Monday, March 31, 2008

Getting Over It, Part One

Some people never got over Vietnam, or the night their band opened for Nirvana. I'm still not over my first marriage(or ripping off Nick Hornby). In this series, I'll detail my attempts to get over a part of my life that lasted less than three years, but seemingly encompassed all of my soon to be over twenties. For some reason, moving to New York was one of these attempts.

Buying Damien Rice's Debut Album O

I've always had a peculiar relationship with Damien Rice. I usually feel a kinship with any Irish artist (I'm Irish-American - this largely involves treating my drinking like some kind of cultural imperative), but I have actively avoided Rice for the past three years. The peculiar thing, though, is that for those same three years I have absolutely adored two of the songs from his album O, despite never owning the record, hearing the songs in their entirety, or even knowing their names. This is because O was the album my ex-wife listened to repeatedly the week before she told me she wanted a divorce.

She loved singer-songwriters, particularly extremely fuckable ones with foreign accents. Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley, Duncan Shiek, David Gray, Van Morrison and John Lennon all found places on her CD rack. My memory wants to place Ryan Adams there, too -- right next to my copy of Kind Of Blue that she stole and never gave back -- to round out the American presence, but I'm pretty sure she didn't have anything by him(though I'm sure she loved the Elizabethtown soundtrack).

Rice was the soundtrack to my last memories of my ex-wife without the "ex" part, though I didn't know it at the time. That week I was just happy for her. She seemed to be coming out of a funk. She had long complained that she used to consume new music; that she sought it, loved it, lived it and that something had stifled that part of her. So this someone new in her life, this Damien Rice singing hauntingly beautiful songs seemed like a good thing. A corner had been turned.

Like most hurts, it's a fresh memory: I see her, hair up(weave thankfully gone), lips painted, eyes big and brown, typing away on my laptop while singing along. Our apartment would have been, finally, respectably furnished at this point. A sectional, a black coffee table, and the computer desk she sits at. The walls are the warm colors she had painted them one night while I was visiting my brother in the hospital. It's only a one bedroom in Foggy Bottom, but it's our home. Her voice, though beautiful, is just a few notes away from being a great singing voice. She sounds happy, but in a sad way. Hell, that's what the song sounds like - mournful, but hopeful.

She sings the chorus, over and over:

"I can't take my eyes off of you
I can't take my eyes off you"

Hopefully, foolishly, I imagine she thinks of me when she sings this. Sadly, I was probably right. Now that -- three years later -- I own the album, I know the song is called "The Blower's Daughter". The lyrics continue:

"I can't take my mind off you
I can't take my mind...
My mind...
'Til I find somebody new "

Damien whispers that last part. I'll bet she did, too.

I'm not sure why I finally decided to buy O; I guess avoiding Damien(my ex-wife) had become too tiresome. I almost missed out on a wonderful collection of covers from Sounds Eclectic because Rice had covered Radiohead's "Creep". And one day, there was O staring at me from the rack. An eight-dollar "classic" buy at the Virgin Mega-Store. It seemed like a step; a tiny one, but a step nonetheless: confront your demons by buying and endlessly listening to the album and artist that represents the most painful part of your life. OK, somethings don't sound like such a hot idea once you write them down.

O is a good album. At least, the first half is. I can never get past "Old Chests", the fifth track. You see, track three is "Blower's Daughter", and track four is "Cannonball", the other song she sang repeatedly. Past that, the album fails to hold any significance to me. I'm sure there are some good songs there, but none of them connect me to that very personal moment, which was the hole point of buying the album in the first place.

"Cannonball", now that I have the benefit of a close examination, is rich with foreshadowing:

"there’s still a little bit of your taste in my mouth
there’s still a little bit of you laced with my doubt
it’s still a little hard to say what's going on"

and the one part I remember her singing:

"love taught me to lie"

Damien, you don't know the fucking half of it.

So why do I love these songs so much? I only knew small parts of both(for a while I thought they were just different parts of the same song). Yet in memory, they both seemed like perfect, beautiful songs. Songs that I would never listen to again, and for good reason: it hurt too much. Rice, unwittingly, captured the last happy memory I had of her, of us. All in songs that having nothing to do with love as a happy concept. "Can't take my eyes off of you" was all I could was how we used to feel about each other.

I'm at the point now where O, "The Blower's Daughter", and "Cannonball" still hold special meaning, but I can enjoy them without automatically thinking about "happier" times in a small apartment in DC. So I guess that's some sort of progress, right?

In a bizarre twist, for the past three years I have also refused to watch the movie Closer, because we watched that movie the Saturday before she told me she was leaving. Since then, I've hated that movie. It's a bunch of people cheating and leaving each other. I didn't know -- or blocked out the fact -- that the Closer soundtrack contains both "The Blower's Daughter" and "Cannonball". Both of these pieces of media I have avoided, one because it reminded me of being happy, and the other because it reminded me of being hurt. Why? Why not hate both; why does Damien get a free pass, while the movie that uses his songs to soundtrack infidelity, broken hearts, and the general fucked-up nature of love end up reviled?

For that matter, why do I not hate her favorite band, The Strokes? She adored them, hung out with Julian Casablancas when she lived in New York during her modeling days. Why then, when I see him in a video or listen to Room On Fire do I still think "hey, cool dude" instead of "hey, fuck you poser who probably banged my ex-wife"?

Yet MySpace, who made her the "feature" profile that week, I can't stand. I almost bought the infamous "MySpace Ruined My Life" t-shirt. Seriously, the sudden surge in popularity seemed to play a major part in her decision to pack her bags. At least to me it did, and I haven't been on the site since then.

Obviously, I have issues. This series should have many parts.