It Hardly Matters

Monday, March 12, 2007

I Love Rock and Roll

I'm weeping. Over the 2007 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony being held at this very moment at the Waldorf Astoria. I love to imagine Ronnie Spector and Patty Smith and Michael Stipe and Grandmaster Flash and whoever the hell is going to show up from Van Halen (not Dave or Eddie, we know that much) getting drunk backstage and talking smack and maybe even tearing up a little. It's a big, commercial, musical lovefest, and I'm loving every second of it.

Van Halen is one of my favorite bands. Mostly because they were the favorite band of my three best friends in junior high: the boys. The boys were in a little band of their own, Addiction, that rehearsed in one of their attics. They were a fearless threesome, drums, lead guitar, and vocals. One of them had printed out a banner in computer class: ADDICTION in zeros and ones on oversized, perforated 1980s printer paper, which hung over the drumset. It was hung there so that when they made VHS tapes of themselves performing, people wouldn't mistake them for the actual Van Halen.

I was one of the only girls allowed up in the attic. After a while, they even let me sing the "Hey Hey Hey!" part on "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love." I never told them this, but that was pretty much the greatest thing I did in seventh grade. I was in the band. For five minutes, but still. Up close, I got to see Dan tap out the guitar solos, Bret do the work of Alex and Mike by drumming and singing backup vocals, and Diamond Jay leap around doing his best Diamond Dave impression, minus the mesh bodysuit.

Only Mike Anthony and Sammy Hagar showed up tonight. Eddie's in rehab, Dave refused to show, and Alex is lost in the Bermuda Triangle or something. Mike and Sammy played "Why Can't This Be Love" with Paul Schaeffer and his brass-laden band, which was pretty painful. Then Velvet Revolver covered "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love." At the "Hey Hey Hey!" part, I was transported back to the attic, and I couldn't help but think that the boys sounded just as good.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Live, from Springfield

There's a VHS tape labeled "Family" that sits in my parents' entertainment center. It was filmed in 1987, when my dad borrowed a 30-pound video camera recently purchased by the Springfield College Athletic Department in order to record basketball games and gymnastics meets. He was the Assistant Athletic Director, so was allowed to take this newfangled toy home for a weekend. It was larger than our dog, and had a gold plaque screwed to its dull grey side on which was etched "Property of the Springfield College Department of Athletics." As my dad lugged the awkward camera through the front door, looking like a member of the Channel 22 Eyewitness News Team, my sister and I, aged 8 and 12, leapt from the couch, our squeals mixing with dog barks and the banging of the screen door. We had a VCR and a Commodore 64, but this was a whole new technological adventure. Now we can be on TV! I thought.

As soon as the initial excitement wore off, we went to work on our scripts. All of us: me, Kim, Mom, and Dad. We decided that a Saturday Night Live format would suit our creative vision best, and began brainstorming story arcs, characters, and musical numbers. We were going to be stars.

Because the camera was school property, only Dad was allowed to touch it. We watched, fascinated, as he set up the tripod, hoisted the camera onto his shoulder, then gingerly screwed it onto the mount for some steady-cam action. My mother, my sister, then busied ourselves with setting up the mis en scene for our first skit: a scene in which I adopted a Mr. Roger-like demeanor and welcomed special guests, including my sister as Mrs. McFeeley, and her special delivery: the dog. My mother sang the theme song from behind the camera, where she functioned as the director of cinematography. "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood..."--you know the rest.

The camera had to go back to the Athletic Department on Monday, so we had to pack all of our ideas into two days of a creative-binge and-purge session. The rest of the skits included a piano recital by my sister, a saxophone recital from me (cringe), a lesson in dog grooming starring my mother, the dog, a wire brush, and a pack of cigarettes, my dad (Ray) lip-synching to Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" wearing a sports jacket and a determined expression as my sister and I (the "Ray-ettes") danced behind him, a thrilling demonstration of my science project (a question-and-answer circuit box I had thrown together), and a highly embarrassing solo dance number to Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" by yours truly.

