Friday, 21 February 2014

fun times in babylon

Father John Misty - "Fun Times in Babylon"

The Father John Misty album has been on heavy rotation round my way since I bought for my brother a couple of Christmases ago - what can I say, it's the gift that keeps on giving.

Anyway, a thought popped into my head this morning - "Whatever happened to Chris?" 

A little context may be required.

At my school, I wasn't one of the cool kids and I wasn't one of the weirdos. I was more in the middle with friends on both sides - probably the safest way to be.

I was into odd music played by bands with strange names and I liked films and enjoyed reading. Plus I was actually in a band at the time - I played my first gig at a pub in Nottingham (The News House - it looks much nicer nowadays) when I was 14.

Growing up in a staunchly working class post-industrial town, that kind of thing really doesn't impress anybody (it was all about your precocious bum-fluff moustache and your provisional driving licence at my school).

Eventually of course, my ship came in when I got to college. It was here that I basically invented the persona which I carry to this day - The Me That Makes Me Me, as it were.

Basically, this was the archetypal Revenge Of The Nerd. And now I was cool I was going to be snarky and clever and cutting and endlessly sarcastic. Sounds awful but it was actually great fun. Plus I even kissed a girl during this period.

I ended up doing three years at college, eventually getting five A-levels - at the time, no-one tells you just how useless these bits of paper will be in the real world.

Anyway on one of my final year courses I met Chris. He seemed really young (I guess he was) and he was into laughably shit music. At the time I was renowned for my compilation tapes which I used to slave over endlessly - so for some reason I took Chris under my wing (not at all patronising, eh?) in order to show him that THAT was shit but THIS was the good stuff.

(If it's any consolation, I'm embarrassed to write all this down)

We hung out a lot - he even persuaded me to see Pavement's first-ever UK gig, which for some unknown reason was in Derby in 1992. So I wasn't all that cool after all, was I?

Anyway we drifted apart as people do. And in May of 2012, Chris sent me an email out of the blue - he'd been chatting to someone about obscure bands (Beat Happening, Codeine, Galaxie 500) and as my tapes had introduced him to them, I'd popped into his mind so he wanted to reach out. He was living in London but was frequently back in 'the hood' (as we never call it) if I wanted to hook up.

I responded:
what a blast from the past!

great to hear from you - i tried to listen to some Codeine when they announced the reunion dates, jesus they're depressing - it's no wonder i had no luck with the ladies! i was just a big gob with strong opinions about music, not changed much since then.

anyway, you dragged me along to see Pavement's first ever UK gig at the Wherehouse - i think that makes us quits.

life is good, the only dark cloud has been my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis about 7yrs ago - doing ok on the whole with it but it's always there - getting old sucks yeah?
... followed by some innocuous guff about being married and the family. I've just read the whole email through and it's fairly light and frothy (apart from the MS bomb, obviously). I think the day I sent the message was one of the first days I was back at work following Relapse 2012, so my health was very much in my mind.

So I clicked send and expected him to get back in touch.

And then nothing.

I'm friends with his younger brother on Facebook (he worked in a cool record shop in town) and last year we had an exchange about some gigs we were going to see*, so I nudged him about his brother - still nothing.

I don't really know why he popped into my head this morning - we weren't that close so it's not as if I'm devastated by his lack of contact. And my MS was quite the turd to drop in our conversational punchbowl.

But it got me thinking about the ways in which different friends have reacted to my illness - and this is not going to turn into one of those YOU DROPPED ME WHEN YOU FOUND OUT ABOUT MY CHRONIC ILLNESS SO NOW I HATE YOU AND I'M BETTER OFF WITHOUT YOU-type posts.

I'm really lucky - the worst that happens is one of my friends pointedly asks me "[pause] so... how are you doing?". It's not that unusual, but he asks it in the middle of a conversation, even after asking how I am at the start, so I know what he's really asking about. Yeah, I know - sucks for me.

At best, when I'm deep in relapse another friend will make a point of checking in almost every day, bringing books / DVD boxsets / music or just dropping by to shoot the shit - all are greatly appreciated.

My point is, I've been incredibly lucky. And it can't be easy for the friends who I've shared time with to adjust to the changes in me - however small I think they might be, I am now fundamentally a different person because of them.

Yes, some people have drifted, but I read something by Oliver Burkeman a while back which said that we shouldn't feel bad about friendships tailing off. Maybe they have a shelf-life - it's ok for that section of your life but not this one. And that's totally natural.

If you're reading this Chris, I hope you're doing ok.


(* Me - Shellac. Him - the reformed Pixies, whose original line-up I saw in Nottingham in 1989. See? I'm still a massive nob about music! I'm lucky to have ANY friends!)


swisslet said...

I got the taken-to-one-side "how are you?" question a lot over christmas. I choose to see it as a sign of my friends caring but not really knowing how to show it otherwise. One friend didn't even do that, but approached the subject with my wife, ending up by whining that what was he supposed to do if I died young and he could have done something.... which given that he was talking to MY WIFE, was quite something. Still, they care. In their own way and as best as they know how, they care.

stevedomino said...

cack-handed caring still has to be better than them not giving a stuff either way?

i know a few people like your friend who are similarly "but what about ME??!" - let's all hug a solipsist today!

i guess all we can do in those situations is to advocate as best we can for our condition - drop some knowledge, as the kids say.

a bit difficult to do at a Christmas party, admittedly... or in the middle of charades...