Maybe I’m just getting old.
Maybe we all are. Well, apart from the young ones. No, even they’re getting old. They’re still young right now, but they’re getting old. And because they’re young, they’re tuned in to the zeitgeist. They get it. But one day they won’t. One day it’ll stop making sense and they won’t understand things anymore. One day they’ll wake up and the words of Abe Simpson will echo in their heads, their meaning finally, stealthily transformed from a joke at someone else’s expense, something to laugh at with superior remove, to something that bites, and stills the laughter. But for now they’re young, and they enjoy stuff us Olds don’t understand.
Like fidget spinners. Remember them? I had a mini crisis when they appeared on the ‘scene’—wherever that is. It was the speed at which they appeared that got to me. Up until then I kinda sorta maybe thought I might’ve had some sort of handle on things, one eye at least on trends and fads. But the fidget spinners, they completely blindsided me. First they were nowhere, nothing. Then in the blink of an eye London was saturated with them. As if everyone had gone on a private chat room the night before and agreed, ‘Tomorrow’s the day. At 11:30am, unleash the proof of age. Old man Knava won’t know what hit him.’ And I didn’t. I didn’t understand. I still don’t. But all the kids love them.
Or, more accurately: Loved. Past tense. Because time moves quicker the older you get. Sometimes you start to feel as if you’re skipping along the surface of a lake, like a well-pitched stone, sailing along in your own bubble for days, months, years at a time, only paying attention when the water strikes you. It’s harder to pay attention to as you get older, to trends, and time. And trends and time—they wait for no man. In my mind fidget spinners were a thing during the summer just gone. A recent thing just a few months old. I was sure they were a part of the landscape of the long, punishing summer that we had over here in England in 2018, when the green spaces of London were bleached yellow and white through months of drought, and the nation believed, genuinely believed despite gritted teeth and shields of irony, that football might actually be coming home. We laughed and made jokes, the memory of countless years of hope and resignation hanging heavy over us in the sky in lieu of clouds, but the longer the World Cup went on with England still hanging on the more you saw the belief behind peoples’ eyes. It was a wild ride. It was a summer that felt like it was never going to end. And I was sure that fidget spinners had been a part of those endless months. But nope.
Goddamn. A whole year. Just gone. Swallowed up without remorse by habit and routine. The older you get, the more pronounced that effect gets. No matter how much you try to keep everything right there in front of you, real and present, time just has a way of—to borrow a phrase from Stevie—like the breeze through our fingers slipping away.
Music is one of those things in which I was behind even when I was younger. I’ve always been a few decades behind. I was—and am—an incredibly passionate music fan, but one playing a game of (very slow) catch-up. It was Bob Dylan then Led Zep then Judas Priest then Iron Maiden. To me, Muse are a new band. I know I should be more up to date. Support the up and coming musicians who have it so tough out there in the rinsed and stretched to breaking point, top-heavy, exploitative music industry in which there are no profits to be made anymore for anyone apart from the biggest artists. I was one of them up until not long ago after all. But I’m not, and I don’t. I hang my stuck-in-the-past head in shame. On top of that chrono-dragging I’m also a metalhead, a genre which once commanded or sat parallel to the zeitgeist but which is now comfortable being its own fringe thing. All of that means that when it comes to trends in music I am woefully—and I mean appalingly—out of touch.
But I’m not alone. There was a discussion earlier today on the Pajiba Slack about Post Malone. The discussion mostly revolved around us expressing befuddlement at this nice-seeming yet oddly tattooed young man’s career. Some people knew more than others, but by and large we were like a bunch of creaky-hipped geriatrics sat on the porch of a nursing home. And there’s nowt wrong with that. Our age ranges on the Pajiba staff vary. I was once the youngest. I am not anymore. But it’s safe to say that overall—in terms of the zeitgeist—all of our times have passed.
So when I saw this pop up on my Twitter timeline earlier, I stared at it for a while, confused.
I shared it with the Slack channel. There, too, confusion.
Guys, what’s a Charlie Puth?
Why is he looking at me like his friend just told him that his hamster had died but he wasn’t really that close with the friend so, you know? Why does he have a driver and why does he signal to him that he is hungry by saying ‘I’m hungies’? Is this a Generation Z (post-Millennial) thing? Or a Generation Alpha (post-Z) thing? Something, perhaps, from generations yet to come, from those born under harsh hurricane skies, scrabbling through the dust and the ashes of species for something salvageable left behind by the ravages of capitalism. ‘I’m hungies’ indeed. Children, we are so sorry.
