Tag Archives: Music

1. 2. & 3. Real Stories About Music

 
No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED

FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

WAS MUSIC

– Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without Country (2005: 66).

 
 
 
1. A Trip to the Supermarket.

Drink up, before it gets cold! It’s not as nice when it gets cold.

You know, I was at the supermarket, picking up this and that for the house when I saw it. It was on sale. So drink on up!

The thing about the supermarket, though, dear, you know. All the supermarkets today. They play songs. Fast songs, radio songs, saxophone songs.

And the people.

The People, the people say, you know, that even if they don’t particularly like them – or at all – that the songs don’t bother them. Not at all. They say to me all the time, dear, people say they can’t even hear those songs. Can you believe that?

But meanwhile, you know, there’s other people. People like me who can’t just stand there and not hear the songs. Clattering around in your brain like rats in a bone heap.

Have another. There’s plenty. Don’t be shy; it does no good.

So, you know, now, it’s like, OK. When people don’t mind the songs, when they don’t even hear them anymore, then why, why, why, why play them?? I can’t stand it. It’s like, well, you know? It’s like…

[bangs fists softly but rapidly on table top, abruptly stops]

It’s. Like. It. Makes. Me. Want. To. Take. A. Gun.

A gun, dear.

It makes me want to take a gun, put it in my tote, drive to the supermarket and then take out my gun from my tote and stand there in the supermarket and shoot out all the speakers. Every last one of them. Such a rush! And I’d shoot them one by one so that they’ll see and learn and know what those songs can do to a person.

Honestly, it’s enough to drive one mad.

Have another sip, dear.

That’s a girl.
 
 
 
2. Radio in E-flat Major.

Whoa. Wait, wait, wait! One moment…

Ah! I knew it. Concerto No.5! Beethoven. No. 5, E-flat Major, Op. 73. To be eggs-act. Sorry, guys, I need to turn this up!

HA!

The Emperor Concerto. “C’est l’empereur de concerti!” Beethoven’s last and best, if you ask me. Forget your Rachmaninoffs and your Brahms and Tchaikovskys!

You can keep Mozart.

Bay-tho-VEEN!

HEY. Did I ever tell you guys about Charlie? Charlie H. Now, there was a good man. Good man, Charlie! Tough and mean as bloody hell, but a true and loyal friend if you were lucky enough to get on his good side. Which few ever did. He’d mess you up.

Charlie, Charlie.

 Charlie, Charlie, Charlie

They must play more of this kind of thing on the radio, all the time.

But good old Charlie. God, you shoulda seen him! Head like an anvil; gigantic, immovable! Legs so bow-legged he looked ready to pounce soon as you looked at him. But his hands. My god, but his hands were a thing of absolute beauty. You wouldn’t think they could be his, but they were. Delicate, yet firm. Strong, yet elegant. Luminous in the day and night.

Artist’s hands.

Charlie could play piano. Self-taught. He was, believe you me, one of the greatest pianists around, ever. Period. Charlie could play Beethoven’s No. 5, E-flat Major and he knew it and only played it very, very rarely. I used to go over to his house and he’d try to teach me but I never did get the hang of it. Mind you, I’d go over all the same, just to watch him play that fearless piano. The 2nd movement is where it got me every time. Gets me.

I like to imagine him, lying there that night, listening to the radio to No. 5, E-flat Major when his cabin burned down. Lit up like you wouldn’t goddamn believe, and with poor old Charlie inside.

FROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!

Just like that. Log cabin in the middle of the woods, there was nothing left but ashes.

Nothing left of Charlie. Nothing left you could call Charlie.

Lightning.

HA, HA! The Gods themselves had to take good old Charlie down!

That was years and years ago, see, but it wasn’t properly writ up in the papers. They got wrong what happened, is what.

November 28th, 1811. Leipzig. I would give anything to have been there at the Gewandhaus. But what can you do?

What can you do?

His bed was right there, next to that old piano. Almost at it should have been.

You know?

Shit. I think we missed our exit.
 
 
 
3. Soundtrack of Our Lives.

My brother? The usual. He’s taken over the entire basement now – threw out all my old workout stuff and videos. I dunno. He’s, like, dwelling down there with god-knows-who. Different fucking people all the time. Fucking different people.

Why not? Because where is he supposed to go, that’s why not. He barely works. He’s bad with money. He’s broke. She knows that.

