“These guys suck,” I said to Amanda. She was adjusting the flower crown that she wore just to annoy me. Apparently, Coachella was still an influence here at the Boston Calling Music Festival.
“Yeah, they’re even douchier in person. They don’t even sound all that great,” she said. The guitarist, manbun and all, tossed his Strat up in the air. I think most of the crowd had hoped that it would hit him in the face. We weren’t that lucky.
“I don’t think they’re all that bad!” said my buddy Andrew. He was on acid or something, dancing by himself in khakis and the ugliest Hawaiian shirt I’ve ever seen. You really have to be a people person to deal with the crowds of people swaying and bobbing, some bumping, some grinding, I was starting to wish I had a hit of whatever Andrew was on to deal with it myself. He kept on rubbing his chest and snapping his fingers, happy as can be. No one seemed to really mind. I guess nothing could really be that bad when you were in his state of mind, bless him.
Boston Calling was smaller than most music festivals. It was compact for a music festival with only two stages and various food trucks all crammed in to a Government Center right in downtown Boston. The two stages meant it was kind of hard to avoid this sham of a band while waiting for Modest Mouse to come on the other stage and close out the night. Like with most festivals, I was annoyed by the thrush of people bumping into me, the (at least) 15-minute wait in line to get beers at $10 apiece and the heat that was already in full Summer mode despite it being just Memorial Day weekend.
While Coachella took place in a desert, Lollapalooza in a park and Bonnaroo…wherever the hell that was, Boston Calling taking in place in a city wasn’t the most ideal location comfort wise. Plenty of bricks that made up the ground were either broken or missing and had likely turned more ankles than Allen Iverson in his prime. We were surrounded by high rise apartments, ugly concrete buildings that at one point were considered ‘state of the art’, and of course, drunk Bostonians. This festival served as the unofficial kickoff to summer, featuring the return of sundresses (delightful!) and flower crowns (terrible). I was already annoyed in the never ending beer line listening to someone named Chad in front of me complaining about this Cape Cod house not being ‘lit’ enough because his dad wouldn’t get new jet skis. Maybe I was just bitter I had another Summer with nothing planned. Or maybe it was a lack of jet skis in my life. Either way I was already kind of annoyed when someone tapped me on my shoulder. As one does, I turned around.
“Yo you wanna buy me beer?” said some kid swarmy teen in Rayban’s and an Oasis shirt.
“Sorry Pal” I told him, hoping that would be that. It wasn’t.
“C’mon man I got money I just need you to buy me some Sam Adams,” the youth said.
“Yeah Owen, buy the kid a beer. It’s a good deed to help the young and thirsty,” Amanda was tormenting me again. This had happened a million times since we were in preschool together. It was her favorite pastime. She didn’t even bother to hide the smirk.
“I THINK EVERYONE SHOULD BE HAPPY!” yelled out Andrew. Man of the people.
I looked at the kid. He probably wasn’t even 15 yet. That was me once. I thought back to how many times I successfully got someone else to buy me beer at that age. I quickly remembered I was successful at that a whopping 0 times.
“Nah, sorry man.”
“Why not?” The balls on this kid!
“Because I just don’t want to,” I told him truthfully.
“Bro give me one good reason why not,” he said. I noticed there were a couple friends of his hiding behind him, hoping to ride his coattails for a couple sips each.
“I’ll give you plenty,” I got ready to unload. I cleared my throat and took a sip of my own overpriced Budweiser just to make him jealous.
“Number one, you may be a cop,” That one got a confused look out of him. “Number two, no one ever bought me beer when I was your age, so why should I do the same for you. In fact I’m envious that the only problem you have to worry about is getting beer at such a tender young age. Thirdly, and most importantly, Oasis fucking sucks and Blur is way better. Had you been wearing a Blur shirt, I may have taken pity on you, but you’re not. Now be gone with you, and good luck getting laid at Prom.” His friends laughed at his misfortune but they quickly moved on to the next target.
“Well now that wasn’t very nice,” Amanda said. “And I swear you will fight that Blur and Oasis debate until you’re in the grave.”
“It’s not even a debate. Blur was a game changer. Oasis was just poppier? Poppier is a word, right?”
“You’re the writer” she said.
“Let’s roll with it then. Anyways, millions of braindead people decided that they liked their garbage more than the genius that is Blur. The masses have terrible taste in music. Boring people like Oasis.”
