Monday, May 25, 1998

Oh to Be a Tube

Her shadow cast a figure that looked like Pebbles (or was it Bam Bam?) against the wall. Deep inside the little boy felt warmer (muy muy caliente) than the hot afternoon sun whose intensity was determined to make everybody sweat as it turned a tan into a burn. She told him of a scene five years in the future. He understood clearly and wanted to at once be there with her. She was a spray painter with the soul of a blues dancer. He was beginning to sense that she had that rare gift of great intuition- of being able to see what the sum of the parts truly was. His preference always was toward people who thought before they spoke. "Observe; listen; think; feel; use your intuition- then speak."

A closet full of shoes, neatly shelved and arranged by the master decorator. A puppy dog look of affection as her two dogs showed enthusiasm demonstrating how to give ten and play paddy cake all for the love of an ice cube. She was a keeper of roses and he continued to admire her attitude. It was a mere week after the passing of the boy's blued eyed idol. He was more shaken by the loss than he thought he would be. It made him recall a period frightfully not that long ago where he worked in a vault and needed to call upstairs whenever he wanted someone to let him out. As a self reward for his endurance he went out and bought a fancy felt hat, the type his idol might wear. He got looks from the people of downtown whenever he wore this hat but it was the beginning of his recovery. His current closet collection of hats was a nice reminder of how far he had come in just a few years. Now for this one rare moment he was in a perfect place and time.

The confusion was lifting. The storm that blew through a neighboring community left its scars and inconveniences. Those that endured pondered the most vital inventions of all. TV? Telephones? Electricity? Nope. Adhesive: whatever binds us together and provides the ultimate connection. He walked into a store and said, "Shuegoo," to the weary and bewildered young clerk. She looked at him as if he had asked for his favorite Japanese blow fish. "Shoogue," he repeated. She clearly wasn't understanding. "The heal of my shoe is detached," he began. She finally got it: Shoe Goo. She directed him to the nearest shoe repair shop. He then visited a new dentist who affixed a crown in his mouth that the boy's father had made. A perfect fit. It's good once in a while when something sticks. A good adhesive and a little electricity all adds up to rock and roll.

"It licks away like the tide on a stone. It ticks away at you genius of America. Break even, burn gas. Buried in waste right up to your ass. Turn a bottle to a bag on the ground, get used to living in a cardboard town. A visionary luminary, futures looking kind of scary." Later on in the week the boy was having dinner with his friend Spunky. The conversation turned to relationships passed and Spunky told him he couldn't imagine anything worse than dating the boy. "Equal parts frustrating and annoying."

The same could be said about the moment the boy stood in the darkness of the Medina Ballroom listening to the current incarnation of the rock group the Tubes plow their way through yet another concert in yet another venue on a long, long road. This group hasn't been around forever, it only feels that way. As lead singer Fee Waybill tore his shredded shirt from his body and handed it to an adoring female fan, his furrowed brow gave away the familiarity of the moment. Just another gig on another night, trying to recapture the spirit of what brought all this up to begin with.

They performed all the perfunctory songs from White Punks on Dope to A Matter of Pride and Mr. Hate. If nothing else they've become quite the professionals able to strike the right riff to get the crowd bobbing in satisfaction. Waybill's arrogance only matched his ability to give the crowd what they were looking for. On this particular night he made several comments about the recent settlement between the state and the tobacco companies, making smoking in Minnesota even more of an outlaw activity. As he spoke several cigarettes were flung his way. He feigned his death in front of the understanding throng.

Hard as they tried (and they did seem to try awfully hard) the current Tubes lineup couldn't convey anything other than this was yet another stop on the long road from being a famous band to just another act that people come to hear to remember what once was. The ever luring promise of sex, drugs and rock and roll remains the goal (betrayed only by the promise of eternal youth), the attraction for both the band and their loyal fans. In the rare instances when the band was able to recapture the essence and share it, the power of rock and roll was properly caught once again if only for a moment.

The Tubes have taken their place next to the Journeys, the REO Speedwagons, the Styx's of the world as occupying the growing up period for a generation of people. And their performance in Medina replayed memories from another time for many in the room. Rock and roll can be revolutionary in its nostalgia as well as its ability to say the wrong things just at the right time. And it seems like quite the way to make a living.

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