Day 17 - A song that you hear often on the radio: "Magic Bus" by The Who
I worked for my hometown school district one summer when I was in college, cleaning classrooms and scraping an obscene amount of gum off of desks, chairs, benches, and just about any other surface you can find inside a building frequented by hundreds of little cretins. Clearly, there were a lot of students defying the district-wide "no gum" policy, far more than I would've imagined back when I was a nerdy little rule-abiding student there. By the end of the summer, I wished we'd saved it all so we could've presented it to the school board in big five-gallon buckets or something. It was unreal.
(To be honest, though, gum-scraping quickly became my favorite part of the job. We had little aerosol cans of freezing spray that we'd use to ice down the chunks, rendering them unsticky and defenseless against our blunt instruments of gum removal [i.e., paint scrapers and, occasionally, butterknives]. There's little in life I've found as satisfying as the feeling of a frozen piece of gum giving way and ricocheting across the room. Perhaps I missed my calling?)
Anyway, as we roamed from school to school, scraping and scrubbing, we usually had a radio playing, and that radio was almost always tuned to Hot Rock J96. And the crazy thing about Hot Rock J96 in those days was that the same songs played every day, usually at almost exactly the same time as they had the day before. Me and many of my friends were convinced the radio station had gotten rid of their DJs entirely and made mix tapes instead, and that they just sent someone in to flip them over every 12 hours or so.
And every day that summer, "Magic Bus" came on the radio at approximately 11:30 A.M. When we heard "Magic Bus," we knew it was time for lunch. Every. Day.
Hot Rock recently changed formats...it hasn't shed its classic rock image completely, but now it's incorporated a bunch of overplayed butt rock from the mid-90s to the present into its lineup. (I would've been perfectly content if I'd never heard another Third Eye Blind song on the radio again in my lifetime.) It's more aggressive and it's lost a lot of its charm. And as much as I mocked it all those years, I kind of miss being able to set my watch based on what song is playing.
Day 16 - A song that you used to love but now hate: "Da Da Da" by Trio
"Hate" is too strong a word - I don't hate this song. I just got sick of it. I heard it on a Volkswagen commercial in the mid-90s (which was memorably spoofed in a Spin City promo, but alas, I can't seem to find that online anywhere), and, in a sign of the times, actually bought the album instead of just downloading the single off the internet. Just like the pioneers! I think I even bought it at a Sam Goody in Eau Claire or Madison on a school trip, surely meaning I paid much more for it than it was possibly worth. (Am I the only one who didn't feel bad when Sam Goody went under? Their prices were ridonkulous.)
Actually, this clip is pretty awesome, and may go a long way toward making me love that song again. Or, well, tolerate it, at least.
P.S. I learned the following on Wikipedia: the band referred to their sound as the "New German Cheerfulness," and the drummer often played one-handed while eating an apple. It's official, I like them again.
Day 14 - A song that no one would expect you to love: "Can't Get You Out of My Head" by Kylie Minogue
This one takes me back to the spring of '03, driving around north of Kalispell doing VISTA site visits with my buddy Ryan. He brought along his laptop, which we plugged into the cigarette lighter in the state motor pool-issued Durango we were tooling around in so we could play mp3s off his Winamp and have a mobile disco dance party. Oh, life before we all had iPods...
Day 9 - A song that you can dance to: "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus
It was the fall of 1993, and for some ungodly reason, America had fallen in love with country line dancing. Unfortunately, not even my high school marching band proved immune to the phenomenon.
Thankfully, I can't seem to find any pictures of the homecoming halftime show in question - I had the good sense to leave my camera at home, apparently - but imagine, if you will, a bunch of teenagers in ill-fitting polyester band uniforms and Pee Wee Herman shoes trotting around in formation on a football field, doing the Achy Breaky and desperately trying not to fall over. Dignity died that day.
(At least we can take some comfort in knowing we weren't the only ones...)
Day 8 - A song that you know all the words to: "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M.
There aren't many times when knowing all the words to this song comes in handy, but let me tell you, if you can crank it out at the karaoke bar, you're probably going to get some free drinks sent your way. "Birthday party, cheesecake, jellybean, BOOM!"
Day 5 - A song that reminds you of someone: "Music Box Dancer" by Frank Mills*
Growing up in Ashland, we didn't have a ton of reliable radio stations. There were a few from Duluth/Superior that came in most of the time, if the weather was clear; a Wisconsin Public Radio translator station in Brule that played classical music all day; one over in Ironwood that played Mike Harvey's oldies show on Saturday nights; and maybe one in Park Falls that came through on occasion. I think it's improved nowadays - the stations in Duluth have boosted their signals over the years, so most of them come in clearer - but when I was in high school, you generally had one of three options (if your car didn't have a tape player or, gasp!, a CD player):
- the country station; - HotRockJ96; or - AM 1400.
In my friend Emily's Chevette, however, there was only one option, because all it had was an AM radio. As repetitive as Hot Rock J96 was (you could literally set your watch by what song was playing), having it kept just out of arm's reach proved Cinderella right: you don't know what you got 'til it's gone.
