The Entry Level #24
There are two things that don't have to mean anything; one is music and the other is laughter.Immanuel Kant
We can dance until we die.Katy Perry
I'd always figured I'd wind up with a girl who loved the Mets, hated cats, and had grown up on Sonic Youth and the Pixiesa female version of me, more or less. What could be better?
Was my vision misguided? Maybe. Narcissistic? Probably. A symptom of low self-esteem?
Hmm . . .
But over the last few hours I've grown smarter, less self-centered, more forgiving of myself and others. I've made an important discovery: I can choose my friends and I can even choose my lover, but no matter how hard I hope and squeeze and pray, I can not choose the things my lover loves. What's up with that? The universe is cruel.
I must be paying for crimes committed in a previous life. I've fallen for a proud Yankees fan. She has two crazy cats (Avon, the sweetheart, and Stringer, the jerktuxedos both) and, before she met me, she'd never even heard of Sonic Youth. Daydream Nation, inarguably the greatest record of all time, means absolutely nothing to her. In fact, when it comes to music, Ms. Little and I have nothing in common.
That's a lie. The truth is, we have much more in common than I'd like to admit. She openly indulges in all the crap I try to avoid but secretly adore. I like to say there's no such thing as a guilty pleasure, but really, all of my pleasures are guilty. I come from a large family of Puerto Rican Catholics. We're not allowed to have fun unless drunk to the point of blindness. That way, we can't be held responsible for our actions. I was bombed when I wrote about Drake a few months ago. I blame Ms. Little for my recent affairs with pop stars and rappers.
How did this R. Kelly CD get on my orange couch? Who put these Usher tracks in my iPod? Did I really buy this Nicki Minaj record?
What the? Who am I?
Perhaps that last question is the most important. When I'm with Ms. Little, I feel most like myselfwhich, for me, is unusual. I can root for the obnoxious Yankees, pet a stinking cat, or listen to mainstream pop, and still hold my head high. Ms. Little won't judge. This isn't to say that I'll be trading my Keith Hernandez jersey for pinstripeshell noand I certainly won't be selling my limited-edition Kevin Drumm records. I'm bigger and more complicated than that. It takes a special kind of romantic disposition to cheer for a perennial loser, and only the most dedicated listener can withstand the impenetrable noise that is Sheer Hellish Miasma. You have to be willing to endure some pain, knowing that, when it's all over, there will be . . .
Tremendous, ungodly pleasure
I had just finished torturing myself with the Dynavector DV 10X5 moving-coil cartridge (see last month's column), and had decided to visit Ms. Little for some peace, quiet, and company. But as I approached her building, I heard a strange, blaring, buzzy soundsomething like the fitful siren of summer cicadas, but far more alien and terrifying, and interrupted every now and then by weird rattling noises. As I neared the building, the sound grew louder. When I reached Ms. Little's door, I realized, with horror, that the sound was coming from her apartment.
I knocked loudly.
Ms. Little opened the door. "Hi, honey!"
"What the hell is going on in here?" I yelled.
"Nothing. I was just having a private dance party. Wanna join me?"
"What is that noise?"
"Excuse me." I walked passed Ms. Little and took a look around the apartment. Avon and Stringer, in what I suspect was a mischievous attempt to knock me to the floor, spun themselves around my ankles. Everywhere I moved, they moved. I was covered in cat hair before I discovered the source of the noise: Ms. Little's Macbook and a pair of cheap plastic computer speakerslittle, silver, bullet-shaped things with folded, accordion-like centers that sort of bobbed up and down in time with the music.
I could hardly articulate my disbelief. "I mean How? Wha?"
"What is this?"
I tried a different approach. "Sorry. Um, hi. I meant to ask I was just wondering"
"What is this music you're listening to, sweetheart?"
"Oh. This is Katy Perry. 'Teenage Dream.'"
"Oh. My. God. Darling, I'm so sorry. I'll never leave you alone again."
"Really, why do you like this crap?"
"I'm sorry. May I turn the volume down for a moment?"
"Thank you. Let me rephrase: What do you look for in music?"
"What do I look for in music?"
"Yes. What do you want from your music?"
Ms. Little sighed, crossed her arms, turned her head to one side. She was thinking about it.
"I guess I want to dance, sing, and laugh."
"Dance, sing, and laugh?"
"In that order?"
"Yes, I think so."
Well. I really couldn't argue with her, could I?
Ms. Little's relationship with music is pure, simple, and admirablemuch more so than my own, which tends to be more intellectual than physical. Ms. Little wants to dance; I want to think. More precisely: I, too, want to dance, but I'm paralyzed by thought. When I'm not listening to the same five minutes of music over and over and over again, trying, in pain, to solve the universe's riddles or, worse, hear differences between components, I'm at the record shopusually Iris Records in Jersey City or Other Music in Manhattanbuying more records than I could ever possibly enjoy. There I am, already with a stack of 15 LPs beside me, pondering the gorgeous LP in my handsit's probably something I've never heard of, by an artist whose name (Ghédalia Tazartès) I can't pronouncewishing, desperately, to be the kind of person who actually wants to listen to this sort of thing. Whatever it is.