I clicked through to the article. It was written in February 2018. A lifetime ago these days, and at this age. It was filled with words arranged into strange sentences that I struggled to decipher. I could only imagine they were meant to be coded messages to someone? Or something? Like that time I uncovered the sinister conspiracy hiding in plain sight in Taylor Swift videos. As per the article on ‘Charlie Puth’:
Aside from learning that Puth directed his driver to the Hotel Bel-Air for lunch by saying, “I’m hungies!” one of the most illuminating quotes (har har) appears in the first graf, when Puth admits to wanting a home studio like OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder. Tedder’s place is apparently so hospitable that Puth has been rethinking home decorating. “He has another house for his studio. He has candles, so now I have candles.” Puth says. “I like candles.”
But of course it turns out that the piece I’m reading and now commenting on is just itself commenting on another piece.
This one, at Billboard. As per that piece:
Puth — whose own career kicked off with his 2015 smash with Wiz Khalifa, “See You Again,”
Ohh, that makes sense. I know that name and that song. Had no idea it was a Puth co-production though. I guess I was gonna be diving into this piece now fully.
Well what’s ol’ Charlie Puth’s life like then, Billboard, on this day that you’re hanging with him?
He completed a three-hour training session with celebrity fitness guru Harley Pasternak, who’s prepping him for his summer headlining tour, and spent another two hours with his allergist. With his fluffy shock of hair and lanky 5-foot-11-inch frame clad in head-to-toe athleisure — fluorescent yellow Alexander Wang for Adidas hoodie, Lululemon shorts and leggings — Puth looks more like a tuckered-out high school athlete than a pop star. Since finding fame, he has become a bit of a homebody. “I like to stay in my house a lot,” he says. “Or hang out with Adam Levine, who likes the same things I like.” He grins. “You know, freshly cut fruits and toilets that greet you when you walk into the bathroom, and Porsches.”
Okay, I’m confused and a bit repulsed, but also intrigued. Let’s hear a bit more from the lad.
“Range Rovers symbolize success to me, but, like, of more to come,” says Puth. “I don’t have one, but I want one. And even when I do have one, I’m going to think, ‘I want to be a member of a country club, and I want to write songs in my head on the way there.’ What the hell can I say? I’m inspired by materialistic things.”
I scrolled down briefly.
And then a bit more.
There were 2,200 words left of the piece.
I’ll be honest.
That just wasn’t gonna happen. Why was I even doing this? This piece was clearly not written for me. How much time was I wasting on something that clearly—painfully clearly—was not meant for a zeitgeist-dislocated man with the number ‘3’ in front of his age.
My eyes alighted on a section, mid-scroll.
Puth takes a deep breath and slumps down. “You gather up a bunch of emotion with the life shovel, throw it in the life bucket, mix it up,” he says with a shrug. “And she evoked such good emotion on that song, it was a pleasure working with her. That’s why I’m always happy to sing it, even though it came from a dark point in my life.”
Then there was a break. Some time had passed Puth and the writer’s day. And then:
“That was Jennifer Lopez.”
Puth’s gaze darts toward the entrance of the Hotel Bel-Air, where we — and, apparently, Lopez and Alex Rodriguez — have come for lunch. “I love J.Lo, but I don’t give a shit.” Puth’s driver, an elderly man named Bela, whisked us here after Puth declared “I’m hungies!” Now, Puth zeroes in on his meal: two plates of hamachi sashimi, black truffle-dusted roast chicken and some charred broccolini he dutifully munches to satisfy Pasternak, his trainer. “Oh, my God, I care more about the truffles on my chicken. Fucking delicious.”
I blinked, took a breath. I sat up straight, my bones creaking as if to really drive the point home, and I closed the laptop and went over to my bookshelf to listen to the silence there. Idly I ran my hand across some of the worn spines and I let my mind go blank. After a while I noticed something. Tucked away behind one of the rows, a fidget spinner that a friend had bought me in the summer of 2017 as a joke. I picked it up and hefted it. It spun a little bit with the motion but the main body seemed ridiculously sturdy. This was good craftsmanship. I made the spinner spin and became somewhat mesmerised by the motion. I’m not sure how long I stood there watching the thing move but eventually a jolt brought me back to the present. The spinner had planted something in me. A vision of a world yet to come. I walked into my kitchen, fidget spinner in hand. I opened the drawer and I picked up the sharpest knife. I took the point of the knife and pressing down hard I inscribed my initials into the body of the fidget spinner so that in a few decades time, when all else had been destroyed and I had vanished, a scavenger in whatever world was left could find its sturdy body in the dust. My presence, once so definitive and tangible but since erased from memory, would flare weakly for just a brief moment then. I smiled and spun the thing again.
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