by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/04/26 03:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2008/04/26/8417983.aspx
Content of Michael Kaplan's personal blog not approved by Microsoft (see disclaimer)!
Regular readers should keep in mind that all I said in The End? still applies; the allusion to the X-Files continues for people who understand such references....
Completely personal historical "life of Michael" stuff that can probably be ignored by people who aren't interested in that sort of thing!
I found myself on the phone with Andrea again the other day, at an earlier time thankfully enough. :-)
Although stunning and witty (as those things go), she usually does not take criticism as well as she claims to, which caused me to take the phone call with same delight with which one welcomes impacted wisdom tooth removal, after I blogged On the one who was Built on the Tale O' the Twister This Way.
But she accepted it gracefully and then turned the issue around, asking me (if it had to be more about me) what I wanted to talk about.
Ugh, I hate it when people use my words against me....
So we found ourselves talking about my move to Hartford, that was almost a couple of decades ago -- from Philadelphia to Hartford. By the time I was done, she suggested that I should write about it.
You are now reading it. :-)
I moved because of a girl.
Well, not exactly.
I moved because I had broken up with a girl and suddenly the plans I had did not make as much sense as they did just before the break-up. If we were going to just end up being just a summer thing (she was in fact the one who unknowingly inspired me to suggest to Kathleen Edwards to keep Summerlong in her setlist back in 2005 as I discussed previously), then I was going to have to take stock and decide what to do with the rest of my life.
I was probably a bit too young to be trying to think about the rest of my life, an error in judgment that caused more challenges down the road. But let's go back to that time and not look ahead for a moment....
The original plans (moving to Providence, going to Brown) were out -- Providence is way too small of a town. Too easy to run into the wrong person. It has happened to me in New York City; Providence would never allow me to avoid it.
I had spent a ton of money on college applications and although most were done to see if I could get in (my expenses were low so the big budget on applications for entertainment value seemed worthwhile at the time), I had lots of choices if I wanted to go somewhere else. I thought about it, very carefully.
Hartford was not one of those choices, I had not applied to any schools there. I was taking time off and I threw a dart at a map of the US in a bar that I was not supposed to be at (being only almost 18 at the time). It landed in Enfield, CT -- so I flipped a coin to decide whether to make it Springfield or Hartford. And tails won.
Now the dart and the map were just so I could say one day that's what I did. And I did live in/around the city for like half a decade (Hartford to Vernon to Manchester) and while working through one potential career that aspired to another (discussed previously) I managed to find the job that by the next half decade became my actual career, something I had kind of been doing all along anyway from 7th grade on.
But anyway, back to Hartford.
I was kind of broke.
And when I say broke, I mean that I had enough money to buy a few packs of smokes or some cat food (I went with the cat food, she needed her Friskies more than I needed my Lucky Strikes). All of the money I had went into the 3x the rent (first month + last month + security -- needed for move-in) and although I was working on three different jobs, none of them were going to pay me for 1-3 weeks. Toward Thursday night, feeling like I was going to collapse from hunger, I actually ate some of the cat food, which was incredibly bland -- cats eat boring every day and like it, and then by the next day I had a paycheck and I haven't been quite that broke again since.
And I was a little bit depressed, what with the whole thing that seemed like a breakup that not too long after turned out to definitely be a breakup. Food didn't help, even when it was less bland.
My apartment was on the roof of a building on Allen Place (it was a studio that violated fire codes since it had only one exit, and it was easy to break into as the only possession I had of value -- my lost boom box -- would readily attest to were it not stolen the second night after I moved in). So I listened to my depressing mix tape with songs like
That tape was made for wallowing.
The loss of the boom box made the tape less useful, though I still had the car cassette player when heading to and from work, and I knew all the songs so I just ran them through my head, and I guess played some on the mouth harp (they did not steal the harmonicas, I guess they did not find them when the took the radio. Or maybe they realized they could not get much for them).
So anyway, it was briefly a huge wallow-fest. You probably would have been quite bored if you knew me (and I shunned the friends I had since I did not want to subject them to this).
During the day I was at a day care center in the morning and an elementary/middle/high school in their after-school program in the afternoon, and I had to be cheerful at both of those jobs. I'm no actor but I think I did well enough for the kids, at least.
And soon after that I started meeting people in Hartford and West Hartford and taking college classes and I felt kind of back on track. The "break" was over.
