Lovefool 01.30.12 | Lovefool’s Homesick Blues

Pining for St. Louis, Lovefool revisits her old hometown in the pages of Tim Fish’s U. City Loop romance, Strugglers.


I’m back, nerdlings! Last week saw me succumb to the Death Plague again, sadly. I’m starting to wonder if there’s something in the air here in Omaha that my lungs can’t process. Maybe it’s the near-arctic cold we had for a while, I don’t know. I’ve also started to make jokes to my coworkers about pining for the smoggy flatlands of my homeland so maybe there’s some combination of things there that are working against me and my poor, struggling lungs. I’ve spent the last month popping cold medicine and, while I was at it, being diagnosed with a multitude of weird new health problems. Work’s been a hot mess and so busy and my computer wasn’t working for about a month and…honestly, it’s been a long winter. It hasn’t been without bright spots, true, but…I’m homesick. There’s no two ways around it. I want to come home, even for just a pop-in to poke my head into all your lives so I can say outrageous things and then leave again. I want to deal with your asshole drivers and unending construction. I want to drink that weird rose soda at the Vine with my best friend. I would pretty much murder someone for a Schlafly right about now, even just a Pale Ale, never mind the stuff those crazy kids are getting together on draft. And you’re getting a skeeball bar in Maplewood!
So it was under this weird combination of winter blues, illness, work irritations and homesickness that I actually took JG,FE’s advice and picked up Tim Fish’s Strugglers, read it and scheduled a trip home next month. Coming in at 100 pages, it’s a perfect little snapshot of what could probably only be described as Loop Culture. Starring Alison and Tracey, two Wash. U. graduates from points elsewhere, and Tighe, a transplanted post-collegiate Bostonian, Strugglers is a story of breakups and discoveries and local bands. Lots and lots of bands. I’m sure we all remember that period when every single person we knew was in a band and there were five shows a week we could get smuggled into. Now everyone I know has gotten older and is starting to have rock and roll youngsters or they’ve moved out of St. Louis to points beyond and varying levels of honest-to-god renown, which is also echoed here.
Strugglers actually made me laugh because, frankly, half of you reading this would probably read it and go “Ohmigod! I know this girl! I lived this life! I probably got drunk at that EXACT APARTMENT.” There’s even a casual throwaway line about meeting someone who worked for KWUR at a party, which pretty much made the experience complete. Strugglers, of course, doesn’t leave the tumultuous love lives that came with the Loop uniform of band tees and Chucks out of the equation. Tracey and Alison both end up breaking up with their boyfriends during the course of the book for various reasons and Tighe discovers that he’d actually kind of like a boyfriend.
And those things are all part of the story but the grand, sweeping romance here seems to be with the city, with that Loop lifestyle, itself. Tim Fish got to U. City, started a journal, decided to turn it into a comic, scrapped the journal part and just wrote about some buddies living on the Loop figuring out who the hell they are over some shows and some beers and parental visits. The romantic aspects of it are realistic in that they’re not the entirety of the story, life goes on around them and, sometimes, without them. Tighe’s coming out is almost comical in his confusion and written largely in rhyme, which is a fairly charming way to present something that could have overwhelmed the feeling of the rest of the story because it’s such a big idea. But even that never really takes center stage. It’s truly slice of life in that it isn’t about any one person or experience. If anything’s almost the star of Strugglers, it’s the music and the scene and the constant rotating cast of characters and situations that makes up those two things. There’s even a scene during the story where two of the characters, who have broken up because one of them is a jerk, run into each other at a show and their friends all vanish and I swear to God I’ve been the vanisher (“Maybe we should just let them sort it out. I need another beer, anyway.”) and watched that from a bar stool, ready to intervene, a million times.
Possibly even that particular bar stool, which is a large part of the fun of this book. Alison, one of our heroines, is a bartender at “The Berry” and our cast goes to see a few shows at the “Basement Bar”. There’s even a demonstration of the Ted Drewes upside-down serving method and some news coverage of the opening of MetroLink. And the part that I can’t get over, the one that stops me cold every time, is when Tuesday, Queen of the Scene, shows up somewhere wearing an Aesop’s shirt. Anyone else remember Aesop’s? They made the best Italian sodas.
And it’s that kind of loving touch that makes me love Tim Fish and his book. Sure, he leaves St. Louis, lots of people do, but he doesn’t go out into the world talking shit about our (your) fair city like so many of those people have an unfortunate habit of doing. Strugglers isn’t anything epic, just a little spin through a scene in a town that isn’t really purported to have much of one but is beloved by many. It’s a story about people figuring out who they are with a little help from their friends and eating weird pizza while they’re at it. | Erin Jameson

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