Twist and Creak

August 27, 2012

We shuffled and limped into the theater in downtown Gettysburg, men and women of a certain age. Some waggishly wore hippy gear; head-bands, tie-dyed shirts and skirts, and so on. Frankly, the gear looked better on us all a few decades back, but we knew that. Everybody looked excited and eager.

Inside the theater our youth was waiting.

Well, as much of it as remains to us. A Beatles tribute band, “1964-The Tribute,” played at the Majestic, and I thought it would be a lark. It was much more.

When I was a kid, my dad would walk through the house at night, humming old Glenn Miller pieces, sometimes cupping his hands over his mouth and mimicking a trombone solo.

Inevitably, I would roll my eyes, embarrassed, and irritated, somehow. It was music from the distant past, ancient, meaning more than 20 years old. I actually liked Glenn Miller music, but I wasn’t about to admit it. It was of my parents’ world, and therefore not to be trusted.

The theater was packed. There may have been a couple of empty seats, but I couldn’t see them. Even the balcony was full. A sea of geezers, me included, all chatting excitedly. It was an Event.

I had never heard a tribute band before; there are plenty of them, for all sorts of defunct artists, from Mozart to, someday, I suppose, Justin Bieber, if they can find a 12-year-old who can sing. I was not prepared to be impressed.

After all, we live in an age when there is no “Yesterday,” (sorry, Paul). Not in the sense of media, anyway. Time, I thought, was safely tucked away in millions of little electronic pockets, in iPhones, computers, and compact discs, everywhere. Heck, I still have all my original Beatles LPs.

I got my first album from the lads from Liverpool when I was 14 and visiting relatives in western Pennsylvania. It was “With the Beatles.”

There was a record player in my aunt’s basement, and I spent a big chunk of the Christmas visit sitting in that dark space listening to that one album, over and over.

It must have driven the adults mad. But they let me have that.

I am no musicologist, but I have read critiques of the music, especially the tunes penned by Lennon and McCartney, extolling their talent and the impact their work had on music of many varieties from that moment on. If you weren’t around, I can tell you that American pop music just before the so-called “British Invasion” was nothing if not blah.

Though there have been a number of albums, many of them were mere mashups of previous work. According to at least one source, all of the massive effect the Beatles had arose from the core Beatles discography recorded during the 1960s roughly 10 hours of original music. Just 10 hours, a little more than an average American work-day. And only one of the group, George Harrison, could even read music.

Back at the Majestic, theater director Jeffrey W. Gabel came out and did the usual rah-rah stuff about the theater and its funding needs.

And then he introduced the band.

With the wigs and the suits they could pass, sort of, for the original Fab Four. They have been touring for 28 years, but they managed to look a lot younger than they probably felt at the end of the two-hour show.

But. Oh. My. God. The music.

Not exact, mind you. The playing was close enough, but the voices, naturally, not quite the same. Lots of Beatle-y banter in what may actually be a Liverpudlian accent, though the band members actually hail from places like Indiana and Ohio, for god’s sake.

But the difference between the pretenders and the real thing blurred by nostalgia and aging eyesight.

It worked. They started playing and time fell away, except for the creak in my knees when I stood to cheer, clap, and sing.

I surprised myself by knowing almost all the lyrics. I could tell because I was singing them along with everybody else I could see. The cheering at the end of most songs shook the rafters, or whatever is holding the Majestic up other than wealthy donors. “Twist and Shout” nearly resulted in a riot and, I suspect, a couple of coronaries.

Now and then I remembered that I am by profession and inclination an observer, and took time to look around: Row after row of friends, neighbors, people I flat don’t like, and people I just know by sight, all of us in various stages of decrepitude, all of us dancing and creaking in place, transported by a common joy, old faces lit by memory.

Suddenly, I was laughing and singing along, yelling at the top of my lungs, joyful. I didn’t even do that when I was a kid. It’s just that I had this happy energy in me, and there was nothing else to do with it but hurl it out into space, in joy and against time and all that dies.

I have come back to Earth, now. But changed, somehow. Not sure how to describe it. Cleaner, I guess, or at least buffed and waxed and shinier than I was. It’s a good feeling.