“You think everyone is boring!” Amanda groaned. She wasn’t wrong.
“Exactly, and everyone likes Oasis. It’s a shame, really. So many perfectly good ears gone to waste.”
“Oh God Owen,” Amanda started, but I was on a roll.
“If you listened to more Blur instead of stupid Champagne Supernova on repeat every time you were feeling… I dunno. Wistful? Then you would know that I’m 100% right.”
“You’re an ass,” she said. I liked to think that this was her conceding the point.
“Thank you darling,” I said with a bow and a fake Queen’s wave to the crowd.
“I LIKE BOTH BLUR AND OASIS. BRITPOP FOREVER! WONDERWALL AND THE WOOHOO SONG! WONDERWOO!” shouted Andrew. People in our area were enjoying him and his dancing more than the boring sack of crap up on stage.
“Anywho,” I said as I moved aside for two girls dragging their wasted friend through the crowd, “Are you excited for Modest Mouse?”
“Yeah! As long as they play Float On I’ll be happy.” I was pretty confident that was the one song Amanda knew by them. She was never into the deep cuts, unless we were talking Justin Timberlake or someone like that. It dawned on me that this was very on brand as she was pro-Oasis.
The band on stage thanked the audience for coming out which was the cue for everyone to immediately rush all at once to the other stage to get ready for Modest Mouse, not even bothering to hear the last song. The herd of angsty cattle made a mad dash for it. Andrew went running like the maddest man of them all with his arms flailing and Amanda followed. She ran like 8 miles a day or something dumb like that so she had no problem tracking him down. The problem for me was that I wasn’t as nimble while trying to spill the least amount of beer possible, so I got caught in the shuffle of the others making their way to the stage. Of course, I didn’t have any service on my phone and not even Andrew’s garish Hawaiian shirt could help me spot them. I’d find them afterwards, or at the very least I’d talk to them tomorrow. We had plans to get breakfast for some reason tomorrow morning. I hate breakfast.
I walked up as far as I could without any plan of attack. I just moved towards dead center of the stage until I didn’t feel like asking people to move to let me get right in front of them, which is asking a lot in this situation. There’s only so many times you can say “excuse me” and “sorry” before you feel like a pain in everyone’s ass. I settled on my spot and hoped that I wouldn’t need to take a piss halfway through, which is a common problem at music festivals.
The wind was starting to pick up and the sun was getting ready to say adios to everyone, getting darker every minute we waited for Modest Mouse to hit the stage. It was like the calm before a musical storm. I was pretty jazzed to see them play. The rest of the lineup was filled with rappers I didn’t care about, a couple DJ’s who did whatever button pushing they did, and a couple bands that ranged from blah to hey not bad, so this was definitely the highlight of the day. I was happy that I had enough left in my two beers to last the set and was admiring the giant apartment buildings that served as the backdrop rising behind the stage. I was lamenting how I’d never be able to afford rent for a downtown Boston apartment like these when an actual giant decided to park himself right in front of me. I hated him at first sight.
For whatever reason, let’s blame it on the earlier beers, Steve Irwin’s voice started narrating in my head, describing the species in front of me: “Oi, look at the pink shorts on this one with the thousand tiny palm trees on them! You don’t see a vintage green Shawn Kemp Seattle Super Sonics basketball jersey in the wild these days! What a perfect specimen this Bro is! Look at his flip flops, the backwards snapback ‘Worthington Lacrosse’ hat and those sunglasses with the stupid straps on them to really complete the perfect frat look! And the muscles! Look at him! Crikey!” He definitely only knew the words to Float On. There’s no way a guy dressed like that at a festival could know any other song that wasn’t their biggest hit. Not only did I loathe him for, well, everything, but he was at least 6’7 and was now blocking my view.
I wish Andrew was here so I could have him dance on Bro Montana in front of me and get him uncomfortable enough to leave. I looked at my surroundings. Things weren’t looking too promising since everyone was in their respective viewing positions, waiting for Modest Mouse to come out any second. The only nice thing that I saw as I scanned around was this chick that had just sifted to the crowd and was now on my left. I thought I’d need a neck brace after the double take I did when I saw her. Wavy blonde hair, tanned skin already in mid-Summer form, a couple tattoos and an Arctic Monkeys US 2016 tour shirt, sweet Jesus. Everyone in the surrounding area had noticed her gracing us with her presence. I don’t think it was physically possible for her to go unnoticed anywhere. She’d make a terrible spy. The Mega Bro in front of me even pushed his sunglasses down to the bridge of his nose to get a better look at her. It began to speak.
