A Perfect Summer Song


My brain’s been boiling in this oppressive-ass summer heat wave, the one that (in my part of the world) started at the beginning of August and will end with my untimely death. Ho-lee-crap, is it warm. The definite, extreme downside to living in California, just far enough away from the ocean for it to mean jack shit.

I have a window-mounted air conditioner in my living room, and that is the only respite. Unfortunately, it works about as well as a Russian nuclear power plant (zing!), and does little but to remind me how hot it is the second I take a step out of it’s four-foot effective radius. 

This leaves but one solace: music. There are many songs guaranteed to, if not distract me from summer, then to fool me into thinking there’s a cultural payload to this, the great Mother Bitch of all seasons.

Here’s the story of one such song:

Gnarls Barkley – Crazy

Click that link above. Feel free to listen to it while I discuss.

“Crazy” holds a sense-memory for me that springs up every single time I hear this song. It would have been the summer of 2006, just at the song’s peak of air-time popularity, just before it became overplayed. Basically, I liked it, and so did most people. 

I’d agreed to a Fourth of July extravaganza in Newport Beach with a bunch of my friends: the typical California stereotype. Sand, balls both foot and volley, music, and probably some illicit drinking on a public beach. I’ve never been a huge fan of the beach, but I figured “What the hell.” I was 21, the world was my shellfish, and I wasn’t really sure what I liked. Stephen King said being 19 is a special kind of magic, and while I don’t disagree with him, 21 might just be the peak of “19ness.” You’ve gained experience from being 19, and your body is still completely impervious to hangovers, shame, or injury. So I agreed to go, because my friends were there, and that’s all you need when you’re 21.

I forgot the cardinal rule of popular locations – there isn’t parking. There will not be parking. Parking is for people who showed up at 6:00 am or live within walking distance of the beach. I forgot this little factoid, to my incredible tragedy. Compound the Fourth of July-iness with a city-wide bicycle marathon (what?!), and you have a recipe for vehicular homicide.

Lemme cut the bullshit: I drove around for forty-five minutes. No parking. Bicycles. Incredible heat. I swung by the location of the beach party, and I dropped my then-girlfriend now-fiance Gina off. An attempt at gallantry, I assure you. Oh don’t worry, I made it worse: I also agreed to take the cooler we’d brought by myself, because I assumed I’d find parking. Ohhh, past Bobby. You are so cute.

I thought I was angry after forty-five minutes. You can only imagine the sense of betrayal and deep-seated shock I must have felt after four hours. 

You read that right. Go ahead, read it again.

Four hours. Four hours in my truck on the hottest day of the year, looking for parking. I extended my net at some point – I didn’t care if I had to walk for miles. Still, no parking. None. Every space filled or carrying such dire warnings of beach-parking consequence that I couldn’t abandon my truck there. Four hours. 

Finally, through sheer fucking luck, and probably conjured by a stream of non-stop profanity so vitriolic it had torn a hole in space/time, parking was given to me. As unto Jeremiah, from our Lord-God. Apparently Gina had some relatives who happened to be renting a house in Newport Beach for a few days, and they had parking in their garage. They let me rest my truck and my weary, adrenaline-addled mind, and bless them for it. 

Then – ha. I’d forgotten. I had to lug a wheel-less cooler full of ice and what had to be bricks to the party, which existed on the other side of Tatooine. Luckily, Gina had walked back in a fit of sympathy, and the two of us carried that bastard-heavy thing all the way.

Just as I arrived, my body emptied out from anger and exhaustion. I felt numb, and tired, and dreamlike. If you’ve ever been to Newport Beach, you know that the beach is lined, sand-to-deck, with hundreds of tiny little beach-houses for tourists or just crazy people. Throughout this entire walk, I could hear and see them partying, on balconies and decks, wearing little clothing and drinking great quantities of alcohol. They dance and capered and frolicked, like the fey-folk of old, and I hated them for it.

I dropped the cooler into the sand, staring at my friends with the haunted hollow-eyed look survivors of World War One called the “thousand parking-lot stare,” contemplating my own mortality and the cruel maker that had subjected me to four hours of circling hot asphalt like a masochistic vulture. Then, one of my friends handed me a beer. They congratulated me, pitied me, understood me. I felt friendly hands upon my back, and voices raised in cheer.

It was summer, and I was 21, and my friends were on the beach and the world was not a bad place. Then, booming over the beach from one of the nearby beach houses, came the throbbing earth-wobbling bass of Gnarl’s Barkley’s “Crazy,” a song that begins like this: “I remember when I lost my mind. There was something so pleasant about that place.”

I stood up. My mind sharpened into a fine blade, and I listened, the cool bitter perfect flavor of Corona splashing over my tongue on a hot day. I listened to these lyrics, and I knew what it was like to finally come home. After my trials and subsequent rest, think of this:

I remember when, 
I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
But there was something so pleasant about that place
Even your emotions had an echo 
In so much space.

And when you’re out there, without care
Yeah, I was out of touch
But it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough
I just knew too much.

Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?

And I hope that you are having
The time of your life
But think twice
That’s my only advice.

Come on now, who do you,
Who do you, who do you, who do you think you are?
Ha ha ha, bless your soul
You really think you’re in control?

Well, I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
Just like me.

My heroes had the heart 
To lose their lives out on a limb
And all I remember 
Is thinking, I want to be like them.

Ever since I was little
Ever since I was little it looked like fun
And it’s no coincidence I’ve come…
And I can die when I’m done.

But maybe I’m crazy
Maybe you’re crazy
Maybe we’re crazy

Have a happy summer, everybody.


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