i remember it well. meeting james was like meeting a wild animal face to face. he was of the untamed sort, a free-thinking kind of fella, going about life in his own way, distinctly. perfect for a girl like me, having grown up mostly protected and sheltered in a suburban kind of way, i was looking for someone outside of the box of normalcy, distinctly. i was looking for an adventure, and i knew i had found it. james, well, he was full of surprises, full of stories and ideas. he lived in the moment, moment to moment, and was the first man i had ever met who was entirely self-employed, lived the way he wanted to live, by his own set of rules. he was different.
james had holes in his jeans, holes in the elbows of his sweaters, holes in the floor and windows of his house where the air came through. he wasn't afraid. the edge of his hat was threadbare and worn, the color obscured by the years of "environment" it had collected. james didn't give a fuck what people thought. he had the biggest bluest eyes i had ever seen, full of fire and ferocity. and i knew: i didn't have a chance.
on one of our first hangouts, james gave me the smallest cd i had ever seen, decorated with a tiny star in sharpie marker. the cd held two songs, both of which he had written and recorded himself, alone in a yurt on an island i hadn't yet been to. i listened, and listened again. the music moved me in the way that only some music does. and i knew: i didn't have a chance.
certain music, well it just becomes the soundtrack of your life. those days, i listened to a lot of screeching weasel, rentals, the anniversary and misfits on my walk up the hill to school. i never wore socks, always wore short pants so you could see my ankles. i had bleach blond hair that was four inches long, wore studded belts, tried to be rock and roll before i knew what that meant. i listened to elliott smith and the pixies while painting some of my first paintings. and ten years ago, james played me neutral milk hotel. from then on, i couldn't get enough. it was our soundtrack.
last night, seeing jeff mangum in the flesh, hearing him play those songs i knew by heart, it all came flooding back.