Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stupid Boys Ruin Great Moments. (Or My Displeasure at and Underwhelmed Reception to My Current Artistic Obsession.)

I think everybody finds an artist that really speaks to them and becomes somewhat obsessed. I've had several of these: sometimes musicians, sometimes writers, sometimes film makers. It is as if they can do no wrong; everything you take in seems absolutely genius. As they speak somehow directly to your soul you want to share them with all the world and have everyone be as impressed as you are. It's always stunning to find out that other people aren't nearly so blown away, or that they're totally indifferent to being introduced to anything new.

As if my facebook and blog posts aren't indicative of this fact, I have fallen madly in love with Josh Ritter's music. During an incredibly rough year, I can honestly say that there have been times when the only thing that has brought me any happiness is his music. I sound like a teenager making that statement. I sound like someone in high school that's bought a new album and makes everyone listen to it in silence, absorbing every single note with high reverence. It's not like that. I will freely admit that I feel I've found an incredible poet that tells lovely stories with beautiful phrases. The images he uses may not always be pleasant, but they paint pictures that I've not found in other music for a long, long time -- maybe ever. Is there a lyric that gives you a more precise example than this?

My orchestra is gigantic
This thing could sink the Titanic
And the string section's screaming
Like horses in a barn burning up

The first time I ever heard his music was as the closing song of a Bored to Death episode. The song was "Long Shadows." I realized as I listened to it that the selfless speaker was my boyfriend. He was the man that was unafraid of all the darkness in my life, someone ready to protect me from whatever may come my way. The line "If you reach for him and honey he's not there, you can reach for me, I'm not afraid of the dark," was especially profound. I was in the unique situation of trying to reconcile and repair severe hurt from a relationship that had ended very badly nearly 15 years before. The old boyfriend meant nothing to me, but the pain I'd endured was almost as much a part of me as it ever had been. Social media brought him back into my life, along with a resurgence of the pain I associated with him. Trying to reconcile my hurt feelings was never about desire to rekindle any romance; it was solely about finally having a real opportunity to move beyond what had broken my heart so many years before. My current boyfriend understood this completely. It wasn't an issue. There was never even a conversation about it; he knew me so very well that all intent and purpose was clear without verbal explanation. When this song played, I was stunned by how it captured our relationship with an eloquence I never could have provided. I said to him, "My God. This song is all about you. It's all about how much you love me." The boyfriend said, "I'm going to go downstairs to have a cigarette and get something salty. Would you pause it before the next episode comes on?" Any mitigating circumstances that made this reaction acceptable are not important. What is important is this: the beautiful, profound moment was ruined completely.

Anytime someone is on your mind a lot, you will find that there is reason to associate them with anything and everything. I get this. There are two songs, however, that I absolutely associate with a dear friend. One is ""Monster Ballads," and the other is "Moon River." There are lots of little details that provide associations with "Monster Ballads," though most people wouldn't see them. "Moon River," has always been almost a magical song for me, though. I think it's almost a requisite that all females adore Audrey Hepburn, especially as the flawed but lovely Holly Golightly. Before seeing the film, I loved the song, considering it a wonderful contemplation of the wide world waiting to be explored with an ever-present someone, standing beside you physically or in spirit. I finally saw Breakfast at Tiffany's at a revival house with a burgeoning friend to boyfriend situation. The song is an instant snap back to the cotton candy hazy delight of that first date. The boyfriend came and went, but the intense sentiment of the song was never sullied. I considered the lyrics and created my own definition of a huckleberry friend. It was George Peppard adoring Audrey Hepburn. What others saw as flaws he saw as frailties she valiantly tried to overcome. A huckleberry friend was one that stood with you in the rain, searching for Cat, never telling you he told you so. This was the person that needed no words; they got you through pure connection that naturally occurred. To hear a new friend casually call me his "huckleberry" was jarring. I already felt like he could burrow into my thoughts and unravel ideas that no one could possibly know. Now I understood why paranoid people where tin foil hats. There wasn't any possible "tell" with this; my benign thoughts were so unimportant I'd never voiced them to anyone. Clearly, though, this idea meant a great deal to me. I asked, "Why do you use that phrase?" and he said, "It means that you're the right one for the job; you're the right one to be my forever friend." It was a totally innocuous exchange, but it was one that floored me. Yes; this is all coincidence. We apply these big, fanciful meanings to simple, throw-away statements. Moments of eerie similarities are really just random commonalities. They don't mean that you are genuinely guaranteed a forever friend that will be your constant. But goddamn. You have to admit, this exchange was pretty remarkable for two people that scarcely knew one another. This very lengthy back story does have a Josh Ritter connection: Flipping through YouTube videos I was delighted to find his version of "Moon River." The spoken intro talks of his association between the song and Mark Twain, the same association I'd always made. Two songs, two strong associations with my best friend. I've shared both of these with him. I didn't expect him to pore over lyrics or feel deeply touched by my thinking of him, but I figured he'd at least listened with the song links I'd sent. Maybe he'd even thought, "Aww, that's sweet. My huck remembers the damnedest things." I posted to facebook a very teenage-ish "I am so excited about this new album!" after an announcement of a forthcoming release. My newsfeed showed good ol' huck had responded. I figured it would be along the lines of, "That's awesome. I know you love him." Instead, the best friend posted, "Who?" Great moment totally ruined.

