How we know each other

At the end of 2013, I sat with S. while she smoked a cigarette out on the patio at a bar that we like. Two guys came over and bummed a smoke. They asked us how we knew each other. S. said, “Drinking and writing. ” This strikes me as the best possible way to know someone. It’s not how we met, which would be more like, “friends from college knew other friends from college.” But if you were to anatomize our friendship, to look at why and how we got to know each other within a standard big American city network of people from elsewhere, we know each other through drinking and writing. Sunset Junction

The two young men looked younger than we are. One of them sounded British, so I asked where they were from, and the other one, the not-British one, said, “Encino.” How did they know each other? “Smoking and rock and roll.” I asked for band names. Surely this is what young men who identify as as rocknroll and bum smokes in a bar want to be asked. Encino said: “Mini Mansions.”

I love this band name. I had never heard of it before, but I immediately effused that I am kind of obsessed in a weird way with real estate. And our British friend, the one sporting a pompadour fade and a leather jacket? He said, “The Arctic Monkeys.”

I almost pulled out my phone to prove that Do I Wanna Know? was at the top of my playlist!! I said something about the video. The Arctic Monkey looked confused. When S. and I went to the bathroom, she immediately pulled out her phone to see if he was lying. I had no idea. I listen to their music, had even watched that video, but it’s animated and I am no longer the kind of fan who looks up publicity stills, unless I meet the frontman in a bar. He wasn’t lying.

My theory is that the confusion on Alex Turner’s face was about me, and whether it was a good or a bad thing that I was a fan of his band. S. looked great in black pants and lipstick. But I had hurried out to the bar in an old sweater and a ponytail. My five year-old daughter had made me a necklace out of rubber bands on her Rainbow Loom. I was wearing it. And S. and I were so direct, so unfazed, so over caring what people thought of us. S. reassured them that “Mini Mansions” was also a very good name for a band. Were we flirting? Or being patronizing? I landed right on the cusp — cute girl in a bar? or soccer mom? Unclear.

Sasha Frere-Jones, the New Yorker’s music critic, has made it explicit that he equates artistic death with appealing primarily to women like me. You don’t get to the top of the streaming charts by thinking of yourself as a band that appeals to moms. The frontman for The Arctic Monkeys looked at me and thought — maybe I have really gotten famous? or maybe this bird is lying? or maybe I should finish this fag and go find someone who won’t look at me with such intense curiosity?

Arctic_Monkeys_-_Do_I_Wanna_KnowI like the whole album, but that song, their biggest hit, is about that time at the end of the night when you want to call your ex, the one you can’t stop thinking about but know you shouldn’t call. It’s about obsession and spilling drinks on my settee and crawling back to you, feelings and cravings that people conventionally shelve in a marketing category separate from soccer moms. We are meant to hold down the edges of a square world that indie rock must define itself against. Yes, it’s true, Alex Turner, I also like Katy Perry. But I promise my fandom doesn’t have a downside, I carry no glamor that wards off cool. Dark feelings and difficult cravings don’t end because you have children. I meet your music where it lives.

I spent this morning reading articles recommended by friends on social media and waiting for my brain to come back online to tackle this new year. It seems that everything is ending. Midlist book publishing and the community of readers. Water. Alternative newsweeklies. Affordable housing. The academy. Cities. Being a cute girl in a bar. The world and all the things I hold dear, facing their imminent demise. But there is still drinking and writing to do. And with endings come beginnings. Hello, 2014.

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7 Responses to How we know each other

  1. Gail Peck says:

    I so love this! As a would-be grandmother (none of my adult children have children but maybe in the future?) of 60, I have the Artic Monkeys on my iTunes, although I admit they are not my favorite. The National is where I’m at.

  2. MQ says:

    It’s about obsession and spilling drinks on my settee and crawling back to you, feelings and cravings that people conventionally shelve in a marketing category separate from soccer moms.

    People shelve this in a different category from soccer moms for a reason. It is really, truly, not good for your kids to indulge these feelings in the same way you did when you were single and unattached. A solid chunk of rock and roll is about various compelling ways to screw up your life. It’s just a fact that once you’ve had a kid you have to move on from some of that.

  3. thisblue says:

    Thanks! I also love The National, Gail.

    And MQ, don’t worry, my daughter has her own independent taste in music. We share a thing for Katy Perry, but otherwise, her current favorite is “In Summer” from Frozen.

  4. Lib says:

    So, my aunt is Gail. (Hi, Aunt Gail!)

    I ran across this on her newsfeed and I love it so hard! The whole Sasha Frere-Jones thing really hurt my feelings – I mean, I took it personally when he said middle-aged moms don’t know how to buy pirate music! – and I love to see someone talking back and calling bullshit on that kind of thinking.

    So happy to have found a new blog to follow!

  5. thisblue says:

    Sasha Frere-Jones may have some issues — when I posted about The Women of Pop, other readers pointed me to a problematic piece of his about race, as well. Just to say that I’m not alone in calling him out. Thanks for the props, Lib!

  6. Tamir Halaban says:

    You’ll always be the cute girl at the bar. Getting to the bar is the hard part. Damn kids.

  7. thisblue says:

    Thanks, Tamir, for that existentially complicated compliment. But yes, getting to the bar is the hard part. So hard.

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