Teenage angst has paid off well. Now I’m bored and old. Seasonal depression has hit me hard and it’s fucking cold. Ok, so I made up that last part. Apologies to Kurt Cobain. I wonder what that guy would be doing right now, in the year 2022? I can’t even really fathom it. I do know what the guy who Cobain quoted in his suicide letter has been up to. Old Neil Young has been playing in a barn with his codger buddies. He just released a semi-coherent album last month called…you guessed it…Barn. It’s just Neil and whatever is left of Crazy Horse sloppily bashing it out in the middle of nowhere. It’s full of the iconic strains of Neil’s scuzzy riffs and wire cutter solos knifing through the wilderness to no one in particular. Neil also had this process filmed and it popped up on YouTube recently. It was apparently shot boomer auntie style on an iPad by an actress of a certain mermaid fame. Never in my wildest dreams did I think something like this could trigger anything in me, let alone my first alcohol craving in years, but the higher power (or “myriad possibilities” as Neil jokily opines in the film) tends to work in mysterious ways.
The line “Could you see if they have any cold beer?” is gently floated out by Neil while he warms up on a rickety stand up piano. Neil and his bass player then tune their prehistoric vocal chords to the phrase “No. Fucking. Co-O-O-old Beer” until a roadie shows up with some suds. During this segment the phrase “No. Fucking. Co-O-O-old Beer” hilariously shows up on the screen with one of those old timey bouncy balls inviting us all to sing this nonsense with Neil in unison from our couches. I was engulfed by concurrent sense memories of both drinking beer in the sun and goofing around on guitar in a crappy dungeon-like basement with my friend Dave. I gotta admit this kind of made me sad and wistful. I haven’t thought about beer in a long time. It used to be such an integral part of my existence, like water or breathing.
I used to have the most VIVID dreams of drinking beer in the sunshine the first year or so of sobriety. I would wake up angry that I broke my sober streak and would have to lie to my sober app on my phone. But I don’t even get the dreams anymore. All I have is a mild craving for a cigarette about once a week (I guess those are never going to go away). This little documentary really is the existential dream of retirement – just playing music in a woodsy barn while drinking a couple cold beers. Just like Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins on the prison roof in The Shawshank Redemption. It’s always sunny at the Barn. Not too hot, not too cold. Fluffy white dream clouds float by in time with your buzz. You can just head out next to the Barn to pee in the field like old Neil when the mood strikes you. Life is a prison, but you sure as hell can enjoy a cold beer, a walk in the yard with your cell mates, and have a nice long piss from time to time.
There really is nothing like the warm & fuzzy feeling you get from 2 or 3 beers. You feel enlightened, emboldened, the world is your oyster. I sort of miss that one little part of it I guess. However if I did attempt to do that again, there is no doubt I would try to string along this glorious feeling with one more…and one more…and JUST one more. Until I was gobbling down a pack and a half of cigarettes, getting droopy eyed and chugging Red Bull to continue the good times. And while I’m at it…why not throw a splash of vodka into the Red Bull…what’s the harm baby!
I don’t do things half-assed. I obsess over them until I burn out. Must collect all the sports cards for my kid, must take all the photographs, must watch every awards season film, must bang out ape-man chords on guitar until my fingers rip open (and then never touch guitar again for 6-9 months), must obsess over patterns and formulas at work. Ha! This makes me sound like some sort of mad mathematical scientist. I assure you I am not. I work at a home shopping television station. It’s a never ending game of figuring out how to make the most sales, and it literally never ends. It goes on and on. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. There’s a loose, yet vital formula to it. Certain tight shot here. Certain thing the shopping host says there. Sympathy push (zoom) for maximum emotional appeal…not too fast…slowly…you’ll ruin the moment. Add a clock and a countdown. Watch the phone lines spike. What widgets can I apply this formula to today? How must I tweak the pattern to fit the type of widget and audience I hope to gain? Baking a cake. Don’t fuck up the ingredients. This is an odd addiction to have. I love to watch infomercials. Who loves that?
There’s a Barn near my house that I’m obsessed with, I pass by it almost every day. it’s the first thing I ever tried to photograph. I’ve taken pictures of it every season since I got sober, sometimes more than once. It’s a strange totem to me, it’s not unlike the totem pole Neil pisses near in the film, haphazardly marking his territory like a geriatric wolf. Better to burn out than it is to rust? Neil begs to differ. Many people do. Tom Brady will be 45 years old this year. I’m very interested in aging these days. Yeah you can do cool shit in your 40s, but does anyone really do anything of relevance in their 50s and 60s? I’ve been listening to an audiobook called Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement by Rich Karlgaard. Karlgaard is from Bismarck, North Dakota…lots of Barns out there. Did you know that Frank McCourt wrote Angela’s Ashes when he was 63? I’ve never read it. Maybe I should. Life has no formula.
Should old fart musical acts like Neil Young just go away? I mean, the Stones never do, but they live in some sort of alternate reality where Mick prances around in blouses like an 18th century duke, Keith dresses like a pirate and speaks in tongues, and Ronnie paints the setlist on an easel every night. Neil ain’t like them. He acts like the mechanic down the street, coming home smelling like diesel fuel, ditch weed and Blatz beer farts. The “Godfather of Grunge” emerging from a highway off ramp in the dark with “Old Black”, a jagged turd cutter riff and 3 or 4 caveman chords. All the little lords of grunge that Neil mentored are now or would have been Neil’s age when the media gave him that silly Godfather moniker. Most of those guys and their bands are lucky if they muster up 2 or 3 decent songs per album now. Neil has at least double that on Barn, he’s 76 fucking years old.
Chris Cornell and Cobain are gone. Dave Grohl is writing memoirs and filming campy horror movies. Rob Zombie is remaking The Munsters. Eddie Vedder’s new solo stuff sounds like he is channeling “Fields of Gold” era Sting. Jack White is still semi-relevant I guess – he’s my age (we are a mere 2 months apart) and has powder blue hair and 2 albums coming out this year. So I guess that counts for something (but I still miss Meg). Yet here’s the ancient crypt keeper Neil Young still yelling at clouds from a Barn and cursing the demon Corporate America. His latest gambit is threatening to pull all of his masterworks off Spotify unless they get rid of Joe Rogan and his odd vaccine theories. Fat chance I say, but if I’m gonna rust I want to rust like Old Neil. But how can I listen to vinyl in my car Uncle Neil? My seasonal depression super Spotify mixes will all have gaping holes in them now you rowdy bastard.
Well played old sport.
I drove by the Barn a few times these last few weekends. It looks terrifically maudlin in the snow. One of its front panels fell down in the wind leaving a gaping hole in which you can see clean through to the other side – but I just think that makes it cooler.
“Creativity is not the sole province of the young.” -Rich Karlgaard