The "Family" tape was clearly a work of inspired genius, a synergy of genetic talent (think of the Wainwright/McGarrigle clan, or the Barrymores, or the Zappas) that had been festering for years with no outlet only to be unleashed all at once for our adoring public: ourselves. What was captured that weekend was not only an hour of material that could be used to extort four people for the rest of their lives, but also the fun that those four people had together, despite being related. I'm sure the Springfield College gymnastics meets were compelling, but I bet that our weekend with that camera was the most fun it ever saw.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

For Fun: 1993

special advance cassette.

yes, I'm wearing black chunky shoes.

Bimbo's, San Francisco.

Thanks to Milk Milk Lemonade. Rock on, people.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

iPod I Ching

Fine, I'll do it too.

1. How does the world see me?

Freaky Black Greetings, Mos Def

2. Will I have a happy life?

The Red Lagoon, Devendra Banhart

3. What do my friends really think of me?

All Mixed Up, The Cars

4. Do people secretly lust after me?

Please Apply Yourself To Me Sweetly, Phantom Planet

5. How can I make myself happy?

Not Right, The Stooges

6. What should I do with my life?

Supernova, Liz Phair

7. Will I ever have children?

Hair, PJ Harvey

8. What is some good advice for me?

Creep, Radiohead

9. How will I be remembered?

Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang, Dr. Dre

10. What is my signature dancing song?

Reno Dakota, The Magnetic Fields

11. What do I think my current theme song is?

Area, De La Soul

12. What does everyone else think my current theme song is?

Overjoyed, Stevie Wonder

13. What song will play at my funeral?

A Head With Wings, Morphine

14. What type of men do I like?

I Walk The Earth, King Biscuit

15. What is my day going to be like?

Use Me, Bill Withers

Now you know everything about me. No comment. (Except #9: yes!)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Nothing Better

You know it's a smashup Valentine's Day when at 9:10 pm you are rudely awoken by an MTA employee repeatedly screaming "Please leave the train!" through the loudspeaker of the Metro-North from White Plains. You cuddle into the seat a bit more, for warmth, thinking it's all a dream, then realize that you are indeed cuddled into a Metro-North train seat and everyone else has abandoned the train for Grand Central. Yes, you are the sleeping person on the train. And they want your ass off.

Your eyes pop open and you leap as gracefully as an elephant with an inner ear problem from your seat, clutching your 20-pound schoolbag and muttering "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry" to no one in particular. You lurch off the train and your feet hurry along the platform, unused to moving in this particular way, like an untalented skier ejected from a ski lift.

A few minutes into this perambulation, you begin to understand that you are going to have to suffer through the two-train subway ride home while trying to push an overwhelming urge to vomit out of your esophagus. You kind of cry. The lingering taste of the free gourmet potato chips and pomegranate-flavored vodka martinis you consumed for the last three hours hangs stubbornly in your mouth. I can do this. Just keep moving.


It had snowed that day. Well, it had iced. Me and my fellow graduate writing students at Sarah Lawrence had fought through delayed trains, unplowed snowdrifts, and ice pellets that caused minor facial lacerations to get to our morning classes, after which we were informed that the rest of the day's classes were cancelled. Most students left for the comfort of their sofas, calling taxis to get them back to the train station. My friend Melissa and I had meetings with our professors, though, and had to stay on campus. So we decided that we'd get a drink up in Bronxville as soon as our meetings were over (we had originally planned to go to a poetry reading that night, but the poet was stuck in Virginia, airports closed because of the storm). We had nothing better to do that night.

We got a cab to downtown Bronxville, entered "the fancy place" in town, and ordered two fancy drinks at the bar. We were the only customers and the only women in the restaurant. The handlebar-mustachioed bartender and the Italian owner took a shine to us and brought us chicken dumplings on the house. Around 6:30, during our second round, the couples started arriving, women in turtlenecks clutching single roses wrapped in cellophane followed by men with slicked back hair and expensive overcoats, here for an indulgent Valentine's Day dinner. Here we go, we said, and rolled our eyes.

Melissa and I laughed and clinked our glasses, happily slipping into the minority of the clientele. We didn't need an expensive dinner with an expensive guy, just expensive drinks and good conversation with a like-minded writer chick. We were on a date with our new lives. It was the best Valentine's Day I'd had in a long time. Maybe ever.

Until the train part.