braver, wiser, fuller versions of ourselves we wanted to be. We can only glance over our shoulders at the choices we’ve made, as we’re flung, sprawling, head-first, into the future.
When I was little, I went to a preschool in San Francisco at the JCC on Brotherhood Way. One summer, I went to a day camp at a place called The California School. I didn’t understand the difference between camp and school (especially because my camp was called “School”) and at the end of the summer I thought I had completed another year. I remember telling my dad, “You know, this year at The California School [which was actually nine weeks] didn’t seem as long as last year at Brotherhood Way [which was actually nine months].”
My Dad reflected for a moment and said, “Well, as you get older, time moves faster.”
oheyluli asked: Which Spice Girl is the most like you?
But it isn’t because she was posh and it isn’t because she married a footballer and moved to LA and it isn’t because she had that severe blond haircut for a while that made her look like Kate from Jon and Kate Plus Eight Plus Affair Plus Lawyers Minus Jon. I’ll explain what Victoria Beckham and I have in common in a second, but first let’s take a moment to unpack the Spice Girls, because there’s kind of a lot going on there.
There are/were five Spice Girls — Baby, Scary, Sporty, Ginger, Posh — and each represents a different kind of person, the idea being that surely everyone can find at least someone to relate to here, so buy our CD.
Baby Spice is a baby, but like a sexy baby? Like it’s sexy that she’s a baby? Like she’s a baby that you want to have sex with? I don’t know. I’m not sure I get the whole sexy baby thing, but clearly it’s working for someone because people keep doing it. If Baby Spice was your favorite and you were not a preteen girl, then congratulations, you are Zack Snyder.
Scary Spice is scary and also black, but I don’t think the idea was that she was scary because she was black, although it is odd that she was always dressed in animal prints like some sort of tribal warrior. Am I allowed to say that she was “fierce” without being racist? Am I a racist for focusing so much on Scary Spice’s ethnicity, as if that’s all she brought to the table? Scary Spice is also the reason my little sister knows what sex is, because when she (Scary Spice) got pregnant, she (Amalia) asked my parents how someone could get pregnant without being married, and my parents had to give her the sex talk, because she was still too young for the “marriage is an outdated societal construct” talk.
Sporty Spice liked sports. I guess sports is a thing that people like, but I don’t pretend to understand why. Do people who like sports know there’s TV shows? They must not, right?
Ginger Spice always confused me because first of all, ginger is a spice, and second of all, is ginger an adjective in England? Is it slang for something? Did everyone in England just assume we knew what they were talking about with Ginger Spice, like that was a thing that all of us got? Because we definitely didn’t. I guess it was like an Emperor’s New Clothes kind of thing: “Oh, Ginger Spice. Yeah, I get it. Why, do you not get it? Because I totally get it.” My impression at the time was that “ginger” was somewhat synonymous with “cheeky,” another word that doesn’t really have an American equivalent. Ginger was all about being from the UK. She was so British she wore a flag like a dress. We get it, Ginger Spice. England.
Posh Spice is a classy lady, make no mistake, but the reason she was dubbed Posh wasn’t because she had a closet full of little black Gucci dresses, but because she never smiled for photographs and for some reason that was oh so posh. Now — and this is important, this is the crux of my whole thing here — the reason she never smiled in photographs was not because she was cool, but because she was self-conscious about her teeth. Someone had told her at one point that she had bad teeth, and she was embarrassed and didn’t want other people to see them, and that’s why she never smiled in photographs, and that’s why she was called Posh. And that’s why I loved her and that’s why I related to her. Because on the surface she was the coolest, most glamorous, most marrying-David-Beckham-est of all of them, but underneath, she was just as insecure and neurotic as the rest of us. That’s a fine zigazig ha.
New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits, but that was a little before my time, so I don’t know any of their songs as well as I know the song that goes “New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits,” which is an awful pop monstrosity/Abercrombie and Fitch commercial called “Summer Girls,” a song by a boy band, about a different boy band, during that brief period in the late 90s/early 00s where I’m pretty sure more people were in boy bands than not in boy bands. If you want to know what turn of the century America was all about, this song will tell you everything you need to know.
