2005 Year End Thoughts
A +1 To See Caribou
any of you know this story. You may recognize where it stalled last year at this time. This serves as warning since this piece will undoubtedly work migraines into those who believe music-writing should be objective, full of spine and bone and higher ideals. I’ve never subscribed to that theory; I enjoy the plush overtones of flesh and personal affect. Thus, when it comes time for the Year-End Essay, I always step forward. I’ll find a way to connect music to the minutiae of this annum, but I won’t start there.
Last January, the holidays had passed and left a winter numb. There was cold and little else, and I was starting to get the feel of living alone again. My wife had been gone five months. All of her stuff was long moved out and I’d redecorated the place to leave few whispers of anything she had done to it. It felt like my own finally and the fragments of what she had been to me were starting to lose shape. I had to work hard at it, beating my spine with plenty of techno and hip-hop but I was finally getting back to a state of tabula rasa, without any lingering links to the me-as-we state you tend to adopt in marriages.
And then she called. It started out as a way to discuss what we would do with our place, whether I could buy her out, or she me. We met for dinner under these pretenses. We were both dressed to the nines; we wanted to impress each other again after all this time so little time, remember me like this as it will stay that way after you’ve gone. Others will notice, but not you. You are my gone.
We had our first dinner at my favorite Greek restaurant, where we’d had our first ‘date’ years ago. It was charming and relatively painless, but as the vino flowed, we headed out into the cold and both of us began to cry. She had to finish her smoke, a habit she’d picked up again since her departure. We stood behind my Jeep and discussed how everything had felt so ideal but somehow crooked and strange and contorted, like we’d shared this odd platonic love through an English fog and grappled in youth without ever really knowing what it meant to be joined in any way that could make us last . There was poison there, and hatred, and confusion, but mainly so fucking much regret.
The meetings began to stack up. We couldn’t place ourselves in any context; we weren’t dating. We were just gathering, eating. Harmless. We were hesitant and almost childishly indifferent to boundaries. We each held a blackness behind this reconnection that we could never forget. I for the way she left, and she for the fact she had to leave.
The months passed, and we began to see each other every night. We would share our apartments over night, but when the time came for either of us to have dinner with the others’ parents, plans fell apart. There was an obvious reluctance to take that next step. She hesitated to tell her parents, and I stayed tight in discussion with friends.
For those few short months, either in her steam-heated apartment or at the condo we used to share, we honeymooned again. I remember waking at four in the morning to her drunk neighbors, who had somehow managed to drag a piano into their rented apartment, caterwauling through top forties and playing Biz Markie to our laughter a floor above. We celebrated each other’s birthdays. We didn’t have to join in space at the end of the day; we could separate and withdraw to neutral corners, just like we’d spent the last few months. We were never forced to merge again like we had been when married. Everything was too easy, and as spring began to drool through Minneapolis, there came a point when we knew we’d eventually have to discuss THINGS and QUESTIONS.
Not surprisingly, we had no answers. Well, we had answers; we mouthed words but they were false. In many ways, we each voiced the impossibility of our expectations through the false sum of our tone. I couldn’t see living with her again. She couldn’t see reintroducing me, this degenerate she’d been spewing froth about for the last five months, to her family and friends. I couldn’t stand coming home from work to Amy Ray on the stereo and having to go out for a jog just to breathe again. She told me I had to be willing to move with her when she was out of advertising school, wherever she wanted. I agreed. I think I assented only as the possibility seemed so mysterious. Knowing it would never happen made it easy to accept.
When May came, such issues finally tripped us up. As always, we stumbled through them without really recognizing the cause in the dark. Instead, she said she could never forgive me for our past. She couldn’t get together again; she couldn’t talk about it and certainly couldn’t see me. She called me and said it was over. I remember laughing on the phone, thinking it so absurd that she could phone me on a matter of such weight.
Our last night together was perhaps the best of our short second honeymoon. I had us +1’d to see Caribou, the Junior Boys, and The Russian Futurists at a small guttersoak in town. It wasn’t the kind of show she’d see ordinarily, but she warmed to Caribou’s steamy psychedelic pump-stomp. Fittingly, the Russian Futurists had been stopped at the border and denied entry, so the PA pumped Our Thickness during intermission. I remember thinking she’d buy Caribou’s record now, the way she’d had to buy Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots when she left because I used to sing the title track to our cat. She wore my corduroy hat, and I said it looked better on her than on me and told her to keep it. She left it in my car when she got out.
With it over again, I expected to slip back into a period of evolution. For me, my musical tastes are recombined by changes in personal life, by the subtle transitions as well as the larger life-scale shifts. But whereas the first time I could at first listen only to talk radio—I needed the voices and the enveloping static—I realized this time I was relatively unharmed by watching my listening patterns. The previous year’s break bore a need for beats and bass of any ilk, from hip-hop to techno to disco. Anything that throbbed or glistened was in my ears, and that was new for me. I expected this new dissolution to force me off kilt again in search of novel new sounds. I thought I’d make another break in the music I craved just to convince myself I’d changed again.
To my surprise, every morning found me packing the albums I’d listen to at work, and I didn’t go off the deep. I didn’t start listening to High On Fire or Orthrelm. I didn’t play ABBA’s Arrival and eat Indian Food until my teeth ached and my stomach burned. I didn’t reach for Reznor’s bag of nails. I didn’t smoke candles in the rain and pale like Robert Smith. Instead, my tastes stood still. I waited for everything to drop again but the same albums remained in rotation.
We’re deep in winter again here in Minneapolis. My divorce has begun. I’m writing this essay to the single of the year, Lindstrom’s “I Feel Space,” a revolving windstorm at play. I can see myself falling in love with it last December, in distance and snow. But I can’t see myself appreciating the glow of the fire as much. I think maybe I’d hear Lindstrom pound out coiling midnight in the midst of the cold and hold tight to its menace. Now, I see a streak of light in the way he builds his synths, a chorus of dawnbreak nearing the track’s end and I hope that directs me this January. 2005 ends, and though my tastes may not have changed, the shape of my bite is wider, full of gluttony again.