Crushing // 5.1.2018

Cole (my best friend) and I, in an attempt to suss out those individuals whom we might love, those we hope we might someday even know, will categorize certain folks as “real people.” This is clearly a subjective delineation, as we are both more than willing to immediately vouch to the other for the realness of our brothers, “You can trust me, Jake/Tucker/Noah is a real person.” Statistically, what with the stringency of our allowance to that “real” category, it seems absurd all three of our brothers might be real. So we admit the practice is not empirical in the least. (It is also not necessarily mutual; you might be real to me but not I to you.)

While it is always a stronger case when both Cole and I know the subject, we trust each other according to some (perhaps transitive?) property that states, “If X is real to you, and you are real to me, then X is real to me.” This trust is hard to come by, and resembles the moment Cole exclaimed (I may be misremembering), “I keep telling you that Mad Men is good, that you should watch it. You not watching it feels like an affront to our relationship, that you don’t trust me.” I did watch Mad Men, (now years later I am rewatching it) and the account that contains my trust in Cole received another huge deposit.

As with Mad Men, so music, books, movies, Cole and I urge each other toward, and the designation of “real” (which also could mean true, worth knowing, beautiful, and myriad other things in our conversation) can at times apply to these objects as well. Once, sitting on his couch I played for him various songs by Michael McGuire (you can find at The Supposed So and Dad’s Typewriter), because I could vouch both that the music and the musician were real, and also to compel Cole to make music of his own, as I believe a good tree might likely produce good fruit, and I would like to sit on other couches and play for other real people the music of the Ur-Person, the Form of Real, the Standard Against Which All Others Will Be Measured.

I enjoy coming across these real works, and then telling all the people I know, real or not, what I have found. A few months ago that discovery was Horace and Pete, Louis C.K.’s multi-cam dramedy webseries, for just about a week, until everything came out that compelled me to 1) stop talking about Louis C.K., and 2) find something else to talk about. Revelations (and the possibility of revelations) like those, as well as the rarity of real work, tends to push me toward work I have already consumed—I have watched House, M.D. all the way through at least eight times; these past couple days I am rereading Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts. With work I know I love, I don’t have to worry about it sucking and I am not in danger of being hurt.

Just as Cole has carte blanche recommendation privilege, so also have certain artists in their promotion of their own work to myself: Allison Janney, Ben Balserak, Chance the Rapper, Claudia Rankine, David Bentley Hart, Joan Didion, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Julianna Margulies, Maggie Nelson, Miranda July, Susan Howe. And in the interest of reducing the task of mining my inheritance that is the entire world, I tend to make sweeping cuts with often baseless standards—eliminations include the Coen brothers, David Sedaris, Doug Benson, the creators of How I Met Your Mother, Jonathan Franzen, the Marvel movies, Noam Chomsky, Slavoj Žižek. I expect none of these will ever make any substantive contribution to my life, even were I to really try to let them.

These categories also serve as a good rubric: if Didion’s Play It as It Lays does nothing for you, I’m not sure we can connect on any substantive level; if, alternatively, How I Met Your Mother produces in you some emotional response that resembles enjoyment, I can’t see how we’d ever get along. (These are both sweeping pronouncements, and not altogether true (nor particularly brave).)

Anyways, as is my wont, I began this essay planning for it to serve as a tract for something else, in this case for the music of Ben Bonessi, but got sidetracked. So let me here state that to my knowledge, Ben Bonessi is a real person, and the music he makes is worth listening to, is in fact the only music on my iPhone that I never skip past. You can listen to/download it all here. It’s really quite good.