Thinking back, as I often do, I was trying to pin point the moment where music infiltrated my life. The single greatest musical occurrence which paved the way for my lifelong obsession. There isn’t one. It wasn’t like I heard The Beatles and said, “oh my, I will be apart of this.” While moments like that have happened, they were more turning points in the already predestined rock screenplay that is my life. I say screenplay because I feel the only place fitting for my tales is in the movies. I don’t know if it’s because my warped memory has an internal 5.1 surround sound soundtrack or if it’s because I’m convinced my ending will rival that of the number grossing film of all time. Let’s hope it doesn’t involve Leonardo or some selfish broad leaving me to drown in icy waters.
While there wasn’t a single standout musical moment, there certainly was a significant person. Growing up my family structure changed quite a bit, we didn’t become a true nuclear family until I was about 16. No matter where I lived in the country, at least one of my extended family lived with us (or we lived with them), namely my Uncle Donnie. Whether it be a massive old farm house in Maine filled with grandparents and cousins, a tiny apartment in Southern California, or your typical neighborhood cul-de-sac home in Utah, he was there.
Donnie was the youngest of my Father’s brothers who was no more then 18 years old when I was born. He traveled the country with my Dad doing construction and is apart of every early childhood memory I have. Once I became old enough to eat solid foods and use the bathroom on my own, we’d hang out. Because of him still being more of a kid rather than an adult, he had no problem watching Saturday morning cartoons with me or spending the day at the pool. He was young and hip, always coming home late from concerts or seeing the latest movie. He made friends anywhere he went and just being in his presence I was continually exposed to the greatest rock music ever made- though I could have cared less. I was just happy to be hanging out with my Cool Uncle.
I’ll never forget the day when Donnie taught me how to use his stereo. We were living in the big Maine farmhouse and he had one of the bedrooms upstairs. Just being allowed in his room, which was off limits to all the other cousins running around, was an honor. While Donnie was really easy going and laid back, you never went into his room or messed with his stuff. I was given a backstage pass. He had a massive water bed topped with an amazing flannel comforter, lamps with beaded shades, an American flag which covered an entire wall, a mirror with pictures of his friends plastered all over it, and on the back of his door was a Heineken poster of a topless woman- the first pair of jugs I can remember fanaticizing about. It was such a foreign escape, never had I been in a place so mysterious or intriguing. The room even smelled different then the rest of the house.
Donnie’s Kenwood rack system was taller then I was. It was equipped with a massive receiver, a 31 band personally configured equalizer, tuner, turntable, dual recording cassette decks, and a CD player. It was a thing of beauty even by today’s standards. You have to remember that this was 1989. Compact discs weren’t even mainstream yet, although he already had several hundred lining the bookshelf. He showed me how to use the four buttons which allowed me to play CD’s; system power, eject, play and stop. He threatened my life if I didn’t push stop before powering down the system, I didn’t understand why but I agreed. Similar threats followed as he told me what he’d do if he were to catch me touching any of the other knobs or buttons that didn’t involve the four he covered. Again, I agreed but I remember it being torture to lie in his bed and look at the EQ and not being able to slide things around. I just wanted to see what it would do… I held my end of the bargain though. My time messing with knobs and buttons would come later in life.
Donnie also had strict rules about what could be played on his stereo. He convinced me that if a rap CD should ever somehow make its way into the changer, it would cause an entire system meltdown.
“Rap CD’s are made differently, this is a rock only stereo. If you want to play rap, go out in the yard and plug a couple of speakers into your ears. If you hold the CD up to the sun just right and spin it fast enough on your finger, you might get it to work.”
I laughed and said “yeah right!” but secretly wondered if it was true.
With that, hours upon hours were spent listening to music. I’d hang out in his room after school listening to The Beach Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns n’ Roses, and Van Halen. Donnie would periodically leave CD’s out that I should listen to but those were my favorites. A long time has passed since the Heineken girl rocked my world but the music has stuck with me. I was first in line to buy Stadium Arcadium, I keep setting my watch back for Chinese Democracy, and I was honestly shocked and upset when Van Halen cancelled their reunion tour with David Lee Roth a week after announcing it. I should have known better but that little 7 year old boy inside of me couldn’t help but be let down.