He’s the youngest too, which helps his case. I couldn’t get away with half of his fucking goddamn bullshit.

All kinds of people!

OK. Look. OK.

He’s got sheets and, like, lights up on the walls. He’s got cameras, CAMERAS, pointed at them.

Because I went down there to find it. I know! He asked me to come and see.

So we go down there and he’s got these white sheets up on the wall and there’s his laptop and he opens it and turns it on. I’m like, “OK. Where is it?” And he’s like, “just wait, man. You have got to see this.”

And it smells down there. It fucking reeks and I just want to get it and leave and, I dunno, get on with my life. OK? I mean, there’s garbage and furry plates and dirty underwear, like, fucking, everywhere. And…there’s a fucking mattress in front of the white sheets. Like, an extra, additional mattress in the middle of the room in addition to the one he sleeps on. And I look at the screen as I’m, you know, taking this all in and there’s that fucking mattress again.

On the screen! On his fucking dirty-ass laptop. And then, fuck me, these two ladies come on and they are rough as fucking hell and they start making out on the mattress on the screen and, you know, the one starts pawing at the other’s Sears underwear and ripping off her sports bra and I’m sure, I am like fucking goddamn sure, that I recognize one of them, she worked at the high school or some shit, like, holy fuck, is that lady from the admin office? Dylan’s mom? Is that Dylan’s fucking mom sinking into that dirty-ass mattress in the middle of the room, on the screen?

I am so, fucking, enraptured by this that I don’t even notice it at first. But it’s there. It was there from the instant when he clicked on the video. To play it, right? I realize that now.

My music. The stuff from back in the day. He found it when he was throwing out the rest of my shit. And, and, he cued it up. He looped it to make it last. He made it happen. OK?

Ever? No. Not ever. How do I, I can’t even. And it’s, like, he made it work. Finally. Which means, in a way, I made it for him.

It was always for him.
 
 
 
“Back to music. It makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she would be without it” (Vonnegut 2005: 67).
 
 
 
 
 
 
References

Vonnegut, Kurt. A Man Without Country. (2005). Random House Trade Paperbacks: New York.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Taco Belle

I was out on the town with some friends the other night – Peeps, really (yes, I have them) – having tacos.  It was live music night at the place we were at and the show was fine as far as live music at places that serve tacos go.

There was no headliner.  No main act.  Just a string of performers, giving their best.  Or at best giving their all.

During a lull in the music, one performer’s friend came to the tables with a jar (big, plastic, thoughtfully crude) to hit up the audience for “donations”.

Goodwill.

(Though, most of us had come as and probably would have preferred to have remained, simply, diners).

As she made the rounds, we found ourselves confronted by the nagging expectation that seeped out from the open maw of the jar.  None of us had cash. But I did have a few coins in my pocket.  My “subway insurance fund” in case I come up short for fare, which has never happened.

(The math makes no sense).

She arrived, jar thrust out at arm’s length, right under my nose.  I reached into my pocket and pulled out my bounty.

Proof.

“Um, all I have is 50 cents on me. I’d offer it up, but I don’t want to embarrass you with my poverty.”

I should try two thin dimes first, next time.

Rubbing them together, sadly, does not produce further quarters.

“That’s okay!  We’re talking about musicians here!  Anything you have, they’ll take.”

But, see.

The performer, the one for whom the jar was appreciative charity (the jar was for the “musicians” but she had been the only one that played at that point), had brought her parents and friends with her to the show.  And though she had “been at it” for three years, I couldn’t help but notice the untroubled ease – the unbothered safety – from which she played her set.

The isolated enthusiasm of her entourage.

The crisp bills they stuffed into the jar before it was released to the general populace.

The perfect crease in her father’s kakis.

I dropped one of the quarters in the jar, palmed the other.

Fair’s fair.

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Book Club

I like taking the subway to get to Other Places because I can do Other Things while I’m at it.  It’s like a kind of wondrous, effortless multitasking.

I love to battle it out in the underground.

Game on, game on.

Sometimes I listen to music.  I mean, how often can you just listen to music?

(Finally!  A chance to enjoy MMMBop, on repeat, without distraction).

(And in plain sight of a Society at Large that is none the wiser.  HA!).

(Mmm bop, ba duba dop/Ba du bop, ba duba dop/Ba du bop, ba duba dop/Ba du...)

Seeing double plus one.

