Nostalgia, Wine, and the Ghosts of Past Possessions, or
"I Hear E-commerce is Going to be Big" (h2so4 12)

Shopping on Ebay, the online auction site, is pretty fun. You can spend hours searching for and viewing obscure items that you'd normally have to stumble upon at someone's grandma's yard sale; and, just like at the yard sale, once you decide you want it, you are competing against other people who want the same item. You don't know how high your competition is willing to go until you outbid them and are declared the winner.

You like to win. Being the winner is goooooood. It's satisfying in a way that buying a pair of socks at Macy's will never be. Everyone's pretty much equal at Macy's. But at Ebay, there are winners, losers, and the bidders in between.

When you bid on Ebay, you decide what the highest amount you'd want to pay for the item is and register that amount with Ebay. Ebay bids for you, in increments of 50 cents above whatever is the current high bid, and continues bidding each time you are outbid by another user. When your highest amount is hit, then you must decide whether to increase your highest amount so that you can keep up with the bidding, or accept defeat.

When you have a clear head and your judgment is in top form, the moment that you decide what your highest bid will be is the only time when it is important that you have discipline. You merely think to yourself, "If I saw this in a store, at what price would it seem like a good deal, and at what price would it seem like a ripoff?" You also must consider: "Do I really need this item? Would I have bought it if I weren't bored at work and on Ebay?" If you choose your highest bid wisely, you will be able to resist increasing it later, because you will recall the careful logic you employed when calculating your ceiling, and it will reassure you. The formula: how much would I pay for it if I saw it in a store [plus] do I really need this [minus] how bored am I right now?

However, the World Wide Web is open 24-7, and sometimes you will find yourself bidding when you do not have a clear head. Why? Because you are drunk.

You're drunk, it's 1:45 a.m. and you just got home from a night out. You're awake, though, and so you fire up the old 'puter to see if you have any email. Nothing interesting. You hop on the Web and cruise around a little, see if any 'late-breaking news' is developing, maybe go through some of your old bookmarks in the hope of finding amusement. In the course of looking at a Nick Cave fan site, you read about an album that you don't have, that you've never even seen. Now that you don't hang out in record stores and obsessively read music magazines, you're out of touch. You realize that you HAVE to have it. You LOVE Nick Cave! Oh My God!

Remember when you would listen to Nick Cave over and over again for hours at a time? Remember when the dark truths that Nick sang pierced your heart like a fencing foil? Now, when you hear the songs, you still like them and everything, but it's not the same, you're not as able to be as devastated by the telling of life's sadnesses and heartbreaks and betrayals. You're older, and pragmatic, and have less time to lie on your bed, clutching a record cover, dreaming about what your future is going to be like.

In those days you didn't really have a plan, you just had your liberal arts degree to look forward to and then who knows what-some vague images of what adults do at work, like drink coffee and go to meetings-but the important thing was that someday, as an "adult," you would be independent, financially, legally, and you could have control. Finally.

Get up, pour a glass of red wine. Go to Ebay, search on Nick Cave. Seventy items come up! Sit back down. Suddenly an album that you never knew existed a half an hour ago has created a yawning, aching, urgent need in you that you must quench NOW. It's not just a CD, you see. It's your past. It's the ability to feel things deeply, rawly. It's what will save you from receding into dull adulthood (if you haven't already). (Have you?)

Scrolling through the list of Nick Cave items for sale, you see a film called The Road to God Knows Where. It's a tour documentary, and you used to own it but you can't remember what happened to it. Remember, that guy in that band gave it to you when you first started dating him. He knew you liked Nick Cave and taped it from a friend's copy. God, whatever happened to that guy? He was your rebound when your boyfriend got someone else pregnant and broke up with you. You wonder if you'll ever run into that guy again. Fucker. Fucker Fucker Fucker.

Take a sip of your wine. You know, you thought the pain over that would never end. But it did! Even when his marriage to that woman finally fell apart (after seven years-who would've thought it could last that long?), you didn't even consider calling him. Well, OK, you considered it but you didn't do it, and that's what really counts. Even when you get drunk and think about him, you don't even try to find out his phone number. Because it actually seems pointless. Because you really do have better things to do. In the same way that you have better things to do than knowing everything about Nick Cave and his obscure releases.

Meanwhile, it's 2:30 a.m., you're drunk, and Ebay beckons.... Bid on The Road to God Knows Where. The current bid on it is $9; you decide that your maximum bid is $15. Not too high, and since you have already seen the movie, you won't DIE if you don't get it. You notice the seller of the Nick Cave video is also selling a Perry Farrell video, The Gift, a short film he made with his then-girlfriend which also has some footage of Jane's Addiction performing live.

You take a long drink of wine and remember when you used to sit around in your room, listening to "Summertime Rolls" on your Technics record player, thinking, "God, I bet Perry Farrell is the best, funnest boyfriend ever. I bet he makes up little songs for you all the time and worships all the best things about you that no one else ever seems to notice. He would know you like no one else ever really has been able to." And the more you think about it, the more you realize that he would be such a good fuck.

