Field Trip

Apologies for the lack of posts on JBLY.  I’ve been working on some book projects and other fun things, which, regrettably, mean my correspondence with the people of the digital age will be spotty.  Good things, people.  Good things.  In the meantime, swing over to Flip Collective to check out my piece today.  Click through on the image below.

I leave a party early.  I didn’t drink.  I didn’t smoke cigarettes out on a balcony hanging over Canal Street.  Music played but I didn’t dance.  Nobody danced.  The best conversation I had all night involved an iPhone slideshow of Berlin.  Shots of cups filled with milky coffee.  A building with the question, “Black Is Still Beautiful?” written on the top.  Trees and neighborhoods in decay.  “I want to go there,” I said…

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LCD Soundsystem – Webster Hall

We manage to snake through the crowd, settling in a spot I would classify under the heading “Pretty Damn Good.”  Our positioning for the glory that is LCD Soundsystem is about five feet away from the stage and directly under some serious speakers.  It is clear by the end of the first song if I don’t purchase some protection in the form of bright orange expandable foam, my ears are going to be permanently wrecked within the hour.  As much as I would love to listen to this band unfiltered and unadulterated, I still want to be able to hear the coos of my future grandchildren in fifty years.

Boys in plaid tune instruments onstage.  All of them are fairly nondescript, Brooklyn dudes.  A little round around the edges, hip because they’re not hip at all, that type of thing.  After I’m done staring at the man wearing all tan and a perfectly groomed and hallowed, half-visible cheekbones, I turn my attention to people behind me.  For the most part, the demographic tonight is predominately male, an observation I find surprising because I never thought of LCD as being the purveyors of theme songs for testosterone.

The lights come down and everyone takes that as their cue to get real enthused.  A few of the boys that I thought were roadies are actually in the band.  Keeping it real, as it were.  The rest of the band comes out in pieces.  The petite Asian keyboarder with pretty black hair that gets matted and clumpy by the end of the set, heavy and damp with sweat.  The drummer reminds me of someone from the Mamas and the Papas for whatever reason.

When James Murphy, the lead singer, comes out, I am surprised.  He has dishwater blonde hair – the thick kind that is hard for boys to figure out what to do with; it’s not thin enough to style, it’s not curly enough to fro-pick it, it’s just…there.  His shoots forward, straight past his forehead, pitching out and down like the edge of a cliff.  He is a little out of shape and older than I imagined.  None of this is distracting or bad or relevant in the slightest.  What threw me the most is realizing I didn’t have a preconceived picture in my head for LCD at all before I saw them.  There are some bands that so well articulate how you feel at a particular moment in life, whether through a song or, if you’re lucky, through an entire album, that their voice essentially commandeers your own.  Your memories are not narrated by your own account of things, but through the lyrics of a song or the thudding of a baseline.  Seeing a band in the flesh is like seeing your thoughts personified, the soundtrack of your life physically manifested.

I can’t remember what they perform first.  LCD’s songs are long-winded dance epics that are so masterfully crafted they read like three act plays.  The entire night becomes this series of seven-minute stories that I can only ride beside, dancing in a sea of people who change colors on the whim of lighting cues.  The wood floor beneath us groans with the weight of bouncing bodies and when I stand still I feel like I am on a wooden trampoline.

When the opening beats of “Someone Great” pulses through the speakers, I am immediately hopping up and down even though the song doesn’t call for more than agreeable techno soft shoeing.  The lyrics, like most of his lyrics, are simple and repetitive and they simultaneously resonate with both exuberance of youth and the wisdom of old age.  I feel like I’m listening to the process of growing up.

Something I’m kind of doing right now.

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Evidence I’m Aging: Disneyland

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I’m not old, but I do sense its inevitability.  I am also aware of my increasing participation in “I remember when…” type conversations that indicate nothing but the swift passage of time, a hurried vehicle that I can never get off of.  Upon a recent trip to Disneyland I admitted to myself some observations that have been nagging at me since I was twelve.

1.  The Entrance

The Disneyland parking lot used to be accessed only after a wide road of perhaps eight or so lanes banked left and then dipped down ever so slightly.  As a child, I used to fancy it something of a preamble to a rollercoaster.  It was something so minor and slight that I doubt anyone over the age of ten would have noticed it.  But to me, the sensation was quite like flying.  The parking lot fee was paid to one of many attendants sitting under their pseudo car ports, with a “Disneyland” sign above in its magical kingdom typeface.  Excitement would build as we scoured the lot, parking under a Mickey or Minnie or Pluto sign.  I interpreted these signs as ways to express what character you preferred, not just an easy way to remember how you parked.  Parking under a lame duck character might set my day off on the wrong foot.  From the parking lot we would walk quickly to the ticket gates, coming in with a tide of other families and watching as the highest points of the park jutted into the sky at more impossibly viewed angles.  This was the process.  This was how we arrived.

