It’s cold and rainy today. Apparently in Allentown PA, where I grew up and where my parents still reside, they had an hour’s worth of snowflakes. Snow in October. What a world. Cold October fall, the outside of a VFW hall
We didn’t have VFW halls in Allentown. Or if we did, they weren’t places people held shows. There weren’t places that people held shows at all, really. We had one coffeehouse that did an open mic night for less than a year, and even that was a revelation – the idea that kids, not rock stars, could go and play music in front of people, outside of something like the school orchestra, was kind of a totally foreign idea even in the mid-90s. It was just a couple regulars really, my brother being one of them, doing covers on acoustic guitars, but it was like nothing else we’d ever seen.
I was aware that there were local bands in local scenes who played local shows. I had passing familiarity with some of the punk and hardcore bands who were bubbling under at the time, because I was as crazy about music then as I am now, but it was always the kind of thing that (at least to my mind) happened in far away, cooler places. (That the music didn’t do much for me didn’t help things). In my mind, supporting “local music” meant going to see my heroes Live when they came to the nearby Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, and mail ordering discs from bands in other parts of the state like Fuel and The Polins and Cherry Twister. I worshipped Live in part because the idea that a band from my STATE could wind up on MTV and the radio seemed like such a longshot. Never mind that I had never been to York, that it could have been Nebraska or Sri Lanka for all the attachment I felt to the place. They were from PA! Bands from places like York and Harrisburg, places two hours away that I’d hardly been to, were my approximation of what “local” meant. The thought that someone could be so local that they’d actually play a show within driving distance, or even be from MY town, never even entered my mind. I don’t think I ever even entertained the thought.
I bought a bass, took a couple lessons, and practiced on occasion. I’d like to think that, had circumstances been different, i might have formed a band with friends. But I didn’t have any friends that played instruments that weren’t for orchestra or marching band. Aside from my brother, I don’t think I even knew anyone that owned a guitar.
It’s so strange looking back. 50 or 60 miles northeast in New Jersey, the New Brunswick basement scene was birthing Lifetime and Thursday and later My Chemical Romance. Just a touch north of there in Long Island, Brand New and Taking Back Sunday were coming together. At a similar distance south there was an active local scene in Delaware, and Jade Tree records. But in Allentown, there was nothing like it at all. There were a handful of local bands, like The Original Sins and the Psyclone Rangers, folks you might see at Musikfest, who were otherwise playing maybe the one bar that hosted local bands in Allentown, but it’s not something I’d ever have even considered going to. Even if I somehow got in, its not like there were going to be other kids there.
It wasn’t till I got to college that i discovered people actually making music, starting going to shows on a regular basis, club shows not house shows, but at least something different from the occasional arena show. At that point I was over any aspirations of playing in a band, I was more interested in listening to and seeing and writing about music than making my own. But I’ve always wondered what if… said I minded distance but distance owned us from the start its every song every song
In the fall of 2002, I picked up and moved from Boston to San Diego. I pretty much did it on a whim. I was feeling bogged down in Boston, stuck in a rut, things had become too routine and I just wasn’t enjoying it. I knew I wanted to go back to school, and I knew I didn’t want to do it for a couple more years. So I figured if there was ever a time to make a change, to set out on a little adventure and try something new, that was the time. San Diego was as far as I could go and still be in the continental US. I had been there once, on a family vacation to California as a child, but I hardly remembered it. All I knew was that the weather was supposed to be nice, and that it was light years from where I was. I didn’t have a job lined up, didn’t really have a plan, and didn’t know anyone who lived there. Which, to my mind, just made it that much more intriguing.
Perhaps I should have seen it coming, but I had a rough time settling in. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to meet people, how long the days would be with no job to fill them, how frustrating it would get looking for a job, how boring it could get without much money to spend. Don’t get me wrong, it was great for a while, but eventually it all started to wear thin. I really started to miss being back East. It wasn’t that I realized how good I had it there. It was more that I just sort of became better able to appreciate the comforts of having a niche, however constricting it may have been.
I spent a lot of hours online, many of them shooting the shit on MakeOutClub, and it was someone there who turned me on to this Get Up Kids b-side. It fit my mood perfectly – the sense of separation, the loneliness of distance, missing the first chill of fall in the midst of endless summer. I remember a mix CD I put it on. I wish I still had that CD. I wish I remembered everything that was on it, and in what order. I know it had Alkaline Trio’s “Queen Of Pain”, and The Dismemberment Plan’s “The First Anniversary Of Your Last Phone Call”, and Saves The Day’s “At Your Funeral”, and Dntel’s “The Dream Of Evan And Chan”, and MC Paul Barman’s “Cock Mobster”. I wish I could remember the rest. I used to listen to it on my discman as I walked around the Gaslight district and downtown SD, and later when I was walking to and from work. So many songs I will forever associate with that time, that will always take me back to those days when I hear them. There’s dividing lines between East and standard time promise me you’ll still be mine