A Letter from Natalie to Members of the Audio Asylum
In our July issue, I open “The Entry Level” by discussing some recent nights spent with my dear friends, Natalie and Nicole, dancing and drinking and laughing at our favorite local bar, Lucky 7, in downtown Jersey City. I go on to discuss the loneliness I sometimes feel when the night is over and the time has come to walk back home, beneath the pale yellow light of streetlamps and through the neon-puddled streets.
I know that sounds sad and all, but, come on, I’m writing about music. I’m trying to be evocative, emotional, musical. When I go on to mention that Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” plays over and over in my mind as I walk past Hollywood Fried Chicken, I’m obviously being silly, right? I’m mixing pathos and absurdity to create a fun and interesting read.
Everything I write is true, to some extent, but everything is not necessarily the stuff that makes up reality. I take scenes from my life and bend them, distort and manipulate them, leaving room for insinuation and ambiguity, in order to create compelling stories. I attempt to relate those stories to music and hi-fi. I do it for my own pleasure, and I hope it brings you pleasure, too.
(Don't worry: The stuff I write about sound, however, is all as accurate and straightforward as I can possibly make it.)
Anyway, I think it was my July issue column that got some people talking over at the Audio Asylum, the popular online forum for hi-fi enthusiasts. Regor Ladan started the tread. He wrote:
I enjoy the Stephen Mejias column but when is the boy going to get from the Friend Zone to the End Zone?
I think this was a fun and lighthearted jab, and most of the comments that followed were in the same vein. I shared the thread with several friends, including Natalie and Nicole. I mentioned to them that I was surprised by some readers’ willingness to form opinions about me and my love-life based on the three pages of text they’d read in a monthly magazine. But, to be fair, I suppose I was begging these readers to do exactly that.
While on the topic of fairness, I think I should mention that I never asked Natalie and Nicole if I could write about them. I just did it. And while I always meant my words to be sweet and gentle gifts to the girls, the fact that I wrote about them without their permission sort of seems like a shitty, inconsiderate thing to do. Having said that, however, I should also add that the girls’ reactions to my writingtheir smiles and their thanks and their continued friendshipwould strongly suggest that everything is okay.
After going through the thread on the Audio Asylum, Natalie started thinking about a response. A few days later, she sent me 1088 of the sweetest words I’d ever read. I’ve posted her thoughts below. She explains a lot of stuff and answers some of the forum members’ questions. She even included some photographic evidence. But, before I turn it over to Nat, I want to address a few of the forum members’ concerns in my own words:
1. I write about loneliness because I think it’s an interesting topic and because I think it’s an emotion closely tied to music and hi-fi. In the very first installment of “The Entry Level,” I made clear that loneliness would be a frequent subject for me. There are all these audiophiles around the world, sitting in their listening chairs, listening to beautiful music, alone. Musicians in their bedrooms, with their precious guitars and synthesizers, recording songs to their laptops, alone. Engineers in studios, arms stretched out across mixing boards, hoping to capture a perfect sound, alone. Readers, sitting in their homes or offices, posting comments to online forums, attempting to make human connections, but nevertheless alone. How can we not talk about loneliness? It’s an important and inspiring thing.
2. While submitting this idea that loneliness is an emotion closely tied to our hobby, I hope to also show that the enjoyment of music and hi-fi can be a fun and stimulating social event. And that’s why I like writing about listening parties, dance parties, dinner parties. Parties.
3. Jersey City is a wonderful place to live. I love it dearly and plan to be there for a long, long time. It’s my home and it will continue to appear in my writing.
4. I’m not gay. (Duh.)
5. To elaborate, I love women.
6. I really, really love women.
7. I’ve often wondered about how to reach a younger, more varied audience. I figure the best way to get women to read the magazine is to write about them. I figure the best way to get young men to read the magazine is to write about good music, cheap hi-fi, and, of course, beautiful women.
8. I love women even more than I love LPs.
9. But these loves are sort of similar. Just as I endeavor to fill my life with good records, books, and art, I endeavor to fill my life with good people. In that way, I’m a lot like my friend, Kristen: I just love surrounding myself with beautiful things. Don’t you?
And now these words from Natalie:
I couldn’t help but notice the buzz Stephen has created by writing about our fun-filled weekends in Jersey City. I want to start with answering one important question that a reader had: Yes, Nicole and I (Natalie) really do exist! We are only two of many women that are lucky enough to have Stephen in our lives. He has been such a great friend and such a wonderful hi-fi mentor. You read that correctly, he is our friend. I know what most of you must be thinking: “What’s the point of a guy hanging out with a bunch of girls if he’s not gonna get anywhere with them?”
