Monday, March 28, 1994

Leaving Las Vegas

"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like, "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive. . . " And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?' Then it was quiet again.

-Hunter S. Thompson

So let's say you are going to write a song about Las Vegas, a city that symbolizes all that is wrong with our society: over abundance, show biz and the pursuit and obsession of getting something for nothing, but where millions still make the pilgrimage.

Life springs eternal. On a gaudy neon street. Not that I care at all. I spent the best part of my losing streak in an Army Jeep. For what I can't recall.

You might start out by writing an allegory about Elvis who represents what Vegas is about. Here was the king of rock and roll, king of rebellion, who went military, came back a drugged out, sell out and ended up in Vegas, a lounge act with fans coming to see him by closing their eyes and pretending he still was what he was once.

Oh I'm banging on my TV set and I check the odds. And I place my bet. Pour a drink and pull the blind. And I wonder what I'll find.

You might also use Vegas as a setting for escape, for leaving all the horrible, haunted past behind to find a new beginning, a place where your sins are unforgiven.

Leaving Las Vegas lights so bright. Palm sweat, blackjack on a Saturday night. Leaving Las Vegas, leaving for good.

So now you've got your song written, your CD is doing well, and it's time to make the video. Arty but with a touch of fun is the tone you strive for. Like life it begins in color, but as the memories begin, the dreams drift in, it turns to black and white. A shrine to Wayne Newton, flying Elvises, karate kicking Elvises, showgirls showing plenty in the sand, sleazy dealers, Joshua trees. Driving away, driving away. Accessible? Who can't relate, so many have been through the same.

I'm standing in the middle of the desert waiting for my ship come in. But no joker, no jack, no king can take this losing hand and make it win .

One man's trip, one person's fall? What have you jarred loose? Just another hard luck story. About dreams that die in the desert. Watching the dogs run wild. Bringing out the young, the only child. Watching time, counting a meter. The Big A, the debut of a one armed pitcher. One armed bandits and a mirror above the bed. Regretting all not said. A plastic ruler. Virginia Slims woman. Taking a shower on the balcony, pondering the fall. Molesting a security guard, a shoe on the shoulder bigger than the chip on the other. A speeding ticket, a false ID. A garden well hoed. Expert plant handler, fixing tomato soup and a pita. Dancing with Seniorita. A crowbar flies by, swinging a swing up to the sky, trying to fly. Samson and Delilah. Lost around Leviticus. Queen of hearts, a brand new start. That's the video I saw, that's the song I still hear.

Dealing blackjack until one or two such a muddy line between the things you want and the things you have to do.

Monday, March 21, 1994

Times Are A-Changin'

"The line it is drawn the curse it is cast. The slow one now will later be fast. As the present now will later be past. The order is rapidly fadin'. And the first one now will later be last for the times they are a changin'."
-accounting firm's commercial

Sell out? Hardly. When I first heard the news Bob Dylan had let one of his songs be used in a commercial I had no opinion one way or the other. I figured it was Bob doing what Bob has always done: exactly the opposite of what his fans expect him to do. Then people started asking me what I thought. So I quickly had my people put together an opinion statement.

"Drag isn't it?" I said, but in my heart I didn't mean it.

For those who take the integrity of art seriously, who felt the 60's were about something, the selling of one of the more important anthems is discouraging. Our culture seems to gobble up anything that once held any type of meaning whatsoever. All in the name of turning a buck.

At the same time, for a generation that sold its soul long ago, who now goes around sipping cappuccinos, wearing designer shades, dressing in black, and pretending to be dismayed at social injustices, it's hypocritical to think their designated spokesmodel violated some mythical line by commercializing a song that lost its meaning years before. The song was of the period, has dated poorly, and has been rendered merely as symbolic by countless lackadaisical, lackluster performances in arenas where cigarette lights flicker but the ritual has become a parody. To surrender the song as muzak doesn't change what it once was but simply admits over time it has lost all of its intimacy.

