Exit 233. Living for the first time.

A few of you, specifically people who have known me long enough to know all of my obscure little-known favorite movies, and probably not many others, will recognize the title of this post as a line from a song in the 2008 movie The Rocker.

Sometimes, I’ll read a book, or watch a movie, or interact with a work of fiction in some way, and I’ll feel like I want to know more.  I’ll want to know what happened to the characters after the end of the story, or more about the background of the characters or story. Or I’ll just wonder more about a certain minor character in the story, which specifically happened to me recently while watching this movie.

Critics didn’t really like this movie, but then again critics aren’t me.  The film stars Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office, the shirtless guy in the picture above, but I never got into that show so don’t ask me about Dwight), singer-songwriter Teddy Geiger (left), some people who became famous later (Josh Gad, Emma Stone, the other two pictured) and other people who were in other better-known stuff (Will Arnett, Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen, Christina Applegate, Jane Lynch, Jeff Garlin, Bradley Cooper, and I’m sure I’m forgetting others).  Ex-hair band drummer Robert “Fish” Fishman (Wilson) never got his life together after his friends (Arnett, Armisen, Cooper) betrayed him and kicked them out of their band in 1986. His friends went on to become immensely successful, but the present day finds Fish living in the attic of his sister (Lynch)’s house and struggling to keep a job. Matt, Fish’s 18-year-old nephew (Gad) is in a band with his school friends Curtis and Amelia (Geiger, Stone), and they need a drummer.  After Fish struggles to fit in with the much younger band, the band gets a big break and attracts the attention of a typical Hollywood-weird producer (Sudeikis). Fish gets another chance to live the wild rock star life he dreamed of as a young man, but not quite in the way he imagined. I really enjoyed the story, even if it is a little unrealistic, and the soundtrack is an album that is still in my regular music rotation a decade later.

So about a week ago, this movie came up in a random Facebook conversation with a friend who hadn’t seen it, and I told my friend that it had been a while since I had seen it too, and now I wanted to watch it when I got home from work, which I did.  (In fact, I can remember exactly when I watched it last before last week; it was November 1, 2015, because it was my last date with SN1604 before we broke up the second and final time. She had never seen it, so I showed it to her. But we don’t need to talk about that…)  

Watching it again got me thinking about a certain minor character in the movie.  About halfway through the movie, the band is playing their first gig, and Fish is checking off all of their firsts as a band: first venue, first marquee sign (which has the band’s name misspelled), first sound check, first technical difficulties.  While they are playing, the camera switches to the crowd, where initially unenthusiastic people sitting at tables start paying attention to the music. One girl in particular starts watching the band, nodding her head enthusiastically to the music, and after the show she runs up to the band, blushing, and says “You guys are sweet!” before awkwardly running away.  Fish points out that they have their first fan. The same girl appears in the crowd at several future shows wearing a shirt that says “I ♥ MATT.” At an after-party, Matt tells Amelia that he wants to talk to this girl but doesn’t know how to talk to girls; Amelia gives him some pointers, and Matt goes over to talk to her. At the last concert in the movie, Matt throws his hat into the crowd, and she catches it (again wearing the I ♥ MATT shirt)..

This girl is a minor character in the movie.  No one says her name in the movie, and in the credits, she is listed as “I ♥ Matt Girl.”  But there is an interesting subplot here. In one scene, during the filming of a music video, Amelia gets frustrated at the people making the video wanting to change her look.  She says something along the lines of if they want someone who looks like all the other girls out there, they should just grab one of the girls that are always hanging around Curtis after the show.  But this girl, their first fan, isn’t one of the girls hanging around Curtis. She ♥s Matt, the dorky awkward member of the band. Even the dorkiest and most awkward of us have someone out there who cares about us.

So will I ever have a girl following me around with a shirt proclaiming that she ♥s me?  Doubtful.  Will I ever have someone who feels that way about me, though? I might, I might not. But who knows, it could happen. And it isn’t irrelevant that I have a lot of good friends who care about me.

Exit 225. Until it ends, there is no end.

I’m back from my hiatus.  Well, I don’t know if hiatus is the right word, considering I started a second blog during that time.  I’m not sure if I’m ready to share it yet… we’ll see.

Instead of something deep and earth-shattering, this is going to be one of those posts about a song from my past.  I rediscovered this one a couple years ago, but it just hit me recently why I like it so much.

We had this album on vinyl back when it was new (1984).  I remember my mom really liking it.  Wikipedia says that six singles were released from the album, but I really only remember four.  The first two (one, two) are very well remembered and today are considered classics of 1980s pop.  A third one I mostly remember just because I found out many years later, as an adult, that it was about masturbation.  I found this hilarious because my mother, who came from the kind of background where sex was never talked about, and who also has a tendency not to pay attention to lyrics, loved the song.  I don’t know what she thought it was about… dancing, probably.  I had no idea what it was about either, but I had an excuse because I was eight years old and knew nothing of female anatomy.  Mom, I know you read this, and I hope you don’t think I’m making fun of you or anything, but all I just did was state facts, and I believe we had this discussion years ago.

