The Pompitous of 1973

It all started back in the 5th Grade with Secret Valentines. Two weeks after the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, I started finding little Sweetheart candies on my school desk. Then on February 14th,  the big reveal came. MC had drawn my name out of the hat and he handed my present off to me in an embarrassed walk-by. It was a 45 – “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band. That record set off a month-long unrequited crush and an awakening to music’s power to incite and amplify emotions. I played that single to death while somewhere in the background, the troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were finished – making them briefly the world’s tallest buildings – and the Watergate hearings began. Only that third one really registered with me because it upset Grandpa so much. It also vindicated me after losing the class debate on the ’72 Presidential Election earlier in the fall. My attention was much more attuned to “Maurice” ‘cause  he spoke “of the pompitous of love” (whatever that meant). That was the first record in what would become a fairly large collection of vinyl.

If memory serves, I played my 45 on a portable record player in my own room. I don’t remember exactly how it looked, but while googling, this picture seemed most familiar to me, closest to my fuzzy recollections – especially those two white knobs on the front. Meanwhile, an exploration of our house had added two LP’s to my collection – the only two I found that weren’t classical music: “The Best of the Monkees” and the soundtrack to “Jesus Christ Superstar”. I played them to death. Secretariat won the Triple Crown and the Lakota people gave up their occupation of Wounded Knee with the government promising to investigate broken treaties, but I barely noticed. I wanted more. I wanted the stuff I was hearing on WKTI FM – the “non-stop stereo rock” station.

I had started the 6th Grade and the Vice-President had resigned, when I saw an ad on TV for “24 Golden Hits of 1973” and it was perfect. It had “Monster Mash” and “Superfly” and “Crocodile Rock” on it!! Amazingly my mother let me order it. (Possibly she was tired of hearing “The Joker” and Davey Jones?) When it arrived in the mail, I was so excited and then immediately deeply, deeply disappointed. Somehow I had missed the fact in the commercial that these weren’t the original songs. They were all covers done by a group called “The Sound Effects”. (To use my non-PC 1973 vocabulary): “What a gyp!”

 

I played that record to death.

And I began “appropriating” records from my brothers to grow my collection. Goodbye Pop Top 40, hello Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull.

By the time I was 13 or 14, Nixon was long gone, the world population had passed the 4 billion mark and Lucy’s discovery in Ethiopia had set its starting date back about 3 million years. I started to have a little mad money from babysitting, raking leaves, shoveling snow, etc. I had also stopped spending all of my allowance on Wacky Packages stickers and Bazooka bubble gum. One day, I finally did it. I entered a record store with the intention of actually buying something. The decision was excruciating, but I finally went for Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and the brand new Queen album – “A Night at the Opera”.  (“Hhmmm. Pretty good choices!” my later self would think 40 years in the future.)

From then on, music was a constant and continually changing companion. It helped me feel the world and helps me now to remember it. Every relationship got its theme song. Styx’s “Come Sail Away” will always evoke the basement of my high school house and the first boyfriend who lasted more than a few weeks, (now shrouded with an extra layer of sadness since the news of his suicide a few years ago.)  Toto’s “Hold the Line” still throws me back to my first real date – as in boy picks up girl in his dad’s car and gets grilled by the girl’s stepfather (who only looks mean) before driving her to a family restaurant with popcorn on the floor. Journey, Kansas, Genesis, Foreigner, The Cars, Kinks, Kings and Doors were some of my guides through the wild but romantically lean college years during which I scared away a succession of potential suitors by pointing out how their love of Bruce Springsteen contradicted their support for President Trickledown.  Later, a certain nameless artist’s now unmentionable song about violet precipitation remains the soundtrack to my one and only broken heart and still, 30 years later, makes me change the radio station went it comes on.

 

But it is not only romances I remember. Country music conjures the smell of the pine trees up in northern Wisconsin. Neue Deutsche Welle tastes like German wheat beer and pungent French filter-less cigarettes. Punk makes my shoes stick to the floor in an illegally occupied tenement turned even more illegal dancing bar. The sound of the accordion has me sitting in a cozy warm mountain lodge on a cold night sipping tea with schnapps. R.E.M. puts my first baby back in my arms. The fiddle wakes up ancestral memories stored in my DNA. Fusion Jazz tells me that my childhood is officially over. But never fear – a Davey Jones song can bring it back for a while if I ever need it to.

