Dancing With Myself

I’ve no explanation as to why, but on a recent trip home from school, I found myself slamming down the 290 while Generation X’s version of “Dancing With Myself” came blasting – yes, turned all the way up to 11 – through my tinny car speakers. Speakers that are surprisingly resilient, considering how tinny in nature they are.

I had started the trip feeling rather overwhelmed – in addition to everything else, I am foolishly taking statistics this semester – and was in search of some sort of inspiration for my next post. The disc being played (A Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box Set, disc 3) was supposed to help, and considering that both mood and weather were rather dreary, I would’ve thought that it would have. But I was coming up blank. The disc that was supposed to inspire ended, and in went the next one in the queue, Generation X’s final effort, “Kiss Me Deadly.”

I’ve heard this album a million times before. I knew what song would be coming on first. And still, when the beginning “ba da da da dum de dum dum de dum” lofted through the small interior of my automotive cacoon, I found myself quickly turning up the volume while beating along on my steering wheel. Madly drumming, like some sort of mid-life crisised 43 year old caucasion suburbanite without a care in the world.

Without a care in the world…

That’s it. That’s why it hit me so forcefully. It was a song from back then. From the “not a care in the world days” of my youth. A time that, oddly, seemed simply chock full of cares right then and there. Cares, and drama, worries, strife and, well, “Life!” It wasn’t until years later that I could look back and see that most of the stress and concern from those days really could have been avoided or ignored, had I only the mental capacity and experience I have now. Obviously I realize that had I already possessed the knowledge obtained through my experiences back then, then I wouldn’t actually have said knowledge, as a result of simply not having the experience in the first. What? Oh, never mind, the Whovians who read this will get me. Everyone else can just skip that last bit.

Anwho, back to the song. That glorious, upbeat, in-your-face song. It’s important that you keep in mind that it was the Generation X version, or as they were called by then, “Gen X.” Yes, I fully realize that Billy Idol wrote the song. And I fully realize that he is the singer in both versions as well. But the Gen X version is stronger. More real. The Gen X version was performed by a bunch of kids trying to make something of themselves, vs. a kid recently signed to a somewhat major label that was controlling the strings. The Gen X version is drummed out forcefully by Terry Chimes. Yeah, the same Terry Chimes who had left The Clash to find a better gig. Think he was a touch pissed about his decision? Sure sounds like it here.

Now don’t worry, as I’ll end the post with the song any way, I won’t bore you with too many more of the musical details. But there is one more interesting point to the comparison of the two, especially for those of you who don’t listen through till the end. In Idol’s version, the song fades out. In the Gen X version, it ends. Just ends, plain and simple. A very punk rock idea. Songs end, they don’t fade out. Only record labels would think of that. Only record labels would be concerned with how their product could slide effortlessly into their next product, for the purpose of endless consumption. For the artist however (punk or otherwise), it’s more an idea of “finish the song, frame that bitch and slap it up on a wall for all the world to see – err – hear.” For the artist, it doesn’t need to “slide” into the next work of art, any more than The Mona Lisa slides into whatever painting has the dubious honor of being her next door neighbor. It can stand exactly where it is, survive and thrive on it’s own merit. The Generation X version has that attitude throughout. In it’s pace, it’s energy, it’s spirit and it’s ending. It says “hey, this isn’t a career,” (even though it was always Billy’s intent to make it so), “but rather this is everything. All we got. Our very spirit.”

“You’re reading too much into it, t.” Possibly. But for whatever reason, the last time I heard that song while in search of inspiration I realized that sometimes you don’t need to search. Sometimes you don’t need to think. Sometimes, all that’s required is that you turn it “up to 11,” beat the loving rubber out of your steering wheel and unleash. I can’t go back to those “without a care in the world” days (nor do I want to), but I can rest easy in the knowledge that these current times too, will someday be fondly remembered as relatively carefree and easy. And even then – in that not-so distant future – I’ll still be able to rock it out with Billy and the boys. I’ll just bruise a hell of a lot easier when I do.


See? I told ya that the post that replaced this one on Friday was way better.

10/24 memories of debauchery & stealth, of booze & brilliant plans

It’s that time of year again. That very special time when t-shirted Sundays turn into sweat-shirted sunsets. When the crisp air of evening holds onto the woodsy smell of burning fire pits, long after it has become the cold air of night. The time of year when almost any open field is turned into a “field of dreams” – the kind of dreams where you can’t get away from the monster pursuing you because your feet keep getting sucked into the wet earth beneath. The time of year when multitudes of high-school aged parents go on “little get aways” before the world dies for a spell, leaving behind their high-school aged children to fend for themselves.

