Tag Archives: lou reed

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“But why are the kids crying?!”

“How can Rick be dead when we still have his poems?”

That’s the attitude I try to have when it comes to the death of someone I loved, yet never met.

In 2013, I lost three of my best friends.  The news was devastating every time.  Did I know them personally?  No.  And yes.  And not really.  And very well.

Why did I consider them my friends?  All of them had just, I dunno — all of them had gotten me through so many confusing, shitty, or just plain boring times.  I hope I don’t sound too crazy when I say that.  I’ve never stalked anyone and I understand the difference between fantasy and reality, but yeah, these people meant a lot to me.  They still mean a lot to me.  I can call them my “friends” if I want.  And I was sad when my friends made their exits.

Still, the question remains: “How can Rick be dead when we still have his poems?”

Lou Reed?  He ain’t dead.  He can’t be.  I still love him very much and I still have “Sweet Jane,” so nothing has changed.

James Gandolfini isn’t dead, either, and neither is Tony Soprano.  (My theory, anyway.)

Peter O’Toole.  My dearest, darling Peter O’Toole.  The coolest.  The smartest.  The hottest.  The craziest.  That voice.  That height.  That hair.  I think about him all the time and I miss him all the time, and yet, as long as I can get together with my friends every December and laugh and cry and yell and drink champagne while watching The Lion in Winter, Peter O’Toole can never die.

This morning, as soon as I got to work and turned on my computer, I found out that Rik Mayall died.  Today.  Rik Mayall died today.  Weird.  So very weird.  And sad.  He was still, well, young…

Just last week, I was listening to The Pogues and wondering when Shane MacGowan would die.  I was also wondering why Shane MacGowan hasn’t died already.  Seriously.

I should stop.  I don’t wanna give the universe any ideas.

My point is, I was already thinking about my remaining heroes and wondering who I’d lose next.  Apparently, not Shane MacGowan.

Oddly enough, I was also thinking about The Young Ones last week.  I don’t remember why or how, but, quite suddenly and inexplicably, I felt inspired to find the Dr. Marten’s boots song on YouTube.  After watching it, I spent a good hour and a half searching for cheap Dr. Marten’s online.  No avail.

The next day, a co-worker of mine mentioned The Young Ones.  He’s Scottish.  I said, “I fucking love The Young Ones.”  He said, “That’s too weird.”  I asked him why.  He said, “It’s just weird that you even know that show.”  I asked him why.  He said, “I dunno.  I mean, it’s British and it’s old and it’s weird…I mean, I was watching that when I was in high school.”  I said, “So was I.”

If you knew me in high school, you must recall that I was a pretty cool teenager.  I mean it.  Like, the coolest.  For example, when I was 15 or 16, I begged my mom to buy me orange suede ADIDAS like the ones Ewan McGregor wears in Trainspotting.  I felt so badass whenever I wore them.  Like, so very, very badass.  I also begged her to buy me a pair of plaid pants, because, ya know, Scotland.  Or something.

There’s really, like, very minimal plaid in Trainspotting.  I realize that now.

The coolest thing, though, was that every Saturday afternoon in tenth grade (after improv practice, no less) I would go to my friend Kaley’s house for Britcom.  Yes.  Britcom was our somewhat exclusive club that involved eating ice cream and watching British comedies until our eyes hurt.  We wrote a constitution at one point.  I don’t remember what was in it except for The Golden Rule, which came from an episode of Father Ted: “If anyone is ever talking to you again, think about what you’re saying and then don’t say it, and then just run away somewhere.”

The Young Ones was one of Britcom’s staples.  Every David Bowie reference made me feel so damn validated.  I went out and bought a Madness record and listened to “House of Fun” on repeat.  I began referring to my English teacher as a “fascist bully boy,” despite the fact that she was a She.  I seldom said, “I don’t have any money” — I usually launched into a Neil impression and said, “We haven’t got any breaaaad.”  When I was feeling boy crazy I was a “Bitch funky sex machine.”  I wrote “Boomshanka” on things I shouldn’t have written “Boomshanka” on.   I even once got a Starbucks barista to write it on the sleeve of my Americano.  I think I still have that sleeve somewhere.

Rik Mayall is dead.  The people’s poet is dead.  I’m sad for his wife and his family.  I’m sad for Ade Edmondson.  Like I keep saying, though, “we still have his poems.”

My VHS tapes of The Young Ones were dragged from my parents’ house to my college dorm (there was a VCR in the downstairs common room), and when I moved out of the dorm and into an on-campus apartment, I made sure to buy a TV that had both a VHS player and a DVD player.  Why?  Well, how could I live without Neil, Mike, Vyvyn, and Rick?  They were university students, after all.

I still have those tapes.  I’m not ever going to get rid of those tapes.

Aw, Rick.  Thanks for helping make it nearly impossible for me to legitimately enjoy 99.9% of the current comedies on television.  No giant sandwiches falling from the sky?  No jokes about Leonard Cohen being a vampire?  No pervasive political undertones?  No, thank you.