Recently, while waiting for a smog check (relax, I passed), I invented a fun game called How Much Useless Information Do I Know About Something I Don’t Care About? The following is everything I know about 90s/00s boy bands. I did absolutely zero research or fact-checking in writing this post. Everything here is just something I knew.
The one member of New Kids On The Block I can name is Donnie “The Stephen Baldwin of the Wahlbergs” Wahlberg. I can’t name any members of LFO, the group that performed “Summer Girls,” but I do know that LFO stands for Light (or Lite?) Funky Ones, that Chinese food makes them sick, and that they think it’s fly when girls stop by for the summer, for the summer. But any conversation of 90s boy bands needs to begin with the twin titans of the genre, ‘N Sync and Backstreet Boys, who towered over the industry like a pair of clean-shaven colossi, gently ushering a generation of adolescents into womanhood by merely looking into the camera and pouting wistfully on the downbeats.
One of the Backstreet Boys’ earliest singles was “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and the very first line of the very first verse was “Oh my God, we’re back again,” a line which basically communicates, “You don’t know who we are, but you’re sick of us already and so are we.” A salvo was fired, heralding the start of an era that would last roughly six years, ending only in 2002 when The White Stripes and The Strokes taught America that it’s okay if bands play their own instruments and write their own songs. It was an epoch that engulfed my entire high school career, smothering the world in tight harmonies, tighter abs, and vaguely sentimental lyrics (Can someone please show me the meaning of “show me the meaning of being lonely”? What is the “that way” that the Backstreet Boys never want to hear you say you want it?).
The Backstreet Boys were Nick Carter (the cute one), Kevin (the slightly more alternative cute one you could be proud of yourself for thinking was cute), Brian (the one who looked like Charlie Brown), Howie (the one who was named Howie), and The Other One (the one who was the other one). I have no recollection of the fifth Backstreet Boy, I can’t picture him at all, but I’m guessing his name was probably A.J. Also, I think Brian sometimes went by B-Rock.
Their biggest album was called Millennium, their disappointing follow-up to Millennium was Black and Blue, and their attempted comeback album was called Never Gone. And again, these are all things I know. I actually owned a Backstreet Boys CD when I was in middle school (their first, called Backstreet Boys), because it was a period in my life during which I believed that if there was a band, and they had a lot of songs that played on the radio, that meant the band was good. This, of course, is not true, and when I discovered in college that all along there had been amazing albums I could have been listening to like The Boy With The Arab Strap or In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, I was angry — the same kind of angry as when you discover your parents have been lying to you for years about the tooth fairy.
The yin to the Backstreet Boys’ yin, the peanut butter to their peanut butter, the Starsky to their Starsky, was of course ‘N Sync. If you wanted five blandly good-looking white guys who knew how to dance, but you didn’t for some reason like boys from the backs of streets, you were in luck, because, Tada! ‘N Sync! The fierce rivalry between ‘N Sync fans and Backstreet Boys fans, as if there was some great idealogical difference between the two, often felt like something out of an Orwell novel, a crass strategy of The Industry to sell more records. All you had to do was pick a band and swear your undying devotion (ka-ching, ka-ching). The ‘Boys made this plain in their lyrics: they don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did — as long as you love them.
‘N Sync was Justin Timberlake (better remembered as the voice of Boo Boo in Yogi Bear), JC Chasez (whose “C” in “JC Chasez” stands for, no joke, “Chasez”), Joey Fatone (or “Joey the Fat one”), Lance Bass (who, when Caroline and I spotted one night walking the streets of Chelsea, gave us a “Yep, I’m Lance Bass” look), and Chris Kirkpatrick (the one whose head looked like a mop). Did you know that I knew the first and last names of every member of ‘N Sync? Because I didn’t, until just now. ‘N Sync’s biggest album was No Strings Attached, whose title and first single “Bye Bye Bye” were both references to them firing and suing their long-time manager Lou Pearlman, a man so named because he is perfectly spherical, like a pearl-man, a pasty white globe, sculpted out of butter.
