3.17.2005

On Prophets and Portlanders

As my impeding departure definitely makes me think of my friends and family, I'm of course drawn to revisit the idea of invented history. My family and I do this all the time--imagine that our time together has been without fault, break, or fight; that everything that came before our meeting is inconsequential. We rewrite our history as we write our history together. Does this make sense yet?
Here's an example. Ed Wilhelme is one of my best friends--he rides that top tier group of people that will end up with the surname 'best friend' in casual conversation without explaining that I have many best friends(i.e. "My best friend Eddie lives in San Diego." or "I'm moving there because my best friend lives there."). One time, Ed went to Europe for six months. I was living in Miami, and somehow let my hotmail account lapse for not having checked it for over a month. Instantly, he was gone. Save a vauge memory of how I might get to his Dad's house in Federal Way, I had no idea how to contact him. Months later, Peter Counts ran into his now fiancee at a coffee shop in Bellingham, just days before I'd be leaving for London. Poof. Just like that, we were normal again. Like it never happened.
This part is never included in the version of our history that we tell, it usually gets carefully ommitted as to not ruin the continuity of the story.

"So we went to high school together, and I used to have this GIGANTIC crush on him our freshman year. Anyway, so we went on this trip in the San Juans where he had this tent called 'The Orgy Tent', and then we smoked pot for two years straight. Then he went to Decatur and skipped a grade, but we actually ended up leaving highschool the same year because I called this one teacher a ho. Then he saw Tu Pac in Vancouver after he supposedly 'died' and got deported from Canada. I moved to Portland and had a mental breakdown about staying in one place for too long, so I went to Europe and when I got back to Seattle he lived ten minutes away from me with some guy I never met 'cause he always hid in his room, and we drank alot of beer there and talked about Mr. Plow and Transformers. We grew up together and love each other, so yeah, that's how I know Eddie."

I have one of these for Sam, Meir, Rob, Ashley, Kyle, and both the Peters too, omitting all the really important occurances and painting a more or less informitive but definitlely prettied up picture of how we became so close. Sam and I's is probably the weirdest, involving ex-boyfriends, weddings, cats, hatred, distance, lies and subterfuge--and that's the version with the ommissions.
In a year and a half we will cross the same line that I did with Peter Smith and Eddie last September--Ten Years. I will have known her for a decade, although in actuality, we've spent most of that time fighting or resenting each other from afar. Sam and I have been slowly realizing the immenence of my departure, and of course I've contemplated reinventing us into this perfect symbiotic team that's been going strong since we were 16, but of course it hasn't always been that way.
I'm not the only one who feels compelled to reinvent history--I'm not the first to try, although unlike me, thier invented histories are marked with the moniker of fiction. Recently, via an article written on the release of a new album, and me reading another novel written by my personal prophet, the methods proposed by Colin Meloy and Paul Beatty to rewrite history and so change the present seem more than appealing to me.
Many of you know of my unwavering loyalty to my personal spritual text, The White Boy Shuffle, in which a young man finds his own god in his best friend through jazz, basketball and poetry, and ends up a nine-fingered messiah, ready to die(don't get me started on the one ring debate again...). I've read it close to twenty times and yet until today have never saw fit to read anything else by the same author.

From "Tuff", by Paul Beatty:
"Imagine Jordan, Ms. Tellos, Mr. Cienfuegos, or Ms. Cox goin' to the hospital with you to watch your uncle die of AIDS, posting your bail, writing you letters while you upstate, sending commissary money, defending you on the street. Shit I've done for and with many sons, daughters and grandchildren of many folks that's up in here tonight. I don't need to mention no names. You don't think it's true? Ask the person next to you. If you about supporting the youth, vote for me this Tuesday."

In Beatty's world, this is what a young overweight undereducated black man says in a debate and almost wins a spot on New York City council. It's just what happened, just the truth, and for once in the rewritten history of our political system, the truth is powerful.
I used to hang out with a writer named Saab Lofton. Although he was several years my senior (I met him when I was 18--he was 28) we convened on a few topics that made our friendship valid.
1) Vigilanty, third party, and individual efforts to attempt to change the social structure in our country do not go unnoticed. We had a dream of one day electing a candidate solely with truthful information and a copy machine. He wrote extensively about it in a book called "Battle Neverending", of which I have one of the only copies left in existence. You can borrow it if you like. His other book, A.D., can be purchased from Amazon.
2)Re-writing our histories and speculating on our futures is not done purely to live in a fantasy of our own making. Ideally, it challenges idea, changes outcomes, sets goals that we may not otherwise have.
3)Every writer deserves only the stickiest of the icky--no shake or schwag need apply.

