My friend Chris was like a human Girl Talk mash-up of high-school cultural cliques (he’s still alive, we just haven’t talked in a while, so the past tense seems appropriate). He played on the football team but then quit and then took up power-lifting. He was already jacked for a high-schooler but got even more ripped. He projected intense and permanent anger at the world but was an extremely considerate, kind, and caring person and friend.
Even though he was very into powerlifting, and aspired to go to Texas A&M, which is probably one of the most conservative colleges in the country that isn’t one of those fringe, explicitly religious schools, Chris was very intent on cultivating a friendship with me another friend who was the most avant-garde kid in our graduating class. In the 9th grade, he played post-rock band and nearly exclusively listened to experimental music with no words. He wasn’t using us, but Chris was sincerely interested in trying to learn more about art and the closest thing he could find to bohemian culture in a suburb that looked like a giant parking lot with master-planned subdivision and chain-restaurants sitting on top of it.
Chris would talk about what he hated and what pissed him off with a vitriol that wasn’t backed by anything. I don’t think it was posturing. I think that for fleeting moments, Chris probably actually felt the hate he talked about but only for a moment. Whatever ill feelings he had slid away immediately, like water on Goretex. He was also conservative but became a huge fan of Obama, which seemed like an ironic bit. His presentation of it encouraged his friends to believe it was a bit, but he never relented on the bit muddying it.
Chris reminds me of William Finnegan’s friend he mentioned in his memoir Barbarian Days, who he traveled the world with surfing with, Bryan Di Salvatore. If I’m remembering right, Finnegan described Di Salvatore as impossible to tell where the jokes started and stopped and though he was liberal or progressive, would ironic lambast the dumber tendencies of his political allies.
If you’re at all interested in Di Salvatore, read this. It’s a short bit he wrote for The Surfer’s Journal on what his influencers are. It’s written so simply and fluidly. I come back to it every so often as a model for what I want my own writing to be like.
We used to drive around in Chris’s car and listen to music that we thought made us seem avant-garde. We were driving around in his Mustang in February and he put on Telefon Tel Aviv and asked me if I heard their new album. I had heard them before, but I didn’t know it had come out. He asked if I had heard that one of the members of the duo had died. I hadn’t. We talked about how it was sad and sucked, and went skateboarding, kept listening to Immolate Yourself, and stopped talking about it.
It didn’t affect me much, but I think it was the first death of an artist that meant something to me. They were the first artists that I picked to listen to and pay attention to. I didn’t know much about them, but I knew they moved me.
This past fall, over a decade after we skated behind TJ Maxx, bummed out about Charles Cooper of Telefon Tel Aviv dying, Joshua Eustis, the surviving member finally put out a new album, Dreams Are Not Enough. I like it.
By the way, his real name isn’t Chris. I didn’t want to tell you that up top because sometimes that kind of thing distracts people. I hope “Chris” is doing well. From his Instagram, I think he is.
Dreams Are Not Enough - 50 minutes
Immolate Yourself - 46 minutes
A Map of What Is Effortless - 1 hour