D’You Get What I Feel? Yeah Yeah Yeah

There was a time, if you can believe it, when Heavy Stereo was a band people talked about as if they were the next Oasis. In some respects, it made sense — like the Brothers Gallagher, they were on Creation Records, and they were slavishly devoted to taking recognizable tropes of beloved music from the past and covering them with a sluggishness that could be considered “Britpop Indie Du Jour,” I guess — but there was no mistaking that, despite certain moments of joy (The lead guitar collapsing at 0:29 in the video above, for example, or even just the earworm of “Do you smile/When you open your eyes/In the moooooorrrrning”), there just wasn’t the tunefulness or melodic gift of Oasis present. The very thing that made Oasis stand out and transcend all of the jokes at their expense just… wasn’t there.

Heavy Stereo didn’t make it, of course; the first album flopped and there wasn’t a second. Gem Archer, the lead singer/guitarist/songwriter found a fitting second career, however, when he ended up joining Oasis in 2000, just in time for the underrated-but-still-crap Standing on the Shoulder of Giants.

He’d go on to write a bunch of material for the band in its dying days, and those songs sounded not unlike what’s above: Competent, occasionally catchy, and entirely reliant on the performances to lift them out the mire. Thankfully, Liam Gallagher and the rest of the band had far more charm than Heavy Stereo to pull that off.

Sometimes, I still get this song stuck in my head. I don’t know what I did to deserve it.

Headshrinker

I had a moment in my last therapy session that, in retrospect, probably seemed particularly awkward to my therapist. I was, as is traditional, talking as much to myself as to her, and in doing so, realized that the thing I was talking about that had happened a few days earlier was, in fact, connected to my emotional state at that very moment, as was something else that I’d assumed was unconnected but had been talking about earlier in the session. It was the emotional equivalent of someone explaining how the killer did it at the end of a murder mystery, or seeing the instruction booklet for some complicated device; that same feeling of, “Oh, that’s how it works!”

I realized that, and laughed, and said something along the lines of,”Now I get it! Finally, I got an actual answer about something from therapy!”

It was a joke, of course, and I’m pretty sure my therapist understood that, but now, thinking back, I have this overwhelming guilt that, maybe she didn’t and maybe I accidentally offended her and her entire profession.

The truth is, I was suspicious of therapy for years for the same reason that my sisters are suspicious of therapy; it just wasn’t done in my family, or, for that matter, anyone in the culture we grew up in at all. It was saved for people who had suffered breakdowns or were far more screwed up than we were allowed to think we were. Even when I first went into therapy, I did so with a deep suspicion that it could ever be of any use to me, because I wasn’t that messed up.

The joke was on me, as much as anything that followed could be considered a joke; therapy proved to be entirely revolutionary for me, in terms of my understanding of myself and also what I was capable of, and what I deserved. It’s not an exaggeration to say it changed my life, and perhaps not even one to say that it saved my life.

That’s not to say any of it came easily, or even in a straightforward manner, which is what my self-conscious joke was all about. I don’t “get answers” from therapy in the sense of suddenly having an epiphany and everything falls into place immediately. (I don’t even think it’s supposed to work like that, as much as there’s even a way it’s supposed to work. At least, not for me.) The flash of realization this time around was a new experience, which is what provoked the laughter, and the joke, and then the guilt that followed.

That there was any guilt that followed just underscores the reasons why I see a therapist, of course.

Words Cannot Describe

I feel as if I should have something deep to say about Fleabag, but I don’t. Words fail me; I am so bowled over by the second season — which I tore through in three days, telling myself that I was going to pace myself and failing — that I’m dumbstruck, in love and in awe at the same time by what’s there in front of me. Which, in many ways, feels at once appropriate and ironic, considering what the series, and especially the second season, is about.

What I’m left with, is this memory. Two episodes left, and finding myself thinking, this is masterful, this is beautiful and honest and complicated and, fuck it, I just want a happy ending.

There are, if and when we’re lucky, stories that we’re told where the characters come alive and we fall in love with them. We can appreciate the artistry and talent and need for dramatic irony and all, but we find ourselves caring for the characters as if they’re real and wanting them to succeed even if it betrays all logic. As I reached the end of Fleabag, all I wanted was for her to be okay at the end.

I won’t spoil how it ends for those who haven’t seen it, but I’ll say this: I was heartbroken and elated by the wave.

The Reason That Heat Vision Is Not Lit

The headline from my THR editor was a straightforward pun: “John Wick Gets Lit.” Because you light a wick, get it? Like a candle? But my brain went elsewhere when I first learned it, to an entirely different place altogether:

There were reasons why this wasn’t a smart idea, not least of which being I felt self-conscious for just outright swiping Olivia Jaimes’ original “Sluggo Is Lit” image/joke. (It’s also the wrong shape/size for the newsletter format, but, I mean, I could have worked with that.) The actual reason it wasn’t used, though, is something far more straightforward: My THR editor didn’t know the “Sluggo Is Lit” meme. And then, when I was appalled and went to a third party, they didn’t know it, either. So, we ended up dropping it and trying something more traditional, but I still think it’s funny.

Try Again Later

It’s been a day.

Really, it’s been a week. Maybe more than a week? As I write this, it’s Friday afternoon and there’s been a lot happening over the past week or so, even though I couldn’t tell you what any of it has been. I’m at the point in life, I think, where things as simple as “I didn’t sleep well last night,” or, “I didn’t get that work done when I thought and it’s playing on my mind” can completely wreck my day, which feels somewhat embarrassing to admit. It’s not that I feel old, per se, as much as I just feel curiously tired in unexpected ways, not least of which emotionally and mentally.

