It was July. July 3rd, to be precise. I remember the date because one doesn’t arbitrarily show up in Boston for no reason and then forgets the minutest of details. It’s almost as if our brains, confused like hell, suddenly become more alert: such an unusual turn of events must mean something, and you know how our brains are just massive pattern matching devices where things that we do every day don’t even enter our prefrontal cortex and things that don’t make sense get escalated in panic; this is probably why we remember oddities.
Encouraged by an unlikely success at work; guilty for taking the better part of your friends’ evening on July 3rd which was not a holiday; owing to a deity who somehow always intervenes at the right time but fails to give you an explanation you are really looking for but know that you will never get; or simply unwilling to go back to my apartment, I decided to drop my friend off in Boston. Perhaps it was the irony of this statement that pushed me over the line. (I should have gone just a tad further and gone to Europe… maybe next time.) Anyway, I’ll move on because I haven’t even gotten to the interesting part; who cares why I went to Boston. Now I’m at the front door of this fraternity house in Boston.
The best thing about writing (and the thing that doesn’t get much recognition) is the editing. Not the process of editing your writing, but the process of translating the spacetime into paper. The transition from a decision to go to the front door is so seamless that you probably didn’t stop to think about what could have happened in the three hours prior to this (okay, two and a half). Though actually, nothing happened and hence the cut. On reflection, maybe the lack of recognition is the best kind of recognition. To make making nothing out of something look like nothing.
The sequence of images, sounds and thoughts that memory now presents to me is, how to put it, fluid. It’s non-linear, yes, but also selectively fuzzy and, most curiously, nondeterministic. There is no single story. With every thought the story changes slightly; the further I reach the more of one thing I reveal and of another I lose. I can’t be certain that everything is right (I’m quite sure some memories are imputed but does it matter since it’s fiction anyway) but it feels familiar so I don’t question it. Some details are deemed more important than others. I call this process “the third mode of storytelling”, to differentiate it from the traditional way of recounting events and imagery (a kind of deliberate construction aimed at keeping the listener engaged) and from the way our brain constructs stories in dreams (there is I bet some mechanism that prevents our brains from confusing dreams with reality because the dreams always seem a little “off”–at least to me. That seems like an evolutionary thing).
There is a party happening at the frat house. The music is muted because–somewhat surprisingly, as, after all, it’s the middle of summer–the door is closed. I’m sure I can make myself remember what color the front door was, but I don’t feel like it. Red? No, not red. There may have been greek letters painted on the door but kind of shoddily and I feel it’s a reluctant must-have; just like the premium we pay on destroyed jeans (will future generations look at this anomaly in fashion with the same disdain we look at the ’80s?). I wish I could say something insightful about the smell in the air but, quite frankly, I only remember the visuals at this point and maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I don’t knock, even though the thought of just barging in makes me uncomfortable. I end up kind of awkwardly peering through the door just barely ajar only to, sadly, see nothing. A few seconds pass, and I enter.
The house has five stories (I always preferred the spelling “storeys”, so much less simplistic). I enter at story 0 (which is not the bottom-most; I am European and an ANSI programmer and there was a basement level). There is music and a (matching? or am I imagining it now?) prevalent color, a warm yellow. The music blends with the color. It has beats but doesn’t feel loud; good choice of genre for entrance music.
Story one has different music and a different color scheme. But what truly surprises me, what truly makes me pause, is the transition between the sets and thus the ambience of story 0 and story one (and, as I will later discover, all the floor transitions). The change is smooth and gradual (or is smooth and gradual really the same thing? What would gradual but not smooth look like?) and even though the two stories have nothing in common, walking upstairs doesn’t generate an awkward combination of audiovisuals. The yellow turns into a dark brown; the beats disappear and turn gentle, indie-ish. I am at a party, that much I know, but as I transition between floors I realize I’m actually at a party that is a superposition of all these individual parties.1
Each floor creates its own atmosphere. Each floor captivates. I sit in a couch on floor II (which, by the way, is reddish and Reggae) and all the other floors–the rest of the world, for that matter–disappear. I could be on floor II forever. In fact, I forget I am on floor II. But there is floor xxx, which incidentally is also the roof, and I really want to figure out the sound and the color, if any, but by now I know that floor xxx won’t disappoint.
And it doesn’t. It’s hip hop, the good kind not the mainstream shit. It’s dark blue and it’s dark outside and it’s a good combination. Fresh summer air makes for a good finale.
But then I’m realizing what you probably remember, if you were reading carefully, and are jumping to answer, so go ahead and tell us! Yes, the basement level! What experience will the basement level provide? Can I handle all these transitions to find out? Of course I can! I must!
It’s black. And it’s electronica. It’s a good floor to end this 180-mile night.
1. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would experience this again two years later in New Orleans, during JazzFest, the same effect but of a much larger scale: as I walk from one stage to another, the first genre becomes less distinct, then acquires a chaotic sort of richness, and finally fades to give way to the second genre. Takes about five minutes, which is prolonged, but which makes it kind of mysterious.