It’s hard to say just how cool I thought Three Dog Night’s version of “Mama Told Me Not to Come” was back when it was released and to which I sat listening on the thick shag carpet of my older brother’s basement bedroom playing The Game of Life and surrounded by his LOVE, PEACE and eyeball wallpaper, not to mention Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and maybe surprisingly Steve Gibbons albums passed out on the floor; all this beneath his drop ceiling above which he hid a huge bag of some of the worst ditch weed imaginable – weed, no doubt, actually found in a ditch by some county road near Brainerd and if you really didn’t want to get high you’d smoke a bunch of this shit; and outside his egress-ed window was an old stone wall on the other side of which was a vacant lot where we built an underground fort inside of which we kept a couple of found Playboy and a Oui (French, baby) magazines (back in those days you could occasionally find Playboys or pages from Playboys on the street and I’ve no idea why nor why you no longer do) that appeared to have survived three thunderstorms and burial in dirt for decades and to which the older boys tossed off to now shockingly innocent images lit by candles and choked by incense and the younger boys went inside confused; this fort we decided to protect and what better way than to pound six inch nails through two-by-fours and hide them in the long grass to “catch” anyone trying to get to our fort; one particular nail on which I stomped because I was told to “run and get more nails” and stabbed it up, in and out my right foot leading to nothing more than a tetanus shot and pissed off parents, but 70s parents who then told us,“Don’t be a baby and go back out and play with the others”; and we would walk across the street to Lake Calhoun where there was the Black beach on the north end where they washed and waxed their cars to Stevie Wonder, the gay beach on the east end where they lay sunning to disco, and the hippy beach right in front of us on the southwest side and where I walked with my mom years before and asked, “Why do they all share the same cigarette?” and to which she replied, “They’re poor”, and they looked poor; the lake where I saw a bus stop and 50 Jesus-looking dudes descend down the steps and walk in line in white robes and beards and long hair, handing out pamphlets and clasping their hands in front of them or holding them palms up as if praising the sun or hoping for rain, and looking probably more like one of the dudes from Three Dog Night or Mott the Hoople than the historical Jesus who would have been much blacker; the lake that in those days pretty much no one ran around because pretty much no one ran around anything at all, but we did, and in Converse shoes that totally suck as shoes – unless you’re in some sort of alt-something band and think it’s cool to wear the sort of sucky shoes that we had to wear because that was the only choice besides PF Flyers and they were a little better and while this is when Nike and Pumas and Tigers came out no half-way decent parent was going to pay that much money for tennis shoes for their kids (they’re kids, for god’s sake!); the sort of shoes that we all buy for ourselves, kids and infants now because we’ve become such a bunch of suckers and rubes. Open up the window, sucker, let me catch my breath.
I was born in November 1963 which puts me in the last years of the Baby Boomers or the very first years of Generation X – depending upon who you ask. My older relatives then, those of my same generation, were boomers essentially and those to whom I looked for all things cool – music especially. So my sensibilities were formed around bands from the sixties and seventies – Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Hendrix, Doors, Floyd, Zeppelin, Byrds, and the like. My coming of age however really happened throughout the seventies (I was 7 – 17) and while that is a decade often derided for it’s music it actually introduced us to heavy metal, the ska revival, punk rock, glam rock, electronic, ambient, hip hop and new wave – a staggering line up of musical styles and movements to emerge in a single decade.
We knew at the time that the music was amazing but didn’t really realize that it was a sort of perfect storm winding up all around us. However it was extremely short lived and while buckets of great music have been made since, much of that is derived quite directly from one or more of those styles. Certainly all music is derived to some degree from that which preceded it, but a brand new musical style that leaps ahead and brings with it a new sound, corresponding fashion, attitude and so on, seems to be eluding us. Something is missing and I have no clear idea what that is. …
Certainly, the sixties and seventies saw generations of young people who had an almost grim determination to not be like their parents. There was a distrust of the System (Vietnam and Nixon both taught us that despite the fact that we elect these folks and that they are OUR leaders, they can be wrong, criminal and criminally wrong). There was a sense from civil rights and the women’s movement that ALL people need to be respected and have some sort of equal chance at the good life, jobs, education and so on. It was also not lost on us at the time that growing up white and middle to upper class in America gave us every advantage in the world and that nothing could essentially change that. We all took off with a fifty yard start in the 100-yard dash of life and success.
I don’t know this to be fact but it feels like much of that has been forgotten or never learned recently, The somewhat anemic Occupy protests were a welcome attempt but never galvanized around any issue and felt more like some sort of flash mob than anything else. The only other rage in this country right now comes from my contemporaries – those who also grew up with same advantages that most of the rest of the world (now and throughout all of history) would simply roll over and die for – and is inspired not by their sense of injustice for the poor, women, the downtrodden or any others, but because they feel they pay too much taxes. We, of course, pay the lowest of all western nations. What happened to their sense of gratitude and thankfulness for their lot in life eludes many of the rest of us.
However, maybe the next generation – those who are in diapers now – will grow up so appalled by the niggardly among us that they will burst out with something totally new. Maybe our self-righteous avarice will be exactly what they rebel against and bring back that desire and demand for real truth, fairness, justice for all and a return to a maybe mythic American way when people came together, compromised, helped the poor and wretched, and thought more about how much they have and how much they can share than how much they get to keep all to themselves. A time when your country and conscience came before your party. Maybe even a resurgence of the real Christianity that teaches us to give away our riches, rather than hoard them and complain when we are asked to give.
