David Bowie

Monday, 4 November 2013

I used to play a pi­rat­ed copy of “Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego?” on my DTK 386 back in, say, 1994. This was when “pi­rat­ed” meant you just copied the files on­to one of those 3.5″ flop­pies that AOL sent in the mail every two days. Since it was a pi­rat­ed copy, I didn’t have the Fodor’s Travel Guide that you were sup­posed to use to an­swer the fi­nal ques­tion to move on to the next lev­el. It was al­ways “What State is on page {foo} of the trav­el guide? Me be­ing me, I made a list of all 50 States, and slow­ly worked my way through via guess­work un­til I had most of them down.

Now if you re­mem­ber this game, you had to track down crim­i­nals based on con­tex­tu­al clues left be­hind as to who they are, and where they are go­ing. It as­sumes some lev­el of ge­o­graph­i­cal and pop cul­ture knowl­edge. Geography I had down. Proud win­ner of the 8th grade ge­og­ra­phy bee, here. Pop cul­ture… not so much. One of the con­tex­tu­al clues was a David Bowie cas­set­te tape. You had to know what kind of mu­sic he made. I nev­er could re­mem­ber. (it was “rock”).

A year or so lat­er and I start get­ting mail from Columbia House and BMG. Notice I didn’t say junk mail, be­cause for me, Columbia House and BMG were pret­ty much my sole method of ob­tain­ing mu­sic that was new to me. I got in­to Led Zeppelin, Stone Temple Pilots, 311, and, on a whim, de­cid­ed to find out who this David Bowie per­son was. You could say I was shel­tered. That would be very tact­ful of you. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars sound­ed like a good start, be­cause I was and am still a huge sci­ence fic­tion nerd. It ar­rived, and, just a bit through the half way point of the open­ing track “Five Years” my mind was blown.

The al­bum it­self was near­ly 25 years old at that point, and there’s lit­tle young me, poleaxed. I couldn’t tell you how many times I lis­tened to it. And every mon­th, when my BMG or Columbia House mail would ar­rive, I’d get more Bowie. This was a good time for it, even though I wasn’t aware, I was get­ting the re­mas­tered Rykodisc ver­sions that were chock full of out­takes with dif­fer­ent lyrics, or rare live per­for­mances. I still have them all: Diamond Dogs, The Man Who Sold the World, Aladdin Sane, Pin Ups. Those al­bums all re­ceived mad play time. Low, Lodger, Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, and Let’s Dance sig­nif­i­cant­ly less so, though now I have a more ma­ture ap­pre­ci­a­tion for what’s go­ing on in those al­bums.

Earthling came out in 1997. The first al­bum of his that I had the op­por­tu­ni­ty to pur­chase in its nat­u­ral mi­lieu. I have to ad­mit I had ba­si­cal­ly no idea what was go­ing on with that elec­tron­i­ca drum & bass mad­ness. I still don’t. I’m okay with that. It’s a great al­bum for zon­ing out on a road trip. 1997 is, in­ci­den­tal­ly, the year I went to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Minneapolis. I got a chance to do a lit­tle shop­ping at a big city record store. On that trip, I picked up Bowie’s Outside. Certainly his most macabre, grotesque, baro­que work. The least ap­pro­pri­ate Bowie al­bum to pick up while in town with a ton of Catholic teenagers. Incidentally, on that trip I al­so learned that Tolkien cal­en­dars ex­ist.

I man­aged to see him in con­cert, on the Area 2 tour with Moby, when he was tour­ing for his al­bum Heathen (in my opin­ion, his best work in the­se lat­er years). I ea­ger­ly picked up Reality in 2003 when I was work­ing in New York, and I re­mem­ber play­ing it on the Bang & Olufsen sound sys­tem owned by the fam­i­ly I was stay­ing with at the time. The first song im­me­di­ate­ly called up mem­o­ries of the 2001 World Trade Center at­tacks, and the whole al­bum it an amal­gam of songs sift­ed from Bowie’s long ca­reer and new work.

