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I got to Seattle waaaaaaaay after grunge. I even got to Seattle waaaay after Singles. By the time I moved here it was right after the swing dance ska thing and we were moving, slowly but inexorably, into this thing that’s been going on for a while where the singer sing about how he just heard the news today with arms wide open or that it’s been a while since they weren’t addicted or whatever. Thankfully for me I found KEXP, which, even if it’s connected with the hateful and hysterically ugly Experience Music Project, is some darn fine musical stylings. I feel all cool when I listen to KEXP. They were having their pledge drive a couple of months ago (ad-free, don’t you know) and I finally gave in and called them up to send them ten bucks or something. A boy with a Scottish accent whose name was Nigel answered. Nigel. With a Scottish accent. As My Friend Craig says, you pretty much just tell girls to take numbers and get in line, if you have a Scottish accent and your name is Nigel.
Nigel (in cool Scottish accent which I, not being Irving Welsh, cannot replicate on paper. Or in HTML. Or whatever) Gooooood afternoon, this is Nigel thanks for calling KEXP. Can I take your pledge?
Chiara Ooooh! Well! My goodness! You certainly may!
Nigel Okay, let me take your name and address and I’ll send you a pledge card. How much will you be pledging today?
Chiara Ten dollars.
Inside Chiara’s Head: And my heart and soul to you, forevermore, Nigel.
Nigel I see. Ten dollars. May I have your name, address, and phone number, then?
Chiara YES YOU MAY.
Inside Chiara’s Head He wants my number! He’s going to call me!
Nigel has not as yet called me, but he did send me a KEXP member card, which I have sadly lost in the wilderness of my living room somehow. It would have got me ten percent off at a bunch of cool record stores around town that I never go into because I am intimidated by record store salespeople very much. I am really a big music dork, and I’m the absolute worst kind of music dork because I’m not even really aware of how big a dork I am. I don’t mean I’m a big music dork in the cool way, either, like I am out at the Tractor or the Croc or something every weekend and I spend all my money on vinyl and I actually know the bands they play on the aforementioned KEXP. Quite, sadly, the opposite. It’s like I buy a couple of CDs a year and then play the hell out of them and think I’m all cool and feel like they have all this meaning for me. There’s no way to predict what I’m going to love. BloodSugarSexMagik. This one Pixies song from Moxie’s wedding CD mix. The O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. The soundtrack to Empire Records. The getting buck naked on the bathroom floor song by Shaggy. “Guantanamera” by Celia Cruz. The Sweater Song. The lyrics to Chess. Liam Lynch. De Stijl. Real music dorks laugh out loud at me, I’m sure. I can always tell.
But whatever, if I worried about all the ways I’m a dork and all the reasons for which people might conceivably laugh at me, I’d be here all day, so I just go along in my little non-music-knowing-anything haze, ponying up for a CD or two every twelve months. I am clueless, I admit it. One incident, however, not only brings us, finally, around to the title of this entry, but also illustrates the depth of my ineptitude, music-wise.
Okay. It was early 1991. Babydoll dresses worn with biker boots abound, thanks to the late great Sassy magazine, and grunge has not quite hit Miami. When it did, about a month after this incident I’m going to relate, it proved pretty difficult, as one doesn’t really want to wear flannel in the tropics, you know? Even for fashion’s sake. I was sixteen or so and a junior in high school, hanging out, at that point in my life, with My Friend Amy pretty much non-stop. She lived down the street from me and I slept over at her house every weekend but she went to another school. Pretty soon I was with her friends every weekend and never had to be with Snooty Prep School kids except when actually at school. This pattern would repeat itself in college when I would become friends with My Friend Anna and would spend all my time with the geeks at the engineering school across the street from my hippie school…hat’s a different story for a different time though. Right now, it’s 1991 and I am at a Battle of the Bands thing with Amy. Ho hum, Battle of the Earnest High School bands. La la la. Being, at that time, more enamored with the soundtracks to Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera, as required by law for sixteen year old girls, than with actual music that one might hear on the radio, I didn’t know most of the songs that the bands were playing and but I still thought it was really cool when one of these bands started playing this catchy song all about how when the lights are out, it’s less dangerous, and here we are now, entertain us. Good song, right? Kind of rebellious and growly. The lead guitarist of this band turned out to be someone I knew from elementary school on the island. We’d sat across from each other in art class and not only could he could squish his nose all the way to one side of his face, he also knew all the words to “Paul Revere.” I hadn’t seen him since about sixth grade but I thought he looked pretty cute after all these years…and so after the battle was won by a band which slips my memory for the time being, I went up to him while they were packing up their stuff.
Chiara Hey! I think I know you from elementary school and I like your band and I liked that song you played a lot. I mean I thought it was very good. I thought it was really good. Really really super duper good. That song. So good! Loved it!
And thus my great enduring high school crush was born (hi Andrew!). I thought he was all deep and intense and that’s why he was looking at me weird, but it strikes me now that he just thought it was odd that Smells Like Teen Spirit was a Nirvana song and that I thought he’d written it.
“Inside Chiara’s Head Wow. He has long hair and little round glasses and he writes songs and plays guitar! How deep and sensitive! Swoon!
Cut to the next day, when I was driving to school listening to the radio. Boy, that sure was a cute boy I met (again) last night! La la la. And all of a sudden…”When the light’s out, it’s less dangerous…” Huh? What? Did he suddenly get a record contract since last night? HEY! HE DIDN’T WRITE THAT SONG!
I was devastated, sort of. I didn’t let that get in the way of developing a giganto crush on this boy that lasted for several years and which prompted me, all unbidden, to go on beach walks with him and occasionally make out with him on the couch at Amy’s, as well as to drive by his house with the aforementioned Amy and honk the car horn madly multiple times a day (how else was I to express my ardor, I ask you?) Later I went so far as to write an extremely angsty play about him that was later performed at my high school. Can you believe it? The horror, you know? All because I thought he wrote a song that became really famous and had that video with the anarchist cheerleaders and that later became a Weird Al parody. If I had been a little more musically clueful, would I have liked him as much? What if he had played a Journey song?
I am, through a strange series of coincidences, back in email contact with this fellow, ten years after high school, and I think he’s forgiven me by now for driving by his house all those times. However, I don’t know whether I should believe him when he says he just wrote this great song that he’s thinking of calling “Magic Stick”…I mean, I think it’s great his song about going back to Wichita and sweating from every pore is doing so well, but come on, how dumb does he think I am? I’m not going to be fooled again. What kind of a name is “Magic Stick,” anyway? It’s no “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” I tell you.