Those of us girls who have been friends with Stephen for a very long time also have other attractive, smart, and fun girlfriends, and one of them may just be “the one” for him. Before I get more into that subject, I want to briefly describe why our circle has become very tight.
What makes a group of people suddenly form a tight bond after years of knowing each other but never (until now) developing a real friendship? One word: Music.
I met Stephen in 1997 at one of Nicole’s infamous parties. Stephen went to college with Nicole’s brother-in-law, Peter, so he was always around. I would see Stephen at the parties and we’d bond over music while drinking a beer and out of nowhere we’d end the night with a good ol’ rap battle. We always managed to stay in sync. Unfortunately, life got in the way of all our friendships and we all moved elsewhere after college.
Cut to 13 years later. Nicole and I started hanging out more often due to unfortunate circumstances in my life which had all my friends standing by me, including Stephen. (No one died, but maybe someone should have.) At this time, I had already been living in Jersey City for about three years, but I now had just one month to find a new apartment. Nicole was planning on moving from her own home in Bloomfield and also needed a roommate, so we decided to move in together and found an amazing apartment in Jersey City. Stephen had also been living in JC, but he and I hung out with different groups of friends at the time. It wasn’t until Nicole moved into the area that we all started hanging out again. Our JC circle of friends kept growing from then on with people we met through others, at local parties and at our favorite local bars (like Lucky 7).
This move, along with our great circle of friends, marked a new era of amazing parties. I have always been very fortunate to have very talented friends. I may not be very artistic but I do have an appreciation for art and if it were up to me, there wouldn’t be a visible space on the wall due to it being covered in art work. A good friend gave me the idea of displaying loaned art on our walls and turning our apartment into a gallery. We have a very high ceiling, tons of white wall space, and we have many friends in the area that wanted to network and get their work out there. Genius plan! All we would need to do is make our apartment inviting and entertaining. That’s where music comes right back into the story. I couldn’t deal with listening to my iPod and using crappy Dell computer speakers at another party, it just wasn’t right.
Stephen would always comment on the new equipment he was reviewing. Since I owned a lot of vinyl, I’d been in the market for a turntable, but had yet to purchase one. One evening when Nicole and I went over for Stephen’s famous meatloaf dinner, he had quite a selection of turntables he was reviewing. At that moment he was using the Music Hall USB-1 turntable coupled with Audioengine 5s and playing a great selection of music by Ornette Coleman, Dominant Legs, Sunny Day Real Estate, and my favorite, Bon Iver. The sound was outstanding! I could have just closed my eyes and envisioned myself watching the performances live. I had to get one and I most definitely had to purchase this system before my first art party! Before we left, I expressed my interest in purchasing a turntable, most likely the same one that he was reviewing.
I decided to have the first party soon after and wanted Stephen to be the DJ since I couldn’t get over his selection at the dinner party. Stephen happily (more fearfully) agreed to DJ and offered to set up the Music Hall USB-1 turntable with the Audioengine 5 speakers. It was perfect! Well, not really. He started to freak out because every time we would walk across the room, our footsteps would cause the record to skip. For those of you that don’t know Stephen very well, he is great with acting like everything is going to be okay. However, those of us that do know him very well can just hear the screams that are silently going on in his head while he is trying to think of a solution. Luckily, he remembered that he brought along a set of Bright Star Audio’s IsoNode anti-vibration feet. He placed them between the turntable and bookcase which completely absorbed the vibrations. The party was a hit and there were quite a few people commenting on how great the sound was. I believe Stephen may have been a bigger hit though, since his music selection had people talking for weeks and got him future gigs, one being my birthday at a local bar.
This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship of student and hi-fi mentor. Every weekend, we all get together after a long and grueling work week. We go to our favorite local bar where the drinks are cheap, the music is good, and everyone knows your name.
Going back to the initial question of this blog post, “What’s the point of a guy hanging out with a bunch of girls if he’s not gonna get anywhere with them??” I now appreciate hi-fi and even consider myself an amateur audiophile. Of course, we all love having Stephen around and I like to think he gets something out of buzzing around us besides the occasional brunch invitation and free beer. Actually, you might be reading about us less often from now onwe like to joke that he’s going to kill us offbecause cute girls have equally cute friends…and one of them might have taken a liking to our unlikely protagonist.