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"Chick Magnet" • MxPx (by Aaron Burch)

Here’s a story about nostalgia and getting older. And who I was and how I thought of myself when I younger, and who I am and how I think of myself now. Which are many of the very things every story I write and tell are about. I guess I could just say, Here is a story.

I remember so, so few specifics about any of my classes in college, but I very much remember the time a girl told me she thought she recognized me on the back of a CD. I don’t really remember the girl. I want to say she was the girl who, during orientation, looked at me and said, “there are so many attractive people here.” I’d said, “I know!” so excitedly, so ready for this new college life, this new world full of attractive people. The possibility of a new me. I only months later realized she’d meant it derogatory, like everyone was too precious and too put-together and cared too much about what they looked like and like they probably came from money or, even if they didn’t, were trying to look like they did. I’m not sure if this was in fact the same girl though. I am going to say it was. Maybe it was; maybe the girl in this story is a composite. 

“I was looking at this new MxPx single,” she told me. “And the back is this crowd pic and I’m pretty sure you’re right there in the front!”

I remember now! It was the same girl. We’d become friends after orientation, had gone together to a free MxPx performance at the Tower Records on the Ave, aka University Avenue, aka the main street with all the restaurants and used clothing stores and coffeeshops and records stores a couple blocks from University of Washington. 

“I’m pretty sure it’s from that show we went to at Tower,” she said.

“I was right in the front!” I said, getting excited. “What CD?”

“‘Chick Magnet!’” she said. 

That week, after classes, I spent my time how I often did, though with a focus, a purpose. I walked up and down the Ave, browsing Tower Records and browsing Cellophane Square and browsing 2nd Time Around and browsing at least one other store that sold CDs, the name of which doesn’t really matter at all though is driving me crazy that I can’t remember.

I never found it. And thus it became something of a lost talisman, my holy grail. In part because being in the front of a crowd pic on the back of an officially released CD seemed potentially to be one of the coolest things that had ever happened to me, and in even larger part because I couldn’t find it. The more I looked, the more it grew in power.

I graduated, moved away, moved back, moved across the country, went to grad school, got married, got divorced, all while moving here and there a few more times, again and again. Record stores became less and less popular but I continued to look for it whenever in one and, every three to twenty-four months, I’d remember the story and take to Google. As I got older, the internet got bigger; it kept growing and growing, becoming nearly God-like in it’s omnipotence, its omniscience. All the omnis. And still, no matter what combinations of key words I searched for, I never found the image. I started to wonder if I’d made it up. Or, if it had existed at one point, it had since become lost to time and history. My holy grail, indeed.

Finally, searching the internet late at night, I decided I needed final confirmation. I ordered the CD single.  

Nearly twenty-five years after in-store performance, after release of the single, after conversation with a friend in college that first introduced the idea, I received confirmation in the mail. There on the back, wearing mid90s hemp necklace, corduroy jacket, long sideburns, and Pennywise hat: that’s me.

Aaron Burch is many things — the author of an essay collection, a novel, and a short story collection; the editor of a craft anthology, a journal built on spontaneous submission calls, and another journal for longer short stories; a teacher. He is not, nor has ever been, a "chick magnet."


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