So I started at the Federal Way FM a couple weeks ago, back in my "old stomping grounds," whatever that means. Apparently the correct phrase is "old stamping grounds" but that doesn't make any more sense.
Despite its familiarity, I don't feel much of a connection to this place. I haven't lived in this area (or really even visited it) for about ten years, so I should feel like a 28-year-old coming back home for his high school reunion, right? I feel so much more at home walking around downtown in Seattle even though I've never lived there... it just feels like home. Federal Way feels familiar in the most awkward way. Perhaps it's because I spent so much of the time I lived here wanting to be just about anywhere else, to get away from everything and everyone but my closest friends.
I skipped my real ten year reunion for a reason. Now I'm reunited with my old town where all the roads and buildings are the same but the faces are mostly different (I do work with a guy I knew from junior high... ha!).
Marlene's is still awesome, I've gone there for lunch a few times. Amazingly, Al's Music (the used record store) still exists. I went there yesterday and saw a few CDs that I'm relatively certain were the same ones I traded in years ago. I haven't gone in the mall yet but I'm sure it's the same as it ever was. I haven't driven by TJ yet but I'm sure if I did it would still give me the same sense of nausea and suffocating fear that it always has. I'm a 33-year-old man and the thought of high school still manages to turn me into a frightened, miserable, lovesick little teenager.
I made so many wonderful memories in this place. It's the city where I met my dearest friends that I still have to this day. It's where I started playing in the band that literally (yes, literally) kept me sane throughout high school and gave me something to live for during a time when I felt like I didn't have anything else. It's the home of the 320th Denny's where I laughed with my friends harder than I've ever laughed in my life. I'm realizing now that when I left I took all of that good stuff with me. There's nothing left here in Federal Way for me besides a cool music store and a whole lot of bitterness.
And my new job, of course, to which I must now return.
Tax return came and my new computer is assembled. Unfortunately right before I hooked it up I stupidly set it down on my bed and it fell over and the case is now bent. It's superficial damage only, and it just makes it a tiny bit more difficult to put on the side panel. I guess it wouldn't be an Anthony computer if there weren't something wrong with it.
- Core i7 quad-core 3.5ghz processor
- 16gb RAM (expandable to 32, I'll do this eventually)
- Radeon R7 2gb graphics card
- Blu-ray writer, DVD writer
- Awesome motherboard with USB 3.0, 6gbps SATA, and all the other rad stuff
- My trusty Audiophile 2496 sound card that I've had since my band-playing-in days is in there of course
- Only a 500gb hard drive because I store all my important stuff on the *other* computer, but it's fast
- It's fast
You know what's nice? Not having to reinstall your damn operating system when you get a new computer. Thanks Linux-based operating systems for not being stupid. You guys booted right up just fine. Now I'm installing Windows, who is not as nice in this regard.
It's strange... I've been thinking about this day for a while now. I knew it was ten years coming up and then when the actual day came I had so much else going on that I didn't take the time to remember that it's the 21st and what that means. Ten years since the night an old girlfriend I hadn't spoken to in quite some time called me -- waking me up, actually -- and told me Elliott Smith died.
I remember it took me a few seconds to grasp what I had been told. Yes, I was just waking up and my head was still clearing from the fog of sleep, but even if I had been wide awake I'm not sure those words would have made sense to me. I don't remember anything else about the phone conversation besides that shock of figuring it out.
I turned on KEXP, which was already in Elliott Smith marathon mode. I remember talking to Shane online, who was sending me links of all the sites mentioning it. None of the "real news" sites had reported it yet. Maybe this is all some crazy mix up or hoax.
Of course it wasn't, and eventually it was on all the big music and news sites. Although the news broke too late into the night to make the next morning's newspapers, there was a write up on Elliott in the Seattle Times the day after, which I cut out and still have.
I had the next day off so I put on my old Elliott Smith t-shirt that I hadn't worn since that same old girlfriend had adopted it (and reluctantly gave it back) and drove around Seattle and hit up every single record store, thinking maybe I could find the last 7" he put out that I hadn't yet picked up. I didn't find any Elliott Smith stuff I didn't already have but I spent about $150 on music that day. It started raining later in the day and I remember just walking around my city, holding bags of CDs and vinyl, soaking and thinking.
