Tag Archives: music

sounds even better now

14 Nov

When you become a person of a certain age – no longer a freewheeling 37, but not yet a contemplative 39 – you might find yourself in a curious spot. You are continuously being propelled deeper into adulthood by health, family, bills, career, and a waning metabolism. At the same time, you are still tethered to your youth… maybe by your family, your hometown, memories of your old metabolism, and quite possibly by something very simple – your music.

And when you are of that certain age, the bands that shaped your adolescence are also of a certain age – older than they used to be – but still performing. You buy tickets to their show, maybe at a county fair, or a casino, or a vineyard instead of the huge arena where you couldn’t find your mom’s car in the parking lot, and you felt lost and panicky, wishing for the invention of some kind of portable telephone you could carry with you.

As an adult, you arrive at the vineyard, prepared to defend yourself from the mobs of pushing teens you remember having to navigate as a scrawny concert-going kid. Then you see those unruly teens have grown up too, and they’ve spread their picnic blanket next to yours, and they are kicked back on the lawn ready to reminisce with a glass of chardonnay and their spouse of 10 years.  You are chagrined to see that your-now-middle-age-teen-idol still insists on not wearing a shirt to perform, and that you will not get to say to your fellow revelers, “Stop stepping on me with your giant Doc Martens!” Or “You kicked me in the face with your giant Doc Marten when you were crowd surfing. Not cool man…not cool.”

My suburban high school sat geographically equidistant from the surprisingly urbane streets of Sacramento and the rolling countryside of the Sierra foothills. We had rap kids and country kids. We had wannabe Rastafarians and punks and metal heads and teenyboppers and kids who undulated between all of the above, simply because they could. (Kids in my high school also loved Jimmy Buffett, RUSH, the Grateful Dead, Journey, Van Halen and The Steve Miller Band – and I don’t know what to say to them, because those bands were already old way back then.)

Like most high schools since the advent of music, and I guess since the advent of high schools, social divisions could easily be drawn by musical tastes, that is until Seattle based grunge exploded, which happened my senior year. It didn’t matter where your musical allegiance had been – you still turned up “Smells Like Teen Spirit” when it came on the radio.

Not to worry, I’m not stuck in my high school years; I’ve picked up new bands along the way. I don’t wear my once favorite Edie Brickell, OMD, or EMF shirts to the gym. (Even if I went the to gym, I wouldn’t wear them).

I do feel like I’ve been lucky enough to have some of my favorite bands stick around to provide new soundtracks for my adulthood. Depeche Mode and Duran Duran are still together, and touring. The Cure, as far as I can tell, is still together. REM broke up the same day Facebook launched a redesign, sending Gen Xers everywhere into a collective tizzy. We sadly lost MCA of the Beastie Boys to cancer. Last year, I had to block Erasure from my Facebook feed, because the frequency of their posts was simply out of control. Somewhere along the way, I lost They Might Be Giants to children’s music, perhaps when they started having children themselves. The Smiths, of course, had already been long broken up by the time I got around to appreciating them. Now after, 35 years, INXS has officially called it quits.

INXS was special. The car ride to Oregon with my childhood friend Jenni and her unfailingly patient parents was defined by repeated playing of our Kick cassette. Kick was the first tape I wore out, listening over and over until the perfect voice of Michael Hutchence was left warped and  garbled.

My mother’s own unfailing patience allowed me to go to the INXS concert the night before my huge junior year project was due. I was hoarse from screaming “I love you Michael,” and delirious from seats so close to the stage that Michael Hutchence had surely heard me. I was home by midnight to finish the paper, and asleep by 4:00 am, my mother by my side the whole time. I love her.

Someone stole my “Welcome to Wherever You Are” CD during a party in our freshman dorm suite, even though Michael, Tim, Jon, Garry, Andrew and Kirk (my second favorite) watched protectively from the poster on the wall, and the guys of The Cure kept vigil from their spot, one poster over.