For years I’ve been un­able to de­cide which al­bum I like best be­tween Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs, but I’ve fi­nal­ly de­cid­ed that Diamond Dogs is my fa­vorite al­bum. The 8 – 9 min­utes of Sweet Thing/​Candidate/​Sweet Thing Reprise is my fa­vorite chunk of mu­sic.

The ver­sion from David Live is amaz­ing:

And I re­al­ly like the al­ter­nate lyrics to Candidate (re­leased on the afore­men­tioned re­mas­tered Rykodisc re­lease):

Bowie has been a con­stant in­trigue and chal­lenge to me as I’ve grown old­er, and he’ll con­tin­ue to be as long as he keeps putting out al­bums. I learned about Jean-Michel Basquiat by seek­ing out the movie made about him mere­ly be­cause Bowie played Andy Warhol. I dis­cov­ered the hor­ri­ble sack-swing­ing fas­ci­na­tion of his role in Labyrinth, and de­vel­oped a lit­tle crush on Jennifer Connelly. I be­came a fan of Nicolas Roeg af­ter watch­ing The Man Who Fell to Earth. I’ve be­come a fan of just about every band he’s ever cov­ered.

David Bowie was my gate­way from small town Indiana to the rest of the world. This young dude car­ried the news, so hey, man. Thanks.

Farewell Fayette County & Environs

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

I’m help­ing my moth­er move from my an­ces­tral demes­ne this week. I feel lit­tle sor­row re­gard­ing the move from this par­tic­u­lar home, the third of three I lived in when I lived in Fayette County; but a much deep­er sense of loss re­gard­ing cer­tain oth­er places that have sen­ti­men­tal val­ue to me. Of course, me be­ing I, they al­most all re­volve around food.

For lunch to­day, Abraham and I stopped at J’s Dairy Inn, lo­cat­ed in Liberty, IN. Since the pre­vail­ing wind is from the west, if you’re in Connersville and you spit, it’ll land in Union County. In ad­di­tion to be­ing the lo­ca­tion of J’s, it is al­so home to Whitewater Memorial State Park (the on­ly lake I’ve ever swum across), and the pret­ti­est girls per cap­i­ta of any­where I’ve ever been. I used to stop in at J’s semi-reg­u­lar­ly dur­ing my high school days, and quite reg­u­lar­ly when I worked as sum­mer help do­ing warehousing/​teamster work for E.W. Brockman Company. When they’d place an or­der I’d ba­si­cal­ly de­liv­er any and every pa­per good they’d use. The most de­li­cious greasy-spoon burg­ers, crispest crin­kle-cut fries, and most gi­gan­tic milk­shakes around. You could dri­ve from Connersville to Liberty, eat at J’s and get back to work in just bare­ly un­der an hour.

Dinner was from Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken. Just a reg­u­lar fast food joint. Can’t hold a can­dle to the St. Gabriel’s Fried Chicken  din­ner at the Fayette County Free Fair, but it was the best fried chick­en in town oth­er­wise, and to my taste-mem­o­ry, no oth­er fast food fried chick­en will ever be the same. We ate our chick­en din­ner at Robert’s Park, home to the afore­men­tioned fair, de­mo­li­tion der­bies, har­ness rac­ing (and il­le­gal gam­bling), clas­sic car shows, and fre­quent cross-coun­try prac­tice des­ti­na­tion. In the pre-sea­son, we’d run past the dirt track, in­to the woods and go swim­ming in the Whitewater River.