“Did you see them on that tour?” Lord Bro asked the girl.
His shot had been fired.
It did not land.
“What do you think?” she asked with an understandable hint of annoyance.
“I mean, yeah but like, are you a big fan?” Lord Bro asked. The hole he was digging himself was about to get a little deeper.
“Really? You’re seriously asking me if I’m an Arctic Monkeys fan? That’s really the line you’re going with here?”
“I was just…” That was all the Bro managed to get out. This rant was just getting started.
“Do you think I paid 35 bucks for a shirt of a band I don’t like?”
“This is really funny coming from a guy in a fucking Shawn Kemp jersey. Did you even see the Sonics play a game in person?”
“Well, no but…” He was stunned. I was enjoying this immensely. She was quickly turning into my hero.
“Don’t you think it’s hypocritical that you, in a Shawn Kemp jersey are trying to question my fanhood when you never even saw the Sonics play a game in your life? I saw a 12-year-old a couple minutes ago in a Nirvana shirt, you gonna go harass him about if he saw them live?”
“Whoa, okay you don’t have to be a such a fucking bitch about it.” His pride had taken a hit, so he was now resorting to the typical tactic when a shallow guy like Lord Bro doesn’t get what he wants: call her a bitch. The line had been crossed.
“C’mon man, did you really have to call her a bitch?” I asked.
“Who the FUCK are you, Bro?” he said, turning to look down on me. As he turned, the Arctic Monkeys girl took the opportunity to take his beer from him and chug it all in about 2 seconds. I swear the city of Boston should put a plaque in her honor at this very spot. She gave him the empty cup back as everyone in the area looked on in various states of amusement, shock and awe. As he was attempting to pick his jaw up off the ground, I took the chance to take his stupid Worthington Lax hat and toss it like a frisbee as far as I could. He shoved me, muttered some swear words about my mother and ran away to find his hat. I was happy to see that whoever had caught the hat had decided to throw it again, even further from where we were. I turned to Wonder Woman on my left.
“I could’ve handled him on my own.” She said.
“Oh yeah, no doubt in my mind on that one,” I told her.
“Do you often butt into other people’s arguments?” She asked.
“Only when it can be beneficial to me, I guess.” She looked confused at that one.
“How did you benefit from that?”
“Did you see how tall that idiot was? I wouldn’t have been able to see shit with him in front of me,” I told her. “Plus, you know he was just going to pester you the entire show.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Are you kidding? You’re so good looking it makes me want to puke. That frat guy wouldn’t have quit in a million years. He’d be there until at the bare minimum you’d get annoyed enough to bite the bullet and take a picture with him so he could lie to his fellow bros about how he nailed you after the show or something.” I wasn’t sure how she would take that but she laughed a little bit which I can only consider a win.
“Okay that’s fair. Well thanks, I guess. I’m Morgan by the way.”
“I’m Owen, and trust me, the pleasure is all mine.” Talk about an understatement. I noticed the tattoo on her forearm of a hot air balloon with an anchor hanging from the bottom of it. It was the cover of one of Modest Mouse’s albums.
There is a subtle art of bringing up the tattoos a girl has. On the face of it, it seems like a great ice breaker in certain situations, but it is much, much more complex than that. The key is the method of how to bring it up. If you just go with a “I like your tattoos” or “cool tattoos did they hurt” then you have to be very, VERY handsome for them not to scoff at your pathetic attempt to begin a conversation. I’m talking like Ryan Gosling level of good looking. If not, you’ll be met with eyes rolling harder than a kid at an EDM show. You will be considered lame and unoriginal if you go with a line like that. It’s a slippery slope, so I was glad I caught myself before blurting out something that would send things to a screeching halt. I tried to play it as casual as a dumb guy like myself could and nodded to the tattoo and said “So I’m guessing you’re looking forward to seeing them.”
“Hell yeah. They’re my favorite. Last time I saw them was like, 2 years ago when I was living in Germany. I’m overdue on seeing these guys.”