There was also the music: Dexy’s Midnight runners doing “Jackie Wilson Said” and multiple Madness appearances and that great scene with friggin’ Motorhead…

What the hell is that shot of you guys being pushed on that…what is that?  That’s a luggage carrier thing, right?  Well, it slays me.  Every time.

Ah, Rick.  Thank you.  Your show is so damn cool.  So, so cool.  It had everything the teenage version of Steff wanted in a show, and, since 27 year old Steff is very similar to the person she was 11 years ago, it’s still one of my all time favorites.  It’s part of me, really.  An appreciation for The Young Ones (or the ability to sit through several episodes in-a-row) is my litmus test for whether or not a man is husband material.  (Husband, not boyfriend.  Those are two different things.)  Watching an episode of The Young Ones is my solo go-to activity when I’m having a shitty day.  The music that plays during the end credits is what I hear in my head when I’m exceptionally happy.

Aw, Rick.  RICK.  My favorite pseudo-intellectual-anarchist-hipster-bachelor-boy.  You’ve never failed to make me smile.  You never will, you friggin’ weirdo.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Scuzzy Sons-of-Bitches Who Light Up My Life Part III: Captain Jack Sparrow

SCUZZY SON-OF-A-BITCH #3:

Captain Jack Sparrow

The Pirate Who Taught Me Not To Not Give A Fuck

(2003)

I have been putting way too much thought into this.

For the last two weeks I have been laboring over this little riff about Captain Jack Sparrow.  I’ve written, deleted, and re-written countless Perfect Introductions.  I’ve spent an obscene amount of hours tinkering with witticisms.  All I did last week at work was mess with this thing.  Was I happy with anything I wrote?  No, not really.

Sometimes, writing is very easy for me.  I’ll come up with 1,000 words in an hour, read them once, pat myself on the back, and call it a night.  Other times, I’ll write for two hours and then feel stuck.  I’ll know where I want to go, but have no idea how to get there.  I’ll then go back, read what I have, and think, “This is just not what I want.”  That moment is just plain crushing.  Why the Hell have I spent so much time on this piece of shit?  How the Hell have I spent so much time on this piece of shit?  Why even bother finishing this piece of shit?

When that happens, there’s only one thing I can do, and that is wait for The Muse to arrive.  Sometimes, she appears to me in the form of a song.  Other times, in the form of a memory.  Once that bitch shows up, shit gets real.  I don’t delete everything I have already done — I gut it like a dead fish.  I tear its insides out of its asshole.  I make that piece of shit my prison wife.  I make it work.

I have yet to get to that point.  All I’ve been doing for days is editing bits here and there — taking out a few things, rearranging a few things — and none of it has added up to much.  Where The Hell is The Muse?  Is she going to show up this time?

Here’s the thing: Captain Jack Sparrow is one of my favorite people of all time.  Yes.  I’m 24 years old, and I still idolize the stupid pirate Johnny Depp has been playing for eight years.  I know that most of the sequels sucked, but I still went to see ’em in the damn theater out of respect and love and loyalty. I’m not a Trekkie, I have never been to Comic-Con, and I didn’t see Captain America because I didn’t want to.  When it comes to Pirates of the Caribbean, I go full Dungeon Master.

That was a little scary for me to admit.  The fact that that was scary was scary for me to admit.  Somebody save me from myself!

I don’t suppose too many 24 year olds feel the same way about the freaking Pirates movies, but why not?  It’s true, Captain Jack Sparrow is not as iconic as Han Solo, Indiana Jones, or any other smooth-talkin’ hero played by Harrison Ford, but ya know what?  He will be.  I firmly believe that years from now, when Johnny Depp looks like Jack Nicholson, women all over America will show the Pirates movies to their kids, and a new generation of Captain Jack Sparrow worshippers will dress up as slightly gay pirates for Halloween.  Like it or not, good ol’ Captain Jack is here to stay.  Who am I to write about his greatness?

For the 500th time, here goes nothin’.

♥♥♥

What the Hell was popular in 2003?  I honestly can’t remember off the top of my head; I’d have to ask the internet.  Seriously.  I have no idea what songs came out that year, what the hit television shows were, or whether Brad was screwing Jenn or Angie.  Did Britney still have a whole head of hair?  Was Paris an amateur porn star yet?  Had NSYNC officially disbanded?  I don’t know.  I mean, I remember the U.S. invaded Iraq that year, but I don’t remember why.  Do you?

In 2003 I was in 10th grade.  I was 16.  I dug Bob Dylan and Harold And Maude.  “Idiot Wind” was my I’m-A-Teenager-And-Perpetually-Heartbroken anthem, and “Life On Mars?” was my bad day ballad.  I had Velvet Goldmine memorized.  My favorite TV shows were on BBC America.

You see, I don’t remember what was popular that year because I didn’t care.  Was I going to hear “Heroin” on KROQ?  Nopers.  Was I going to see Iggy Pop on MTV?  No freaking way.  Was I going to see Ardal O’Hanlon or Reece Shearsmith in People?  Not likely.  (Who the Hell are they?)  I didn’t care about anything that was happening in real time; I was only concerned with glam rock, hippy culture, and men from The UK.

