I Don't Know.
It was around the time I moved back to L.A., when I found myself roaming my old neighborhood near Silverlake. As I walked down Sunset Blvd. I began to wonder what Elliot Smith himself would think about the current day hipsters living in his shadow. Now, I can't put words into his mouth. That would be wrong. But a chord struck in me, and I decided that I didn't think he'd be very happy at all. Something shifted in this town while I was gone, but I couldn't pin point it. Maybe I just never noticed it till now? The clothes still looked rad to me, the music still certainly rang well in my ears. Perplexed, I continued to walk down the boulevard and look for clues.
I passed some vintage stores with overpriced vintage wear, and even sat in a coffee house with coffee house glasses. I listened closely to conversations and observed body language too. One line in particular stuck out, as it was repeated multiple times in my eavesdropping escapades. Between the auditions and band rehearsals, the jobs that sucked and the relationships that did just the same, I kept hearing the words "I don't know." People weren't just looking for an answer; they seemed to be utterly confused.
Interesting, I thought.. maybe I was onto something? As the minutes passed, these conversations began to sound like a type of generation 'next' scenario. There were so many life options brewing over coffee, that I could almost see the bolts turning a bit too tight in their heads. Then slowly, coming to a complete stop. Time was taken for granted, as if opportunities were some luxury that would last forever. So many options were causing indecision. Whether it was where you should live, what you should do for work, or who you should marry, the answer was always "I don't know." Was this what we had come to; a bunch of scared young adults, worried about living our truth? Say it ain't so, I thought.
Where was the chutzpah, the passion, the forward drive? I continued to listen, looking for answers. Sitting near me, voices began flooding in. The girl who didn't get the job simply sunk her head down as she shared the loss with her friend, feeling defeated. "I don't know what I'll do, I just really wanted the position. Whatever.." The guy who bombed his audition vowed he may never act again. "I've been at this for a while, maybe it just isn't for me. I don't know." And his friend, feeling just as discouraged, complained of the one that got away. "I don't know, man. I mean, what if she doesn't want to give me a second chance?" I sat there, and my heart sank a bit. Had this guy never seen that scene where John Cusack stands outside of the girls window with a boom box, vowing to never give up.. even if Peter Gabriel stopped singing? Did the guy who had a bad audition know nothing of the Karate Kid? Had this girl never taken a clue about girl power from The Spice Girls? I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. Damn it, something terrible had happened to these lost souls.
Then suddenly, my hyper sensitive hearing tuned into to the music bumping in the background. It was as if I was being pulled back for a redemption song. There they were, Vampire Weekend debuting their junior album (due out May 14) with serious force. Ezra Koenig’s lyrics, often leaving me pleasantly confused, didn't fail this time around. College kids running away from Cape Cod, blossomed into an age of settling down and forever questioning their decisions. I realized something at that moment. These modern vampires of the city may have been ready to sing their truths, but I'd argue that they were really singing more questions. I began to connect the dots.
With such fresh indie songs like 'Unbelievers' and 'Ya-Hey', Vampire Weekend was just as perplexed as the peers surrounding me. While Ezra sang lyrics of wisdom teeth being pulled out and feeling ready in his bones, he questioned God and wrestled with the idea of taking back time. Like these new songs, we argue and apologize, and often feel bewildered about our life purpose. And as we moved forward, we never claim to know. And perhaps not knowing is ok. I think Elliot may be looking on proud, after all.
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