Friday, April 30, 2010

Re-Living in Dreamtime

Dream into Motion

Years later, I dream of her.

The dream is surreal, disconnected.

We start in a diner, taking cell phone pictures of a man in an ape suit. We ask him for his autograph, but he has no opposable thumbs, so he can't sign. But when I look away, he steals the croutons from my salad.

I walk through the dream, like walking through a museum of my past. Much of it is frightening and little makes sense. But from time to time, everything clicks into place and there's harmony.

At least until I catch her staring wistfully at the ape.

But when I ask her about it and try to figure out why everything feels so surreal, she just smiles. "Everything is just the way it's supposed to be," she tells me. "Maybe you just need to find another way to look at it."

And I look up and she's gone.

And I wake up, and she's been gone for years.

And that feeling, that believe that everything's the way it's supposed to be, fades into the back of my mind, left behind like the dream. Leaving me wondering if I want it to come around again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ace of Bass

In Which I Fearlessly "Play" an Instrument I've Never Even Held Before

There were three of them. They played instruments. And they would jam on Fridays.

Last Friday, one of them wasn't there. So they asked me if I wanted to sit in.

"But I don't play an instrument."

That's fine, they said. Then you can play bass.

So I picked up the electric bass. How hard could this be?

And I plugged it in. The guitar player showed me some notes, which I forgot immediately.

I joked about Stu Sutcliffe, the Beatles' first bassist who couldn't play (so John Lennon turned off his amp), then made sure my amp was on.

I had a good sense of when I needed to play and how long each note should last. But I had no idea what notes to play or where those notes would be even if I knew what they were.

So I tried not to overplay. I followed the drummer. I discovered that strings on the electric bass will vibrate forever when you pluck them.

And. If I turned up my amp, the stage vibrated beneath my feet. A tambourine lying on the stage started to move and shake.

I suddenly knew why rock musicians feel like gods when they're onstage.

I'm sure it sounded horrible to anyone listening (although one of the musicians charitably told me later that I "wasn't as horrible as half the people who claim to know how to play the bass").

But when I was playing, it felt like this:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Three Thoughts on One Song

One Dos Trois

She wrote poetry. She only swore in French. She even wore a beret.

And every guy in the village was desperate to impress her. By swimming out to the floating dock. By picking flowers in the foothills. By trying to buy her presents (which she'd never accept because she always seemed above it all and nothing was ever quite cool enough for her).

But, through affectation or poor memory, she'd never remember any of the guys who talked to her.

And, when they saw her again, they were all too polite to say "were you worried that there was a tiny portion of my heart that you left unbroken?"

One day, she disappeared from the village, leaving only the beret behind on a bench.

Guys gathered in the park, staring at the beret, wondering where she'd gone, and discussing why she'd left the beret behind.

I have no proof, but I think she blended into the crowd, cursing now in English, burning all her poetry, and trying to be a normal girl.


I misheard the lyrics. For years.

I thought the song went "Girl don't tell me you're right." Because it was an argument about misunderstanding each other where both people insist they knew what really happened.

And when the guy insists he'll see this girl in the summer and forget her when he gets back to school, we never quite believe him. And we never quite believe the girl wasn't right.

The lyrics actually go "Girl don't tell me you'll write." Which is stupid (although not as stupid as "I met you last summer when I came up to stay with my Gram"). Because that makes it only about a summer romance and the girl not writing. And that's just not all that interesting.

But then again, lyrics never were Brian Wilson's strong suit. He said he wanted to write "teenage symphonies to God" -- and there aren't any words in symphonies (teenage or otherwise).


To take attention away from the lyrics, maybe the best thing would be to take the words (or at least the English words) out of the equation.

Maybe if they were sung in French.

By a band from Pamplona, Spain. Led by a female singer.

Who, conspicuously, is not wearing a beret... or forgetting every guy she meets.

Les symphonies d'adolescent à Dieu indeed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Icelandic, Non-Volcanic

Angry Elves?

A banking scandal threatens to bring down the entire economy.

The people, overextended and too used too easy credit, bought lots of stuff they didn't need. Bankers invented exotic new "instruments," invested poorly, and hoped against hope the house of cards wouldn't fall.

When it did, the government stepped in, at great cost.

Yup, I'm talking about Iceland... where reportedly half the residents believe in elves.

But the elves must have been pissed... and they must have wanted people to pay attention to Iceland. How else to explain the volcano that's grounded most of European air traffic?

I've wracked my brain and come up with the only sure way to calm the elves and get the volcano back under control: the new fun all-in-one-shot video from Hafdis Huld.