The myth is that any music is somehow inherently sacred. Every morning, I climb on to the elevator to Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik and the imagery that inevitably comes into mind is some slapstick scene with people falling over each other, screaming one liners at each other, the dog under foot woofing away, and wacky behavior seen as a form of entertainment. Amazing Grace brings to mind a Vulcan's funeral in a Star Trek movie. Sacred? Gimme a break, it's all entertainment.

It would be hard for even his harshest critics to say Bob Dylan wrote the song with money in his eyes. The hit potential, the accessibility of the song was deliberately calculated and limited. It's one of Dylan's weaker finger pointing songs, castigating the older generation, the establishment, to get out of the way and let the youth make their voice heard. These days it sounds painfully naive, painfully shallow (criticisms that can be applied for that time, for that generation) and that he still sings this song in concerts furthers a myth he has tried so hard to escape and is in itself an act of extreme cynicism. A sellout? There still isn't anybody out there with more to say. Folkie turned rocker, social conscious spokesperson turned judgmental born again, right wing fanatic. Hip to slurred.

Some would say the aim of an honest artist is to remain true to their work; to affect change, to encourage and challenge their audience to think and feel. But a true artist realizes life isn't that idealistic. Pure repetition and over analyzing, robs any work of its meaning. If you can make money off of something you wrote more than thirty years ago why not? These same people would say it would have been better if Dylan died in 1967 and hadn't fallen with such a resounding thud and become a parody of what he represented in their eyes. But the myth was just that, a myth. When you begin to see the eternal, the present loses some of its luster. The tragic part is that the way the process works the artist loses touch and becomes isolated from their audience, becomes disillusioned, disenchanted, and as they lose their way, the audience still blindly follows what once was. "Don't follow leaders watch a parking meters." A sign of the times unfortunately is that these days some of our better protest singers are accountants. 'Nuf said.

Monday, March 14, 1994

Keeping Up Appearances

Dave's Top Five Responses to Being Approached in a Red Neck/Blue CollarBar and Told, "You Really Shouldn't Be in Here."

5) "Why, this isn't a gay bar?"

4) "Oh yeah? Well my friend Nancy here, can kick your pasty white thighs any day of the week, Regis."

3) "The way the light reflects off your red neck really does something for me."

2) "I'm only here to meet my friend, Louis Farakhan, and then we'll be going."

1) "No, it's okay, I left my sheet and hood at the coat check."

We seem to have a running theme this week. Much as it shouldn't matter, the way something looks is often times more important than the way it really is. Hard as we try, we all bring preconceived emotions, prejudices with us whenever we encounter something new. It's those who can overcome that, or learn how to question and challenge their own thoughts and feelings that benefit from the full range of human experience.

Events, products, actions, people that seemingly have little in common, more often than not do. This comes to mind because after work last Friday, I went to the Gopher Bar in St. Paul, with a co-worker. She's a striking blonde woman, tall and attractive. On my best days I'm five feet five and with my pomposity for wearing hats, we made quite a sight strolling into this blue collar bar. Granted, it wasn't quite Bridget Loves Bernie, but to the uninformed one might have been asking, what is wrong with this picture?

Yet, having just viewed Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, the night before, it occurred to me that sometimes differences are more alike than they appear to the judgmental eye. A new friend had recommended the movie to me, and I can see why. She happens to be another youthful looking, blonde woman who has found people at the very least, don't take her seriously upon first impression, because of stereotypical beliefs associated with her sex, hair color, apparent age, etc. Why should this person have to prove herself in a deeper way than others? The depth is apparent to those who seek such things, but in a way she has to disprove the prejudices before she can even begin proving herself; and that's something I can relate to but never understand. I may not be a blonde bimbo, but I'm not exactly a martial arts student either, despite what you see.

The way you get around that, the way you learn to tolerate it, is to accept that it's less painful thus better to be rejected because of your outside appearance rather than have your insides be found to be lacking in some sort of way. You also learn that often times it is better to be different. It may be more work, a harder struggle, but in the end it gives more fulfillment.

