I made my first mix tape when I was four, by thrusting a Fisher Price microphone right up against the stereo speakers. The tape was translucent yellow and had a rainbow arching across the top; the songs on it were muffled and never full-length. In middle school, I started trading mix tapes with several pen pals I had around the country. One girl from Seattle taught me about Matthew Sweet and the Pixies. Another put Cotton Eye Joe on her mix tape and already I was learning to curl my lip up in music-snobbery.
A few years ago, when I worked evenings as a billing clerk for FedEx, my boss walked in on me talking to one of the drivers about post-hardcore. Afterward, he said, “I’ve never heard you talk so much!”
“Well, you never asked me about music,” I said with a shrug. Music will always be my #1 topic of choice. And not just music, but also the inter-band drama, message-board feuds, the he-said-she-said of band break-ups. It’s all interesting to me. Even if it’s a band I don’t like, if they’re being interviewed by Alternative Press, I will read it. And then I will drone on about it for hours to Henry, poor Henry, who sort of cares sometimes but most of the time not really.
In our house, Rolling Stone magazine is frowned upon. My death row pen pal Greg, knowing that I love music, got me a subscription for it a few years ago and, while I appreciated the sentiment, I could never bring myself to look at any page past the cover. Since the late ’90s, Alternative Press has always been my go-to. It’s kind of like still having those pen pals telling me about bands that I’m sure as shit not going to be hearing on the radio. And from being a faithful subscriber for so long, the names on the cover stories and at the end of album reviews have become more familiar to me than my own family.
So when AP’s editor-in-chief followed me back on Twitter a couple months ago, my heart kind of actually stopped for a second. I called Henry at work to tell him, but I was able to just say “Jason Pettigrew is following me on Twitter!” and Henry, good old Henry, knew exactly who that was. Because this is a magazine that I literally dissect, inhale and discuss. A few years ago, Alternative Press ran a contest to find their #1 fan. I slaved over this essay, cried about it, took it out on Henry, bled a little, because I wanted so badly to find the perfect words. Oh I did, alright! Just about 1000 words too many. So I didn’t win and it was a dark day in this house when I learned that I was beat by some 16-year-old girl from California. Please don’t make me relive that while struggling to find the perfect words again, and let’s just say that Alternative Press is “like Really Important to me, OMG.” And Jason is someone whose words and opinions I have greatly admired throughout the years. He’s been with AP almost since the very start, and I can only imagine the hands he has shaken and the shit he has heard. So on a geeky music-maniac level, this was like the greatest thing ever to me.
And sometimes he would even reply to my tweets!
Then something incredible happened. Jason was in town over the weekend and for some crazy reason, he wanted to meet me, Henry and Chooch. (Maybe now Henry will stop urging me to quit being so obnoxious on Twitter.) However, I knew that if Chooch came along, especially if we were going to any sort of eating establishment and not a park where he could roam free and scare off wildlife with his high-pitched shrieking, conversation would be futile. And bitch, this was about ME! I had nightmares of Chooch monopolizing the conversation, completely usurping Jason’s time and me not getting to hyperventilate while upchucking the laundry list of questions I had been mentally preparing and of course promptly forgot once I was sitting across from him.
We decided to meet at Gullifty’s in Squirrel Hill on Saturday. Henry and I got there a little bit early and sat in the car, listening to Pierce the Veil. Instead of being nervous and rocking back and forth in the passenger seat like I had suspected, I was actually really, incredibly giddy. Henry kept giving me disgusted looks. He’s not a fan of Giddy Erin.
“Do you think he’ll let me take his picture?” I wondered out loud. “Because my friends will totally be like ‘Pics or it didn’t happen.'”
“What are you, 12?” Henry asked in annoyance. No, but my friends are?
Actually, I can’t picture any of my friends saying that. Never mind.
The next several minutes are a blur. I vaguely remember meeting Jason, who was wearing a My Chemical Romance t-shirt, in front of Gullifty’s, maybe shaking hands? I definitely remember hoping Henry wouldn’t embarrass me. And then somehow I made it from the sidewalk to a booth inside of Gullifty’s without tripping, puking or dying. Things were looking up.
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat real food, so I went straight to the dessert menu (I went with some multi-million calorie peanut butter pie). Henry and Jason were discussing the regular food options (they both got soup) and I sat there thinking about all the inhumane, grassroots surgical techniques I would be practicing on Henry later that night if he continued to talk about food when I had 6,879,098 music questions to ask.
And then Jason said that his wife said to say hello and thanks for the laughs and I tried to be all, “Oh cool, thanks” but on the inside I was like, “OMFG.”
“OK, I’m going to try and not be annoying—” I started.
“You can be as annoying as you want,” Jason said. That gave me great pause; no one has ever greenlit that for me.
“Have you ever met Robert Smith!?” I blurted, which was the #1 question I wanted to ask and I think I said it much more calmly than in all the times I was practicing in front of the mirror. And from there, we talked about bands, Alternative Press, road-tripping for shows, what it was like for Jason growing up in the Pittsburgh scene. Sometimes Jason would try and ask me questions too, like how Henry and I met, but I was like WHO CARES ABOUT US?! TELL ME MORE DIRT! (All of which was off the record. And no, Henry – that won’t work for you.)
“I’m just a dude,” Jason said after I admitted that I was nervous and sort of in awe to be sitting across from him. “Just a dude who hasn’t been to Gullifty’s in twenty years!” he added. I admired that he was humble, and even appreciated his self-deprecation, considering that’s my own modus operandi, but he really isn’t “just a dude” to me! I was trying not to come off as some sort of star-struck sycophant, because I didn’t want him to get some weird impression of me (as if there aren’t a thousand other ways for me to give off weird impressions) but he really has made an impact on my life. I have so much respect for the guy and the fact that he carved out two hours to spend with us? There is no tangible way for me to express the amount of appreciation I have for that.
Because I guess I feel the same way – just switch out “dude” for “some chick on Twitter,” because I’m not ready to reveal the fruits of my sex-change surgery just yet. I’m just some chick on Twitter, talking shit on Henry, moms, Miley Cyrus and probably you. And somehow that was enough to make this awesome dude want to meet me.
Maybe my favorite part was when Jason said that if we come to Cleveland, he will go to Melt with us. Melt, the mecca for grilled cheese aficionados, of which I am a big one! It doesn’t take much to please me.
(I’m trying my best to write this as a 31-year-old woman and not a 16-year-old girl. But I keep feeling my maturity sifting through my fingertips as I struggle with the urge to hit Caps Lock.)
“You don’t have any other questions?” Jason asked as we stood outside of Gullifty’s, ready to part ways. “You didn’t really ask me all that much.”
“I’m sure she’ll be going, ‘Shit, I should have asked about—-‘ the whole way home,” Henry laughed, and even though I was thinking, “STFU Henry,” I knew it was true.
Jason told me I could call or text him if I had more questions, and then he joked that when his phone was blowing up with texts and his wife asked who it was, he’d roll his eyes and say, “It’s just Oh Honestly, Erin.”
Then he hugged me!
A few hours later, Henry and I were watching the Penguins play the Thrashers. “Did we really just hang out with Jason Pettigrew today?” I asked, and Henry was all, “He fist-pumped me!” Henry doesn’t get to interact with other men very often.
That was the best peanut butter pie of my life.