I defy you to watch this and not smile... even if you are an angry elf who lost his elf-shirt in the Icesave debacle.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Declare the Pennies on Your Eyes!

Ah-ah, Mr. Wilson. Ah-ah, Mr. Heath

Completely absurd.

Not their real voices.

And yet... oddly appropriate.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It was 40 Years Ago Today

And so it began.

John Lennon wanted to announce in 1969 that the Beatles had broken up. But Paul McCartney knew they were in the middle of negotiating a lucrative distribution deal for Apple Records (and would get much less money if people thought there would never be another new Beatles album) and talked Lennon out of it.

McCartney himself casually announced the breakup exactly 40 years ago today.

As a way of plugging his first solo album.

In the middle of an interview he conducted with himself.

As if to prove he didn't need anyone else, McCartney played every instrument on that first album himself. (Unfortunately, he also wrote every song himself... even though he didn't have an album's worth of good songs.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

One Quick Thought

If Sigur Ros opened a disco, it would sound like this. (YouTube disabled embedding, so you'll just have to click.)

And I'd probably go there almost every night.

So until the Sigur Ros disco opens, at least we've got this:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Shake Some Action Psychotic Reaction No Satisfaction Sky Pilot Sky Saxon

She might have deceived my friends...

It was no longer summer. The hot rains of August were long gone as the nights turned colder.

I was still in Providence. And she was still in Providence. But we might have been living thousands of miles away from each other.

And the rain was pouring down. Cold rain that got into your bones and made you long for a roaring fire. Or a bottle of whiskey.

But there was no fire. And no whiskey.

Just the rain.

And a song came on the radio. A song we both had loved. Staring into the night, watching streetlights prism the raindrops, I remembered.

And wished I could forget.

All I could do was turn off the radio.

I couldn't even leave. Not for another five months. And she'd stay there for the next two years (possibly just to spite me although I'm sure she'd tell you different).

Every step on every street was filled with memories. And every memory involved her.

A thousand dreams of her -- both happy dreams and nightmares. And what's worse, the happy dreams that seemed nightmarish when I woke up and she was gone.


... that night. With the cold rain.

When the phone rang. And like an idiot, I picked up.

Against all odds it was her.

I shouldn't have talked to her. I should have done anything else... I should've fought the dinosaurs in this video.


I didn't.

Hoodoo Gurus - I Want You Back

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I Could Spend My Life with a Factory Girl 'Cause A Factory Girl's My Type....

There ain't nothing made here in this country anymore...

Debbie's father owned a factory. She hated that he owned the factory, but loved sneaking in there on holidays and weekends.

"It smelled amazing," she said. "Vague chemicals and sawdust."

They made furniture. With machines, but also with a fair amount of hand craftsmanship. Smooth, polished, beautiful pieces of wood that would last several generations.

I didn't appreciate the furniture back then. Hell, I thought a futon with a frame was the height of luxury.

And Debbie fancied herself a hippie chick. Fringe jackets, long hair, and a thrift-store wardrobe.

And, like most of my friends, she loved obscure music. But she had a specialty that was weird even by the standards set by my friends. She collected solo albums by people from famous bands. So she'd never buy a Faces album, but she had everything Ronnie Lane released. She wouldn't buy a Rolling Stones album, but she had all the Ron Wood records. And she loved the Who, but she only owned the solo albums by Pete Townsend, Roger Daltry, and especially John Entwistle.

She took perverse pleasure in the fact that many of these records were inconsistent (and sometimes not good at all). "The good stuff is always there," she'd say. "When I'm ready, I'll go back and get it."

The day after she turned 19, her dad told her he was closing the factory. It was cheaper to build the furniture in South America and ship it back to the U.S. He kept the company for another 5 years, then sold it to a large company. The South American furniture was better than what you'd get from Ikea, but it wasn't smooth and polished. And it wouldn't last for generations.

The factory closed. The windows were all broken within a few years. The walls sagged and the building was eventually torn down. A Wal-Mart would later be built on the spot, but it wouldn't sell the furniture from South America. By that time, everything Wal-Mart sold came from China.

And Debbie? She went home for the summer the year after the factory closed. And she gave away all the solo albums. "I decided I really want the good stuff," she told me.

But she saved one record: Rigor Mortis Sets in by John Entwistle.

"To remind you of the factory closing?" I asked.

"No. Because the record has a fold-out sleeve. Which comes in handy whenever I roll a joint."

I did mention that Debbie thought of herself as a hippie chick, didn't I? (Link for Gmail subscribers.)