So how does this relate to you (and when I say you I really mean us)? Well, I went out to rent the movie last week, and remembered that my insurance agent told me his wife had a video store near where I live. Recently a Blockbuster opened up across the street and since then, her business has seriously declined. So, I figured I would bring her some new business. Unfortunately, I stopped by and her store wasn't open. It was 11:00 in the morning and I didn't feel like waiting another hour, coming back just to rent a movie I knew I could get at Blockbuster. So I went there instead. The lesson learned is if you begin with less resources, if you begin behind, you have to do extra work, you have to think twice as hard, to create a unique image and beat that big obstacle across the way.

Monday, March 7, 1994

Qui Est le Elmo Gruskin

Max the Cat and I took our first walk of the new year. Actually it was more of a tug of war than a walk. At one end of the leash was a pipe puffin', out of shape, ex-athletically inclined, baseball fevered, Japanese hatted male. At the other end was a stubborn, frisky, meowing cat, determined to roll around in the mud, just to show who really controlled the situation. Just because he doesn't forget what his leash is for doesn't mean he has to like it. But it was good to get out, for both of us. Oui, Je suis seul.

So the kid, the girl next door, is trying to raise and save money for her desired trip to Arizona this summer. Since I feel any trip to Arizona is a noble cause, I decided to pitch in. I'm scheduled to house sit Max's cousin Ralph in Lake Elmo this week, and since Max and Ralph get along about as well as Sinatra and the Grammy people, I decided to keep them apart. So the neighbor kid is going to come over and feed Max, do the litter box thing, give him some company and participate in play time. Combien faut il payer? Some guidelines:

Max the Cat is a fun loving, purring little guy. Few kitties like people as much as Max. My friend Peppermint Patti said upon finally meeting the famous feline, "How come he's so friendly? " -Meaning where in the hell did he pick that up, since he couldn't have got it from his roommate. At least I don't share in one of Max's individualistic quirks; he drools when he purrs and it ain't exactly just a small amount. Picture puddles larger than the previously mentioned Lake Elmo. He sits on my chest and after he moves elsewhere, I have to change shirts. Disgusting? To the uninitiated. Lovable? Yup. En voiture.

Max gets five scoops of his food a day. This is an increase of 20% since said same Peppermint Patti said he looked thin. When he is fed don't expect much friskiness, when it comes to food, he is a one trick pony; and get out of his freaking way because he'll make a beeline that would knock over the Schlammp Building. Don't be late for feeding. The other night a friend dragged me out after work promising we'd be home by 8:00. As I arrived home after 11:00, I could hear my furry little buddy howling his displeasure, oh I'd say about five blocks away. Sometimes, he eats a bit too fast and urps up his dinner. Recently he did this while I was asleep in bed and he was in my face (I loved your poem Sarah). That was disgusting and one of the only times you'll see me taking a shower at 2:30 in the morning. Je voudrais un billet simple.

Playtime can be unique since Max acts more like a canine than a feline when he's worked up. He loves to play (but is ever so cool about it). Take out a sock and watch him rip into it. A piece of string is like an aphrodisiac, he'll attack it like it's the bird he's preyed upon, and prayed to meet once again. He likes his tummy scratched and there's ample room to do it. His Kirby Puckett build is to be envied. La route est bonne.

He won't let you forget it, but he is everywhere. I shipped off my old typewriter to Alex in DC and as she was trying it out, she flipped the on/off switch and out from the letters flew a solitary cat hair. Alex had to laugh. She used to get mad at the leftover cat I gave her whenever I rode in her car. Faites moi un graissage complet de ma voiture s'il vous plait.

Speaking of Lake Elmo, the winner of our name the new member to our family contest , is someone I have never met. So who exactly is Elmo Gruskin? He's the cat like spirit that we'd like to think exists in all of us. The seeker, the curious, the part of us that likes to lie in the sun. Aloof but ever and always dependable. Here's to you Elmo. JE SUIS EN PANVE. Je vous remercie d'une prenade tres agreable.