Anyway… back to All Through The Night.  This one isn’t about masturbation.  It’s a nice little song about the excitement of new love.  And unlike many pop songs about love, this is one I can relate to better than most.

Being performed by a woman doesn’t make this song harder to relate to as a man.  The lyrics work for any combination of genders and sexual orientations, and in fact the song was written and originally recorded by a man, even though Cyndi Lauper’s version is much more well known. The reason I feel like I can relate to this song more so than most pop songs about love is because I’ve been there.

As I’ve written before, I haven’t exactly had a good history with romantic relationships.  I haven’t had many of them at all, and most of the ones I’ve had were bad, leaving me with the feeling that I have experienced all of the heartache surrounding relationships but little to none of the good experiences.  But the excitement of new love… that is something I have felt.  Every relationship starts that way, full of hope and excitement and anticipation.  It’s a great feeling.

Of course, I haven’t felt that excitement and anticipation all that often over the course of my life, and most of the time it just sets up a new horrible way to be lied to, ignored, or accused of something.  But that’s life.  And going through all that crap just makes the excitement and anticipation and hope even better when it has happened.

Exit 130. An outside perspective.

A friend of mine who lived in California until about a year ago, and who has been known to call himself a music snob, recently made a Facebook post in which he said something like “Since nobody else is saying it, I will: Lynyrd Skynyrd was just okay.”  They’ve never been my absolute favorite, I only have a greatest hits album of theirs, but I still think they’re better than “just okay.”  I made some snarky comment, probably a little more rude than I should have been, about how nobody else is saying it because everyone else has good taste in music.

One of his other friends said that he is only saying this because he is not from the South.  He replied something about how sometimes you need an outside perspective on things.

And then I realized that he’s right.

Lynyrd Skynyrd formed in Jacksonville in the late 1960s.  I once heard someone say that Florida is the upside-down state, in that the farther north you go, it feels more and more like the South.  Jacksonville is about as far north as you can go in Florida, just a few miles from Georgia, and the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd has often been considered one of the major examples of the “Southern rock” genre, blending classic rock with blues and country influences.  My friend’s point was that Lynyrd Skynyrd is so iconic in Southern culture that many Southerners never think to question whether or not their music is actually good.

I’ve had a few outside perspectives in my life.  I started college the same year that a TV show called Friends premiered on NBC.  Friends was huge among my peers and classmates.  It was the show that everyone related to and aspired to, with their groups of people they hang out with at home and at the coffee shop, sharing each other’s lives and gossiping about their significant others.  But not me.  I tried to get into Friends, but I came from an outside perspective.  I didn’t have that kind of group of friends in real life; having friends in the first place was new to me in my late teens, and I still didn’t have much of a social life.  All six of the main characters of Friends reminded me of the kind of Cool Kids who bullied and rejected me all through childhood.  I don’t want to watch a show about them, unless it’s about them dying horribly painful deaths.  And I couldn’t even relate to the coffee shop thing, because from my perspective, coffee tastes like crap.  I always felt that my social life was stunted being a university student in the Friends era who did not drink coffee.

A couple years ago, I also remember having a conversation with an acquaintance in which I said that I don’t particularly like romantic comedies as a genre, although there are a small few that I’ve enjoyed.  (Like this one, even though it’s not real.)  She asked why, and I said because I can’t relate to romantic comedies.  She said something like, “Really?  I would think that love is something universal that everyone can relate to.”  Maybe everyone she knows, but from my outside perspective, love is something that only happens in movies and books and other people’s lives.  I’ve experienced all of the heartache associated with relationships with very little of the good times, and even the few good relationship moments I have experienced have not usually involved the awkwardly sweet giggling, long walks on the beach, or having sex with someone you just met a week ago that seem to characterize romantic comedies.

So maybe an outside perspective is necessary.  And a good thing, so that people who aren’t living breathing stereotypes don’t get forgotten.  And if my friend from the first paragraph is reading this, I’m sorry for insulting your taste in music.

Exit 42. I really don’t like Valentine’s Day.

I really don’t like Valentine’s Day.  Let’s just get that out in the open.

Of course, I’ll also admit openly that over the course of my life, I haven’t had much to celebrate, and I’m sure that has played a big part in why I don’t like Valentine’s Day.  Sure, there were the elementary school Valentine’s Day celebrations, and I got my share of paper mass-produced Valentine cards from classmates stuffed into a big envelope on my desk.  (Do they still do that in elementary school classes?)  I didn’t have the experience of sitting there being the only kid with no Valentines in my envelope, like what happened to Ralph on the Simpsons.  Most, if not all, of my classmates at least gave me a card each year.  But as an adult, Valentine’s Day is just another day for me, except that the rest of the world conspires even harder than usual to remind me that I’m alone.  And calling it “Singles Awareness Day” doesn’t help either, so you guys can stop doing that now.  But there is more to it than that, and I think that my point can be illustrated if I break down the specific circumstances and events of every Valentine’s Day that did involve having someone to do something for.  There have been precisely three such Valentine’s Days, and I think my point will flow better if I go in reverse chronological order.

