The Gambler passed away today and a tiny spark lit up the cobwebs of my memory hole. Around a decade or so ago (holy shit has it been that long?)… my Grandpa was wandering around in a listless fog warbling “You picked a fine time to leave me Lucilllllle” over and over again in his empty house. My Grandma had died a few days earlier, and my Grandpa was to follow her to eternity a few months later. As I rummaged through their smelly basement I unearthed Kenny Rogers’ “TEN YEARS OF SOLID GOLD” on vinyl, along with an album of JFK’s speeches, a whole mess of Bing Crosby and some Polka. I listened to “Lucille” today. It takes roughly 47 minutes to get to the chorus ’cause Kenny got so much storytellin’ to get off his chest.
As a youth I listened to a lot of crap. Other than a few Beatles albums, my parents record collection was filled with hilariously bad ’70s folk and soft pop country beauties. Thanks to the wonders of Spotify, I’ve recently rediscovered my favorite song from when I was 8. A goofball country cover called “Elvira” which has a chorus made up of nonsense words like “Giddy Up, Oom Poppa Oom Poppa Mow Mow.” For 36 years I thought that number was sung by the band Alabama. Turns out it was by something called “The Oak Ridge Boys”. Whatever. Same diff.
My father has continuously bludgeoned me with Gordon Lightfoot albums for 40 odd years. To this day it’s all he plays in his car and at his house. For his 65th birthday a few years back he took us to see the old bastard at the State Theater. The only time in the last decade where all 4 of his male children were in the same room with him due to various feuds and various distances. I got so plastered that I couldn’t remember which ramp my car was parked in and wandered around downtown Minneapolis in the pouring rain for an hour, completely lost. I thought it was humorous to purchase my father a giant glass of scotch for $26 at the venue and try to make him finish it. Lightfoot’s voice sounded like barbed wire hell, but the tone of his acoustic guitar was like a warm nostalgia bath.
Quarantine sucks eggs. Lucky for me, my work did not start making us work from home until Friday. Which meant my wife had to try to chase two kids around and get her work done remotely for a good part of each day. I got a taste of this on my first day working from home yesterday. To say it was mildly annoying would be the understatement of the century. My head nearly exploded as my kids screamed song requests into the Alexa and jumped off the furniture while I attempted to write my yearly performance review. I don’t know how my wife did this for 4 straight days or what in Hades is going to happen in the coming weeks. God bless every teacher in America, you deserve a million dollar raise.
The Earth is currently a simmering cauldron of denial, fear, paranoia and we’ve decided to horde all the 2% milk. Yet my biggest gripe is getting The Lumineers’ “O-O-phelia” belted into my ear tunnels by children. Clearly we are all spoiled rotten brats. An extremely aggravated Mother Nature has decided to hulk-smash the phantom construct in which we toil.
During my first work from home day I “allowed” my wife to leave for a few hours and run around and do some hoarding herself. She reported in about the various weirdness, ATM lines and missing bread. She also said something that really struck a chord with me. There was a line around the block at the liquor store. Now that I have been sober for awhile, I don’t think about this stuff much. I usually just shrug my shoulders, maybe chuckle a bit, and say “that’s not for me”…but I can’t help thinking about what I would have done had the Coronavirus hit 2-3 years ago. I’d have probably been in that line, grumpy as fuck, trying to get the right flavored IPA that I needed. I’d probably be obsessing with OCD levels of absurdity:
“OK, I need this one for when I am done working from home, I need this one for when I grill, I need this one for the season premiere of Westworld, I need this for when I re-watch Once Upon a Time in Hollywood for the 8th time….no screw that…no beer…I’ll make Rick Dalton whiskey sours for that.”
It really says something about the human condition that when the apocalypse is upon us, all we care about is booze and toilet paper. Really? Not me. Something about that just repulses me. Of course if I go much longer without my Key Lime LaCroix water, I may cut a motherfucker.
When I was 8 I dove deep into my parents music collection. Sure the music was corny, but there was something genuine about the storytelling that made it interesting to me. I loved Kenny Rogers “Coward of the County.” It was a crazy wild story and even more engrossing than the little Star Wars storybook I listened along to with a 45. It felt so grown up, it made me feel like I was in on the meaning of life. But by the time I was 9, I was already rebelling against my parents. “I want to listen to MY MUSIC, not this old man stuff!” …my parents allowed me to buy a cassette of Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry” and wander around our gravel driveway with one of those one speaker cassette players cranked to tinny ear splitting (all treble) levels.
It always feels so trashy and stupid when a celebrity dies. All the social media tributes swirl aimlessly for days. Sweet tributes to the has-beens we haven’t given two shits about for decades. The problem with the cynicism towards these posts, is that music and art tend to burrow themselves deep into your core. Deeper than you can even imagine. It’s the first thing people turn to in times of tragedy. Who doesn’t know someone that has “divorce songs” or that song they played over and over after their Dad died? Who doesn’t remember exactly what song was playing when they danced their first dance at their wedding? Who doesn’t laugh about songs their kids made them play in the car on repeat on the way to school (burn in hell KIDZ BOP!)…
At some point every human needs to be uplifted, I don’t care who you are or what you believe in. That’s why there will be some album that comes out in the near future that will be known as “the coronavirus album” – something akin to Springsteen’s “The Rising” following September 11th. Some people will laugh at this album’s unbearable cheese…but they will always think of this time in history when they hear it. It’s astonishing to think about what sparks the magic of your memory. It doesn’t have to be cool, it doesn’t have to have any relevance to anything, it doesn’t have to have any merit whatsoever. It just is.
So send out your sympathies to Prince, Chris Cornell, Kobe Bryant or Tiny Tim if you need to make yourself feel better. Who am I to judge? An awful Kenny Rogers song brings me to tears and I can still live with myself.
I wonder what will spark nostalgia from 2020 when my kids are my age? I hope it’s not paranoia or Donald Trump or lack of Pasta. Fuck Pasta. Who needs that much Pasta?
Maybe they will have nostalgia for all the times they asked Alexa to fart. I know my greatest memory of “The Quarantine” so far is seeing my son laugh when Alexa played Jingle Bells using nothing but farts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another human being laugh as hard as that. Pure joy can come in any form. Remember that when you are hoarding Bud Light Lime, and I’ll remember it when I am wiping my ass with lyric sheets from 70’s country records.