Flicker

January 9th, 2007

I hung out with Dean Wareham and Lou Reed last night.

Backstage at The Mercury Lounge was quiet. It was late. My eyes were half-mast; I had a few beers in me, and I was tired. I don’t know how I got there with them, or what exactly was going on. We were just sitting there in the dark, drinking and smoking and talking. It was no big deal. I wasn’t overwhelmed, or excited. It was totally natural. But all I could think about was getting them into the studio with me. Before I had a chance to ask, though, I woke up.

I’m don’t buy that whole “Oh, I ate something weird” or “I saw a TV show about such and such” theory behind dreams. I think they’re valuable insight to one’s unconscious. The brain’s chocked full of images, so I think it chooses them carefully to reveal important stuff to our waking selves. I used to remember all of mine. And used to spend lots of time and energy trying to figure out what they all meant: the plane crashes, the lost limbs, the pools of blood.

Lately, though, my dreams are fewer and further between.

This one, though — it struck me right away as I lay awake listening to the wind — seemed rip for Dream Interpretation 101. Heck, you, Dear Reader, can probably interpret it for me.

My life is going to change radically this year. If I were a betting man (and you know I’m not), I’d bet that I’m engaged, living with, then married Abbi by the time the clock strikes midnight on December 31 (not, like, immediately before, but by then). It was, not surprisingly, a frequent line of inquiry at Chris and Meg’s wedding. Which is fine. I’m excited. It feels natural, and comfortable. But I think it pushes some buttons in the dark corners of my mind, like (duh) the ten-year-old who’s greatest anxiety is getting divorced, and the sixteen-year-old who’s greatest fantasy is that he’ll become a rock star. And the twenty-one-year old who swore never to live in suburbia. I may not be any of those guys anymore, but they’re still part of me.

I released my fifth full-length solo album, “Love & Other Indoor Games,” on November 23, 2004 at The Canal Room in Tribeca. The record (which I performed track-by-track that night, and which is probably my favorite release) was loaded with issues of love, loss and growing up. I had the DJ play a few specific songs just prior and subsequent to my performance, each selected for its editorial relevance. One of those songs was Lou Reed’s “Romeo Had Juliet.”

Caught between the twisted stars
The plotted lines the faulty map
That brought Columbus to New York
Betwixt between the East and West
He calls on her wearing a leather vest
The earth squeals and shudders to a halt
A diamond crucifix in his ear
Is used to help ward off the fear
That he has left his soul in someone’s rented car
Inside his pants he hides a mop
To clean the mess that he has dropped
into the life of lithesome Juliette Bell

And Romeo had Juliette
And Juliette had her Romeo

I’ll take Manhattan in a garbage bag
With Latin written on it that says
“It’s hard to give a shit these days”
Manhattan’s sinking like a rock
Into the filthy Hudson what a shock
They wrote a book about it
They said it was like ancient Rome
The perfume burned his eyes
Holding tightly to her thighs
And something flickered for a minute
And then it vanished and was gone

Another was Luna’s “Sideshow By The Seashore.”

Then I painted your face
On a twenty-dollar bill
But it isn’t legal tender
And I think about you still
And all the comfort in words
Provide no comfort
We can all go mad together
That’s what friends are for

And at the sideshow by the seashore
The girls are dressed as mermaids
An electrical storm has caught us in a trap
Maybe if I yell at you
You’ll trust in what I’m sayin’
But I’m keepin’ all the secrets
And I have nothing else to say

Lyrically, anyway, both Lou and Dean have a sort of suave detachment, an ironic distance from the chill of relationship, the pain of loss, and the din of the city. I certainly don’t share that detachment or distance, awake, or in dreams. It flickers for a minute, then vanishes and is gone, leaving me on my back, in the dark, listening to the wind, and wondering what it all means.