Ever notice how certain days or dates in your life stand out above others? Like, how you can have really specific memories about a certain moment or day, but if you were asked to recall anything about the day before or after you’d draw a total blank?
The evening of August 29, 1992 was a moment like that because it was the last time my High School friends and I were together.
Growing up I was always one of those people content to just do my own thing, preferably alone. Read, listen to music, even go to the movies by myself. I wasn’t a “loner” – I had friends and did things with them but I generally was fine with being by myself, even to the point where I’d pass up an invite to a party or other social gathering just to stay in. This is a personality quirk that’s been with me my entire life (and much to my more social wife’s chagrin). Largely because we moved around so much I was all too used to starting a new school, making friends, and having to say goodbye to them when we moved again, I started a new school and the process repeated itself. I generally did make friends, but there was always that first couple of months when I was more often than not forced to come up with my own fun. And even after making friends there was those occasions where I was more content to be by myself.
Yet it was during my senior year of HS that I discovered I actually had a sizeable group of friends – a core group of guys and girls who I hung around with. Sometimes as a group, sometimes one on one. It fluctuated in size and number – from 3 or 4 of us to upwards of 20 — but when you boiled it down there were 10 of us and on this particular evening that 10 were were doing our best to make that night feel like it was any other Saturday night – like we were trying to brush off the importance of the moment. But it wasn’t like any other night; at best there would be no other night like it for some time. At worst it would be the last hurrah, the “American Graffitti” moment that becomes legend and the basis for countless coming of age movies.
It was a party, and like any party it had its arc. It began slow at first as people began to arrive, then it hit that sweet spot where everyone’s there, there’s drinking, talking, laughter. Then it creats, you glance at the clock and realize you have maybe an hour before you have to motor. Then people start to leave,m and evenrtually theres just a few stragglers left, heroically seeing how long they can stretch things before they realize the party is in facto over.
So that was one of those parties with one notable exception; after this one ended it really was going to be over. It was fun but a little sad too. We knew this would be the last time (for a while at least) we’d all be together, but probably didn’t know it was in fact the last time we’d all be in the same room.
I was actually the first to leave the party, not by choice mind you – I had to be up early the next day to drive to Toronto to get settled into my dorm. My friend Nathalie was going to the same school and the same rez as I was so there’d be at least one friendly-ish face at my school (“friendly-ish” being a private joke between Nat and me). Moira and Elliott would be at a different school in the same city, and Chuck would be at one of the colleges nearby. Janet was also going to be in the same city though her campus was much further away from the rest of ours, and we drifted apart pretty quickly. Same with Jill, who went to school in a different city, as did Anthony; I think I saw them all that Thanksgiving weekend and maybe once the following summer, but after that I never saw them again.
But that core group – Elliott, Moira, Nathalie, and myself — we convinced ourselves college would be like High School only bigger. We’d still see each other regularly, and to be true the first year, more or less, we did see each other relatively frequently. We’d gather at a bar, or a restaurant, at one or the other’s residence and strike out from there for adventures. We’d hit our favorite spots, the Dance Cave at Lee’s Palace being something of a regular hangout.
But what we didn’t realize was we were already in the midst of growing apart. Other people started joining us – friends of our friends who were perfectly nice people but felt a bit like interlopers ot the rest of us. School also took a big chunk out of or time and the fact we were making friends with people in our programs studying the same things we were also drove a wedge.
I think for me the big wedge moment came in November of that year when I skipped going back to my town for my High School commencement (cap and gown, get your diploma and yearbook) because I had tickets to Mudhoney and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. So while everybody I went to school with –friends and acquaintances – were returning, I was in a mosh pit with some people from university I barely knew, and some I met just that night. I had already moved on by that point, and by the same time the following year had settled into my new life, the old one a memory.
I’ve been thinking about August 29, 1992 a lot lately but not for the usual nostalgic “God was it really so long ago” reasons, but because I’ve finally begun scripting the next Mixtape arc which in many ways is about that last night when the gang was all together. If the first volume in the Mixtape saga has been about bringing Jim, Terry, Siobhan, Lorelei, and Noel together, this next one is about pulling them apart, preparing them to say goodbye to their town, school, each other – their world. There’s a teaser for this story in Mixtape #5 if you know where to look
It’s easier to stay in touch with people now, with Facebook and the ubiquity of social media. An 18 year-old can go off to college and still “see” their hometown friends every day if they’re so inclined. We’ve lost the means really to completely lose touch with people. That’s supposedly a good thing though I think much of what makes friendships special is that so many of them are fleeting, lasting mere months or years, and then one day you wake up and realize it’s been even longer since you last saw them. They say familiarity breeds contempt, but in this digital age the familiarity of seeing someone’s picture every day and reading their daily update is a poor substitute for actual friendship. You’re getting the highlights package as opposed to the real deal.
Friendships rarely end because of an argument or a fight (though some of mine have). They more often end because we spend our lives moving in different directions and intersect with the lives of others for only a brief time when our paths cross. We may take the same road for a little while but eventually one of us takes our exit leaving the other to continue on their path.
So for Jim and Terry, Siobhan and Noel and Lorelei Vol. 2 “Daydream Nation” will be the end of that safe environment of being around each other. They’re going off into the worlds to meet new people and experience different things, feeling the pull of their old life and those old friendships lose its strength. Staying in touch and staying together will be the challenge in Volume 3, which right now has the working title of “Come As You Are” coinciding with the rise of Nirvana and Grunge nation.
There’s a lyric in the final track on Arcade Fire’s Reflektor album. Titled “Supersymmetry”, the song opens with the following lyric;
I know you’re living in my mind; it’s not the same as being alive.
The context in “Supersymmetry” is death but it might as well be memory. Those people and those moments are alive in my mind but only in my mind. And no, it’s not the same. It never will be the same. That’s what makes those moments and memories magic and special; because they never come around again. And as I delve back into Mixtape scripting it’s shocking to me to see how many of those memories only needed words on paper to come back to life.
NOTE: Mixtape #5 is available on iBooks and Indy Planet, as are the other issues in the first Mixtape arc. I also have copies available through this website and I’ll even sign them for you if you like. Just let me know through the normal channels.