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We Would Be a Song

I seem to define my life with soundtracks, playlists that encompass epochs or periods of change or development.  My earliest music was my mother's: Van Halen and Judas Priest, Def Leppard and AC/DC.  I remember a friend of hers explaining to second grade Ralph that the big balls that Angus was singing about were parties, but even then I didn't buy it.  My teen years were heavy on grunge, Nirvana and Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, and that was the first time that music ever felt like it was mine, that I discovered by myself or through the radio, or like minded friends, that was the first time that I took it and owned it and loved it, and even now I'll hear Black Hole Sun or Rooster or Smells Like Teen Spirit on the radio and back I go.

In the fifth grade, I moved to Kelso, Washington. I want to say that it was hard, but what I remember mostly from childhood is just this sense of taking every day as it arrived.  What else do we have except our own experiences to measure things by?  When we first arrived, we lived with my uncle, and I think I might have slept on the floor, maybe in my cousin's room, but it wasn't Harry Potter under the stairs, it wasn't terrible, it was just a thing that was, if that makes sense.  We got our own house fairly soon, if I remember correctly, so it really wasn't that big a deal.  The reason I want to write about this is just for the fact that I was the New Kid in three different schools for that first few months of the fifth grade.  First at Beacon Hill Elementary, where my cousins went, and then at Wallace Elementary for a few weeks because there wasn't room in what ultimately became my school for good, which was called Butler Acres.

So all this is a big stupid digression, the laying of groundwork, because in the fifth grade, on my third go in a period of months as the New Kid, I met Eric Hazen, who became one of my first friends in that new place, who eventually became my bandmate and confidant, who has remained, to this day, one of my very best friends.  Here I sit, as grey and as adulty as can be, thinking of playing ball on a playground at a school thousands of miles and thousands of years away.

We used to walk everywhere.  He had a paper route and we would just talk the whole time and we would joke and laugh as we delivered the papers.  I have no idea what subjects we would talk about, only that they seemed profound then, and would no doubt be hugely embarrassing now, the elementary and junior high worldview exposed in the unforgiving light of middle age experience.  We thought ourselves philosophers, perhaps, two smart and suburban-angry boys.  "We should record these conversations," we said.  I wish we had, if only to laugh, if only to time travel.

My old friend is turning forty, which means I am turning forty soon as well. I remember calling when he turned thirty, when I was still twenty-nine, asking if he felt like an adult yet, if maybe there was a light that came out of the sky or some important knowledge that arrived upon turning, but no, he said he didn't feel like an adult yet, and a decade later, looking down the barrel of forty, I suppose it is much the same, yesterday being mostly like today, there will not be any light from the heavens that tells us how to embrace insurance quotes as something important, that reminds us to regularly check our credit scores, in case we need to pre-qualify for a loan in the future. My desires remain mostly the same, which consist usually of studiously avoiding all the things that suck about being an adult, customer service calls and lawn maintenance, getting regular oil changes and cleaning the acquired detritus from the garage.

As I have aged, I have always been accompanied by music; it travels well, and stays when other things fall away.  I have laid the soundtrack of my life, The Bouncing Souls, and NOFX and Black Flag, Bad Religion and Lagwagon, Good Riddance, Millencolin, Rancid, Operation Ivy, The Queers, Screeching Weasel, Mr T Experience, Propagandhi, No Use for a Name, Face to Face.  Just lately it has been The Flatliners, PUP, Pears, The Menzingers, The Holy Mess, Elway, Your Loss, Dead to Me, Iron Chic, Banner Pilot, Drakulas, Leftover Crack, and on and on and on...

But it has always been the Lolligaggers, the songs that I wrote, that Eric wrote, that we wrote together, that I sang, and I have always thought of it is Our Band, though more accurately it is, and has always been, HIS band, his vision and his driving it forward. He is a brilliant musician, with a knack for clever wordplay and catchy melody.  I left in 1999 or so.  I fled, actually, finding myself unable to pick up the shattered remains of my life, and being unwilling to be a burden and a pathetic mess, being unwilling to force my friends to bear witness to my complete unraveling, and so I fled south to a fresh beginning on the beaches of the Pacific.  I left, and they carried on without me. Distressingly, ego bruisingly, easily I was replaced, but the Lolligaggers carried on, they kept playing the songs, and I would hear from them occasionally with a kind of warm strange jealousy, an acknowledgement that I chose this but could still miss it.  I still sometimes think of it as OUR band, even still, even after decades away, even though I have been not part of the band for longer than I was a part of the band, even now, twenty years later I can still sing the songs, Yellow Number Five, Sick and Tired, Downtown, Batman, FNS, Benny's Song, Marty's Garage, When I'm 21(!), and the forgotten ones that nobody remembers, songs that didn't stick around for whatever reason, Sarah Grohds, One and Only, What I Like, I Was Told, Punk Rock Bobby, Maybe.

