Monday, January 08, 2007

you and whose army

Maybe it’s just natural that at the end, you start thinking about the beginning. And then again, there are so many beginnings and ends that they jumble together, and are you really remembering the beginning of something, or the end of it?

It was the end of my time in New Jersey. It was in the days when the planes were eerily empty, and everyone nervously chatted with each other as they stood in the boarding line, feeling each other out, smiling and nodding reassuringly as if to say, I am on your side. It was October. When I landed, W hugged me three times more tightly than he ever had before.

During that visit, W showed me the ring he was planning to give a few months later to K, now his wife. During that visit, I started to talk more seriously about moving to San Francisco. And during that visit, a tornado that is still a blur occurred between Q and me.

But also, I had tickets to see Sigur Ros. Sigur Ros? W & K had asked me to describe them, but I could not. They had looked at me, this significantly shorter, significantly less hip friend of theirs, and had agreed without hesitation. I will always adore them for that.

At the Warfield, before the show started, I ducked away to call Q. W had been keeping a watchful eye over me throughout my stay, and his overprotective, big brother side was more acute than usual. When I told Q I was at a concert, and then proceeded to tell him the name of the band, there was a long pause, a heavy silence. I thought, he is judging me. And then I didn’t care. Even then, all those years ago, I knew there was no point in trying to impress anyone with false pretense.

The show can only be described as trippy. K, W & I all walked out wishing we had been on some mind-altering substance, even though none of us are particularly adventurous in that regard. Behind the meek, young band, some sort of post-modern-psychedelic light show was played. Furthermore, the music itself was thoroughly unintelligible. One of the kitschy things about Sigur Ros is that they sing in a completely concocted language that they call Hopelandic, neither Icelandic nor English nor any other spoken language.

Last week, I complained about world music, and my inability to connect to music if I cannot understand the lyrics. Then I remembered this band, and their first album. Their song Staalfur is a nice example of their overall sound. An ethereal, ambient sound that draws you in and puts you in an odd mood, sets you afloat.

I worry about music like this- it’s dangerous for me when a song has this much feeling in its very fabric. I worry that I’ll wind up in some blue-lit lounge at 2 o’clock in the morning and some random fool will be offering me ecstasy. And while normally I’d turn it down without a second thought, this song will be playing and I’ll be lulled into some strange fascination with the sensation of floating, but floating downward, drowning.

Lucky for me, they don’t play a lot of Sigur Ros at any place I’ve ever had a drink.

Yesterday, co-worker GBF dropped me off to my place, and a man was sitting on the stoop. He was sitting on the stoop, backpack opened, with a 10-pack of tortillas, one jar of peanut butter, and one jar of marmalade, a plastic knife in hand. He was shaking his head in the way that men occasionally will, like he was trying to shake out some angry thought or a demon. I just started reading Kiran Desai’s Inheritance of Loss, and a line from the book immediately presented itself:
She felt intensely, fearfully female.

Oddly, that is how I felt when I saw the man in my doorway. I’d like to say I felt a deep wave of sympathy for him. Instead, I was momentarily bemused by the absurdity of a peanut-butter and marmalade burrito. And I felt a queasy uneasiness that he sat between me and the entrance to my apartment. Once I was in my apartment, I could hear the same man arguing loudly with a passerby. Later, when I went to run errands, I found myself pausing at the bottom of the stairwell, stopping to check if he was still sitting on the stoop. Though he was no longer there, I once again felt that sense, that awareness of being vulnerable. He had carved his name into the sidewalk.

Also, my mama emailed me yesterday for one purpose: to ask me to please send a recipe for coffee cake as soon as possible. Because, you know, coffee cake emergencies occur all the time in your average Gujarati household. At least I can always count on my family for keeping life utterly random.

Speaking of random, I haven’t talked about this for a while, so let me just say: Go Pats!. Okay, I know they’re not likely to make it all the way, or even past the Chargers, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to take a moment to rejoice.

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