August 26, 2019
I listened to an old album from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs the other day. I have been fond of the three-piece trio since the first time I listened to their emotional rock ballad “Maps” in college, but it’s their album “It’s Blitz!” that is nearest and dearest to me. As with all albums, the replay value fades over time, and it had been years since I listened to it. But a recent blog post that revisited some of my old, homemade skate videos retriggered it. Consequently, it began playing itself over and over again in my head, a phenomenon that would continue and drive me further into madness until I’d decide to confront it.
As I walked toward the metro for my evening commute from work, I popped in my earphones and shuffled through my musical albums until I settled a picture of flying yoke from a crushed egg. It would be a major deviation from my usual routine of watching Fantasy Football draft prep videos on YouTube, a late summer obsession I had developed, fueling my deeper obsession of beating Mike Gibson this year. Yet, it was a deviation that felt absolutely necessary. I stepped onto the green line, found an open seat, and pressed play.
A driving, electronic beat drove into my ears, and immediately I was taken back. I was a young 23-year-old on the brink of moving to Seattle. My head was buzzed, my flannel collection was growing at a rapid pace, and I had but two desires—to skateboard and party. As I shut my eyes, I could feel my heart pump with the energy I once had as lead singer Karen Oh’s voice opened the first verse, building the anticipation towards the beat drop. My life consisted of counting down the days until the 2009 Sasquatch music festival, waiting for work to end so I could get my daily fix of skateboarding in at the local skatepark, and working for the weekend to get to Seattle for whatever ridiculousness I could pull off with Ben Woodward. It was an exciting time, my first glimpse of adulthood, my first real taste of freedom, and I had the world at my fingertips.
The chorus played out until there was a break in the beat mixed with random synth blips and guitar strokes. It signaled chaos, confusion; the calm before the storm. I braced for it, a beat drop I had heard and yearned for on many occasions. And as the synthesizer released a high pitch squeal and the beat blasted back into play with the advent of the second verse, I reopened my eyes with illusion that I was ready to take on the world once again.
Fast-forward. My flannel collection has been replaced with dress shirts, my hair is grown and styled to form a business-friendly part, and I now have a pair of glasses that accompany my few dustings of gray hair. In the past, my heart may have filled with despair, for part of nostalgia is grasping with the fact that you’ll never have that time back. And in many ways, the Zack of 10 years ago would’ve despised the Zack he had become. But for some reason, on that day, things were different. I was at peace with the past, at ease with the present, and optimistic of the future.
Who knows if I’ll ever have another chance travel across the United States with one of my best friends again. If I did, I certainly wouldn’t be able to recapture the silliness of a ghostly possession in Montana or recreate a wild moment like we had at the 1029 bar in Minneapolis, nor would I even attempt to try! And by miracle of the Holy Father, my brush ins with Josh Ulrich have become surprisingly cordial. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll get my opportunities to throw in a dig here and there, and he’ll be sure to do the same (I’d expect nothing less). In fact, at the time of this writing, I am on my way back from a quick visit Boise, and I had the pleasure of seeing my good buddy Josh. And let’s just say, we had our fair share of drinks between the two of us (of course I had more… and paid for it as well).
But I no longer crave that type of excitement, at least not on a daily basis. As a married man, my ideal Friday nights consist of relaxing with the wife and the weenie dog, watching a movie with a maybe a cocktail in hand, then turning in early for a head start on the weekend. For how grueling it can be, I actually treasure my early morning routine of carry our little weenie outside so we don’t wake up to a puddle of piddle on the floor. And I know that someday, I may have my own little army of Zack’s running around, which will open up a whole new realm of adventure. I can only imagine the memories we’ll create, the heartaches they’ll cause, and the love they’ll bring to this world. And if that’s not something you can look forward to, then I don’t know what is!
Within the 10 years from which I heard that first driving beat of “It’s Blitz!” to now, there have been many great times coupled with great memories. On the flipside, there has also been a fair share of heartbreaks, lessons learned, and not so good times. And to be honest, it often feels like those hard times not only outweighed the good times, but lasted longer as well. I’m not sure if it’s just a trait I’m blessed with however, but human nature seems to have an easier time clinging on to the good times. And when it’s all said and done, the bad memories seem to fade away in the wake of the cherished ones.
I thank God for that.