AM 1400 was where old people music went to die. When it wasn't airing Brewer or Packer games, it was where artists of the 1940s and 50s gingerly mingled with the softest of 70s and 80s soft rock. Their gentle standards and mellow rock ballads never threatened to raise your pulse beyond what was necessary to pump enough blood into your legs to keep your rocking chair moving.
Emily was a year ahead of me in school, and thus, was driving before I was...we were both big band geeks and spent a lot of our afterschool hours shuttling between various band practices (jazz band, pep band, marching band, yadda-yadda). Emily was kind enough to give me the occasional lift back to Rancho del Asbach, when her mom had been kind enough to let her use the Chevette and granted her permission to drive me "all the way home," which seems kind of hilarious now since we live less than three miles out of town...back then, it seemed farther, I guess. Anyway, we had to jam to something, and AM 1400 was all we had, so that's what we listened to.
I remember one day in particular, driving from Emily's house along 11th Street - I can't remember where we were going (the school? my house?), but it was winter, and when "Music Box Dancer" came on the radio we thought it was hysterical. H-Y-S-T-E-R-I-C-A-L. And well, it kind of is, isn't it? We rolled down the windows and cranked the volume up to 11 and rolled through town like a couple of badasses.
*I chose this YouTube clip specifically because of that intriguing piece of art accompanying the song; it looks like one of those little glass-covered posters you'd win from a balloon-popping game at a carnival.
Day Four - A song that makes you sad: "A Minor Incident" by Badly Drawn Boy
Long story short: out of the blue, a friend left town in the middle of the night and I fell apart, even though I tried very, very hard to pretend that I was okay because well, that's how I am. It was sudden, and the only thing I can compare it to was feeling like someone had died.
The next day, I went to the grocery store, filled up my usual basket of groceries, and got in line to check out. As my little pile of stuff zipped down the conveyor belt, a guy who lived down the street from me got into line behind me and snarled, "Apparently some people don't feel like they have to abide by the 20 items or less rule." I didn't know what he was talking about - it took me a second to figure out that was directed at me, when I looked up above me and saw the sign. My mind wasn't on grocery shopping and it was an honest mistake...I tried to say I was sorry, but I started crying instead and couldn't get the words out. The cashier asked if I was okay, and I just nodded and tried to breathe and to not make any horrible noises and wished she'd scan faster, oh dear god, just scan the damn Yoplait and get me the hell out of here. I'm not a crier in the first place, let alone a public crier.
By the time I got to my car, I was a mess. An absolute mess.
It was wintertime, and I was walking to work most days, listening to my CD player. I had this album in there one morning shortly after my friend had left, and when this song came on I almost lost it right there on the sidewalk. It was like a torpedo to my heart.
Ever since that day in the grocery store, if I get stuck in line behind someone in an express checkout lane who clearly does not belong in an express checkout lane, I bite my tongue and hope that they aren't having one of the worst days of their life like I was.
Day Two - Your least favorite song: "Cotton Eye Joe" by Rednex
(Don't click on it. Just don't. I'm sorry for even bringing it up.)
Yesterday, I wrote about how sometimes it's hard to quantify why you love something the way you do. Well, on the flip side of that coin, it's easy - really easy - for me to quantify my hatred for "Cotton Eye Joe." Let me count the ways...
The incessant hoedown-ing;
The gross exploitation of rednecks;
All that wasted straw!;
The fact that this performance is apparently taking place in the middle of a crowded discotheque and that people are dancing enthusiastically to it;
The gratuitous and inexplicable "No Sex Allowed" sign at the 1:29 mark;
That I watched the video closely enough to notice #5;
The screeching Tori Amos-wannabe intermittently flitting about like a banshee;
The goddamned idiot sitting in the back pounding the crap out of that big bass drum with "RED NEX" painted on it;
The Bee Gees reject at 2:24 staring at the buxom bullriding girl;
There's a meme floating around on Facebook encouraging people to post a YouTube video every day (for thirty days) in response to various music-related prompts...I've really enjoyed reading my friends' responses so far, so I thought I'd dip a toe in, too. (Let's see if I have the attention span to follow through on this 'til the end.)
Day One - Your favorite song: "To the Dogs or Whoever" by Josh Ritter
I've heard this song a thousand times, and it's never gotten old. I hope it never does.
There are so many things I love about it, and about Josh Ritter's music in general, but ultimately, it's still hard to quantify why something's your favorite, isn't it? There's a nameless element to it that either lights a spark in you, or it doesn't. This one sparks for me every time I hear it.
(Foreword: oh my god, I completely forgot to post this, like, two months ago. Wait, three months ago? Four? This is embarrassing. Sorry. Not that I imagine anyone was waiting with bated breath or anything, but still!)
