30 Albums, 30 Stories: Trait


This November, I’m telling 30 stories about 30 albums. The albums on this list are not necessarily my favorite albums, but they are the ones that are instantly associated with a time and place. All of these albums represent a chapter of my life. This is the story of those albums, and by extension, the story of me, presented mostly chronologically.

Album 25: Trait by Pailhead.

This album came much earlier in my life, but it has such a long history and it always remind me of Male. It’s a side project of Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi, and Al Jourgensen from Ministry. When it was released in 1988, I searched everywhere for it and couldn’t find it. Finally, I ordered a copy on vinyl from the source, Dischord Records, Ian’s record label.

When I left Boston, I was in a rush and I accidentally left my entire vinyl collection in the basement of my house there, since I had long ago moved to CD as my medium of choice. My landlord refused to ship it to me and just threw it out. A lifetime of vinyl collecting, gone. Trait was one of those albums. I searched everywhere for another copy, but no one anywhere had it.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I frequented the most amazing record store ever called Amoeba. There, under P, as if it was as common as Pink Floyd or Pantera, was Pailhead on CD.

Male and I had a rocky start. The first night we met was a couple of weeks after my friend and I moved to Los Angeles. We were at a party where my best friend and I met the first friend who would introduce us to the rest that would eventually become family. Male was sitting inside, bored to death, trying to get his friend to leave, but he wouldn’t because he was outside talking to two awesome girls from Boston. I didn’t remember that was him at all until much later.

The second time we met was out at a bar with those same friends. He was wearing a Philadelphia Eagles jersey and I basically ignored the grumpy tall guy in the corner.

The third night we met was at a friend’s housewarming party in Long Beach. We had just completed a rousing game of I Never, where someone says something they’ve never done, and if you’ve done it, you have to drink. Reading about my past even from this series, you can probably tell that there isn’t much I haven’t done, so I was completely wasted.

So wasted, in fact, that I was flirting with a seventeen year old. Always coming to my rescue, my best friend redirected my romantic overtures to Male, who was actually a legal adult. The first thing he said to me was, “Wow, you have amazing eyes.” I do, in fact, have gorgeous green eyes. They are my best feature. I looked at Male, then I looked into his ocean blue eyes and said, “Wow, so do you.”

Twenty minutes later, we were in a bedroom, naked and unable to do anything about it since we were both drunk out of our minds. I wrapped a sheet around myself to go use the bathroom, and when I opened the door, practically the whole party was standing in the hallway. They gave us a standing ovation.

They all knew Male, so they knew how terribly rare that kind of irresponsible behavior as regards the opposite sex was from him. Male only had physical relations when there was an emotional connection. Since he had avoidance PTSD (the kind that makes you emotionally numb, unlike mine, which makes me as startled as a chihuahua), that wasn’t common. He was apolitically straight edge through his late teens and early 20s.

It turned out that he didn’t break with that tradition since, even though we were both blotto, we had an emotional connection right from the start. Well, from the third time we met anyway.

For the next fifteen years, with occasional moments of clarity, we danced around how much we loved each other, breaking each other’s hearts and mending them again. Two emotionally broken people–broken in different ways from the time we were very young.

It was five years before he died that we got serious again. It was two months before he died that he promised me the rest of his life. Neither of us knew that the rest of his life would be less than two months.

He borrowed my Pailhead CD shortly after we started dating and promised to give it back after he made a copy. In the meantime, his car was stolen and so was the CD. This was in 2000, before you could download everything from the internet. He searched everywhere for it with no luck. Years later, he found a copy in Philadelphia on one of his visits to see his dad.

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