It’s impossible to quantify the effect one individual has on another. Friends influence friends; sons and daughters consciously accept or reject the tastes of their parents. Sometimes an influence is someone quite distant, maybe a celebrity from across the pond, or a famous writer who lived decades ago.
As time goes on, old friends and acquaintances weave in and out of our lives. Revisiting these people, either in one’s mind or by a chance public encounter, can bring back a rush of memories as well as surprising discoveries about the effects you had on each other.
Before I tell two brief stories, it’s important to note the following:
“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.”
- Joan Didion, on a keeping a notebook: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/19/joan-didion-on-keeping-a-notebook/
A few years ago, after I’d graduated college and moved back home, I ran into many old friends from back in the day. One night I was out having dinner with my pops. Across the restaurant I noticed a girl (woman) I hadn’t seen since high school. I walked over to her and her dad and said hi.
We talked about our mutual friends, photography, life in general. She didn’t give away many details about her work or life, or if she had any plans or work at all. She always did hold her cards close to her bosom. Out of nowhere, the topic of music arose.
“You’re the one who got me into the Silversun Pickups,” she said.
“Me?” I responded, incredulous.
“Oh yeah. I remember you were all about them. You were like, The Silversun Pickups Kid.”
She always did have a dry tone. Sensing hyperbole I responded only with, “Hmm, interesting. I don’t remember being such a big fan.” I remember really enjoying their first album Carnavas, but not to the point of going out of my way to spread the word. My close friends may object to my recollection, but this is how my fallible memory currently remembers it.
When conversations of chance encounters like these run smoothly, with the lubrication of sexual attraction and/or genuine interest, they can end on a high note. This conversation, with, its, staccato, rhythm, did not end that way; I’d heard this girl had professed her love to our mutual friend who is a girl (so there was nothing sexual here, though back in the day I thought she was cute) while her lack of details and mention of The Silversun Pickups Kid rubbed me the wrong way.
I sensed her prickly demeanor. There was no exchange of contact information, and I rejoined my pops at the booth.
^ Silversun Pickup’s Carnavas (2006). I remember last hearing this album one sunny day in my freshman year of college, in 2007.
Two days after the Silversun Pickups debacle, I ran into an old pal from high school. That night he was to host a bonfire at Ocean Beach. He offered to pick me up that evening and take me to the beach in his camper van.
He too had gone away to college, but at a place with a libertarian attitude. While he drove he told me stories of his time away. At a red light he hung a u-turn even though the sign said “NO U-TURN” and the light was red. Shortly after, he referred to a minority by using a phrase that is no longer considered PC.
As we merged onto the highway, he turned up the stereo’s volume. With sunglasses on he turned to me and asked, “Remember this?”
“Yeah,” I yelled. It was a song from Depeche Mode’s 2005 album Playing the Angel.
^ Depeche Mode’s Playing the Angel (2005)
“You got me into Depeche Mode,” he said. “This album was the first electronic album I liked. Now I LOVE EDM.”
“Cool,” I said. I didn’t remember telling him about Depeche Mode or much music in general.
“By the way, after the bonfire, we’re gonna go to a dubstep club in SOMA. You down?”
“Sure,” I said. This was all a bit to take in, as it was a weekday evening. The red sun was low in the sky as we crossed the Golden Gate, and I thought about how it’s important to take adventures once in a while.
Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes’, otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.
- Ian Fleming
The next day I was very tired and hungover at work. I’d gotten home safe and sound at three in the morning.
I’d meant to write this article after work that day, but I am handicapped by laziness and sometimes a lack of direction. Recently I started re-reading Marcel Proust’s novel In Search of Lost Time which has spurred me to reflect on the way my own memory works. (One of the themes of the novel is to examine the way we remember things.) When you try really hard, you can dredge up some interesting stuff out of the sediment of your mind.
^ Marcel Proust
I’ll end this little essay with a little word of advice that is obvious to those who live it, and poppycock to those who don’t:
It’s important to monitor the people who have an effect on you. Keep yourself close with friends whose opinions you respect (but you don’t have to agree with them) and sources of information that promote lucid, constructive thinking. For example, if you feed yourself with liberal doses of The Huffington Post or heaping slices of Fox News, just make sure you remember to take what these sources say with a grain of salt. If you have a friend who hates a band because her ex-boyfriend loved that band, then keep that in mind the next time you listen to their music.
It’s easy to see how we can have an immediate impact on others, but it’s very hard to tell how your words and actions ripple into the future (a la Butterfly Effect, but in that case Ashton could figure out the effects quite easily.) Be sure to be a healthy skeptic with an open mind and a positive attitude. That’s the least we can do in case we ever influence a friend, acquaintance, or stranger.
Whenever I lost a baby tooth, the tooth fairy used to leave me DVDs. My first three were A Hard Day’s Night, Funny Face, and That’s Entertainment. Then, for my left front tooth, the tooth fairy left me Xanadu, which became my favorite movie of all time. The best part was the final number in the brand-new roller disco, which was all shiny chrome with polished wood, curved velvet seats and walls made of shag carpet.
Told from the point of view of the narrator Bee, who is Bernadette’s daughter. (p. 264 in the hardcover edition)
Author Maria Semple used to write for Arrested Development. Where’d You Go, Bernadette skewers the west coast middle-upper class but remains lighthearted, clever, and entertaining while peppering in lots of Beatles and music references. Also, I love the character of Bernadette; I kind of relate to her though I am a bro and nowhere near as famous as she is.
Semple, Maria. Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown and, 2012. 264. Print.
(photo of the book taken from nytimes.com)
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