Today, what once was that glorious asphalt field of anticipation is now a sorry excuse for a sister park, California Adventureland or something like that.  We are now required to park in what is quite possibly the biggest parking structure I have ever seen, provoking latent anxiety about earthquakes.

2.  Main Street

Once into the park, passing the train station and marigolds planted in the shape of Mickey’s smiling face, I went straight for the window displays.  Now when I was a kid, these featured intricate diorama’s of Ariel swimming in her magical underwater kingdom, Aladdin flying over sand dunes, Peter Pan kidnapping little children, etc.  It was like the best 3-D pop up book I had ever seen.

Today, where there were once engaging scenes of wondrous whimsy there are now displays of coffee cups and D-Land dishware you can buy in the store behind it.  I can’t imagine this inspiring children in the same fashion, although my shot-in-the-dark guess is that this is one of the many ways to groom young kids to be healthy consumers in adulthood.  Sigh.

3.  The Castle

I once viewed this castle as a template for which I would mirror my own real estate choices as I grew older.  Screw a white picket fence; I wanted a moat.  In fact, my favorite neighborhood house was one that featured stained glass windows and ample faux turrets.   It was the closest thing to medieval grandeur I could find in the San Fernando Valley, albeit there was no real stone masonry and the stucco was painted a kindergarten-room baby blue.

When viewed through a more worldly/ experienced/ spoiled lens, the Castle now looks modest, shrimpy even.  I can’t even be sure it’s actually three stories tall or just a one story building made to seem gigantic through clever architectural trickery.  If it were for sale in Burbank, it would easily be within my price range.  In theory, I could buy Sleeping Beauty’s house.

4.  Dietary Concerns

Once blessed with the bottomless pit metabolism of an active child, I’d chow down powdered sugar dusted funnel cake at every opportunity.  Cheeseburger overcooked to oblivion?  No problem.  Vegetables?  Waste of time.  Having grown older and more aware of the hazards of cellulite, high blood pressure and heart disease I have lamely subjected myself to the hazards of a healthy person.  This means that all carnival-like faire is now out of the question.  I won’t indulge in the offerings at Disneyland ice cream parlor.  I refuse to eat the fried fish in Adventureland.  I ignore the tantalizing head-sized lollipops on my way out.  Again, sigh.

5.  On Safety

I have mixed feelings about plowing through Space Mountain in pitch black darkness.  Although I can’t see the structure I’m whizzing through and past, I get the sense that it is always dangerously close to my large head.  My paranoid fears were confirmed last week when someone told me that a few years ago someone was decapitated after they stood up (idiot) while riding.  Subsequently, Disneyland had to redesign the rollercoaster to be a bit roomier.  This could be myth, but it still allows for some validation on my behalf.

These admissions mean that I am dangerously close to becoming my mother.

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In Happiness and Youthful Taste

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I sometimes wish that my parents had been more obsessed with music, thereby passing on some of their good taste to me during my crucial developmental years.  Mom wasn’t into the Rolling Stones because they were “loud” and my dad , after having grown up on Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, moved on to James Taylor and Garth Brooks in early 90s, much to my disappointment: James Taylor bored me to tears even at  five years old and I just couldn’t boot stompin’ boogie with Mr. Brooks.  Alas, I was left to fend for myself.

Early musical conquests – in the form of a cassette, of course – included a double-sided MC Hammer joint featuring “2 Legit 2 Quit” and “Can’t Touch This.”  Needless to say I was more than pleased when I came across a sweater at the JC Penney Outlet Store in which both titles were knitted with neon yarn over and over again until they collided in the center at a giant holograph of MC Hammer himself, busting a move on the front of my sweatshirt.  I was similarly enthralled by one of the bands formed from some Mickey Mouse Club stars, whose collective name now slips my memory but I do recall their single “Free 2 B Me.”  The 90s was all about abbreviation, ergo the death of the written word.  This is perhaps why many of my peers still do not correctly identify the difference between “two” and “too.”  Sucks 2 B U, my friends in illiteracy.

My first CD was by Ace of Base and was purchased with my dad at the local Target.  I came directly home, put “I Saw the Sign” on my gigantic black, 6 CD changer, AM/FM tuner, two tape deck radio and danced my heart away on the carpet of my shared bedroom.  Madonna’s “The Immaculate Collection” came next.  The black and white photographs of her in a bathroom, legs akimbo, both confused me and made me want to join a contortionist circus.  While I would never be as flexible as Madonna, I was certain of my prowess as an adept singer.  I pranced around, swinging from my bunk bed as far as the room’s square footage would allow, mimicking the tone of her voice to the point of precise impersonation…at least I thought so.

Mom took me to see my first concert at the Universal Amphitheater.  Kenny Loggins was ever the long-haired, mellow dreamboat I had imagined.  Out seats were on the first floor, closer to the back and just under the balcony section above.  The result was a dense reverb that did not necessarily make for stellar acoustics.  That, and a woman nearby was apparently far more turned on by Kenny and screamed with drunken gusto.  Mom was annoyed and I can’t remember if she told her to shut up or just complained about it.  The experience was a wild success.

