Something in the bleep of the ticket reader tells me I’ve been conned. The steward casts a condescending eye toward my slowly shrinking self. “Where did you get these?” a voice of morose self-importance sneers at me. “ I … I … I bought them,” comes my stuttering response. With a single banishing gesture, this gruff, neon-jacketed individual disintegrates my New York street savvy to a pulp. It is in this moment that I realize my unquestioned imperative to catch the Arctic Monkeys in concert has resulted in the purchase of a classic Craigslist fraud: fake tickets. The counterfeit scheme of some conniving troll sent this florescent adolescent from Ritz to Rubble.
Wandering the Lower East Side begrudgingly, my immediate reaction is a vehement anti-capitalist tirade. I hate Ticketmaster. I hate scalpers. I hate the whole bloody system. This tires and swiftly turns to passionate self-loathing, a state only remedied by the consumption of a disrespectful quantity of fried food. If I have a lesson to offer from my misfortunes, it is that fake tickets closely resemble real ones.
For a fair few days following this catastrophe I am inconsolable. Friends approach me with the caution usually reserved for volatile pets. Dare to mention my blunder, so much as speak Alex Turner’s name in my presence, and I’ll berserk your head off. But then as if it had never happened—no fraudulent and severely overpriced ticket, no lesson in naivety, no humiliated pride—I listen to the first song of “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” and fall in love all over again. The incident becomes forgiven like a drunken tiff between two teenage sweethearts. How cute.
But it’s not a column’s worth of valuing forgiveness I should like to write. I do not intend to preach the virtues of seeing the bigger picture. No, I want to roam the beautiful realm of unashamed nostalgia. I often cast my mind back to the me of younger days. The Richard of 16 appalls his 19-year-old “superior,” and his current model, me at 22, is baffled by the combination of the two. And yet, if I may linger on the poetic for a moment, when I hear the music I listened to at those particular times I regain momentary clarity. In truth, that was the source of my intense unhappiness when turned away from the Arctic Monkeys concert. For, by being denied entry, the possibility of revisiting the me of yesteryear was utterly banished from the realm of possibility.
That we see music as an escape is somewhat obvious and undeniable. Stand in a subway carriage and watch the majority of travelers be plugged in. Wander campus and observe students making short trips between classes bopping brows, their heads wrapped in oversized headphones. Music is a sweetheart, and it has the power to magic away any anguish we might currently feel. Bluntly put, your wild notion of falling in love may have been cruelly dashed, the fake ID you’d so cunningly bought off a Cambodian website might have been confiscated, and your parents might fucking hate your guts, but put your headphones on, press play, and feel the weight vanish.
I am not suggesting we live in our own teen-glazed dream worlds but rather we realize that holding onto our past quirks may be more important than we initially realize. Music has a curiously ethereal quality: It latches onto memory. A specific song can dredge up the most uncanny of recollections. The sound of a crooning Nelly Furtado sends me into a cringe of crimson. Maneater was my first rather unwitting kiss. Anything by Sting makes me think of my father, and when I hear the Foal’s first album it reminds me of long summer afternoons spread out in distant parks.
Listening to the tunes of our youth might not remedy our day-to-day problems—midterm anxiety is not suppressed by listening to Enrique Iglesias—but they can certainly help us to gain some perspective. Because that time when Hero was your favorite song was also a time when the Pythagorean Theorem seemed like the impossible musing of geniuses. Hero was a time when the outcome of a game of hide-and-seek determined the quality of your weekend. Hero was a time in which mystery still lurked in hours of midnight. Sure, these feelings might seem like menial trifles compared to the ever-so-important business in which you’re currently engaged. But they might not seem so life-or-death in a decade, or a fortnight for that matter. That midterm, that headache-rendering problem set you nauseatingly complain about to all of your friends will soon pass into irrelevance. You’d better hope it will. Imagine the pettiness of suffering anguish over a B grade by the time Drake’s new album seems like ancient history. In the meantime all you need do is find your very own Enrique. Try blasting it at slightly obnoxious levels. No promises, but it might just make it all a little more manageable.
We live in an age in which the next big thing quickly becomes yesterday’s meritocracy. No sooner have we downloaded that must-hear band than our attention is thrust elsewhere. The need to stay in touch is a perfectly natural tendency, but it’s vital we retain and revisit our own personalized musical histories, because they pull us back. I imagine on that particular September evening when the Arctic Monkeys played in my absence they closed their set with a brash rendition of 505. They usually do. In the song’s opening line Turner whimsically sings of “going back to 505.” I’ve never been sure of exactly where this place is and how on earth I might get there, but I sure as hell try every damn time.
Richard Whiddington is a Columbia College junior majoring in East Asian languages and cultures. Whiddy Banter runs alternate Thursdays.
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