The summer of 2005 was certainly the most carefree summer of my life; I can’t imagine another point at which I’ll have so few worries. I worked at a shitty department store that would close within the year, where my only responsibility was trying to convince this guy to fall in love with me. I’d recently ended a non-relationship with a kind of embarrassing guy, and I was eager to move on. I set my sights on this coworker, simply because he made me laugh and he had to wear a tie as per company policy. I tried to persuade him to ask me out by doing things like “quoting David Cross” and “making him borrow my Ben Stiller Show DVD.” You know, romance! Strangely, he didn’t bite, and he proceeded to spend the entire summer not dating me.
My lack of dates meant I had a lot of time to spend with my BFF, who was also single that summer. During one of our endless afternoons, the breeze blowing through her room with the sloped ceiling and the french doors, we decided to join Myspace. Even in 2005, when social networking was relatively new, Myspace was already the seedy underbelly of the internet. If Facebook was the class Valedectorian, Myspace was the dropout cousin who showed up blazed to the graduation party and hit on underage girls. But we were bored and, in the way of 19 year olds the world over, we liked seeing pictures of ourselves and being told we were pretty.
My BFF started getting messages first, which only made sense. She’s gorgeous, blonde, and is always cracking the sorts of jokes that make everyone in the room laugh. Meanwhile I’m a kind-of-mousy brunette who’s usually muttering something sarcastic to the person I came to the party with before slinking off to a darkened corner where I can be awkward all by myself. So she received messages from guys who were complimentary, cute, and seemingly normal. The gears in my mind slowly creaked into motion. Could I find my boyfriend on the internet?
In a testament to the power of Myspace and my allure to total creeps, I received not just one but many messages from a variety of weirdies. Like the guy who saw my hometown and asked, “Did you just move here? I’ve never seen you around,” despite the fact that we’d worked on a group project together in American Studies just a few years before. Or the guy who told me I had 4 out of the 5 qualities he looked for in a lady. Those five qualties were: smart, funny, dark hair, blue eyes, and black. Guess which one wasn’t me? This seemed more like an unsolicited insult than a compliment, since he was basically telling me that, short of a probably-offensive blackface routine, I’d never be his dream girl.
I rebuffed so many hapless pervs that when I got a message from someone innocently pointing out that I listed Brian Jonestown Massacre among my favorite bands, I responded immediately.
Some backstory: In my Summer of No Makeouts, I’d been renting a lot of DVDs from Blockbuster. One of them was Dig! If you’ve never seen it, here’s the gist: It’s a documentary about 2 bands, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. Anton Newcombe is the lead singer of BJM, a band that isn’t nearly as fun as their portmanteau suggests. He’s a character with delusions of grandeur, a man who acts as if his 60′s-influenced jams are The Most Important Songs Ever. The Dandy Warhols are the more “commercially successful” of the two bands, by which I mean we all know exactly 2 of their songs. This debate between selling out versus artistic integrity seems like a lot of bullshit when you consider that 99% of Americans haven’t ever heard of either of these bands.*
But that wasn’t my line of thinking at the time. Then I thought a band that earnestly talked about “The Man” was cool and subversive(I was really, really 19). So when this strange Myspace man said, “I see you like BJM. I know Anton, he’s a pretty cool guy,” I was impressed.
This strange man told me stories about how he’d worked on some of BJM’s music and sent me one of his electronica songs called “You Gotta Get on To Get Off.” I know. I know. He asked if I was going to see BJM when they came to town. Coincidentally enough, I was going with about 8 of my friends, including my BFF and her exboyfriend. Why any of us thought any aspect of this night would be fun is beyond me, but we were excited. “Maybe I’ll see you there!” said the strange man. “Maybe!” I said, and thought nothing of it.
On the way to the show, I was plagued by a deep sense of dread, and not just because we were trying to follow a friend of mine who insisted he knew the way there but repeatedly drove the wrong way down one-way streets. Something was amiss. By the time we arrived at the venue (a now-defunct bar/club called Little Brothers that was later turned into what appeared to be a lesbian bar and is now just an empty building haunted by the ghosts of bad acoustics), I could tell something bad was going to happen. You know I read my horoscope, does it really surprise you I put a lot of stock in my intuition? I actually tried to go home, but one of my friends yelled at me (the selfsame man who drove the wrong way down one way streets) so I stayed.
As we walked up to the club, I saw him. The guy from Myspace. “Oh, shit!” I stage-whispered to my BFF. I ducked behind another one my friends as we walked in the door. It had all been fun and games when he was sending me hubris filled messages and mediocre electronica songs, but now that he was here things were Too Real. I figured I was in the clear once I was inside. I don’t have any distinctive features; I’m not dramatically skinny or fat, pretty or ugly. Not to brag, but blending in is kinda my jam. Give me some woodwork, I’ll fade into it. It was suddenly imperative that I not run into this guy, but I had it on lock.
At least I thought I did. What I forgot was that one of my friends did have a distinctive hairdo, a moptop of tight, honey colored ringlets that stood out in a crowd full of crew cuts. Apparently, Myspace Guy recognized this haircut from seeing it on my friends page. He approached my friend and asked where I was, and that’s how he ended up right in front of me.
He wrapped his arms around me in an unwanted hug, and as I pressed my face against his sweaty bosom, I had the distinct feeling that something was Not Right. I didn’t even know this person. “Anton’s outside! Do you want to meet him?” he asked.
I emphatically stated that I did not. But some of my friends thought otherwise, and they practically pushed me out as this guy took my hand and let me to the street. Ladies, some advice: the fellas you’re hanging out with should not encourage or force you to leave a bar with a stranger!
So there I was, on the sidewalk outside Little Brothers, a stranger’s arm around me and Anton Newcombe in front of me. He was wearing a dingy white tunic and he was surrounded by strung-out, waifish blonde women of indeterminate age. They looked as if this bar, city, and life bored them. I was wearing a denim skirt (yet ANOTHER important moment in which I’m wearing a denim skirt. It’s a theme).
I shook Anton Newcombe’s hand. I remember that much. Then Anton angrily spat at Myspace Guy, “I told you to leave me alone! I’m trying to get ready, and you keep bothering me!”
I ran inside and spent the rest of the night hiding behind my BFF’s ex, who, for all his faults, understood that the cardinal rule of friendship was Don’t Let Your Friends Be Drug Out of the Bar By Strange Men.
The show was pretty terrible and went on way too long. When I got home I had a message that read, “Sorry about Anton. He can be kind of a dick sometimes.” I didn’t respond.
About a month ago, I deleted my Myspace account. I hadn’t used it for years, but I kept it around as a reminder of a time when I was much, much stupider. It wasn’t just that, though. It was the sense of promise that summer had. Any person I met could be The Person, any situation could flip me around until I was headed on some new path, towards some destiny I wasn’t even aware of yet. Of course, that’s still true. That’s true for all of us. We don’t know what’s ahead of us, and it could all change at any moment. It’s just a lot easier to remember that when you’re working in the Petites department, chatting up that cute guy you like, then going home to watch The Hills with your BFF. I certainly wouldn’t want to meet Anton again, but I’m still kind of glad I did.
*I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that an episode of Gilmore Girls mirrored the plot of Dig!, down to including not just details but lines of dialogue and one of the band members. It’s the episode where Lane and Zach break up after a disastrous Hep Alien show. You know it.