iheartchathamMy dad brought a giant plastic tub of ephemera to me a few weeks ago, the last remaining proof that I did not arrive on this planet a shambolic, 30-something nihilist. Contents included high school yearbooks, collected letters, notes from junior high, “books” I wrote as a child, sad-clown essays I wrote in high school, random objects of long-lost significance, and Very Strange Jewelry. I guess the “I ♥ Chatham” pin falls into the last two categories. It’s likely that I picked this goody up at the Chatham Fair, especially given that it was nestled in a pile of Columbia County Right-to-Life brochures, something I also picked up (in large quantities, say, 20 or 30 at a pass) at the Fair.

I sifted through literally hundreds of letters dated between 1986 and 1997. I recycled some of them–I was a prolific letter-writer, and honestly, some of the people with whom I corresponded just weren’t very interesting and when my Collected Correspondence is published, I want the wheat and chaff separated.

But if you are reading this right right now, I kept your letters. I swear.

I had two very active pen pals as a teenager, both of them friends I’d made the summer after my freshman year of high school. I haven’t even had the opportunity to read through all their letters, but the few I did glance at as I sorted I remembered in their entirety. I’m happy I held onto them (somewhat unwittingly — they were in my dad’s storage space) all these years because the letters were intimate companions at a point at which I was very, very sad. Like, all-the-fucking-time-sad sad.

I’m not in touch with either of these people anymore, and when I consider how close we were, it seems strange. I had a brief urge to try to reconnect. After all, no one is hard to find anymore. But also, no one is ever as interesting as you remember them to be.

(You can never go home again. Especially if home is Chatham. Christ.)

In other news:

Nine months after I bought the thing, I’ve finally started converting my records to digital format. Here, for nostalgia’s sake, are two songs from the 1990s. The first is a band called Tonka from a split 7″ (b/w Suburban Propain–who still exist, apparently). I got this 7″ at my first all-ages show. I was 15. Steve, the guy who produced it, was manning the merch table and he gave me this and an Inspector 13/Libido Boyz split. We became penpals for a while. I remember remarking that I liked Tonka better than SP and he replied, Tonka are great but they eat meat and smoke cigarettes. I get on them for that all the time. Weren’t the 90s so cute!

I don’t know how well this has aged, to be honest. Ah well.

Tonka, Thirty-Something

Next we have a band out of Albany called Beef. They no longer exist, but the label, Cash Cow, does. A high school friend of mine dated the bassist. They were excellent, though a bit “eclectic,” perhaps, for the upstate NY Champion sweatshirt and backward baseball cap crowd. I think they gave this 7″ to me on their southeast tour–they came through Savannah and I seem to recall making them spaghetti and my boyfriend at the time was a dick to them.

It really captures that mid-90s upbeat, snotty, hell-what-could-POSSIBLY-go-wrong-with-the-country anodyne sound I miss so much.

Beef, Towncar

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2 Responses to More a harmless punk than a pariah

  1. Marco says:

    The Columbia County Fair brings back memories of the smell of lots of dung, flannel and v. good fudge. In retrospect, you are most likely right about people seeming more interesting then than now.

  2. Marco says:

    You can’t go home again. It’s true and not true, depending on what you mean by home. I would go “home” to Westerly, RI in the summer if I had a home on the ocean. Otherwise you can’t get near the fucking ocean nowadays in season. Well, you can in Watch Hill for two hours if you park in the very small lot. From there you can walk to Napatree Point. Well worth it. Google it, philistine!