Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My Musical Epiphany

Stop laughing. I mean it.

I’d heard of them, of course. More times than I care to remember. I figured they were mythical or sensationalized, like G-spots or 100mpg engines. I’m a slow learner sometimes. Like, I just recently listened, really listened to Iggy’s Lust for Life. Hey, man, where’d you get that lotion? Of course I’ve had it in the ear before. That was kind of an epiphany, I suppose, not that I really learned anything from it, but it’s kind of amusing to picture that Royal Caribbean cruise commercial where the Modern Guys (and girls) are on the climbing wall – yeah, you’ve had it in the ear before.

But, I digress, as is my wont. I take my dog for a walk most mornings. Most of the time my 11 year old son comes along as well. One particular Friday, I decided to carry along my Walkman as well. See, it was my birthday and I’d been promised decent radio tunage. Let’s set the stage: it’s dark, really fucking (that’s for the Girls Who Say Fuck, may they rule forever) dark, the few lone lights shining are just absorbed by the blackness; it’s cool enough to make me wonder how long I can keep doing this in shorts and a t-shirt and there’s nobody around except me, Austin and Pawli. Austin knows how to keep a companionable silence. And Pawli just likes to sniff. So, I slip on my headphones and try to find the radio station in the dark. Did I mention that it’s really fucking dark??? The Hand of Fate takes mine and I roll that dial right into WSEV. And there’s the Epiphany: (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais. On the headphones, in the dark, with the dog and the boy. Midnight to six, man! It was absolutely perfect. Perfect for the darkness, perfect for my mood, perfect for walking the dog at an almost aerobic clip (something I’m sure Strummer never imagined). It’s a Perfect Musical Moment. And it’s my birthday. And it’s got nothing to do with nostalgia and longing for the Good Ole Days and Lost Youth.

I have a love/hate relationship with the radio. Remember that old Carpenters song? When I was young I’d listen to the radio, waiting for my favorite song…? That was me, with my green ball transistor, sitting on my orange fuzzy bedspread in Van Buren Missouri, trying to tune in John “Records” Landecker from far away WLS. May I never hear Stairway to Heaven again. And there were the College Commuting years, with Phil Williams and Worm Watch ’84. Too bad he was ripping off John Boy and Billy – when I heard them, I couldn’t listen to you anymore, Phil. No one likes a thief. Not that kind of thief anyway. There were the Silent Years, when I really didn’t listen to anything except my kids and sometimes my husband. As the millennium waned, I started tuning in again. And I found that the awful country station, that I’d been held hostage to for school closing/snow day information, had been reprogrammed to something called Today’s Best Mixx – for some reason, I’m picturing Sir Mix-a-lot here (Baby Got Back!) – and for a while, everything was groovy. The occasional Elvis, the Frolicking Fridays – enough bones thrown to keep me listening.

But, like the mythical hoop snake that feeds on itself, it couldn’t last long. Nothing spoils like success, right? The ads reached critical mass, the edge went out of the music (not that there was a lot, but for a while all that 80’s crap was fresh again), and the banter became infomercialized.

Now, I’m not a total idiot. I did graduate from college, even if it was a state school, and I managed one of them there Phi Beta Kappa keys while I was at it. I realize radio is not there for listeners; it’s there for advertisers. Like funerals aren’t for the dead, but for the living. But it’s symptomatic (there’s a big word for ya!) of the Great Bell Curve of Modern Culture: a handful of the incredibly excellent, a smattering of the astoundingly awful, and a vast seemingly limitless supply of the mindlessly mediocre. I won’t name names. Taste is in the eye of the beholder, or something like that. Everybody finds the stuff that speaks to them and I don’t mean that in the Son of Sam sense. Or maybe I do. Maybe Satan is telling America to listen to crap. Or maybe a whole lot of folks don’t mind listening to crap. And yes, I’m a perfectly ridiculous person with a size XXL ego and a big mouth who does own one Billy Joel album (it was a gift! from my mother!) but refuses to drown in the Sea of Bourgeoisie.

Anyway, what I found out, in one Perfect Musical Moment, out in the dark, out of the dark was this: I’m not dead yet. There’s lots of perfect moments, musical and otherwise, still to be had. And those moments are enough to keep me passing the open windows.

That’s pretty damn epiphanic, ain’t it?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I Will Not Be Moved

It started with the Back To School shopping. I've got 3 kids, 3 different lists and that aisle at Wal-mart was a frenzy of glue-grabbing, pencil-plucking, notebook-nabbing and folder-flinging that resembled nothing so much as a Green Bay Packers scrimmage. I couldn't face that defensive line, so I did what I do best. I procrastinated. And that was where it all went wrong. The very next trip, with the first day of school three days out, the Back To School aisle was gone, and Halloween had taken its place. I like Halloween. It's one of my favorite holidays. Low stress/expectations, costumes, candy - what's not to love? But I don't start planning for it in August. I hold Martha Stewart personally responsible. Her and her napkin rings and origami centerpieces and everything's so simple and easy. The hell it is, Martha, the hell it is.

