"Neither man nor God is going to tell me what to write." - James T. Farrell
Went out today and splurged on a whole bunch of cds just to see if I would kick myself afterwards. Sad to say, couldn't sell tickets to that, but I did get a whole bunch 'o' good music. First I got my hands on the new Ron Sexsmith album, Other Songs. I LIKE this. Touches on everything from Cat Stevens to Brian Wilson to Roger McGuinn to early Jackson Browne. It's got a soothing, 'dinner party mix-tape' kinda feel to it. (And don't think I won't make one.)
Then memories of the Mid 80's started flooding back to me so I picked up the latest Jason and the Scorchers disc, Clear Impetuous Morning. Not quite the same thing as a new Del Fuegos or Long Ryders disc, but I had to make due with what was available. The fact that these guys are still around is something to be thankful for. The fact that they still play ass-kicking Rock 'n' Roll is simply amazing. Drugs nearly destroyed this band not too long ago, but they are back and this is the best album they've made in a looong time.
Still in a nostalgic mood, I grabbed up a dusty copy of The Best Of Dramarama. A truly mis-understood, mis-begotten, and just plain missed band. Never really appreciated when they were around, they now get played constantly on Indie radio as if they're the next big thing. Too bad, they're gone. Along with the rest of the dead bands I've mentioned, what they created is still being played by upstarts that think THEY invented it. Aaah, such is life....
(April 1st's essay
Is "Alternative" music dead? Gosh, I hope so. When bands like Smashing Pumpkins become as bombastic as Yes, you know it's over, When a whole bunch of bands that supposedly get their roots from punk start to produce double albums en masse, you know it's over. And, of course, when Tony Bennet becomes 'alternative', you know it's over. Or, perhaps, that it never really was.
Punk music began as an outcry from the masses. 'Alternative' began, and ends, a marketing gimmick. I have a sneaky feeling that all the guys with suits sat around and said "Let's take all the crap we can't sell, put it all in a new category, and say it's the new Alternative!" 'Alternative' to what? Having your nails ripped out? An eye gouge? Let's face the facts people. A band like Stone Temple Pilots did not get to the top of the charts without SOMEBODY selling his soul to the devil. However much you may have hated the music of the 70's, at least THEY could actually play the things they tossed around onstage. Only now, 'Alternative' is mainstream. It's what you hear everyday in your car, on every station. It's what you see on MTV and ONLY what you see on MTV. These bands don't want revolution. The status quo keeps them paid. They don't want you to rebel, they want you to buy.
This is exactly the kind of MOR crap that punk rebelled against. Only now, it's the middle of a different road. We created this pablum, we must destroy it. There are some great independent bands out there that will never get a chance so long as Green Day and No Doubt hog the spotlight. What about Vigilantes of Love? What about Reel Big Fish? What about Superchunk? What about Mudhoney? They're all lost in the stampede to get to Alanis. So, what to do when some joker offers you a Jewel album? Just say no.
(March 6st's essay)
My father died in the spring of 1993. I was not yet 27, he was not yet 63. This is for me and him.
My father was a methodical man. He didn't window-shop when he could buy. He didn't talk when he could think. He didn't think when he could create. Buying a Christmas tree, for example, was a 5 minute deal. He'd walk into the lot and say: "That one looks good", pointing to whichever lucky shrub happened to be in front of him. "Let's go". He was like that with most every purchase he ever made. If we wanted something, we only had to point it out, and it was ours. Big or small. He took my brothers out one Saturday to buy a refrigerator and they came home with a boat. You just had to implant an idea in his mind and it was done. 1 2 3.
Not so much because he loved and wanted to please us (there was that too) but because he wanted it over and done with. Raising 3 kids was my mom's job, he liked to kid himself that he was only there for the monetary end of things and that the sooner he bought us whatever it is that we wanted, the sooner we'd be out of his hair. I knew he loved us, though, even if at times he had a funny way of showing it.
I saw it in some many stupid little things. The way his eyes sparkled when I spoke my mind. The way he would take my older brother Dave in to meet his friends at work, he was so proud of Dave. The way he would constantly try to figure out my younger brother, P.J. He never succeeded. Because they were so much alike and my father, though he knew it, was very much afraid of that fact. Almost as afraid as P.J. is, now.
