FFWDing to the Best Part: “Jeremy,” Pearl Jam (1992)

This upbeat ditty — not about an underloved but overprivileged white boy who shoots others from his school. but rather about one who takes his own life, forcing his horrified schoolmates to look on — was released seven years before Columbine. And of course predated many other school shootings since. My point is not to drag everyone down on this Tuesday with obvious reminders, but to defend my actions as an (often) drunken college sophomore.

Because as a college sophomore at UVa, see, one of my roommates and I had choreographed a modern dance to this song. And it was as awkward and ridiculous as you can imagine. But not! — you see — as horribly insensitive as it might be today, when we know all we know about guns and schools and mental illness. Still, we were certainly a couple of a’holes.

First off, the video is incredible.  It was made at a time not only when people still watched videos, but when there were a handful of video music directors whom avid MTV watchers could rattle off by name. “Jeremy” director Mark Pellington was one of these.  Also on his resume? “What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy),” by Information Society.  Yesssss.  Nearly 20 years after I was wowed by “Jeremy,” I would watch a Pellington film and declare it “pointless nonsense.”


Anyway, “Jeremy.”

Best part? 3:03 – 3:21. Most will argue that the “best part” (tm pending) is Eddie Vedder’s skilled vocal run between 4:33 and 4:50.  But I prefer a less dramatic, slightly more haunting portion of the build-up. The whole “try to erase this…” segue, where Vedder sings over himself in a deranged form of round, paints a portrait of guilt, regret, lingering terror, and brings the audience into the fear that is yet to explode minutes later. I will say, though, that my dance that accompanied that aforementioned vocal run?  Truly inspired.  



Crash Into Who? (In Which I Revisit One of my Many Public Humiliations)

A few weeks ago, when reflecting back on the least-impressive 21st birthday celebration ever, I alluded to another anticlimactic experience involving Dave Matthews and his Band of merry makers.  Here is that story, updated slightly from when I originally told it on June 2, 2005.   

Went to the Dave Matthews Band concert last night with my friend Anne. History: while DMB isn’t my favorite band, or even in the Top 30, there are definitely some songs and album(s) I very much like. And I feel a certain kinship with the boys, as they got their start in Charlottesville, VA, in the early 1990s, when I was an undergrad at UVa.

The show? Was a little disappointing. Dave and the boys remain extremely musically gifted, and good for them. But the set list adhered to the following pattern: three songs from new album; 20-minute “jam” session; two songs from new album; ‘Too Much’; 15-minute “jam” session; a cover of ‘Time of the Seasons.’ And … scene. Under the Table and Dreaming was sorely unrepresented. And while I know they want to live in the now, how about giving something back to the little people who knew you when.

So speaking of “knew you” …

Anne and I attended the show with friends of A’s mom (Dr. D) who, according to their own reports, are likethis with Mr. Matthews. Have dined with him and Mrs. Matthews numerous times. Have enjoyed backstage tours in multiple cities and swapped recipes with Dave’s personal chef. Their entry into this rock-and-roll lifestyle, should anyone care, was via the band’s sound guy, who was in a serious relationship with one of the friends’ daughters.

And the woman in the couple had told Dr. D that — should we all go to the concert together — we could totally get backstage, and hang, and possibly meet the band. After the show it’s the after party and after the party it’s the hotel lobby.  And so on and so forth. Sound guy, let’s call him Skippy, would be alerted to our seat locations ahead of time so we could be properly set up like the VIPs he would know us to be. And so Anne bought four, not two, tickets, and gave them to her Mom’s friends free of charge. Anne agrees to drive Dr. D’s friend and one of her daughters (not the one who dated Skippy) as our guests.We are set!

On the long and circuitous ride to the venue, Close-Personal-Friend-of-Dave Senior says they haven’t gotten in touch with Skippy, and in fact have not seen or spoken with him in four years. Interesting. And vaguely unsettling. Close-Personal-Friend-of-Dave Junior says she has a cell phone number for her sister’s former paramour, but the number is old, and he never used to answer it anyway. Anne and I, we are rapidly rolling downhill. A snowy, snowy hill of deception and megalomania.

Now … I don’t care about meeting Dave effing Matthews. The whole encounter might have been sort of embarrassing, as I know none of the band members’ names, know nothing off their new album, and am just not the kind of superfan who deserves to meet them. But Anne looooooved them in high school and college. During her formative years, she saw them in concert more than a dozen times, bought every CD, etc.  The opportunity to meet and greet warmed the cockles of her heart as a prior superfan.  So the gross and shameful misleading we were victims of was so much more shattering to my dear, sweet friend.

