The Search for Summer’s Song: Wide Awake

The Search for Summer’s Song: Wide Awake

Or perhaps this is summer’s song: “Wide Awake” by Parquet Courts. And not the recorded version on their newest album Wide Awake, but their performance on the April 24 episode of Ellen’s eponymous daily television program.

Maybe summer is the convergence of irony and earnestness, heat and the protection from it. I used to hate the beach like I used to hate daily television talk shows, but now I love the beach and I love daily television talk shows because I have always loved Ellen.

In what is probably now refurbished and made into another Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, there was once a ride at Disney World’s Epcot Center, a science-forward ride with a long, inert, chatty intro featuring Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye The Science Guy. (Quick aside: In France, they pronounce GUY with a hard GHEE, i.e. Guillaume. In France, is he Bill KNEE the Science GHEE?)

It was called “Ellen’s Energy Adventure” and it was boring. It was not kinetic. But it served a purpose: to be boring and to be a respite from the endless sensory assault of Disney. I was very young when I first experienced Ellen’s Energy Adventure but I understood its importance as a break from the din and the shadow of Spaceship Earth, the geodesic centerpiece of Epcot. I knew I was sensitive, and Ellen accepted me for my sensitivity.

Perhaps this is summer’s song: a performance by one of my favorite bands in the unlikeliest of places.

“Wide Awake” by Parquet Courts is the penultimate result of my search for summer’s song. Last week’s result was “Magic City” by Gorillaz.

The Search for Summer’s Song: Magic City

The Search for Summer’s Song: Magic City

Perhaps this is summer’s song, when the varnish has come off your seasonal gig, when the latest in subhuman offal has demonstrated his inability to order a sandwich during the lunch rush.

“What can I get you today?” you ask.

And he says, “First, I’d like mayo.”

Perhaps this is summer’s song, when the rain comes and stays, when the million tourists of coastal Maine forget basic etiquette, when someone will start an order with a condiment instead of the goddamn protein or vegetable that anchors the sandwich. Even if they started with the bread—though incorrect—that would at least be forward movement.

Perhaps this is summer’s song, when your life has come to this: another BLT ordered with no tomato, another reuben on white bread instead of rye, another gluten free wrap dissolving into dust at the slightest touch.

“Magic City” by Gorillaz is another result in my search for summer’s song, now nearing its end. The last result was “65 & Ingleside” by Chance the Rapper.

The Search For Summer’s Song: 65 & Ingleside

The Search For Summer’s Song: 65 & Ingleside

Regardless of how many of our storied institutions have broken beyond repair, I can’t imagine a timeline in which The Onion is irrelevant. “Chance The Rapper Clarifies He From Chicago” is one of its latest headlines, an obscure, esoteric joke. It is unshareable. It is unviral. I love it.

I finished my master’s creative writing program last week, and I walked across the stage while a professor read a line from my thesis. “My favorite yoga pose is corpse pose because it will be my final pose.” He read it in a deliberate, rhythmic way that I can never replicate, and in doing so he drew an auditorium to laughter.

I traffic almost entirely in the obscure, esoteric joke—so much so that I’m deep into a manuscript of dumb cracks about colonial New England townships. Will this be a book you’d purchase? I’m not sure I care. As a project, it keeps me occupied, keeps me from whatever deep darkness waits in the wings.

Chance provides a balm. He is from Chicago and he doesn’t much care that you know its grids and buildings, its vocab or shiny gaudy sculptures. Once I ate a vegan hotdog in Wrigleyville. Once I made a table of enemies in Logan Square when I started a Scrabble game with a bingo. “KERATIN,” I wrote on my first turn. My opponents couldn’t catch up, and at the end of the night when I slept on the couch of an old college friend’s, this friend said to me before turning out the lights, “You shouldn’t have played that in your first turn. Now everyone thinks I was a nerd in college.” Sorry, Matthew.

Perhaps this is summer’s song: one of the four songs Chance released this week.

“65 & Ingleside” by Chance The Rapper is another result in my search for summer’s song. The last one was “Fast Slow Disco” by St. Vincent.