Tomorrow will be Kunkel’s Drive-in for lunch. Tenderloin bas­ket with heavy mus­tard and a vanil­la coke. The cute girls al­ways worked at Dairy Queen, K-mart, or Kunkel’s in high school. I re­mem­ber sit­ting in the back of my dad’s van as a lit­tle kid and un­wrap­ping the smell of deep fried pork, the lat­er taste of mus­tard crust­ed in the cor­ner of my mouth. Pizza King for din­ner. Holiest of holies. St. Louis-style pie. Do you prefer west­side or south­side? It mat­ters. I’m a south­side feller, the over­sized gooey choco­late chip cook­ies and table­top ar­cade games as a boy, and its liquor li­cense as an adult. I spent more time at west­side though, where the teens hung out in my day. Dairy Twist for dessert, even if Abraham doesn’t eat his din­ner. I went there every evening one sum­mer for a large cher­ry milk­shake, try­ing to put on some weight, and nev­er had the con­fi­dence to ask out the girl who hand­ed them to me night af­ter night. Didn’t put on any weight ei­ther. Fencing in col­lege fi­nal­ly did that. Now, the fight is to keep it off. Just not this week.

I’ll still have the mem­o­ries of be­ing perched on the hill at 514 Franklin Street, over­look­ing the whole city and feel­ing like a trip-step would send me sprawl­ing on­to St. Gabriel’s steeple. But I won’t be dri­ving past that house any­more. I’ll still have mem­o­ries of the house on Stoneybrook Lane, the en­tire days spent in William’s Creek, swing­ing on grape vi­nes, socks cov­ered in bur­docks, be­ing forced to strip out­side and be cold-hosed off be­fore even be­ing al­lowed near the house. But I won’t be near that creek again. I’ll still have mem­o­ries of rolling up to­ward Richmond with the boys, 45 min­utes to the near­est movie the­ater, the back­road route, Pennville to Pottershop, late night truck stop stop for the Night Owl Special: a plat­ter of bis­cuits and gravy for $2.00. Now just a 10 min­ute stretch on I-70 as I bar­rel to­ward Indianapolis.

I’ve hat­ed on Connersville in my day. Even wrote a let­ter to the ed­i­tor on­ce up­on a time. But it’s a great place to raise a kid, and the grow­ing-up-to-hate-it-and-leav­ing is kind of nec­es­sary; if we didn’t drift away like dan­de­lion fluff, Connersville wouldn’t be Connersville. Water flows away from the spring to nour­ish oth­er ar­eas.

How Becoming a Parent Changed Me

Friday, 1 October 2010

Becoming a par­ent does change things. I’ve heard that near­ly my en­tire life, but no one has been able to suc­cess­ful­ly ex­plain what the hell the state­ment means. It just rings a bit hol­low as an un­ex­plained tru­ism. However! I think I’ve fig­ured out a cou­ple of ways to ex­plain things; or, at least, ex­plain how be­com­ing a par­ent changed me.

Nostalgia

Watching Bram dis­cov­er the world al­lows me to dis­cov­er it again. I used to boast that I’d nev­er lose a child­like sense of won­der, but watch­ing the lit­tle bear wig out over a train or an or­ange car shows me just how much I’d lost of that amaze­ment. One of the com­plete­ly un­ex­pect­ed and un­de­served ben­e­fits of be­ing a par­ent is the abil­i­ty to re­live those first mo­ments of won­der vic­ar­i­ous­ly. This vic­ar­i­ous feel­ing is sweet­ened and en­hanced by a nos­tal­gia born of re­mem­ber­ing things you’d for­got­ten you’d known. Being with Bram when he saw a freighter leave the mouth of the Cuyahoga from the Coast Guard Station at Whiskey Island pro­vid­ed me with lay­ers and lay­ers of emo­tion stretch­ing from my own child­hood: nos­tal­gia at that lev­el of en­thu­si­asm, the joy of re­mem­ber­ing some mo­ments of my own tod­dler ex­pe­ri­ences; and in­to the present: vic­ar­i­ous­ly ex­pe­ri­enc­ing that emo­tion again, grat­i­tude at be­ing present for your own child’s mo­ment of satori, and pride that you in some way fa­cil­i­tat­ed the process.

Extrapolating from here, I imag­ine that grand­par­ents feel much of the same; a third chance to ex­pe­ri­ence child­hood with the added bonus of a sec­ond chance to ex­pe­ri­ence par­ent­ing.

