Lately I’ve really been standing face-to-face with nostalgia. We all do it at some point, whether it be children reminding one of carefree days or staring into the face of imminent peril or whatever.
As I’ve been writing my memoirs (yes, at twenty-seven I am writing memoirs), memories long filed away have been pulled from their cabinets and examined from current perspective. I’ve come to the realization that my sixth-grade school year was when I really began to come alive as a person, the period when the matrix for my personality was laid and subsequently built upon. This was also the period when my attachment to music really became evident — beyond just walking around with a Talkboy and a haggard cassette tape recording of Queensryche’s Empire.
When we consider the most important moments of our lives, how often do we consider childhood events? Not nearly as often as we consider things like high school graduation, college, marriage, children, and careers.
Of course, our existences are purveyed by events that preceded other events. For example, I met and married my wife, which probably would not have happened had I not had a string of horrible relationships beforehand. The string of crappy relationships might not have taken place had they not come on the heels of my grandfather’s death (occurring at a critical juncture of my life, mind you) and the sense of loss and confusion I felt when Katherine W. severed our relationship from out of left field and subsequently disappeared. That would not have taken place had I not asked her out in the first place, which might not have happened had I not met a specific group of anime-obsessed kids outside of the bus stop one day, which might not have happened had I not straightened myself up and gotten out of the bad kids school, which might not have happened had I not… well, you get the point. Some chalk this up as fate — “everything happens for a reason” — but I prefer to think of it not as an unjustifiable metaphysical property, but as cause-and-effect. Everything comes with a consequence, whether it be good or bad, and any actions we take afterward are manifested due to that consequence and present other consequences that manifest other actions, etc. etc. etc.
This brings me to 1998, more specifically August of that year. I spent several years beforehand dealing with slightly-repressed dad issues and chronic wanderlust. I had gotten to a point where I didn’t go out of my way to make friends with people, it just kind of happened. So, I had an outgoing personality despite my desire to be left alone. When I got to sixth grade, I made friends quickly — not by choice, at first — and some of them played a hand in enabling me to knock down the haphazard walls I was trying to erect around myself:
- Danny: The first dude I met in sixth grade — 3rd Period World History. The guy was a total horndog (90’s slang, for those unfamiliar), evident by the fact we bonded over the cover for Slaughter’s 1990 album Stick It To Ya.
- Jamie: Jamie and I became like brothers after a few weeks. He and I were always involved in some type of shenanigans, whether it be my pornography business or helping me deal with people who threatened my established dominance of the sixth-grade class at DeLay Middle School. Jamie was like the Hand of the King, if you will.
- Duane: Whereas Jamie was the Hand, Duane was the Fool. We all picked on Duane. We heckled him and kind of treated him like shit and fortunately for us, he was a good sport about it. I think Duane enjoyed the sense of belonging that came from hanging out with me, Jamie, and Danny. Of course, that’s not to say Duane didn’t have his moments. He took a beating for me once — a debt that I, unfortunately, have never repaid.
- Matt: I met Matt on the first day of school while we were waiting for the bus to arrive (note: it didn’t arrive until nearly 6pm). Matt and I bonded over music, particularly The Smashing Pumpkins. We must have listened to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness on repeat a thousand times, with each listen being just as inspiring an experience as the one beforehand. This is the same Matt who would become my drummer.
- Tamara: Tamara was my first girlfriend, and definitely one of the most memorable. I actually had met her before anyone else on this list (she was the first person I had a conversation with after moving to Lewisville from my second tenure in Arlington). Tamara would provide me with moral resolutions, granted they may have not been the most ethical responses. For example, when me, Jamie, Duane, and Danny got into a brawl with Bobby and his friends, Tamara was on the sideline cheering for me to “kick the shit out of them.” We would eventually date (following controversy at our sixth grade school dance), but break up when I changed schools.
- Jamel: Jamel was our token nerd of the group. The kid loved to draw and had become quite enamored with Pokemon when it hit the states that year. The first in-depth conversation I had with Jamel was regarding a “Base Set First Edition Holographic Charizard” while I was running my porn business. Jamel also helped me develop an attraction to video games, with some of his favorite being Breath of Fire III, Final Fantasy VII, and Chrono Cross.
- Bobby: Bobby was my adversary and our conflicts definitely made for an interesting school year. He fell victim to my porn business and he retaliated by lying to administration about my role in a lunch room fight. I kicked his ass in the restrooms outside of the cafeteria and he responded by jumping me and Jamie behind the school. I put stink bombs in his locker, he threw my backpack on top of the school. It was pretty standard stuff really, but I really don’t think I would have become the person I am without that hostility. I had an enemy and I knew that I needed to be smarter, quicker, and more cunning. This determination fed my ego (especially with my successes in our conflicts) and helped me become goal-oriented and confident in myself. Of course, that war also contributed to the parts of my personality that reside in jackassery, but I like to think people enjoy my asshole-like tendencies at times. Anyway…
So, with all of the crazy shit my friends and I pulled in sixth grade, 1998-99 truly was a memorable experience. As I mentioned before, my intense appreciation and chronic dependence on music also came into fruition at this time. I was listening to Semisonic, the Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Fastball — ha! remember Fastball? — Cypress Hill, and a plethora of other acts, thanks, in part, to some of the people mentioned above. These acts would push me into others that would follow, but because I became a musician (a decision influenced by my appreciation and dependence on music), I began moving forward and backward musically, exposing myself to what is happening now, what will happen in the future, and what has happened already. This is why my musical tastes range from experimental modern rock to rap and hip-hop to James P. Johnson’s ragtime piano styles from the early 20th Century.
This process of covering musical history opened a door to music that was created and released at the time I was coming into my own as a person. Over the past couple of years, I’ve really found myself entrenched in the music of Texas Is The Reason, Mineral, American Football, The Appleseed Cast, and other bands of similar style. These are the bands I’m embedding in this piece (well, save for the Smashing Pumpkins). The bands became pertinent to the experiences I was having at the time and what that era of the late-90’s embodied, at least in the cultural underground.
These are the bands that provide the soundtrack to one of the most iconic periods of my life.