Book Premiere: Rock Bottom At The Renaissance: An Emo Kid’s Journey Through Falling In And Out Of Love In And With New York City

If you love emo, music, good writing, and uplifting recovery stories Rock Bottom At The Renaissance: An Emo Kid’s Journey Through Falling In And Out Of Love In And With New York City is the perfect summer quarantine reading pick for you. It’s the first book from music journalist  Mike Henneberger

Check out an expert from the book here:

Ch. 5 The Girl #1 – “Megan” by The Smoking Popes and Bayside

We met the girls at a Mexican restaurant called Maracas. Chips, salsa, margaritas—I felt right at (wait for it…) home. I sat across from Meghan, and honestly, that was probably when it hit me. Not out of convenience. I wasn’t weighing my options. I was just there to have a good time with good people. And whatever happens happens. And it happened. It was the first time I got to look into her eyes. They were almost as green as mine but just enough on the grey side for me to fall for them. As far back as I can remember, women have told me I have pretty eyes. I’ve never argued with them, but I’ve disagreed in my head every time. Until now. Meghan had beautiful eyes, and her dark hair made them pop. I was done.

“Butter on a summer day, when I hear that name it’s a dream that never came true. Sat down on the tracks and waited for a train to take me back to you. Somebody came and took my hand. I finally had to go. But Megan I just want you to know I waited as long as I could.”

She was cute, she was funny, she was confident. Finally, I was falling in love in New York City. 

“Butter on a summer day when she’s around.”

She was cute, she was funny, she was confident. Finally, I was falling in love in New York City. 

“Butter on a summer day when she’s around.”

The night was turning out much like two nights before: Brandon had Jennifer, the off-limits girl had the other off-limits girls—only this time, I had Meghan. Enough of a foundation had been laid on Saturday that I was approved by everyone, so the night just went on. After a few margaritas and some more getting to know each other we all decided that we would find a karaoke bar. There are only a few things in this world I can do to impress a woman. I don’t have a lot of money, and I’m not particularly good at sports. I can usually talk or joke my way out of a fight, but that’s only a good skill to have when defending yourself, not when defending a damsel in distress. I also have a pretty good sense of direction, but how many girls have that on their list of things that make a man sexy? I’m also not delusional about where I stand on the looks spectrum. I’m a decent-looking dude, not super-hot, but definitely not unattractive. I could probably be in better shape, but I’ve definitely aged gracefully. But now I was at a karaoke bar. Put me in a karaoke bar with a lady, and it’s over. Once that decision was made, Meghan’s fate was sealed. Whether she knew it just yet or not, she would be going home with me and we would be testing the durability of the twin-sized air mattress on Brandon’s kitchen/living room floor. Not exactly the romance of the movies, but it’s more about the event than the circumstances under which it takes place. Right?

Meghan and I talked all night, and every new piece of information ended up being something else we had in common. We both grew up listening to the same punk and ska bands. We both came from religious pasts that led us both into not-so-religious futures. And, most importantly, at that moment, we both loved karaoke. She could sing, and she wasn’t afraid to. That, to me, is very attractive. I swear, and I tell this to every girl who says it: ninety percent of women think they can’t sing, their car is a mess, and their apartment is a mess. These are statistics I’ve gathered over years of research. I’m not saying that ninety percent of women can’t sing or have messy cars and apartments, just that ninety percent of women seem to think those things. But Meghan was confident, and that’s one of the sexiest qualities a woman can have. And having her eyes definitely helps.