This stung as I had been trying to get a bunch of my friends to do a Eurotrip for years now. I’d always wanted to go to Germany. And also, London. And Italy. And Spain, Amsterdam, even France. Actually, I’d be willing to go anywhere at this point. I was in a severe need for a change of scenery.
“That’s cool, how long did you live in Germany for?” I asked.
“Just six months. I don’t like to spend a lot of time in one place.” Adventurous! “Where are you from?”
“Boston. I unfortunately do spend a lot of time in one place. Without killing me from jealousy, where else have you lived?” I had never been so intrigued by someone else since I stumbled into Slash in a dive bar last year. I had other friends who traveled and posted how nice things were on Instagram, but she wasn’t just traveling, she was doing more than that. I immediately had an itch to travel to wherever she was going next. I didn’t even need to pack a bag at this rate. Just go to Logan Airport now and fly.
“Well, I moved to San Francisco for a few months, worked a bit and went to Tokyo for a couple months. Then I visited China, and then….I think Moscow was after that? Yeah definitely Moscow. That was weird. Too cold for me. Never underestimate how cold it is there. I had to trade three pairs of jeans for a fur coat my neighbor Sergei inherited from his Grandmother at one point. I only lasted a few weeks and I had to get the hell out and went to Poland. Poland was okay besides having to wash dishes at the bar I was at my first night there because I forgot to exchange my money. Made friends with the guys there though and it worked out.”
I got the feeling that she rarely had many dull nights. These days it’s hard for me to get people out for a drink past 9 on a Friday.
“From there I went to Germany which is where I saw Modest Mouse play at this secret beer garden called Wassmer’s. I actually got my tattoo that night! Or technically the next morning or whatever. I had some friends that got me into the bar Modest Mouse was at after the show and I hung out with them. We all got wasted and I told them I would get a tattoo right then and there and they said bullshit, so we all went to a tattoo parlor down the street. It was closed but the guy lived upstairs and we kept knocking until he came down and he said he would do it for me as long as we would shut the fuck up,” I think she took a pause to appreciate the stupid look I imagined was on my dumb face. I was just nodding the whole time trying to keep up. This chick was living my dream. I wanted to travel. I wanted to get drunk with bands I liked. I wanted to make stupid/long lasting decisions on a whim and piss off a German tattoo artist in the wee hours of the morning. I think I was in love.
“From Germany it was off to London which was great besides the awful food, then I spent some time in Greece. I lived on a boat there for a bit working as a bartender. That was a lot of fun. I miss those tips. The Greeks loved me, I guess. Don’t miss the seagulls though. Those fuckers get nastier the farther out in the ocean you are. So cranky. Where was I… oh yeah, then I made it to Monaco. I had a great job as a blackjack dealer in this underground casino until it got shut down. I had to lay low there for a bit, but it was so beautiful I didn’t mind. I actually was dealing cards to James Gandolfini right before he dropped dead. Still have to watch the Soprano’s someday…anyways, then it was Miami and I’ve been living with some friends doing the whole couch-surfing thing the last 2 weeks, and here I am now talking to you!” She was proud to tell me all of this, which to me meant she appreciated how lucky she was. She wasn’t someone who would answer ‘not much’ when you asked what was new every time you saw her. She had all sorts of stories and secrets and I wanted to know them all. Girls like this only exist in Indie films with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, not talking to me at a music festival. You could have told me the world revolved solely around her, and I’d believe it. I was in such awe of her that I was almost speechless, trying to think of something, anything, to say just to keep this thing, whatever it was, going. To be fair, how could anyone follow up her brief yet amazing summary of her life the last few years? Fortunately, I was saved by some guy in a scally cap (as if his Dropkick Murphy’s t-shirt didn’t scream Boston loud enough) walking out to the stage.
“What is up Boston!? Who’s excited for MODEST MOUSE TO PLAY BOSTON CALLING!?” This got the usual chorus of woo’s, yeah’s and applause. This guy was really playing it up to the crowd. That was about to change.
“So, I just wanted to let everyone know that Modest Mouse WILL be playing! We’re just fixing a few things backstage!” The boo birds started chirping at this before he told us all to ‘sit tight’ as if there was anything else to do. Someone threw a beer can on stage which made the guy flinch and he started speed-walking off stage.