Standing on the shoulders of these giants while simultaneously nipping at their heels (just picture it) were a plethora of lesser boy bands like O-Town and 98 Degrees and 5ive (pronounced “five-ive”). These groups were laboratory-ready examples of what happens when you have a whole band made up of “And The Other Guy.” Take 98 Degrees — these Ringos of history included the boring one-two punch of the Brothers Lachey, and also a couple non-Lacheys thrown in there just for kicks. I don’t know any of their songs and neither do you. One of them dated Jessica Simpson, but then they broke up, but then they got back together and married, because of September 11th. That’s true by the way; you can look it up: Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson got married because the attack on the World Trade Center reminded them how precious and fleeting life is, making the Iraq War only the second dumbest thing to happen because of September 11th. As it turns out, a large-scale terrorist attack maybe isn’t the best reason to get hitched, because eventually Nick and Jessica got divorced (a nation wept). Then Jessica Simpson dated John Mayer in what can only be described as a lateral move, and that right there is everything I know about football.
And again, I was a never a fan of any of these bands, but I was acutely aware of all of them.
And of course all of this knowledge is still taking up space; there’s precious real estate there taken up by the knowledge of what you should Quit Playing Games With (answer: My Heart), and what is Tearin’ Up when I’m with you (again, My Heart). There are so many useless facts, and I’m reminded of every one of them with every forgotten name, every dropped birthday and unreturned phone call, every repetition of the lie “Well, if it was really important to you you’d remember,” as if memory were a filing cabinet dedicated only to important things.
If there is a link (and I’m not sure there is one), it’s the opposite: the things we remember become important to us, not because they’re important, but because we remember them. Out of thousands of instants, millions of songs, oceans of arguments and aching hearts and I love yous, the ones that really matter are the ones that stick with us, that are subsumed into the pile that is us, the odd, un-take-apart-able collage of our experience. As much as I can claim not to care, these bands, along with everything, add to that pile; these moments, along with everything, are a part of me.
Context and time do sometimes matter. The Paul Simon who, on a bus en route to New York City told his sleeping girlfriend that he was empty and aching and he didn’t know why, that Simon belongs to our parents. My generation may love him but he’s not ours. The Simon who is soft in the middle (or at least feels an affinity for men who happen to be), however, the one who reminds young women of money, who has been divorced and has a kid to prove it, and who has the means to catch a cab uptown and take it all the way downtown talking dispassionately while doing so about the comings and goings of breakdowns, that Simon belongs to us as much as he does to our folks because he is our folks. Not our folks the way they were before we were born, but the way they were when we first knew them, as they were losing their edge and feeling maybe a little insecure about that loss; our folks as we knew them when we ourselves were entering that era of childhood which finally allowed for reflection and the retention of memory and for the level of awareness that clued us into the fact that a baby with a baboon heart was something to wonder at and to then distantly — vaguely — mourn when she died three weeks after her baboon heart first beat inside her body; this was our folks the way they were when they were trying to raise us right: to say please and thank you and to only send food back under dire circumstances; the way they were when we really saw them for the first time. At least, in retrospect. Now that we’re grown, that first introduction lingers. We also recognize not just our parents in the words of those songs, but ourselves and our own impending midlives that loiter like shortening shadows on the horizon.
If ever there was a story that didn’t live up to the promise of its title, it’s Boy Meets World. Not once in the show’s seven seasons did titular boy Cory Matthews ever meet the world. On the contrary, with every passing year he retreated further and deeper into his insular bubble.
He married his high school girlfriend. He had the same grandpa-teacher through middle school, high school, and college, and also lived next door to him. Instead of moving away after graduation, he went to the same local college his older brother attended, where he hung out solely with his friends from high school. (Pity poor Topanga, who declined admission to Yale so she could stay in Philadelphia with her boyfriend, her boyfriend’s childhood best friend, her boyfriend’s idiot brother, and her boyfriend’s next-door neighbor-teacher.)
