Thursday, October 14, 2010

Smells Like Teen Spirit

My daughter takes music lessons at a local college (no, not 'THE' local college - 'A' local college). She meets with her instructor in his office in the music building and they do their funky thing while I wait in the student lounge.

The first couple weeks of this, I was nearly overwhelmed by nostalgia. It felt like the music building in MY college. The bulletin boards offered the same information. The students with whom I shared the lounge had the same conversations my friends had 25-30 years ago. It even smelled like my old music building (Cogswell Hall, holla!). This smell, by the way, I would be hard put to describe. It is neither particularly pleasant nor particularly unpleasant. It is neutral, but distinctive, with undertones of valve oil.

I really started to look forward to taking her to her lessons - to sit in that lounge and smell those smells and hear those sounds - scales and warm-up exercises from various instruments in various practice rooms. I would look around at the students draped over the chairs in the lounge, talking about their classes and their professors, bitching a little but clearly into it. I wondered if any of them were falling in love and was certain that some of them must be. A campus in the fall is a very good place to fall in love. I may be projecting. At a very young age, I fell in love with campuses in general and campuses in the fall specifically. My love has never faltered.

But I've digressed.

Last week, a large group of students were having a meeting in the lounge and there was no where for me to sit, so my daughter's instructor invited me into the practice room for her lesson. How many nights I spent, sitting on the floor of a practice room waiting for a friend to walk me home. In the fall. On campus. I started to sit on the floor in the corner, but her instructor wouldn't hear of it and got me a folding chair. I would've rather been on the floor. Stupid instructor, reminding me that I'm old. "Here you go, Mrs. Howard." Ugh.

This week, I was able to sit in the lounge again. There was a small group of students having a meeting and sharing a couple pizzas, but I figured I could sit with my back to them and not be an intrusion.

The young lady leading the group was so self important I didn't know whether I wanted to laugh out loud at her or shake her silly little self. I had placed myself as far away from the group as I could get, and I had my back to them, but what she had to say was so very, very important that she was projecting across the whole lobby. In fairness, music and theater go hand in hand and no one can emote like a musical theater person. But still. It was pretty obnoxious.

She was planning a fundraiser. I chuckled to myself when she mispronounced the names of several prominent clubs downtown. Don't think me TOO mean. If she hadn't been playing the big shot so hard, I wouldn't have laughed at a simple, honest mistake. I am actually very generally tolerant. But she was acting like such a jackass that the rules changed a little bit. She went into a long spiel about how you need to deal with club owners and how they think and what they like and what they'll respond to. She expressed all of this with a great deal of confidence. And then announced that someone else would have to take care of it, because she wasn't old enough to enter a club.

I had to grab the handles on my chair to brace myself.

My nostalgic trip down memory lane came to a grinding halt.

I had enjoyed remembering the more romantic aspects of college life - of MY life a couple few decades ago. I enjoyed, as I may have perhaps mentioned, the sights and smells and sounds of a music building, on a small campus, in the fall. I did NOT like being reminded of how naive it all was. She really felt like the cock of the walk. She thought she knew everything. She knows nothing. And she's gonna figure that out someday and it's gonna suck. I felt almost bad for having laughed at her - even if it was only internal. The bigger they come, the harder they fall and all that.

(For the 12 year olds in my midst, yes, the last paragraph contained the words: cock, suck, bigger and harder. And the paragraph that preceded it, come to think of it, contained: grinding. Go ahead. Beavis and Butthead it up. He. Hehe. I'll wait.)

So I left campus last night remembering not how it felt to be young and have the whole future in front of me, but remembering, instead, how it felt when the world crashed in and that future became more limited. When I found out I didn't know as much as I thought I did - when nothing was the way it was supposed to be anymore.


Next week, I might wait in the car.

Sobbing quietly and sniffing a bottle of valve oil.


bassislife said...

It's amazing how much (or little) a person can learn about the music industry just by reading the rants posted to the craigslist musician section.

Rosa said...

I remember that smell. I was thinking 'and the valve oil' just before I read the part about valve oil. You nailed it. The whole thing. The atmosphere, the drama, the self-importance....the crash. Whew. Sometimes nostalgia is wonderful. But sometimes, not so much.

Hello Jodi said...

I love all your posts. They're so evocative.

Cheryl said...

I kinda wish I'd crashed in college. I did that in HS. I doubt I'll be going to that reunion in November.

Unknown said...

If only we'd realized how great it was, we wouldn't have taken do much for granted..

BONNIE K said...

Your post reminded me of two girls in our community who were in all the theater productions. My kids and I used to call them "the show-offs." SO self-important! And now my kids are out of school and it's many years later, and a friend of one of my kids will mention seeing one of these girls and we say "the show-off?" These girls will be 50 years old and I will be 80 and I will still refer to them with that name. Your story reminded me...

Julie said...

Heh. Heh. Heh heh. How exactly does one take a cock for a walk? I've always wondered that--even if you are talking chickens. (Yeah, I know it's cock of the walk, but work with me!)

I see Calli and Becky with their friends and I remember how hard (heh) it can be for them. And intense. And those conversations that matter so much.

Then it all goes downhill. I used "poopy" in sentence at work today. And I couldn't get the word "elevator" out and had to pantomime something going up and down with my hand. Sigh. It's a bitch when the mind goes.

Anonymous said...

Oh the nostalgia in this piece!!

Claudya Martinez said...

Damn, reality! I just had a a conversation that touched on this with someone I've known since I was 13. I thought I had it all figured out, I was an idiot. Still am.

MaryRC said...

i would only go back and do it over again if i could have my mind from today.