Is there really such a boyfriend? Probably not. And if there is, he's probably not a rock star. It took you three bouts of dating boys in bands for you to realize that it wasn't worth it. There was pretty much no upside. Then, you adopted your "no boys in bands" rule.

As you sip your wine pensively you think, "God, If I could only go back to the me ten years ago, I could let me know that the thirty-one year old me is perfectly successful." What else would you tell yourself if you could go back ten years? Well, about the cheating boyfriend. But would you? Haven't all the disappointments and the knowledge gained through real experiences made you who you are now?

Go get another glass of red wine. You hesitate, you might decide to go to sleep soon-but then you think "What the hell, it's just one more glass." Besides, the you from ten years ago would never have hesitated with such worry about having too much to drink. You stopped drinking when the bottle was empty. Jesus, how did you ever live through those hangovers? No wonder you were thinner then, you puked your guts out at least twice a month. Was life more fun, more interesting then?

You have seen The Gift before, but you can't really remember all of it and Perry Farrell is practically your boyfriend. And you love Jane's Addiction! LOVE LOVE LOVE them! Current bid is $12. Bid $14. You immediately get email from Ebay saying that you have been outbid on The Gift. Increase your highest bid to $18. There, motherfucker, now I have the high bid. ME ME ME.

Oh yeah, now you remember, your old roommate Keith ran over The Road to God Knows Where in his Falcon. You start searching on Falcon memorabilia until you remember, I'm not even into Falcons, or Fords, and you retype Nick Cave into the Ebay search box.

Looking down the list of search results, you locate the CD that started this whole frenzied search; it's called "More Pricks than Kicks." You think: "that is such a clever name!" Because it is a take-off on another title of a Nick Cave record, "Kicking against the Pricks." Which you think is a line from something else, some book or something, probably biblical; you know how Nick is.

And you drink some more wine and think about how it's too bad you weren't raised all religious, because then you'd have this oppressed, twisted view of the world and morality and it would illuminate every single thing with this deep and abiding meaning. Instead, you tried to read the bible in college so you could get all the references in Faulkner (etc.) and Nick Cave (etc.), but it's not easy to concentrate on that stuff when you're too old to feel like it's real. It's kind of like how kids can learn another language easily when they're very young, but your little smart learning cells start dulling and becoming less porous as you get older, and new information is gained with much hardship and struggle. And let's face it, in high school you pretty much know that you don't live in France and probably never will and so you don't really need to learn French. With religion, when you're a kid and it seems like all the adults and the whole rest of the world know all the stories, you feel you have to learn them because, they're, like, the truth and you want to know the truth too. And when you're older and have much more real hells like acne, reading about Jesus and eternal damnation just seems pretty low on the list of things to do.

You bid $22 on "More Kicks than Pricks." This is higher than what you'd normally bid. But you are using the formula: current bid is $10 [multiplied by] I have to have this album [plus] I haven't heard most of these songs [plus] amount of money that seems reasonable for this album [minus] the fact that I only bid $15 for the Nick Cave videotape [multiplied by] the fact that I'm getting old, I'm drunk, and I really want this CD! Oh my god!

Go get more wine. It's already 3 a.m. You can't stop wondering where that line "Kicking Against the Pricks" is from. Reading through Nick Cave fan pages, you notice one that seems very good that also has a mailing list. You sign up for the mailing list despite warnings that the list generates lots of email. Who cares? You LOVE Nick Cave! You finally find out where the line "kicking against the pricks" is from and decide to head into bed for some sleep.

Postscript: You win the The Road to God Knows Where bid. You lose on both The Gift and "More Pricks than Kicks." There are red circles all over your desk from the wine, and you have 63 messages in your inbox upon waking, most of them from the Nick Cave mailing list. And now you can't remember what you read about where that line "kicking against the pricks" is from, but you vaguely recall that it was from a book. But you can't remember which book or what author. And it doesn't matter, since life generates meaning as it is lived; music and books can only contribute to the story of your life that you are creating every minute.

Two weeks later, The Road to God Knows Where shows up in your mailbox, and you unwrap it, admire the video's cover, and put it on top of a pile of CDs where it will remain, untouched, for the next twelve months. You've already seen it, after all, plus you own no television or VCR to view it on. And, you actually have better things to do; you have an updated version of sitting on your bed thinking about the future. You are out there really living it. And the perspective and judgment and wisdom of being older makes everything so much better. So much less angst-ridden. So much more fun. You still don't have a real plan, but things are going better than you ever thought they would.

And the more you think about it, the more you know that you don't even want to go back ten years and talk to the you from then. Because there's nothing to say, nothing to change. Avoiding the pain and heartbreak that were waiting for you would just mean that you had to learn everything about life secondhand, from music and movies. You need to feel it yourself, all raw and freaked out.