It's 2 am and I'm an hour late. I know one of them will be waiting at the top of the stairs and it's crapshoot. My mother will be in the recliner with a book or my father will be pacing from one end of the great room to the other with fear driven militant purpose. Or both. Gods help me, or both. That's never happened but it could, and at the tail end of the Feral Summer I've pushed the parental envelope off a cliff. I'm OK with this. My infractions are not mistakes; each and every one has an ROI weight and each ROI weight has an associated unpredictability factor and I don't much flinch.
I'm still quiet coming up the stairs.
She is in the recliner, the light is on, and there's a book face down on her lap. Other than that she appears to be out cold. I can't help myself. The cost benefit analysis produces a green light. I don't creep. She's stone cold deaf without her hearing aids and the monster headphones that should be blocking sound in both directions are not. I hear something; loud as shit but too distorted to identify. I think it's Wagner for sure but I can't let it go. I'm fifteen and I need answers. She's fallen asleep with the volume maxed and this is too novel to pass up.
I'm also familiar with cognitive dissonance even if I haven't got the language to explain why I'm standing twelve inches from the edge of the chair with my jaw on the floor. I'm stone cold sober which means I'm probably not hallucinating and I'm perfectly aware of having left my self-preservation at the top of the stairs. Smart children creep down the hall to their beds and leave the door open just a crack suggesting they've arrived on time but you've gone and slept through it. I am a smart child but I need an explanation and I've tossed my chips on the table. I wait.
Twenty-seven years later I understand exactly why my mother woke up. When she was six, Elizabeth's response to a bad dream was a bedside presentation. She'd wait, sometimes no less than six inches from my face until I woke up in a cold sweat. I was always aware but never prepared. The explanation for why she stood six inches from my face in a nearly lightless room was that she didn't want to wake me up. BUT I'M TERRIFIED, CHILD! Please, just wake me up. Don't stand there terrorizing your mother. It's unkind.
My mother is startled, no doubt, but this woman is also feral. She blinks. She speaks.
What are you listening to?
Not sure. Somebody left a record on the record player and I didn't feel like looking for something else.
Do you know what you're listening to?
Can you hear it?
Of course I can hear it! I've got the volume all the way up!
You're listening to Boris the Spider.
And you're late!
Don't change the subject. Why are you listening to Boris the Spider?
Because THAT'S what was on the record player. I can see for miles and miles...
You slept through Boris the Spider and you know the words to I Can See for Miles. At least some of them.
You want the whole song?
God, no! I'm having enough trouble with Boris the Spider.
Go to bed before your father wakes up.
Cost benefit analysis or not, I'm missing a vital piece of information. Boris the Spider was released in 1966. I was two, so who, exactly, was appropriating the music?
I've got a nine year old, fourteen year old, and brand new baby in my bed. They're trained, the older two. They can sing American Pie at the top of their lungs and we've moved on to Werewolves in London. Later there will be more Zevon and Mike was inoculated early with Garcia & Co in conjunction with a Graceland booster. Neither stick but later Mike is entirely certain Zevon is his own personal god and had nothing to do with his mother. Fair enough.
It sounds like this:
"She dreams in color, she dreams in red"
No. Like this:
"SHE DREAMS IN COLOR, SHE DREAMS IN RED"
I picked up a radio station on the way to the Kingdom of Burlington. I think the radio station is for me, although the ads are not aimed at my demographic. I let that go as it doesn't support my theory; I'm just grateful to have it and the less than desirable sound system is maxed and I'm singing at the top of my lungs as I pull into the parking lot. If asked I'd say this was epic joy. The kid with the shopping carts heard epic lunacy. The song's over but I'm still mumbling that one phrase and I step serenely into a lake of Vermont crud. I have good boots. I don't care.
...and turn to face the boy with the shopping carts. He retrieves his jaw from the mud slushy. I don't know why he's not moving so I don't move. I'm waiting for the grand mal seizure, wondering if I've got any spare wooden spoons in the car. He speaks.
(he's from the Kingdom of Burlington, probably UVM, very polite)
Yes?" (it speaks. Thank the Gods)
Ma'am, I don't mean to be rude, but I could hear you coming before you turned into the lot."
My sound system sucks. How is that possible?
Yeah, that's not what I heard.
My engine?! I just had it looked at and the check engine light is definitely NOT on.
