An Abbreviated Timeline of My Love for JOY

If you ask around my group of friends, they might tell you I have an obsession with a particular musician. An amazing musician with a fist for a voice and the soul of a blues guitarist. A contemplative woman with beautiful lyrics; a woman you can tell has a love cast wide over many people and things. A musician that can break my heart in one track and have me dancing* in the next.

My friends wouldn’t put it that way, though. They’d say something more along the lines of, “He really likes that Jenny Young girl.”

To which I would have to say (with gritted teeth—for how many times must I correct you people?), “Jenny Owen Youngs.”

I stumbled upon Youngs from a single song on last.fm. I don’t even remember what the station was based in—Tegan & Sara, probably—but I remember hearing Youngs’ song. The song, I believe, was “Fuck Was I Thinking?” and it probably resonated heavily with me at the time.

Eventually I purchased the song, singularly, from iTunes. I was much poorer back then and could never quite justify buying any music, really, but I bought that song so that I could have it on my iPod.

Then I did something I still think is kind of weird: Over the next two years, I bought the rest of that album, song by song. Why I never just splurged and got the entire thing in one go, I really don’t know, but I think I can guess.

I developed a relationship with Youngs’ music. It became an old friend who I’d see every couple of months and who would tell me some new thing. With each new song I felt like I was learning more about the album, the music, and about Youngs herself.

One day I heard she was coming to Louisville for a show. I was determined to go, but having such anxieties, I refused to go by myself. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anyone and opted to sit at home pouting instead. That was silly of me, of course, but that’s how it goes.

Eventually, I bought that album, however, and added the few remaining songs I hadn’t bought to my iTunes. Looking through my list of songs today I can see that I have doubles of most of the tracks from Batten the Hatches; which is still less confusing than why I have this new U2 album on my iTunes.

She came into town a second time, however, and my resolve to go to the show was strengthened by the idea that I’d missed her once already. I offered to pay for a friend’s ticket if he went with me. I even bought my own ticket in advance from the bar’s website. When we arrived I mentioned to the big guy outside that I’d done this.

He immediately said, “Ah, you Garrett Something?” I nodded and asked how he knew. “You’re the only one who bought a ticket online.” Honestly, I felt kind of stupid; I had assumed that tickets would be scarce. My love of Youngs told the logic center of my brain that everyone else in town also loved her and her music—which they should.

The concert was amazing and I even managed to get a picture of her holding my tobacco pipe standing next to me as I fan-girled out.

Look at the dumb expression on my face. Calm down, you loser!

Look at the dumb expression on my face. Calm down, ya loser!

I bought her new album that night, An Unwavering Band of Light—one of my all-time favorite albums to date. I listened to it at home. I put it on my iPod. I listened to it every time I got into the car. I listened again. And again. I listened to it for two months solid. I can sing along with that entire album now. When I put it on, especially if the weather is just right, I get a pounding in my chest that brings me straight back to that spring.

I did end up seeing her once more in concert a few months later at a different venue. She wasn’t the headliner and most of the people were there to see the other guy, but I was there for her one-of-a-kind show experience.

After she played her set, I was ready to head out—I had already made plans with a friend to sing karaoke. On my way out of the bar, however, I spotted someone sitting on a stoop a few doors down, checking their phone. After a cartoon-esque double-take, I realized it was Youngs.

I felt stupid doing it, but my body was acting far faster than my brain could stop it: I waved at her and said something very vague like, “Nice show.” She said a quick thanks and I began to step away, but in a second she was standing up in front of me, continuing a conversation I had assumed was over before it had begun.

We stood there, facing each other and talking. She was nice and polite—but most of all, she was genuine. Sometimes when you meet someone you look up to they don’t quite stand as tall as you’d like them to. Sometimes they roll their eyes or are sarcastic or just plain mean. Not Jenny, though. When she talked to me, it didn’t feel like my rock hero throwing a bone to a diehard fanboy; it felt like she we were two people talking after a show.

Of course, it probably didn’t look that way from her perspective, as I stumbled through my words and said things that, more than likely, came off as more insulting than flattering. But she took it all in stride. And that feeling of meeting an old friend again solidified.

At this point, I’d like to take a quick break to acknowledge that I probably sound delusional. Understand that I know I’m not friends with Jenny Owen Youngs. But all the same, I am friends with her words and her music.

