Pre – drinks
It was one of those dull and painfully slow mornings where I had resorted to stalking the clock. Despite the daggers eyes I was throwing its way, it remained oblivious to my unwelcome attention. So I begrudgingly go back to doing some real work, but first a quick check in with the Distracter in Chief. Good old Facebook. No sooner had I refreshed the page …Ka Pow! It jumps at me like a Ninja from my news feed. Lauryn Hill to headline Cape Town International Jazz Festival. Oh the excitement. Just the pick me up I needed. Even though she is a last minute addition, tickets to the festival had already sold out. My half hearted attempt to keep the culture vulture in me from revolting had just paid off in a big way.
Some people come into our lives and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never ever the same.Lauryn Hill for me was one of those people. I knew the Fugees big hits from my cassette days and had hopelessly fallen in love with her voice, whilst aggressive when she rapped through Ready or Not, still managed to be tender.The sweet caress of her beautiful voice on that huge, breakout Roberta Flack cover. Killing me softly. Heavenly. By the time she released her classic album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I was truly, madly, deeply in love.It was classic soul, with a spine stiffened by hip-hop. She sang. She rapped.The perfect album.I was never the same after.
So this was it. The climax of my Lauryn Hill appreciation week , part of a huge build up I had undertaken in anticipation for the one and only ‘L Boogie’ set at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.Twenty minutes prior the Kippie”s stage had been jam packed, as we had waited patiently for her to grace the stage. When she finally did, she was met with huge rapturous applause. At that point I had been lost in the throngs of the madding crowd. Now only a few songs into her set and brief stage walk off later. I was within touching distance. and for a millisecond, I could swear our eyes locked for a second. But I digress.
“It could all be so simple(the pain the pain the pain)…but you’d rather make it hard. Loving you is like a battle and we both end up with scars tell me, who i have to be to get some reciprocity see, no one loves you more than me and no one ever will” That’s just part of the first verse of her song Ex Factor supposedly detailing the raw emotion of the break up of her relationship with the Fugees.
Now as I stood there, those lyrics being carried by a raspy voice struggling not to get drowned by the overwhelming feedback from the sound system. The song could not have been more poignant or ironic. This wasn’t how I had imagined this.This particular cocktail of nostalgia had effects like non other I had drunk before. Its ingredients were bittersweet and however delectable the memory it served, the very taste of it was tainted by the vaguely unpleasant taste of regret and the indefinable sadness of reality settling in.
All those whispers I had blatantly ignored of cancelled performances and unsettling on stage behaviour echoed loudly in the now half empty Kippie’s stage.The pain in her eyes and the humiliation in her voice as she appealed to the crowd “Can y’all hear me? Can y’all hear my voice! I want y’all to hear me.” then turning to her band “I don’t think they can hear us”. As the mass exodus of fans continued I couldn’t help but muse at how the tables had turned. How she walked out on her fans. Now they walked out on her. I stayed though drunk of nostalgia and wearing my ‘Nostalgia goggles’
The day after as I nursed my nostalgia hangover I struggled to reconcile my logical reaction with my emotional response. It seemed an ignominious turn for a relationship that began with so much promise and reached its premature climax with the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. She had disappeared with no real explanation. Only attempting to address this in a lucid moment during her MTV unplugged sessions.”How did this thing that I love so much so easily and so quickly turn into something I loathe and hate?” she had asked rhetorically. Unfortunately she never seemed to solve that riddle and is yet to graduate from the creative purgatory that’s plagued her since.
In trying to understand my own journey and Lauryn Hill experience I immediately realised why hearing the Ex Factor on that night had been particularly poignant. I finally got it. In the hundreds of times I had let my ears be caressed by that particular song I had never imagined it could ever at some stage be the song that would help me understand my relationship with her. It is also quite the paradox really that technological advances such as the Internet enable us to wallow in the past as exemplified by my Lauryn Hill appreciation week.The bar in which this Nostalgia cocktail was mixed. Often overtly romanticising our pasts through our ‘Nostalgia Goggles’
This concept of ‘Nostalgia Goggles’ can also be applied to our real life relationships especially with ex-lovers.The proliferation of social networks and instant messaging platforms makes it so much easier to stay in touch or to reconnect with people from our past. The triggers for these nostalgia driven trips down memory lane usually stem from various reasons ranging from curiosity for the whereabouts of these people who rejected us or were rejected by us. It could also be a sense of unfinished business that generates intense emotions or the assumption that this time it might be different as either the parties involved or the external circumstances have changed.
The problem with ‘Nostalgia Goggles’ though is that they tend to zoom in and focus on the good memories using them as justification and fueling our belief in the probability of success. History with the person often adds greater legitimacy to this, but like my Lauryn Hill experience you are never really prepared for any potential disappointment as a result.
Be wary of Nostalgia. It’s a hell of a cocktail.