What becomes of songs that nobody sings anymore?  What happens to the music when it is forgotten?

I have defined my life with music, and that is something that binds us together, Eric and I.  Even still, I text him snippets of lyrics, songs I like, playlists I made, shows I am going to.

I showed up at his front door once, dead drunk at dawn carrying a car door that I had taken from behind a dealership up the street for some reason, and he woke up, and let me in, and I slept on his living room floor and left early without ever saying thank you. I left the door there, in his house, as an unwanted gift, maybe, like a cat would leave a dead mouse.  I have no idea why I took the door, why I carried it to his house, or what happened to the door after I left.  There is no real point to this story, really, except to illustrate that being my friend might not always have been easy.

But all these things are just things, understand?  I want to write this, not to celebrate his obvious talents, but instead to celebrate, what?  A milestone, maybe?  We made it, all the way to forty, and we didn't die, which might be a gimmie for some, but was never a sure thing, I believe, for either of us.

What are we supposed to say about our best friends from childhood?  What can we write that encompasses thirty years of history and tears and fights and laughter and frustration and fear and smiles and high fives? What can I say except thank you?

I love you Eric.  Thank you for not cutting me loose at my worst, thank you for letting me go when I needed to, thank you for tolerating my madness, thank you for propping me up, all the times I slept on your couch, all the times I was drunk and lonely and you answered and tolerated my idiot phone call. Thank you for being my friend, even still.

And here we stand, still alive, maybe scarred, maybe greyer and more tired, thousands of miles away, and I sit here at my desk and my eyes fill with warm easy tears because I miss you, my old friend, and I have no words to convey how grateful and proud I am to have had you as a friend.

I'm not sure if I have ever given you a gift for your birthday, but I always remember it, I always try to call or text.

Once we sat down with an absurdly large bottle of Jager, and an acoustic guitar and wrote an album's worth of songs, adapting my stupid poetry, or singing the words he wrote, recording on some shitty old tape player... someone came and wanted us to go, and we were too filled with liquor and music and madness, and we left, but were unwelcome where ever we went, the two of us, leaning on each other, singing and laughing and lost in a sea of regular people that know how to behave in public, people that don't know the joys of wild abandon, of cutting all the brake lines and pointing the nose downhill, setting fire to the house, diving through the plywood sign on the front yard.

After thirty years you become more than a friend, the things that bind us together fossilize, and even if we go months, even if we don't speak in years, I know he is there and will take my side, will have my back.  I have lost so much in my life, all these years of wandering, all these lost years, and I have forgotten nearly everybody, but I never lost him, somehow.

There's nothing to say to a friend on his birthday except happy birthday, there's nothing to say to a friend who is away except I miss you, there's nothing to say to a friend that you are grateful for except thank you, I am proud as hell to have known you, and I can't be there for your fortieth my old friend, but I will hoist a PBR in solidarity on the day, I will sing a sad song from when we were still young, and things were clearer.

If you distilled us down, boiled us dry, took our thirty year friendship and compacted it, it might turn into a diamond, the needle on a turn table, dropped into the groove of an old dusty punk record, and a song would play, a song of friends, of brothers, arms thrown over each other's shoulders singing the songs of our lives, leaning on one another as we always have, a song filled with broken, betrayed hearts, and scars and loss, but also with laughter and joy, and wide open hearts.

If we were to be anything other than what we are, we would be a song.

What else is there to say about a thirty year friendship except I love you, you misanthropic old bastard.  I miss you, old friend.  I am glad as hell to have had you to lean on, I am proud as hell to have been a part of your life, and blessed to have had you be a part of mine.

Cheers, brother.

Still Writing,

RP

3-16-18

It is my oldest, bestest friend's birthday today, and I wrote this as a kind of gift.  if you are interested in the music I mention here, I am on Spotify (rpullins) and you can go there and check out the playlists that I make.  I have created a collaborative one called Reader's List, and you can add songs to if it you are so inclined (assuming that it works as I think it does).  I am still on social media hiatus, at least until some things come to fruition, but you can follow me on Twitter @RDPullins, I suppose, if silence is your thing.  If you expect a response, comment here, or email me at dissent. within (at) gmail.com  Oh and if you want to hear some of the Lolligagger's music, check them out at thelolligaggers.bandcamp.com  Cheers, all.

Comments

  1. That was sweet ♡

    ReplyDelete
  2. BEST. GIFT. EVER. Goddamn though, it sounds like a eulogy. Haha. Can I use this as my eulogy?

    ReplyDelete
  3. You don't get to choose your own eulogy. Plus, it wont be me writing it; we're going out Thelma and Louise style, pal.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Emotional honesty from me? Seems unlikely. Must be getting soft in my old age. :)

    ReplyDelete

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