Love is a Death Cab For Cutie song: Perfectly sun-kissed, poetic, simple and nostalgic all at once.
I was 15 years old in the summer of 2006 when I convinced my parents to let me go to Lollapalooza. My friend Christine and I split up (she headed to Wilco and I chose Death Cab For Cutie). As my parents waited outside the fence, I vividly remember walking across Grant Park as if “New Year” was my personal soundtrack to the stage. I remember the lights, the drums the BAM BAM “so this is the new year”. I didn’t know singers could sound like (better than) the album. By the time I made my way across Buckingham Fountain and to the edge of the crowd on the North end of the park, Crooked Teeth began to play. I remember being completely awestruck by my city, this city that I had grow up in and seen every day in the simple light of normalcy.
’Cause at night, the sun in retreat
Made the skyline look like crooked teeth
In the mouth of a man who was devouring us both
Just like that I drifted away for the first time, and got completely lost in a moment. My eyes slowly zoomed out, panning away from the crowd, the park; scanning the Prudential building and beyond the familiar skyline.
I was 18 years old in the summer of 2009 when I saw a boy leaning against the wall outside of a party in a green Pokemon shirt, and fell in love for the first time. A real, true, up all night, and consuming kind of way. His lips felt like drinking a beer for the first time…every time. Buzzing, intoxicating. Not surprising, it was in the summer of 2009 when I felt my first “looking in the rearview mirror” heartache.
I know you can’t hold out forever
Waiting on a diamond and a tether
From a boy who won’t swim
But who will dip his toe in
Just to keep you here with him.
I was 20 in 2011 when I left University of Iowa to move back home and finish college. It’s that weird purgatory where you’re too old to drink with kids who are too young to drink, and you’re too young to drink legally. We would spend our afternoons walking by the Chicago River, up and down state street and smoking disgusting menthol cigarettes. I remember feeling completely aimless. I was attaching myself to friends and guys and assuming their interests. With Iowa friends “yes I love country”, then in Chicago “I only listen to hip hop”, when really I just wanted to be me, even though me in 2011 had no idea who “me” was.
When there’s a doubt in your mind
’Cause you think it all the time
Framin’ rights into wrongs
I was 22 in the summer of 2013 when I had fooled myself into thinking I was a fully formed adult, yet stumbled back into the mistakes of my adolescence. I was convinced that people do meet “the one” at 18 and that this was my person.
I live with my memories, the bustling fervor of New York
Where on 59th street we quarrelled and broke the bathroom door
’Cause you were just drinking ’til you could hardly see
Oh how much I loved you but I couldn’t bring myself to leave
I was 24 in the summer of 2015 when I decided to move to Israel and make a life there. That “boy who won’t swim” and I laid in bed every week before I left. In some ways it was like leaving a childhood friend. We met at 18 and now (as he said) I was grown up. So much life happened in this 6 years, both apart and together. We lost touch, we attended the funerals of friends, we graduated college, we…grew up. I blew him off my last night in town to avoid another Summer of 09 where I would have regrets. The week I landed, living alone in an apartment in a foreign city with no friends nearby I sobbed to myself. I called home…
But someone’s gotta be the lighthouse
And that someone’s gotta be me
And I hope your absence makes us grow fonder
I hope we always feel the same
When our eyes meet past security,
We embrace in the baggage claim
I was 28 in the summer of 2009 when my favorite singer and my favorite hometown hero collided. As I walked into the United Center with my brother and my sister-in-law I was taken back to Grant Park in 2006. Past the crowd, past the lights past the stage, past every disappointment and negative feeling I had about Chicago — this place I thought I wanted to get away from every heartbreak and grief and disappointment— I could only remember the best memories: getting food with my friends in high school around the corner, house parties, chasing house parties, laughing while driving around all hours of the night. Maybe because I know who I am now (or at least in this very moment, standing at the intersection of Ashland and Madison), I was able to see all of those things were what made me. Instead of looking at nostalgia as something that brings back bad memories…it was euphorically surreal.
Do you remember how when you were younger
The summers all lasted forever?
Into months, into years
Hold that feeling forever
I’m 29 in the Spring of 2020 as I sit on my couch in the midst of one of the craziest experiences of my lifetime. As Ben Gibbard plays all of the songs I’ve been missing and even those I didn’t know I missed, I’m reminded of all of these things and all of these memories.
Our youth is fleeting, old age is just around the bend and I can’t wait to go gray
And I’ll sit and wonder of every love that could have been
If I’d only thought of something charming to say
I am finally able to put what I’ve been feeling over the years (for different people, for different reasons and different purposes) into words: