(No year end lists, just musings which
didnt become columns proper)
A heavy work load which was made all the more slow going by the
social commitments which come up around the holidays. I now do not have the
chance to do the daily ritual of the walk which I use to clear my head every
day; as is normal. Two days of overcast weather and we are not even in to the
rainy season, combined with the slow motion traffic of people out and about
gift grabbing; to lend everything a near claustrophobic air.
Tuesday; its once again overcast but I have my head down,
pointed at the papers on my desk. Around three in the afternoon the sun
actually pokes its head out.
At midnight on Dec. 31, Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108
times in an effort to expel 108 types of human weakness. In Spain to attract
twelve good months, twelve grapes are eaten. My own rituals involve a purging
of my bookcase and CDs, anything that no longer means anything to me either
mentally or spiritually. At this point, most of the books stay put; same with
the music collection.
I did find one CD from another lifetime ago. There was this girl
I worked with at a crappy retail job of youth. To be passive aggressive the
manager would show up late. We were both young enough and new enough at the
place, that to be fired would be no big deal. We decided to stage a rebellion,
going to a nearby café to have a drink and let him work twenty minutes
We sat down. She kept looking at the menu and biting her bottom
I want a coffee, but sort of want a Coco-Cola too.
So, get them both.
This was like some sort of revelation for her. From then on we
were fast friends. We made our way back to work but our political statement was
for nothing as the manager was extra late on account of a train workers strike.
The way Vera saw it, I had not just given the go ahead to
get two drinks at once but to now, thoroughly pursue stimulation and the
appetite which fueled it. The few times her mother had to come in to drop
something off, I got odd looks.
Just because she never had before, Vera decided to steal
something. She didnt want to start off too big so she stole a CD for me
after days of grilling me on what music I liked. I took it with good grace. At
this point in my life almost everyone was doing something wrong and
I could see how this might be viewed as some kind of right of passage.
What leads you away from each other? Life, age, ambition. Some
of us move up, others down a few are just gone.
I kept that CD, not as a totem but just because every time I had
picked it up to toss it, I would smile and stick it on a shelf where it hid
amongst hundreds of more important CDs.
The sun has put in a brief appearance. I decide to go for a
quick walk. The CD is on my desk waiting for the toss. I have not listened to
it in a decade. A spur of the moment whim, I decide to listen on my walk.
I never went through most of the atypical music phases which can
cause embarrassment when looked back upon after one has been around. This was
as close as I would ever come to aural juvenilia. I was pleasantly surprised,
it was not all awful. I once used to be able to listen to the CD from start to
finish savoring it, I admit I did hit the track advance button a few times.
The sun was out but there was cold air coming in from the bay. A
heavy fog arose as I was halfway through my walk. I decide to keep going
anyways. The fog makes everything look like a German expressionist film. Part
of the trail is lined with pines which are now reduced to a series of barely
visible spiked silhouettes. Walking along the canals, the fog moves almost as
if powered by its own tide. It moves differently around my feet, head and the
shrubs under which wide eyed rabbits wait for me to pass.
At this point I am sure that were I to walk backwards or maybe
sideways, I would bump into a past version of myself.
Most of what we are into when we are young is part of us,
indirectly. It fuels what we will seek out to explore. The actions and
ambitions that we eventually let define ourselves. Few things from youth age
well or even merit a revisiting; they are often not as brilliant, beautiful or
flavorful as one remembers. This was a postcard from the past. I could listen
and contemplate it the way one would an ex-girlfriend from so far back there
was now no emotion attached to the memories. I heard what had initially
attracted me; I heard too the faults and the little idiosyncratic things I had
enjoyed but also had forgotten about.
I am far from a nostalgic person but part of me was glad to not
have felt foolish or disappointed. I gave the CD to a friends daughter
who was just getting into that sort of thing telling her to eventually pass it
on. She gave me a strange look, but that was just for now.
I was playing dominos at my bar, two drinks in the hole and
needing a double six or at least a three. To lengthen the game I began telling
Samuel, who knew things, about the CD. He had about fifteen years on me and I
was interested in his take on not just this but the passage of time.
What do you think?
I think even as we get older, you have to keep both your
heart and the vendetta open.
The Summer of Love, everybody was told that if youre
going to San Francisco be sure to wear flowers in your hair. People
hitchhiked out to the West Coast, to Woodstock, to the Monterey Pop Festival.
The Rolling Stones are often cited as having tolled the death
knell for the Summer of Love with The Altamont Speedway Free Festival (1969)
where lack of foresight placed the motorcycle club The Hells Angels in charge
of security. While the Rolling Stones played Under My Thumb (not
Sympathy for the Devil as is popular lore) someone by the front of
the stage was stabbed to death.
While this definitely showed the other side of the hippy coin,
the darker intentional mirror was held up to this youthful utopia by the Venice
Beach (California) band The Doors. If hippies were populating the roads as they
trekked to various festivals and counter culture havens; so too was a killer:
the dark underside of all the hopeful dreams as fueled by sex and drugs.
In his rich tenor, only ever mustered with such clarity in the
studio, lead singer Jim Morrison said as much in one of their radio staples
Riders on the Storm.
There's a killer on the road His brain is squirmin' like a
The group was named after a book by Aldous Huxley (1894-1962)
The Doors of Perception (1954). Further inspiration came from far
from usual sources including that of French theater of cruelty theorist Antonin
Artaud (1895-1948), whose artistic renewal through a type of primitive violence
singer Jim Morrison would attempt to put into practice more and more as the
group continued to evolve. And musically the band was also equally eclectic and
open eared, being fans of jazz; including John Coltrane and things which leaned
towards the free and whose discordant devices the band would sometimes employ
live as spoken word poetry was recited.
I am not a big fan and definitely tend to prefer the more
obscure or live things the band did. It did not all age well, but
for me the appeal is the same as that to be found in jazz, even when its
bad or the band had an off night, it was real. A rarity more and more in the
new days of lip synching and paint by the numbers rock bands.
To All a Happy New Year!
Maxwell will return in 2008 with more adventures in sound