Time Capsule: April 25, 2016

Oh, I found this is my ‘blog drafts’. Never published it, so here it is.

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Don’t know if an extended reflection posted on Facebook means anything, but it’s my #1 broadcast network where I can shove my opinions in people’s faces. At any rate, outside of posting on my blog, which sees an entry once in a purple moon, FB is the medium of choice.

OK, the niceties are out of the way. Seems to be a good time to put Prince’s death in perspective. since I’ve personally reached the acceptance stage of grief.

My generation grew up in the shadow of the 60s, a time in the US of great social upheaval, uncertainty, and horrible political assassinations from the Kennedys to King and Malcolm X. I ended up in the early 80s at UCLA, Los Angeles, which at the time was arguably the most important culturally alive place in the country, and at the dawn of the Reagan Era (that’s as political this posting will get – PROMISE!). I’m especially talking about the Punk Rock / New Wave / Ska scene, my circle of friends, and the stuff we did for fun. I feel ridiculously lucky to have been there at that time. I found and lost love. I found a solid set of friends. I found some cultural and artistic anchors in music connected in many ways to Punk.

At this moment, I actually have the longest head of hair (excepting the little bald spot on top, and the grey of course) I’ve ever had, but the second longest head of hair ended up in Jonathan Hodges’ 1970s Cadillac, the two of us driving down Santa Monica boulevard in that hideously large vomit green boat, with an 8 track of Prince’s first album blasting loudly “I wanna be your lover”. We were more than likely headed to downtown for some night drinks or eclectic food. Downtown LA was starting to develop an alternative night life scene, so naturally we were drawn to it. A lot of you remember the days at 850 Milwood (The apex of “The Toxins” era), or more especially 417 Pacific (and the days of the immortal “Sports/Leisure Den” where we all watched the Bears crush the Patriots in SuperBowl XX). That, and a host of other events in that house shaped many our lives, and again cemented some lifelong friendships. The music that drove us was led by Prince, Bowie, Roxy Music, Talking Heads, X, Dead Kennedys, the Minutemen (still in the denial stage for d boon btw)…and a ton of other bands (of course I’m listing my favs…sorry folks). In short, we came of age. We passed into this nuthouse called adulthood with great expectations, anticipation, and the thrill of independence and setting our paths. The art we took with us was seeded deep into our collective souls. What connected this art was knowing that our awkwardness was actually perfectly normal…that we weren’t really different or apart from the herd we thought we wanted to be in. I don’t know if this is too cliche or not, but these musicians were reassuring in that the points-of-view we were developing about the world…well, they saw it too. So, our musicians had affirmed what we were seeing, and could articulate it in ways unexpected and heretofore unimaginable. Damn it was exciting to experience. We could actually be OURSELVES!

So, on we trotted with life, assured that we were never going to die, and we’d take all this wisdom with us into forever. I read somewhere in the past week that the reason so many famous people are dying this year is because there are simply many more famous people in the world now, especially with how much more we are connected. So there’s that. But Bowie and Prince? Within four months of each other? While I can’t empathise with people who lose family members very close to each other (though my dad and his only brother died within three months of each other), the shock we’ve been through (or should I speak for myself) is just another reminder of fixing our values away from the material, and more toward our ridiculously humble relationship with each other, those who we know and love, and the universe itself, and this teeny tiny blue ball that 7 billion of us and counting call our home. I guess the best metaphor is that two walls protecting us from our own mortality have been breached this year, and we realize that, well, ok, we ARE mortal after all, so there’s that. It’s a thing. That thing is here and now, and is happening not just to the artists we love, but our parents, sometimes our siblings, sometimes our old school mates. We hate the fuck out of cancer, rightfully so.

But with each passing – celebrity or closer, life becomes surprisingly sweeter and more precious. We’ve hit the age where we understand it’s about doing what we love despite the circumstances, and realizing the power of the positive. Being thankful, being grateful, dancing when there’s no music, and looking at the world each day with intense awe, because, you know, it’s fucking awesome! “Because the world is round, it turns me on.” is still a good 1960s sentiment that has transcended generations. Facebook is addictive because, for our generation at least, it’s a huge daily reunion and celebration of who we are, and where we’ve decided to be on this roundly round Earth. We develop an even deeper appreciation of the art that informed us, and formed us, and we come to cherish all the moments we pass through.

It’s been a year of grief so far, music-wise, but also a year for us to recall what got us through those tough young high school and college times and made us who we are today. So, screw grief. Bowie and Prince and George Martin and Maurice White…and and and and…haven’t stopped us from being who we are. They’ll continue to assure us that we are damn near perfect who we are right now right up until it’s our turn to move on and rejoin the universe.

