Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pimpin' USA

When I first went into the music store I was looking for the CD version of the first cassette tape I ever got - The Beach Boys Greatest Hits. The Beach Boys were already considered old when I was 11 in 1986, but I was crazy about the song "Surfin' USA" so I passed up the displays for The Bangles and The Fat Boys and picked up the tape. I fell in love with every single song. I didn't know what they were saying half the time, but I was charmed by the lead singer's boyish voice and I imagined that every time he said the word "baby" he was talking to me.

It wasn't until last month when I bought "Beach Boys - Sounds of Summer" that I realize what total pimps those guys were. I was playing the CD in the car with my kids and when "Surfin' Safari" came on I paid close attention to the lyrics to see what parts I could remember. The song starts off like this:

Early in the morning we'll be startin' out

Some honeys will be coming along

Some honeys? Then I remembered other lines, the meanings of which had escaped me as a child. Lines like "Two girls for every boy." They sang a lot about chicks in bikinis and chicks who couldn't resist their cars. Two for each of them.

The comprehension of these lyrics was interesting to me, but not shocking . Not like when I was 20 and, after listening to The Misfits for five years, I got their box set and finally read the lines of the songs that were too slurred to understand. This was more than just shocking. This wasn't like the first time I saw Family Guy and I turned to my husband-then-boyfriend and said, giggling, "Did that dude just say that?" Taking their lyrics at face value, The Mistfits were murderous, S&M, raping, stealing, satanic psychopaths. With good rhythm.

For instance, one of my favorite songs was "Bullet." What attracted me to it was the energy. Ok, what attracted me to every Misfits song was the punk energy. The only words I understood that Glenn Danzig said were, "ride Johnny ride," "texas is the reason that the President's dead," and "Johnathon F. Kennedy." With these clues and my sly intuition I guessed the song was about Kennedy's assaination. And I was right. But there was so much more to that song that I hadn't understood. Like this:

President's bullet ridden body in the street

Ride, Johnny, ride

Kennedy's shattered head hits concrete

Ride, Johnny, ride

Johnny's wife is floundering

Johnny's wife is scared

Run, Jackie, run

Texas is an outrage when your husband is dead

Texas is an outrage when they pick up his head

Texas is the reason that the president's dead

Ya gotta suck, suck, Jackie, suck

It is because of these lines (and a line further into the song that says "my cum'll be your life source") that I will probably never be shocked by my kids' music the way other parents will be. In ten years, while other parents are mortified by my daughter and her other sixteen year old friends listening to songs that have consensual sex in them I will sit there calmly listening to their worries and say, "Well...it could be worse. They could be singing about Jacqueline Kennedy giving Glenn Danzig a blow job." And then they will politely ban me from furture PTA meetings.

But honestly, how much more scandalous can lyrics get? Every generation rebels against their mothers and fathers, but they all use the same material. They reinvent the method of rebellion, they don't own rebellion itself. Murder, revenge, nudity, intestinal gas, sex, rape, theft, atheism, incest, masturbation, drugs, drinking, and so on and so forth have been sung about for a long time now. I know most parents disagree with me when I say that I don't believe that music is to blame for kids' bad behavior or is getting worse. I've always felt that if a kid is stupid enough to copy behavior they read about, hear in a song, or watch on t.v. then...well, they're just stupid. This is the Jackass/Darwin Awards crowd we're talking about here. Plus, I get nervous when people talk about banning music, or writing for that matter. Where would banning stop? As an example of how long the subjects of sex, murder, incest, and bawdy jokes have been in art just read Hamlet. I would bet money that Shakespeare was not shocked by his children's generation.

But anyway, back to crazy music. My kids are only 5,6, and 8 years old, but in ten years or so when I hear lyrics like, "I dig your ass and you dig mine/Let's hook up and be asinine" blaring from their rooms I will remember lines like, "Ya gotta suck, suck, Jackie, suck," and I will have no leg to stand on. Will I tell them to turn off that crap? Hell yes, that's my parental right! But will I be shocked and lecture them about how scandalous music has become? No. It was born low down and dirty.

