Monday, February 3, 2003


They're not booing. They're chanting "lewd... lewd..."

To continue the morbidity of last week this week I found myself craving a certain CD I hadn't listened to in years- Lou Reed's Magic and Loss. The CD is Reed's 1992 tome about contemplating the process and meaning of death. I found it then and I still find it now, difficult to make it through the entire painful disc (with song titles like "Gassed and Stoked," "Cremation," and "No Chance") but the second song, "What's Good" has long been one of my favorite Lou songs.

"Life's like Sanskrit read to a pony/I see you in my mind's eye strangling on your tongue/What good is knowing such devotion/I've been around- I know what makes things run..."

The song if full of probing nonsensical questions and answers ("What good's a disease that won't hurt you? Why no good, I guess, no good at all") that show that for the singer a death of a loved one has transformed his life into a whirlwind of feeling not only a loss but also feeling completely lost.

At the end of the song the whimsy turns to bitterness and resignation. Death isn't choosy who it picks next and often time that choice doesn't seem reasonable. "What good is life without living/What good's this lion that barks/You loved a life others throw away nightly/It's not fair, not fair at all." What I like most about the song however is that Lou ends it with an affirmation (albeit a qualified one)- "What's good? Life's good- but not fair at all."

So the song becomes the theme of the week but one must move on and if one must, one moves on alphabetically (nothing else would make much sense to do). From Reed to Reilly, there was a second disc I spent the week immersing myself in- Ike Reilly's Salesmen and Racists.

Like Reed's song "What's Good" Reilly's songs are full of lines that I'm not sure make much sense but tend to linger on so long that they pop in one's head at the weirdest times. I remember last summer when the blue-eyed intern introduced me to Reilly's disc I popped it into my car stereo, cranked it and found myself singing one line over and over in the middle of a snarly traffic jam: "Hey mother fucker kiss the ground..." I was pleased that when I told this to the blue-eyed intern she confessed that she too often found herself singing that line out loud.

Bar none Salesmen and Racists is the all time great hit the road, crank up the tunes, disc. I'm not sure I can ever relate to Reilly's party hard until you drop (or drop out) lyrics but his words can be like shrapnel drifting in and out of everything you'll ever see again after you heard his songs.

Other singer/songwriters like Jack Johnson and Ryan Adams have gotten more attention and acclaim but I like Ike. I'm sure if we had gone to high school together he is the type of guy that would have hated me as a wussy bleeding heart intellectual. And I probably would have been afraid of him.

They found the Winter Carnival medallion within spitting distance of my house and days later Ike Reilly played not too much farther away at the Turf Club. When I arrived the line was shockingly long. Good thing I had my ticket in my coat pocket because I eavesdropped on the conversations around me and heard that others didn't have a ticket. Sure enough a guy came along and told those of us on the guest list or with a ticket to step into another line. When I got inside I situated myself behind a girl in a chair near the stage. It turned out to be an incredibly wise move because by the end of the night that chair was the only thing separating me from the moshers. At one point I ended up with a young blonde in my arms and before I dropped her she smiled and tapped my wrist.

Ike was great. Hidden by his shades he was kind of like the inscrutable guy I aspire to sometimes be. His new songs particularly stood out and blew the roof off of the dump. If I had to pick a theme to my life, as it is now (can I say all I want to do these days is stay home but coming home to an empty house is not only a new experience but a sad one), it would be Ike's song "Garbage Day." "Hey everyone I meet makes me think of you and I get so lonely/Well I believe you when you say that I'll be judged on garbage day/Baby you've been on my mind..."

He closed with a rocking cover of Dylan's "From a Buick 6" that I must admit matched the writer's version. The next song alerted us all that it was "all right to die." Made me think of the Lou song stuck in my head. Made me think of so much more.

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