: a marked change : transformation
Beck's released his album, SEA CHANGE, in the autumn of 2002, the same autumn I started at Rhode Island College. I was 22. I had never before been to college.
That first semester I took two studio art classes that met at 8 am, four days a week, for three hours a day. The professor of my still-life drawing class was a middle-aged blonde woman whose name I can't remember. She often wore sleeveless shirts tucked into cargo pants and tied her course hair into a loose bun at the base of her head. She encouraged the students to bring music into the class as the soundtrack to our drawing sessions, as long as it was "mellow." I brought SEA CHANGE. As it played, the boy next to me asked, "Who is this?" The boys name was Justin. He was eighteen, wore a baseball cap, and had been born and raised in Rhode Island.
"Beck." I said.
"Beck? As in Loser?"
His eyes widened and he cocked his head in disbelief. I saw this in my periphery. I didn't look away from my drawing.
This was before iPods. I listened to SEA CHANGE on the boombox in my bedroom, a piece of stereo equipment given to me for my fourteenth birthday. I also listened to the album in a discman through my car stereo via a cassette adaptor. The songs remind me of brushing frost from my cold windshield with the side of a knit glove.
That autumn was the first time in my life I experienced insomnia. I tried everything for sleep. Music helped, occasionally. SEA CHANGE cameoed in my "sleep" rotation. Although the problem with listening to albums was that I knew they were going to end, and that I would have to get up at put another one on. Some nights I would lie awake until 4 am, staring at the glow the streetlights painted on my low ceiling. Then I would get up at 6:30 to go to my studio.
I only missed one drawing class because of lack of sleep. I called my professor at home to apologize. She had typed her phone number on the syllabus. I didn't think it was weird or inappropriate. Her husband answered and told me to hold on, she was in the bath. She came to the phone. I told her I was sorry, and asked when I could make up the work. She laughed.
"It's fine, Candace. We'll talk about it in class."
I pictured her holding a glass of wine.
My boyfriend Josh and I lived in a half-basement apartment. When you looked out the window you saw the ground. I could reach the ceiling by extending my arm into the air. We paid $725/month for rent. An old Italian couple lived upstairs from us. They grew vegetables in a small garden that lined the front of the three story brick building. One time a cucumber grew into the chain link fence that bordered the garden. I thought it looked cool and wanted to take a picture, but by the time I returned, they had removed it from the fence. I couldn't understand this. I'm not sure I can now, either. I found the image to be inspiring and thought-provoking. I would have left it there for someone else to encounter. I still would.
At the same time I started school, I also started my part-time job at Guitar Center, working the front desk. My first shift was nine hours long. I spent most of the time in silence doodling on the back of a promotional postcard. It was boring and no one talked to me. There's no way I can work here, I thought. I stayed there for four years.
Shortly after I started, they hired a girl named Melissa. She and I quickly became friends. We looked sort of like each other—long black hair, square-rimmed glasses. She was way skinnier than me and her glasses were fake. She smoked pot on her way into work and always stopped at Dunkin Donuts to get a large iced coffee. The mix of those two things made her breath pretty awful, but I never told her. That Christmas she gave me a scented candle and a burned copy of a Mad Season album.
On Halloween Josh and I and our friend Joe went to see Beck perform at Lincoln Center. We had to sit separate from each other because tickets were so scarce. It was the first time I sat alone at a show. The hall was grand and almost everyone was in costume. I felt guilty for not dressing up. The Flaming Lips opened. During the intermission I saw David Cross talking to someone in the center aisle.
For the first part of Beck's set, he sat alone on a stool and played songs from SEA CHANGE on an acoustic guitar. I wanted those songs to go on forever. I didn't want to return to reality.
On our way from the venue back to the subway, a girl stopped me in the middle of a crosswalk. She grabbed my arm and looked into my eyes.
"You are so beautiful." Her skin was glistening. She was probably on a lot of drugs, but I let myself be flattered.
One of my favorite songs on SEA CHANGE was Paper Tiger. I really liked the lyrics, especially the last four lines of the song:
There's one road to the morning
There's one road to the truth
There's one road back to civilization
But there's no road back to youth.
Years later, a friend broke the news to me that he was saying "you" and not "youth."
I was disappointed. I still hear "youth."