Then I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl for the first time, and Johnny Depp made it to the top of my list of “concerns.”  The “first time”?  Yes.  Over the course of the summer, I saw it six times in the damn movie theater.  I didn’t go alone — my friends were more than happy to join me.

Me?  Little Miss I-Hate-Everything-That-Isn’t-Subtextually-About-Heroin-Addiction?

Yes, Pirates was a bigass, dumbass summer blockbuster, but let’s be frank here — there have been way bigger, way dumber summer blockbusters.  What made Pirates less dumb?  Captain Jack Sparrow.  He was an excellent character, and Johnny Depp played him brilliantly.  He was hilarious, sexy, and didn’t give a fuck.  At 16, I wished I didn’t give a fuck either.  I may not have cared about being trendy, but, despite my best efforts, I still cared about my grades, my appearance, my relationship status (thank GOODNESS facebook didn’t exist back then), and all the other bullshit that haunts teenage females.

When Captain Jack Sparrow first appeared on the screen, head held high as his shitty boat gradually sank to the bottom of the harbor, I felt what can only be described as Enlightened.  “Someday soon,” I thought, “I will not give a fuck.”

No, I didn’t start smudging my eyeliner and wearing a funny hat.  Je refuse.  I did, however, feel a little less crappy about having to wake up at 6am for my summer geometry class.  Nothing I can’t handle.  I also didn’t worry too much when I heard the ten-minute-warning bell during nutrition break.  So what if I’m thirty seconds late for the second half of class?  What’s my teacher really going to do about it?  When it was time to start studying for my final, I didn’t feel the overpowering anxiety that had plagued me since Ms. Bell’s 7th grade math class.  I’m not gonna fail this one.  Maybe I’ll get a B.  So what?  I don’t give a fuck.  

(2006)

Three years later, Pirates of the Caribbean II: Dead Man’s Chest was released.  I was one of the freaks who bought tickets days in advance.  Some people hated the movie, but I loved it.  I saw it four times in total.  This time around, though, my friends weren’t psyched to go over and over again —  I was the only person in the group who still considered Captain Jack Sparrow my fantasy boyfriend.  I had to get resourceful, IE: beg my parents to come with me.  Dorky?  I didn’t give a fuck.

One night, about a month later, I got into a pretty heated argument with the guy I was dating at the time.  We were having our nightly, “I miss you.  Summer’s been so lonely without you.  I can’t wait to see you in Santa Cruz.  Blah Blah Blah Bullshit” conversation when, quite suddenly, things turned evil.  He said some rather messed up things to me; things that stuck with me for a while.  At around 3am I called it quits and went to bed.  I just couldn’t defend myself anymore; it was exhausting.  This pattern continued for several nights, and every one of them was more miserable than the one before.  Why am I putting up with this? I wondered.

One of those nights, I had a dream that I was a pirate.   I had been kidnapped by Davey Jones’s crew, and we were in a small tavern by the ocean watching Davey Jones make some kind of “rah rah rah” speech up on a stage.  Next to me was the chest with Davey Jones’s heart, and I knew that I had to get the chest back to my crew so we could stab the heart and reclaim the sea.  (In case you missed it, that is pretty much the plot of Pirates II.)  Mustering all my courage, I grabbed the chest, threw it in my pirate satchel, and ran out of the tavern.  I knew that I’d be killed if the pirates caught me, but I had to take the risk.  I ran for a while, and then, gradually, the satchel became heavier and heavier.  I mean really heavy.  I tried to keep running, but that damn satchel was making it impossible for me to continue.

I woke up before the evil pirates made me into shark bait.  I rolled out of bed, picked up the phone, and made the call.  As I listened to the ringing, ringing, ringing, I thought about Captain Jack Sparrow at the end of the sequel, when the Kraken comes to eat him alive.  He knows he’s going to die, but rather than wait for that moment to arrive, he pulls out his sword and jumps right into the fucker’s mouth.

To this day, when I’m faced with a fucked up situation that is definitely going to hurt, I think of this scene.  Call it nerdy, but conjuring this image provides me with tremendous badassary.  It has never failed me.

♥♥♥

I suppose I had a difficult time putting all of this into words because in order to explain why Captain Jack Sparrow belongs on this list, I had to reveal some pretty weird stuff about myself.  Captain Jack Sparrow helped you pass geometry?  Captain Jack Sparrow helped you end a toxic relationship?  Yes. Yes, he did.  Does this mean you don’t love me anymore?

It is a Saturday evening in August, 2011.  As I write this, I am listening to Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love.” I first heard this song when I was in ninth grade.  I had already fallen in love with “Perfect Day” thanks to Mark Renton, so I typed “Lou Reed” into KaZaa.  I have now been a Lou Reed fan for ten years, and “Satellite of Love” has never sounded bad to me.  I have never gotten tired of it, and I will never get over it.  You see what I’m getting at?  If it’s acceptable for Lou Reed, or any other musician, to be an important person in my life, then I don’t see what’s wrong with loving Captain Jack Sparrow the way that I do.

And anyway, I don’t give a fuck.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,