“Talk about some good news for people who love bad news!” Morgan said to me with finger guns. I would’ve groaned if anyone else had made that awful joke to me. She got a pass. I just hung my head in mock shame.
“Okay your turn! What do you do, Owen?” Just hearing that she remembered my name made my heart skip a bit. I think I might be going soft.
“Get ready to be disappointed,” I started off, “but I’m a wannabe writer.” How the hell was I supposed to follow her up?
“That’s not disappointing! What do you write?”
“Oh you know, the occasional short story, a screenplay I’ll never finish because I dwell on what to name my characters, a novel that maybe I’ll finish 10 years from now, but I mostly freelance for music sites. Pays the bills, you know? I guess I’ll write anything but poetry. Can’t stand poetry.”
“Is it because you don’t understand it?”
“No…yeah.” I came clean. “I hate trying to figure it all out.”
“I’m the same way! Just get out with it, ya know? I don’t want to try to figure out if you’re talking about a tree or your girlfriend in the first grade. What sites did you write for?” She was actually interested in this? What the hell was happening? I told her some of the sites, some of which she read a bunch and some she promised to check out, which meant she wouldn’t, but that was fine. I was just glad to keep this conversation going. Thank god Andy and his drug dances were elsewhere. This was a weird scene, getting to know someone with thousands of strangers all on top of us while some panicked tech guys move wires around on stage. Usually I would be bored meeting people because they didn’t excite me enough. Now I was worried if I was the one exciting enough to keep her from yawning. Apparently, I was doing a decent job.
“That’s awesome. At least you get to write about an interesting topic,” she said.
“I just like to rant and rave about dumb things in music. There’s plenty to rant and rave about. But I like to help bands I believe in when I can, and try to tear down Imagine Dragons any chance I get.”
“What’s the most recent thing you’ve ranted or raved about?”
“Well, a couple minutes ago my friend and I were arguing over Oasis versus Bl…”
“Oh, Blur all day,” Morgan said, cutting me off. “No debate.”
“Will you marry me?” I asked. It may have been a bit forward so I quickly tried to recover, “Why doesn’t everyone understand that Blur is better?”
“Cause people are dumb and boring.” Holy shit. I was already pretty high on her, but with that statement she had officially became the greatest thing to ever walk this planet. “I feel like we need to ask someone from the UK though. They would have a better authority on the topic, you know?”
“That’s a great idea. We just need to find a British person…” and I was cut off again, this time by Morgan shouting at the top of her lungs.
“IS ANYONE HERE FROM ENGLAND?”
A voice somewhere in front of us gave a questioning “oi?” Some people shuffled to let this monster of a woman through. The Patriots could have used her to help protect Tom Brady. I’d never want to start any shit at whatever bar she was probably bouncing at. “Someone lookin’ for a Brit?”
“Yes! Hi, my name is Morgan and this right here is Owen,” She said offering her hand. Morgan’s hand was dwarfed by the British Girl’s as they shook hands. Morgan even grimaced a little from the grip. “As someone who survived the Brit Pop War, who was better: Oasis or Blur?
“Oasis versus Blur yeh got goin on?” she gave a chuckle that could only be described as hearty. If I had to randomly guess her name, I’d put money down on Bertha and feel very good about my odds.
“Oasis is perfectly fine if yeh like your standard, every day sex. You kent really go wrong wi Oasis. But when yeh want to spice things up, that’s when yeh turn to Blur. If Oasis is sex then Blur is a proper shag in the arse. That fuckin Damon Albarn is brilliant, let me tell yeh. Like a musical karma sutra mastermind or somethin’,” she said, complete with a fist pump, hip thrust and lip bite combo mixed in to really settle the argument once and forever. It was very convincing.
As Morgan and I laughed at this, I noticed others around us shaking their heads in laughter or facepalming themselves. This was the first time I realized that others in our area may have been paying attention. There was a mom with a mean looking let-me-speak-to-your-manager haircut staring daggers at us, mouth agape with her hands over her 10-year old’s ears who seemed to be pretty upset.
“What?” Our British Hero said, nodding to the woman. “Not my fault you brought ya laddie here. You should give it a try sometime! Knock that bug right out ya arse!”
And with that, the mother dragged her son away and probably sent him straight to bible camp.
