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2005-08-29 - 9:58 p.m.

Proof Of God: Me not having been struck by lightning, despite now owning the 'Sugar Episode' of The Simpsons

Listening To: Human League, Pearl Jam, Pixies, David Byrne, The Shins

Quote: 'Friend, are you still gently sipping on that nip?' - Monique, to Zach

I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar. That much is true. Ok, that much is absolutely false. I know I crapped out on the end of that "No Money Down Iron Clad Every New Day Springs Forth A New Entry" garbage I promised you all last week. But come on, I almost made it! When everyone you've ever met in the last quarter-of-a-century descends upon the Rollinsford Business District, you've got some movin' and some shakin' you must do in order to prepare. I'm sure you know what I mean. Though I don't know who this omnipresent "you" is. Kids, I can't promise that this ride won't result in maybe a bit of whiplash. So make sure you're wallet doesn't have a lot of shit in it. Because if it does, put it in the dashboard, or even your side pocket (TC style), because you might develop some lower back pain from this journey. Just helpfully warnin' is all . . .

I've been voraciously reading Chuck Klosterman's new book, "Killing Yourself To Live" (that's one big thank you to Mindy, who got it for me for my birthday. Not that I didn't appreciate everyone else's gifts, but unless they fit into this particular narrative, they won't get mentioned quite yet) Much like parts of his last book, the exemplary "Sex, Drugs & Coca Puffs", I often feel that Klosterman is taking periodic slumber parties in my brain, scribbling copious notes, and then translating them under the guise of a post-modern Rock Critic who works for Spin and is looking at the long side of 30. You can't prove it's NOT true.

There's some things he writes that I absolutely disagree with. But I seem to be losing my tendency slightly to want to skin each and every soul whose opinions differ from mine. One major hit he takes is that he hates The Doors. Specifically Jim Morrison. That irks me. As I know how passe it is right now in this cycle of popular culture to like The Doors. It's the last band any cool rock critic worth his Lester Bangs salt would admit to rewarding artistic merit towards. That said, I can't accuse Klosterman for using that angle as he freely accepts enjoying/appreciating some of the dreggiest dregs in rock history. He also despises Eric Clapton. Again, ouch. All that said, he seems to truly appreciate the genius of David Byrne/Talking Heads. So you can't always throw the baby out with the bath water. Well, you can, but child services is gonna be on your ass like fried on rice.

But then there's things he writes about - the way his brain works, his dealings with the opposite sex, the importance certain artists/lyrics have on different moments of his life, his unabashed love for RW/RR, etc - that mirrors me so freakishly that, well, see that whole "slumber party in my brain" comment above. Peter did point out that Klosterman's cavalier drug habit is a particular deviation from the warped mirror he holds up to our lives. On page 66, he writes the following statement, concerning what he hopes his obituary would say if he died today. " . . . I hope they would stress that I had a great life and that I was already ready to die when I turned 27." Yeah. Um, I read that passage 2 1/2 hours after I turned 27. Yesterday afternoon. On Peter & Tite's new couch at their new home while Titie napped on another of the couches whilst Peter and Matt watched my Sin City DVD (thanks Kate!). I'm not ready to die. Not even close. Sure, sure, everyone has blue periods. Or black moods. Or black and blues on their leg after getting struck by a cricket bat in the middle of a department store due to a classic misunderstanding involving Georgio No. 5 & the remote control HESS Trucks. Sure, we've all thought, "life doesn't get worse than this." Ok, maybe I shouldn't be presumptuous. I know I've felt that way before. And I know friends who've felt that way before. But for every day that Phil Hartman gets shot and for every day that my cat dies and for every day that the wicker furniture gets repainted without anyone asking me [I am sounding flippant and I assure you that's not the case] there are days where someone discovers Freaks & Geeks, and Kenichi bites my hair to let me know that he feels like watching SportsCenter, and my friends surround me while I launch myself into the 16 foot high bouncy castle netted ceiling. And I want my life to have more of the latter and not the former. The world doesn't always agree with me, or my stomach (especially if curry is involved), but that's ok, that's what makes me Zach. If everyone agreed with me, I'd simply be #08281978212145. And what fun would that be? There's many things I still want to see. Or see again. Or taste again. Or read, or write, or kiss again. Ok, if I do the whole bungee jumping thing again, maybe this time I'll trade Hilary for Nadia Santos. But am I already read to die at 27? No. I am not. So stitch someone else's logo on those black armbands, or stick them back into the armband drawer. Life is short. But I hope this one is longer.

In the course of "Killing Yourself To Live", Klosterman's "main" focus is to drive to different spots in the U.S. that were homes to rock tragedies. Whether it be the Lynard Skynard plane crash, the Allman Brothers motorcycle crash(es!), the hotel overdoses, what have you. One of the places he visits early on is West Warwick, Rhode Island, which, if you live anywhere in New England, you know was the home to The Station night club, which burned up in seconds 2 winters ago when Great White was playing there. In West Warwick, he ends up running across a community which not only at large seems to have suffered this shared loss, but a smaller community of those directly affected (either they themselves were personally injured, or their immediate family member was killed). Where is this all going? Save for this entire entry so far being an infomercial for Chuck Klosterman's new book. I'm getting there, though I'm going to have to sell this metaphor hard to make it work. Klosterman talks about how similar all these people feel about what happened. No matter how different they are, or were, or should be - that event, that time, that place, linked them all and bonded them forever. Whether they wanted to be or not. The mere act of continuing to live lashes them into this unwanted pact. This is not the first time a phenomenon like this has been seen in popular culture. War & Western movies have a monopoly on a group of people (in those cases, usually grizzled, dog fightin', take no guff quickdraws) who have been forged together by some catalyst and must continue to make their way towards the last adventure. Maybe to avenge one of their fallen. Or one last hurrah. Time is much more often their enemy and not their ally. If anything, when Time cuts their number down, these packs seem to grow even more feverish and wanton with their decisions and the execution of these choices. More contemporary works as disparate as The Big Chill, St. Elmo's Fire, and Stephen King's "It" all illustrate this point. [And don't think I'm not incredibly thrilled I just brought up "It". Now, not only will I be having nightmares about The Phantom of the Muppet Show - from watching the Muppet Show DVDs I got (Thanks Titie!), but now I'll be sweating out spider-clowns. Fantastic.] So . . . you must be asking yourself, what the fuck does all of this tangential, morbid, media saturated riffing have to do with fucking anything? First of all, don't swear so much, that's my style. Second of all, it has everything to do with it.