She sang Lisa Loeb’s “Stay.” Of all the songs, with less than 12 hours until a plane takes me back to Corpus Christi, Texas, she sings “Stay.” Yes, I overanalyze music. Yes, I make songs mean something even though they don’t always mean something. I guess it’s like the song says, “I only hear what I want to.” And right then, at that moment, I wanted this beautiful, confident, funny woman to just ask me to stay. So, at that moment, that’s what I was hearing. It was time for me to respond. Jack Kerouac once said, “Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.” I’ve never been much of a poet, never really tried to be because I never really cared to be. I think the best poems have already been written. They are the songs we hear every day, the songs our parents played for us and that we will play for our children. So I used poetry, drunk on Japanese beer in a Manhattan karaoke bar. I sang The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” It was one of the songs my dad used to listen to so much that it’s the first one that I associate with the memory of him playing records. Maybe it’s because of that that the song has always been one of my favorites. I definitely heard that song way too young, but I’m sure I never understood what it was about back then. Nevertheless, it’s a karaoke crowd pleaser. Other songs I also heard often when I was probably too young to hear them: “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer” by Dion and the Belmonts. “Runaround Sue” is pretty much about whore who cheats and sleeps around with every dude she can, and “The Wanderer” is pretty much about a man-whore who actually drives “around the world” to bang every chick he can. I’m guessing it’s Sue’s fault that the once-optimistic crooner who sang “Dream Lover” eventually became “The Wanderer.” Those songs have also become go-to karaoke songs for me. And like “Just Like Heaven,” they are karaoke crowd pleasers. But on that night, I was only trying to please one person. I don’t know if she heard music the way I did—analyzing every line, understanding every word as if it were written in that second just for her. “‘Why are you so far away?’ she said. Why won’t you ever know that I’m in love with you?” Before the song was over, she was right next to me, singing along.

As the night moved on further in an obvious direction, the two off-limits girls called it a night and headed home. They knew their friends were in good hands. Brandon and Jennifer were still there, but I don’t think we noticed. Meghan and I were lost in conversation, the songbook, and in each other. Before we knew it, Brandon and Jennifer had disappeared. I think there was a part in both of us that wanted to keep the night going because we knew it would be our last together. I realize now that I really wasn’t concerned with just getting laid. This was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to connect with the kind of girl that I didn’t believe existed at “home.” We drank more. We talked more. We attempted to sing songs that we only kind of knew––finding out that no matter how much you feel like you “Must Have Done Something Right,” it doesn’t mean you’ll know that Relient K song any better than you actually do. We did anything to keep our night from ending. Finally, we sang one…last…song: Dashboard Confessional’s “Hands Down.” It’s one of the best love songs about this kind of love—the new, exciting, awkward love that is scary because it feels more real than we’ve been taught we should allow.

“My hopes are so high that your kiss might kill me. So won’t you kill me? So I die happy. My heart is yours to fill or burst, to break or bury, or wear as jewelry. Whichever you prefer.”

I was hers. Sure, she was mine too. But when that dream takes over, you’re no longer in control. All I could do was hope that she was as deep under whatever spell I was under. Was she thinking the same thing? Did she see me as confident? I mean, I’m sure I seemed to be, but by this time I was scared to death. I liked her. A lot. Did she like me? Of course, tonight she did. But, “Will you still love me tomorrow?” Another song I probably shouldn’t have heard at such a young age. And what about when I go back to Texas? This isn’t how the movies end. In the movies, when the people fall in love, they stay in love, but they also stay in the same city. I stopped worrying, and I kissed her. That was all it took. Within what seemed like seconds we were in the back of a cab heading back to Harlem, and Brandon’s apartment, and my twin-sized air mattress on his living room/kitchen floor.

“The words are hushed let’s not get busted. Just lay entwined here, undiscovered. Safe in here from all the stupid questions. ‘Hey did you get some?’ Man, that is so dumb.

Stay quiet, stay near, stay close, they can’t hear.

So we can get some.”

It was a perfect night. Later, Brandon would tell me that Meghan and I weren’t exactly “hushed.” But he’s my best friend, he knows me. He knows what that night, what that girl, meant to me. It wasn’t a conquest. It wasn’t something to cross off my bucket list. It was proof that a dream exists. It was life breathed into an idea that, for some, is only in the movies. Or only in songs. For me, it was in real life.

“Hands down this is the best day I can ever remember.”

Preorder the book here. 

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