Tag Archives: high school

Just for One Day.

For me, it went like this.

At 10:30, I turned off my bedroom light and got into bed.  For reasons beyond my immediate comprehension, I saw pink, winged ponies when I shut my eyes.  The sight of them was strange, yet strangely comforting.  I soon fell asleep.

At 11:25 (or what must have been right around 11:25), I woke up to go to the bathroom.  When I got back to my room, I saw that my phone was, as the kids say, blowing up.  Three different people had sent me text messages.  14 text messages.

I opened one.  It said, “Bowie. Gone.”

At that moment, I was only about 3/4 of the way conscious.  What was my friend trying to say?  Was he up late listening to old Bowie records and feeling reflective?  Was he so blown away by Low he felt his mind was “Gone”?  Did he really hate Blackstar?

I remembered I had 13 other texts to read.  Then I woke up.

I have 14 texts because people are trying to tell me that David Bowie is dead. 

I opened up another message.  It was a group text.  Two of my closest friends and I have been babbling to each other via text about anything and everything nearly every day for several years.  All three of us love using caps lock.

“ARE YOU HEARING THE REPORTS THAT DAVID BOWIE DIED.  I’M REALLY FUCKED UP RIGHT NOW.”

I Googled it.  BBC News confirmed it.  I gasped.  Loudly.  Then I heard my name from the other room.

“Steff?”

One of my roommates came to my door.  I joined her in the hallway.  She had just read the news on social media.  “I heard the noise from your room and figured you just got the news,” she said.  I looked up at the wall and saw the sepia print I bought in San Francisco 10 years ago of Bowie and Lou Reed looking rather friendly.  I’m not a religious person, but I do love the idea of happy reunions.

david_bowie_ziggy_lou_reed_kiss

I sat back down on my bed and contemplated staying up all night.  I wasn’t even sad yet; I just knew I was in for a long one.  At this point I was wide awake, but I felt like I was dreaming.

My phone rang.  Another friend had heard.

It was at this friend’s house that I first saw Labyrinth.  We were 10 or 11 and Bowie’s crotch had completely taken over our slumber party.  We returned that VHS to Blockbuster pretty damn worn.  Years later, we traded in Labyrinth for Moulin Rouge! and sang “Elephant Love Medley” with the sort of crazed abandon that can only be produced by teenage girls, particularly those who are hopelessly in love with a significantly older, married celebrity.  Aw, Ewan McGregor.  “We can he heroes / forever and ever.”

courtesy of 8tracks.com

courtesy of 8tracks.com

I picked up the call.  I didn’t even say “hello.”  I just said, “Dude.”

“I’m sorry.  I hope I’m not waking you up.”

“You’re not.”

“Do you know why I’m calling?”

“Yes.”

We expressed our mutual shock and confusion.  Then there were a few more moments of, “Dude” and “I know” and “What the FUCK, man?”

“We both got to see him live,” I reminded her.

“Yes, we did get to do that.”

My friend started to cry.  I was numb.

“I’m still in disbelief,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I don’t know.  I just…I never met him or anything, but…he was just always around.  I associate him with, ya know, with you guys.”

I thought about the time my mom drove a group of us to San Francisco for spring break.  We were in 11th grade.  The minivan broke down at one point just outside San Luis Obispo.  As my mom waited by the van for roadside assistance, my friends and I stood on the side of the highway.  Arm-in-arm, the five of us sang “Ziggy Stardust” at maximum volume.

“I know,” I told my friend.  “I get it.”

We talked about our concern for a friend of ours who had undoubtedly gone to bed before the news broke, and how unfair it was that she was going to wake up in the morning and find out her hero had died.  Eventually, our conversation reached a lull.

“Ok,” said my friend, “I’m just gonna listen to Bowie and cry some more.  Goodnight.  I love you.”

“I love you so, so much.”

I hung up.  I thought about when my friend and I first watched Trainspotting.  We were 14.  Frickin’ Ewan McGregor.  We knew literally nothing about the movie besides the fact our loverman was the star.  Christ.  We struck gold that day.  How often do you fall in love with an actor and then learn — by accident — he’s notorious for getting naked in his movies?  What luck.  We rewound that tape like we were two 10-year-olds watching Labyrinth, only this time there was no mystery.

What was that song, though?  The one from the opening credits?  And what was that song from the scene were Renton ODs and sinks into the floor at the Mother Superior’s house?  Those questions haunted me so much I went out and bought a copy of the soundtrack.  The song I fell in love with was Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.”

“How’d you learn about Lou?” my dad asked me one evening.

“From the Trainspotting soundtrack.”

