Justice: “And Justice For All” – Metallica
I didn’t like this song when it came out in 1988. In 1988, I was ten and listening to INXS and Roxette – the closest to heavy metal I got was probably Motley Crue. A sidebar to this: as a fifth grader, for whatever reason, I believed my “Theatre of Pain” cassette to be made of cocaine. First of all, it was white. Second, it smelled funny. As such, it seemed illicit and terrifying, but also sort of exciting to have wedged in my tape case between an old Mini Pops album and Glass Tiger’s “The Thin Red Line.” Anyway, I got into Metallica in high school, partly out of irony, but mainly because through some bizarre circumstances I befriended three full-out rock-ons. These were people who discussed guitars in terms of “action.” Their hair was long, their appendages slender, and they usually wore long-sleeve t-shirts advertising what they had gotten drunk on the night before. Their pencil cases contained no writing utensils, but instead a pair of charred butter knives, a safety pin and a gram or two of hash. Theirs was a life led on the edge, beyond the law, answering to no one. And for me, a tourist in this land of civil disobedience and random acts of vandalism, incredibly liberating. That is, until the lot of us were ticketed in tenth grade for underage drinking, caught behind a bowling alley taking turns at a forty of Canadian Club. My mom, upon my arrival at home in the back of a cruiser, instructed: “I don’t want you hanging out with those rough boys again – you’ve got your studies to think about.”
Temperance: “Namaste” – Beastie Boys
I’ve always felt like something of a Buddhist. Of course, that might just be because, as friends and enemies alike often point out, I couldn’t fight my way out of a paper bag. In the past few years I have been thrice punched by strangers in public. And on all three occasions I either turtled or waited until my attackers disappeared before unleashing a torrent of clever insults and threats of vengeance. But let’s ignore my inability to physically defend myself. Let’s instead chalk it up to my unrelenting commitment to pacifism, and that in the face of violence I maintain a demeanor of Buddha-like serenity. I am the sound of one hand clapping. I am that Siddhartha fellow and the Dalai Lama and Adam Yauch drinking chamomile tea in the middle of a field of poppies, nodding, smiling, discussing the best way to keep one’s robes saffron-fresh. Listen: last spring I got hit by a car while riding my bike. I pulled myself up off the pavement, bleeding and concussed, and promptly apologized to the driver, who cursed me and drove off in his SUV. I spent the next day in intensive care while a number of baffled police officers hovered around, incredulous I hadn’t at least gotten a license plate number. That, my friends, is some serious Bodhisattva shit.
Here is a song that makes me think of Oprah. And not just a sitting, interviewing, you-go-girling, free-trips-to-the-spa-giving Oprah. I mean the wild Oprah, the madcap, hell-on-wheels Oprah, the Oprah who when she dances throws her hands skyward and claps! claps! claps! like a mom at a wedding. The Oprah I’m thinking of has got a purse full of tampons, and a mouth full of cusses. This Oprah doesn’t wipe the seat. She’ll knock you out, kick you while you’re down, then write a scathing piece about the whole thing for Vanity Fair. Now, the point of all this is that I am actually quite terrified of Oprah. I am frightened of the ideological stranglehold she seems to possess over mainstream femininity across North America. Also: does no one else notice that she looks like Admiral Akbar from Star Wars?
Prudence: “Dear Prudence” – The Beatles
There are not a lot of songs that suggest prudence, let alone contain the word in their title. So this is the one I’m going with. Um.
Hope: “Hope” – The Dirty Three
In my early twenties I lived for one year in the South Australian capital of Adelaide. Adelaide is a pretty, quiet city with a number of charming churches and gardens, as well as at least one brutal episode of serial killings every year. While I was there, not only were over thirty bodies discovered in vats of acid in the Adelaide Hills, but also a gang of maniacs went swimming out into the harbour where they stabbed a number of dolphins to death. Who murders dolphins? It seemed like the premise to a Care Bears episode. Also, while in Australia I did some hiking in the Victorian Alps, a beautiful, and accordingly alpine, part of the country. Here my friends and I climbed, in succession, “Mount Niggerhead” and “Chinaman’s Knob.” Australia. Here is what Warren Ellis of the Dirty Three has to say: “This is a song about sitting above your roof at night, talking to yourself, and finding the friends in your head are better than the ones you’ve got outside. This is called : Hope.”
“Let’s Save Tony Orlando's House”
Any band who titles a song after a Troy McClure-endorsed benefit special is a band for me. But this isn’t a space for me to laud praise upon Yo La Tengo – I’ll leave that to the rock critics who know what they’re talking about, and can reference musical trends you’ve never heard of to prove it. Instead, I would like to use this space to discuss some of my recent volunteer work. Or, failing that, some recent random acts of benevolence. Why, I wasted this past Saturday at a friend’s house who I felt needed cheering up. He’s had a rotten string of luck in the past month, having lost his job, woken up one morning to find his roommate moved out (with three months rent unpaid) and, to cap it off, last week the poor guy took a nasty shot to the face in a basketball game – his jaw has since been wired shut, forcing him to subsist on a diet of yoghurt, ginger ale and baby food. So I figured he could use a pity-guest. We made plans to watch the Final Four. But not only did I arrive two hours late, missing the entire Marquette-Kansas game, I was mean to his cats and somehow lost his TV remote control. In the hunt for it, I accidentally ripped the living room curtains down – leaving three ragged holes in the drywall. Then, trying to put them back up, I snapped the bamboo curtain rod in half. At this point my friend collapsed on to the couch, covered his face with his hands, and kept moaning, “Why? Why?” until I snuck out the door and came home.
Faith: “Keep the Faith” – Bon Jovi
My girlfriend’s father has a Bon Jovi tattoo. I have seen it: during a recent dinner at his house he peeled off his shirt and showed me. There are flames, and perhaps an eagle – the connections to Bon Jovi seem tenuous, but I have been repeatedly assured that they exist. This is a great man. His moustache is splendid. Every time he shakes my hand I realize that I should work out more (see “Temperance”). Also, he doesn’t speak English. And while my French is improving, I am not bilingual by any stretch of the imagination. Accordingly, when Monsieur Leblanc and I are left alone, without his daughter to mediate, there are moments of failed communication. For example: once I somehow explained my summer plans to involve me escaping, alone, to Japan, with no intention of returning to Montreal. This was received poorly and, despite clarification, seems to have done irreparable damage to our relationship. But I would like to think that eventually my French will become a thing of beauty, and Monsieur Leblanc and I will talk and laugh and embrace like brothers, perhaps one day go fishing out on some remote lake in northern Quebec, just the pair of us, done up in plaid jackets and toques and so drunk we have to tie ourselves to the oarlocks. And then I will feel a tug on my line and holler, “Fish on!” or whatever French equivalent, and I will reel in a mighty pike, sling it effortlessly into the boat, gut it triumphantly while Monsieur Leblanc marvels at my manhood. Ah, oui. Wouldn’t that be a good way for any story to end?
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/pashamixb.html]
B R A V E S O U L S R E C E I V E
Archive of Recent Activities
Long-Ass List of Contributors
Last Year Today