As I’ve matured in my faith, I’ve recognized I still have a lot to atone for. Like a typical ghost story, I still have things I must amend during my time on this Earth. And the first step to reconciliation, after all, is admittance of any malfeasance. So here it goes:
I learned how to record the radio during my summer transition to sixth grade. Like many my age, I sat cross legged, silent, attentive to the voice floating in the air. I prayed for the redemption of a missed song. I steadied my hand for the blessing of that desired tune. And when it finally played, I sprung and captured the elusive spirit of Coolio or Notorious B.I.G. With my tape complete, I tactlessly evangelized my parents, begging them to play my mix while we drove to Don’s Creamy Whip in the forest green Dodge Caravan. Of course, they entertained my endeavors, but I never converted them to my music.
In fact, I discovered their aversion to my musical preferences when I put in for the 12 CDs that the magazine promised for only one penny. The box of Biggy, 2Pac, and Metallica sat tantalizingly close on the counter. Between us sat my father. “We have to send them back…” His words filled my head with steam, which clouded the rest of the conversation. I stormed up to my room and slammed the door. How could he silence the art my ears craved? I fumed. And while this formed part of the reason he sent the CDs back, I had, of course, failed to read the fine print of the advertisement, which stipulated a monthly membership fee to go along with the penny for the dozen offer. That night, I stole Life After Death from the box. The company would only get 11 CDs, and I would get Biggy to reward my rebellion.
The first CD I stole was Nirvana’s Nevermind. A friend in middle school leant me it. The music screamed angst into my life. It mirrored the pain I felt in my cushy, suburban existence, with my private Catholic school education, two-parent home, and enrichment-filled schedule. I would not give it back to Ryan. I told him I had put it back in his backpack during recess. Someone must have taken it, I said with a shrug. He never suspected anything. After all, I was the kid with the tucked in shirt, combed hair, and top grades (at least, compared to the other boys). Also, they called me Elvis until I ruffled my hair throughout Junior High.
During our eighth grade trip to Chicago, I used the traveler’s check my parents gave me for food to buy my first CD: Krayzie Bone’s Thug Mentality. Up to this very moment, I never once questioned how a thirteen year old could buy such an explicit album. But I did it. And the cool dad chaperoning the trip saw me buy it. He gave me a smirk and never told my parents. It was so freakin’ gangster.
The first song I downloaded illegally was “Thong Song” by Sisqo, followed by “Too Close” by Next and Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin”. Obviously I am organizing this chronologically, but you could guess my age when I digitally pilfered these songs. At the time, sex remained an abstract idea, and the innuendo in “Too Close”, even for a teenaged boy who looked up all the sex words in his English-Spanish dictionary in the first week of high school, was ambiguous enough to elude me for the first few months of its release. I, of course, played the songs on repeat when driving my younger siblings places, even after I figured out why they kept singing “you’re making it hard for me.”
I bought the single to “Whistle While You Twerk” by the Ying-Yang Twins. I played it along with Too Short’s “Shake That Monkey” while I drove the aforementioned Dodge Caravan to swim meets.
During my undergrad, the water polo team I was on ate at an exclusive club one of the guy’s parents belonged to. It was karaoke night. The guy had a great singing voice. He moonlighted with the campus glee club. He sang something from karaoke royalty like Marvin Gaye or Sinatra or Bon Jovi. After he serenaded the mostly empty dining room (and after the few groups not associated with us were moved to clap their hands), someone half-ass-dared me to sing. I took that as a sincere call to action. I was the self-deprecating jokester on the squad, and I needed some attention or I’d vanish into the night air (or something like that). Like an awkward first date, I tried to force a cheap laugh from the audience I was courting. So I went to the DJ and requested my song. After bumbling through the first verse of “Ice Ice Baby”, the DJ cut me off. I returned to my seat to discover no one was paying attention anyways. Just me, the DJ, and my shame.
In post-grad I lost a friend over an argument: it was about the merits of Dave Matthews Band. He thought they were too mainstream and “pop” to be considered artistic. That bastard.
I also reviewed CD’s in post-grad. I gave one a “-1 out of 10” and wrote “God help us all” as my review. It’s a wonder my head didn’t burst from air of superiority I had pumped in it.
There are other things I’m not proud of. My snobbery during college: my insistence of being the judge and jury of “real hip-hop.”
I’m not proud that I avoid dancing, and that I now latch onto my two-year old daughter at weddings so that I can merely rock my hips while I hold her.
I’m also not proud that I listen to the same 30 songs on repeat, only substituting a few songs every five years.
I’m not proud that I Kelis’s “Milkshake” has been stuck in my head since it came out and I haven’t actively tried to change that.
I’ve confessed all the sins that plague my past. I can finally transcend this…
…wait, I’m still here.