Mike Henneberger just wants you to listen. Whether that entails listening to that voice inside your head that tells you what’s right from wrong, the music blaring through the headphones that connect with you on a deeper level than you could ever begin to describe to someone, or by taking some of his advice so eloquently written in the new memoir he has affectionately titled Rock Bottom at the Renaissance: An Emo Kid’s Journey Through Falling In and Out of Love in and With New York City. We process our journeys through this crazy thing called life in all different shapes and forms, and that’s the beauty of it. No one has the perfect pill or cure for navigating through life, but music seems to be the closest miracle for a lot of us to deal with the shit that comes up daily.
In this “mixtape memoir,” Henneberger carefully crafts his thoughts on living in New York City and how it’s easy to fall somewhere in the void of being in love with the city and loathing it just as often. Henneberger also shares his struggles with mental illness and the music that kept him alive throughout it all. By connecting each of these chapters in his book to a different song in this mixtape, he has created a clever work of art in his own right by making sense of how music can truly save us from the darkest of thoughts. I feel that everyone will be able to take something special out of this memoir by reading how Henneberger describes his emotions in painstaking detail in his quest for understanding what makes him tick. Not to mention, the music he outlines each chapter with is very near and dear to my heart as well, and I’m sure it will hit the right notes with many of us who frequent this site. The playlist can be found on Spotify and Apple Music. Pre-orders are now up, and the book will be available everywhere starting on June 9th.
The book is broken into a collection of chapters, each named after a different song in the playlist. In this article, I go into a summary of each chapter the makes up the memoir, except for the back half, since I’d love for you to all read the book to see how it all turns out.
”23″ – Jimmy Eat World
In this chapter, Henneberger dives right into the idea of what it means to consider himself a writer. I loved his comparison between an author and a writer; an author is published, whereas a writer is bitter. As much as the author of this book may dissect, and at times criticize his writing style and best practices, he doesn’t give himself enough credit. He’s a hell of a writer. Henneberger also goes through his list of vices for coping with his mental health struggles, but the one vice that he can’t shake is arguably the healthiest: music lyrics. The way that he weaves in lyrics from Jimmy Eat World’s “23” from Futures to make sense of his own life is easily relatable, and each thought connects the dots between music and reality with bitter ease.
”Tortures of the Damned” – Bayside
The author goes through a lot of shit in a short period in this section as he describes his relationship with his best friend, Brandon, and how they helped each other over the years. Henneberger goes through some past relationships that he and Brandon had over time and how they came to be close. He also details a late night of drinking and dancing with girls in New York City that eventually leads to him making his way back to the Hotel Chelsea, alone, only to be interrupted in his hotel room by a knock on the door from a hooker that he paid for her “services.” Mike goes on to lament all the choices of the night that led up to that moment and describes this expensive moment that changed him in more ways than one.
”Settle Down” – The Dangerous Summer
This section goes through a really dark period in Mike’s life as he has to fight off the demons of the night before that have driven him to the point of suicidal thoughts. His dangerous cocktail of prescription drugs and booze had left him to the point where he could have actually killed himself by accident much in the way he had read about actor Heath Ledger’s accidental overdose of a similar combination. Mike eventually picks himself up off the mat when he gets a phone call from his mom telling him that she had a minor heart attack, but never told anyone for fear of scaring him. He makes a point to get his life together pretty quickly after that point, and even takes a stroll down memory lane when he describes his lukewarm feelings towards his brother. These feelings eventually led to Mike leaving a morbid suicide note of “If I die, it’s my brother’s fault,” that he still doesn’t recall writing to this day. It was from that point on that he made a conscious effort to get healthier, one day at a time.
”Poison In My Veins” – Bayside
Even with the events that led up to his near-death experience, Mike describes becoming a functioning alcoholic teetering on the edge of almost making things even worse than the night before by listing some other vices that he wished he had at the time to ease his pain. It’s a hard chapter to read after the glimmer of hope from the past one, but it ultimately makes his conquest that much sweeter at the end.
”Megan” – The Smoking Popes / Bayside
This is a pretty enjoyable chapter to bounce back from the bummer events of the aforementioned one as Mike describes his feelings of love to the girl of his dreams, “Meghan.” Or so he thinks. He relates the Bayside cover of the Smoking Popes classic to coming to terms with this enthralling new relationship that he feels could be the perfect recipe for getting himself back on track. Mike describes falling in love with this girl in a city (New York) that he thought would be impossible to find a real connection with during some late-night karaoke. He eventually ends the chapter on a down note as he lets us know that Meghan and him lost touch after he made his way back to Texas.
”Another Travelin’ Song” – Bright Eyes
Mike begins to pigeon-hole what he wants to do with his life by describing what he’s great at (writing), but at the same time he can be afraid of going down that exact same rabbit hole of becoming a writer. It’s a double-edged sword of telling us how he came to be where he’s at today, and the journey is definitely more important than the beginning or the end in this case.
”What You Know” – Two Door Cinema Club
Our beloved author finally finds the real heroine of his life by outlining how he met the girl at a concert for one of his favorite bands, Two Door Cinema Club, that gave him his “movie moment.” Mike explains the twists and turns that eventually led to their first kiss and a blossoming relationship that may have ultimately been the spark that helped him make sense of his life and gave him a purpose for carrying on.
”Good Things” – The Dangerous Summer
Another one of my favorite quotes from this memoir is how Henneberger describes life. “Life is about experiences, and the best experiences always have some amount of risk attached to them.” Ultimately in Mike’s life, he decides now is the time to take the risk of writing to the girl his real feelings for her in an almost last-ditch effort to convince her to be with him. He gives us the exact wording of what his letter entailed, and he left it open-ended enough to be okay with either outcome as a result.
And at this point in the book, I’ll leave you with this cliffhanger. Does Mike get the girl, does he conquer his anxieties, fears, and vices? You’ll just have to wait until June 9th to find out. However, here are the rest of the chapter titles in the playlist to give you a little bit of closure for now.
- ”Your Heart is an Empty Room” – by Death Cab for Cutie
- ”Sorry About That” – Alkaline Trio
- ”Duality” – Bayside
- ”Never Feel Alone” – The Dangerous Summer
- ”Miserable at Best” – Mayday Parade
- ”Kill” – Jimmy Eat World
- ”Play Crack the Sky” – Brand New
- ”I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral” – The Wonder Years