A year later she came out of the closet, which excited me far more than it should have. I ran around shouting it at anyone that would listen, “Jenny Owen Youngs came out today! AND she’s engaged! AND they’re adorable!” Most people responded with, “Who’s that?” but that’s just because they’re losers who don’t know what’s cool, obviously.

In my mind, there are certain people who deserve to be loved whole-heartedly by another human being, and Youngs is one of those people. This is a weird thought process, and I’ll be the first to say it, but it’s simply how my mind works.

Over a year later—and dozens of more adorable pictures of her and her wife, and videos of them singing and of their cat, and tweets about music and books later—Youngs announced her new EP. This EP has been a long time coming: I haven’t seen her live in concert in two and a half years (I track the time by how old my nephew is), haven’t been able to sit down with a new album in that time, haven’t been able to meet that old friend and hear news like I used to.

When she announced the project through a pledging site, I immediately found the kickback I wanted and put in my order. Then I sent a joke tweet out about “if I had a dollar for every time I spent money on [her], well I’d still be down hundreds of dollars.” Which was less of a joke than you might think. After all, I have bumper stickers; buttons; duplicates of songs from Batten the Hatches; An Unwavering Band of Light on CD, digital, and vinyl; and a signed, vinyl copy of her new EP on order.

Yet I still haven’t listened to a single song of the U2 album I got for free…

Foonotes:
*Not that it’s actually that hard to get me dancing.
†It was just before leaving for Belize, I believe. You can read more about that HERE and HERE.
‡Much as this piece is probably coming off more creepy than flattering.
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Office Vader

And, yes, I’m also wearing the face covering from my ninja outfit under the Darth Vader mask. Check out Wednesday’s blog for more information on how much of a loser I am.

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A Fool in a Ninja Suit With Deep Life Regrets

Me as Trent Takamori with Lady Gaga. No fewer than three people at that part were Lady Gaga.

Me as Trent Takamori with Lady Gaga. No fewer than three people at that party were Lady Gaga.

When I was nineteen I had a seasonal job at the zoo. Beyond being an awesome job that afforded me opportunities such as looking a lion in the eye from two yards away and petting an elephant, they also paid me.

For the first time in my life, I had real spending money. My hourly wage wasn’t great, and I only worked about twenty hours a week, but it was more than I’d ever made. That being coupled with me not having any bills to pay meant that I accumulated cash faster than I could really spend it.

I bought a couple of big ticket items that I’d always wanted—a laptop, a camera, stuff like that—but I still had all this money. That’s about when I started buying stuff I didn’t need.

Like a full-garb ninja outfit.

The internet is an amazing thing where you can get almost anything. I’m not sure where I came up with the desire for a ninja suit, but I certainly remember going through dozens of pages of Amazon search results, picking out the best tabi boots and the most affordable utility belt.

Within a couple of weeks the packages started rolling in. I kept what was in them a secret from my parents, tucking the boxes away under my bed or in the closet. Then, one day, the last shipment came in and I had my complete outfit.

Black pants and shirt; face-covering; hood; utility belt; short sword with black sheath; tabi boots and special socks; climbing claws; and, obviously, a grappling hook.

The problem was, beyond trying it all on once, I didn’t really have any reason to ever wear the damn thing. I could at least show my friends the sword—we all collected stage swords back then. At one point I even brought out the climbing claws to the park where we tried using them to scale a tree with very little success.

And thus the pants and shirt and hood and belt and boots and all were folded up into one bigger box and stuck inside my closet. I cracked it out once to use as part of a Halloween costume, in which I was “Trent Nakamori: Corporate Ninja;” a joke that had to be explained repeatedly throughout the night, despite the ninja star-shaped business cards.

All-in-all I spent about a hundred dollars (perhaps more, really—it’s hard to remember exactly) on the outfit. That was a hundred dollars that could have gone just about anywhere else. I could have bought a slightly better camera or video games or just stuck it in my savings account. But no; I instead bought a full scale, fully functional ninja costume.

This is what I do—though, admittedly, much less now that I have bills to pay—I buy things that I don’t realize I don’t need or really want because I get it in my head that it’ll be cool. Sometimes, while digging through my closet or wardrobe, I’ll find an old board game, odd clothing item, or musical instrument and think about how much money I’ve wasted over the years on stuff like this. I wander why I ever bother buying this nonsense, but I truly know the answer already: I like buying stuff.