A friend — hi Jeff! — has joked that I’m basically at the age where my body should start to fall apart. Unfortunately, as a result, I’ve spent years preparing for that mentally, noting every single twinge and ache and thinking to myself, this is it, it’s finally starting. This mental and emotional fragility is more unexpected, however, and makes me think that maybe I’ve been paying attention to the wrong stuff all along.

(I worry that describing it as fragility makes it sound more dramatic, more deep, than it actually is; really, I’m just very tired.)

I’m reminded, I realize, of my mother, who built her life around a very strict regime of scheduling that included going to bed early each night; somewhere between nine and ten o’clock, depending on whether or not there was something she was watching on TV. As a kid, I was always surprised that she’d seem to go to bed even when she wasn’t sleepy, or didn’t seem so, but know that I’m older, I feel as if I’ve realized her magic trick: She was doing that to avoid sleepiness and exhaustion. Clearly, I need to adopt this plan.

Maybe I’m old, but not too old to stop learning from my parents. On the other hand, perhaps I’m just turning into my mother. There are worse fates.

Tomorrow I’ll Miss You

More graphics from the Heat Vision newsletter, including some we ended up not using for various reasons. Such things happen, as the newsletter comes together each week — stories slip out of contention (or fall apart entirely), even after we’ve imagined them being the big breakout for that week. It’s literally part of the process, and something that comes with so little ego that I genuinely can’t remember always which graphics we have used for sure anymore.

This one got a new headline at the last minute:

This next one required perhaps too much effort for the final result, but dammit, I really wanted to make a With The Beatles riff.

Won’t You Ring The Alarm?

I have started to hear phantom alarms. This is not a metaphor, although it is most assuredly probably not a good thing.

It started maybe a week ago; I woke up too early in the morning, and the sun was still rising. I laid in bed, with the window open — thank God that Portland is finally getting warm after a long winter from Hell — and listened to the sound of birds chirping, and people starting early morning walks to work. It was very relaxing, until I noticed the alarm in the distance.

More than anything, it sounded like a burglar alarm or a fire alarm at a building some distance away. It wasn’t loud, just the opposite; my first thought was that it sort of faded in and out on the wind, and was almost relaxing in its insistence. It was just present, and constant in its tone when it did appear.

Over the next few days, I’d hear it again. Not always, and never loud. In the back of my head, I thought, Wow, someone needs to get their alarm fixed. It was only when I mentioned this to someone else that I realized something was up; they couldn’t hear anything.

Now, maybe they have bad hearing and I’m the one in the right. But isn’t it more likely that, instead of an alarm going off at random times during the day over and over again, always in the distance, that fades in and out that only I can hear, that I’m imagining it for some reason?

I’m sure this has some meaning, and I’m equally sure it’s not a good one. But, yes; I’ve started to hear phantom alarms, and it’s not a metaphor.

It Must Be Morning, Again

The best mornings are the ones where I wake up and can’t quite believe that it’s so light outside just yet. I’ve accidentally developed the knack for waking up early across the years, and sometimes that’s a thing that means that I wake up too early; at a point that even I have to admit is still technically night.

I remember someone telling me, ten or so years ago, that as they got older, their sleep cycle got ruined. They woke up in the middle of the night, or they’d be unable to fall asleep in the first place, or they’d start waking up at 4 in the morning. All of this was said in the tone of, One day this horror will befall you too. I scoffed, as you do. The same person also told me that, after 50, I’d start to piss myself, so I was used to aging body horror stories from them.

I don’t know if they were right, at least in regards to sleep, but I feel like my waking up creeps ever earlier over time. It’s definitely not what was advertised; I’m still falling asleep with an ease that has irritated many, and it’s rare that I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep soon enough. But still. (Thankfully, I’m not pissing myself yet, but then again, I’m not 50 yet.)

Right now, I’m waking anywhere between 5:30 and 6:30 in the morning, most days. It’s something that’s frustrating, more than anything else — I wake up too early and I get mad because, well, who wants to be awake before six? — but it’s part of whatever routine by body has created for itself. I wake up, check Twitter and email and the news, and wait for the rest of the world to start for the day.

But it’s better when the sun is out, telling me I won’t have to wait too long.

Returning To The Scene Of The Crime

There has to be a word for something that isn’t quite nostalgia, but is nonetheless the feeling of being overwhelmed by your past.

I visited an area of Portland yesterday where I hadn’t been since a particularly emotionally turbulent time, and as soon as I started seeing familiar landmarks from that period — stores I’d walk past often, crosswalks that became signposts to certain locations — I found myself not just remembering that time, but reliving it surprisingly, uncomfortably, clearly. The emotions of the time were in my head again, the difficult and unpleasant feelings of shame, guilt and certainty that I was disappointing and upsetting people. Out of nowhere, bam: All flashed back, purely because of my physical location.

Even stranger: I was momentarily disoriented and had a second of thinking I should be somewhere else, somewhere I haven’t lived since even before that time. I knew it wasn’t true, I knew that I shouldn’t actually be there, but there was this… pull of guilt, almost, that I wasn’t there. It’s difficult to explain.

Is this PTSD? It sounds ridiculous to ask, but that was how it felt at the time, suddenly and surprisingly reliving a bad part of my past. If it’s not that, then it has to be something else. There has to be a word.