By Nathan Klayman // Sundown United – Dallas (HQ)
20 Years Downside Up: A Circular Journey In Telegraphic Prose, Told In Degrees, Complete With Music.
1993 – 1998(90 Degrees): Summertime; there’s something to be said about being 18, and college bound, but someone other than me has probably said it, and better than you could. Mind’s a mess; should be thinking about school, what to study, what to be, and all the usual. Unable to do it though. Stay up at night, drive in aimless circles: home, the lake, the occasional friends’ house, then home. Think about girls – girls here in Dallas, and girls waiting to be met elsewhere. Drive around more. Car is a beat up 80’s era Toyota Celica – no chick magnet. More nights, making loops, making figure eights, making circles, but not making much else, really. On the radio, Edie Brickell tells you that she’s a part of your circle of friends, but you aren’t sure if you buy that. Sit at the spillway of the lake some nights, all night. Smoke cigarettes, try to look cool, and wait for the day you leave for New York.
New York City in the early 90’s: like Dallas, with more people, and no jalapenos. Plenty of girls; in ways, they’re all so different, yet at the same time, the same. More nights of staying up; more cigarettes, with people who won’t remember you next week or next year. Drinks at places that you never knew the name of, even if you could find them again. More figure eights and loops, but no car – NYC isn’t like that. Don’t really know anymore about who/what, but nobody else does, either. Learn one thing – the Big Apple will teach you who you aren’t more than who you are.
1998 – 2003(180 Degrees): Dallas again, like a bad relationship. You know the kind – it’s never done for you, really…anymore than you’ev done for it. But still, you cling to it. Maybe it’s the familiarity. Maybe it’s good sex. Maybe it’s just not having to explain yourself again. Something.
First “real” job post-college – technical support. This World Wide Web thing is becoming something that everyone wants, and lucky enough, you can exploit that. You don’t know what the fuck a chop shop is, as it relates to anything other than cars, but you work in one anyhow. Most days, you loop on the thought that you really don’t know shit about computers, but can fake it like a pro. Somehow, you do it, and learn things in the lazy drift; more nights, more cigarettes, and yes, more bad relationships. One night, sitting in the aftermath of one such ruinous relationship, you listen to the Washington Squares tell you about a greenback dollar. Listen, dig the old tunes, and occasionally laugh at the aptness of the song. Stare out the windows of your floor level crummy apartment that you know you pay too much for, and wonder if it will ever change – if you will, in the more common parlance, grow the hell up.
2003 – 2008(270 Degrees): Still Dallas, but your animosity has waned and chilled some; you’ve grown a little here. Circular logic suggests that this place, no matter how you slice it, helped make you, and there must be some reason for you being here. For staying. And now, whether you want to or not, cool cat, you’ll be here a bit longer – you’re a father now. You could roll on, heart and life like a wheel, and go, but deep down, you know that’s not you. Still not 100% on who “you” are, but a better fix on who you aren’t? Sure, you got that…somewhat anyhow.
Spend more time than you want, arguing over things that you know don’t matter, but still seem to be worth the fight over. You’d run, but you have no idea where to, or what to do when there. As you run out of money and head for the couch trip, you wonder how your own parents made it…and remember that in the end, they didn’t.
Surf couches, make a joke for a paycheck, learn about being a parent, slow style. Catching a concert one night, you hear M. Doughty tell you about how he doesn’t need to walk around in circles – and you realize you don’t either.
Adjust. Foray back into a squarer trip in life. Try to make better choices about jobs, places to live, and moreover, try not be such a case. Stay up nights, wondering what to do, and trying to not be eaten up by those monsters that don’t come from under the bed. This time around, you’re a little luckier – you’ve found someone to listen to the crash of the crazy waves in your head, and what looks like maybe a real “real” job.
2008 – Now (360 Degrees): Same place, different side of the record. Sometimes, the hit is not a success, but a real hit – like a fist made of concrete. The real real job went up in smoke – sometimes, that happens. At first, you feel like a puppy returned to the shelter; cry a bit, chase your tail, and try not to step in your own mess. You’ve been scared before. Lost before. Sat up wondering what to do before. However, this time, it’s a bit more for keeps – you’ve bought real estate in Squaresville now – house, car, and all that. Now, you really are unsure if you can ride this loop out or not.
More nights of staying up, only this time, in pursuit of relevance, employment, and the hope of chasing the dust out of your mouth. More bad things arc and spiral down – some, dearly loved, are gone. More holes, more jagged lines. Some nights, all you do is stare out the window.
You land a job. It sucks, but you take it. Your kid needs you; you hate the job, but you hate being useless more. You make the loop again, circling between your house and your new job. You pass your old high school every day on the way there, and wonder – is that where it went wrong? Something done? Not done? Was it after high school? You drive – loop, circle, and wonder. Some days, it’s all you can do, to actually stop when you get to work, instead of driving and driving…looping and circling.
On a whim, you apply for a different job. To your surprise, you land it. It’s not far from the job you’re leaving – just a shorter loop, that’s all. But now, you no longer have to drive past your old school, and wonder. Now, you get to drive to work, and wave a friendly wave at your old school; the circle has come around again, and better. Now, you get to wave, and say – maybe it’s not such a mess. See? Circles don’t have to always break – sometimes they need to be redrawn, that’s all.
And maybe you’re right – maybe it’s NOT such a mess. You still have those things and people that mean it all to you…most of them, anyhow. Your circle has come round – redrawn some, and rough in spots maybe. You’ve even learned a thing or two, here and there.
On the first day of driving to your new job, New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” comes on the radio – as you drive, you wave to your old high school. Triangles don’t roll for shit – this is true, and you’re glad that your life is not triangular. It’s still a good song though, and you know all the words, so you turn it up, and sing along.