Walk in Silence 20

XTC, North Carolina, 1989

XTC, North Carolina, 1989 (courtesy of Getty Images)

Kevin introduced me to Tracey early in 1989.  They were both band geeks who’d known each other for a while and he must have felt she’d get along with me and my weird music obsessions.  We hit it off almost immediately.

The funny thing was that I’d been totally out of practice when it came to relationships, even on the high school level.  I’d kind of avoided the whole dating scene for the most part since a few very brief hook-ups in junior high, but as a senior I figured it was high time I got my act together and figured out how to be a boyfriend.  The other funny thing was, as a freshman, I could never quite figure out why some of the senior guys were going out with freshman girls.  [I mean, yeah, did know the reason behind it, at least for some of the guys, but it just seemed so…weird.]   And that’s why it’s funny: Tracey was a freshman.  I totally took the route I thought I’d never take.

Being with Tracey definitely helped turn things around for me somewhat.  Our relationship gave me an emotional anchor I hadn’t had for some time, and the both of us could see that that was a very positive thing.  I’d finally gotten past that moodiness I’d been stuck in for so long; so much so that at one point I’d told her that I was in such good spirits lately that I kind of missed being the moody bastard all the time.

Our relationship had its usual teenage ups and downs, of course.  There was the age difference, which we had to manage with a bit of care at least with the parents; there was my penchant for acting like a doofus more often than I should, which would get on her nerves; there was the distance and the fact I had no transportation, let alone a license at the time.  But eventually we got over them one way or another.

She couldn’t make it to my senior prom, but that was okay — I chose instead to help co-deejay it with Chris, of all people!  We and a few of the old radio club crew (Derek and Dean, who had a sound production thing going at the time) got together and had a grand time playing all the pop hits of 1988-89 on the stage of Town Hall.  I’d suggested before the doors even opened that our last song would be U2’s “All I Want Is You” as a sendoff.

Our relationship lasted about three and a half years, give or take.  We definitely had our highs and lows, but by 1992 it became quite obvious that the two of us had wanted to move on in our separate ways.  It wasn’t a bitter break-up, but it certainly was one that took me some time to get over.  Despite that, we remained friends and still talk to each other online every now and again.  And I’ll always thank her for helping me get out of that moody spiral.

*

The last few sounds of college radio came to me during those last few months of my senior year.  The radio on top of my bookshelf — the one that held nearly all of my cassettes — was firmly set at 89.3, WAMH.  I turned it on every morning while I was getting ready for school, and had it on when I came home.  I made four radio tapes at that point, calling them The Last Home Year Cassettes, reminding myself that this was probably the last semester that I’d be listening to my favorite station until further notice.

I graduated in May of 1989 and I’ll be honest, it wasn’t so much a release of excitement as much as it was what Dave Sim would call a “Grand Finally”*.  I floated through the final exams in a haze, studying the best I knew how and getting them over and done with as they came.  The graduation ceremony took place on the football field, and I was of course cornered by my family to take all kinds of pictures while most of my friends all dashed away before I could say goodbye to them.

For a summer job, there were only a few places I could think of signing up.  I didn’t want to go back to the supermarket, nor did I want to work at the local factory.  I needed something that would take me in just for the summer.  My dad and his copious local connections got me a position at the Department of Public Works that summer, and for the next three and a half months I’d be riding the back of one of the trucks, cleaning up the sides of local streets and back roads, and mowing nearly all the cemeteries in town.  It quickly became one of my favorite jobs, because I got to spend hours outside in the sun, listening to my tapes when I could, and goofing off with most of the local regulars.  It was definitely a boys’ club, but despite that it was fun and we all got along just great.

The future was looming ahead, and it was pretty damn close.  All I had to do was wait just a few more weeks.  I signed up and got my driver’s license (finally), started making a list of things I wanted to bring to college, thought about what writing I wanted to bring with me, and of course what music I’d bring.**  I’d prepared myself well for the move to Boston…I was totally looking forward to escaping the small town for the big city.

And to my joy and excitement, I’d received news that most of the Misfit gang would be returning home, at least for a short time, before heading back to college.  We’d planned to meet up one last time for a three-day party at Chris’ grandfather’s cabin north of town.

 

* – Sim was referring to his and Gerhard’s completion of their megastory in the Cerebus comic book universe, ‘Church & State’.  It had taken so long to finish, ended on a down note, and neither wanted to celebrate when the final issue of the story came out.  He said it felt like ‘not so much a grand finale than a grand finally.’

** – I’d briefly spoken with my two new roommates that I’d meet in September; one chose at the last minute to go to UMass instead, and the other was a kid from New Hampshire who I thought I’d get along with musically.  That match-up ended up being the total opposite, but that’s a story for another time.

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