Reference Manual

I’ve gained a whole new per­spec­tive of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the par­ent­ing ex­am­ples of my par­ents. When I find my­self in a sit­u­a­tion where I’m un­sure of how to pro­ceed, I can think back to what worked and didn’t work on me, and adapt those lessons to what­ev­er I’m try­ing to fig­ure out with lit­tle bear. If I find my­self sec­ond-guess­ing or un­sure of my de­ci­sions, I know I’m just a phone call away from a to­tal pro.

So, par­ent­ing has changed my life by the ad­di­tion of con­text; vic­ar­i­ous nos­tal­gia by al­low­ing me to com­pare my child­hood to my son’s & a whole new ref­er­ence man­u­al of be­hav­iors com­ing from what I ob­served about par­ent­ing be­fore I be­came one my­self. I un­der­stand that some folks don’t get why oth­ers would want to be par­ents, and that’s cool. For me, it’s al­ready pro­vid­ed a wealth of new and old ex­pe­ri­ences that I nev­er would have ex­pect­ed, and that I ex­pect will nev­er end.

Senior Year

Tuesday, 20 May 2003

Senior Year was by far my best year of col­lege. My grades were su­perb, I had a room all to my­self, the foot­ball team un­der the new tute­lage of Tyrone Willingham, was 10 – 2, and to crown it all off, the fenc­ing team won the na­tion­al cham­pi­onship, and I get a ring out of it!

It start­ed out in­no­cent­ly enough, fall se­mes­ter is al­ways ridicu­lous­ly busy, and mine was more so than usu­al since I was tak­ing an Intermediate Film Production class, a class my pro­fes­sor de­scribed more as about stress man­age­ment than mak­ing an ac­tu­al film. The foot­ball sea­son was spec­tac­u­lar, and re­ju­ve­nat­ed the with­er­ing ND spir­it. The last home game as a se­nior was again­st Rutgers, the same team we played at my first ND game, when I was 16. I cried af­ter­ward.

I al­so got to trav­el with the fenc­ing team, some­thing I would have done the pre­vi­ous year, apart from my dis­lo­cat­ed knee in­ci­dent. This was quite en­joy­able, though it did eat in­to my week­ends con­sid­er­ably. Most of the rides were by bus, but the flight to the Duke Duals in North Carolina was great. And then I have the hon­or of be­ing named the Knute-Rockne Scholar Athlete, and re­ceiv­ing the DeCicco/​Langford Inspiration award. Not on­ly that, but a pic­ture of me, and a lit­tle blurb ac­com­pa­ny­ing [sp?] it was put on the wall be­tween the Football Office and the Basketball Office.

Graduation was a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment, the cer­e­monies were a drag, the Baccalaureate Mass, and the homi­ly that went with it, seemed fo­cused on try­ing to con­vince us to do­nate mon­ey to the University, and the speech by Sen. Richard Lugar, was com­plete­ly in­ap­pro­pri­ate. He did not ad­dress the grad­u­ates ex­cept in pass­ing, and fo­cused on a pro-war for­eign pol­i­cy speech bet­ter suit­ed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee than a no­tably an­ti-war Catholic cam­pus.

It was, how­ev­er, quite nice to have my fam­i­ly show up at the cer­e­monies.

This is what I learned in col­lege:

  1. How to make ba­nana bombs.
  2. That the breeze­way al­ways smells like wet dog
  3. Once you find out a girl likes you, it is al­ready too late to do any­thing about it.
  4. It is quite pos­si­ble to climb the walls of the dorm, pro­vid­ed your shoes have enough trac­tion, you have strong wrists, and am­ple lever­age.
  5. The on­ly time the Grotto is emp­ty is when the weath­er is too in­tense for even the town­ies.
  6. Quarter Dogs are like very cheap crack, and much more dan­ger­ous.
  7. While you might be able to drink 12 oz of Cuervo, pol­ish­ing it off with a shot of Everclear is not in­tel­li­gent.
  8. No one cares about fenc­ing, even the friends of fencers.
  9. It is on­ly ac­cept­able for wom­en to write po­ems about rape.
  10. How to think