In the mean time, I will enjoy driving around this summer while the kids and I sing along with The Beach Boys, "I'm gettin' bugged drivin' up and down the same ole strip/I gotta find a new place where the kids are hip/I get around..."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

old bike guy, the ego, and the bliss

My daughter and I were taking the puppy for a walk yesterday when I saw the old guy on his bike. Every morning and evening if you stay outside long enough you'll see him - a white haired man flying down the road with the flaps of his unbuttoned shirt flying behind him, exposing a tanned, sagging, sporadically long-haired chest. Last night he passed us the way he always does, first looking determined at the road and then turning to us, as if just noticing us out of the corner of his eye, like he hadn't seen us walking that way from further down the street, and saying, "Evening!" I thought about taking the opportunity to warn my eight year old about creepy guys like this, but I hesitated for two reasons. One, because between me and Chris (my husband), warn her about that kind of thing often enough that I fear soon she will hop on the back of the next old guy's bike she sees and pedal away just to escape the constant lectures of neurotic parents. And two, because I can't tell if that guy is really a pervert or not.

It's the open shirt, I think, that makes me suspicious. An unbuttoned shirt suggests undress; it's a tease. I've only seen this guy fully dressed once in the winter. He wore biker shorts and a windbreaker, and he glared straight ahead of him, gritting his teeth. I imagined that he was fighting the desire to rip open his jacket and his shirt like a senile Incredible Hulk. At this point I should probably clarify that I don't sit on my front lawn waiting for this guy to ride by. I just have an annoying habit of noticing things like this and thinking too much about them. I guess it's unfair of me to assume he's funky without proof. It's not like he rides past and says, "Heeeeeey, baby." Who knows, maybe he just likes the feel of the breeze against his chest and, like my five year old son, doesn't understand why the world won't allow him to walk around half naked because it feels good.

I think I'm just the opposite, so self conscious about the way I look that I wear over sized T-shirts to hide my slightly bulging stomach. Were I more like bare-chested bicycle man I would have strolled into my yoga class on Sunday unashamed of how my clothes showed what I thought to be my sloppy figure. It didn't matter that most of the women in class weren't flat-bellied, tiny things with arms and legs like angel hair noodles. They were mostly average looking, except for one lady who had hair like a frayed hemp rope gathered in a pony tail on the top of her head. But yoga isn't supposed to be about the way you look, right?

"It's not about that competitive crap," my groovy Aunt Anne told me recently. "It's about your spirit. You change from the inside out, man. And I don't mean your mind, it's beyond your mind. All those thoughts aren't you. The ego can corrupt what's really you."

I would like to say that I'm 100% concerned with the inner me, but the truth is I want to be hot. Not just attractive, but smoking. I want people to look at me and wonder if I can open jars with my thighs. It took me a long time to finally admit this to myself. Because now that I've admitted that I'm an egotistical bastard, I would like to be delivered of it. I don't want to spend all this time worrying about what people think when they look at me, and I think that Chris would appreciate it if people did NOT see me as a human jar opener. Unfortunately, I'm one of those women who only feels ok about the way I look if someone tells me I look alright. And even if Chris tells me I'm pretty and thin or whatever, I find that I'm never truly satisfied with his response. It's like there's a streak of doubt that colors everything in my head and I can't see myself right no matter what I wear or what angle I look at myself in the mirror.

So I've decided that what I really want to do is something that I've been wanting to do since I hit puberty. I want to like the way I look, and not worry so much about what everybody thinks of me. I want to be like that old guy on the bike, assuming that he just rides with his shirt wide open because it feels nice and genuinely doesn't give a damn if people are exposed to his sunken chest and hairy, spotty stomach. Ok, maybe he's not a good comparison. But you know what I mean. I want to be what my yoga instructor calls "a living expression of bliss." Bliss for no reason at all. I've been depressed for no reason at all countless times, so why not experience the opposite? And I want to ask my instructor what she means when she says stuff like, "Look up with soft eyes," and "allow your hips to release." Release what? If I remember that bone song correctly, my hips are connected to important stuff that need to stay right where they are and release nothing. And how exactly do I relax my eyes? Why doesn't she just say, "And now, seize control of your involuntary muscles. Let your eyeballs roll out of your sockets...now roll them back up."