Father and youngest son are forever linked, in my mind at least, because despite their alleged spite for each other, the are too damn alike to be separate. They had both had rough childhoods, they both were alcoholics, they both were surprisingly gentle, compassionate, loving, loved individuals. Which is probably part of the reason that I love them so much.
My dad led his personal life with his mitts up. This makes for a interesting first round, and then it starts to get annoying. I still know so little about his relatives except for the fact that he didn't like them. He never went to see them if he could help it, or my mom's relations either. He was no more a 'people person' than I am, and I suppose that he gave me his disdain for people.
But, he gave me so many good things. He gave me things to light my dreams, and make me think. He gave me love of books; love of thought. He instilled a deep love of nature in me and my brothers. He made me think, forced me to argue with him. For he knew that books teach 'facts' but we alone must decide what to believe.
He used to do these quirky little things like buy only teeny tiny cans of corn and peas, cus he ate like a bird and hated to waste anything.
He was a NYC man. He loved New York City with a true passion. I doubt anybody but Mayor Koch has ever loved it as much. He tried to show me all the cool stuff about it, the museums, the art, the culture.
He is where I learned to love sociology. We used to go down to Jones beach in the dead of winter and watch the old people. :) They had their own little community down there and I used to wonder if that was was where he would spend his final days. I have a feeling he might have really dug that. :)
My father taught me about music. Frank Sinatra and Beethoven; Mozart and Gershwin. Most of all he gave me a passion for it. A love for mine and a hatred for everybody else's. :)
Dad was a painter, he taught me to look inside a piece of 'art' and see it as the painter did. He gave me a broad view of what constitutes art and taught me that there are many forms hidden in that one word.
He was a storyteller, he loved to sit and muse for hours on a good story, and he loved to laugh and give laughter to others. I can remember nights where we had to strain to breathe from laughing too much. He would make my older brother and I literally fall over onto the floor with mirth. On summer nights I often wondered if the neighbors thought us mad as we and my parent's guests filled the night sky with our guffaws and cackles. I never met anyone who was not at least smiling widely after 5 minutes with my father. That was a gift he gave many people, and, I think, it is the one he will most be remembered for.
I seriously doubt if my dad will ever be forgotten. And that's pretty damn cool. :)
(March 1st's essay)
Who am I? Where do I come from? It's ironic that, by the time I think to start asking these questions, the people that could have answered them are long in their graves. When I was a kid, family was just a gauntlet you had to run to get to the presents on Christmas. Hell, it still is. Me, the history buff. The lover of socialogy. I had a treasure trove of information and I never took advantage of it. My grandparents loved to talk, they never stopped. With me it was always the tug on my mother's sleeve "Can we go yet?", the tapping of little feet. I didn't want to know. Or rather, I thought there were better things to know. So, life goes on. We live, learn, shudder at our mistakes, and still remain forever Irish.
But why forever Irish? America is a cesspool, I know. But, will Ireland remain forever "The Emerald Isle" full of saints, gods and green lands? Why do why long for where we come from and dislike where we are? We must have left Ireland for a reason. It seems we forget why our anticedents came here in the first place. They were starving, warring and diseased. They came for a better life...HERE. Now it seems we long for a more bucolic life there. We long to see the green fields of our Ireland. It's not ours. Our grandparents are from there, perhaps, but even they gave all of Ireland up to come here. I've never been to Ireland. I hear it's very beautiful. So why are we still here? We think of ourselves as Irish Americans, with the Irish always first. But we've no wish to live in Ireland.
Why do most 3rd and 4th generation American's think of the 'old country' as invariable greener/richer/better? We get a tear in our eye when we see the parade of kilted marchers wearing their green sashes. We stand proud as they go by, tho who's to watch us? We uphold the 'ST Patrick's Day' customs as if they were written in stone. The wearin of the green? The symbol of a flag not our own. A few choruses of "When Irish Eyes are Smiling"? A song not written by an Irishman, that few outside of this country even recognize. Yet we wear, and sing, still. In memory of a place our ancestors called home, and of a people we (however tenuously) still feel a kinship to. So a happy Saint Patty's Day to ya. And may the road rise up to meet ya, and the wind be ever at yer back. Whatever the hell that means.
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