(Double) Daily Dose: The Byrds & Green Day

The 8th grade class with which I graduated in 1998 was given a choice for soundtracking its graduation ceremony: stay within tradition or go rogue. For 30+ years my Southern California middle school played “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds as their 8th-graders symbolically left the nest for high school hallways and beyond.  After extolling the virtues of taking our place within the rank and file of students that had come before us and were to follow, senior faculty members added an aside that we could, if we chose to break with tradition, select a contemporary song by which to remember that year of change. We were then allowed to vote.

Understanding what it meant to the faculty, some of whom were alumni of that very school, our class overwhelmingly voted for “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day and instantly incurred the disappointed wrath of our home room history teacher. For what it’s worth, we didn’t mean to disappoint; we were just too young to want what others wanted for us just because they wanted it. Generation X, Y, Me to the core.

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See & Read: 9/18/2014

ColeValley_Night

Here I AM–

A fake intellectual

trying on a dozen different hats

to plume my tongue;

Looking for a current to connect.

 

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Daily Dose: Elton John, “Your Song”

My father was a man of duwop and soul, but my mother was a sunkist Californian prone to pop and folk music of the 1960s and the 1970s. From her I inherited my love of Elton John: a love that compelled me to steal all her old albums, on each of which her maiden name is signed in adolescently perky penmanship. This is a theft she’s never let me live down, but I persist in keeping my stolen goods because the man has meant that much to me throughout the years. In middle school, high school, college, and beyond, I’ve always been able to pull an album from its dusty jacket and find exactly what I need. I’ve even had the good fortune to see him live on the Peachtree Road Tour, and let me tell you…the man has more energy than a pack of 22-year-old frat boys let loose at a brew pub. Proof that life can get better with age; hallelujah.

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Daily Dose: Nirvana, “About A Girl”

Because this MTV Unplugged blew the world’s mind like Dylan had just gone electric. Because Kurt’s green sweater was just exhibited at an in-depth Nirvana retrospective staged by the Experience Music Project in Seattle. Because rock legend Dave Grohl is wearing a Normcore turtleneck. Because Nirvana fundamentally changed all of us 90s kids, whether or not we understood that.

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When Lighting Strikes: Czeslaw Milosz

A creative lightning bolt from a source that selected Nostos Nic: Nobel Prizer, Czeslaw Milosz.

A creative lightning bolt from a source that selected Nostos Nic: Nobel Prizer, Czeslaw Milosz.

I read for knowledge, I read for clarity, and the perfect paragraph(s) has always had the same impact on me as the perfect song–keeping in mind that perfection is in the eye of the beholder. Often, I’ll select a volume to read from my stacks of dusty books that were purchased and then forgotten for months and years. Why that volume strikes me then, at that particular time, I do not know because it picks me, and then one or two or three chapters in I realize it is the precise book I needed at that moment. The words cut deeply, the plot lines are too relevant, and I leave the book behind a little more determined in my course of action, a bit more comfortable in my world view: an energized person. If music marks moments, then literature (fiction and non-fiction) makes them through contextualization.

This has the case with Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes and every poem I’ve ever read by Charles Bukowski (as messed up as that sounds), and has happened most recently with a book by Czeslaw Milosz titled Visions from San Francisco Bay. In the first chapter, Milosz outlines his intention for the book and it electrified me so I thought I’d share the lighting strike. Hopefully it hits home for you too.

My Intention

I am here. Those three words contain all that can be said–you begin with those words and return to them. Here means on this earth, on this continent and no other, in this city and no other and in this epoch I call mine, this century, this year. I was given no other place, no other time, and I touch my desk to defend myself against the feeling that my own body is transient. This is all very fundamental, but, after all, the science of life depends on the gradual discovery of fundamental truths.

I have written on various subjects, and not, for the most part, as I would have wished. Nor will I realize my long standing intention this time. But I am always aware that what I want is impossible to achieve. I would need the ability to communicate my full amazement at ‘being here’ in one unattainable sentence which would simultaneously transmit the smell and texture of my skin, everything stored in my member, and all I now assent to, dissent from. However, in pursuing the impossible, I did learn something. Each of us is so ashamed of his own helplessness and ignorance that he considers it appropriate to communicate only what he thinks other will understand. There are, however, time when somehow we slowly divest ourselves of the shame and being to speak openly about all the things we do not understand. If I am no wise, then why must I pretend to be? If I am lost, why must I pretend to have ready counsel for my contemporaries? But perhaps the value of communication depends on the acknowledgement of one’s own limits, which, mysteriously, are also limits common to many others; and aren’t these the same limits of a hundred or a thousand years ago? And when the air is filled with the clamor of analysis and conclusion, would it be entirely useless to admit you do not understand?

I have read many books, but to place all those volumes on top of one another and stand on them would not add a cubit to my stature. Their learned terms are of little use when I attempt to seize naked experience, which eludes all accepted ideas. To borrow their language can be helpful in many ways, but it also leads imperceptibly into a self-contained labyrinth, leaving us in alien corridors which allow no exit. And so I must offer assistance, check every moment to be sure I am not departing from what I have actually experience on my own, what I myself have touched. I cannot invent a new language and I use the one I was first taught, but I can distinguish, I hope, between what is mine and what is merely fashionable. I cannot expel from memory the books I have read, their contending theories and philosophies, but I am free to be suspicious and to ask naive questions instead of joining the chorus which affirms and denies.