But mostly I want to stop myself from thinking so much. It's important to think, but there comes a point where I can sicken my mind with over thinking, much like how a person can replenish yet sicken themselves with pastaroni if eaten to excess.

Speaking of which, I've written this post to excess. Join me next time when I try to figure out my neighbor who has lived down the street for me for five years, but I only seen her when she goes outside to feed her rottweilers. SHE NEVER LEAVES THE HOUSE. Where does she get the dog food? And why does she have those bars on the windows? Are the dogs her minions or is it the other way around? And how much time do I actually spend wondering about my neighbors? Am I one of those suburbanites? Oh my, yes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

blank canvas

Now that I think about it, maybe I should have called this blog "Blank Canvas" instead of "Pay Phone Vigilante." The Pay Phone thing is something I wrote a while ago that I didn't really know what to do with. I decided to give it a home here because, for one thing, I thought the title sounded cool, secondly because it's an example of stuff I write all the time, and third because I was intimidated by the blank space and I wanted to put something up here to get started. I've written some stuff on myspace, but I've never really blogged before. I have this feeling like I've been invited to sing anything I want on stage and I get up to the microphone, realize that my audience is an infinite crowd, and I open my mouth and let out a squeak. I will try to keep my squeaking to a minimum.

Mostly with this blog I just want to write about anything. With no editor, no deadline, no worries about rejection letters, or whether my style jives with a certain newspaper or magazine I can stretch out and scribble like a kid with a blank piece of paper.

Here's the essay:

One of my friends was all bugging me about getting a cell phone again. We were supposed to meet in the park and we walked around for a half an hour before we could find each other, a thing, she said, that could have been prevented if I’d had one of those schizophrenic phone-t.v.-computer-camera things on me.
The thing is, I prefer pay phones. I like feeling like I'm in an old movie, standing in the rain, no umbrella, fumbling with the change as I slide them into the coin slot, and taking a wet, streaked piece of paper with a barely legible number on it out of my pocket. I dial and she answers on the other line and I say something like, "Hey, you want to catch a movie?" And there’s no way she can say no, not to a grainy pay phone in the rain. See, on a pay phone there’s desperation involved. On a cell phone, anybody can call you at any time, if for no other reason than the fact that they’re bored. But the whole thing about using a pay phone is that they’re so hard to find, you have to hunt them down. You seriously have to want that call. You drive from one gas station to another looking for one. If you don't give up after the first couple of stations, this means that you really want to get in touch with someone. The whim has become a need, a hunt.
Finally, you find a banged up phone stand outside of a McDonald’s. There's a curse word scratched into the base of the phone and the mouthpiece smells like the after-shave of the guy who made a call before you. Well, maybe he made a call, you think, or maybe he just rubbed the receiver all over his chin. And you make the call and your friend answers, and you say, "Hey, it's me. You want to catch a movie?" She says, "Sure," and you meet at the movie house, and during the movie you sit without looking at each other, just staring at the screen. And it's one of those movies that your mind responds to like an eye to a Kaleidoscope, and both of you walk out of it questioning things that you thought you knew for sure before. And suddenly you want to be alone again. So you say you need to get home and you're glad that she came, and you walk off by yourself, no cell phone on you, no way for anyone to find you unless you want to be found. My friend and I managed to find each other that day. She was right, we could have saved a lot of time if I’d had a cell on me to begin with. But the vain part of me was smugly satisfied that she had to hunt me down. Because she really wanted my company. Some day soon there will probably be no pay phones. The government will issue cellulars, or something crazy like that. Until then, try to remain unattainable while you can. Let them hunt you.