Now whether it be Lofton or Beatty, many of us can understand crafting a fictional cautionary tale that reads as truth to inspire change. I more than understand, but want to try, and want it to work--elect an ideal candidate or keep my family stable. Whatever.

Everyday nerd and avid reinventor of independant music, Colin Meloy, is the lead singer/songwriter of a Portland based art-rock (???) band called The Decemberists. Now, I have loved them for some time and am not ashamed to admit that a four page spread dedicated to thier unique brand of genius that graced the pages of this weeks Stranger (for the full article, visit THE FABULIST SOUNDS OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST)almost made me shed a tear. Fron Sean Nelsons article and interveiw with Meloy:

"Throughout the afternoon's genial conversation--about the upcoming election, the Music for Change tour, the Metallica documentary, Metallica in general--I could hear snippets of the songs: pounding, shuffling, epic rhythms alongside quiet intimacies; curious phrases like "from all atop the parapets blow multitudes of coronets/melodies rhapsodical and fair," and "veranda" being rhymed with "my sweet untouched Miranda"; snatches of vaudeville, of gypsy jazz, of Fairport Convention-style British folk and so on. Nothing new to a Decemberists fan. It was clear that this unorthodox recording process was going to yield an unorthodox album--again, nothing new for the Decemberists."

Now mention of my first name aside, The Decemberists have never been afraid to paint perfect fictional images of what our histories could or may have been. They speak of war heroes, widows and seasons past not only as if it were all true, but worth remembering, and all of it documented in (soon to be) four albums whose liner notes read like the footnotes of a history text or a long lost weathered scroll. In one song about what we can gather from the remains of Pompeii, "Cocoon", from the album Castaways and Cutouts:

"The sorry conclusion, the hole in the sky, command what is tried what is true. But without solution, with feet on the ground, it won't make a sound 'til you're through. So loosen your shoulderblades. This is your hour to make do. Because there on the timberline deep cold November shines through, soft and absolute. This Quiet serves only to hide you, provide you, what I knew: it'd come back to you."

When we retell events to our own purposes, we can invent our own ideal outcomes, and in so doing set the bar of our own ideals; set goals we intend on reaching. We can all, in our own way, take the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and turn it into a call to action: THIS IS OUR HOUR TO MAKE DO.
Save the month and a half disparity in our birthdays, Samantha and I have been inseperable since birth. We spent our childhoods wondering what it was about everyone else in this world that made us so different, and came into our adolecent years armed with our own ideas and morals backed by our love for each other and our inseperability. Through all of our trials as individuals, us together has been the one constant, the one thing that is there with every airplane, wedding, breakup, sunrise, smile and tear, and for this we are grateful. We are grateful for having the opportunity to reach adulthood together and do it our own way, to make a path that forks from the rest of the world and to walk it together. So yeah, that's how I know Sam. And what will we do now you ask? Well, since we've had this perfect-verging-on-birthright friensdship forever, we'll be fine when I leave for California. I'll be jeanskirt and sunglasses clad, fumbling to fit my key in the gate of my Lower Haight apartment, and scream some expletive when my phone rings. Of course my frustration will be broken with a smile when I see it's her calling, her familiar phone number flashing on the blue screen of my cell phone. I'll sit on the stoop smoking while she tells me her flight information, so that I can pick her up from the airport in a couple of days. Peter Counts will come sit beside me as our conversation comes to a close. He'll ask me how work was. Perfect, I'll say, just perfect. Then he'll ask me how Samantha's doing.
Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

1 comment:

Sam said...

I love you.
I realized sometime yesterday that it really will be okay. I've been talking with pretty much everyone but you about how weird it's been to be around you lateley, how I somehow see you different, even when we're at the same bar on Tuesday night drinking the same $1 beers. I don't know what the hell that was about, but after Wednesday night at the bar, it all just came together. Like we always have, I guess we always will live our own lives and let the ebb and flow of one another ebb and flow. I will miss you, though you're only ever a phone call or a quick plane ride away.

And that holds true forever, as the ink on our arms serves to remind us, we always have that souvenier.
I love you.