I like knowing that I have a package coming, or that I’m finally able to make a purchase that I’ve been thinking about for weeks. I like that shiny new thing in my pocket. Shopping releases endorphins in your brain, therefore making you feel happier. I’ve often found myself buying things—expensive thing, in particular—when I’m most depressed. It helps, but it’s probably not healthy.

It’s a habit I’ve been able to manage for the most part over the past few years, really. Whenever I buy things that are more expensive, I usually take weeks to decide if I really want it or if it’ll just sit around for years to come. I’ve also replaced those big ticket items with stacks of much-smaller-ticket art supplies, gathering up a plethora of paints, brushes, pens, and notebooks that I use for a little while and then set aside.

At least those things make me productive, I guess.

In the end, however, I feel like I’m much better than I was eight years ago, when I was without worry or care and with too much cash that I should have been saving.

If I’m looking on the glass-half-full side, though, at least I always have a backup Halloween costume every year—a fool in a ninja suit with deep life regrets.

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Garrett Wilson: Puzzle Enthusiast

Did you think your life was sad and lonely? Watch this and feel better about yourself!

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I Hate Your Music (Because We Loved Your Music)*

Sometimes, like today, I find myself suddenly missing being in love. I hate myself for even typing that sentence—I need to keep up my angry and independent persona, after all.

But it’s true. Occasionally I get a punch in the chest for the emotional stimulation that comes with having someone who knows me better than I know myself. I want to rush out and find that person and run through the autumn leafs and sit on the couch together, her feet up in my lap, as we each read our respective seasonal novels. I fuckin’ want some love!

Then I realize that I don’t want that. Not really, at least. The realization comes when I figure out that my Pandora station is playing a band that an ex used to love—and, by default, I used to love. And as I listen to the song, thinking about how it’s not a bad song, but still wondering why it’s leaving me with this feeling of heartbreak, I have to admit to myself that I don’t want to be falling in love again.

It’s not just music, either. I can’t visit my favorite places in the park without thinking about Number Two. I can’t go to my favorite coffee shop without the memories of Number Three flooding back. I can’t read certain genres without thinking about Number Five. And I haven’t been able to write an actual poem since Number One.

Things I used to love now drop my heart into my shoes. People will say things like, “You can’t let one bad relationship ruin those things for you,” but the thing is—it’s not the bad relationships that do it. Quite the opposite; it’s the wonderful memories of the good times that break my heart the hardest. Those instances that remind me what it was like to fall in love.

That’s the problem, though: I don’t want to be in love, only fall in love. It’s a process that makes you feel amazing and powerful and so happy that you just want to punch a hole through a brick wall.

In high school someone told me that I was in love with the idea of love. I hated that, but eventually realized it was true. I was (and, to a certain extent, still am) a romantic. I love a good love story. I love the looks they give each other and the length they go to find one another. I love the fights and the make-up kiss.

But most of all, the one thing I’ve found that I love more than all that, is a tragic ending.

I love books where one of them dies. I love movies where they walk away from each other. I love the stories of hearts being destroyed, but faces still smiling. I fucking love the break up.

I love hearing the band I haven’t listened to since Number Four left me. I love reading the books that remind me of my near miss with Number Five. I love sitting in the coffee shop, all a-buzz, and remembering all of my conversations with Number Three. I love standing in the spot in which I spent so much time with Number Two. I love stumbling across an old scrap of paper with a tiny couplet written for Number One.

And while I might turn off that song after a couple of minutes, or go to other coffee shops, or find other genres to read, or fold up that piece of paper and tuck it away once more—there’s still a tiny spark deep inside my mind that says, Those were good times. C’mon, how about another go?

Then, in that moment, what more can I do, but smile and wink to myself as I fold up those memories and feelings and tuck them away once more, just like a found poem. Because I don’t really want to be in love, only fall in love. Because I don’t want to try and repeat the past. Because if anyone had it right, it was Mary Milne, who said, “Don’t ya know I love the leavin’? / There’s nothin’ sweeter than goodbye.”

Because I’m no longer in love with the idea of love—I’m in love with the idea of heartache. I might not always be here, but for now, that’s a dangerous place to be.

