“You said we could watch The Simpsons before bedtime.”
“I know, I’m sorry. I just found all these old pictures and I got wrapped up in them.”
“Is that you?”
“When you were in a band?”
“Yeah. This was at CBGBs. That’s a famous place where bands played. I mean, it was a famous place where bands played. It’s a shoe store now.”
“You look so…young.”
This hits me somewhere deep. It doesn’t bother me that her saying you look so young implies I look old now, because I know I do. I’m more surprised she thinks there was a time when I didn’t look old.
At the time this picture was taken, I had it in my head that the band should wear classy outfits. I wanted the band to be as close as Nation of Ulysses as possible without playing their songs, and I imagined myself its Ian Svenonius.
That’s why, in this picture, I’m wearing black suit with red shirt and thin black tie. It looks like I’m imitating Interpol, except Interpol was still a few years in the future. Considering how little my own band managed to accomplish, I’m pretty sure Interpol arrived at their aesthetic on their own. Also, I’m the only jerk who bothered to get dressed up. Everyone else in the band stuck to t-shirt and jeans.
My head is bowed. A stage light catches the side of my head, and my hair looks bright red, almost pumpkin orange. I still had some hair back then, though it was quickly fleeing. I’m looking at the neck of my bass, mostly because I wasn’t a very good bass player. But if you didn’t know that, you would think I was lost in thought.
Over my shoulder, the wall behind the stage is covered in stickers and graffiti from other people who tried to leave something behind. That was the idea. You went to CBs and you plastered your sticker or scribbled your name on top of someone else’s sticker or name. Soon, someone else would do the same to you.
All these stickers and all these scribbles are gone now, along with the wall they were attached to, and the stage underneath them. The bass I’m holding is in a corner of my bedroom, missing a tuning peg, unprotected by a gig bag, collecting dust.
I’m not young in this picture, not in anything but age. I can’t remember a time when I felt anything but old. Even as a kid, I had old man worries, old man preoccupations. I had genuine cause for some of my worries. Would we lose the house? Would Dad crash the car or do something else horrible while drunk? Where I didn’t have real worry, my mind invented worry to fill the gaps.
My mind kept doing this even as most of the real worries faded away, until I became an adult, whereupon adult-type worries grabbed the baton. Bills, schools, a child of my own. In between, I had tiny islands of Not Worry, but each were inevitably engulfed by one tidal wave or another.
This picture is a rare document of one of those islands. The kid in this picture had worries, but he wasn’t thinking of them when the shutter snapped. I took my worry and I channeled them into songs that I wrote and sang, and when I played them for people, the worry stayed away, unable to penetrate a forcefield that fell down at the edge of the blackness beyond a stage.
My daughter was right. In this picture, I’m as young as I ever was.
“Can we watch The Simpsons now?”
“Yes, it’s almost bedtime.”