“You saw Trainspotting?”

“…No.”

“Have you listened to any Velvet Underground?” he asked.

“No.”

“Look for them next time you go to download songs off the internet.”

That was the moment dad officially became my guide.  He played me Lou’s Berlin for the first time and told me it was the perfect thing to listen to when you’re depressed.  He played me weird Iggy Pop songs and drove me to a little record store one afternoon and bought me a copy of London Calling.  He put on New Order one slow Saturday night and we danced our hearts out to “Temptation.”  For Christmas I was given a small turntable and I fiendishly raided his record collection.

One night he came into my room and handed me his copy of Marianne Faithful’s Broken English.  “Put this on next time you really feel like you hate men,” he said.

I was just a bit proud of myself when I picked up a copy of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars from the Sam Goody in the Thousand Oaks Mall.  I was 15.  It was the summer before 10th grade, and I was desperate for a distraction from my assigned reading.  I had already spent half the vacation listening to Raw Power — David Bowie seemed like the next logical step on my teenage rock and roll adventure.

Is there a stranger opening track than “Five Years”?  And what’s with the aliens?  And what exactly is a “rock and roll suicide”?  I had no answers, but I still felt like I had found the key to everything.  (Take that, Aldous Huxley.)

The day after I turned 16, my dad played me “Life on Mars?”  He called it, “One of the most beautiful rock and roll songs ever recorded.”  A little over a year later, he took me and two friends to see Bowie in concert, where he sang “Life on Mars?”  Beautiful, indeed.  So beautiful, in fact, that I stopped doing my homework for a good month and a half.  I had no time for homework — I was too busy listening to Bowie and perfecting my eye shadow technique.

Wait, wait, “Life on Mars?”?  That was it — that was the song I needed to play to begin mourning Bowie!

I jumped off my bed and ran to the corner of my room to plug in my ancient turntable.  I queued up the song, turned up the volume, and stood in the middle of my room waiting for the deluge.  I was ready.

Bowie sounded like a robot that was powering down for the night.  Was the speed wrong?  I tinkered with the settings.  Nothing worked.  I turned off the turntable and crawled into bed and listened to the song on my iPhone.  It wasn’t the same.  I cursed the modern world and I did not cry.

This morning was a flurry of texts and facebook messages.  Everyone was sad and no one was ready.  We reminisced about important moments of our teen-hood for which Bowie was cosmically present: driving through Topanga Canyon on a Saturday afternoon; convincing our theater teacher to play “Let’s Dance” during our annual holiday play; improvising an interpretive dance to “Space Oddity” in my parents’ driveway.  I sat at my desk at work and answered text messages and read opinion pieces and news briefs and wondered how one person could inspire so many.

I was clad in black from head-t0-toe, but I still hadn’t cried.

My phone beeped.

It was dad.  He had sent me a YouTube link.  “From the tour we saw,” he said.  “I’m getting a little choked up as I’m remembering you and your friends holding hands and crying to this song.”  As I listened, I, too, became a little choked up, but there was no time for real tears.  Not at work.

I’m home now.  I’m sitting on my bed in my pajamas and I’m looking at the clock wondering how I managed to stay up this late.  I’ve been in this exact situation before — up past my bedtime feeling too wired to sleep and too tired to relax and too anxious about everything I’m doing and not doing — and it’s actually nights like these where Bowie sounds the best.  I couldn’t say exactly why —  maybe something to do with the night sky increasing a spaceship’s visibility.  Perhaps I’ll sleep with my blinds open.

Thanks, Ewan.

Thanks, Lou.

Thanks, dad.

Thanks, Bowie.

Finally — tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Scuzzy Sons-of-Bitches Who Light Up My Life Part IV: Jim Morrison

John or Paul?

Jim.

Mick or Keith?

Jim.  With all due respect.

Page or Plant?

::Yawn::  

Jim.

 Hendrix or Clapton?

I want “Bold As Love” to be played at my wedding, and I don’t even want to hear “Sunshine of Your Love” at my funeral.  

Anyway, Jim.

 Cream or The Who? 

Go away.

Beatles or Stones?

Doors.  