Can’t wait to see Amanda blush when I bring this up to her next time Wonderwall comes on Spotify during one of her dinner parties. She may even spit out some of her Chardonnay. I would’ve liked to see her and British Bertha interact, maybe loosen her up a little bit. I think she even would’ve sobered Andrew up. I wonder if he could still feel colors or whatever.
“Thank you so, so much,” I told our new friend. “I’d buy you a beer if we weren’t surrounded by a thousand people.”
“That’s alright love, this will do nicely,” she said as she grabbed one of my Budweiser’s and downed it in record time. She winked at us and went to rejoin her friends ahead of us.
“Wow. She’s my hero,” Morgan said as she was rummaging through her green canvas bag. It looked well-traveled. “The world needs more Bertha’s to hit you with the truth like that.” I couldn’t agree more.
The crowd was starting to get antsy. The wind was starting to pick up as it was getting darker and (thankfully) cooler. Morgan’s hair was flowing gracefully in the wind, almost in slow motion. I wish it didn’t make me think of Fabio in a shampoo commercial, but that’s all I could think of.
“Alright so,” I started, “What song do you hope they play. Have to choose one.”
“Dramamine.” She said. I gave her a look that I was impressed, which I absolutely was. That was a much-appreciated deep cut that she went with.
“No matter where I am, any time I hear that song it, like, teleports me back to my bedroom at home, without fail.”
“When I was little I was a big Indiana Jones fan. Absolutely loved those movies. Except the one with Shia LaBeouf. That one sucked. Anyways, I just wanted to travel to all these exotic places and go on adventures, find treasure, the whole nine yards,” she said, “the only problem was that I would ALWAYS get motion sickness, so I had to pop Dramamine like TicTacs. At one point I thought I was never going to go anywhere. I would hear my older brother playing that song from his bedroom and I finally asked him what it was called, and when he told me what it was I found it sort of funny. Now I hear it and it brings me back to looking at a map of the world on my wall, planning where I was going to end up. I’ll put it on while I’m on a train or waiting for a boat and I’ll immediately get this pit in my stomach. It still makes me feel something. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, being so far from home.”
She paused for a bit after this. I was hoping they’d play it now just to see how this real-life Carmen San Diego would react. This was definitely the most reflective she had been in our brief encounter. It just added to her mystique. It had hit me that any moment the band would hit the stage and we would stop talking and I’d probably never see her again. I had to hold back a sigh when she asked me what song I was looking forward to the most.
“Bukowski,” I told her. “I gotta go with a song by a favorite band about a favorite writer of mine. The lyrics just make me laugh cause they seem so accurate.”
And with that we both started to mumble/grumble/sing the lines in our best Modest Mouse mimic: “But God who’d want to be? God who’d want to be such an asshole?”
“I like it. Very solid choice. Now I don’t have to question your fanhood,” she teased.
“Oh like the Frat guy asking about your t-shirt?”
“Exactly!” she said while smacking my arm. “However, we have to thank him and his douchbaggery on making us friends.”
I’d take friends. I noticed some of the techs on stage were having a pow wow that featured a lot of shrugging. I already felt like I was on borrowed time so I asked the question that was near the top of my list.
“So how the hell are you able to travel that much? It’s impressive as shit but at the same time I can’t wrap my head around how you’re pulling off this world tour of yours. Aren’t you ever worried about anything going wrong?”
“Not at all! Why waste time worrying? It doesn’t help anything. I just want to see the world as much as I can. All my life I heard from my parents about how they wish they did this and did that when they were younger, so I’m just doing the damn thing. Don’t get me wrong, it was weird and scary at first, and it’s never the easiest thing going to a new place by yourself, but I’ve gotten good at making friends wherever I go. And in some cases, I even find a partner in crime to tell a frat boy to fuck off,” she said with a smile. “I just never want to be bored. Boredom is the enemy! You only get one life so why not try to cram in as much as you can, right? You could get hit by a Vespa in Rome one day and it could all end in an instant. I work the odd jobs and make connections, and things just always seem to work out. You should try it. It’d give you something to write about. Jack Kerouac’s kind of dated now anyways.”