It might sound crazy to say about someone I didn't know but I've never been more shocked by death in my life. Sure I've felt more saddened, but never more shocked. I've never suddenly lost a close friend or relative. I've lost two aunts to cancer, three grandparents to, well, getting old, I guess... but thankfully never had that moment of getting a phone call in the middle of the night and learning someone I love was suddenly gone.
That will probably change one day, but for now, this is the closest I've come to that.
It was talking online on forums in the days and weeks after that when someone mentioned thinking about getting an XO tattoo. I had never gotten a tattoo and didn't know that I ever would, but I saved in the back of my mind as a "cool idea." When I met Lauren years later, who has many tattoos, I mentioned it to her as the only tattoo I had ever considered getting. She encouraged me to go for it, but I wasn't sure I wanted to do it. It wasn't the permanence that worried me, it was more just... fear of the unknown, I guess.
Eventually I tentatively agreed to it, and as encouragement, she got it done herself. Now not only would have a tribute to Elliott on my arm but it would also be something I shared with her, which made it even more special. I was still pretty scared to go through with it, but weeks later I did. That was over five years ago, and even though I do eventually want to get some others, to this day it's still the only tattoo I have. I get asked about it occassionally, but only twice have I met someone who knew what it was about right away. I kind of like that.
I love being able to look down and see a reminder of how much Elliott's music meant to me, and how much Lauren means to me. It's also a memorial to a troubled life tragically cut short, and a reminder to keep my own head on straight.
As brilliant and moving as his lyrics are, it's the way his voice has such delicate qualities yet is still so powerful that makes his music so captivating. His earlier work, a lot of which is just him and a guitar, sounds like he's in the same room with you singing quietly, almost to himself, but you can still hear every word, every syllable, every inflection. His later work has more instruments and elaborate arrangements, yet the power of his voice isn't lost at all. It wasn't just the well-written songs of love and hope and despair and addiction and heartbreak that made me turn to his music in some of my most difficult times... it's how you can hear all of those things in his voice as he sings them to you.
Here's a gem of his that never made it to an album. I have it on a bootleg and I was thinking of uploading it, but there's actually a great version on YouTube here:Elliott Smith - Flowers For Charlie (1999-03-26)
Subject: Screw Star Wars! Screw Senior Awards Night! YSIB and David's Address LIVE!
Date: Mon, 17 May 1999 01:39:04 -0700
From: anthony <email@example.com>
Organization: Fox Internet -- Now using masking tape to keep that switch in the "on" position
you saw them take brian's backyard by storm last saturday... you saw them rock it down pseudo-punk style at the club extreme back in march... you saw them play reasonably well at last week's freedom of speech show... you may have even seen them at brooke perrin's house new years' eve or in dominik's backyard last year...
well, they are back! YSIB is playing a show, this wednesday!
now i know what at least one of you is thinking. "but i hate ysib!"
well, then... by some twisted logic, you are in luck! also playing the show wednesday night will be rock trio david's address! and you like them, don't you?
and hey, there might be some other band! but, we don't know yet!
okay, now that you all have already decided you are going to go to the show no matter what, you probably want some info.
the show is at club extreme (the old java jump) in fife, wa.
wednesday, may 19th -- show starts at 8pm
the cost is $4
the extreme is at 2603 pacific highway east -- (253) 926-2330 for directions
there are rumors circulating that a certain former member of ysib might be joining the band on stage to sit in on a couple songs!
we know it's a school night, it's star wars opening night, and it's TJ's senior awards night... but this should be a great show, it only costs $4, and we really need the support. so whether you are going to see the dreamy shane regan and his phat bass lines, the nerdy-but-loveable brian rogers and his screamin' guitar solos, that crazy guitarist chris jenkins, or drummer and overall acceptable human being anthony schmidt, there's no doubt this show will be worth the $4 for ysib alone. but keep in mind, you get to see matt "da phat" palmer, that wild man alex clark and his on-stage antics, and the crazy jake parnell poundin' the skins in david's address! that's worth at least $48329482390859042t843908 right there! but it's only $4!!!!
YSIB is at http://www.ysib.com/
David's Address is at http://members.aol.com/chosupark/
"So what happened about that 'writing about music' thing that you were doing, Anthony?" It's the question that literally NO ONE is asking!
I haven't forgotten about it. One of my computers broke a month or two back, and it's the computer that is more or less the "server" here, so everything was on hold until I replaced that... and lately I've been spending what time I have for computer stuff doing "tweaking" instead of "productive" stuff. (As if writing about music is productive in the grand scheme of things.) I will get back to it!
