That Kid Who Drives a Yugo

Originally posted to Blogspot on:

April 1, 2009:

It’s hard to say how wrong Hollywood gets life. I mean, obviously, some things aren’t likely to happen, things like Monsters attacking Aliens, or Vin Diesel outrunning a train. But what of the life stories? Stories that unfold when Harry meets Sally? Those things that could, feasibly, actually, possibly happen?

I watched that movie Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist this morning. And it got me thinking, How much of my life did I waste?

I suppose I should elaborate on this question. But first it’s important to know what the movie’s about.

Imagine you’re a member of an indie rock band in the Tri-State area. You’re a high school kid, your best friends are all gay, and the girl you were in love with dumped you. You might think your life is normal, or you might think you’re going through an identity crisis. You’re not sure where you fall. You appease your angst through your favorite hobby, through building mix CDs for the girl who no longer wants you, for the girl who no longer takes your calls, for the girl you never leave messages for anymore. But it’s not enough. You’re depressed. And this goes on for a month.

Then your gay band mates come to your doorstep with great news. Your favorite indie band of all time, a band notorious for staying deep underground, is rumored to be in New York that night. It’s a message that does just enough to add some normalcy, nay, joy to your life. You decide to go with them.

Now, your car sucks. I mean, it’s terrible. If it manages to even coast off your driveway, you run the risk of never coming back. It’s, unfortunately for you, a Yugo. But it’s faithful. It understands your patience. It understands that you’re a high school kid who can’t afford anything better. It takes care of you, getting you into New York and to the club where your band is performing. It tells you, “I’m gonna make sure you enjoy your evening. I will not screw you over.” In their own special way, your gay band mates tell you the same thing.

So, I think I’ve given you a fair picture of how this movie starts, and more importantly, how Nick (played by Michael Cera) begins his road to recovery. He’s a nice guy who fell for the wrong girl. We’ve all been there. He deals with it, even though it’s hard. Even though the girl he loved shows up at his performance with another guy in tow. No one ever said infatuation played nice.

But good news for Nick: Hollywood intervenes. Norah also goes to the show that night. And he doesn’t know her, and she doesn’t know him, but she does know his ex, and she does know his mix CDs, and she does know that the guy playing rhythm guitar for that band called “The Jerk Offs” is candy for her eye. And in some odd twist of fate, in some desperate effort to defend herself in the eyes of her friend—the girl that Nick used to love—she meets Nick, puts on a show to ward off her friend’s accusations using Nick’s mouth, and realizes just a little too late that she just lip-attacked her friend’s ex.

And Nick, of course, doesn’t know what to do, but he’s pretty sure he liked what just happened, if not incredibly confused by it.

So he ends up driving Norah around town looking for this elusive band called “Where’s Fluffy,” because, you know, they develop a connection.

Okay, so that’s the summation of the movie. Why bring it up?

Well, as I said in the beginning, it got me to question if I ever really lived.

I didn’t do much as a teenager. I had indie rock friends, sort of—well, they were band geeks who listened to a lot of indie rock. But I never really went anywhere with them. We went to Taco Bell once. That was about it.

I spent more time with my church friends in those days, playing video games, going to Taco Bell—yeah, that was the thing to do if you were tame and living in the mid-90s—but never did anything adventurous. A few guys went to some warehouses to play paintball at midnight every Saturday, though I never went with them. Sometimes in the summer we’d play beach volleyball. But there was no indie-rocking. There was no mission to find an elusive band through extensive detective work or side missions to find missing drunk friends. And there was certainly no matchmaking going on—at least not in a boy-meets-girl romantic kind of way. Looking back, it all seemed kind of sheltered.

Now, I don’t regret my youth. I do regret much about by twenties, but not about my teens. I lived life the way life was given. I did what I was told, refrained from strange indulgences, and avoided that party lifestyle. And I came out of it without any baggage or addiction. So, yeah, I don’t regret those choices.

At least, not entirely.

I think I do regret my lack of adventure. Not that there was much I could do about the travel or financial costs involved, but a part of me feels like the shelter damaged me for adulthood. Psychologically speaking, I think I grew timid toward risk, and even more so toward failure. I didn’t start riding rollercoasters until I was twenty-three (after I’d spent four months playing RollerCoaster Tycoon and loving it) because I thought they’d make me sick. I didn’t drink my first cocktail until I was twenty-eight because I spent my youth being paranoid over developing an alcoholism. To this day, I still haven’t thrown up after a rollercoaster, or gotten drunk off an alcoholic beverage, and I don’t regret trying either. In truth, I feel stronger for having taken the risk.

On Halloween night 2003, I experienced a taste of life that I never really knew for myself, but did know in movies. It was a life I saw mimicked in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. It was a night where I hung out with some friends, cramming for stools in a smoky second-floor bar, listening to indie rocker friends performing under the dim lights penetrating what little there was of the brick-walled cave. It was a night that ended with one friend getting a tongue pierced, another getting a tattoo, and some random stranger popping out of a costumed crowd of thousands in downtown Orlando, ripping off his clothes and dancing like the Party Boy from Jackass, and it made me think, this is one unusual evening.

And that’s when it hit me. For most people, it was just another night on the town. For me, it was surreal.

For all the adventure I thought I had in life, I realized I had nothing to connect me with anyone else. And it bothered me.

In the end, I still don’t go out much. I try to do it more often than I used to. But nowadays I can’t help feeling that it’s too little too late. I still don’t have a Norah in my life (and that’s too bad, because Norah’s a cool chick). I’ve never spent an entire night hunting for an elusive band (though, in fairness, that was never a desire of mine to begin with). And I’ve only had to deal with a drunk girl once or twice.

No doubt, my life’s been pretty safe. But it’s also been pretty boring.

I hope there’s still room to fix that before I’m too old to care. Until then, it gives me something to think about.

So, what have I learned from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist?

1. I need some gay friends, as they seem to do a better job attracting women.

2. I’m lucky to have a Honda.

3. Just because I’m depressed one day doesn’t mean the night has to end on a bad note.

4. Hollywood still gets the high school scene wrong.

5. Life goes nowhere if I’m sitting around the house all day.

Anyway, I’m thinking of going out for some food now. Don’t know how adventurous it’ll be, but at least I’ll get some sunshine in the process.

Oh, and great movie.

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