I had been in Morgan’s presence for like 20 minutes and she was already someone I’d never forget. It’s felt like everyone I’ve met over the past few years have just been a cookie cutter type of personality in a different body. Go to college, get a job, get a boyfriend/girlfriend, get married, get a kid and just keep working til retirement. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but most people are predictable. Morgan was far from that. She was a breath of fresh air. She’s the spice that saves the recipe. She’s an x-factor, a wild card, a shot of tequila. She’s a human plot twist in the life of anyone she’s ever interacted with. She’s living a life I could only dream of. Usually I’d be jealous of her but I can only sit back and applaud her because she’s actually going out there and doing what she wants to do, which is see the world. The travel, the lack of worry, the desire to make her life as interesting as she can…that’s someone doing things the right way.
I wish I could join her on whatever adventure was next. She had me feeling invigorated and also slightly worried that I had already wasted so much time not going out and seeing the world. I wanted to see her next chapter, wherever the hell it was. I didn’t know, and I don’t think even she knew what was next. That’s exciting in its own right. What wasn’t exciting was that I knew exactly what was going to happen any second: the stage lights would go dark, the band would walk out to the stage, people would cheer loudly and they would start playing, and we’d likely get lost in the waves of people when they all rush up toward the stage to make things even tighter. My time with her was running out and so was my hope.
“So, seeing as we’re friends and all now, what’re the chances we ever cross paths again?” I had to ask.
“Well, that depends,” she said. I swear there was a glimmer there.
“I usually don’t want to get too attached with people I meet in cities I’m only briefly in,” she started. At that very moment the lights turned off. Modest Mouse started walking out to the stage and those cheers I predicted started to pick up. Morgan had to start yelling, “but I’ll be at a certain bar tonight after this show ends. If you show up, maybe, JUST maybe you’ll prove to me that you’re actually adventurous enough to hang with me.”
“That sounds like a plan. I’m serious when I say this,” I yelled, “You’re the most interesting person I’ve met in…well, maybe ever. I want to know more about your story.”
“Fuck that! You’re the writer here! Write your own story.” The sea of people bumping into us made it a given that we would be separated at any point. “If you find me, maybe we can share some of the same stories!”
“Fine! What bar?” I yelled. The human walls were definitely closing in. The band started playing “Fire It Up” off of the same album that Morgan’s tattoo came from. That had to be a good sign, right?
“That’s for you to figure out. I’ve got faith in you,” she said with a wink. At least one of us had faith in me. She then tapped two guys in front of her on the shoulder and gave the universal thumbs upward to hoist her up.
Was she really going to exit my life via crowd-surfing?
“Do you always make such a glamorous exit?”
“I just like to keep things interesting. Good luck writer-boy!” And with that she went tumbling and turning with her Chuck Taylors in the air bopping people on their heads along with the various pairs of hands shoving her forward.
I just stood there, Budweiser in hand staring at her. All I could do was shake my head. Once again, she left me speechless. For a way too brief moment of time, I was with someone that truly amazed me. Now I was back to reality with a guy in his 40’s elbowing me in the ribs trying to take a video on his phone.
I wondered if I was the only one that had felt their life had been cut up into two time periods: Before Morgan and After Morgan. I was now living in the AM.
After the show, I was back on the dreadful Green line lamenting the impossible mission I had. It was hopeless. Pick a bar, any bar. It was a nice run with Morgan, but she will forever be someone I’d be wondering about for years to come. She had probably ruined Modest Mouse for me, to be honest. I definitely wouldn’t be able to listen to ‘Dramamine’ without wondering what she was up to. Another band I loved ruined by someone else that became a member of my past.
As the subway got further away from the giant crowds, my phone started buzzing with all the messages that were held up from the shitty service. I had a couple from Amanda telling me to meet her and Andrew at a bar near the festival, but it was too late for that since I was already on the subway. Another one came from her that instantly made a lightbulb go off.
“Hey they played that Bukowski song you like!!” it read.
I had to buy Amanda a bottle of wine for her being such a genius.
I knew exactly where to find Morgan. Or at the very least this was the best guess I could ever make. Leave it to Amanda to finally remember a good song suggestion I threw her way and help me out. It all made sense now!
“Holy fucking shit!” I said to myself. It was at this point I noticed that the same mother-son combo that was scarred for life from that British chick was sitting right across from me.
“What’s wrong with you?” the Mother asked while shaking her head.
“More like what’s RIGHT with me,” I told her.
“Not much, apparently.” She said. I felt bad for her kid.
