If 30 people show up for your birthday party 5 minutes after it starts, you are popular.
I did not show up to the party then, or even during the entire first hour, but I had the best possible excuse: addressing my gross cultural illiteracy. More to the point, I was at the Bijou seeing "Donnie Darko" for the first time in the company of a friend who was just as illiterate.
All I can say is, praise be to the Bijou for upping my movie game just about every single weekend. I owe them a debt of gratitude.
Admittedly, I'd known for years that the 2002 indie film was one I needed to watch and the fact that this was a 15th anniversary restoration only sweetened the pot. But what truly sealed the deal was a friend telling me that when he saw it at 14, it had reordered in his mind what his notion of a film could be.
With no more information than that, we showed up for the weekend's final screening with just minutes to spare. In a testament to the busy weekend the theater had had with the film, they were completely out of popcorn, so for the first time I saw a movie at the Bijou without chomping through a bag of it as I watched.
What struck me immediately was the 1988 setting for the movie, which I hadn't anticipated. From the opening notes of Echo and the Bunnymen's "Under the Killing Moon" through Tears for Fears' "Head Over Heels" to the Church's "Under the Milky Way" to Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," I wondered about the choice of year.
Was the era a favorite of the director? Surely we weren't already experiencing '80s nostalgia in 2002 or were we?
You're bitching but you're not a bitch.
Just as distinctive was seeing both Donnie and his father engrossed in reading books, as if suggesting that waaaay back in '88, people still found time to read. References to voting for Dukakis seemed tailor-made to nail a specific time period, as were those high-waisted pants the girls were wearing. It all felt very nostalgic.
You're weird. That was a compliment.
The movie was dark, with an overriding sense of emptiness and more sci-fi elements than I could get my head around immediately. And, yes, that's a compliment because although we discussed it as we walked back to my apartment, we didn't come close to parsing most of it.
Later, I found a message from him with a link to an article about the more scientific elements of time travel so I could better understand what had transpired, although I'm still a bit shaky on that. I feel flattered that he had enough faith in me to think I could read it and comprehend something so very scientific. As if.
So while I was late, once I'd corrected my cultural gap I was free to head to my friend's birthday party at Lulu's - closed tonight for her event - which was pretty much in full swing when I walked in. Barely through the door, I was enthusiastically greeted by the friendliest cool cat musical couple I know, then spotted the party girl's main squeeze across the bar and went to say hello after not seeing him for months while he was snowboarding out West.
We were barely finished saying hello when I turned to see with whom he'd been sitting and there was one of my very favorite guitarists/conversationalists/people of all time, a decade-long friend I hadn't seen in a whole year (for good reason it turns out) and who made my night by being there.
Sometimes it pays to click "going" when you're invited to an event.
Still, it was nothing short of a thrill to settle down next to him at the bar and pick up where we'd left off a year ago.
At his suggestion, I first loaded up a plate of Tio Pablo's offerings (you don't have to tell me twice to eat) fashioning a couple of chicken, black bean and onion tacos with tomatillo sauce to follow chips and guacamole and leave me energized for as much conversation as I could get.
We were soon joined by a music-lover who loves to combine travel with booty calls (she highly recommends the practice to me) and swore up and down she will never marry again. I always wonder about the ones who protest the loudest.
She also shared how she'd gotten into her first Cheap Trick concert (hint: it involved servicing a roadie) and how she'd be seeing them again this summer (ticket in hand this time). When she brought up Robyn Hitchcock, it was a flashback since I hadn't thought of him in eons - I first heard him in the '80s with his band the Egyptians - although my friend said he'd never listened to his music.
Once she left us to our own devices, we wasted no time in talking about the effects of music - old (Pantera, Van Halen) and new (Hiatus Kaioyte, Dirty Projectors) - on us as well as the need for soulful connections, one of those things that affect quality of life for certain people. What's the point of being friends if everything stays on the surface?
Our bar stool real estate meant that we could stay put and dive down multiple conversational rabbit holes all night while the killer well-chosen soundtrack played loudly overhead and people - the birthday girl, the drummer/music fanatic, the DJs) came to us to chat. I only had to move to score some dessert.
Agreeing that a year between conversations is excessive, I cited the uncertainty of life as a better reason to get together more frequently. For proof, I told him about the Maryland friend who'd meet me monthly in D.C. or Fredericksburg, not just because we wanted to keep up with each other, but because life is too short not to spend time with people who make you laugh and really listen to what you say.
Then he moved to Key West and we don't get that pleasure anymore, so I'm all for gathering ye friendship rosebuds while ye may. Let's talk about what's on our minds, everything and nothing, while we can, shall we?
And in what could only be a sign from the universe, as soon as I got in the car, the first song I heard on the radio was Robyn Hitchcock's "I Want to Tell You About What I Want" from his new (and 21st) album.
You know me, I'll happily tell you about what I want. Just ask, then settle in for the answer and a whole lot of laughter.