On hot summer nights, all I want to do is stay up til four in the morning and kill time online. For all my 90s nostalgia, I am definitely a child of the 2000s.
Every summer I was plugged in. It sounds depressing, and maybe sometimes it felt like it, but I mostly remember it fondly. AOL Instant Messenger: logged on. MSN Messenger: signed on. Kazaa: Running. Every night was a beautiful afterglow of Mountain Dew Livewire and iTunes on shuffle. Like going to the lake or barbecuing, it became an unspoken summer tradition.
It’s really hard to explain the appeal. I’d hang out with my friends during the day when I could, but without a fail I’d catch them online at night. Sometimes we wouldn’t talk about anything important. Just bullshitting like normal. Talking about music, talking about girls, talking about whatever. Some nights were “heart-to-hearts with the bros” and others were nothing than “sup? nm, u?” with the conversation ending there. Most of the time it was just complaining that there was nothing else to do.
Looking back, I was very ritualistic about it all. Wake up at noon. Do whatever I had planned for the day (a lot of the time, nothing at all, usually working on my terrible music project’s Myspace page and hanging out with my dogs). Then evening would start with my parents getting home from work. I’d try my best to spend time with them via eating dinner and watching t.v. until 10 o’clock when they’d want to go to bed. I’d make my way to the computer, set the speaker volume to low, and sign in to all my accounts. By then most of the people I’d been wanting to talk to were on. I could generally depend on my friends Nate and Brandon being on consistently and often Austin, with a few other surprise log-ins to mix it up. I’d exchange music with friends a lot – which was a miserable wait my slow Internet connection, but it made the rewards feel much sweeter. That’s when I first heard Pinback. Nate sent me “Non-Photo Blue” and “Fortress.” They made it into my nightly rotation quite often, though I never really paid attention to the lyrical content. I always just assumed they were talking about surfing or something. It felt very Californian.
When my high school friends would log off, usually around 2 a.m., I still wasn’t alone. Usually some of my friends from the forums were around. And when I say forums, I don’t mean something like Reddit or 4chan where it’s a casual community. I’m talking the real stuff. I was a closet anime fan to my friends in the RL. Many of them didn’t know about it until I ended up dating a girl in college who’d encourage me to embrace it (whom I also ended up marrying, but that’s a different story all together). Near the end of junior high I joined a message board that was also a text-based Yu Yu Hakusho RPG. I spent so much time there that I ended up becoming one of the moderators and also best friends with one of the admins who I knew as Bomenaku.
Even at the time it felt strange to me to consider someone whom I’d only interacted with over message boards and IM chats a best friend, but I got over that quickly. We bonded over chats just like I did with Nate, Brandon, and Austin. What would make him an exception to the rule? The forums became a really important outlet for me. Between all of the battle narrations and status effect tracking, I got to know a lot of people there and realized they were feeling just as weird and unsure about things in life as I was. I couldn’t tell how old any of them were and they never knew my age. But those feelings were ageless, timeless. At one point when the head admin threatened to shut down the whole thing, Bomenaku and I fought back to keep it alive with Bomenaku eventually taking charge.
I’ve never suffered from real depression, but I have been a vessel for angst. And those summers online were a release. I could tell my friends through telephone wire and dial-up tones about how fucked up I felt when that girl didn’t notice me. Or relate (albeit not directly or articulately) how lonely it was sitting at home in a town with nothing to do and no car. Between BRBs and staring at the same away message for hours hoping someone just logs back on, it was a surreal and symbolic experience. Didn’t realize I was just starting to learn about longing as I sat in front of a keyboard.
All this while I sipped Livewire and my dogs slept underneath my desk.
Spring of my sophomore year of college I was working at the campus radio station when I found Pinback’s “Summer in Abaddon” sitting on one of the CD racks. I hadn’t listened to the band in awhile but it immediately made me think of summer. That muted riff that kicks of “Non-Photo Blue” was almost instantaneously repeating in my head. I took it back to my dorm and played it any sunny day I could. It even made its way into the coveted shower stereo on our floor, where I played it constantly. Listening to it with fresh ears, I was able to see how it resonated with those summers in more ways than I thought.
“She’s posting all the time, but the boards are down, it’s a burned out building.”
“She just ignores the time that the boards came down. It’s a numbed out feeling.”
“Summer is only winter with you. How can you really feel?”
“No one uses the phone anymore.”
It all clicked. This album was about me. Well, not me exactly. People like me. We didn’t have mixtapes or unlocked neighborhood doors, but we had DSL. Everything about this album started resonating more and more with me. This was the perfect summer album I could have ever hoped for. The bouncy grooves, the references, and the heartbreak. Even the title fits perfectly, “Abaddon” meaning something like a place of destruction or hell or something. That’s how I would’ve described Kitsap in a heartbeat at the time if I knew the word meant that. Every time I hear the line “I miss you, not in a Slint way” on the last track “AFK” (how did I not get the computer connection earlier?) I feel taken back (even more so now that I actually know what they’re talking about when they say Slint).
Last summer I decided my record collection wasn’t suitable without this album. I called up Easy Street Records in Queen Anne (R.I.P.) and had them order it for me. I play it during sunny days and warm, sweaty nights. I get those same feelings again. So here I am again. The sun is down and I’m online. It’s how I’m wired now. It may seem lame to think that for the rest of my life I’ll look back on the summers of my youth as being in front of a screen, but I feel like I can find some beauty in it now.
Previous Wax Story: Nirvana – Bleach
Next Week: The Postal Service – Give Up
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