And maybe not.
I’ve always felt that greed is the basis if all evil. It will never go away. But maybe, just maybe, the next generation will see it for what it really is and at the very least use it to artistically blow our musical minds like The Specials, Kraftwerk, Eno, Sex Pistols, Bowie, and Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five did. Have at it, kiddies! We need you desperately.
A balloon is mostly empty space
but then again so am I
gravitating toward the ground
yet she can float up to the sky.
I guess it’s her propensity,
and relative density
that leaves me here on terra firma.
But terra, too, is hardly firma.
The space between the particles
is vast as planets ’round the sun,
the distance of their orbitals;
and it’s not hard, it’s hardly there
just tiny specks, to say, is fair:
like grains of sand spread far apart
that hold up ox and man and cart.
Now let’s dig deeper, to the protons,
electrons, quarks and, now it’s, jeepers!
Electric strings that make us all,
harmonized, lest we fall
through the earth, like unballoons
thank God he plays the proper tunes.
Some dissonance, oh, lord, that harp!
We’re gonna die, He’s playing sharp!”
Imagine that. Imagine God.
We’re good at that. We wink and nod.
But others like to look much deeper
find their truths, each one a keeper.
String them together to fashion a rug
that holds us up so we can shrug,
ignore the beauty beneath our feet
and gasp at heaven’s phantasmal feat.
Rufus Cappadocia beats the hello out of his cello
Wielding his bow whip – Whappity-Whap-Whap!
Scratching and clawing, pulling and mauling,
But lovingly like the guy in the O. Henry story.
I’ll bet that he’s sorry as soon as he’s done with
The smacking and whacking, backhanded slap hits,
He probably rubs her with oil so softly
And trembling hands and words that sound awfully
Like love songs.
A part of me wonders if she doesn’t like it
I’m judging by sounds that she makes when they’re fighting
Don’t judge me I’m not some sick sadist whose heartless
I’m quick to repel from violence that’s artless
But this guy can hit it, can hit it real good
Right in the sweet spot where pain meets the wood
And the vibrating strings where the pleasure reverbs
Through her beautiful body and elegant curves
And together they sing and both bodies ring
Flicking and clicking, plucking and
Think about your mind. Think about the fact that you can think. Think about the fact you can think about thinking. Meta that. Imagine a green airplane with wings with rainbow feathers and a nose the shape of soft serve ice cream cone – chocolate brown, with a purple octagon shimmering at the tip. Think about your imagination.
You can read tiny characters in sequences and glean complex ideas and images from those tiny characters. You can look at a page of notes and translate that through your fingers into beautiful music. You can invent stories. You can imagine the future and remember the past. You can come up with brilliant, dangerous and hare-brained ideas. You can paint pictures and make movies. You can multiply and divide; add and subtract and maybe even do calculations that to many others would be beyond abstract. You can see, hear, feel, taste, smell.
The scent of baking can reach deep into your mind and pull memories of your grandmother forth for your review. A movement of a symphony can move you to joyful tears. Too much heat and your brain will yank your hand away, long before you conscious mind knows to. You can taste the difference between Chablis and chardonnay.
You can love a person with all of your heart. You can feel another human’s suffering. You can stand up for what you believe in. You can sit down and watch the sun set.
Your brain is unbelievably, unequivocally, undeniably amazing. Think about just how spectacular your consciousness is – your awareness! The breadth and depth and sheer enormity of it!
Now think about the fact that there are 7,000,000,000 (seven billion!) other equally spectacular minds humming along right now on this tiny planet.
Think about the power of that.
“The faculty of embarrassment was located in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex by neurologists who made brain-damaged subjects sing along to “My Girl” and then listen to their own singing played back without musical accompaniment.”
From Harper’s Findings June 2011
Forget “brain-damaged”, most people are at first uncomfortable with their own voice when they hear it played back on another device – even embarrassed. Somehow the resonance of our voice in our heads often sounds quite different from how we sound to the rest of the world, and that sudden realization can be startling. Why is that? Is it just the surprise that we sound different? Personally, I was shocked at just how nasally I sounded playing back my voice on our little cassette recorder as a kid. I remember asking, “Is that how I sound?” And my sister giving me the bad news.
Makes me wonder, too, whether people hear other people’s voices differently from one another, possibly related to the size, shape and location of the ear and ear drum. Could it be that my daughter’s enjoyment of the singing of her pubescent Disney stars is related to just how differently her ear is to mine? Why is it that bagpipes make me want to tear my ears off while others find them beautiful?
I’ve often wondered if other people see colors differently as well. Is my blue your green? Why should they be the same exactly? To me it actually makes more sense that we all see them somewhat differently, if not completely. My brown is your gray. Without any prodding as far as I can tell, my daughter fell in love with pink as a color – as so many young girls do, but I’m certain (no, hopeful) that “my girl” will soon learn to love other colors as vividly. Something oddly creepy about an older woman purposely surrounding herself in too much pink.
To each his or her own, I suppose, and for good reason maybe.