woodstock & other crap revisited
Not long ago, I found myself shit drunk in a bar downtown with some waifish slacker lamenting that there was no new music that touched him the way Dylan, the Beatles and Jim Morrison did. When I told him that I viewed Morrison and the Lennon sisters with no small degree of passionate indifference, the kid, all of 21, 22 years old, freaked. Another time, another place, this mop-headed, classic rock-brainwashed pseudo-rebel might've been a buzz-cut fratboy callin me a comminist, for here I was, oblivious to the gray haze that passes for the American collective consciousness.
Nostalgia has become this so-called society's great equalizer. Baseball, pop music, World Cup-mania--sure, they all qualify as factors in the gross facade with which upper middle class pundits and advertising executives seek to qualify the country as a united, shining bastion of pluralism and keep the hoi poloi wishing upon the star of consumer excess. But the measure of how completely bereft Americans are of salient, vital cultural identity is their obsession with proverbial Good Ol Days. We've got direct response ads not just for 70s, but now 80s "best of" compilations that feature such gems as "Hey Mickey" and, I don't know, stuff by the Cars and Talking Heads. Hangdogs 18th century literature advisor David Liss reports an interaction with a few Columbia Uers facing shitty job prospects and nostalgic for not just the 80s but the Reagan Era, wherein people invested on whim and the groundless winks of an Oval Office geriatric and created a bristling groundless shortterm economy, chock full of shortterm jobs and shortterm management posts above them, that all collapsed in 1987. Now we have this Woodstock 94 thing, accountants, bankers and pr execs schlepping upstate to celebrate the days when peace, love and dope saved the world from accountants, bankers and pr execs. But for those of you who missed the 60s, like myself, here's a little historical perspective: the hippies who infested the hills outside Bethel had little to do with the political firestorm that threatened--vainly, it turned out--to overthrow a corporate-controlled, war-mongering, oligarchic geritochracy, seeing as how hippies by definition were a-political. The "Happy Days," by the way, were ones of rampant political and social oppression--McCarthy, Hoover, grade school etiquette films--and the 70s went marred by, well, the 70s. The Good Ol Days don't exist, just selective memory.
Maybe rock n roll did change the world, simply by creating the notion of an independent youth culture, but it happened in 1954 and was dead by the time Elvis made his first race-car movie and Pat Boone recorded "Blue Suede Shoes." Now we've got slackers reminiscing somebody else's adolescence, because its easier than facing down the real world that Woodstock didn't do shit to change and slackers are too wussy to change themselves. Damn, bitch, if you're not going to have a life, at least don't have your own.
Christmas Like the folks in my town always used to say, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can fool Jed Lehrmann just by using gramatically correct sentences. Which, I guess, in hindsight, was why we always stole shit from Jed.
Whenever the holiday season rolls around, I think back on it with some wistfulness, that period in my life of snow-days and Rockwellian barbers meting out ungodly Davey Jonesesque haircuts that made your shirt itch for a week and grocers who cared about superintelligent mutant produce. Mainly that is because I am now deeply in debt, faced with spending yet more money to prove my love to my loved ones in the form of material trappings that will one day end up in a landfill further polluting this doomed orb, and economically burdened by a moral conscience that precludes me from lifting stuff larger than toilet-paper rolls from the Gas N Sips we pass on that great Rock n Roll Road that ribbons America. (I should here relate to members of my family who are on the mailing list that, if you get industrial-sized stock-keeping units of toilet paper for Christmas from me, I will have paid for them.) Still, Christmas is something special to this goy. It's the angst and social ambiguity of a foreign environment occupied by genetic intimates. It's the walk down to that one neighborhood crazyhead's house who's got enough decorations on his lawn to light up Zimbabwe, there to quietly plot how to get on camera and say "fuck" on the remote broadcast that the local idiot TV news do on the cupidic display every goddam year. It's a celebration of miracles, miracles that happen every day, the birth of a child, the effects of yeast and time on water and grain, Agent Scully.
And y'know, folks, I guess that's why I spend most my holidays holed up drunk in a cheap motel with a hooker, waiting for the cops to show up. Merry Christmas, everybody!