It's a strange way of saying that I know I'm supposed to love you...
Today is the 16th anniversary of my favorite album ever, Infinity On High. I just wanted to write about my journey with the album. A love letter.
I haven't had the longest history with the album, at least I had told myself until I counted out that I've spent eight birthdays with her, (still only half of the sixteen she's had). I got into Fall Out Boy at the tender age of 12, as many others had. At the sweet brink of broody adolescence, I thought no one in the world understood me like Pete Wentz did. Albeit a now silly song choice, Centuries was my personal anthem. The stars aligned at the perfect time for me to dive obsessively headfirst into a relationship with their music. The rest of American Beauty/American Psycho had dropped a few months later, and it was the first album I ever bought with my own money. I burned through it, love at first listen. I told everyone I knew and people I didn't. I specifically remember a boy making fun of me after I requested the DJ to play Centuries at the end of the year school party. I loved it. What would deepen my love for rock music, I had discovered the radio station KROQ after flicking thru channels in search of anyone playing Fall Out Boy's music, and lo and behold, they did.
At the time however I only knew AB/AP and a few of the singles off of Save Rock and Roll. I was a baby fan. I wasn't even aware that they had their 2000s album catalogue yet.
To set the scene, me and my dad are sitting in the car in the parking lot waiting for my mom to get off of work, I was listening to KROQ and they played Centuries! My favorite song! At the time they were doing blocks where they would play two songs from a band or artist back to back, and that's how I listened to This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race for the first time.
My first reaction was basically "Oh?" followed by an immediate shock at the usage of G-d damn in the song. I wasn't particularly raised in a strict religious household, my parents heavily tattooed and favoring hip-hop and rap, but it was still such a shock. So much of one I didn't really have much of a visceral reaction to the song as I did Centuries. I just thought it sounded different, and afterwards I was embarrassed that I didn't know it from the beginning. I mean, I was thee BIGGEST Fall Out Boy fan going on maybe six months. Inexcusable.
Here's where the muddiness of my memory kicks in. It's like I've always knew the album once I listened to it. It was just like bath water. I remember there was a time when I didn't know the album and when I did, and it was my saving grace.
I eventually steal the album from a Goodwill, as I did with every CD I had owned for many years. At the time I'm a few months older, more of a fan, and falling deeper into my quickly plummeting mental health. I wouldn't sleep for days at a time, shuffling out CDs to fill that horrific buzzing sound that silence has for some reason. I would like to say sometimes Infinity On High was the only album to lull me to sleep, but that's giving it too much praise. Some days it did, some days it didn't. I would still fall in love with the sweet croons of Patrick Stump singing to me and the moon the truth hurts worse than anything I could bring myself to do to you. After the soft click of the CD goingoingstop, and the words fall from the air into your skin, I understand more and more what he meant.
"This record, more than any other, has reminded me of nighttime- both the anxiety of insomnia and the peace of being awake when everyone else is asleep. I remember before we released it, I used it like a security blanket, listening and trying to fall asleep." Pete Wentz on the 10th anniversary of Infinity On High.
Now this, this is hilariously ironic, how I was living out exactly how Pete described the album, and what he was going through in that time of his life. Now that I am older, more spiritual, more in tune with my body, mind, and what I put out and take in from the world, I can almost believe some sort of unknowing manifestation happened here....but I'll ignore that. More proof that Pete Wentz really did know me best. And also that he is an amaZING artist able to encapsulate that feeling so so so so well.
Security blanket? Absolutely. Wherever I am in the the timeline, I think I had just turned 14, the summer between 8th grade and 9th, and I was headed to summer church camp. As I had previously stated, it wasn't at all a strict religious upbringing, mind you I had already dyed my hair neon green, but it was a Christian upbringing nonetheless. I traveled the bus ride to camp smuggling my phone between my crotch and a copy of IOH and my portable CD player hidden between the clothes in my luggage bag.
My memories get muddled here again. I don't remember much of the trip. I was an out lesbian, an emo freak, the youngest of all the campers as it was high schoolers only, and I had only just made the cut a week or two earlier. I don't remember it being overall absolutely terrible as one would probably imagine, but it wasn't all that pleasant either. My phone had gotten immediately confiscated, quickly discovered on the first day after I had failed to turn my ringer off. Very armature move. However, if they did notice the CD Walkman, they never took it. As I still much prefer to rock portable CD players, I've noticed adults (oh wow....I am an adult now, I guess Millennial is the better term.) find it charming that I still use them. I've had people ask me if I even knew what they were as I was using it right in front of them, then they would pull their child over and ask them if they knew what it was in condescending delight. But that's getting off track.
The thing I do remember most about the trip was that the mountains are absolutely beautiful, and if I didn't thrive off of the fast paced natured of SoCal cities, I would wish to lay between the mountain side for the rest of my life. But as a SoCal city girl, we don't get to see the night sky quite like they do. And wow. Did I ever see it.
I remember that on the first night, the boy and girl cabins were having an apparently traditional full out prank war. As I was the youngest camper, I wasn't exactly not allowed but no one really wanted my help. So instead, I took my CD player, began playing Infinity On High, and I walked up the road our cabins were on, away from everyone else. I laid flat down at the edge of it, on the quite literal dust and dirt, and stared up at the night sky for the first time.
I really wish I could explain to you what I felt in that moment. I want to say that I had landed on Hum Hallelujah, as I could still feel the remnants of that moment when I listen to that song now, but I really don't remember for sure. It was like I could see everything that ever existed. Every single star and galaxy. That the whole world was bending for me. I can imagine it felt like the promised life beyond human existence that Comet Hale-Bopp had for Do and Ti. I think I was probably manic and unknowingly bracing myself for the trauma my psyche was about to endure over the course of this summer camp. I think I became apart of the sky for just a second, no matter how psychotic or silly that might sound. If I could not be apart of their world, I would be apart of my own. "Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all."
The summer ends and I come back home. Family members will all say I came back different, some remark good and some bad. I think I did. I think I did.
Here, my story begins to teeter off mundane, as my life becomes magical, the once otherworldly moments in different lifetimes pale in comparison. Infinity On High has and always will be my anchor so I don't float too far into the sky. Prevent me from exploding like a pressurized helium balloon. Hold me down in this starless city.
Infinity On High is hot sticky uncertainty. The growing pains of someone who is old enough to know better. I think I'll live with her for another thousand years. Long live the car crash hearts.