Intimidation. I am brave and undaunted in the certainty of having something important to say to the world, something no one else will be called to say. Then the feeling of individuality and a unique role begins to weaken and the thought of all people who ever were, are, and ever will be–aspiring, doubting, believing–people superior to me in strength of feeling and depth of mind, robs me of confidence in what I call me ‘I’. The words of a prayer two millennia old, the celestial music created by a composer in a wig and jabot make me ask why I, too, am here, why me? Shouldn’t one evaluate his changes beforehand–either equal the best or say nothing. Right at this moment, as I put these marks to paper, countless others are doing he same, and out books in their brightly colored jackets will be added to that mass of things in which names and titles sink and vanish. No doubt, also at this very moment, someone is standing in a bookstore, and faced with the sight of those splendid and vain ambitions, is making his decisions–silence is better. That single phrase which, were it truly weighed, would suffice as a life’s work. However, here, now, I have the courage to speak, a sort of secondary courage, not blind. Perhaps it is my stubbornness in pursuit of that single sentence. Or perhaps it is my old fearlessness, temperament, fate,  a search for a new dodge. In any case, my consolation lies not so much in the role I have been called to play as in the great mosaic-like whole which is composed of fragments of various people’s efforts, whether successfully or not. I am here–and everyone is in some ‘here’–and the only thing we can do is try to communicate with one another.

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Daily Dose: Cake, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”

Musicians sometimes takes themselves too seriously, making their music remote. Not Cake, never Cake. This band was omnipresent on KROQ, a Southern California radio station, in the 1990s and early 2000s, and, as such, was in the background of every stolen summer moment at the beach during that period. While I never caught the Cake obsession like so many of my peers, I know the lyrics to most of their songs despite never having purchased an album. Their music is unquestionably a Nostos Algos trigger for me, and since our whiskey brains were listening to their early catalog at an in-home hangout session last night…well…I had to include a sliver of their contribution to my youth in this Daily Dose. As the saying goes, “Let them eat Cake!”

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Daily Dose: Bush, “Everything Zen”

If Gwen Stefani was the role model, then Gavin Rossdale was all that a teenage girl could possibly want in an imaginary boyfriend. He was British, incredibly handsome, and frontman for the quintessential 90s rock band. If you lived in the suburbs, this was a particularly potent combination. We little ladies ended many a long middle school week with a sweet slumber party where pieces of paper were folded and a game was played to decide who we would marry, how many kids we would have, and what kinds of cars and houses we would own; I always included Gavin Rossdale. And when I found out he idolized Allen Ginsberg while watching an episode of MTV’s cribs, well, I was done for.

While my lustful teenage melanchology compelled me to put “Glycerine” on repeat, I listened to “Everything Zen” when I wanted to thrash about my room and feel cool. The albums Sixteen Stone and Razorblade Suitcase were permanently embedded in my walkman, and I recall my sullen puss listening to them while riding in the backseat of my Dad’s car on the way to dinner, my Mom in the passenger seat and his cologne permeating the entire interior–the leather of which would creak as he turned a corner too fast, which he always did because he was a Terrible driver with a capital “T”.

For me, Bush harkens back to Southern California winters in which we wore sloppy sweaters with sleeves that hung past our hands so we could twist them neurotically in emulation of our silver screen idols of the era. Bush helped me build my identity in ways I could not know then, but appreciate now, and Gavin Rossdale has had an indelible influence on the type of men I’ve chosen to date over the last 10 years. While it pains me to see how far the band has fallen in recent years, Bush and its enigmatic frontman will forever hold a place in my heart. Rock on, you 1990s gods.

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Daily Dose: No Doubt, “Spiderwebs”

If you were a teenage girl in the 90s and lived in Southern California, chances are your hero was Gwen Stefani. Ska was having a moment and No Doubt was everywhere; Gwen was gorgeous and offered a uniquely strong, DIY role model for young girls who wanted to be independent but glamorous in a quirky way–a fantastic antidote to other independent female voices of the era that were more of the Janeane Garofalo, coffee house aesthetic.

Then she married Gavin Rossdale (whom you will see soon in Daily Dose garb), and started a fashion empire while raising some of the cutest children known to mankind. If we ignore the fact that she’s slated to be on The Voice this season, this means she continues to be an amazing role model fifteen years later.

I watched this video incessantly as a teeny-tweener, and we danced like fools to Spiderwebs at every middle school shindig (right before the chicken dance, directly following a thrilling round of YMCA). Good times.

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Daily Dose: TLC, “No Scrubs”

I celebrated a seminal birthday this month, and, instead of going existential about life’s brevity, I decided to run through my 30-year-old music catalog. Belatedly beginning today, the Nostos Algos Daily Doses of September will present the songs and videos that defined certain epochs in my life (in no particular order) because, as I’ve said before, music marks moments.

So here it is, the first installment: “No Scrubs” off TLC’s second studio album CrazySexyCool, which was released in 1994 when I was a 4th-grader learning the complexities of the California Mission System.

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Daily Dose: Ohioan, “Time To Die Again”

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