It’s funny though, isn’t it? The things that were so important to you in the past have the same life span as an 80’s rock god? Guns n’ Roses represents all the friends you’ve lost touch with. You always say you’re going to call them and hang out but you don’t. Just as Axl has told us for the last 13 years that Chinese Democracy will be in stores next month. You don’t create any new memories with GNR, just relive old ones.
In my case Van Halen would represent Donnie. When the band was together with Roth there was nothing that could top them. They had music, image, attitude and a live performance that was second to none. They couldn’t keep it under control though; alcohol, money, and power ripped them apart and they fought over the most petty situations. Finally it blew up and became the end of an era. Sure, you randomly bump into Roth at a bar and reminisce about the good ol’ days. You might even suggest a reunion tour. It doesn’t happen though, it never will.
I guess that’s why I identify the most with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Not only were they there for me when I discovered music but they’re here for me now. No one thinks of them as this drug induced, funky rap rock band from 1983 anymore. They are highly renowned Grammy Award winning pop culture icons of 2007. They’ve come a long way and so have I. Our music has matured and throughout the years I’ve grown as a person just as they’ve grown as a band. We’ve seen ups and downs, and have experienced loss. We’ve worked out most of our issues and are excited for the possibilities of tomorrow. The Chili Peppers won’t be around forever but so far they’re the only ones who have been around since the beginning. There’s something to be learned from that.
Recently I've been faced with a lot of questions about mortality. Just seems to be a constant issue in which all endings are bleak. Think about it, this little journey we're all on. The young years, all of which you are in who would be reading this, are great. Everything is new, we have dreams for the future and ideas of how we want our lives to turn out. Does anyone really think past 55 or 60? I mean, once you've risen to the top and you've gracefully bowed out of your professional life? You might still have another 40 years ahead of you, have you ever thought about that? What are you going to do with them? I mean, in your young years you're completely consumed with finding a partner, finishing school, getting that perfect career, raising a family, and achieving personal greatness. Then what? Your kids are all grown up, you're forced into retirement, and all you have to look forward to is your next sugar-free jello cup and death. Death is the next step after all...
Basically once you hit that ripe age where your contribution to society stops, all you have left is Matlock and water aerobics. It's like you're just hanging around until one of your vital organs quits and you never have to worry about bending over to tighten up one of those velcro shoes. Sure, you might get suckered into watching the grandkids every now and then but no one takes you seriously. Think about it. How many times have you blown off the wisdom of an old man or just smiled and nodded as grandma tells you stories of the great depression? Or maybe it was Gone With The Wind with a hint of The Wizard of Oz? Doesn't matter, "she's old" you tell yourself.
Then you have the group who say "the golden years are the best years, that's why they're golden". No, they're golden because your teeth, toenails, and cholesterol pills are yellow. No matter who you are, your hair is going to start failing out, your eyesight is going to fail, your skin is going to sag, and your love for pudding will grow. Chances are, at least in our society, you'll wind up in a nice little home with a bunch of strangers and insolent nurses who forget to bring you that cholesterol pill which you for some reason want so desperately so you can cling on to your existence for a few more months.
So what are your alternatives? You could die early. I mean, you could not waste time with professional success or the family thing. That would kind of make your young years pointless though, wouldn't it? You can't plan an early death, maybe that's the trouble. It just sort of happens. Often times it happens to those who don't want to die early, robbing them of the joy of finally understanding The Bill Cosby Show. Nope, can't plan an early death. You can't plan a midlife death either. It's unfortunate that you can't say "well, I'm as far as I'm going to make it in my career, the kids have finally stopped leeching off me and I really don't feel like catching 60 Minutes next week. Let's do this." You can, however, plan your feeble bedridden death. You'll have plenty of time to make casket arrangements, explicitly tell those who will still listen to you where you want your ass planted, and divvy up that precious stamp collection in your will. An old death is a looming death. You've already lived and all you have left to think about is dying.