The Search for Summer’s Song: Shiggy

The Search for Summer’s Song: Shiggy

The Maine DOT stopped answering my calls, and so I was forced to take to the fundraising arm of the internet and ask for donations to my special project, which is to erect a road sign at the Piscataqua Bridge entering Maine that reads:

Welcome to Maine! You are northbound on Interstate 95 and the speed limit is 70 mph AND YOU SHOULD GODDAMN WELL DRIVE 70 MPH OR EVEN LIKE 5–10 MPH MORE, I MEAN CHRIST ALMIGHTY.

When I am sitting in my car and driving only 55 on the highway, trying to get to one of my many part-time summer gigs, I continue the daydreaming work on my Unified Theory of New England Tourist Absentmindedness. It goes, right now, like this: Every person is inconsiderate but the question is what flavor of inconsideration are we dealing with?

In other words: What kind of asshole tourist are you? (We are all asshole tourists—the only difference is our flavor.)

People from Massachusetts are smart and should know better, but they’re still assholes. People from Maine are less smart and don’t quite know better, but they’re still assholes. People from New Hampshire are so far up their butts about living free and dying as a result of not living free that being an absolute asshole is part of that philosophy, so we can hardly fault them for it. People from Connecticut are barely from New England—because I like to think of Connecticut as New York’s Garage—and in that way they are assholes. People from Rhode Island are like men with huge pickup trucks: compensating for size, and are thus assholes.

It’s Vermont I can’t quite pin down yet. Last week I went to get gas at a four-pump station, and had to queue myself up behind a car. I chose a car from VT, progressive with a half-dozen activist bumper stickers. Stuff like “Keep Abortion Legal” and “Resist” and, yeah, I’m on their side here and so I waited behind them. Two women with bandanas wrapped around their foreheads stood at the pump, and because it was 85 degrees at a rest stop with no nearby trees, I had my windows open for ventilation. I heard what they said to each other, and I wish I hadn’t, because they said to each other, “Where do I insert my credit card?” and, “Do I just pull this trigger here to make the gas come out?” and, “How do I know when my car is filled up?”

Oh my God, friends, I thought to myself. I am on your side of these culture wars. I fight your fights and I pick the same battles as you. I will die on the hill where you die, happily and with a sword in my sternum. We are brothers- and sisters-in-arms. You are doing yourselves no favors here.

Perhaps this is the song of my summer: “Shiggy” by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks. Malkmus seems like an indefinable asshole. The song sounds like late-Pavement: clean and caustic with the right amount of jangle. Its lyric that speaks to me: Go speak your dumb wisdom. I’m not so easily confused.

This song is the third result in my search for the song of my summer. The last result was St. Vincent’s “Fast Slow Disco.”

The Search for Summer’s Song: Fast Slow Disco

The Search for Summer’s Song: Fast Slow Disco

Another of my summer side hustles is my t-shirt kiosk at Old Orchard Beach in Maine. Old Orchard Beach is like if the Jersey Shore had a younger brother with leprosy. It’s like if a tie-dyed tank top came to life and got an advanced degree in city planning. If you want to see coastal Maine tourism in its most debauched and eerie form, then you go to Old Orchard Beach, find the one bench that isn’t soaked with ass sweat, and watch the people.

But I can’t say any of this to my customers, who pause and marvel at the many t-shirts and tank tops I offer at my t-shirt kiosk business, which I named “TONEE’S OOB TEES, 2 FOR $20 ONLY.”

The one shirt that elicits the biggest chuckle—and is also my number one seller—is the black t-shirt that reads “I’M JUST AN OLD ORCHARD BITCH” in bright pink lettering. It is disgusting, and I hate myself for coming up with the idea, and I hate how capitalism encouraged me, and I hate it, especially hate it, when a kid walks by and laughs at the shirt and then says it aloud to even louder laughs from his parents. Still, I smile graciously when they hand me a crisp twenty and I hand them two vulgar shirts.

Perhaps this is the song of my summer: an uptempo version of a track off St. Vincent’s Masseduction from 2017. One line captures it, I think: I’m so glad I came but I can’t wait to leave.

This is the second result in my annual search for summer’s song. The first was Cardi B’s “Be Careful.”