Sunday, July 24, 2005

Even though I spent one and a half post-midnight hours in the train station in Trenton, New Jersey with only Eels keeping me company, I could not have had a happier yesterday. I went to Philadelphia — all by myself! — for a visit with my friend Aneesa. It's been a year, maybe thirteen months, since we've seen each other and I was absolutely thrilled we'd be meeting up (although in a very subdued, masculine way). Now, I don't muster up enthusiasm like that very easily; in fact, it's got to be at least five years since I was absolutely thrilled about anything, so that's really saying something.

On a side note, does the city of Trenton website really need a visitors' guide? Are the hotels really filling up with tourists dying to visit the home of the Mercer County Cultural Commission and birthplace of Trojan condoms?

My excuse was that They Might Be Giants was throwing a free show at this place called Penn's Landing, and the show was great. The train got into Philly around noon, and it was typical Mid-Atlantic summer weather: the sort of weather that your fifth-grade teacher tells you about when she's reminding you how Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson all wore like five layers of wool to the Constitutional Convention and worked sweating in a sealed-off building, like the Founding Fathers weren't admirable enough without enduring the heat. So Aneesa and I spent the afternoon walking from one shady spot to the next, stopping pretty frequently for air conditioning and ice cold drinks — it's more or less the same stuff we did when we lived within walking distance of each other. I guess the miles-long hikes work out nicely for us because Aneesa is an enigma wrapped in a riddle hidden among a million puzzle pieces, which is a metaphor I wish I'd thought up but I didn't. I'm probably the same mystery to her that she is to me. So, let's see, we've known each other for about ten years now, but we're still discovering each other and I'm still surprised how perfectly all her pieces fit together.

About two hours before the concert, we were hanging out at one of Philly's art-house movie theaters trying to choose between seeing March of the Penguins, which is somehow the biggest movie of the week (so suck it, The Island!), and Crash, which we ended up seeing. Paul Haggis, the director of Crash, is one of those Hollywood people I feel bad for, or at least I used to, because his good work, this TV show called Due South about friendly Canadians, got cancelled after three years while his shlocky, patronizing co-creation, Walker, Texas Ranger, would not freaking die. But now that he's won an Oscar for the Million Dollar Baby screenplay, maybe Hollywood's starting to redeem itself despite the Summer of Remakes. Crash is flawed but provocative, and Haggis's direction is incredibly confident even though the opening monologue is ridiculously cheesy. I'm glad I saw it.

Okay, the concert. Let me try to draw a picture of it for you. They were giving away free orange They Might Be Giants foam fingers, like you get at a baseball game if you have no taste. One guy in the audience, instead of putting the foam finger on his hand like a guy who isn't a total geek, put the finger on the brim of his baseball cap. Which is exactly what you'd expect the kind of person who winds up being a They Might Be Giants fan to do. Now multiply that by about a thousand. It was basically a Battlestar Galactica conference minus the costumes and with better music. I fit right in.

So now I'm going to try to go less than a year without hearing from Aneesa again. I only hope that I'll keep being absolutely thrilled; I'm going to have to work at it. I suppose there's a lesson in there somewhere about taking your friends for granted, but I'm not sure that I'm going to learn it.