This last section, which is meant to sew everything up, probably won't be a popular one. Far from it. Those not from Laconia will dislike the fact that its focus is on Laconia, and those from Laconia will more than likely disagree with it. At least on the surface. They may agree with it more than they'd ever care to admit. I can't explain Laconia. And maybe I'll never be able to. Everyone has a connection to their hometown. Whether for good or ill or indifference. And this isn't necessarily the geography of Laconia that is at play here but this intangible idea of Laconia.
~ I feel there must have been something in the water where I grew up. Ignoring the fact that where I grew up seemed to be 65% water anyway. I feel like we were all some unwitting experiments in something X-files-ian, or The 4400 for those of you just joining us. Maybe our parents signed up for this. Maybe their parents. Maybe one of our parents signed their children's life away to the Devil, in exchange for the ability to play the guitar like no other. (If one of us was named Robert Johnson Jr., this would be a far more believable metaphor thus far). I feel like I'm running out of time to try to bake this argument. Iron Chef Japan is already cooling his brulee. I feel these children of Laconia, these current adults that Laconia spewed forth like so much tobacco chaw across a Rand McNally map, will always have a hidden birthmark somewhere on their body. A birthmark that denotes that they understand each other. That even if we're all hurtling towards the sun tied up in the same red and white shoe string, we can nod at each other, unspeaking, and know what the other is thinking.
~ Now, before we get too murky here, let's not mistake this argument for something that it's not. This is not me being basely nostalgic. This is not me wistfully looking back to the "good old days of high school", because as we all know, if you really look back, we thought we were in hell and couldn't wait to get the fuck out. This has nothing do with whether you liked, or disliked, or fucking despised high school. It doesn't matter if you go to your reunions or not. Those people in Rhode Island can move far away from West Warwick and never return. It won't change what happened.
~ And yeah, I'm fully aware that we, as Laconians, never secretly killed a man one night on the highway and buried him only for him to somehow hunt us all down and mutilate us in the South Western desert serving to bound the survivors with their grim secret history. Not only would that be ridiculously grandiose (not to mention untrue) but it would be infringing on the plot of Christopher Pike's, "Weekend". And even if you don't talk to anyone from Laconia anymore. Say you find what I'm writing right now an hour from now or a year from now by googling my ass. Or googling "Laconia spider-clowns who read Christopher Pike".
~ If you're from Laconia, specifically from my class, you'll tacitly understand what I'm saying. You may not like it. But we're in this together. Not always geograpically. And not always willingly. But you know it's true. You've heard the way teachers and parents and college friends and significant others and enemies and co-workers and strangers talk about us. How strange and unnatural we are. How they've never seen anything like us. But even these other people can't quite understand it. No matter how much we may try to relay it to them with stories and pictures and journal entries. Because "some of us" or "most of us" still isn't "all of us". And this includes all of us. Whether you're some shoe-selling recluse, or married with kids, or living on the West Coast, East Coast, out of the country, or on another plane entirely.
~ I feel sometimes like there's this giant cork board and we all have pins on it and they're constantly being rejiggered to follow our lives permutations and gear spinning. I know that no matter what happens, when the chips are on the table and then they hit the fan, we'll know. We'll understand.
~ FUCK, I wish could explain this more scholarly and convincingly. Maybe some of you already understand all of this better than you would have liked. And maybe some of you won't understand it for a long time. I feel everyone has a connection to their hometown. And I feel some people stay closer than others. But I can't deny, and neither can you, that something is different about Laconia. Not quite divine, not quite sinister, but it's there. When it's snowing and you can't see where the street differs from the lawn or when the sun is just about to slip underwater on a hot June night when you can almost smell the neon burning in the Weirs, even if you're not in New Hampshire. But more important than neon, and water, and snow, and grass, and adjectives for seasons that controlled quarters of the calendar - is this feeling. This sense of shared connection, wanted or no, that will never sever no matter how hard you try to snap it. (And God knows some of us have tried mightily to snap it!) This is not a bad thing. It's just something that exists. I believe it can act as a betterment to our lives, but that's an argument for another day. I don't think this is something that kids from Belmont write about. Or even kids from Boulder, or Biloxi, or Baton Rouge. I feel we're all in this together. And some days I want nothing to do with something I never signed up for, and other days I'd like nothing more than to continue this unknown trajectory into the future. A future that grows stranger every day. A future that links us and breaks us and wraps back around again to bite us in the ass and then wraps back around again to bite us on the lip. But it's a future we're guaranteed because of a past that we can't escape.

It's been real,

Jack Parnell

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