Scuzzy Son-Of-A-Bitch #4:

 Jim Morrison

My Black Clad Leather Patronus

(2003)

Part One

“C’mon people, don’t ya look so down 
You know the rain man’s comin’ ta town
Change the weather, change your luck
And then he’ll teach ya how ta…find yourself “
 

My Jim Morrison idolization began on a hot afternoon in August, 2003.  It was the last day of summer vacation, I was sixteen, and I was about to make out with my new boyfriend for the second time.  It had only been 24 hours since our first kiss, and due to our youth and lack of experience (and, perhaps, to his Catholicism), we decided that one make out session equalled monogamy.  Despite our official relationship status, I was a bit nervous about that afternoon’s proposed itinerary, and my nervousness only increased when my boyfriend suggested we put on some music.  I sat down on his couch, and he began browsing through his record collection.  Of course I knew that the music selection ritual was a prelude to hormonal teenage madness, and while that delighted me, it terrified me just the same.  In my opinion, it was awkward enough that we both knew we were about to make out — why prolong that in-between phase of the process?  How was I supposed to act?  Seductive?  Casual?  What if he lost interest during his hunt for the perfect tunes?  What if he forgot what we were there to do?  What if he didn’t like the way I looked sitting on his couch?   Should I strike a pose?  I wondered.

After a few minutes he held up a record that had a dark reddish brown and yellowish gold cover.  “All right, herewego.  The Doors,” he said, pulling the record out of the sleeve.   He looked at me, and I feigned approval.  The truth was I hadn’t listened to The Doors since I was in 8th grade and wanted to listen to some “cool” music while I did my math homework.  For as much as I enjoyed “Break On Through,” I soon had to turn off the music and concentrate on pre-algebra.  Naturally, I didn’t bother telling him this — I didn’t want to say anything that might make him second guess his selection.  Plus, I had only been his girlfriend for 24 hours; it was too early to start losing my allure.

He admired the record for a second, and then, all of a sudden, he looked up at the ceiling and said, “Of course we bow down to you, Jim Morrison, in all your rock and roll glory.” He put the record on the player, set the needle down, and turned up the volume.  It was “L’america” — track one, side two of L.A. Woman.  Four minutes and thirty-eight seconds later, he skipped “Hyacinth House” and went straight to “Crawling Kingsnake.”  Whether this action was sickeningly smooth or just plain sickening is up for debate.  Either way, it worked; too well.  In the midst of all that was happening, I found myself wondering if my parents had any Doors vinyl at home.

When “Riders On The Storm” had long since ended and I arrived back at my house, I went straight for my dad’s record shelf.  Sandwiched between Donovan and The Dream Academy was the dark reddish brown and yellowish gold record.  I pulled it off the shelf and brought it upstairs to my room, where it remained for many, many years.


Something had shifted, and I knew it.  After that day, there was no going back.  I devoured the entire Doors catalogue with the kind of voracity that only a 16-year-old girl is capable of.  Soon, the aviator sunglasses showed up; then the boots.  I’d leave my hair wavy not because I was lazy, but because I realized I actually liked the way it looked unkempt.

For me, Jim Morrison’s music (and I say “Jim Morrison’s music” because it was Jim Morrison who made the music matter) was the perfect soundtrack for adolescence — dark, flawed, and endlessly libidinous.  When I felt fantastic I’d put on “Roadhouse Blues,” and when I felt like killing someone I’d put on “The End.”  This is not to say that Jim was the first musical artist to speak to my tortured teenage soul; for example, my first two years of high school would have been Hell without Lou Reed.  Still, there was something about listening to “Not to Touch The Earth” on a bad day that resonated with me in ways that made the second side of Berlin seem irrelevant.  For as much as I loved Lou’s weirdness, I needed Jim’s ferocity.  After all, I was a straight edged 16-year-old living in suburbia; a savage hero was a necessity.  

Part 2

“When the music is your special friend
Dance on fire as it intends
Music is your only friend
Until the end” 
 

While Jim’s premature death automatically made him a rock and roll legend, that does not appropriately explain his allure.  What it comes down to is the fact that even while he was alive, he was something of a supernatural being.  What other popular musician — and I mean Tiger Beat popular — sang about patricide?  And “dead President’s corpses”?  And horses being blinded with whips?  And dared to ask, “What have we done to the earth?” It takes guts to willingly scare the Hell out of your fans, and to do it without the use of fake blood or creepy masks or lighting effects, well, that’s just genius.  So much of Jim’s music is dark, and when it isn’t dark it’s twisted.

There are, of course, some safer Doors compositions.  Even when they’re safe, though, they’re not that safe.  “Light My Fire,” which was originally brought to the table by Robby Krieger, is one of the most well-known Doors songs.  Just because it is popular, however, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have teeth.  Jim added a verse to the song that rhymes  “wallow in the mire” with “funeral pyre” (From Wikipedia: A pyre (Greek: πυρά, pyrá, from πυρ, pýr, fire), also known as a funeral pyre, is a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite. As a form of cremation, a body is placed upon the pyre, which is then set on fire), and his delivery is nothing short of primal.  When Jim wails, “TRY TO SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE,” there’s nothing safe about it.  He’s not just asking you to light his fire, he’s demanding it; who knows what he’ll do if he doesn’t get his way?

