Talking ’bout my generation. We’re in our late twenties and early thirties. We have the perennial complaints that it seems every generation must have–that things are too expensive, that music no longer has soul, that Saturday Night Live is not as funny as it used to be. But we are unique, too. We grieve deeply for discontinued snack cakes.
I sigh eternally for you, Ninja Turtle Pudding Pies.
We complain about kids today and their constant texting. All we had were Speak ‘N Spells. We lament how playground equipment used be so much cooler. How we used to climb on wooden structures with rusty nails that jutted out. We got splinters and gashed our knees. Life was organic then. It’s plastic now.
Yeah, I hope I die before I get old, once sneered Roger Daltrey. There. Now I’ve reached the age where I quote The Who’s “My Generation” lamentingly. I have not only become officially old, but also, lame. And I’m only twenty-nine. It’s not like I’m singing Sinatra’s “The September of my Years” in the bathtub while draining a bottle of Jack Daniels, and pulling the shower curtain down around me. The sound of twenty-nine still has a vitality to it–not like thirty. That word thumps like a flat tire.
Lately, I’ve become accustomed to spending my evenings spread out on the couch with the girlfriend, watching shows like Biggest Loser. Who knew watching fat people weigh themselves, while I eat potato chips, was so much fun?
I could use some spontaneity. We all could.
I’m not exactly a spontaneous person; I begin sweating if we only have Italian dressing instead of Ranch. I decided we should go to a rock and roll show. I had read about this band, Girls in Rolling Stone–which like Saturday Night Live, is another thing that every generation thinks used to be better. The show was on a work night, and parking could be rough in the bustling college town. But damn it, I can still drink cheap beer and ROCK OUT–by which I mean politely nod my head along, sometimes with the rhythm.
Who was this band? Back in the day, when they played music videos, we found out about bands on MTV. But I’m hip and adaptable. I looked their videos up on You Tube, squinting my eyes at the little box on the screen, listening through tinny laptop speakers. I liked it.
(In case you would like a soundtrack to the rest of my story.)
I used to be rock and roll. Yep. Bet you wouldn’t guess it about me, but I invented eyeball dancing. Eyeball dancing was one of the things I did while bored in the backseat of the Bronco, along with games like tracing the rain drops on the window, and waving to the cars behind us. I loved to ride in The Bronco. My favorite part was the horse on the tire cover on the back of the truck. I also liked to trace the horse. It must have been a soothing activity, tracing things with my finger. Perhaps this is why the girlfriend sometimes thinks I have autism.
The Bronco also had a tape deck, and we played tapes of The Beatles. I invented a game where I moved my eyes with the beat of the music. I darted my eyes side to side with the heavy bass line of “Come Together.”
“What’s wrong back there? Is something in your eye?” my mother asked, looking concerned in the rear view mirror.
Eyeball dancing. It also worked well with Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”
The girlfriend and I got dressed for our rock and roll date. She carefully picked through her closet, choosing a specific rock-and-roll jacket. It was from Target, but it was pre-faded in color, which deemed it rock-and-roll. I put on my standard–a black t-shirt and jeans, a classic look. In my earlier aloof, apathetic days, my clothes might have smelled like cigarettes and the floor I picked them up from, but now they smell like dryer sheets and the zing of Tide.
Outside, it began to pour rain. This created a sort of infinite-fashion-loop for the girlfriend.
“Now that I can’t wear this jacket.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because it will get wet.”
“Fine, then wear your other jacket, too.”
“But I can’t wear two jackets.”
“Then why can’t you just wear the Target jacket?”
The girlfriend took off her pre-faded jacket, putting on a more appropriate coat for the rain. Meanwhile, I zipped up in a very sensible waterproof coat, a great bargain on sale, from Kohls. And as we did this, I realized, oh my god. We were not rock and roll. We were reasonable.
We arrived at the club, the kind of place that’s a hole in the wall, with threadbare carpeting smudged with dirt and cigarette burns. A man with loppy blond hair stood outside lighting a cigarette. I used to smoke, but I quit a few years ago. Now I just watch people light up. I don’t crave and I don’t wish. I just watch. Under the red awning, out of the rain, the blonde man puffed. He looked disinterested and cool, like smokers always do. He wore an off-white t-shirt, as though he didn’t wash his whites in a separate load, and grungy blue jeans. We made eye contact. He nodded.
Maybe I looked like someone who knew music. Who still got it. Because I get it. I do. Pet Sounds. Revolver. Blonde on Blonde. Those albums, their joy and pain, their teenage symphonies to God, is still in me. About me. That’s what rock and roll is. I nodded back. The raindrops beaded on my water-repelling jacket.
We entered the club. I thought about that guy outside some more, taking drags on his Parliament Light. He looked like he was in a band. In fact, he sort of looked like the lead singer I had seen in those, small, blurry You Tube videos of the band we were about to see. That was the guy from the band. We had had a moment. It was true.
We checked our coats with the bouncer. I walked with a swagger now. I nonchalantly nodded at the bartender and ordered two beers. Then we proceeded to stand in the crowd, stiffly holding our beers and staring towards the stage that had no one on it yet. Next to me, stood a young man wearing corduroy pants, a tweed jacket, and a cotton t-shirt. Another kid wore a dingy black hoody and khaki shorts. A group of girls wore assemblages of fabrics and scarves. The girlfriend leaned in to whisper that she didn’t think they washed their hair.
Slowly, I began to realize we had done the most un-rock-and-roll thing ever. Of all time. We had actually checked our coats.
But that wasn’t the lamest thing that happened. I looked over at the merch table and saw the blonde man that had been smoking outside. He was not the lead singer of the band at all. He was the merch guy. I had a moment…with the merch guy.
Little could I know there was another treat in store for me. But first, the show? Awesome. Rock and roll is alive and well. After the show? We went to retrieve our jackets, the only two–yes, the only two–hanging on the coat rack. The bouncer, a rather jolly fat guy, looked at me and said very sincerely, “hey, that’s a nice jacket.”
“Thanks,” I said, somewhat flattered. Then, I thoughtfully added “it’s waterproof, too,” like a forty-year-old woman gabbing about the bargains I found at Kohls.
Outside again, in the rain, even the girlfriend laughed at me.
Hey man, people try to put us down.