Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Angel Stepped Out of Heaven

The fantasy is always the same.

Well, that's not true. The fantasy is always similar. Perhaps we're in a record store. I walk by and casually glance at the stack of CDs in her hand...she notices. "Before and After Science is my favorite..." I offer sheepishly, gesturing at the disc on top. "Yeah, I love Another Green World so much," she replies. We spend the afternoon listening to records and drinking her absinthe, alone together, together alone.

Or perhaps it's an Art Brut concert. I spot her amidst the hipsters early in the set and keep casting sidelong glances toward her throughout. We eventually notice each other in earnest as we're the only ones who know all the lyrics to the XTC cover. I buy her a gin and tonic and we stay at the bar after the concert, talking about Fall b-sides until the bouncer kicks us out.

Such are my thoughts at seeing the creature known as femina hipstera mascara, better known as the Hipster Cutie. Such flights of fancy are generally enough to satisfy my urge to speak to the fairer sex and only rarely do I leave kicking myself for not actually approaching the girl.

Fast forward: in the summer after I graduated college, I found myself with several friends in Chicago for the second annual Pitchfork Music Festival, an outdoor concert hosted by the internet's most powerful bastion of music opinion. It promised to be a three-day spectacular of rocking out (independently), amusing t-shirts and ill-advised hairstyles. In short, my kind of place.

The weekend would also serve as a much-needed vacation for (and from) myself. I had just quit a dead end job due to a combination of laziness and arrogance. While away, I intended to take stock of my life, which was on the cusp between "post-collegiate bohemian" and "worthless layabout." I figured I could squeak out about two more months of sitting around my apartment before my lack of income and pesky need for sustenance would force me to get a job. The only rational choice, then, was taking a vacation from doing nothing so that I could waste money at a faster pace and cook up some new schemes.

Since my amigo Brandon and I had failed to get tickets for the Friday night performance, we went out and got totally hammed while our friends hit up the concert. After getting us tossed out of two bars, he bought a case of Bud Light and we drank it on the way back to the friend's apartment where we did our passing out at night. Exactly the sort of mature, reasoned decision that you would expect from two recent college graduates.

The next morning, I was dragged from my alcohol-induced coma just in time to get on the El train and make it to the show. I was sitting in the sun on the El platform, nonchalantly enjoying the last gasps of my hangover from the night before when I felt a sharp jab at my ribs. I turned angrily to my friend Brandon when he pointed me in the direction of the most otherworldly creature I have ever seen. I fell instantly in love.

Fortunately, the girl wore an iPod so the three males in our party could talk about her with little fear of being noticed. She seemed to be light years away, metaphorically and literally, as she started at the ceiling and smiled, clearly entertained by whatever she was listening to (and, presumably, by the three idiots obviously salivating over her less than teen feet away). I prepare to imagine the two of us frolicking at the concert...and then, suddenly, everything changes.

I made a rather crude joke at my friend Brandon's expense, causing him to put all of his considerable frame into attacking me. I flew out of my El seat and into the aisle. The girl noticed and started laughing before removing her earphones. "Hey, are you guys going to Pitchfork?" she asks in a thick Chicagoan accent. It sounded like music.

We responded that we are, in fact, headed that way. Our new friend, it seems, is also going to the hipster fest. The six of us chatted briefly as the train came to a stop and we prepared to switch. What happened next is the sort of thing that I can only liken to the feeling a mother gets when her child is trapped under a large boulder. I employed a focus and a clarity that verged on precognition. I could see three and four moves into the future and somehow knew exactly what to say. I perfectly boxed out the other two guys and they tacitly took on the role of wingmen, as per the Code of Guydom.

In the train station, I made a joke about the fact that both Brandon and I were wearing plaid shorts. "Did you guys plan that?" she said. "Oh, yeah. I'm Brandon and this is my life partner Blake..." he said. She laughed and I introduced myself with my actual name. I missed hers as I was deafened by the blood rushing from my head to other parts of my body.

[NB: Her name actually became something of a topic for discussion throughout the rest of the trip. My friend Kelly SWORE that it was Angela. I was adamant that she said Amanda. The other girl in the group, Brooke, felt her name had been Andrea, though not strongly. She's in my phone as Amanda...I suppose she'll stay that way, unless I ever actually call her.]

The rest of the trip to Union Park took half an hour and we had to wait outside the gate for another forty-five minutes (apparently Yoko Ono demanded a soundcheck). Throughout that whole period, I delighted her with a variety of stories. We talked about Chuck Klosterman, Led Zeppelin, Jaegermeister, purchasing literary materials and other topics too numerous to mention. At one point she laughed and said "You should be a professional storyteller! You get so excited." I smiled and considered asking her to marry me.

As we entered the Festival, we got split up. I was then alarmed as someone jumped on my back--it was Amanda. "Hey, they swiped my vodka!" she said. Apparently the guards took any water bottles that hadn't been sealed. "You have to go get it back!" In that instant I resolved to kill every single guard on the grounds, but she started laughing. She and I exchanged phone numbers--and I'm pretty sure she entered me as "Blake"--and promises to meet later then headed off to enjoy the day's festivities.

I saw her twice again that day, once during the Grizzly Bear set and, more substantially, after Cat Power. She made a comment about turning gay for Chan Marshall and I nearly died. When my group of friends went out that night I planned to call her but I thought I remembered her saying she wasn't twenty-one and lived outside the city. "Oh well," I thought, "I'll call her tomorrow."

The next day I would leave my phone at home. I wouldn't see her again before we left. In fact, I may never see her again. I comfort myself with the fact that it's better this way: since I didn't see her, I can imagine she would have slept with me. Had we actually met on Sunday, I would probably have blown it.

I resolve to keep her number as a souvenir.

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