-- NERD SECTION --
Tonight I thought I would install Mageia
on my other computer alongside Ubuntu and Windows 7. I've been curious to try it since I used to be quite the Mandrake/Mandriva user, although I haven't used them or any derivatives in many years. I also wanted a solid KDE desktop without a lot of extra junk. A lot of the configuration tools are the same as they were before, I had to spend a little bit of time "re-remembering" things. It's like running into an old girlfriend and she's exactly like you remember, except she's been upgraded to kernel 3.8.7. That's probably not a helpful analogy.
-- END NERD SECTION --
So, Boston, blah. There is nothing helpful that I could possibly say about something so horrendous, so I just don't talk. That's usually my reaction in tragedy. Whenever I speak I worry it will sound insensitive, or overtly political, or uninformed, or something that everyone else is already saying so what's the point in talking. Plus, Twitter is pretty insufferable when stuff like that happens. Obviously the important things that happen on Twitter during tragedies (getting news out, circulating images, making sure people are okay) are like 1% of what you see. Most of what you see seems to fall into these categories:
- People retweeting every single news article.
- People tweeting a bunch of random speculation.
- People yelling at the "random speculation" people to not tweet random speculation.
- People yelling at every single person who dares tweet about anything not related to the tragedy, whether they knew about it or not.
So as a general rule I just don't contribute to the noise.
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Little-By-Dlx-Harvey-Danger/dp/B000FUF816/
Well, I had so much fun I'm doing another one tonight. I don't imagine I'll keep doing one of these every night, but who knows. Also, I should perhaps clarify that these selections are chosen by going through "shuffle" on my music collection, but I don't always pick the first track that comes up. I don't have an interesting story for every album I own! I can definitely write about this one, though.
Harvey Danger was "the band" back in high school. We all loved that band. Carlton and I went and saw them at the Sit and Spin shortly before The End broke "Flagpole Sitta" and they exploded. Carlton also helped them set up some web stuff so we kind-of-somewhat-not-really knew them. Everyone loved those first two records. Even after the success of "the hit" died down and the second record was delayed, delayed, and then finally released with little fanfare or attention, they were our band. No one, NO ONE, "got" Harvey Danger the way we did, man.
And then there was nothing.
After a four-year break, Harvey Danger reconvened at The Crocodile in 2004 and Shane and I were "so there." (As in, we attended.) We had both seen Harvey play a million times, but that was in high school. At least for me, it was a weird, exciting, at times slightly awkward nostalgia trip. I didn't realize until then that just about every old tune of theirs I had associated with someone I knew or something that happened to me during those weird teen years. Awesome! Hilarious! Creepy! Romantic! Depressing! This rules! Help, I want to crawl in the corner and die.
"All the baggage I brought wouldn't fit in a mid-size car..."
In my last post I talked about those crazy '90s days when "music on the Internet was still in its infancy." It's crazy how much changed during Harvey's little hiatus. When the first record came out, Carlton helped them put up a RealAudio stream of their record on their website so people could listen to it online, which at the time was mind-blowing awesomeness. When it came time for the release of Little by Little
, Harvey Danger decided to become the first somewhat-known band (as far as I know) to put their album up on their own site for people to download over BitTorrent.
Of course, I had to have the CD copy, especially since it came with bonus tracks. Silver Platters was one of the places that was going to carry it, so I went to the Tukwila one (R.I.P.) on the release date. I didn't see it on the shelf, so I asked the guy behind the counter about it. He said that it hadn't come yet, and that he had "just talked to the singer on the phone," and that he'd be dropping off a box of the CDs later that week. Now that's a self-released album!
"As long I don't have to interact with anyone else on a meaningful level, I'll be fine..."
Later I was talking to Shane online and he told me that he had accidentally ordered two copies online, so I went and met him at his work, the Federal Way Safeway. I think I gave him $10 or something like that for his extra copy. Eventually Kill Rock Stars reissued the album with a slightly different tracklist, but I still have the original.Little by Little
is a great record, and even though the other two "mean more" to me, I probably listen to this one more than the others for precisely that reason.
A few years ago Harvey Danger played at The Crocodile once more to take their final bow, and Lauren and I were there. For some reason with her by my side, it was a lot easier to laugh off those old weird feelings and just enjoy the music.