But it is funny, none of the songs from that old tape really remind me of that time on the roof of the building on Allen Place.
The song that reminds me of that time is Youth Group's Daisychains, a song not released until many years later:
Listen now my sweet Anne, I never meant to cause you pain.
We could've spent all summer sitting here making daisychains.
I lie awake at night staring at my roof.
Now you're gone...
For weeks I've had your pretty face hanging in my brain.
It's suspended like the reflection in a window pane.
You hang just like a ghost over city streets.
Now you're gone...
How could I begin to finish what I couldn't start?
I'm more General Haig than Napoleon Bonaparte.
Go now, just leave. No more words please.
Now you're gone
Listen now my sweet Anne, I didn't mean to cause you pain.
I could have spent all summer sitting here making daisy chains.
I lie awake at night staring at my roof.
Now you're gone
(I verified the lyrics on the Youth Group site; like most songs out there, the Internet gets it wrong, mostly!)
The girl wasn't named Anne but it ends up being close enough for it to work out. the song is nolt about being on a roof but starring at it yet that doesn't scare me off either. And although the relationship of the song is not much like the one I was in, for some reason the song just gets me.
The whole situation was as defining for my life as that girl who inspired Michael Penn to write No Myth (ref: this blog post), the only real difference being that Michael Penn is much more talented/creative than I am, because blog posts are just not as catchy. :-)
When I listen to Daisychains, In my mind I think I put General Dean (William Dean) rather than General Haig (Douglas Haig). Since I know much less about Haig and I had spent some time studying the Korean War, the Dean notion just fit better in my mind. Both of them had in common the fact that they were each often asked to take action in situations with which they were not entirely comfortable (being asked to do something that conflicted with their advice), in both cases leading to serious consequences (in the case of Haig causing many casualties among his men, in the case of Dean in his own capture and becoming a POW). Dramatic, that. But at that more simple time the relationship ending felt like it had that kind of effect on me, so at least I am being true to that prior version of me. :-)
I was required to move out of that rooftop apartment due to those fire code regulations after four months, though the landlord kept my rent the same as the studio I moved out of for the two-bedroom I moved into as long as I didn't tell the building inspectors where I used to live. His idea -- I wasn't planning to become a snitch anyway. It was nice to have more space, and fewer break-ins.
Before I moved out of the studio, Christine came up from Philly to visit and we hung out for a weekend or so. She can probably attest to it being a dump, though at least it was clean. She can definitely attest to the fact that I was dumped.
Then I moved out of that building within a year or so of moving in there. It was nice enough, but somewhere between the drug dealers and prostitutes and drug users and Trinity students, I just needed to be somewhere that I could get more sleep and a building that had fewer police raids of the lower floors.
I was just looking at the aerial view of the street in Virtual Earth a few minutes ago, and the street was there, just north of Trinity College. But the building doesn't seem to be there anymore, which seems a little sad. Not that I'd be up on the roof over there or anything (I'd be more likely to go up on the roof of the place on Walnut St. in Philadelphia where I lived before I even moved, and even that is pretty unlikely though that structure still appears to be there at least!).
Since they aspasrently tore down the building then it is even more firmly in the past, somehow. But I wonder why that is if I wasn't going to visit anyway? Andrea says it is how we build roots -- we just assume that the places we leave will still be there after all the people go.
While Andrea and I talked I had Daisychains playing on repeat, and it does remind me of that time on the roof of my apartment on Allen Place, when I put what I thought of at the time as my life back together. By the time I left for Columbus five years later I had found a better reason to move (the previous two were in responses to situations involving girls, so I guess I could claim I was becoming more mature).
Somehow this song has transplanted itself atop a memory that was fully lived out and put into storage before the band had even fully formed, and long before the song existed. I wonder how that happened?
Andrea didn't have answers on that issue, but we talked for a bit about her place in South Philly and it turns out she has memories that are analogous. I guess we all have these kinds of memories and maybe even songs we hear that remind us of them even if the song is new. She thought the unusual part was that I also connected it all with a person who had never been there, but since it is where I got over her, it does not seem all that unusual to me.
Well, except for talking about it this much. :-)
We hung up a bit before midnight, and I started writing.
About a roof (that isn't there anymore) and a girl (who isn't, either), and a song (that wasn't there at the time but seems to represent it in my mind quite well under the circumstances).
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