Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Brown-orange sky

I woke this morning (well, it was about 11:45) to a strange condition of light outside that I can’t describe. The same thing happened yesterday; it’s like the almost brown-orange color between when it’s very sunny and when a storm suddenly dumps hail out of the sky, an eerie rust-colored available light that’s still full sunlight, but maybe when it’s obscured by a giant storm that hits and vanishes like the Viet Cong. But thismorning it wasn’t just this light – in the half-awake state between the last cycle of sleep and the first moment of being awake in bed, my mind was fully convinced that it was 1988, even though I was a 28 year old adult (?) living in Seattle, and not a kid in high school back in Elkhart, Indiana. I completely thought Ray Miller drove a grey Citation and Larry Falli had a cow’s skull on the hood of his Cordoba and I worked at Montgomery Ward as a master paint specialist for $3.65 an hour. This wormhole lasted for about two seconds, like when you have a dream that you knocked your teeth out and you wake and think for a split-second that you have no teeth. When this temporary portal slipped past, I felt an intense burst of depression that it really wasn’t true, or maybe that I couldn’t go back to sleep and exploit it further. After a half a minute of that, I realized how stupid the whole thing was, and started looking for the remote controls to the TV, stereo, and VCR.

Here’s another dumb thought that happened today. It takes forever to set up, and maybe I just want to ramble about the past more, so bear with me. It also has to do with Pearl Jam, so don’t freak out on me.

I wasn’t a big Pearl Jam fan from the beginning. I wasn’t really a fan of anybody from the whole Seattle movement, because I was too busy with my Motorhead collection and whatnot. When I met Tanya back in the spring of 1993, she initially started emailing me because my process name on the VMS mainframes was always “Doctor X.” (Process names: on VMS computers, you can set a 16 character label that will appear next to your userid when someone looks at some or all of the users on the system. Many people set them to everything from “NoBlood4Oil” to “BoKnowsUnix” to “Sid Lives” to whatever other music-related or depraved things you could think of on a college campus.) Doctor X was a Queensryche reference, and we had that in common. She was also very into Pearl Jam, and I was reluctant, but I heard Alive or Jeremy or something on the radio once, and it wasn’t too bad – it was more metal-based than Nirvana and I thought that maybe I could be into them. One Friday night, we were sitting in her loft in Willkie Quad after a typical dinner/movie date, and she played the whole album for me. Although I wouldn’t call myself a Pearl Jam fan, all of the songs deeply cemented that evening into my head. The relationship started so sweet, innocent – walking across campus, holding hands, being in love and beautiful April days, and the eleven tracks on that album were and still are a direct condiut back to those days of spring 1993.

So she went away for the summer, so did I. We both came back, things went on, but were different, and it ended at the end of October. If you need more details than that, you can read any of the 400 journal entries or short stories I’ve written on the subject. Needless to say, when Pearl Jam’s second album came out, I was pretty anti-Eddie Vedder. And the breakup wasn’t exactly smooth. She tried to politely and distantly be friends, and immediately got into another relationship. I wallowed in episodes of psychotic bullshit that were entirely my fault, and created a huge rift between us. It was the kind of situation where I didn’t feel I could win. I couldn’t have her back, but I couldn’t pretend it never happened. But I couldn’t have her back.

There were drunken, suicidal phone calls, new medications, rambling emails, and other mind games. Then the process names started to change. Even when you aren’t talking to someone anymore, the process name wars will always happen – I found that out with the astrology chick. These were not of the “JKONRATH=dick” sort, but much more subtle – obscure musical references that 1 in 10,000 people would catch. During that time, when we weren’t speaking, one of her process names was “rearviewmirror.” I knew it was a Pearl Jam song, from the new album, but I dismissed it and went on to my chaotic, singular path to destruction.

Fast-forward to July 1, 1995. Everything I own is in a U-Haul truck. I said goodbye to A and Liggett after they helped me load the last of my stuff, and then said goodbye to the city of Bloomington. I’d drive up to Elkhart, say my parental goodbyes, and then head west to Seattle. On the way, I stopped in the Karma records in Kokomo, about halfway through the 250 mile trip. I had a fat wad of money in my pocket, and I figured I’d buy every used tape they had that I could endure. I found the entire Anthrax discography, and a copy of the second Pearl Jam tape for $3. What the hell, I was mostly over her, I thought. I’d had sex with two other people since her, so that qualified as over in my book. I got the tapes, and during the 40-some hour, no-sleep drive to Seattle, I must’ve listened to it a couple of times, but I didn’t pay attention. It seemed marginal, and not as good to me as the first one, so I went back to Henry Rollins or whatever I was listening to on that trip.

I got to Bill’s house, slept for 8 hours, took my first shower in about three days, and got ancy. His wife and kid were in Indiana, visiting relatives, and he was at work, which left me in Mountlake Terrace with no car, a U-Haul full of shit, and in a strange house. I needed food, a walk, and some exploration. I grabbed the walkman and the Pearl Jam tape, rewound to the song rearview mirror, and went walking to the Dairy Queen about a half-mile from the apartment.

So, two thoughts were going on in my mind. One was the knife turning in me over her process name, and how it had to directly do with how much of a dick I was after we split. But the other, less predictable response had to do with my own interpretations of the song, the first song (in theory) that I listened to whhile in Seattle. The relationship aspects hurt, but it made me think about how Indiana was in my rearview mirror. Since my breakup with her, things went downhill for me in Bloomington. It wasn’t her fault – it was that everyone was graduating and moving away, and it made the whole scene more alien for me. Seattle was my start over, and the song was oddly appropriate.

Today, I was about a half hour into the 4 minute trip from my house to the Taco Bell, and for some odd reason, I put in my copy of Vs. and rewound to the song. It won’t be long until Seattle is in my rearview mirror, and the ramifications of this were like a sharp blow to the sternum with a huge weight. I’m not scared of leaving, but it doesn’t seem like too long ago when I was walking to that Dairy Queen and listening to this song on my walkman. My memory has been fucking with me so much, snapping me into brief but chaotic periods of confusion, nostalgia, and depression. I’ve been in Seattle for my whole life, but two minutes ago, I was talking to A about Leonard Maltin in Simms’ old apartment while he was making Indian food and getting ready to tape Duckman. It’s all very confusing sometimes.

That’s enough shit to stew over for now. Hey, when I move, my dates and times won’t be 3 hours off anymore. How’s that for a solution to my stupid problem?