Friday, August 13, 2004


Back from Chi-town.

What an amazing trip. A whole host of friends from back in high school showed up for the two screenings - some I hadn't seen since graduation. Aside from the "oh, hey - he's bald now" effect, which I never experienced because we were filming during my high school reunion, there were also some very close friends there, who fell out of touch in the past few years.

From the minute I landed it was surreal - I was picked up by Phil at the airport, whom I haven't seen in five years. He had his share of personal problems that put him out of touch with most of his friends, but here we were eating at a Peruvian restaurant with his fiance as if our twenties were just a long weekend.

Phil was the friend who introduced me to music. Before Phil's intervention, all I had was a cassette tape of Billy Joel's Greatest Hits. Seriously. I bought it because I really liked the song "Second Wind". Not a joke.

Phil gave me a tape with half of "Louder Than Bombs" on one side, and "All" by The Descendants on the other, and that was the watershed.

I still listen to The Smiths, and Joy Division, and the Pixies, and all the bands that were part of the genre called "alternative" (this is pre-Nirvana, back when it actually was an alternative to the music on mainstream radio). But the effect was much greater - music in general became a lifeblood for me. My biggest passion, outside of film. As I got older, I discovered The Who and The Stones and The Kinks and Velvet Underground and all the bands that influenced the bands I liked. I discovered jazz, and classical, and bossa nova, and vinyl (I have over 1,000 records, hand-picked from thrift stores). It's bizarre, now, for me to picture a time when I didn't love music. There's nothing stranger to me than someone who doesn't really care about music, they could take or leave it. If I was deaf I'd point the speakers at the floor and feel the vibrations.

While I've always been a listener, Phil was - and is - a virtuoso musician. One of the moments that most affected me on the trip was when Phil referred to me as the person he discovered music with. I always felt like an apprentice to him, borrowing whatever traces of the aura he emanated that I could soak up. It wasn't just his knowledge of music, but his powerful enthusiasm. Wax Trax Records! Fables of the Reconstruction! The Sugarcubes!

It permeated his observations of everything in life. He remarked on an old beater parked outside his apartment that had the boot: "The grill looks like a big smile, like he's saying to his owner 'Fuck you, I got the boot!'"

On his childhood fear of toilets: "They look like a big long mouth, like they're gonna bite your dick off. Seriously."

For several weeks he wore a key around his neck and a straw hat in an attempt at Michael Stipe-esque eccentricity. We constantly went overboard - I remember our friends begging him not to paint a big "3" on the top of his car as a tribute to They Might Be Giants. We lived for the music, and it was high school, so we naturally came to define ourselves by it.

Phil took me to the studio where his current band, Ness, is recording. It's interesting that, in spite of having zero contact over the past several years, our tastes in music have evolved in the same directions. He asked me if I'd heard 60's easy listening pioneers Free Design; of course, I had.

Everyone who has moved away from home knows the strange fact that when you go home you can have relationships that seem to just pick up where they left off, as if nothing has transpired in between. The past ten years were very different for me and Phil. As our high school years waned, Phil gave in to the vices that sterotypically lure musicians to their doom; whereas, being a filmmaker, and therefore a control freak, I didn't even enjoy being drunk (yet). Eventually our friendship petered out, being in different places on every level. "I had no twenties," he says. "I don't remember a thing." But sitting on Phil's porch with his fiance, that strange sensation of zero time passage felt very right. I was glad to be back, and so was he.

Shit - I've written for an hour and I'm only on Friday. I'm at work so I better go make busy noises, I'll pick up later...

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