I'm sure your car is fine, Ma'am.
Well, my mom used to get into my music, we had a family plan, iTunes, you know?
Well, I'm just wondering if maybe your grandchildren?
My WHAT?! I haven't got any. Yet.
OK, maybe one of your kids?
I haven't got any. Yet.
Splash! Kid bends over and picks it back up. By now his gloves are saturated and he's got a fine layer of grime around his mouth.
OK. I have three but I'm still not following.
Maybe I misheard?
You were singing kind of loud so I heard you.
So you said.
How do you even know the words?
Oh! That! I found a golden oldies station. It's awesome.
Is that old?
1994 release, darlin'.
Yes way and if you mention my kids again I might smack you upside the head with your wet gloves. Wait. You don't actually know that song...
OK. Who is it?
Not sure. Nine Inch Nails?
Good Good, right decade but not Nine Inch Nails, not Smashing Pumpkins, no Goo Goo Dolls either. Try again.
Cough. Pearl Jam.
Kid. That's Nirvana.
No! Pearl Jam! You were hearing Pearl Jam's most over-played song ever. And by the way, that's mine, not yours.
But I heard it on Spotify.
Yes. And my thirty-five year old discovered Warren Zevon more than twenty years ago and kept him, except Zevon was way before Spotify so we can't put this generational appropriation on a DJ-less sound track.
Yes! Appropriation! That's MY music, not YOUR music and while I'm perfectly willing to share, don't be looking shocked when I snatch it back out of your hands.
Do you know Jim Morrison?
Not personally, he's dead.
But you know who he is.
OK. Was. Wait. He's dead?
Holy crap. He died when I was seven, kid.
OK. So before your time, right?
NO! He's my time! As are Janis Joplin and Mr. Hendrix. All dead, by the way.
But if you were seven?
Yes. If I was seven your parents weren't even born yet. May I have a cart please?
On the way home:
The warden threw a party in the county jail...
No. Like this:
THE WARDEN THREW A PARTY IN THE COUNTY JAIL...
Also on Spotify.
My mother was fifteen.
Addendum - Direct Reference
adhoc anthology in order of release date
Jailhouse Rock: Elvis Presley, released on a 7" (45 RPM), 5 track EP in 1957 on RCA Victor label
- Jailhouse Rock
- Young and Beautiful
- I Want to Be Free
- Don't Leave Me Now
- (You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy: The Who, compilation released on a 12" (33 RPM) LP in 1971 on Decca label
Track List Side A:
- I Can't Explain
- The Kids Are Alright
- Happy Jack
- I Can See For Miles
- Pictures of Lily
- My Generation
- The Seeker
Track List Side B:
- Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
- Pinball Wizard
- A Legal Matter
- Boris The Spider
- Magic Bus
- I'm A Boy
Vitalogy: Pearl Jam, released on a 12" (33 RPM) LP in 1994 on Epic label, followed immediately by Cassette and CD
Track List Division One:
- Last Exit
- Spin the Black Circle
- Not for You
- Tremor Christ
Track List Division Two:
- Pry, To
- Satan's Bed
- Better Man
- Aye Davanita
- Hey Foxymophandlemamma, That's Me (Stupid Mop)
Addendum - Indirect Reference
who?! By order of DOB with miniscule discography most easily recognized across multi-generational lines
Janis Joplin: 1940 - 1970
Me and Bobby McGee; Piece of My Heart
Paul Simon: 1941 -
Jimi Hendrix: 1942 - 1970
All Along the Watchtower; Are You Experienced
Jerry Garcia: 1942 - 1995
Grateful Dead. (really? you still need help? no.)
Jim Morrison: 1943 - 1971
The Doors: Riders on the Storm; Light My Fire
Don McLean: 1945 -
One hit wonder (sorry, Dude, it's the truth but it was a knockout): American Pie
Warren Zevon: 1947 - 2003
The early(ish) years: Werewolves in London; Lawyers, Guns, and Money
Kurt Cobain (Nirvana): 1967 - 1994
Christ on a bike. I don't even know where to start. From 1991: Smells Like Teen Spirit and Come as You Are
Additional Vague References
by no means even significantly representative of the whole of an entire musical era. I just happened to mention them in conversation with Shopping Cart Boy, Appropriator of Music