After the show, which, as aforementioned, was disappointing, (even to Anne), Close-Personal-Friend-of-Dave Senior and Junior decide to mosey down beyond the concert barricades and try to connect with Skippy. They do. And they stand there and chat with him for at least three minutes before thinking of introducing Anne and me. And when they did notice us standing there like jerk-offs, they said: “This is Anne and … and … [forgetting my name] … ummm, they drove us here.” Well, that’s fantastic. We shall never be Close-Personal-Friends-of-Y’ALL. Let me tell you, folks, that the 180 seconds prior to the shoddy introduction was TORTURE. Standing there, in a place we shouldn’t be, like a couple of pathetic sound-guy-groupie hookers.

And then? Needless to say, Skippy goes on his merry way, with no mention of a backstage tour, or a Fresca with the band, or anything.

This humiliation was followed by almost two hours spent gridlocked in the parking lot and on the highway with Close-Personal-Friend-of-Dave Senior and Junior in the back seat. Throughout the journey home, Close-Personal-Friend-of-Dave-Senior had a personal connection she felt compelled to share for any celebrity that was brought up. “Sarah McLachlan?  Oh, my other daughter designs her evening gowns.  Hanson?  My best friend from high school plays cards with their Mom. Tom Cruise?  Poor, misunderstood Tommy?  Oh, he  worked at the ice cream shop I used to frequent. Always gave me extra sprinkles.’ It took all the self control I could muster to not bellow, ‘LINCOLN?  ABE Lincoln?  Do you know him?  What about Moses?  Charlamagne ?  Hmmmmmm?’ 


And did I mention that my AARP card is coming in the mail any day now because during the show, while so many girls in front of me danced like free spirits without a care in the world, I was in my seat, calmly enjoying a cardboard container of NACHOS. They went well with the second-hand pot smoke wafting down from the lawn seats behind me.

Totally pathetic.

This ant’s marching out.

Reflections: My 21st Birthday (In Which I Make the Best of What’s Around)

Having a birthday right smack-dab in the middle of the Thanksgiving season (November 27, specifically) hasn’t always been awesome (although I do get to hear the “Well, I’m sure your Mom had a lot to be thankful for that year” quip about 35 times each year).

Since cruising into proper adulthood, I’ve gotten used to unofficially celebrating my birthday the first weekend of December, when everyone is freed up from holiday travel or hosting houseguests.  But as a kid, my parents would try to preserve the specialness of the actual day itself (or at least the Saturday in closest proximity).  This led to many sad birthday-party pictures featuring me and one (or two) guests.  Now, even nerds who were also teacher’s kids had friends; it’s just my friends apparently all spent Thanksgiving at their grandparents’ homes.

I know how you feel, man

Image courtesy of theneatthingsinlife.com

My late-November birthday also meant I was typically the youngest person in my class that hadn’t skipped a grade. Not a big deal, except when those ages of 16 and 21 rolled around. Yes, by the time I was of legal drinking age, I was almost halfway through my last year at UVa.  I’d also been drinking for about three years – don’t tell my parents.

And so it was fortunate that my actual 21st birthday fell on one of the best days it could – the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Everyone was back in town from Thanksgiving break and ready to celebrate my foray into legitimacy.  But, alas, I had four classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays that semester, so I decided to do the responsible thing and delay the drink-fest until Tuesday, the 28th.

Tuesday. This was my first (well, my only) mistake. Some context/background is required.

Every Tuesday, from late 1992 through late 1993/early 1994, this little start-up band from Charlottesville called the “Dave Matthews Band” gigged at this crappy club called Trax that was, fittingly, just barely in the wrong part of town. “Awesome, Lucy!  So you got to hear Dave before they made it big?”  Well … no.  Because I was never cool enough to go, I hung with the wrong friends, I needed a fake ID, or I spent most of 1993 obsessing over Duran Duran’s comeback, making up dances to ‘Jeremy,’ and doctoring various flavors of Lipton Noodles & Sauce.  I did hear them play the UVa amphitheater in the fall of 1994, but this was post-‘Ants Marching’ and ‘What Would You Say’ and they were already on their way into the jam-band hall of ‘fame.’

