The Picture Of Dorian Grey

An unexpected incarnation of Conor Oberst, most notably of the band Bright Eyes (but with a dozen side projects also to his credit) appeared this morning at my office. Bored, aimless, and on a mission to be as unproductive as possible, I wandered into the break room and spied an abandoned copy of People Magazine on a plastic fold-out table. Lured in by the cover page's promise of an exclusive tour of Brangelina's summer home in Uganda, I snatched up the glossy rag and as the pages fell open, there was Oberst, mugging it up for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Conor is one of those artists that I feel an imaginary and borderline inappropriate connection with: we are both the same age, we both grew up in the midwest, both went on a bipolar rampage in NYC at one time....kindred spirits, at the very least. Oberst has a fantastically polarizing quality to his work and his persona. He has remained loyal to Saddle Creek Records, which gives him a little street cred, but then he does shit like put his photo in People. I guess even punks are really just whores on the inside.

I have an image frozen in my mind of Oberst. I was 20 years old, and I had just ripped the plastic off a copy of Fevers and Mirrors, the first cohesive Bright Eyes album to get critical attention. The album art (if you can call CD covers "art") had a strange, antique wall paper look to it with sparsely arranged photos. There were a few faces, and I remember closely examining them, nose to paper, trying to determine which one was Conor. In a tiny little black and white image, there he was: awkward, with intense, innocent eyes and white face.

When affronted with his picture today, I couldn't help but be almost shocked at how much older he looked. Not old old, and not bad--he looked great, in fact. He looked like an attractive 30 year old man. Like, a grown up. So I guess I'm, like, a grown up, too.

There is a saying that people don't change. Granted, it's usually uttered by some frazzled housewife after asking her husband not to hang his underpants on the vacuum cleaner for the thousandth time. But I love that "truth;" that people don't change. I think back on the people I've known, the ones I've abandoned, the ones I'd rather forget or still miss desperately every day. I like to think that all of them, no matter how big their "problems" may be, or how much their lives have changed with the introduction of spouses and possibly even offspring thrown into the milieu, are all doing the same crap; different name.

At the end of my own life, I like to picture myself as a crotchety old broad holed away at Glacial Pines, restlessly alternating between melancholic lethargy and an excited determination to make something happen, probably by concocting the most potent pill combo available and then forcing a one-sided conversation with the most delusional lunatic in the place. But the pictures: of me at age twenty, of Conor, of my friends tanked at a college party, they will ever remain frozen.

At least until someone releases my will---all evidence will be burned.

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