Party Trash "Remixes (Part One)"

There isn’t much of an expressed back-story behind Remixes from Nashville’s Party Trash… the album contains ten remixes, produced for fun, released for free. Straight-forward as the concept might be, the quality of the tracks is in no way diminished by the simplicity of the concept behind the release. In fact, the electronic dexterity on display goes far beyond the minimalist-mode showcased on last year’s full-length release, ALONE (be sure to listen to the standout “Night Flash,” by the way), with an energetic thread running throughout the compilation, stringing together Purity Ring, Destiny’s Child and Aphex Twin reinterpretations without a single beat sounding out of place.

[This article first appeared on Break on a Cloud.]

Old White Men For Obama

I’m walking to the gym and I catch a glimpse of someone up ahead of me, standing behind an S.U.V. As I get closer I realize that it’s a woman and she’s taking a picture of something with her phone. As I get closer still, I realize that it’s a slightly-past-college-age girl taking a picture of a bumper sticker that reads “Old White Men for Obama.” Hashtag: blog-worthy.

She sees me seeing her capturing the moment, and I smile at her. Seemingly embarrassed, she smiles back while saying something and turns to head the other way — the same way I’m heading. I take my earbuds out only to catch nothing she says, and I speak up, trying my best to be spontaneous and funny, “So, who do you like more? Old white men or Obama?”

Appearing momentarily speechless, she says something quickly under her breath about men before moving on to how she does actually like Obama. It was a strange question posed to her by a strange man walking alone on a Friday night, a man who also could have been an angry Republican freshly bitter about the election, attempting to sabotage her innocent moment of Instagramming with an anti-Obama rhetoric-bomb. I didn’t realize that until I said it. I’m not sure how I would have answered my question if I was her. We walked together for somewhere between an instant and a moment before it all occurred to me.

“I didn’t realize how creepy that might have sounded — being an older white man asking you if you like old white men.” She sort of laughed and said she was thinking about what she might have looked like, her taking pictures of bumper stickers. I said I’d forget the whole thing if she would. We agreed and mentally shook on it. Nice girl.

It had been a good day prior to that moment, but the culmination of things appeared to have contributed to a timely wave of physical energy. I smiled my way through the workout. While walking home I came across a gathering of police cars not far from my apartment, blocking off one side of traffic across from the grocery store I was heading to. I purchased dinner and continued walking home before I saw a tall man overlooking what had to be seven or eight cop cars. Each of the vehicles had their lights set on strobe, and number of officers in reflective vests were assuming various form of police business across a city block. I walked up to the tall man and asked him what he thought had happened. He pointed at somewhere around ten o’clock to where there was something still in the street, broken, which I couldn’t quite make out: Wreckage of some sort that had colors I associate with children’s toys. I didn’t really want to think about it. We talked for a minute about the dangers of jaywalking before he mumbled something about making it home safe to eat his ice cream. I slapped my grocery bag and told him that’s what I was hoping to do, too.

After dinner I scooped a bowl’s worth and ate my ice cream in front of the television. In hindsight, I probably should have introduced myself.

Love and Death

Yesterday morning at 4:40 A.M. my mom’s mom passed away. She was 90 years old. I have no idea who she really was though. About two weeks ago one of my parents’ neighbors died in his sleep. He wasn’t very old. He was a nice guy, and was very kind to my folks. About seven months ago my parents put our family pet down. It was a small bichon shih tzu named Eddie. I named Eddie after a hard-partying hockey player, my childhood hero. At times Eddie could be a pretty good dog to have around.

Even considering recent events, death really hasn’t played much of a role in my life. The people who essentially served as my adopted grandparents are both gone, but while I cared for them it wasn’t exactly foundation-shaking news when word came of their passing. Never having been close to my real grandparents, the three that died during the last decade or so had no real impact on me. My dad’s dad died long ago. As for my immediate family members and relatively close relatives: some are more alive than others, but they’re all still here.

When my parents’ neighbor passed I received an email around midnight letting me know what happened. That night I sat awake awhile, thinking about death. In elementary school one of my best friends died in a car accident. It had been a while since I’d actually thought about him. He, his brother, his sister, and his mother, all died driving home from visiting family for Easter in Saskatchewan. Sadly, the father, who had stayed behind in Calgary (I can’t remember if he had to work, or what it was) survived them all. All three were in separate grades in our elementary school, and I remember how everyone came together for a terribly emotional assembly in the wake of the accident. There were a lot of people — both big people and little people — who were very confused about things when that happened. I was one of them.

I don’t really remember much else about that time aside from a couple of strange moments. For instance, I vaguely recall the outline of a ridiculous lie I told a grief counselor in class, about how I had seen the crash in a magazine and something-or-other about seat-belt safety. For whatever reason, that memory still leaves me feeling guilty and embarrassed. Then there was a girl in the grade’s other class of students (her name was Trista — no idea how I remember that) who asked me if I was friends with the boy (his name was Greg, and yes, I was). I also have this weird out-of-body type memory — the kind where you can see the whole wide-angle scene, as if watching it in a movie — where I was walking home with a neighborhood girl who didn’t go to my school, telling her that I wished I had a punching bag full of chains to hit, because that’s how angry I was. Even as a kid I was typically full of shit.

Last week a friend and I were going back and forth, talking about how people come and go in our lives. The conversation wasn’t about death though, but about love. Either way, loss feels its worse when those lost are those we love.

When I think of love I remember the first elementary school girlfriend, innocent junior high flirtations, a solid high school crush, the first “real” love, and later a woman who challenged my views on fatherhood, and whether or not I could see myself picking up such a position. But love has always been a weird thing for me. Love is a weird thing for most people, I think. And that sort of love isn’t even what love’s always been for me. I loved Greg just like I’ve loved a lot of people, and even right now I love a number of friends. Sitting here, it just sort of struck me how fortunate I am that I even have friends who mean enough to me that I’d actually care if they died. It’s a wild ride, love and death.

The shifting personal definition of what love is often presents itself as a difficult terrain to navigate in terms of how we reconcile its meaning with our actions toward those who we express the feeling for. And when that person is gone, whether they die or the relationship merely stops existing, it’s strange how some feelings linger while others become Photoshopped in our minds, taking on new lives of their own post-mortem. This afternoon a small group of family members will bury my mom’s mom. What happened with the neighbor, I’m not sure. As for Eddie, her ashes now sit in a small nondescript box. Someone at some point in time loved each of them though, and that love will continue to linger, sometimes lost or misplaced, sometimes positioned as firmly as it ever was. Of course, in the end we’ll all die. I guess the hope is, though, that when we die we do so as one of the loving and one of the loved.