Thursday, April 26, 2012

Identity Trappings

"Once upon a time, this meant a lot to me," I thought as I glanced at a Ramones LP and then shoved it back into the crate that was going away today with Bill R, the guy who once staffed Hoboken's famed defunct record store Pier Platters.

I paged on past Rank and File's Sundown, X's Under the Big Black Sun, and paused at Jason and the Scorchers.

"Absolutely Sweet Marie," I thought for a second, with a sentimental pang for a distant life as an indie scenester in DC, southwest Ohio, Austin, NYC/Hoboken. I passed the record by—I can download that and don't need to keep it—and continued on. Human Switchboard. Los Lobos. Beat Happening. Teenage Fanclub. Pavement. Big Guitars from Texas. LeRoi Brothers, Eugene Chadbourne. Evan Johns.

No, no. I can't.

I pulled out one of the Evan Johns records and stared at it for a minute. I couldn't hand this record off to Bill for his eBay business. I thought about going once a week to Austin's Black Cat on Sixth Street to see him play for free, how we'd had to buy tickets and fight crowds just a few years before back home in the DC area. I pulled the record out and put it aside.

And then why not...I pulled out Dayton's Highwaymen EP, every Daniel Johnston LP, every Unrest record, everything Glass Eye put out, my Gits singles, and for good measure, a few rare anthologies from Austin and Ohio that no one else will ever care about. Cover Me, with a great cover of Atlantic City. And a Zeitgeist record I have always liked an awful lot. Even a Roky Erickson record which I'm sure I could download...I just couldn't part with it. I thought back to my Ohio boyfriend in 1986...we used Roky's Starry Eyes as a kind of theme song for a while, not knowing that Mike's brother would have a close friendship with Roky years later. I had to keep it, though surely keeping his own record (the Highwaymen one) was more than enough. And I could actually talk to the real person anytime on Facebook. Did I really need the physical reminder of something long ago almost-forgotten?

I like this record.

I kept it.

I winced when I got to the crate that had been on the floor of the garage, under the other three crates of records. A hefty bunch of first-pressing vinyl output from Sonic Youth had seen better days, much like the first-printing Epic Akira comic books that had been next to this crate during the flood a few years back.

Otis showed up before Bill, while I was still going through my stacks.

"That's a hundred and fifty dollar single," he said, pointing to something I'd never listened to.


"It's got Kurt Cobain on it."

I grinned. Heh. Well, all right. 

"Do you think I should sell this Dils 45?"

"Sure, why not? You want to keep it?"

"I guess not." I tossed it on the Bill pile.

"You could have gotten a lot for all this if you'd sold it ten years ago," said Otis with a depressed grin. He was in worse shape than I was. While I had about a thousand rare to semi-rare albums and 45s, he had possessed tens of thousands. He'd been getting rid of his too, and that's why Bill was coming to pay him a visit today. I was just piggybacking, doing some spring cleaning. Both of us just wanted all this stuff out of our lives.

I did feel a small sense of loss for a person I'd once been as Bill piled the crates into the rear of the hatchback he'd borrowed from a friend we'd all known in 1990. But I haven't been that person in 15 years. I visited the old me a few times, a couple of years ago when the Other Marie was up and Freedy Johnston was at Maxwell's, and then at the Bell House and Maxwell's during the Unrest reunion tour. But I'd stopped going to see music unless Ken Katkin was in town and encouraging me to come out, or unless Neko Case or Lucinda Williams was playing. I do make exceptions for musicians I absolutely adore.

As my records drove away, I thought about identity and change, and how someone had recently described to me about how he'd walked up and peered into the abyss and changed his life.

What a crock of shit, I'd thought, and ignored this point.

And I thought about leaving my life, packing it all up, selling my condo, abandoning all physical possessions and quitting my job of 13 years in 2001, going around the world. Then reinventing myself as an Australian a year later, doing it again in 2004 with a move to Spain, in 2005 with a new life with a lover in Uganda, a change of venue to Kuwait in 2006, and then selling off my home and again changing countries to Cairo in 2007, then finally, coming home with my tail between my legs in 2008, ready to hold still for a while as I had grasped then that you can't change by throwing yourself off a cliff.

Real change is almost impossible, but it only happens one way.

Through a lot of hard work, stability, honesty, and—yes—pain.

Sitting still is optional, but motion only presents the illusion of change. I've rearranged the furniture when I've thrown myself off the cliff, but that's all I'd rearranged using that technique. I caught on years ago, so it's okay not to lecture me that I should catch on. I have. I know. I don't travel because I think it will change me.

My identity of 1992 drove away from me today. I put my Glass Eye and Unrest records into the back of my old Ford and drove home, back to the apartment where I intend to work with this theme for a while.

Drastic change—the abyss—is not meaningful. Not anymore than a symbolic sacrifice of something that meant a lot to 25-year-old Marie.

I headed home to continue the hard work of slow progress. Roaming the world, pitching head-first off a cliff is fun. 2011 never held the naive promise that MariesWorldTour 2001 did for me. Instead, it held realism and challenge, the joy of living by my wits. I love living by my wits. I suppose I love the genuine danger of it too, though I'm forced to admit that risking my life on occasion may not be the best use of my claimed wisdom.

I travel now because I enjoy it. Not because I'm a sucker for the illusion of transformation.

And records? They're nothing. Just stuff. Stuff I'm glad to be rid of.

1 comment:

Marie Javins said...

This is two blog posts in one, isn't it? Anyway, I have an idea about writing an iPad story about change, but maybe it'll just end up being a travel chapter.