Here is my nugget of wisdom for those still reading, remember that life doesn't stop at 60. You may still have the better part of a century ahead of you and plan accordingly. Maybe look past your future and into the present, acknowledge the old people in your life now. Chances are, with modern medicine, they'll be around for a while and are miserable. Do something unexpected to make things new for them again.
I had so many profound things to say before I sat behind this computer. Realizations, revelations, and cute little stories I could wrap up in tiny a package to bestow upon you. The last few days have been filled with so much life and experience, surely I have some sort of "the moral of the story is:" or a "and that's why I had the best summer vacation ever" conclusion. Nope. Nothin'.
Things in my life seem to lack conclusion. I can't remember the last clean cut end to a chapter or the beginning of one. Life is all muttered together with experience after experience with only a quick, impersonal "note to self" tying it all together. In all reality, more questions and dynamics arise on the way to the original sought after conclusion leaving you confused as fuck as to what you were doing in the first place. The thought of all the things in my life that haven't seen a conclusion is overwhelming. So much so that more questions have gotten in the way of my side tracked questions that distracted me from my original questions. It's an amazing spiral that I encourage you to never think about.
What the hell does that mean? See, more questions. I guess I want some friggin' answers. How many licks does it really take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? I picked up a book on tape by Al Franken where he gives "life" advice to graduating college students. I figured it'd be interesting, humorous, and somewhat insightful. No. Just a bunch more ramble like the shit you've been reading. However, in his effort to give others advice on life it made me think of the advice I've given over the years. Have I been giving good, useful, and relevant advice? Yes, for the most part I have. I thought back to recent conversations where I shed some wisdom. All those little "note to self" post-its where coming alive and formed themselves into something that could be shared with others. A perfect thesis equipped with a statement, supporting materials, and why yes- a conclusion!So, the moral of the story is all the experiences you've been through are anticdotes of your life until you reflect upon them and figure out why they were valuable. There's your pretty little package. I'll be writing a book of philosophy should you need me...
2007, great. Now I can write the date wrong on everything for a good month and a half. Just think if it were January 2006, what would you do different? I probably would care a lot less about things that consumed me over the year. All the thinking was a waste of time. Didn't change anything, especially when you never act upon your thoughts. I do that a lot- come up with great ideas or plans and then let them fizzle. Maybe that's what I was supposed to learn in 2006.
Doesn't New Years suck though? It's one holiday that is recognized the world over, celebrated in just about every culture but isn't as commercially whored like the others. No cards, presents, obligations, or vanity. Seems a lot more "real". That's why it sucks. Valentines Day is full of expectations and let downs. You expect your special someone to be there with you and shower you with crap to "prove" their love, or for some it's a reminder that they are hopelessly alone. You know going into Valentines Day what to expect given your current relationship status, good or bad. New Years on the other hand is a true romantics night. People come together with friends (and strangers) with a optimism and hope for "what could be", spirits are high and everyone's heart is light. Forget all the crap that has happen over the year, you can accomplish anything this go-around.
What's more attractive then hope, confidence, and a new found love for life? Whether you think this year will be any different then last, the future is untold and those around you glowing with anticipation is enough to make even the most jaded of us smile. That's why is sucks. It stirs emotions I wasn't prepared to face. It creates thoughts of the future which I've been avoiding. I'd face my issues on my own accord, but this holiday suddenly forces me deal with them now.
For instance, another ball drop and me quietly sipping champagne. Why is that? I'm convinced it's purely my own fault. I mean, I'm not perfect but I feel I have redeeming qualities that the opposite sex would find attractive (or at least tolerable). Am I afraid? Am I not ready to share a symbolic moment like that with someone? Am I holding on to the past or am I blinded by my expectations of the future? Maybe I'm just thinking too much? Guess 2006 taught me nothing...