His seduction power, his theatricality, his animalistic passion — THIS is what gives The Doors staying power.  THIS is what sets Jim apart from other notable front men.  THIS…  ::sigh::

 

 Although it may feel like it was only yesterday, my junior year of high school was a long time ago.  I may not be 16 anymore, but I still wear big black boots, I still hate hair products, and I still love Jim Morrison.   I still look forward to the day I can listen to “The Unknown Solider” without feeling angry, I still recite “The Movie” to myself when I’m sitting in dark theaters, and I still listen to “When The Music’s Over” while I’m driving around at night.   Sometimes, I wonder what my world would be like if Jim were still alive.  Maybe he would have graced the cover of Rolling Stone one more time.  Maybe he would have had a minor role in Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.  Maybe he would have written a book.  And Lord knows, his take on George W. Bush’s presidency would have been priceless.  Would The Doors be worth seeing live?  Would Jim be giving Mick a run for his money?

For as phenomenal as it would be to hear Jim mutter, “Fuck George Bush” on national television, I have no illusions about the situation.  Jim was an alcoholic and a drug user, and everything I’ve read about him suggests that he had some kind of chemical imbalance (phrases such as “Manic Depressive Disorder” and “Bipolar Disorder” weren’t spoken as trippingly on the tongue during the 1960’s). Yet, somehow, by some miracle, Jim’s legacy is nothing but rockin’.  The image of him in tight leather pants will always overshadow the image of him in his puffy latter-days, and he will always be a vibrant young superstar and never a washed up burnout.  The fact that I will never see him live is overshadowed by the fact that I will also never have to watch him perform a painful rendition of “Touch Me” on American Idol.  As my younger brother said to me when we watched Bob Dylan mumble his way through his set list at the Santa Monica Civic in 2008, “It’s moments like this when I realize it’s better that Morrison’s dead.”  Yes, he’s dead, but he’s not dead dead.  He was so full of life he never really died.

Epilogue

“It hurts to set you free
But you’ll never follow me…”
 

One Sunday night in November of 2004, I sat down at my desk to fill out my University of California application.  At that point, I wasn’t completely sure where I wanted to go to college.  To be frank, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go at all.  Why move away?  Why leave all the people I loved?  More importantly, why move away and leave all the people I loved just to go to school?  I didn’t understand it.  To me, all college represented was “Goodbye,” and that was torture.

I got through the “Name, Age, Social Security Number” crap in record time, and then, suddenly, I was face-to-face with an essay assignment.  TWO essay assignments.  The first essay was only supposed to be around 200 words, and the prompt was so simple I don’t even remember what I wrote.  After I finished the first assignment, the doorbell rang.  When I opened the door, no one was there.  I looked down at the ground, and sitting on my doormat was a chocolate bar, a white envelope, and a Doors pin.  Inside the envelope was a note that said:

 “This fine European chocolate reminded me of your fine European figure.  
I hope Mr. Morrison keeps you warm on this cold evening.”
 

I smiled.  I knew my boyfriend had left me the present, but not because of the flattering note.  The Doors was still our band.  When I got back inside I read the note again, and, quite suddenly, the idea of going away to college seemed ten times as miserable.

Reluctantly, I went back to my room and sat at my desk.  The second essay prompt was glowing on my computer screen:

Open-ended

Rationale: This question seeks to give students the opportunity to share important aspects of their schooling or their lives — such as their personal circumstances, family experiences and opportunities that were or were not available at their school or college — that may not have been sufficiently addressed elsewhere in the application.

• Is there anything you would like us to know about you or your academic record that you have not had the opportunity to describe elsewhere in this application?

I was flabbergasted.  “Is there anything you would like us to know about you or your academic record“?  This pissed me off.  Me OR my academic record?  In my opinion, those were two very different things.  What had I not “had the opportunity to describe elsewhere in this application”?  The application asked for my email address, my nationality, and my GPA — none of those things were a reflection of the real ME.  Just who the Hell did these UC people think they were?

I was so angry I could scream.  I was about to spend a decent amount of my precious time trying to convince people I already hated that they should let me into one of their disgusting establishments.  I took a deep breath, unwrapped that bar of fine European chocolate, and took a bite.   When I was ready, I placed my hands back on the keyboard and let loose:

Before I sink
Into the big sleep
I want to hear
I want to hear
The scream of the butterfly  

The End?

      

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