Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Visitor

Well, I am all agog, because my first-cousin-once-removed Warren will be coming to visit this morning. He, as some of you may recall, was in Iraq until lately defusing IEDs and other explosives. I mentioned on my Spaces blog, before that organization drove me forth into the storm by becoming completely unfathomable, that Warren was the subject on a profile in a recent Penthouse issue under the rubric, “Bad-Ass Americans” or something similar.

Anyway, I dandled this lad on my knee as a babe (he was a babe, I wasn’t) and there is, somewhere in the archives, a photo of me holding him awkwardly, flanked by a couple of his Cambodian relatives who look as if they are wondering how they happened to be there. I have seen him only rarely as he grew up, but each time I have been impressed by his excellent, though easy, manners, his general coolness, and the pleasure it has been to be in his company.

While he has been serving in Iraq, we have corresponded sporadically – I copped out by sending him a few of my blog entries that I thought might amuse him. He told me I was the only one of his friends and fam that actually wrote at any length. He has had the misfortune to be born with a brain that can hold more than a five-word thought into the Twitter generation. Every time I think the modern communication has been reduced to the absolute minimum of content per connection, something comes along to prove me wrong. It appears that the ideal social situation now is to have about 10,000 friends without ever having been forced to spend a minute in the same room as any of them. How, I wonder, do teenage girls continue to get knocked up? If the pre-requisite for Messiah-hood is a virgin birth – or one that has all the appearances of fatherlessness – then I think we are in for a string of prophets. At least on can hope their Bibles will be a string of text messages. “Blesd r th pur”, perhaps, Or ‘R fthr hu rt in HVn’.

Anyway, Warren will be accompanied by his German wife whom he has managed to acquire somewhere along the way. He is out of the army no, and he and she have just completed a month or two of touring in Asia, during which only love, I gather, got her through a week-long trek in Nepal which Warren found necessary for his spiritual advancement. I shall be gratified to meet this compliant lady. If I were a better person I would be readying my house for their advent in a couple of hours, but as you know I am a river to my people, and if blogging means I can sit on my ass more than vacuuming would allow, then I am yours for the early morning.

Having a life that has pretty close to zero in the way of stimulation, I continue to be transfixed by Adam Lambert of American Idol who, although I think he will lose in the last round of voting, (Danny Gokey’s followers will NEVER move to Adam but, if they vote at all, are pretty certain to move toward the other crooner in the competition.) will be, I am fairly certain, the Next Big Thing. He is exciting and divisive and madly talented. He has swagger and balls. There has not been an authentic rock star since the brief light of Kurt Cobain was extinguished before he really could take hold. Freddy is gone, and the greats of the 70’s are either long gone (Janis, Jim, Jimi, Lennon) or rapidly aging (Tina, Mick, etc.). There is a steady stream of momentary flashes, or of crooners like Timberlake, who though talented and very popular, are NOT rock stars with all the flash and pushing of the envelope that requires. This guy is exciting and I am thrilled each week by his performances. I will miss Idol this summer like no other season before. I may even go to see the concert of the alums if it comes near enough to me this year. And there will be one reason why: Adam. Well, two maybe, since I think Allison is astonishingly gifted also – and if I were to see a live duet between her and Adam I might expire in my seat. (Are duets ‘between’ people? I never thought about the preferred preposition before now). When I see my rock stars, I want to be grabbed by the throat, have my heart ripped out still beating, and used to beat me around the head. I want to shake afterward. “Pretty” is not what I go to concerts for. Lately I have run across songs that enthrall me, but this I the first time in a long time that a performer has enthralled me, no matter what song he is presenting.

It is looking like a grey day, which is disappointing since I should have liked Warren and his frau to see my demesne in its best light. Yesterday was glorious and they were at Rochester’s Lilac Festival, which is a very large deal in Rochester. If you live within 50 miles or so of that city, you’d better have lilacs in your yard. I am not sure, but I think the police will cite you for some sort of dereliction if you do not. Certainly you will be regarded as a possible traitor to your country. If old Walt were to ask anyone, “When did lilacs last in your dooryard bloom?” he’d get a pretty much unanimous cry from us folks, “They are blooming right as we speak, buddy!” I myself have five main bushes with other odd bits starting up here and there. That makes me a mere piker by some standards hereabouts. Rochester is lilacs, Kodak and white hot dogs. And Wegman’s. No jobs, though. And not much Kodak anymore, either.

