It’s the same with people who say, ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Even people who say this must realize that the exact opposite is true. What doesn’t kill you maims you, cripples you, leaves you weak, makes you whiny and full of yourself at the same time. The more pain, the more pompous you get. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you incredibly annoying.
The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with — nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they can add up to the story of a life.
Our lives were just beginning, our favorite moment was right now, our favorite songs were unwritten.
We want to freeze the perfect moment, hold on to it, at least long enough to understand it. But it dances on with us or without us, so we jump in and try to keep up. The universe is expanding and we are just two of a billion stars.
At Camp Don Bosco, there were Bibles all over the place, mostly 1970s hippie versions like Good News for Modern Man. They had groovy titles like The Word or The Way, and translated the Bible into “contemporary English,” which meant Saul yelling at Jonathan, “You son of a bitch!” (I Samuel 20:30). Awesome! The King James version gave this verse as “Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman,” which was bogus in comparison. Maybe these translations went a bit far. I recall one of the Bibles translating the inscription over the cross, “INRI” (Iesus Nazaremus Rex Iudaeorum), as “SSDD” (Same Shit Different Day), and another describing the Last Supper — the night before Jesus’ death, a death he freely accepted — where Jesus breaks the bread, gives it to his disciples, and says, “It’s better to burn out than fade away,” but these memories could be deceptive.
Back home, my favorite part of Mass was during communion, when I'd stand at the rail and hold a little gold platter under people's chins. The pretty girls would line up for communion (I confess to Almighty God). They'd kneel (and to you my brothers and sisters), cast their eyes demurely down (I have sinned through my own fault), and stick out their tongues (in my thoughts and in my words). Their tongues would shine, reflected in the gold platter, and since the wafer was dry, the girls would maybe lick their lips (and I ask Blessed Mary ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters) before they swallowed (to pray for me to the Lord our God). It was all I could do not to pass out.
bitch power is the juice, the sweat, the blood that keeps pop music going. Rick James helped me understand the lesson of the eighth-grade dance: Bitch power rules the world. If the girls don't like the music, they sit down and stop the show. You gotta have a crowd if you wanna have a show. And the girls are the show. We're talking absolute monarchy, with no rules of succession. Bitch power. She must be obeyed. She must be feared.
Irish people marry late, as a rule. We have that potato-famine DNA from the old country, that mentality where you don't give birth to anything until you have the potatoes all stored up to feed it. My ancestors were all shepherds who got married in their thirties and then stayed together for life, who had long and happy marriages, no doubt because they were already deaf. My grandparents courted for nine years before they married in 1933.
And being a husband made me helpless, because I had somebody to protect (somebody a little high-strung, who had a tough time emotionally with things like the lights going out indefinitely).
The dilemma of the eighth-grade dance is that boys and girls use music in different ways. Girls enjoy music they can dance to, music with strong vocals and catchy melodies. Boys, on the other hand, enjoy music they can improve by making up filthy new lyrics.
I get sentimental over the music of the ’90s. Deplorable, really. But I love it all. As far as I’m concerned the ’90s was the best era for music ever, even the stuff that I loathed at the time, even the stuff that gave me stomach cramps.
One of Renee's friends asked her, Does your boyfriend wear glasses? She said, No, he wears a Walkman.
I was totally clueless about social interaction, and completely scared of girls. All I knew was that music was going to make girls fall in love with me.
I've never heard of anybody getting rid of their prized Exile postcards, much less actually writing on them and sending them through the mail to a girl. I watched these two, laughing over this story at the same kitchen table they've shared for thirty years. I realize that I will never fully understand the millions of bizarre ways that music brings people together.
We couldn't believe how exciting it was to be together, a pair of young Americruisers on a roll. We'd lived for just twenty-five years; we weren't planning to die for fifty more. We danced and drank and went to rock shows. Our lives were just beginning, our favorite moment was right now, our favorite songs were unwritten.
