Half-way through my swim season senior year, my iPod broke. Forgoing music in my pre-race warmup was unthinkable, so I made a mix-CD that I listened to every meet. The same playlist greeted me before the 200 freestyle, during the diving break, the 500, the 200 relay, the 400 relay. Lil Wayne, Rage Against the Machine – whatever gets you angry enough to hold your breath and flail your arms for 23 seconds without thinking about it. But there’s one song I always saved for the same moment that came down on me after every meet.
Racing always made me feel satisfied and sentimental all at once. It was like I had worked myself up so intently for such a brief spurt of energy that I couldn’t help but both despise the effort of a race and relish the opportunity to replay it in mind – “heartache with hard work” or something like that. I could only joke around with my teammates for so long before I needed to escape somehow. The song I saved for this moment was “Trailer Trash.”
If you had to provide the perfect example of an indie-rock band making a song about feeling happy-sad about a place, “Trailer Trash” is about as close as you can get to perfection. It jangles along with a quiet anger that Isaac Brock saves for the things he actually loves. There’s no cowboy Dan to act as a surrogate for Brock. There’s just a place, the people in that place, and the way Brock feels about them.
There was always something satisfying about sitting on a freezing bus, my headphones in, watching my teammates talk about whatever teenagers talk about, while I could quietly mouth “I shout that you’re all fakes!” to myself. I think I needed to add some kind of tension to the otherwise happy experience. By labeling something “fake” I was acknowledging their imperfection, which, paradoxically, made them more “real.”
Hallmark cards are “fake.” Being sincerely given a Hallmark card is to genuinely receive a “fake” sentiment. High school is “fake” – a construction of your peers to help you transition to adulthood – spending hours and hours with your “fake” friends is real. Calling your friends “fakes” in the first line of a chorus and then telling them you miss them, and your sorry that you called them fakes, is about as real as it gets.
– there’s also that wicked guitar solo at the end.