Anyway, speaking of pop culture, my first intro to the Great Divide was in grammar school when the girls on the school bus decreed that if you were an Eddie Fisher fan, you had to sit on the left side of the bus and if you liked Perry Como, you must sit on the right. I could have inferred the great divide from that point, although I didn’t. Sweaters and short hair to the right, leather and curly black hair to the left. Although both of these singers, who were huge back then, may seem much of a muchness nowadays, (although there WAS that Eddie/Debbie/Liz thing), the swinging versus mellow dichotomy is a permanent feature of the pop landscape. I am sure that if one were to trace the future careers of those who chose the right side of the bus, they would find folks who were still with their first wife, who are surrounded by great grandchildren that like sports and the outdoors (although they wouldn’t hold with them there tree-huggers), who love Jesus, and who stayed with the same company until retirement. The folks on the left will have been through rehab, will be with their second or third wife, or getting a divorce because of an affair, will not be sure how many grandchildren they have, and will never retire because they didn’t settle down and start saving until they were 50 in the first place, and will still remember Woodstock with great fondness.

This divide really showed up when Elvis arrived, I mean the bad-boy Elvis, although actually the lad had impeccable manners, was deeply respectful of his elders, had only one wife and was deeply devoted to his mother. Elvis was about sex. The left side of the bus had arrived. Overnight the rightsiders rallied around Pat Boone, a safe, sweater-wearing, short-haired, button-down pleasant singer who sang about love, not sex. Pat Boone made Bernardine, a film about a group of roomies in college who yearned for a telephone operator with a beautiful voice, Elvis made Jailhouse Rock. When the later sixties rolled around, the British invasion yanked the whole bus so far to the left-side that Elvis and Ricky and Conway and even Jerry Lee all found themselves relegated so far to the rightside, that they were on a whole ‘nother bus labeled ‘Country”, where they continued successful careers without having to change a thing. When Elvis or Pat made appearances on schooldays back in the day, girls told their mothers that they would just DIE if they couldn’t go; the difference was that the Elvis girls just might. Elvis girls cut school and ran away to see him, Pat girls cried in their rooms for hours, then finished their homework but didn’t answer the second part of question four on purpose and that would show them.

But even within the new sound on the ‘sex, drugs and rock’n’roll’ side of things, the dichotomy opened up. First it looked like the Dave Clark Five were going to be the right side of things as opposed to the Beatles with that hair and those screaming fans, but then the Stones emerged as even more S, D and RnR than the Beatles, and the Beatles themselves began to have just a whiff of the sweater and love of country, and once McCartney went to Wings, he was firmly on the mellow side of things. The rightside of the bus had its James Taylor and John Denver and Simon and G and the like, but as pop broke into tribes that didn’t even listen to each other’s music, once the seventies were over things had pretty much shifted over to the spiritually short-haired more and more. The great thing in the sixties and seventies is that one listened to them all, but one had one’s preferences. But pop became a series of boy groups and girls on the verge of a weeping jag, and although the greater female singers were predominately black, the music of Whitney and Mariah and the like was firmly in the mellow mode, while what had been seen as the ‘black’ element that Elvis had tapped into with its implication of late nights and high-living waned more and more. The left side of the bus pretty much dropped music altogether in favor of spoken poetry with music background relegated firmly to second place in Rap. Rap really requires no music at all. As music split into the various threads each thread became so set in stone that it all just got pretty boring – at least in the air-play world of things.

So I am hoping that we get another overriding left-side of the bus phenomenon, because just cannot spend another morning listening to Golden Oldies, and I really am thinking that Adam Lambert might be it. No matter who wins Idol this year, the buzz on Adam is phenomenal, he is being down-loaded way more than all the others. On the website “Television Without Pity”, last time I looked, the discussion thread on him is about four times as long as his nearest competitor – I have never seen anything like it. A lot of people can’t stand him, but they talk about him. Elvis’ records were publicly smashed, the Beatles were excoriated from pulpit and statehouse, and I just get a tiny whiff of the same sort of thing here. I hope so.

But maybe I am just getting old and finding small dim hopes under every stone – who knows?


  1. I still love your writing! You paint such wonderful word pictures, it is impossible not to understand what you are talking about..
    I hope you enjoyed your visit with Warren, et al. I am glad he got to come home from overseas. We need to express our appreciation more to our servicemen.
    I hope Adam turns out to be all you hope. I was a "right side of the bus" person.. John Denver, S & G, etc. were my speed. :)

  2. Gee, jeankfl, I never responded to this - no wonder everyone hates me. Oddly enough, although not true for you, it is entirely possible not to understand what i am talking about. I change all names precisely because I once wrote something and someone rcognized himself and completely misinterpreted what i was talking about. A mistake many of us make is thinking everyone is as smart or reasonable as we are. The other mistake, of course, is thinking we are smarter and more reasonable than we actually are. I liked S & G and some right-siders, but my heart (as well as the majority of my downloads) has always been on the left side of the bus.