As I wrote a while back, my birthday present this year was the resurrection of long lost feelings and memories, raised from near-oblivion by the power of music – “the records of my past” in both meanings of the phrase. Something tells me this going-back-to-vinyl thing will be more than just a passing fancy. Last week I was in Graz and had some time on my hands before I had to catch my train. I googled record stores and actually found one. Here’s what my smile and I came home with:

Listening to these sometimes scratchy sounds takes me out of the present for a while, but while helping me with a dose of nostalgia, I also sense a faint and haunting echo.As the disc spins, it seems to me, here in 2017, that the world of 1973 has circled back on me – only now with its population doubled and its history slightly warped. There are big holes in the ground where the twin towers used to be, and yet, we are still living under their shadows. There’s another space cowboy/joker in the White House planning new onslaughts on Roe and the Lakota. There’s an old conflict in Southeast Asia ramping up just as the hearings on Watergate 2.0 begin. There is pompitous galore and the same old song being played to death.

 

Forgotten Boyfriend #1

 

Cringe-worthy – Part 5

 

First Best Austrian Friend and I once debated the greatest capacities of human nature. He said “love” and “tolerance” and I countered with “generosity” and “respect”. Love – or at least romantic love – I told him, was really a self-centered emotion at its core, not to mention the fact that it has been made trite through overuse. And tolerance was a downright arrogant attitude. “I tolerate you. I tolerate that your existence occurs simultaneously with my own.” Should one be grateful for being tolerated? That might be a good first step, but it is entirely insufficient to truly dismantling prejudice. No, people could do better than that.

I believe in kindness. I believe in giving what you can with no expectation of payback. And I believe that if someone reads this and thinks it is a bunch of sentimental crap and that the world doesn’t work this way, then he/she will have reasons and experiences to back that idea up and they are right. That’s where respect comes in. It doesn’t mean I will change my own views one iota.

I thought I was always this way – that it was in my nature – and that my upbringing and all the luck I have had in life simply reinforced my natural inclinations.  I thought I would get glimpses of this essential nature as I read through my childhood journals.

I didn’t.

On March 21st 1978 (at the ripe old age of 16) I wrote about a silly argument I had had with my boyfriend “C” at a party. (It should be noted here that I had since completely erased this boyfriend from my memory.)

Here’s March 22nd :

C. called me and apologized & I did too. We’re all made up. J
He was in a bad mood because he had just found out that his dad told his mom that after the divorce, (which coincidentally is on C’s birthday), he didn’t want any ties with that house. That is so shitty. C. & his dad are, or were, really close too. It hurt C. so much that he started to cry. The whole thing gets me sick. His family (except for the brother) is so shitty. It depresses me . . . .

journal-3

 

 

Life Lesson #21 – Philosophers Make Terrible Boyfriends

socrates

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

 

Good ol’ Socrates. Say what you want about him, but he supplied me with the closest thing I have to a life philosophy. It seems to me that the entire discipline (Philosophy – at least the “Western” part) started off well with him and went downhill from there. My life experiences have only tended to confirm that suspicion.

I dated a philosopher once and don’t recommend it.We were both studying in Freiburg at the time, so he was not only a Philosophy major, but a German one! Oh boy. When the romance started, all I knew was that I knew nothing. But that was okay. Our relationship was fairly Socratic with lots of dialogue and discovery. Unfortunately, it quickly turned more and more platonic. After a month or so he went all Descartes on me. You know – “I think (I’m right), therefore I am”. Then his Germanic roots started sprouting and Freud’s observations of 19th century repressed women became relevant. I started wondering what it was I really wanted. I think it was Schopenhauer who dealt the first truly fatal blow to our relationship. His views on women were so irrational with no sense of justice. I got tired of hearing them. The final pronouncement came with Nietzsche, of course. Love was dead. There was no more Truth to be discovered.

Which brings us full circle back to Socrates. So . . . what do you know?

Nothing.

But at least, now, you know that.