I know you're in here...somewhere...

(I never stopped loving you, Taylor Hanson).

Sometimes, I people watch.

(That woman looks drained and downtrodden; she needs a break.  That man is robust, yet unfocussed, and just a little bit glib; he has had too many breaks).

(Everywhere I look pants are getting both tighter and bagger.  It’s like one is compensating for the other but I’m not sure which is doing which).

(Did I just indadvertedly make eye contact with that old lady?  Shit.  Look away!  No, wait.  Don’t look away!  PRETEND YOU’RE ASLEEP AND DON’T KNOW ENGLISH).

Hell is...

Happy 7:00AM, People! Watch me as I'm watching you.

Sometimes, I just, kind of, you know…space out and go from there.

Just…

…kind of…

…you know…

ZzZzzzzzzzzZZZzzZZzzZZZzzzzZZZzzzzZZZZZzzzZzzz.....

Amen, sister friends.

Mostly, though, I read.

I love to read on the subway because I win at reading on the subway.  I absolutely DOMINATE.

But it is not without its perils.

After all, nobody wants to LOSE at reading.  It’s all a matter of knowing when to pick your battles.

At a Tim Horton’s?  Go ahead, pull out that brand new copy of Jean M. Auel’s The Land of the Painted Caves.  Read it over timbits and half-eaten crullers and lowered expectations.  “Ooo” and “ahhh” whenever the mood strikes your fancy.  Laugh your head off.  Or not.  Who cares?  WHO CARES??

At a Starbucks?  Best then to go with that worn copy of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra that you picked up at Goodwill for just the occasion.  Be sure to smile indulgently at the page every now and then, and to nod your loving approval to a brilliance not unlike your own.  Chuckle, a little, to show your engagement with the DISCOURSE.

But the subway…

…On the subway, reading is an art.  Of war.  You have to know the terrain you’re on that particular day and adjust to the conditions and – this is critical – to know to withdraw when you have to.  It’s not like listening to Rock N’ Roll Razorblade, or reading from a Kinkle or Kooboo or whatever the hell, which you can do with the immunity of anonymity.

My other iPad is a Millennium Falcon.

iPad Dude! Damn you and your impunity from my scrutiny!

NO.

Because maybe today is a Dan Brown kind of day.  Sheep!  I shall raise the stakes with my rare edition of hitherto unpublished Mark Twain manuscripts!

But what if The Autobiography of Mark Twain is the Name of the Game?  Why, then, I shall counter with the Collected Works of the Emmanuel de Mure Volstein!  It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t exist; even if he did, you still wouldn’t have heard of him!

The Help.  The HELL?  HA! Allow me to retort with The Hunt for Red October, because it’s the better movie.

Twilight?  You’re better off with the movies in the way that people are better off trapped inside burning houses than under churning seas.

No surprises in the end, but least you’re not wet.

Shakespeare?  SHAKESPEARE! Shit…Oh shit.  How am I supposed to know if you’re reading in earnest or with ironic detachment?  Is there a book report due or a play in production?  Is Kenneth Branagh up to something??  Too many variables here.  Best to rock myself gently to the soothing melodies of Middle of Nowhere and live to fight another day.

(Plant a seed, plant a flower, plant a rose/You can plant any one of those/Keep planting to find out which one grows/It’s a secret no one knows…)

You may ask: must I live this way, constantly on edge?

YES.

Because sometimes you have to lose to win.

Because sometimes the content of the book isn’t as interesting as who’s holding it by the covers.

Because sometimes Tenuous Something is better than Ample Nothing.

But sometimes…

…Sometimes I think that Things would be easier if I just read whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

"She was there to sell makeup, but the father saw more..."

"Put it away! Put it away!!!"

But the world doesn’t work that way, and it is in moments like these that I realize that I just can’t betray the standards I have set for others to impose on me.

It’s just easier to accomplish Things without really having to accomplish anything and that’s what we call SUCCESS in the end.

It is a hard Thing, living for others; entering the combat zone weary, battle scarred, knowing that in my heart of hearts, my love resides elsewhere.

No word of a lie: I LOVE Fran Drescher.  She is great to me.

This book has everything.

But I shall persevere.

(In an mmm bop they’re gone/In an mmm bop they’re not there/In an mmm bop they’re gone /In an mmm bop they’re not there/Until you lose your hair. But you don’t care).

(Repeat Chorus).

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