i’ve kicked the habit, shed my skin


Do you know those eras in your life that seem to be effortlessly happy? Obviously the overwhelming majority of them happen between our early teens and our late twenties, given the natural vicissitudes of Growing Repsonsibility®, and my favorite occurred as I was 19, in 1986.


To me, the music, styles, movies and anything associated with that stretch of time automatically conjures a reptilian pleasure response – and yes, I’m talking bizarre bits of culture like “Something About You” by Level 42, “Real Genius”, the random songs on “Graceland”, Mary Stuart Masterson in “Some Kind of Wonderful”, and of course, the entire 2nd side of “The Queen is Dead” by the Smiths.

I was also drinking a lot of lime-flavored Crystal Light (yeah, yeah) and had peanut M&M’s in our dorm-room fridge in Grimes. And a favorite shirt, a teal short-sleeve polo that was perfectly ragged in that looks-good-but-I-didn’t-care-TOO-much sort of way. I have a visceral memory of that micro-era, and it has aged magnificently.

There is a 19-year-old kid having his Perfect Time right now, a group of albums, movies, YouTube videos, green skate shoes and iTunes mixes that will forever give him pleasure. He will think of 2010, and have a relaxing sense of contentment many years from now, when “Poker Face” comes on the oldies station and he tries to explain the zeitgeist to his own kid.

And then it struck me that these little eras are not created for us, we create them. Sure, there is the excitement of new girlfriends, boyfriends, school and life discovery that brings these things on, but is it possible to say to yourself: “okay, I have not been effortlessly happy in a long time. If this era can be someone else’s Awesome Year, why can’t I make it mine again as well?”

And then just decide, then and there, to imbue this time, right here, with the same general good feeling as the ones you used to have. “This period, this micro-epoch, this elongated season will be defined as fun, whether it has intrinsic perfectness or not,” you may say. The world does not change for you; you change for it, and since your feelings are mostly illusions painted on the plexiglass surrounding you, why not play its game? Barring a chemical imbalance, how long can you fake a good year before it becomes a good year?

0 thoughts on “i’ve kicked the habit, shed my skin

  1. GFWD

    So I never heard any stuff by The Housemartins before and thought I’d give them a spin. Went to Youtube and saw that they sing “Caravan of Love”. If theirs came out in ’86, methinks it pre-dates the version by The Isleys. Remake or not, however, the Isleys beat The Housemartins with their version. Check it out:
    Of course, the Housemartins win on the outfits. The lead singer for the Isleys looks like he borrowed part of his outfit from Wonder Woman, Aladdin, Mr. T and then stole Freddy Mercury’s pants.

  2. Anne

    Works for me. Well, except for that chemical imbalance part; the doc and I are always fine-tuning that.
    I feel just as good and excited and pre-nostalgic about Jack White’s musical projects (White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather) and all their concerts I’ve attended in the last 5 or 6 years (ditto Los Lonely Boys) as I do about the amazingness of seeing BB King open for the Stones in Boston Garden, 1970. I’ve been fortunate in my later middle years to have teens and friends who have helped me discover new music to go along with my treasured trove of classic rock.
    And, yes: “Graceland” the album is timeless; all these years later, it’s still on my playlist.

  3. kazoo

    i love this question – and i alternately think it’s entirely up to us (as evidenced by research on people who keep gratitude journals and such) and then think we’re at the mercy of circumstance. who knows. but this is a fun opportunity to pull out a favorite quotation from the era:
    Lloyd Dobler: Why can’t you be in a good mood? How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while?”
    Constance: Gee, it’s easy.
    having just seen a fantastic production of “bengal tiger at the baghdad zoo” (go, if you’re in LA), i find i have much to be thankful for…trying to enjoy the sunshine today, put BARCELONA on the ipod, and work from home.

  4. emma

    I love and believe in this idea. You can either take a situation and make it good or make it bad. Sure makes more sense to me to make it good. I would like to think there are many Perfect Times ahead in my future.
    Greg – If you don’t recognize the Housemartins, you may recognize the Beautiful South, which I know had at least the same lead singer. Can’t believe you didn’t hear Build by the Housemartins at the Ramsgate Apartments. (Also, Greg be looking for an email from me – I found a pic of Reg’s Pink Floyd poster that I am going to send to you as soon as I can get it scanned, etc)

  5. GFWD

    Emma, is The Beautiful South the band where they have a video of an epic domestic dispute where the couple tears the house apart like something out of WAR OF THE ROSES? I think the guy has a ripped up teddy bear in one scene and then he’s surrounded by knives in another? I’ve got to find it.
    Don’t know “Build” by The Housemartins.
    As for that Pink Floyd poster, please do send me that picture when you get it scanned. I have a picture of my friend Chris and I standing in it trying to imitate that screaming character. Classic.
    Lloyd Dobler is an underrated Zen Master, in my humble opinion. Nice call Kaz.

  6. Joanna

    I don’t know about this. A few years ago, I was desperately searching for a band I could love as much as The Smiths. A really insightful guy explained to me that it wasn’t going to happen. The songs that made you cry and the songs that saved your life would always be the most meaningful, along with the songs that accompanied all of those fabulous first experiences and unforgettable friendships with those experiencing their own fabulous firsts. And now I’m hearing there’s hope of recreating the whole shebang? I don’t think a chemical imbalance is the only barrier. A chemical tinkering, rather, may be the only way to effect such a renaissance.

  7. janet oh !

    wise words ………..always wondered why i loved “some kind of wonderful” so much( i obssesed about it, watched it so many times…………..like my favourite chewy bar………it comforted me)could never put into words how that movie made me feel……but now thanks to you i know ………it was the soundtrack !……it supported the script so well and it comforted me ……it was balanced x


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