[Our truck was broken into while parked in our locked garage last night. The thieves made off with about 200 CDs including the binder that was loosely arranged to include hip-hop and the binder that contained our 90s rock. While riding the train to work, I tried to get on with my day, but found myself getting choked up. So, I wrote the following.]
Does it seem quieter today? Listen harder. Strain your ears . . . nothing? Can you hear anything at all? No roots? No Beasties? Can you hear any Handsome Boy Modeling School breaks? Any KRS off in the distance?
Spearhead is not riffing on Republicans, LL is being remarkably modest and its certainly not Dre day. G Love must be all set for cold beverages, and the Bare Naked Ladies found it too cold this morning in SF so they went back inside to find their clothes. Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam are boycotting the venue. Blind Melon is wimpering for just one more day with Shannon. For once, Billy is resolutely side by side with the rest of the Pumpkins, his pugnacious lips not flapping. The Chili Peppers are back under the bridge. And, if Mr. Brownstone is dancing, it is not with us.
Jay Kay (front man of Jamiroquai) once had his trademark black hat stolen from an overhead bin. He said it was particularly painful because, though the hat didn't mean that much to him, and wasn't actually that valuable, the hat was the thing he would turn to to take the edge off of pains like . . . getting his hat stolen.
What better way to cope with the loss of hundreds of cds than to play some DJ Shadow, Entroducing? Or not, as the case may be.
This is the second time in life I have had my music taken. I feel like my fingerprints have been peeled off. Like my face has been erased with the top of a nubbed #2. Moments, encapsulated emotions, the shards of my aggregated chronological identity, vanished. Sure people will still recognize me. But, how do I recognize myself? Mirrors dont work well for me. Blisteringly loud songs in the open air, beats pulsing through my chest, and my voice echoing the melodies until scratchy. This is where I look for my reflection.
Here I sit, moments after this trangression, seeking triage by clutching at ditties in my Itunes. Eclectic singles that were only intended to round out valleys in my collection of discs. Ice cube, to Snoop, to Steely Dan, Boards of Canada, Shadow remixed, Mos Def, and Biggie, a few cuts from the Streets, a Dizzee single, Sublime makes me grin, Femmes remind me of simplicity, Tragically Hip take me home, but U2 is just too much right now.
I want to take these headphones from my ears, drive them into my junkied veins and let lyrics and beats innoculate me. Come on, the withdrawal is on its way. Give me my methadone. My bloodstream and soul, coursing with such poetry, might then illuminate the contours of my now blurry visage.
After a short vigil considering the futile, fleeting, and pointless nature of owning things, anything at all some of the kidnapped music will be replaced. Within 48 hours surely I will own each Roots album produced and Mike D, MCA, and Adam will once again kick it root down on my shelves. Yet, some will be lost forever. Will I remember to pick up MC Solaar? Will Common leap out at me in some used bin some day and remind me of the shattered glass littering my front seats? Will I sit lonely some evening craving the elixir of a Big Audio Dynamite interstitial to no avail?
What about Chris Keup's debut? A valet car parker with whom I shared an ugly $6.50 an hour job, but who had the tireless drive to share his gnarled and smokey baritone with the world. Our tip money was his studio budget, and the unrequited affections of the women who hurried over our bricked corner the objects of his pen. Off to gemm.com to scour for suckers foolish enough to part with one of the ten greatest albums never distributed.
There was a Pumpkins bootleg I found in Slovakia in 1995. An Ozomatli promo, worn like a badge that I made it to the party early. A George Michael two-disc compendium following his break with Sony. J5 is gone and the early Black Eyed Peas will hopefully find a new home. I had a Proyecto Uno album from a release party in Quito. Use Your Illusion I and II remind me of a summer laundry room at Stanford. Milennium Hip Hop Party stringing together weekend surburan high school nights in a freshly felled field. The Def Jam box set used to loom like a reference book ready to settle bets or offer education.
There is one warmth to which I cling in such an acerbic moment: shared experience.
If my home burned to the ground today, in my melancholy I would sit back and remember the bountiful dinners and parties, friends crammed knee to knee around the table with boastful reds and cackling laughter. Such reassuring comraderie soundtracked to Michael Franti, Oakenfold, Fatboy, and Thievery Corporation and the conversation stepping in time with each groove. Julieta Vanegas and Brooklyn Funk Essentials would move us until eyes grew heavy and that next shot didn't seem like such a good idea. And as I would behold the embers that were once where I lived, I would sigh knowing the immutability of treasured times shared there.
So, as I stared today at the conceit of safety glass confetti that scurried to avoid the burglar's assault thus seeking immediate refuge in seemingly arbitrary nooks throughout the car, my thoughts soon turned from that garage. The random crisp of liberated fragments against the soles of my shoes was fading. The dank light of the muted concrete brightened. I closed my eyes.
Because, though the discs that were the wrapper for so many of our memories were gone, there I was with each of you. After a hard day of skiing boilerplate in Ellicottville, wrapping up a bleary night in Georgetown, cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway, wreaking havoc on Mormon bowling alleys in rural Utah. We have danced through basement bars Spain, translated a lot of lyrics in Latin America, made trouble together through unprepared Ohio towns, and thrown macaroni at musty waterfront stages in Baltimore. We have belted out tunes by fires in Ireland, laid back with the top down in the sun driving nowhere tapping beats on the rearviews, stood on the bars at Sundance, been lost and homeless in the Czech Republic, and comforted each other on the grayest days in Buffalo.
[And then, before I got too sappy, the train pulled into Mountain View.]