Well, i’m supposing that that last part must be true, seeing as this is the time of year i seem to remember that the greatest number of “house parties” were held while we were growing up. It may (not) come as a surprise that parties of this variety were not allowed in our house under any circumstance – but since my R.C. parents never trusted us to be alone any way – such parties occurring proved impossible on even an logistical level. What’s more, my parents were not the type to allow us to go to these parties either – for their usual fear of our being subjected to booze, sex and debauchery run amok. A fear that, unlike that pertaining to concerts, turned out to be justified. And i know this because as my little brother and i grew into “manhood”, we resolutely determined that the ban on house parties was not only unfair, but unenforceable – should a brilliant plan be created to beat it. This is a story resulting from one such plan.

Being in a single story 3 bedroom house can be very much akin to living in the prison cell directly next to the guard house. The doors to each of the three bedrooms faced each other two to one, in that uncomfortably close fashion that made every “wake up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water” moment a painstakingly long, floor-board squeaking process that was sure to wake at least one other member of the family. My brother and i, however, knew that our plan to “escape” the ban on house parties would not involve walking in the hall, so we were safe. What the plan did involve was all of us going to bed as expected, weary-eyed and pajama-clad, without even a mention of the really awesome party that a truly awesome person was holding at their awesomely parent-free house. A party that would be attended by simply every awesome person the school had to offer. A party that we needed to be at too.

Once in bed, we would wait. Quietly. Patiently. Without breath and without movement. And we would sit stock still – watching the hands on our clocks tick slowly by. At least 15 minutes, but sometimes more. Since mom and dad were (what seemed at the time) around 200 years old each, it didn’t take too long for the sandman to steal them away. When we felt the time was right, we would each low-crawl up to our door and, slowly opening them just enough, quickly blink at each other with our flashlights – the signal which indicated that it was “Go” time. Since my little brothers door faced my parents room, he was the first to give thumbs up. Once received, we would dress while lying on the floor, and then meticulously create and stuff our beds with dummies made out of rolled up clothing (to take our place, should a bleary-eyed midnight bathroom break parent peer in). Then slowly – and ever so quietly – we would lower our outside screens to the ground. From there, it was only one quiet jump – a quick run ’round the house to meet at the front – and away we went, on our merry way. On foot, of course.

We went to many awesome parties in such a fashion. And in addition to having awesome times, awesome drama, awesome face sucking and boob grabbing, we became awesomely drunk at almost all of them. To this day i honestly can not tell you how we managed to stealthily get back into our rooms (especially considering the fact that from the outside, you had to jump – drunkenly, complete with dog chain necklace and bike chain belt – to reach the sill) without getting caught. i can tell you however, that there was one time that we did not. The last time, in fact.

i can’t remember who’s party it was, but i remember it was one of the better ones. We came slinking in as always and were well on our way to our own beds, each in his own room – in a fashion very similar to that of the Grinch as he slithers through the houses of the Who’s. But this time, it wasn’t Little Betty Lou Who who woke up – it was my mom. And this time, a glass of milk and a pat on the head would simply not suffice. We had both heard her get up, each of us in our own rooms, and we both knew that we could get through this, if we only played it smart. To my benefit, our older brother was home on leave at the time, and boarding with me – so it took only seconds for me to squirrel myself directly under my sill and behind his bed before mom opened my door and looked in upon himself and me. Well, “me” at any rate. Painstaking moments went by breathlessly, and once she closed the door, i double-timed it to my bed and thrust my dummy to the floor. My heart slammed against my ribs as i quietly removed my party gear and slid back into my weary-eyed pajamas. My heart pounded so loudly that i almost failed to hear my mom calling my younger brothers name – firm and quiet at first, but louder and more panicked with each instance. And then it occurred to me – why would she be calling his name when she didn’t call mine? How did he get caught when i didn’t? And here’s the thing – he technically didn’t get caught either. He got invaded.

Turns out, the dummy trick worked twice. And too well in the second instance. When mom opened my brothers door, she saw him sleeping in much the same fashion that she saw me. And then she looked up to see the silhouette of a strange man, standing stock still behind my brothers curtain. The curtain that resided in front of the window. The very window that was permitting all the moonlight into my brothers room – well, all the moonlight except for the area where my brother was standing, behind the curtain, stock still. He must have realized upon his name being called the third time that the jig was up, and he rather sheepishly came out from behind the curtain to face his punishment.

I can’t remember the full scope of it, but i do recall that it involved a grounding that even a hermit would find oppressive. And, never one to be blamed for not taking things much too far, my dad also nailed my brothers windows shut.

A punishment that stood until he had graduated from high school.

My little brother never did blow me in though, and i never did sneak out again. i wouldn’t do it without him, since being with him was the best part of the whole thing in the first place. i mean, what’s an evening of debauchery and drunken boob grabbing if you don’t have anyone to share the memories with? Memories that seem to bubble to the surface every year now, when the air turns cold and the smell of burning wood wafts along the evening breeze. Memories that are cherished, and ones that i hope you didn’t mind my sharing with you today.