I knew them when ... okay, not really at all

Anyway. Jumping back ahead (back?) to November 28, 1995.  Another local musician, Tim Reynolds, was set to be playing Trax that particular night. A friend and frequent duo partner of Dave, Reynolds attracted a similar following. This particular night, the buzz all around grounds (that’s ‘campus’ for the rest of you), was that Dave would be showing up for a ‘surprise’ guest appearance. My friends instantly boarded this train.  “Wouldn’t it be AMAZING if Dave showed up on your birthday?”  Ummm, sure? I thought, never a huge fan of Dave and certainly not a fan of Trax.

You can see where this story is going.

Even less a fan of confrontation, I agreed to celebrate my 21st in style at Trax, with its cement floor, haze of Camel-Straight smoke, and limited alcohol selection. Non-existent were the fun and flirty shots to which I felt entitled (Cement Mixers! Red-Headed Sluts! Alabama Slammers! Purple Hooters!  No, no, no, NO!).  Instead, I downed three bottles of Rolling Rock and called it a night.  Dave?  Never showed up.  But you already knew that.

Dave Matthews Band, Trax

They barely had working cameras in 1993

On the plus side, I felt pretty darn good the next day after just 36 ounces of lager-style beer. Thank you, glass-lined tanks of Old Latrobe.

My favorite nostalgic beer

Nearly 10 years later, I would again be comically slighted by Dave and his band.  But that’s a story for another day.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

What’s Your Major? (In Which Our Young Heroine Wields a Dry-Erase Marker)

Image Courtesy of tshirtgroove.com

Today on the particular Howard Stern show to which I was listening (from a few months ago), the staffers were discussing the value of an English degree. The old theory – if you know how to write, you can go work in any number of industries. Believe it or not from the stuff that’s written here, companies have been actually paying me to write for the last decade and a half.

I’ve worked almost exclusively in the financial-service world – stocks, mutual funds, economic madness – despite having no formal training on any of it. My first boss back in1997 often said, “It’s easier to teach a good writer about the financial business than to teach a financial professional to write.” As someone who has proofread and edited the writings of financial professionals as a freelance gig, I can believe this statement 100%.

And yet, all this (at least the English majoring part) was almost a happy accident. I entered college wanting to be a broadcast journalist, which in retrospect is strange because I hate extemporaneously speaking and sort of dislike my cadence. The university I’d chosen didn’t have a communications major, per se, so I signed up for some English, history, and sociology courses. To feed my yen for broadcasting, I got settled in at the university radio station.

Side note: this station played Top-40 music. I managed to find the only “college” station that didn’t seek out up-and-coming indie/alternative acts. My junior year (or, as they said at UVa, my “third year”), the station switched to a classic rock format, which was even more off the mark – at least Top 40 had been playing early(ish) Green Day and late Nirvana.

I contemplated doing the undergrad-business/commerce school thing but a couple of economic courses proved that wouldn’t be a good fit for my right brain. My Dad has his PhD in English and my uncle and grandmother studied the field as well, so I did feel an unavoidable genetic pull toward the land of Chaucer, Faulkner, and Joyce. Ohhh, my.

But the decision was effectively made for me one drunken fall night. I was 19, a college sophomore (“second year”) living in off-campus but University-run housing. I also had a bit of a crush on my Graduate Resident Advisor who oversaw about six buildings and 120 students. Ergo, not a close relationship like a typical RA can be. He had chin-length floppy hair, a chain-smoking habit, and a girlfriend, but I was still pretty schoolgirl about him for one brief shining (and delusional) moment.  So much so that, egged on by my friends one night, I left a desperate 5:00 am message asking him to swing by – I needed his assistance! (Exclamation point!)

In the sober light of day, I realized I needed a reason for this request. I remembered he was, in fact, getting his Masters’ in English and I used that as my excuse for soliciting his assistance. “I’m thinking of being an English major,” I said (and it wasn’t exactly a lie).  “Any pointers?”  He was nice enough to take an hour from his smoking habit and his girlfriend to tell me the pros and the cons.

Fearing he’d be wise to me if I ever selected a different major (as though he’d ever know, anyway), I committed to 2-1/2 years of reading and writing. I wasn’t good at some things (holding my own in discussion sections about Shakespeare’s histories – again with the extemporaneous speaking) but I did okay at others (analysis of Peter Shaffer’s f*cked-up universe).

15 years after college graduation, the chance to occasionally write on the job is what makes me happiest. I’ve so far made an okay living at translating the difficult or mundane into accessible language for the masses. It’s not sexy, but I’m not bad at it. So perhaps the most important thing I’ve ever written was that note on GA Jason’s dry-erase whiteboard so many years ago. Who says nothing good can happen at 5:00 am after 12 Milwaukee’s Best Lights?