Cover of Score! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Covers! Exclamation points included!
Like a lot of good love stories, The Couch and I were friends of friends but did not meet directly until much later. My friend Micah (the Micah who currently plays in Musée Mécanique and is touring with Laura Gibson) found The Couch, desolate and abandoned on a random curb. He moved it to the basement of the house where he was living with several other stray-loving college students. Later, Micah again moved The Couch to a new house that he shared with two roommates, including a biochem student whom I still think of as Punchy. Not because Punchy was violent or combative in any way, but because so many facets and joys of my life took shape and grew stronger during my relationship, first romantic then friend-tic, with Punchy. These things fought and held on with no intention to let go, if you will. Thanks to Punchy, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane over the Sea became one of my favorite albums. This would be reason enough to look back on those times fondly. But that’s just the crowning achievement. For a while, we all had so much fun. Punchy and I had lots of good nights alone, but we also spent a lot of time with our friends. We invited people over, blasted albums on the stereo in the living room, drank beer, played Exquisite Corpse, walked out the screen door to the backyard to smoke and chat, and thought and cheered and fretted about getting away from the town where we went to school. The Couch always quietly submitted to the weight of three or four buzzed party attendees and provided a surprisingly comfortable place for anyone to crash.
Eventually, Micah, Punchy, and their other roommate graduated and decided to move away from the house where they lived with The Couch. Everyone else was moving out of town, but since Punchy and I planned to stay for a few months more, we merrily carried The Couch to our new studio apartment. Not only did we consider The Couch a fixture of any cozy living room, but we didn’t have money to buy any new furniture.
Our time in the studio apartment together was a textbook example of being thrown from the garden into the cold and unpredictable world beyond the gates. The nights no longer involved endless bottles of beer and hour-long conversations. We had jobs to be at early in the morning. We had just enough money to feed ourselves hot dogs and Top Ramen. We realized that in the oblivious haze of our early relationship, we had lost contact with a lot of the people we knew. We spent more than a few odd nights sitting on The Couch, feeling strangely frustrated with each other. We were learning what it meant to be an adult couple, and we weren’t sure if we liked how it fit on us.
Eventually, Punchy and I moved to San Francisco, towing The Couch along with all our other wordly possessions. We chose to find separate housing situations. When I lucked out and got a spot in a Lower Haight flat, the larger size of my bedroom awarded me sole possession of The Couch. I moved The Couch off to the side of the bay windows, where I hoped the fleeting rays of sunlight would somehow find their way. When that proved to be futile, I barely sat on it anymore. A housemate’s cat used one of The Couch’s arms as a napping nook, and I often used the seat to store dirty clothes. One night, after an unexpected and nasty spat, Punchy used The Couch to sleep. It was the first night we spent together where we didn’t share a bed. Not long after, or maybe just a bit too long after, Punchy stopped spending the night. And much, much later, I decided to move to Portland with my current bed-sharing friend.
The Couch came with us to Portland, not because we needed another couch but because I found the idea of moving to another city without The Couch to be as absurd as leaving town without my shoes. And now, in the present day as we settle into our third year in our apartment, my boyfriend wants to get rid of The Couch. He found a loveseat on Craigslist that matches his couch, and his couch is in considerably better shape than The Couch. A loveseat would fit our living room better, as the heft of two couches tends to overwhelm the space. And The Couch just looks its mysterious age. The upholstery is stretched thinly over certain parts, and completely torn off in others. Full feet of The Couch’s foamy belly sit exposed unless you throw a blanket or pillow over them. And all the cheap slipcovers we’ve seen at stores are ugly.
I accept all these things as fact. However, detached observation goes out the window when I think about having to post my own Craigslist ad, not selling but rather cajoling some stranger into taking The Couch away. I almost can’t bear it. In fact, I can’t bear it. I always envisioned the golden years of The Couch as being lived out in some magical room that appears upon command. The Couch might go unused, but it would be cared for and kept out of harm’s way. But we don’t have that kind of a residence, and the mature thing to do would be to agree that my college-age furniture needs to go the way of college-age habits, like drinking a pot of coffee at 11 at night.
So why do I feel like leaving The Couch to its own devices on another random curb is like leaving the family pet in a field and driving away? Is it because I look at The Couch and think of my life at that strange transitory period when we first came into contact? Is it because I associate The Couch with that precious feeling of being newly educated and young and tied to nothing but the desire to turn the world inside out? Or is it because most of the other relics from my life at that time have gone to the land of left socks? My college photos were stolen years ago. Punchy and a lot of my other friends from that time have dispersed to different corners of the earth. There are books and various articles of clothing from those years, but none of them cushion my butt as I zone out to the tunes coming from my stereo.
So this morning, I slept in while my boyfriend drove to a town about 16 miles away to pick up the loveseat. I dozed on The Couch and decided to end this entry not as a mourning for times past but a celebration. I can’t recreate how it felt to be me at age 21, at least not in any responsible manner. But I was pretty damn lucky to have experienced that feeling at all, and to have such a comfy place to sit with some of the most interesting people while listening to a soundtrack of songs that still impress me. You’ve probably heard, but in case you haven’t, Merge Records has released a cover album of the label’s most stalwart acts performed by current musicians to honor their 20 years of business in the alterna-what’s-it music community. It blows my mind how the label that introduced me to the Magnetic Fields and Spoon once upon a time has managed to thrive and remain an influential name for music lovers. The album is full of notable head-turners. The Mountain Goats cover of an East River Pipe song sounds so much like something Jonathan Darnielle would have written himself. And Conor Oberst’s soft tenor was made to cover the Magnetic Fields’ “Papa Was a Rodeo.” But I’ll end this entry with the Apples in Stereo’s take on “King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 3,” beat the crumbs out of The Couch’s cushions, and look forward. It was the thing to do back then and still is.
- Apples in Stereo ~ Score! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Covers! ~ Merge
King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 3