“And you may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself
MY GOD!...WHAT HAVE I DONE?” 
- David Byrne (note: David’s not dead yet)
“U’re so good
Baby there ain't nobody better (Ain't nobody better)
So u should
Never, ever go by the letter (Never ever)
U're so cool (Cool)
Everything u do is success
Make the rules (Rules)
Then break them all cuz u are the best” 
- Prince (Rest in Peace / Purple / Power / Partylikeits1999)

My cloud

Released 25 September 1965 and becoming a number one hit, Get Off of My Cloud was a smash hit for the Rolling Stones.

I was somewhere in Skokie Illinois, at some beauty parlor on the south side of Dempster, just a couple blocks west of McCormick Blvd, in some mini / micro mall of some kind. It was definitely a beauty parlor, because I was with my mom, who was probably getting her hair dyed red.

I remember seeing this 45 rpm record disc with this blue cascading label design going round and round some measly turntable set up somewhere in that shop. My mom was 34ish, and I was about to turn 4ish. I guess I remember the music, too. I guess.

I remember this image so well, mainly because, whatever day it was, and it seemed like a cool brisk late fall day, it was the very first day of my life where I became self-aware. It’s my first memory of anything. Watching this spinning label go around and around a turntable, it was somewhat hypnotic—that and the pulsing drums that are so prevalent throughout the song. Those pulsing, pulsing drums. The vortex created by the label as it spun. And of course, Mick’s vocals.

I live on an apartment on the ninety-ninth floor of my block
And I sit at home looking out the window
Imagining the world has stopped
Then in flies a guy who’s all dressed up just like a Union Jack
And says, “I’ve won five pounds if I have his kind of detergent pack”

I said, “Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Don’t hang around ’cause two’s a crowd
On my cloud, baby”

The telephone is ringing
I say, “Hi, it’s me, who is it there on the line?”
A voice says, “Hi, hello, how are you?”
“Well, I guess I’m doin’ fine”
He says, “It’s three A.M., there’s too much noise
Don’t you people ever wanna go to bed?
Because you feel so good
Do you have to drive me out of my head?”

I said, “Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Don’t hang around ’cause two’s a crowd
On my cloud, baby”

I was sick and tired, fed up with this
And decided to take a drive downtown
It was so very quiet and peaceful
There was nobody, not a soul around
I laid myself out, I was so tired
And I started to dream
In the morning the parking tickets were just like flags
Stuck on my windscreen

I said, “Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Don’t hang around ’cause two’s a crowd
On my cloud”

Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Don’t hang around baby two’s a crowd
On my cloud

Hey, you

It’s a song of blight, troubled sleeplessness, crass commercialism, and the outside world shoving itself down our throats, with the response that two’s a fucking crowd.

It’s an introvert’s song; It’s MY fucking cloud—MINE!

The early 60s, well, all of the 60s, a huge cultural shift was taking place in the Western world. Rock and Roll was bred from gospel and the blues—hell, it was stolen from the African-American experiences and it reflected a loss of innocence, disillusionment, and a way to ease the suffering so common in human existence. Song lyrics became reality-based…and love-based. Years earlier Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit pioneered this approach. In the 60s, Civil Rights were in the ascendancy. American involvement in Vietnam was increasing. It was a confusing fucking time…for anyone over 4ish.

This morning, I listened to the song as I drove to work, and noticed something interesting. The first four bars are only drums–Charlie Watts’ drums. Charlie was 24 when they recorded the song in early September 1965. So, I realized that it was Charlie Watts’ drums that signaled to me the beginning of my self-awareness. My sentient brain was shaken awake by Charlie Watts, who passed away yesterday at age 80.

Do I owe him a debt of gratitude for those first four bars? Do I owe the designer of the London Records 45 disk label that honor for its mesmerising look as it spun around and around that turntable inside that cheap beauty salon on Dempster?

I’m gonna go with Charlie, because his work brought me into the world that day. The song foreshadowed so many things present today, over 55 years after its first release—a world where I’m 60ish, there’s climactic blight, sleeplessness induced by social media notifications, Bill Hick’s long ago but still relevant insistence of stopping rampant commercialism of everything, and, again, social media’s maddening negative impact on our privacy and sanity.

Rest in Beat, Charlie. The world you brought me into is a tough one, but the reality is, my cloud is still my cloud and I work daily to keep my introverted ass inside of it.

April 27th, 1990 – April 28th, 2020

This morning I had a (one day late) 15-minute zoom-enabled 30th Anniversary “breakfast/lunch” with my lovely, cheery, and ever-energetic wife. Me in the UAE and she in Japan. Thousands of km apart…

To be honest, the sadness of the pandemic and the rush to open things 17 months before there’s a chance of a vaccine… just a bit too much for me.

I don’t usually wear my heart on my sleeve, but it’s aching right now.