Mine was a youth full, unbridled 1990s pop.  Amy Grant (before she found religion), Paula Abdul (all albums, no exceptions), Mariah Carey (when she could still sing and maintained at least the pretense of sanity).  Although, I did miss a few key pop movements that were marketed specifically towards girls like me; namely, boy bands and Britney Spears.  NSYNC just seemed a little too, well, gay for my taste and I could never bring myself to actually purchase a Britney album.  More easily done was to dole out faux judgment on those who did.  However, I had no qualms on screaming “I’m Not a Girl” out of the window of my friend’s two door, parent purchased BMW provided we were more than a mile away from school.  One must keep up appearances, cynical or otherwise.

My brother, being a boy, was more easily sucked into the grunge movement, which I interpreted as an excuse to not shower or be happy.  I attribute my previous lack of enthusiasm for Nirvana to my then undeveloped intellectual maturity.  That and the cover for In Utero really just grossed me out.

When grunge evolved into something more palatable for my delicate sensibilities, Green Day came out.  Around the same time, parental advisory stickers had become de rigueur and my mom took an active interest in what I was listening to.  I enjoyed the uncensored Dookie for a week before my mom made me return it for the kiddie version.  Much good did it do me; I still learned how to say f*&#, sh^%, and g%d da#% in due time.

As I grew older, I more quickly devoted myself to a CD collection mirroring that of a 45-year-old divorcee.  Sheryl Crow, Shawn Collins, Tori Amos – the emotive, broken hearted works.  Jiving with my more “raucous” and “rebellious” side, I had Third Eye Blind and Everclear.  I found that “Semi Charmed Kind of Life” really summed up my middle school experience, mainly associating with the line “…to get me through this…”.  For whatever reason I remember specifically listening to the song pour out of the speakers of my karaoke machine cum radio while taking a shower and wondering if I would ever be popular.  These were also the days in which I was learning to manage razor burn on my legs (i.e. avoiding goosebumps).  Those are two memories I associate with that particular shower.  Third Eye Blind and goosebumps.  Dododo do do do dooo…

Although my dad purportedly grew up on some of the best rock ever known, I didn’t hear about it through him.  I initially learned about Jimi Hendrix on a PC encyclopedia application, long before Google and long before wireless internet.  On Dad Weekends, I would sit in front of one of many Sony Vaio’s he would have to purchase, listening to white noise dial-up as I logged onto my AOL account.  After that there wasn’t much to do besides sign into strange chat rooms and read the poetry of suicidal teens.  When boredom set in, I would turn to the computer Encyclopedia, which was at that point a breakthrough in multi-media: I could read Jimi’s bio and watch one 20 second clip of him performing “Mary.”

My high school days were strongly influenced my high school boyfriend, who introduced me to Tupac and Biggie – who I didn’t like at the time because it sounded like his words struggled to get past the fat in his neck and into the microphone.  Might it be known that a Parental Advisory treaty was made when my mom gave me the foul-mouthed version of Tupac as a Christmas present my freshman year.  DMX, OutKast, Dr. Dre and Eminem followed.

The first time I heard Eminem was leaving the parking lot of the Cheesecake Factory.  It was raining and my boyfriend had somehow scored a label-less demo from someone who knew someone who had a connection.  Once again, this was before the days of rampant internet bootlegging and pirating: a demo like this a rarity and truly sacred.  The first beats in “My Name Is” were something I had never experienced before.  It was so new, fresh, utterly and delightfully obnoxious.  I became a devotee.

When I arrived at college I was shocked by the breadth of knowledge my New Jersey roommate possessed about classic rock and other alternatives.  Her taste was far more developed and refined then my own: she had embraced Radiohead at a young age and loved Pearl Jam, she liked songs like “Night Swimming” and knew about Modest Mouse before I had even heard of them.  She spoke of being introduced to music by her parents, causing me to become disheartened because I essentially had eighteen years of learning to do.

To to be fair, my parents did provide me with a few, but visceral, memories in music.  Alana Miles “Black Velvet” reminds me of the parkay flooring behind our bar and the stacks of Atari games that existed there instead of bottles of booze.  Carol King “Tapestry” will always be associated with my mom.  Seal takes me back to a road trip with my dad and brother out to June Lake, eating Certs Mints until my stomach hurt and going for burgers at The Tiger Bar.  The Smashing Pumpkins song “1979” will always remind me of carpooling in Mom’s old brown leather Mercedes to the middle school, mostly because that’s what she says every time she hears the song.  The Cars “Greatest Hits” bring to mind dinners at my dad’s first trailer: he would make al fredo noodles and, later, my brother and I would share a blow up mattress in the living room even though there was a bedroom for us in the back; we just liked to listen to the waves crash off of the PCH.

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