I surely wasn’t the only young adult to cry when Michael suddenly died in 1997.

The band’s televised quest for a new lead singer, “Rock Star: INXS” played in the delivery room, a happy distraction in between contractions as John and I waited for the birth of our second son in 2005. Oh, how I am not kidding at all.

But you grow up a little, and you don’t buy the new albums, but you go back to the songs you sang in the car with your friends. You go back to the song you listened to with your boyfriend, only to find out he was mostly tolerating INXS because you liked them so much, which apparently was a good idea, because you married him. And when you read the headline telling you your special band broke up, you feel a little guilty, like if you had been a better fan, they could have made it. And you feel guilty because the way you found out they were still together, is by hearing they had broken up.

I’ve used these photos before – but I love them. That up there is my sophomore dorm, and my INXS poster. Down here? Freshman dorm…and the guys from INXS, though you can’t see their noggins.

speaking….and other ways to embarrass a middle schooler

9 Sep

We are hot wing loving people, and we drove a good 20 miles this day to get them. We said, “Let’s celebrate Labor Day! And the end of a great summer! Tonight….we feast!” We didn’t say the feast part out loud, but I sure thought it.

With one week of middle school under his belt, Jake plopped down next to me at the restaurant table. Instead of getting to talk to my older kid’s face, however, I was granted access only to the back of his head. We were surrounded by no fewer than 30 televisions covering every possible surface in the new chain restaurant. I looked nervously at the giant projection screen hanging precariously above my head. Baseball, football, college football, high school football, what looked like Dr. Oz, and even America’s Funniest Home Videos blurred soundlessly together while music played in the background.

I didn’t harp on the boys about watching the TVs, there were just too many to ignore. I couldn’t help but watch either, just like everybody else in the crowded dining room. When you have that many people together staring at TVs from every possible angle – weird eye contact will inevitably happen. I was sure the guy with the ZZ Top Beard was looking at me because he assumed I was staring at his beard, which I was for a minute. But really, he was probably just watching whatever game was above our table, or at the very least, waiting for the screen to fall on me before my wings arrived.

A girl across the restaurant with a 60’s beehive also seemed to be looking at us. Either that or she was watching the same thing as ZZ, which seemed highly unlikely. No, she was definitely looking at me, and my utter lack of a beehive hairdo, for which I was now very self-conscious.

“Focus, people, focus.” John used his natural leadership skills to bring us all back to the task at hand – ordering wings. The menu was six pages long with an insert. There was a chart, and a graphic of a giant bottle of hot sauce with what looked to be dozens of different wing ordering variables.  There was the sauce side and the dry rub side. There was sweet on one end of the heat spectrum, a picture of flames on the other. We settled on a big platter of very exotic “medium.”

Exhausted from the hardest thinking I’d done all day, I settled back, and my ears perked up. I knew this song. I loved this song. “It’s Dead or Alive!” I yelped, “I don’t feel right saying the name of the song, because it’s not entirely appropriate… but it’s Dead or Alive…the band!” I girly clapped for unnecessary emphasis.

They all nodded.

“Eeeeee.”

“What?”

“Depeche Mode! It’s Depeche Mode.” I girly clapped again, because now it was a terrible habit.

The TVs may have been silent zombie-creating light boxes, but the stereo system was loud and clear, and apparently set to “80’s Stun.”

John took the little one to the restroom as I tried to explain to Jake the significance of Pat Benetar; “60% of her awesomeness must have been her haircut,” I said earnestly. I waved my hands around my head trying to pantomime the swoopiness of her feathering. He nodded again, and I took to my phone to find a picture.

When the guys returned to the table, I was flipping though my results from Googling “Pat Benatar Hair” images. I’ve Googled some stupid things, many of them twice, but this search was a first.

