Dear Julian Casablancas
Dear Julian Casablancas,
It is difficult writing a letter to a stranger you admire. The occasion rarely presents itself. It is uncommon, if not illegal, to follow a stranger for so many years and reach the point of such admiration that one is urged to write. One does not get much practice writing a letter to someone the likes of you. Words must be chosen carefully and modified when necessary. For example, I will not say that I love you. I will say that I admire, with an appropriate amount of affection, yourself and your music. The sequencing of thoughts is also a delicate art. Opening with the impact you have had on my life would come across far too intense. It may give off a creepy vibe which, although is a desired effect on some occasions, is not desired at this current time.
I will start by telling you about my recent visit to the CNE, a fair that comes to Toronto every summer. You could go in the daytime but it really is best at night, when the lights come on and it transforms into a scene from an old American movie. There are the rollercoasters-the carousel you could make out in, the mechanical boat you could vomit in, the swing ride you could die in. Market vendors sell their wares, items that you would ignore under normal circumstances but, under the striped tents, amidst the hustle and bustle, develop a certain appeal-‘’I’ve always wanted a state-of-the-art nail clipper!’’ you might say. And the food! Barbeque smoked ribs, funnel cake, butter coffee, chocolate fried chicken…You have never so quickly regretted putting something in your mouth until you have eaten a deep fried Twinkie. It is true-you do need to push your way through sticky bodies of tourists and un-restrained children to get from place to place. Don’t let this turn you off from visiting if you ever get the chance-it really is a good time.
This year, I attended the CNE with my friend Peter. We had not read about its offerings ahead of time, as it was a last-minute decision on account of discovering only hours earlier that it was the last night for half-price admission. ‘’What should we do first?’’ I ask. Peter looks over the fairgrounds map. ‘’I’d love to check out the renewable energy pavilion!’’ He says. I imagine a fuzzy video montage of wind turbines and solar panels while a voiceover narrates-“This is energy…this, is energy. Energy-How is it renewed?’’ Nothing interests me about this pavilion. I lie and tell Peter that sounds like a great idea. It’s like you said-‘’1000 ways to please your man, not even one requires a plan’’. As we make our way over, we come across the Farm Pavilion. ‘’Hey, you want to check this out?’’ Peter asks. It had been awhile since I last encountered a cow, and I hadn’t pet anything all evening- ‘’Sure, why not?’’ I reply.
We enter the Farm Pavilion. This is when I see them-a family of alpacas! There is a black alpaca, a brown alpaca, a white alpaca-literally, every colour of alpaca you can imagine. One strolls lazily around the fenced perimeter. Another chews on cud. Another sits quietly as its lice gets picked. Never in my life did I think I would actually meet an alpaca. I had entertained the thought-‘’If I ever meet an alpaca, I would hug the shit out of it!’’-but it was one of those far-reaching dreams, the kind so wonderful that it would certainly never happen. In time, you would come to accept this fact. Never did I imagine that my dream would come true, in the CNE Farm Pavilion, no less. It was all happening so quickly, in surreal, pant-wetting detail. ‘’Oh my god. Alpacas…! Alpacas!’’ I stammer. Alpacas, walking in their fluffy coats. Alpacas, craning their long necks. Alpacas, staring into space with their sleepy eyes. Alpacas, with their gentle alpaca faces. Alpacas, with their gentle alpaca smiles. I had prepared for this moment all my life and now that it was happening, I didn’t know what to do.
‘’Why don’t you stand closer, and I’ll take a picture of you?’’ Peter suggests. I didn’t think I’d be this nervous, but I am. My legs tremble as I wobble cautiously towards the fence. I narrate each moment in my head so that they fully register. I am inside the CNE Farm Pavilion. I am approaching an alpaca pen. The alpacas are in the alpaca pen. I stand in front of the fence and smile nervously, trying not to look too constipated. ‘’Great!’’ Peter says, as he takes the picture. Recognizing my catatonic state, Peter does what any good friend would do and proceeds to guide me through the appropriate course of action. ‘’Why don’t you go closer so you can pet one?’’ I take a few steps closer and kneel down by the fence. The alpacas are nearby, but none of them are within arms’ reach. ‘’Come on, alpaca. Come…here,’’ I coax desperately. The brown alpaca trots over slowly. It bends down towards the feeding trough and proceeds to chew some hay. ‘’Now’s your chance!’’ Peter exclaims, ‘’Try to pet its head!’’ I reach out my hand, hesitate, and pull back. ‘’I-I can’t…!’’ I cry. ‘’It’s ok,’’ Peter says, ‘’Just reach over and you can pet it!’’ I try again, leaning forward more. My hand makes contact with the alpaca’s head. I run my fingers gently through its tuft of fur. I am touching an alpaca. My hands are touching an alpaca. The alpaca twitches its head. I shrink back a little, recalibrate, and make contact again. I am touching an alpaca again. Please don’t bite me, alpaca. ‘’How is it?’’ Peter asks. ‘’I have never been more terrified and excited in my whole life!’’ I reply.
I tell you this story because it is the only way I can accurately describe what I imagine it would be like to meet you. My formative years were spent listening to your music, watching your performances, and poring over your interviews. I admit I do not actually know what you are like. My personality has been shaped by my perception of who you are. My quiet honesty, the way I mumble words sometimes, my sarcastic quips-they are my versions of you. To me, you are the ultimate-the most rad, the most cool, the most real. If I ever find myself being rad, being cool, or being real, I know it is in large part because of you.
Now it is time to pepper this letter with some light-hearted anecdotes, so as not to come on too strong. When I first practiced driving on the highway for my license, I was terrified. The only thing that calmed my nerves was blasting Is This It as I drove. It made me feel bad-ass. I passed my exam and have not driven on the highway since. I saw you live when you toured for Phrazes for the Young. The venue was awful and I couldn’t see shit. I fell in love with your drummer, who I mistakenly thought was your wife because they both have long brown hair. I was looking forward to seeing you perform with the Voidz this November. I was hoping to get you to sign a portrait I drew of your face, and then give it to you as a gift or sell it on eBay. Unfortunately, I will be out of the country so that won’t be happening. I don’t know if we will ever meet. They say you should never meet your heroes. I don’t know if this is true, because I’ve only met alpacas. Maybe it’s something they say to soften the blow if our dreams don’t come true. In any case, if I ever meet you, please receive me kindly with patience. I may not have the words. I may only have one word. If you hear me gasp ‘’Alpaca! Alpaca!’’ you will know why.
With much respect and an appropriate amount of love,