Wednesday, December 10, 2008

30 - How I Got Here

I turned 30 this year...and I can't believe that's actually true. Thirty! Fuck, it still sounds intense spelled out. I can't say it's passed by quickly, because it feels like I've been alive a long time. All the requisite good times, bad times, strange times and the few even-keeled times add up. Over the next few days, I'll write about the times that stand out and the music that brings them rushing back. Some of them are just moments, flickers in my mind that last only a second(but bring a big smile). Others leave me shaking me head, wondering what I was thinking. Some are obvious. Others are the kind of quirky, funny little moments that appear inexplicably vivid against otherwise hazy times. Some of them weigh on me(and I've tried to shake them off, rattling them like Marley's chains), while others remind me why it's great to be alive. For better or for worse, this is how I've spent the last three decades.


1978, 0 years old

"The Pilgrim - Chapter 33" Kris Kristofferson

I was alive for 25 days in 1978. Christmas shopping for a three-week old must have been incredibly easy; just buy more baby stuff. Later in life, I would appreciate being born just far enough from Christmas to not get screwed over for birthday presents..

My parents named me after Kris Kristofferson(I suspect weed was involved in this decision, since neither are huge fans), and their liberal swapping of "K" for "Ch" left a profound mark on how I see myself. You see, there are plenty of Christophers, and there are some people named Kris(most of them have vaginas), but I have yet to meet another Kristopher, in person. Thanks to Google, I at least know they exist; in fact I know there is another Kris Teehan - I've seen her MySpace page.

My shortened-name's neutral-sex status has led to some amusing moments: chatting online, I was called a cunt. Before a meeting, a co-worker I'd never met saw my name on the attendee list. Leaning over he whispered in a conspirator's tone, "...hey, what do you think this new Kris chick looks like?"

"Blond, blue eyes," I replied.

People often, after meeting me, revert to the boring "Ch" spelling. This is unaccpetable. To help people remember me, I say "Kris, Kris with a K." In my imagination I speak this with the same cadence as Sean Connery or Daniel Craig saying "The name's Bond...James Bond."

I like my name. It's unique, but recognizable. It almost fits in - kind of like me. All my life, I never fit in anywhere. I realize everyone, everywhere says this but I don't mean I was a loner(though I often was) or an outcast(only by choice). I fit in with the nerds, even though my grades weren't that great, I didn't read Tolkien, couldn't accurately answer Star Trek trivia questions and to this day never really enjoyed math. I fit in with the metal kids, but they were one year older and I was too chicken to drink, do drugs, or fuck(okay the fucking part was not voluntary). Not nerdy enough for the nerds, too nerdy for everyone else. In college I was the Journalism major who also did Computer Science. I explained the web to the writers, and wrote the copy for my CS classes' websites. Even at my current job, I know just enough to make shallow conversation, hoping I won't be dragged over to the deep end. I can only wade so long and still be respected.

Maybe its the strange(ly spelled) first name that causes so many people(especially teachers) to call me exclusively by my last name. From grade school to my current office, I've always had at least one person in my life who speaks my name like they're calling me off the bench. It's strangely flattering and a little annoying, especially since I can't imagine calling anyone exclusively by their last name. I tried it out once, and immediately stopped because I sounded like a prick.

Anyway, I never really listened to my namesake until a couple years ago, which is a shame - besides writing "Me And Bobbi McGee" and some country standards made famous by other singers, Kristofferson made some great albums, my favorite being The Silver Tongued Devil And I. It's a great country record, full of outcasts, love and regret. A line from "The Pilgrim - Chapter 33" stuck in my mind:

Hes a walkin contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
Takin evry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

The first time I heard this line I reflected on the last ten or so years, and thought: well that pretty much covers it. I've made a lot of mistakes, done things that made no sense, and made such a mess of my life at times that it's all become muddled in my own personal mythology. Even I can't sort out the truth from the exaggerations anymore. I'm no Dennis Hopper or Johnny Cash, but it wasn't all cookies and milk either. In the end, though, it's come out OK; I made it home(this requires stretching the meaning of the song a bit -- just a bit -- but hell, interpretation is for the consumers, not the artists, right?).

It all had to start somewhere, with something, and I started off named after that old guy from the Blade movies.