Some days driving home is an absolute mind numbing horror. I grind through traffic setting I-90 ablaze with my hatred for the commute and everyone involved. I can’t push the car fast enough. The cattle in front of me can’t get out of my way fast enough. Thoughts of mounting 50 caliber machine guns onto my domestic blue Toyota Camry sedan ricochet in my mind. Delmar O’Donnell reprimanding me, “Oh, George… not the livestock.” Left lane is for the living. The right lane is for the dying. I am Imperator Furiosa. I am Max Rockatansky. WITNESS ME.
But lately – in the soft dusty blue of last light, I find myself thinking about the past. Growing up in Winona. The swirl of memories real and imagined. Flashes of fresh muddy spring air blowing over the Mississippi River as I would reel in fish that my Dad would catch for me high atop of the Wagon Bridge. Summer afternoons spent wasting the day away with my cousins at my Aunt Kathy’s pink house in town, waiting for our favorite MTV video to air. Typically we had SpaghettiOs for lunch. Other times we fried the sunfish we caught earlier in the morning from the lake. My job was to scale them. My brother cut the heads off and gutted them while my sister fried them for us. I can hear our child voices echo and the smoky smell of fried Bluegills in my aunt’s old house, now filled with college renters, hunched over mobile devices. Winters growing up were epic in scale and heavy with large amounts of snow. Images of our kitchen glowing orange in late winter light spending my time sledding before dinner, endlessly tromping up the hill in front of our house. Coming inside when my mom would get home and smelling goulash stewing while my dad would sing snippets of verse from old country legends – Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, and Charlie Pride to name of few.
These visions slide along with the peeling landscape before me as I dumbly pass through traffic on I-90. I’m less annoyed in this reverie than when I’m present, listening to music, and thinking about the mundane details of the day. I stop myself when my heart begins to ache. It’s a real feeling. I chide myself for being sentimental and nostalgic. A narcissistic exercise in futility. I keep telling myself that these are reflections from radiation emanating out of a nearby black hole. The Flat Earthers were right. That the matrix is simply playing out on a screen that we are watching. I quietly sing the chorus to Willie Nelson’s On the road again.
When I start to come down West Burn’s Valley and into Winona (all manner of mythical and woodland creatures following my car trumpeting my return to this beautiful river town, you tell me what is real) I decide that I don’t care about the reality of it. It doesn’t matter. These are memories of a good childhood, a past full of love. Things that we should never forget no matter how long the drive.
When you sing the opening lyrics to Journey’s Faithfully, it sounds cool. Saying the lyrics– not so much. I suppose this is the case with all song lyrics.
For whatever reasons unknown to me, I wake up with this song in my head, a lot. I visualize the Greyhound bus rolling along the highway, Steve Perry leaning wistfully into the window’s reflection. I blame it on the commute, I-90 and drone of semi-trucks. The Usual Suspects.
As I packed lunch at the kitchen corner I thought about a low-grade argument I had with the Target stockroom team leader about the 80s feathered-hairband. I ticked off a few songs that I thought really sucked – particularly that one where the guy plays the keyboard nailed to the side of a metal shed. I believe it was Separate Ways. He just shook his head and told me I was woefully wrong.
I thought again and fired off , Oh Sherrie. Surely I had him. No one can refute the horror of that song.
He paused. Shook his head in agreement and said, “Yes. That is truly a terrible song, but that’s Steve Perry, not Journey.
What could I say?
In case you have forgotten. Hairspray and brush not included:
Dearest Reader – you know how much I love to tell you when I upgrade my blog software? That’s right, I’m running WordPress 2.7, also known as “Coltrane”. Pretty geeky, eh? The new admin panel is completely different. It’s sveltely in appearance. I want to eat it, not write with it.
So this was a big part of yesterday –
Drove to Rochester and found that school had been closed (stupid me for listening to MPR and not listening to local weather on the radio – I blame Blagojevich). So, I turned around and fought winter weather in the eastbound lane of I-90. Alas.
Other things that are currently on my mind. Listing:
– Minnesota state budget deficit. Don’t lay me off!
– My wireless router. Why do you suck? I have you working OK for now, but you seem to fail me so often. Too many people have wireless routers now causing interference with my router. I’ve started giving my wireless router technologically threatening names in hopes that my wireless neighbors see it on their wireless lists and are scared back to a wired internet. Otherwise I’m moving back to a wired internet.
-My slow laptop. I should make you happy and buy you more memory, but I’m broke. Sorry.
And that is pretty much it. Not so bad, really. They almost seem trivial except for that first one. Ha ha.
Best of luck everyone. See you in 2009, perhaps earlier.
I found out it takes me about one week to go from raving fan to, “hey, this is an oldie but a goody” when it comes to music nowadays. It’s all that quality time I spend on the commute. Three albums by the Pixies chewed up in one week. If I could spit out the vinyl I would.
So this morning on the commute I’m like, “Shit. I don’t know what to listen to. Oh yeah! I have like three thousand songs on my iPod. Let’s try the shuffle songs mode.” Yes. I actually spoke this aloud.
The shuffle songs mode is hit or miss. It’s not like the party shuffle on iTunes in which it magically reads your mind elevating your music listening experience to a Peter Frampton induced hypnosis.
I turn it to shuffle and tuck the iPod inside my jacket pocket. First song is a hit. “Haitian Divorce” by Steely Dan. I’m stoked. As I cruise down Huff Street I take one hand off the wheel to make a wave motion with my hand. Just to show the cold dark how effortlessly I can navigate its icey street with The Dan. I particularly like the line, “She drinks the zombie from the cocoa shell. She feels alright. She get it on tonight.”
I’m feeling good about driving. Next song is unexpected. I totally forget I even have it on my iPod. Queen’s “Bicycle Race”. Riding a bicycle is about as subversive as it gets in transportation nowadays. What the Hell is wrong with you? You like to bike? You just want to ride your bicycle? Freak. Favorite lyric from the song goes like this, “I don’t believe in Peter Pan Frankenstein or Superman. All I wanna do is — Bicycle bicycle bicycle! I like the drums that lead up to the chorus.
A quick aside about riding your bike. Riding a bike to commute and save on gas is great and all but it’s not like Queen’s idea of fun. You gotta be riding in a pack of bicyclists. Down the middle of the road. Doing wheelies and riding no hands. Having a doofy hat or a big Jolly Roger flag just adds to the excitment. You’re riding a bike to have fun. Not to Free Tibet or whatever.
It’s a good ride over to work. Very little skipping of tunes. I hear some Tom Waits, Neko Case, Uncle Tupelo, Phish, Violent Femmes, Morphine, and John Vanderslice. The shuffle comes to an end listening to The Decemberists, “The Gymnast” as I walked through the office door. A nice contemplative song to start my day.
On the way back. Shuffle mode went into Suck-ass mode. The first indication was REM’s “Radio Song”. I hate this tune. It reminds me of Dockers and multi-colored blouses. It reminds me of the 90s and how lamely we dressed and how we were way too honest with ourselves and other people. The shuffle goes down hill from there and I switch to a Bright Eyes album while trying to pass a semi truck. I turned off the iPod while coming down the valley into town. I was beat. There was nothing left to listen to. Three thousand songs and not enough time. I have way too much William Ackerman on my iPod.
I think I just might cue up all four Steely Dan albums tomorrow morning.