I gave a co-worker a copy of Ritter's book Bright's Passage for their birthday. It's WWI historical fiction, an era with which we work. I thought they'd be interested in it, maybe see it as a way to get a younger generation interested in the topic. It sat on their desk, wrapped in the bow I'd tied on, for well over three months. Ritter came to town; I went to the show. I made the suggestion that an invitation to our institution may be well-received, (basically because I selfishly thought it would be awesome to meet him should he choose to accept the invitation.) At that point, no one had read the book or looked into Ritter's following to see that this was actually a pretty good opportunity. After the show I was overheard telling another co-worker how great it had been, and how it was really one of the few times I'd felt a sense of calm and joy that summer. The reaction was, "It would have been really good for us to have contacted him and had him visit. This could really be a great partnership." Peaceful, reflective moment ruined.

The things we want others to get excited about will often be deemed unworthy. The sentiments we attach to ideas, whether they be ours or someone else's, aren't always going to strike other people as truly profound. You can't make someone appreciate what you find extraordinary. It's okay; I get that. One great friend has tried for some time now to make me see that Frank Zappa is a musical genius. Another friend is determined that I will one day see that Janis Joplin's heart cries for me. Maybe I will see these things someday, but I doubt it. We've all got widely varied ideas to which we attach significance. For some, these are sentimental. For some, these are poetic and thought-provoking. For some, these are finite and fact-based, devoid of emotional interpretation. With that in mind, it will be easy to do the following things:

1. Stop sharing all the things that I find really, really fantastic with people through FaceBook or this blog. It's like the episode of Roseanne where DJ starts going to church and Darlene says, " Yeah, I mean, maybe he'll take after your cousin Jesco. Isn't he the one who sent us the Bible with every single word highlighted?"

2. Realize that not everybody has as sophisticated palate as I do. To each their own.

3. When little tiny moments of zen are ruined by dismissive statements, recognize that this shit is really a prime example of a first world problem. I'm an over-emotional girl that attaches way too much meaning to just about everything. I find that most men are devoid of an ability to find connection with anything unless they force a moment to its crisis. Women are from Venus; Men are from Mars.

I don't find Rocky Balboa "filling gaps" to be some amazing moment. I don't find a last minute time-out that pauses a football game simply to prolong the wait for an inevitable win/lose to be a great achievement. The development of a new video game system does nothing for me. I consider a mobile phone upgrade pretty meh. This probably irritates the shit out of people that find these things fantastic. They can have their moments. Stupid boys can unwittingly ruin great moments, but it doesn't mean they can't still be appreciated. I'm still more than willing to keep my moments and do my best to ward off interlopers.

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