Monday, June 12, 2006

iTunes Nostalgia

This is the time, and this is the record of the time. This is the time, and this is the record of the time.

~ From The Air

So I recently downloaded an oldie-goldie from iTunes – the “Big Science” album by Laurie Anderson. If you haven’t ever heard it, it’s an awesome mishmash of music/spoken word art-rock weirdness. It’s considered Anderson’s most “commercial” album – which means she got some radio airplay, especially in the UK – but while purists may sneer, I love it. My favorite song is “From The Air”, but they’re all good.

I discovered the album the summer between my freshman and sophomore year at college. There were several key things happening at that particular point in my life. I had a sugar daddy – he was my first foray into sex for money. He paid my rent, bought me my first car, gave me an allowance. It was a cushy situation moneywise, but stressful psychologically.

I was living, as roommates, with another woman, who was clearly, but clearly, a lesbian, although she was so far back in the closet you could have used her for a shoe rack. And perhaps in connection with her state of extreme closetedness, Sandra was a big ole pothead. I mean serious.

Now, I’ve never been a big fan of pot. I do get a slightly buzzed feeling, but mainly I just get sleepy, and my eyes get all slitty, occasionally I got the munchies, and that’s about it. It’s just never done much for me. I haven’t smoked a joint in years and years. But that one summer, I smoked a lot of weed with Sandra and other people, and it seemed like fun.

The main reason it was fun was because of my friends. One of my early rules about getting stoned – one I’ve observed to this day, about all substances – is “never do drugs alone”. For me, getting high was a social thing. I was too young to get into bars – most of the time – so it was my equivalent of martinis after work.

Plus, I knew it would piss off Tom, my sugar daddy. Tom was a rich redneck fifty-something Republican who knocked back gallons of Chivas Regal but though that “mari-joo-ahna” was a demon weed smoked by “those coloreds”. (And that was his polite way of referring to black people.) Most of our other political opinions were equally antithetical, which made being his girlfriend-on-the-side an exercise in biting my tongue.

I’m sure he sensed it – I’m not a very good actress even now, much less at eighteen. So the more he tried to control me and get me to be what he wanted me to be, the more I developed passive-aggressive ways of defying and annoying him - while still getting him to support me, of course. I didn’t mind the sex part, it was just that we were so wildly incompatible in every other way.

So, cut to me and Sandra and another pal or two hanging out in my apartment, with the bong, some bottled wine coolers we’d gotten someone to buy for us, and a bag of M&Ms. Sandra says, “I found this really cool album, you guys have to hear it.” And she puts on “Big Science.”

One of the things one notices about this album is that Laurie Anderson talks a lot in a very deliberate, measured voice, and she says odd things that don’t make much sense. It’s very artsy.

However, it struck all of us that in fact, Laurie Anderson was talking just like we were talking: in a slow, draggy voice, with lots of non sequiturs. Therefore – in our THC-fogged minds - Laurie Anderson must also be stoned! Cool! Cheech and Chong be damned, Laurie Anderson became our stoner heroine. (Really! Listen to “Walking and Falling” and then tell me that woman doesn’t sound like she’s baked. Just try.)

After that, Big Science got a lot of airtime in my apartment. Sandra and I got to where we could recite large sections of it from memory, which we were prone to doing at inappropriate moments, especially if we actually were stoned.

Tom hated it. So naturally I insisted on playing it while we had sex.

That fall I broke up with Tom, moved back into the dorm, and drifted away from Sandra. The Big Science album got lost and while I thought about it occasionally, I hadn’t heard it in years. Then for some reason it came to my mind, I searched for it on iTunes, and as I listen to it, I can almost smell the pot, taste the M&Ms, and hear Sandra’s laugh.

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