Jake looked at the photos, and then back to the bank of TVs, immediately guffawing at AFHV (when you are a fiercely loyal fan of crotch kicking, wedding-dance-gone-wrong, annoyed animal videos, you may also unapologetically call America’s Funniest Home Videos, AFHV), “Look at that cat. How does it do that?” he said, mystified. I looked around to find the screen with the crazy cat, and sucked in my breath when I spotted something awesome. I nudged Jake. “The woman directly behind you, has Pat Benatar’s exact haircut,” I whispered. He slyly looked over his shoulder, then looked to me, nodding in polite acknowledgement.

Another song came on that I recognized. I’d listened to it on my boombox in my room as a kid. “Catch Me I’m Falling.”  Who sang this? Who. Sang. This? I squirmed in my seat, uncomfortable in my not knowing.

My darling husband has many gifts, one of my favorites being his awe inspiring ability to immediately recognize and name the title and artist of songs; and not just any dumb ol’ songs, but 1980’s adult contemporary classics. The more obscure, the better. His childhood weekends were spent with Casey Kasem and the American Top 40. It’s obviously one of the top 3 reasons why I agreed to marry him.

“I can’t remember who sang this,” he admitted. Now he looked uncomfortable too.

“Stacey Q?” I guessed. Wait, she couldn’t have possibly had another song other than “Two of Hearts.” Back in the day, my friend Jenni and I preferred to call it, “Two Pop Tarts.” Hilarious.

John, sounding like Sherlock Homes, began his process of deduction, “This song was out at the same time as a Taylor Dayne song.”

“Is it Taylor Dayne?”

He looked at me like I was asking if he was Taylor Dayne.

“Um, no.”

“Ok, so most definitely not Taylor Dayne, and not Jody Watley…right?” I was grasping now.

The wings were here and my hands were saucy, but it was worth the risk.

“I’m so sorry everybody, I hate to do this, but I have to do this.” I took my phone out again and quickly found what I was looking for. “Pretty Poison? What? I’ve never heard of them.”

“Pretty Poison,” John said nodding solemnly, “Yup, that’s it. Man, I knew that.”

Jake looked at me expectantly, perhaps waiting to hear what the singer’s hair looked like, or where I was when I first heard that song, or maybe how Pretty Poison was the best band in the history of music and a major influence on artists he listens to, like B.o.B and One Republic.

I had nothing, so he quickly turned away in his seat, going back to his wings and AFHV.

Oh no. Was he….embarrassed? Annoyed? Both? It didn’t matter that nobody in this place, whether they had a Pat Benatar haircut or a ZZ Top beard, was paying attention to us. Well, beehive girl was, but I knew that nobody need be present for a tween to be embarrassed. He was a sweet kid, and was doing his best to humor me as I waxed poetic about the old timey music I grew up with. I scrapped my plans to use photos of my freshman dorm to illustrate the lesson One Hit Wonders: 90’s edition.

Alas, he is in middle school, and I now hold more potential for annoyance and embarrassment than I did just a week ago – a milestone for us both. I would let him eat his wings and watch his falling down videos in peace. Just wait ’til the day though, he’s eating medium wings with his kids and he gets excited for the Black Eyed Peas on the classic hits station, and he really wants them to appreciate how the lady at the next table looks exactly like Lady Gaga.

VISUAL AIDES

*The photo at the top is not the most flattering of me by any means, but somehow, I’m delighted by how delighted I look to be there.

*The middle photo is my freshman dorm room that I shared with my roommate Heidi. We actually SLEPT in there, in the midst of the chaos.Please note the EMF poster.

*The bottom photo is my far more refined sophomore room that I shared with Liane. No EMF poster, but I do see a poster for Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and L.A. Style, and that Johnny Depp movie they screened on campus, Benny & Joon. There is a rack of cassettes and cassingles AND a rack of CDs. Everything else, I would put up again today, Pearl Jam, The Cure, Depeche Mode, INXS, and the 34,000 photos I ripped out of magazines like Spin.

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