And yesterday, the 21st day of September, the city of Pigeon Forge started hanging snowflake and greenery light decorations from every telephone pole in the city limits. It's 95 degrees, the leaves haven't fallen or even given a small hint of color, for that matter, but in the true American entrepreneurial spirit, we're getting ready for Christmas. Oh, the official kick off won't be until November 1st, the day after Harvest Fest ends. Winterfest will last until the end of February, if you can stomach it, when Spring Fest will start the Tyranny of the Themed Event all over again. I can't look at Christmas decorations for four months! I know there's something in the Constitution about cruel and unusual punishment, so this can't be legal, but it does draw lots of folks and thus lots of their Almighty Dollars. If our city were one of Jesus' disciples, it would be Judas Iscariot.

So, the revolution starts now. I will not buy the Halloween necessities until October. I will not allow any Pilgrim decorations until November. And I will not put up a Christmas tree until December. I will take said tree down on New Year's Day and put away all our decorations. Those of you who know that my Christmas decorations are still sitting in the den awaiting transport to the attic can keep your mouths shut. And because my favorite season is summer, I'm wearing my sandals and shorts until the first frost. I will wear white long after Labor Day. I will not remove my toe ring. I will keep my tan in protest of snowflakes and cold temps and frost and all the sins committed in the Name of the Dollar.

Mai Tais all around!

Friday, September 09, 2005

I got a symbol in my driveway

Summer time, and the livin' is easy.

That's what I love about summer - easy. Casual. Laid back. Not so many deadlines. No school nights. No looking for lunch money in a late-for-school frenzy. When the temperature rises, the rules go out the window so the fan can go in. People relax their personal spaces, smile more and wave at strangers. It's possible this stems from the shorts-and-t shirt dress standard, but it's kind of a chicken and egg thing. All I know is that winter and scratchy clothing make me cranky as hell.

So, summer has ended, boo hoo. But under a Knoxville skyline that refused to show me any stars, I said a mellow and peaceful goodbye.
(cue strings)

Jack Johnson. Surfer. Film maker. Bard of the Beach. This Year's Model. All Around Nice Guy and Environmentalist. Drove his alternatively fueled buses into K-town September 2nd and brought Matt Costa AND the Animal Liberation Orchestra with him.

It was a hot and sunny late afternoon. Traffic was heavy, but moving. We were late, as usual, so we took the interstate. I debated exits, mulling over the parking situation. Since it was at the World's Fair Park, I finally chose the Park exit (duh), and a very nice policewoman directed us to a nearby parking garage. Hordes of people (ok, youth of America)were converging on the park. Spaghetti straps everywhere. Some tie dye. A few dreads. The spectrum that is the University of Tennessee. My date for the evening was my oldest daughter, Katie, and this was her first real concert experience. I was supposed to chaperone a herd of her friends as well, but they decided not to go, had other plans, etc. We bought ourselves some spiffy organic cotton T's, got our id checked (at least I did), and found a place to drop our Doughboy blanket. I stood in a mob, an utter mob!, to get my one allowed beer - yes, it was obviously a college crowd. I managed to get most of it back to our spot in time to listen to the last of the ALO. Matt Costa came on, but was accosted with cries of Jack! Jack! Jack!, so that probably didn't feed his ego much. I don't honestly remember much about his set. He apologized for scaring a pedestrian while skateboarding and mentioned the Smoky Mountains and trout fishing to a big wave of applause. We were scoping out the crowd and trying to find my oldest son and his sweet girlfriend. Using cell phone technology and the extended arm point of reference, we were able to join them standing in front of the stage just before Jack came on.

Which was just after sundown, under a pink sky. I know he mashed Rocky Top into the beginning of one of his songs and the crowd went wild. I'm thinking it was his opener - that would make sense. I really should write these things down! So, I stood in the crowd, sniffing the occasional whiff of ganja, laughing at this young man who got on his friend's shoulders and flashed Jack, finding myself doing that old lady bobbing dance. Jack added a verse of the Cars' song Just What I Needed to one of his own, and I'd swear I was the only person in the crowd who knew. He also did some of My Girl in another. Matt Costa joined him for a really nice version of the Beatles' Two of Us, which is probably my favorite Beatle song, even if it is a Paul one. It was just very pleasant. Peaceful. A good, friendly vibe. I left #1 daughter with #1 son and returned to my Doughboy blanket to people watch and listen, telling my son that I'd stop embarrassing him now. And that sweet boy replied, "Mom, if I was embarrassed, I wouldn't have answered my phone."

Jack and his band travel on buses that use old vegetable oil (I think that's what it is) for fuel - kind of Back to the Future-esque. When we parked, I thought something was wrong with our car - there was this stench, somewhere between burning brakes and overheated engine. It was everywhere in the garage, and his buses were parked on one side, so a logical conclusion would be that the stench came from them. What you gain in fossil fuel savings, you lose to stink. But, big ups to Jack for using alternative fuel and for being part of the 1% thing. And he gave a "chunk" of the show's revenue to help victims of Katrina, so yes, his mom can be proud.

Did I mention the gang of fabulously coiffed lesbians? All black tanks and jeans and motorcycle wallets. Stunning. A deadhead accused me of littering. I should've educated him on the relative nature of evil à la Alice's Restaurant, but I gave him a rather gruff no! instead. He was still apologizing when I left. (I really didn't mean it to come out so harsh, but, jeez louise, do I LOOK like a litter bug?)