I refocused my attention and realized I had to get off at the very next stop. I sprinted up the stairs of the Hynes Convention Center stop and had to shove some guy with a sign that said the world was ending out of my way. My heart was pounding. I had a pit in my stomach now as I made my way out of the station and ran across the street with only one cab driver honking at me. I was feeling very anxious as I made my way under the familiar sign that read Bukowki’s Tavern. This was the only bar that made sense. She was testing me and this was my one giant swing for the fences. I had been to this bar a thousand times, a small narrow dive bar that is literally built into the side of a parking garage overlooking the highway. My kind of place, however I can assure you I had never felt this excited to get in.
My eyes got adjusted to the dim lighting as I made my way down the bar. There wasn’t a lot of people sitting there which didn’t help my hopes. I passed an old couple bickering over Ronald Reagan, a fat guy who I think was a permanent fixture at the bar, three bros who could’ve fit in well with that jerkoff Morgan and I had encountered earlier, and lastly, as I made my way to the end, some hipster douchebag reading a book.
I sat down on a barstool that had a fair amount of duct tape on it. There was a gameshow type of wheel that you could spin to select a beer staring right at me. I don’t think I had ever seen it used. I tried to recall the last time I felt this dejected. I thought about how ridiculous it was for someone I just met to have such an immediate impact on me. It wasn’t like I was actually going to with her on her journey with zero planning. I was just so curious of what was next for her. I hadn’t met anyone even remotely close to her. I imagined hanging out with her would include an endless supply of shenanigans and stories that could have happened. She was the shot in the arm I needed to get out of this boring funk I had been in. Shots. That seemed like a good idea now that I was at a bar.
The bartender, bless her, came over. She had been working there a while but I never knew her name. Maybe she had just as interesting a background as Morgan. Probably not.
“Can I get a Lone Star and a shot of Jameson, please?”
“Sure thing,” she told me, and in a matter of seconds I had my ammunition to help ease this emotional pain.
“Why so glum, Chum?” the hipster said looking up from his book. Fucking poetry. Even at Bukowski’s I wasn’t a fan of it. I looked at the hipster and loathed him almost as much as the Bro from earlier. I hated his beanie that was probably organic or fairly traded or whatever, and his stupid mustache. I looked at the book he was somehow able to read in the bar’s darkness. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but there was no way that The Philosophy of Margaret Thatcher was an interesting book.
“Why so glum? I figured I’d be sitting next to the greatest woman I’ve ever spent 20 minutes with while waiting for a band to come on, and instead I’m next to you pretending to look smart by reading at a dive bar late on a Saturday night,” I told him. Maybe I need more Zen in my life or something.
“I told him earlier that he looked pretentious reading that shit here,” the bartender told me. Her tip had just tripled.
I took a sip of Lone Star and started to text Amanda to see where she was and what planet Andrew thought he was on. I got a tap on my left shoulder and was about to yell at the hipster but he was still pretending to read. I looked back over to my right and suddenly someone was standing there.
“We have a winner,” she said.
Prayers had been answered.
“What took ya so long?” I asked.
“Yeah sorry about that. I always forget this place is cash only and the ATM out front is still busted. Did I make you nervous?”
“I figured you’d already be in Argentina or something by now.”
“It’s on my list. Maybe next week,” she said. “I had a feeling you’d figure out where to go. This is my favorite bar here. Thought it was poetic when you mentioned Bukowski was your favorite song and writer.”
That was the first poetic thing I’ve ever enjoyed.
“Do you do this sort of guessing game everywhere you go?”
“Sometimes. I just like to keep people guessing.”
“So I really wouldn’t have seen you again if I didn’t figure it out?”
She smiled as the bartender came over.
“Well, you may have gotten a hint the next time you did your laundry,” she said.
“Check your back right pocket.”
I reached in and felt a piece of paper in there as Morgan ordered two shots and two more beers.
I pulled it out and it had her email and number on it. It was half infuriating and half hilarious to me. Morgan had already put me on a roller-coaster, and I wanted it to never end.
“You know, just in case you didn’t figure it out and totally let me down,” she said. “Now, what are we drinking to?”
I thought of a million things. Adventures, death to Frat boys, Britpop, Dramamine, British Bertha corrupting the youth of America, hell I’d even drink to the Philosophy of Margaret Thatcher at this point, but then the perfect topic hit me.
“To keeping people guessing. And more importantly, to the girl with the modest mouse tattoo.”
And with that, we drank.