“What have you been listening to lately?” a friend asked me Friday night, and I froze for a moment before coming up with an answer.
The reality is, I’ve been listening to as little music as ever the last couple weeks, even the old standbys falling to the wayside in favor of podcasts or silence. To be sure, part of the blame lies on my now-dead gym headphones, whose replacements have failed to stay put in my ears. Three hours a week of podcasts, shifted elsewhere on the schedule, bumping music away.
Still, more has to do with the stress of this summer, of my friends’ various struggles and where that leaves me. Monday, I attended a party that felt like two, the dividing line drawn when my friends departed or disappeared, and I remained to mingle with my friend’s girlfriend’s crew. The back half was less difficult, perhaps due to alcohol or merely coasting through exhaustion, but a factor for sure was the people who had left, two in particular. Not that I was glad to see them go, but with them gone, I could shut down the process that had been running in the background of my mind, ready to spring forward if we wound up in yet another conversation about the chemical imbalances they’ve spent the last several months battling.
The first half of the party had the potential for severity, even if it never arrived. The second was simply a party.
Despite the lack of intentional music consumption lately, I’ve probably been listening to as much as ever. I’m out and about all too often, spending the summer in bars, street fairs, and parks, playlists curated by other people inevitably wafting through the air. Monday, at the party, I kept glancing over my shoulder at the TV, surprised by the song choices displayed. Friday, I caught portions of three bands at a street fair, in the midst of bar hopping. There’s music everywhere, only it’s unchosen and unchallenging.
I keep wondering when I’ll slow down, when I’ll turn that inevitable corner towards irrelevance. Perhaps, given my feelings towards EDM and Kendrick and so many trends from recent years, I already have, and I’m blind to it. But I’m still ahead of so many of my friends in terms of the local scene, and the bands I still love play festivals that aren’t simply curated by genre or era. For now, I’m doing okay. I think.
The metaphor I frequently turn to in regards to aging is that of a fastball, of a former flamethrower now sputtering by. This week, during a conversation about David Letterman’s infamous interview with Joaquin Phoenix, I said how Letterman could still get his fastball up there when he wanted to, even if he wasn’t what he had been. But I wonder: Without radar guns, how do you measure such a thing?