This edition marks a homecoming of sorts — not that I was ever invited to homecoming (sob and boo-hoo). I interviewed a guy named Trent Johnson (Albany Project mastermind), who, like me, survived high school in the overachieving ’80s, stuck in this hapless burg where visible acts of creative expression were often met with locker shoves and growls of “Fuckin’ faggot.”
Like Trent, I kept my pursuits mostly to myself, regularly posing as an amiable public dope who secretly went home in the afternoons to vanish in books and fill notepads with observations I deemed important enough to publish someday. On campus, I happily played the fool. At home, I turned angsty and super-serious, wondering in reams of poetry if I would graduate without knowing the sweetness of a kiss. And listening to Lenny Kravitz’s “Let Love Rule” over and over again, pretending the saxophone solo was a sudden improvisation I unleashed during an El Comedor shift.
Hard times in this crazy town. I don’t know about now, but in our time, Albany never exactly encouraged musicians, writers, or artists to strut their stuff. We had to find quiet solidarity with the right circles. I was lucky enough to discover a small tribe of cartoonists and scribes to call my friends. We didn’t attend the right parties — we swilled Coke and pizza over hours of bad films — and the sweetness of the fairer sex depended on our willingness to divulge test answers. I wouldn’t say I was a dork, entirely, but I was close enough, a fuckfaced twerp in 501s. I classify my younger self as we all do in retrospect: as awkward, uncomfortable buttheads desperate for acceptance. In my case, however, it was the truth. Yours, too, I assume. (Mine may be truer.)
Trent and I attended West Albany together. We swam the same halls, haunted the same air. I thought he and his friend (we’ll change his name to un-Darin) were the coolest motherfuckers alive. Great hair, great attitudes, impeccable apparel, gifted, smart, funny, swanky, handsome bosses of all bosses. They looked like they’d entered the building straight from a Depeche Mode or Echo & the Bunnymen sleeve. Dudes radiated style. I wanted to hate their guts. I envied them instead. They were too nice to despise.
I’ve lived with this perception for 30 years. So to hear Trent describe himself as the complete opposite was a little jarring. Did that mean my own self-perception was off kilter? Have I secretly been together all this time? Didn’t feel like it then. No way. Yet I’ve few complaints about my adolescence. I think I knew the right people for that time and place. I may envision that kid as a jackass in repose, but he turned out to be pretty astute. We walked the correct path together. He should have written this Editor’s Note earlier instead of procrastinating to Black Sabbath, but I forgive him.
So if you’re a high school loser in this shit-godless city, don’t despair. It won’t always be this way. You’ll fall in love. Somehow, some way, someone will fall in love with you. Your passions will pay off. The others will catch up. Your greatness will find reward. Your uncertainty’s but a burp on this beautiful adventure. If you’re weird, be weird. If the others can’t cope, fuck ’em. In time they’ll all wish they were half as weird as you.
That’s life’s great secret: Weird makes the long ride bearable. So write a song. Write a book. Rule the universe. Just be you in your finest paints.
Don’t let go: You’ve got the music in you.
One dance left,