My dad used to tell me he could use the sun to tell time. He’d grab a stick and jam it into the dirt and, while I wasn’t looking, look at his watch and tell me what time it was. It was pretty cool, and to be honest, the most mind-twisting part of the whole thing was eventually realizing that he couldn’t, in fact, use the sun to tell time.
You see, my dad is something of an outdoorsman. He carries a Swiss Army knife and he has (at least I always thought, though, now that I’m writing this, revisiting a couple of memories, I’m not so sure) an impressive sense of direction. He built his own deck and I feel like he maybe used wood from some trees he’d personally cut down to do it, although it’s hard to be sure that’s not just a convenient illusion, like the sun-clock thing — but I have to give him credit for going through the trouble of doing the trick, even if it meant I was gullible.
I’m less gullible now. I thought my dad was the same as, or was, Arnold Schwarzenegger when I was a kid, that if Arnold Schwarzenegger were a kind of person, that’s the kind of person my dad was but he’s just a regular guy who tells a good story.
When I first heard the Strokes, I was going into my sophomore year of high school, 9/11 was about to happen and I was fat as hell. I worked at a tiny restaurant in my hometown called Tapas Corner. But there was nothing tapas about it besides the bohemian vibe — portions were large, and they were known for their specialty burritos. Most of the people who worked there were artists and a massive collection of CDs in the back by the refrigerator kept the rotation of music fresh and exciting, lots of local bands and shit I’d never heard of. Tapas Corner was a place where I first learned two big things: the art of earning someone’s respect through the selection of an album, and the virtue of eclectic taste. It’s an important time in any young audiophile’s life when he impresses his distinguished peers with something they’d like.
I can’t listen to Is This It today without thinking about Tapas Corner. Just typing out the title, I can practically smell the stir-fried onion and garlic. We played it on repeat for seemingly ever. Great record to close a restaurant to. While listening to the Strokes new album Comedown Machine, I’ve been thinking, if Tapas Corner hadn’t gone out of business and that stack of CDs were still growing in the back by the refrigerator, how would we feel about it? I’m not sure we’d be completely riveted by it but I think everyone would have a lot to say and there would be a fight about who would say what first.
Comedown Machine sort of reminds me of my dad and his whole sun-clock thing. It’s got this convenient illusion vibe — I believe it’s a Strokes record. Sure, it’s not just Julian’s. But it’s kind of like, if you lied and told me it was just Julian, it’d make the illusion a little more convenient and maybe I’d like it better that way. Put it this way, whenever my phone dies and I’m not by a clock or whatever and it’s daytime, my first instinct is always, without fail, to go outside, jam a stick into the ground and try and figure out what time it is. I mean, that’s saying something about a good trick. Years later, it still has an effect on me.