Me & Regina had one more full day in L.A. after Jamie's wedding...and oh boy, we really had a lot we wanted to pack into that day. We didn't get to do everything that we wanted to, but despite the best efforts of the GPS to send us into the Pacific Ocean, we survived and we put a lot of miles on that day, so we chalked it up as a success.
First stop: the La Brea Tar Pits, which were much smaller in-person than we were expecting. And right in the middle of town, surrounded by skyscrapers and stuff. Just kind of disorienting, for some reason. I think in my mind's eye, I'd been confusing it with an episode of Reading Rainbow I saw in about 1984 where Levar went to Dinosaur National Monument. Thanks a lot, PBS!
Here, enjoy a heartwarming scene of a mammoth drowning in tar.
Also, please savor this piece of clipart featuring a germ brandishing a tommy gun. (It was in the museum so it's totally factual.)
Next up: an ill-fated attempt to find the Natural History Museum. It was only a few blocks away from the tar pits, but it took us the better part of an hour to find it, thanks to dueling instructions from a guy at the tar pits and our trusty GPS. This was right about when I lost it. It happens on most trips: eventually, my food/sleep/stress levels get all out of whack, and until I get some snacks and/or lazy time, I turn into a pouting sad sack. As much as I'd like to convince myself I'm a world traveler and that I'm soooo adventurous, I'm more hobbit than anything else - if I'm out of my shire for too long and surrounded by too much of the unfamiliar, I just want to crawl into a bag of Doritos and take a nap. And the driving in L.A. really got to me - I was way, WAY out of my element and felt a huge knot growing in my gut every time we had to get back into the car.
Thank god Regina's used to having toddlers around - she plied me with trail mix and kept me laughing, and I got over my funk before too long.
After we got out of there, we darted toward Hollywood Boulevard. On our way there, two things caught our eye:
We could see Griffith Observatory off in the distance.
We had two options. One, continue to obey the GPS and (presumably) head toward the Walk of Fame. Two, turn off the GPS and just start driving toward the observatory.
Fastest decision ever.
And so began the high point of our day, when the car was safely parked (on a winding, narrow mountain road, since the parking lot was filled well-beyond capacity), a snack bar was available, there were plentiful opportunities to make Uranus jokes, we found a creepy eyeball-less James Dean statue, and after about ten minutes of discussion, we were finally able to figure out where the Hollywood sign was.
Soon, it was time to wind our way back down the hill...we made it back to Hollywood Boulevard without incident, only to find ourselves in a little traffic jam on our way to Grauman's Chinese Theater. Whatever would cause a traffic jam at 7:00 on a Sunday night?
Why, the premiere of a cinematic masterpiece called Cats vs. Dogs in 3D, of course.
(Did they have cats at the premiere, climbing all over the trees & junk they'd loaded into this truck? We may never know, or care.)
While we waited for the red carpet stuff to get packed up, we walked around and checked out the stars on the sidewalk.
(There was no end to my amusement when I saw that someone appeared to have spilled a juice-like substance on Jack Lalanne's star.)
Eventually, the red carpets were all gone, so we joined about a billion other people who'd been waiting to look at the famous slabs of concrete in front of the theater.
Regina compares feet with Johnny Depp.
Sylvester Stallone gives America a thoughtful pep talk. Or, maybe I'm misreading it, and he's actually telling someone named Ted to keep punching America? That's not very nice, Sly.
I squealed when I found Harold Lloyd's prints, but it seemed like most of the people in the crowd with us didn't know who he was. What a shame.
As darkness fell, figures emerged from the shadows with carts bearing hot dogs, buns, and a wide array of condiments, chanting their siren song over the streetscape: "Bacon? No bacon?" Only it came out so fast it all sounded like one word, machine-gunned: "BACONNOBACON? BACONNOBACON?" Over and over, from every direction. Regina needed a snack of her own by then and ordered one...with bacon, of course.
And with that, we'd had enough. It was time to go back to the hotel and decompress. But first, a stop at the In-N-Out Burger down the street for some grub. What could go wrong? (Well, besides getting lost again on our way back to the hotel from there, like we'd done the day before, which is all the more pathetic since this place is less than a mile away from where we were staying, but whatever.)
THIS COULD GO WRONG:
Me (as I put the car in park & looked up): HOLY SWEET MOTHER OF SHIT!
Regina (digging in her purse and not looking up): What?
Me: THAT PLANE ALMOST HIT THAT BILLBOARD!!!!!!%&*#$!!!!!!!
Regina (getting out of the car): Oh, no, c'mon, I'm sure it was just a trick of the eye.
Me (rocking back and forth): HOLY GOD I SWEAR I AM NOT INSANE AND THAT ALMOST JUST HAPPENED.
Regina: Let's go get something to eat, you'll feel better.
Me: No, no, we need to stay here and wait for another plane to come. Because I am not crazy.
Thirty seconds later:
Me and Regina: HOLY MOTHER OF CRAP THAT PLANE ALMOST HIT THAT BILLBOARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If there was any doubt left at that point that we were ready to go home, well, that was the end of that.