I took cutie for a ride in my death cab (Free Association Alert)

Fall 2004 Tour concert poster, which I used to have hanging on various dorm/flat/apartment walls. Image taken from redefine.dyndns.org.

Allow me to wax poetically on Transatlanticism, the fourth studio album by Death Cab for Cutie, which is a record totally specific to a certain time and place for me (early 00’s, mid-college years, San Francisco) and which I remember quoting specific lyrics from two of the songs on my AIM profile AND Xanga page, even though it’s not even my favorite by the group (I think that title would have to go to The Photo Album). It just happened to come up this evening after I iTunes searched Atlantic Starr to listen to Always, one of my favorite Karaoke duet ballads ever, and I just let it play in my apartment as I cleaned up and washed the dishes after dinner. The New Year kicked things off innocently enough–I don’t even think it made me think of the fact that for a really long time I used to talk about how much I loathed New Year’s, how it was my least favorite holiday on the planet, mainly because Hollywood (AND Charlie Brown) had brainwashed me into believing I was supposed to spend the night at a glamorous, crowded party with balloons and confetti and receive a kiss from someone I’d loved all year at midnight. I don’t know what made me think that New Year’s Eves in reality were ever that way–I guess that’s the power of internalized culture. And actually, the one New Year’s that ended up vaguely resembling the Hollywood version I’d dreamt up resulted in an underwhelming lunch date later that week with a handsome stranger who I’d met that night at a lounge party downtown, who had wooed me with tales of double appearances on Jeopardy (he wasn’t lying–I looked it up the next day), with whom I clinked champagne glasses with and shared a short, sweet peck at 12:01am, and whose neck I sloppily dangled from by 12:52. He didn’t call again, and honestly I didn’t care too much because I had already prematurely resolved myself to the fact that I’d never feel smart enough for him anyway. None of these connotations with the holiday were conjured as that first song played–I think if anything, “I have no resolutions” stuck out simply because it was true of this past year and those in recent history: I’ve had none. And don’t really believe in them for that matter, since why do you need a special occasion to make changes that you could make any other time of the year (I think I’m repeating myself word-for-word from that time I talked about Lent). Then onto Lightness, which has a slow, sexy sound to it, followed by Title and Registration, which makes people feel like hitting imaginary xylophones to the front and sides of them and I remember the band opening their set with it–that’s right, I nearly forgot that I did see them live on that tour. Maybe this album is more meaningful to me than I first thought. I think it was at Expo ’86 that I really started listening: “I am waiting for something to go wrong.” And, “I am waiting for you to flee the scene.” Aaaahh, old familiar friends called doubt, insecurity, and other shitty feelings coming out of your temporary hiding places… how I’ve missed you. No time to think about it much, because we were already onto The Sound of Settling, which helped drive the point home if I didn’t get it before. I don’t think I ever paid too much attention to this one until now, but “I’ve got a hunger, twisting my stomach into knots, that my tongue’s tied off… my brain’s repeating, ‘If you’ve got an impulse, let it out,’ but they never make it past my mouth… bopbaaaa, this is the sound of settling.” Holy shit. Is that what it really feels like? I mean I guess I can sort of attest to it, because I think I’ve been on the “settlER” end once, in not a very extreme sense and I think I caught it early on enough, thankfully (so maybe I was instead the “POTENTIAL settler”, though I hate the term altogether because it’s so condescending), but yeah… I guess it did sort of feel that awful until it was over. But to be the party on the “settlEE” side, that’s quite a different perspective. Less torturous, more painful. I mean, how can you swallow the fact that the whole time you think everything’s as happy and cheerful as the way this song sounds, your partner is in utter agony at the very instance of sitting next to you, all the while scheming about how to get rid of you? It’s hard. Also forget that just yesterday I happened to find the blog of a girl I used to go to college with, who somehow ended up independently meeting and seriously dating this random dude I met at a club once and WAS actually really hoping would call me back (much more than Jeopardy Guy) but never did, and now they’re engaged, and she loves talking about it on her blog. The news actually made me laugh a little–like, goddamn, how do some people make being insanely happy look so easy? While for others, settling is often the only option… so much so that someone went and wrote an upbeat song about it. I think they used to play this song on the radio. Meaning this is everyday mainstream phenomena, everyone can relate (everyone except maybe college acquaintance and Club Boy), to being with someone who you think you’re too good for but you stay with anyway, meanwhile, fighting with yourself about how to break it off until you finally do (it might take six months, or six years). It’s horrible… as humans, are we really that cruel? We are sometimes, and it sucks. By Tiny Vessels, I was pretty much done for. Because I’m just like, why… why do people mean nothing to us sometimes? Even when we try to love them? Even when they’re quote-unquote amazing? When does the ego finally surrender, or does it just never? Not necessarily off-topic, for a couple days now I’ve been WordPress brewing on the subject of casual sex, which I was inspired to write about after watching the romantic comedy No Strings Attached on my plane ride from Singapore to Tokyo this past weekend, except I think I became unsure about what to say about it. Something about hating the lies behind it, the lies we tell each other, or ourselves, in order to make a relationship consisting of noncommittal sex actually work–luckily, I don’t think I have to write that post anymore, as the track in question sums it up superbly: “So one last touch, and then you’ll go, and we’ll pretend that it meant something so much more. But it was vile, and it was cheap, and you are beautiful, but you don’t mean a thing to me.” In my not too many interactions comparable to that between Ms. Portman and Mr. Kutcher (screw Hollywood again, if real people were that gorgeous they wouldn’t find themselves in such compromising situations), even if I didn’t outright lie about what it was I really wanted it was the absence of acknowledgement, acknowledgement of the fact that I could do so much better and I knew it and he knew it too but we both instead pretended that neither of us could, that’s so heartbreaking. It boggles the mind how we can convince ourselves to consider another human being–girlfriend, boyfriend, person you’re dating, fuck buddy–so poorly, and yet we do. And even feel bad over it sometimes, though the guilt can never compete with our own selfishness. On a quick note, I have a guy friend who is in a very explicitly friends-with-benefits situation. Perhaps they can’t even really call each other “friends.” But all the terms and limitations have been spelled out in their friendship (if you can call it that), so much that she has nicknamed him “The Contract.” Whenever he talks to me about it, I can’t help but 1) wonder how my friend can be such a soulless douchebag and 2) feel so, so sorry for that girl. Transatlanticism finally had me chilling out again, since he mostly rambles on, except for the part about islands that stuck with me since I guess I am on one of those islands that probably shouldn’t be where it is. And the next four songs I think I just tuned out because I was rushing to write this. And now I’m going to sleep later than I had wanted to but that’s just who I am–just an average girl who spends too much time thinking about pop songs and quoting the cooler sounding parts of them as the subject headings of blog posts (another period piece artist: Gym Class Heroes, before Travis McCoy became popular and long before Katy Perry had ever sung about kissing a girl).


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