Monday, April 2, 2012

Life in Song: Walter Reed

Life in Song is a series which will likely never finish. It is not, as originally conceived, a span of my hundred favorite songs; rather, each post covers one song randomly selected from a list of those which immediately evoke a memory or other emotional response. Entries will likely be uncomfortably candid and melancholic, as they attempt to recount a song's personal significance and also its context in my psychotically detailed fantasy life.

Song: Michael Penn - Walter Reed

Thoughts: This is the very first episode of Life in Song. I'd considered starting yesterday but chose not to for reasons of time. Additionally, just as finding the perfect song on my iPod with which to begin my walk in the morning is often a fifty-skip struggle, none of the songs that came up then were just right to be number one. Today, as though blessed, this song was the number drawn and I immediately knew it was the right place to begin.

Defining Era: 2007, winter.

Vital Lyric: "Tell me now what more do you need? Take me to Walter Reed tonight."

First Exposure: Home from college for the winter, I was able to catch up on the third season of House. This song plays at the end of "Fools for Love," which began the Michael Tritter arc. (It is also featured the medical mystery resolution of the two lovers actually being half-siblings, which struck me quite sadly that this was apparently devastating for them). Featuring a nice hook and somewhat ambiguous historical allusions, two things which will captivate me quite reliably, it transformed the otherwise dull scene of House's arrest into something that seemed fairly momentous.

Prominent Memory: I had had an online romance with Flower since the summer of 2006. She was at that point and possibly still the most attractive woman I'd conned into undressing for me, while lying about my weight and identity. That December, learning I'd returned to New York, she was insistent that we finally meet. I resisted at first. She wanted me to come on the thirtieth, claiming she was lonely, being sexually explicit, threatening that I would no longer see her on camera if I didn't. I caved, but it was too late by then. We agreed I'd come the next day, the thirty-first, the last day of the year. She was having a New Year's Eve party that night, but I could arrive, make love and leave before then.

She was staying alone in her father's apartment in the Battery Park Ritz-Carlton (half-hotel, half-apartment building). I spent the subway ride staring at my reflection in the opposite window, trying to convince myself that I wasn't too fat, that my hair wasn't too unkempt and haphazardly dyed, that my clothes weren't too poor. Thinking it totally sensible that she could grok me in person as she had over the Internet. Disembarking in a section of Manhattan to which I'd never before been, I considered trying to buy condoms at a Rite Aid, but was running late and lost.

"What a way to conclude 2006," I thought, wondering if everything could really work out.

I found the building hours after I should have. She was becoming frustrated waiting for me. The door man let me in. I still believe he thought I was a drug dealer, on account of my appearance and the brevity of my stay. I did not belong there. The apartment was the greatest I've ever entered, worth millions of dollars, window-walls overlooking the water south of Manhattan. This changed everything from that point of my life onward.

We sat. I felt the sexual tremors of imminence. She was not outwardly disgusted with me, but she didn't initiate anything either. Then, so quickly, the first of her friends arrived. I will never be convinced that she didn't have some silent way to signal them, once she saw me. They were courteous; they offered me marijuana, which I declined with the persistent lie that a friend and I had a contest to see who could stay sober longest. That sounded plausible to me, at the time. I left. I went home.

I listened to "Walter Reed," affixing my pain and turmoil to it. Days later I pressed her until she admitted that she found me unattractive. We never spoke much after that. Our differing interpretations of the events caused a rift between me and Kate. I skipped work (having just begun my internship two days prior), prompting my stepmother to grow enraged and complain that she needed space, and other things. I relayed her ranting to anyone I could reach on AIM, none of whom should have been told. It was a mistake. Later, in the gap of time before our first show, I sat on a bench with Leo and told him how much I love songs that allude to history, despite my lack of historical knowledge. It must have been apparent that I was bothered. He asked and I stayed coy. It was a good moment.

To grouse: I feel that this memory may set an inaccurate precedent for the Life in Song series. I believe very few will actually have such relatively meaningful stories. More will just be the soundtrack to my depression in various rooms.

Alternate Memories: "Walter Reed" came up twice more. Once, the drive home from college. ("All I want to die is hide, it's graduation day.") Of course, it wasn't meant to be the drive home, it was meant to be the drive to Philadelphia, but that's another story. I believe I chose it manually before shuffling the rest. "There's nothing here worth saving," the song said, reflecting on how fleeting I saw college by its end. Then, years later, I began the move to California with this song. I don't know if I chose it. I thought I would play music, but we switched to comedy and podcasts immediately afterward. My father asked about the aforementioned lyric. Of course it was intentional. The song was funereal then, as I looked back at my home for what has remained the final time.

Fantasy: While not a showstopper, "Walter Reed" is a reliable weapon in fantasy band Artist on Artist's arsenal. Its use of historical and military references make it characteristic of my more painful lyrics. Probably early-mid tenure at H Street, retired and used sparingly in later years.

Out of Ten: 8.3

Audiosurf Score: 58,553 (Nearby: 1, Global: 5)

Some Levity: I bet this space will be the hardest of any to fill. Let's see: "Walter Reed" led me to look up its namesake and his hospitals on Wikipedia. For some reason, he came up in conversation during my internship. I was able to note his influence in treating yellow fever, or something. Criminy, who brought up the person, seemed dubious - I think he had a different concept of Reed. That's not the levity. The levity is the time, at the same job, I sat on the couch as I did often and one of the other employees didn't realize that my arm was between his and the armrest, and failed to realize it for a long moment as it slowly downed on everyone that he had embraced me in this minor way. Barton commented something to the effect of: "When ten seconds lasts a lifetime."

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