Jay Daniel Thompson
1989 Melbourne, 2001 Sydney…
Nine years old.
Each Sunday morning, with religious precision, I videotape Rage. The one clip I never record is Stevie Nicks’ Rooms on Fire. Stevie’s in Fleetwood Mac, I know that much. Fleetwood Mac is the kind of band my parents like (their cassette copy of Tango in the Night is a road trip mainstay).
I wanna be cool. Old people ain’t cool.
Rooms on Fire, Part 1: Dreaming of wanton luxuries
Rooms on Fire sounds like routine fare.
Well maybe I’m just thinking that the rooms are all on fire
Everytime that you walk in the room
And yet delivered in Nicks’ nicotine-stained falsetto, you feel the magic bouncing off the flames as our mystical woman-child is wooed by her Valentino. You really believe he’ll take her hand and guide her through The Other Side of the Mirror.
We meet at the bar. My mouth won’t open. Your words are uttered with don’t-give-a-fuck confidence. My flannelette is more Sandringham than Seattle. Your threads are pure Newtown.
You’ve produced zines that get discussed on message boards of the online variety. I’ve written some reviews for my university’s student magazine, so yeah, that’s a start? Everyone at this student conference knows your name, or seems to, or wants to. Anyone know mine?
The first beer becomes the fourth. We’re talking. We’re talking about Stevie. She’s cool now, or at least since she was interviewed by a certain grunge icon. The ice has melted.
The fifth beer becomes the seventh. Where are you? The watering hole is awash in ethically sourced punk chic. Who cares? Someone shouts another round. We chatted, and yeah, that was cool.
The footsteps of protesters sizzle on Swanston Street. Your op shop chic radiates through the placard-wielding throng. I’m aiming for mid-level anti-establishment in Myer duds. You’ve just moved to Melbourne. I haven’t left the place, but you don’t know that (or do you?)
You’ve got a public service job, the cruisy, job-for-life kind. I’m paying my way through PhD land via call centre work. I’ve written a review for journals. So the writer dream is coming along, I guess?
No rooms, no flames.
You mention Stevie. ‘Did you know,’ you begin, ‘that Stevie was addicted to Klonopin?’
How random this statement is. How randomly cool. How swiftly the ice melts.
We’re talking again. Talking about what, or for how long, I can’t recall. I can’t honestly recall how that night ended, or when it ended. That’s not the point. The point is that we’re talking. And that this is kinda cool.
Rooms On Fire, Part 2: Revisiting The Other Side of the Mirror
The Other Side of the Mirror is Stevie’s fourth solo album. The album’s success is largely due to Rooms On Fire. Stevie tours to promote this album, though she will claim that she cannot recall this tour due to her dependence on Klonopin.
I learn about this when I am 17. Shortly after reading her interview with the grunge icon. When I wished I had videotaped the Rooms On Fire video.
I wonder what Klonopin feels like. I wonder what it feels like to not feel (if indeed that’s what Klonopin feels like). I decide I don’t want to know the answer to this question, so I try to forget it.
Someone’s birthday (yours?), and you’re at the bar. You’re wearing tennis whites (why not?), and surrounded by the stars of the No Logo-era demonstrations (who’s surprised?).
I’ve seen you half a dozen times these last twelve months, but this time is different. This time, the ice ain’t melting.
This time, there’s no Stevie.
You ask about my writing. I tell you about those op-eds I’ve written for that online magazine. You smile (I think), but your eyes are elsewhere (are they?)
You delete me from Facebook. Budding scholar that I am, I search for answers. Was it that you didn’t ‘like’ one of your updates? Maybe you just didn’t like mine?
Maybe what I wrote was uncool? Maybe we’re cool?
I try to forget you.
Thirty six years old.
The Uber breezes through the January swelter. Ten years since running into you at that rally. Ten days since I learned of how, at the end, you were prescribed Klonopin.
My phone vibrates. Article accepted with amendments! Two comments on your blog! Rooms On Fire is playing on the stereo. Of course. I’d YouTubed the video a few hours ago. So much for those video mixtapes.
I want to believe that this is a message from you, wherever you are, but that’s just cheesy. And cheesy ain’t cool, so I forget it.
A longer version of this story is on Jay Daniel Thompson’s blog, VideoShopDaze