Can You Take Me Back Where I Came From?

Once the wacky weather passed I got some time away in the country for a few days. It was very enjoyable and a much-needed break from the noisy life of NYC, at least in theory. But a funny thing happened while I was visiting my mother, who still lives on the street where I lived for a couple of years before I moved to NYC. For the first time in years there are guitar players on the street again. I heard them practicing while I was there. The family next door to my Mom is home-schooled, which is a pretty radical concept compared to how I grew up. If someone had told me back when I was a kid I would be home all day being taught by my Mom and part of the curriculum would be fifteen minutes of trying to play Billy Squier riffs (I think??) I would’ve done by best Peter Griffin and said “AW SWEET!” There was another guy on the street who was rapping and rocking an acoustic on the porch and I think he might be a Juggalo, but I’m not sure ’cause I’ve never met any Juggalos. That’s what happens as you get older…you become way out of touch with what’s happening and what things actually are.

I didn’t take a guitar along this trip because I was trying to get away from EVERYTHING for a few days, but sometimes life doesn’t let that happen. All of this guitar and rapping stuff brought back some memories I hadn’t thought about in a long time. Back in the day, before I moved to the city, I was one of the crazies of the block; running with a fast crowd, staying out really late, hanging with friends who had motor-head cars and playing lots of VERY LOUD GUITAR. I pissed off our next door neighbor, a retired cop who spent a lot of time on his front porch keeping an eye on the street, many times. He would be driven inside by me learning to play Hendrix, Van Halen, The Rolling Stones and whatever else I was doing. One summer between school years I was working the 5-11 shift in a furniture factory and then I would stay out until dawn half of the time. Every day before work I would “wake up” to the Sex Pistols’ Nevermind the Bollocks, which was a very motivating album, especially since it sounded a lot like all of the industrial noise in the factory. I didn’t even have to get out of bed to turn the record on, but once it was over I was ready to go…most days anyway. I’ve never been one to do things half-measure and since my “room” was the attic, I would crank up the stereo and amp to ear-crushing levels. Everyone else on the block was pretty subdued and I was the only guitar player and I thought all of that behavior ended when I left. I hadn’t noticed any changes either and it’s not like I haven’t visited my Mom in 25 years, I mean, gee whiz. But I guess I was wrong.

I’m sure my neighbors didn’t relate to any of the music I was playing and even my family didn’t really know what was going on. During the “Sex Pistols Summer” my younger sister asked me, “Why do you keep playing that really dumb song that goes I WANNA BE, I’M OK?” I tried to explain the concept of ANARCHY in the UK to her, but what did she care? The Sex Pistols were more out of place in that environment at the time than Juggalos are today. Jim Morrison’s intro to the Soft Parade got my Mom in a bit of a tizzy and though she has always been a music lover and very supportive of my musical aspirations she never understood and totally didn’t like the whole concept of VOLUME and why it is important for some forms of musical expression. The funny thing is, now I am almost as old as she was back then and I tend to stay away from forms of expression that require a lot of volume. One reason is I completely fried my ears over 2 decades of playing music by PLAYING REALLY LOUD and never wearing earplugs. The other reason is I am into forms of expression that don’t require volume or, rather, volume. In a way, these NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK are like my descendants or something. I’m glad they are doing what they like and hope they continue even if I have no intention of ever liking what they do. I wasn’t enthralled that my vacation kept being interrupted by out of tune guitar and rapping, but I certainly don’t want to be that ex-cop from my youth, snarling at everything he doesn’t understand. I also don’t want to turn into a music snob, because I still like all forms of music, but sometimes it’s hard to not act your age, no matter what age you are.

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