Last year, 2014, things appeared to be moving in the direction that I was going to have a special someone.  In January, I had met a girl at a mutual friend’s birthday, and almost immediately she was writing me long multi-paragraph messages on Facebook.  I took her to a Kings game, and by the time I had known her for two weeks, she was texting me every day asking how my day went at work and telling me about her day.  She seemed more interested in me after two weeks than Acrux had been seven-plus months into our relationship, a few years earlier.  After our second date, I brought up the issue of what was going on, and she said we were “very casually dating” and she was interesting in seeing where things went.  I was too.  Valentine’s Day was a few days after this second date, and I remember feeling greatly conflicted about what to do.  If I tried to do something elaborate and romantic after just two dates, it might seem like I was rushing in, going too fast, I’d scare her off or she’d think I was a creep or something.  But if I did nothing, I might seem uninterested.  I decided to send her a card in the mail, something of the not overly smothering “I’m really enjoying spending time with you” variety.  On the following Sunday afternoon, that would have been the 16th, I got a text from her saying that we had gone as far as we could have and there wasn’t anything there.  I asked if I could at least know why, and she gave some equally vague BSified answer.  Whatever.  KMA.  I don’t know if she got the card.  I don’t know if I should have done something more, or something less.  And maybe I’m misunderstanding girlspeak again, but I kind of felt like since we had had the conversation earlier that week that there might have been something there, I at least deserved a phone call or a face-to-face conversation.

To this day, I still don’t know if the mutual friend with the birthday party ever knew about this.  It wouldn’t surprise me, since the mutual friend is a woman, and girls talk about stuff, but I do remember distinctly that I saw the mutual friend during the time all this was going on, and she didn’t ask me about her or mention her in any way.  I kept trying to figure out if she knew, and she didn’t say anything to let on that she did.  The mutual friend isn’t someone who I see often these days.  But I did go to her birthday party again in 2015, and the girl who dumped me by text was there.  I successfully ignored and avoided her.  I didn’t want to talk to her, and we had nothing to say to each other.  The girl didn’t stay very long, so it wasn’t that hard not to talk to her.

In 2011, I was kind of seeing someone who I’ve code-named Aurora; I mentioned her previously in the same post I linked to above.  That time period included Valentine’s Day, and a few days before, the mutual friend through whom I had met Aurora reminded me that Valentine’s Day was catching up and listed off all of Aurora’s favorite types of flowers.  I felt a bit overwhelmed by all this.  Buying flowers has always been a completely alien world to me.  I don’t buy flowers.  I’ve never bought flowers in my life.  I don’t know the process or the protocol or what to look for or anything.  I don’t remember if I mentioned this to Aurora, but I do remember I was still conflicted about if I was interested in her like that or not, and I didn’t want to do anything to lead her on if I wasn’t sure that that was what I wanted, having been on the receiving end of such a dynamic enough times in my life to know how much it hurts.  I do remember, though, that Aurora made me a card with a message that seemed understanding and accepting of my confusion as well as my dislike of the holiday.

The only time I actually had a full-blown ambiguity-free girlfriend on Valentine’s Day was 2006, with Vega the Nice Ex.  I had been at a basketball game at UC Davis, my alma mater, and before the game I was browsing the campus bookstore.  I found a little teddy bear that said “Someone At UC Davis Loves Me.”  Vega and I had an adorable little inside joke about deer, so in a fit of craftiness, I bought that teddy bear, and I gave it antlers using toothpicks and glue.  She loved it.  But through the whole process, I felt dirty, like I had violated my principles by buying a Valentine’s Day gift.  I’d been very vocally anti-Valentine’s Day for so long, and here I was doing something cute and sweet and mushy.  (At least I didn’t get her this teddy bear instead.)  But it also felt nice to have someone to share those inside jokes with.

There is a common thread in all of my Valentine’s stories that, I think, cuts to the heart of why I dislike this holiday for reasons that transcend being almost perpetually single.  Each time, I felt pressured to do something simply because of what the calendar said, and each time, I was left wondering if what I did was enough or was appropriate.  The media inundates us with caricatures of bumbling men forgetting that it is Valentine’s Day and rushing to the store to buy something for their wives and girlfriends so that they don’t end up sleeping on the couch for a week.  Love shouldn’t be like that.  No one should have to buy the love of their significant other.  If you really love someone, you should show them every day, not feel pressured to perform because Hallmark told you to.

Being bitter about being single certainly isn’t helping the situation, and it isn’t going to help me be anything other than single any time soon.  I’m trying not to be that way.  But I also don’t want to be in a relationship where I feel pressured to perform because of what the marketing departments of the world try to make us think is important.  And I still don’t like Valentine’s Day.