When the show started, Cory had dreams of growing up to be a professional baseball player. In the show’s later years, Cory rarely had ambitions more complicated than hey, let’s get Shawn back together with his quirky ex-girlfriend, SO THINGS CAN GO BACK TO BEING LIKE THE WAY THEY WERE. Of course, all the other characters on the show did their part to also not take on the great challenges of the universe. As the show progressed, Eric got stupider, Shawn got whinier, Feeny got Feenier, and Topanga went from Idealistic Feminist Flower Child to Girlfriend (Who Mostly Cares About Getting Good Grades). When Cory’s little sister Morgan was quietly written off the show and then reintroduced a year later, the explanation was that she was in her room for a really long time. Of course she was.
Is this the best we can do? When the future looks scary, fall back into what’s comfortable and familiar? Say No to risk, experimentation, and opportunity? Just stay in our room for a really long time?
Good God, I hope not.
Of course it’s easier to eat lunch with the same people every day, to stick with what’s safe and unchallenging. It isn’t hard to not ask the big questions or second-guess your own assumptions or confront the things that frighten you, both in the real world and inside yourself, to always always always be pushing pushing pushing. It isn’t hard at all to not do those things. Not doing those things is the default.
But there’s so much to see and so little time to see it. Why would you waste a second? If you’re not swimming, you’re sinking. If you’re not living, you’re dying. There are blocks of marble just waiting to be turned into Davids. There’s a great big world, just waiting to be met.
“But why do only unimportant things?” asked Milo, who suddenly remembered how much time he spent each day doing them.
“Think of all the trouble it saves,” the man explained, and his face looked as if he’d be grinning an evil grin— if he could grin at all. “If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you’ll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult.You just won’t have the time. For there’s always something to do to keep you from what you really should be doing, and if it weren’t for that dreadful magic staff, you’d never know how much time you were wasting.”
As he spoke, he tiptoed slowly toward them with his arms outstretched and continued to whisper in a soft, deceitful voice, “Now do come and stay with me. We’ll have so much fun together. There are things to fill and things to empty, things to take away and things to bring back, things to pick up and things to put down, and besides all that we have pencils to sharpen, holes to dig, nails to straighten, stamps to lick, and ever so much more. Why, if you stay here, you’ll never have to think again— and with a little practice you can become a monster of habit, too.”
In honor of my little sister’s nineteenth birthday.
When I was nineteen I tried to go a whole year without getting the hiccups. I thought maybe if I really tried and concentrated, I could do it. How long do you go between getting the hiccups? Who knows, right? No one keeps track. I thought maybe if I started counting the days from my nineteenth birthday onwards, I could go a whole year. I ended up getting them two months later, right after an Olde English show, when my whole family was in town for parents weekend, on my ex-girlfriend’s birthday, the same day the watch she gave me stopped working. I took it as a sign: that life is confusing and random and coincidental and you shouldn’t ascribe significance to anything.
On my nineteenth birthday I found out that my first serious girlfriend was dating somebody new; by my next birthday I was already six months into dating my second serious girlfriend. NOT THAT I DEFINE MYSELF BY WHETHER OR NOT I’M IN A RELATIONSHIP.
Another thing that happened when I was nineteen is I started to become the person that I am now; here’s something I wrote in my journal (okay, my livejournal) on the eve of my nineteenth birthday:
You know when you really like a comic strip, so you buy one of the books and you look at all the early strips and none of the characters look the same as they do now? Like they’re all recognizable, but their heads are just a bit bigger, or their bodies are a tad undefined? The comic strip has no real purpose yet, and so is experimenting with different kinds of jokes until it finds its groove. I feel like that sometimes, that I’m a character in the early years of a great comic, and years from now, someone will read what I say in a book and go ”Man, that’s not Raizin.” I feel like I have a long life and many adventures ahead of me, but right now’s the time when the cartoonist figures out what my character’s all about. And I admit the only reason I bring this up (besides the fact that my cartoonist is making me) is that if it’s true, some day in a collection of strips, someone will be reading what I’m saying right now about being in a collection of strips and he’ll think, ”Dude… That is so meta.”
Hi. My name is Raphael and this is where I write about my feelings. I am in the comedy group Olde English and we made this movie. I currently live in Los Angeles where I spend the majority of my time trying to find a parking space.