That Jim Morrison song gets it all wrong. People are strange when you’re a stranger, but it’s not because they ignore you—it’s when they notice you and smile, that’s when you realize you’re alone out here. Their kindness is what makes you notice how weak you are. That’s when you know it’s not the city’s fault, it’s yours. These people are in the same strange town, but they’re not letting the strangeness eat them up and turn them into robots. That’s just you.
There’s only the one, see. When you fall in love with a girl, she’s the bloody White Album. That is what you whisper to yourself, when you don’t understand her at all. You just keep telling yourself, she’s the bloody Beatles White Album and there’s only one of her.
You know the Prince song where the girl's phone rings but she tells him, whoever's calling couldn't be as cute as you? I long to live out this moment in real life.
Renee loved to do things. That was mysterious to me, since I was more comfortable talking about things and never doing them. She liked passion. She liked adventure. I cowered from passion and talked myself out of adventure.
I was helpless in trying to return people's kindness, but also helpless to resist it. Kindness is a scarier force than cruelty, that's for sure. Cruelty isn't that hard to understand. I had no trouble comprehending why the phone company wanted to screw me over; they just wanted to steal some money, it was nothing personal. That's the way of the world. It made me mad, but it didn't make me feel stupid. If anything, it flattered my intelligence. Accepting all that kindness, though, made me feel stupid.Human benevolence is totally unfair. We don't live in a kind or generous world, yet we are kind and generous. We know the universe is out to burn us, and it gets us all the way it got Renee, but we don't burn each other, not always. We are kind people in an unkind world, to paraphrase Wallace Stevens. How do you pretend you don't know about it, after you see it? How do you go back to acting like you don't need it? How do you even the score and walk off a free man? You can't. I found myself forced to let go of all sorts of independence I thought I had, independence I had spent years trying to cultivate. That world was all gone, and now I was a supplicant, dependent on the mercy of other people's psychic hearts.
The way I pictured it, all this grief would be like a winter night when you're standing outside. You'll warm up once you get used to the cold. Except after you've been out there for awhile, you feel the warmth draining out of you and you realize the opposite is happening; you're getting colder and colder, as the body heat you brought outside with you seeps out of your skin. Instead of getting used to it, you get weaker the longer you endure it.
I had no voice to talk with because she was my whole language. Without her to talk to, there was nothing to say.
On the way we talked about the road sign Bridge Ices Before Road. I always wondered, If that's a problem, why don't they just build the bridge out of the same stuff they use to build the road? Drema explained that the bridge isn't made out of different material than the road, but that the bridge ices quicker because it's alone, hanging there without the land under it to keep it warm.
It was bewildering and humbling to keep discovering how many brave things people can fail to talk themselves out of doing.
When I was a junior, my school introduced badminton, which was clearly a P.E. department ploy to get me away from the wrestling room, and it worked, since the first time I played badminton was like the first time I tasted sushi or heard the Beatles or read Wordsworth. This was a sport? This counted for gym requirements?
Something I really enjoy about older couples is that they really have given up on getting everything right. They don't sweat the imperfections.
….For instance, I hated Pearl Jam at the time. I thought they were pompous blowhards. Now, whenever a Pearl Jam song comes on the car radio, I find myself pounding my fist on the dashboard, screaming, “Pearl JAM! Pearl JAM! Now this is rock and roll! Jeremy’s SPO-ken! But he’s still al-LIIIIIVE!
Being a pop fan is a lot like Catholic devotion - lots of ritual, lots of ceremony... We touch the icon to enter the sacred space, genuflecting to reliquaries and ostentatoria that make something splendid of our most secret desires and agonies.
When I started out as a music journalist, at the end of the 1980s, it was generally assumed that we were living through the lamest music era the world would ever see. But those were also the years when hip-hop exploded, beatbox disco soared, indie rock took off, and new wave invented a language of teen angst.