Footnotes:
*You guys, I cannot express how much I struggled with whether or not to keep this title. In the end I decided to go with it because I love it so much, even if it doesn’t exactly express the feeling of the piece. Oh well. Win some, lose some—right?
†I’m not trying to turn my ex-girlfriends into just numbers; only withholding names and placing them in chronological order.
‡Or maybe I just never did happiness right. Happiness is supposed to make your knuckles bleed, right?
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How to Make a Dramatic Sandwich

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I Have a Generic Face

If you stood me up in front of the vinyl siding of an eggshell-colored house, you wouldn’t be able to find me. If you put me in a lineup of faceless department store mannequins, you’d have to squint to find the breathing one. If I was taking a nap on your beige couch, you might just accidentally sit on me.

I have a generic face. This is something I’ve come to terms with, even if my mother hasn’t. I can’t meet new people without hearing that old question, “Have we met before?” And, after I assure them that we have not, they continue to smoosh their faces up in concentration as they figure it out.

But they never do.

“You look like my friend Tom” is another one I hear a lot (or John, or Rick, or Jose, or whoever). To which I politely smile and nod while thinking, “Your poor friend Tom.” Poor Tom because I bet he hears that same things a lot too.

It took me a long time to realize that I have a generic face, and there’s a simple reason for that: Because while my face may be generic, the things I do to my face are unique: In high school I had a rather patchy—albeit somewhat thick—beard. Not many others did, and certainly not in my particular shade of brunette. I also had long hair. I mean, long hair—mid-back long hair. Disgustingly long hair. I’d-really-like-to-stop-talking-about-how-long-it-was long hair.

But between those two things and my thin-framed glasses, I was unmistakable. Friends could spot me from across a crowded room. When my parents picked me up from school, they didn’t have to search long to find me.

I put a lot of identity into both my hair and my beard. Looking back, this seems somewhat silly, really. It even got to the point where I was visibly upset* at the prospect of possibly having to cut them both for a play I was in senior year. At the time I told myself it was because my hair made me unique and an individual, despite the fact that most of my friends had a similar style.

After high school I cut my hair. But the beard—no longer patchy, but great and thick—remained. I ran with that beard for a long time, trimming it up occasionally, but never too much.

A couple of years ago I decided to chuck the beard. But I couldn’t quite bring myself to get rid of it all—and thus was born the mustache that would bring both many compliments and many insults.

Then, last year, I got rid of the mustache, too. I was no longer “that guy with the beard” or “that guy with the mustache” or “that creep with the grotesquely long hair—does he even comb that? Ugh, so gross!” Instead, I looked in the mirror and saw just some guy.

And, for reasons you may have guessed already, around that time I got a new pair of glasses. They were BIG and RED. I liked the look. I put it into my icons, banners, and profile pictures for my public personality.

See, I’ve always needed a little something extra—something that makes people say, “Oh, yeah! Garrett! I remember him.” I look at my friends and think of the things that make their faces recognizable—a straight nose, a sharp jaw-line, big eyes, distinct lips, or whatever—and I wish I had something so simple, yet so distinguishable.

I look at myself more than anyone else, probably. I’d even bet that I could draw a fair representation of myself without looking at a picture or in a mirror. I know that my bottom lip is only slightly fuller than my thin top lip; I know that I have a cleft chin that’s not too pronounced; I know how my eyes curve on the insides and flatten out on top; I know that the auricle of my ear is bent midway up; I know that my nose has a slight bulge in the middle, yet the bridge is flat on top.

I know how each of my features is strange and different, yet I can’t help notice that when you put them all together, I look just like your friend Tom. That’s okay, though, because your friend Tom isn’t a bad looking dude. Sure, he isn’t the kind of guy that makes your eyes turn into the shape of hearts and your jaw drop to the ground while you hold up a sign that says, “Hubba hubba!”, but—your friend Tom—at least he isn’t ugly.

And if it takes a pair of big, red glasses for people to remember me, so what? I’d rather it be that than have to repeatedly wait quietly while you try to remember that you and I have never actually met.

Footnotes:
*Okay, maybe I was crying in the props dungeon at the very idea—I don’t remember, it was a long time ago, now go away, leave me alone, STOP ASKING QUESTIONS.
†And thank goodness I did…
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