I’ve been walking through the house, humming Beatles songs for the past several days, now and then throwing in a Glenn Miller tune. Here’s to you Dad. I get it now.



A Promise in a Mean Season

August 27, 2012

The other day, as I cruised around on Facebook, I did something I don’t believe I’ve ever done before.

I made fun of an individual for his grammatical and spelling errors in an anti-Obama comment he had made to a repost I had made.

The post had a photo of Mitt Romney, and caption that read “Don’t elect the problem and expect a solution.”

There were the usual numbers of like-minded friends saying agreeable things. That’s always a comfort. A friend made a comment about not changing horses in mid-stream. And then somebody I don’t know posted:

The new horse seems to know alot about how to get this country back on course. The horse in the barn thinks printing money and throwing it away is the answer. If you spend more than you make and keep spending it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know you will be bankrupt. Romney is a wise business man that has shown how to run a state and many companies. Only thing Obama has done is run this country into the poor house. Does not know how to create jobs and don’t get me started with his foreign government ideas. He is a joke. The people that voted him in won’t even say they voted for him last election. Enough is enough.”  …….and then…”Well the Democrats have a Jack ass as their mascot so as guess you are says we need to get the ass in the barn out and bring in someone that has run more than a civic group.”

My response should have been to try to get this fellow to see that Romney really is a member of the class that has caused most of our problems. We’ve all seen the news: American productivity per worker is going up all the time, as are CEO salaries, and profits. But the cost is a stagnant jobs recovery. Sure, the GOP might argue, why should companies lower their profits by hiring more workers when productivity is so high? Productivity is high because those who still have jobs are afraid they are next on the chopping block. They know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of unemployed people out there just waiting to replace them in a heartbeat.

Job stress is off the chart, and gains made directly or indirectly through unions are eroding. Forget the 40-hour work week and other benefits: Those are eroding like sand dunes in a rain storm.

“Job Creators” my left foot.

I was chatting on-line with a crime reporter whose work I respect a great deal. He was on vacation, but he was working anyway. When I asked why, he said the company that employs him requires reporters to be available any time of day or night, weekends, national holiday, or personal vacation time or not. And no, his newspaper does not have a union.

And, just so you know, newspaper reporters do not make tons of money, even though some newspapers require their reporters to dress as though they do.

Anyway, that’s the direction in which I should have embarked. Civil, reasoned, and good practice. Nothing hones one’s thinking than trying to explain what you’re thinking by writing.

But that’s not what I did. Frustrated at watching the American Dream shriveling into a mockery of itself through the efforts of people like Romney acting like vampires in the name of Capitalism, I replied:

“I often wonder why so many GOP supporters have such bad spelling and grammar. Maybe as a tribute to Shrub?”

By “Shrub,” of course, I mean George W. Bush, who, if not an actual dope, at least played one on TV. I remember a televised press conference Bush II had with a Saudi prince. The Saudi spoke better English. Waaaay better. I have lived under a dozen presidents. Shrub was the first time I was ever ashamed of. Angered by several of them, yes, but ashamed, only once.

The point is my attack was personal. It is true that many blue-collar people, especially white blue-collar people, tend to be conservative and often vote against their own interests. Before becoming a journalist, all of my jobs were blue collar, and a lot of people I knew and worked with were very conservative. Most of them I admired on a lot of levels, and understood their positions even if I disagreed totally.

And we all remained friends.

Most of the blue-collar people I worked with, white and black, liberal and conservative, were not well-educated. I have often held, in the written and spoken word, that our culture does not encourage knowledge, and in any case limits one’s ability to better one’s place in the world, but is not any kind of barrier to the quality of one’s person. I used to get kidded at work about “talkin’ proper.” We all got a good chuckle out of it.

And then I go do a dumb thing, making fun of somebody’s poor spelling and grammar for the simple reason that he had a political view different from my own.

I am ashamed, this time of myself.

Let me be clear: I think that anybody who is not filthy rich and votes for Mitt Romney is a fool, a chicken voting for the fox.

I also think that, while Obama has certainly not been as good a president as he could have been, I think a very high percentage of the people who hate him, hate him because he is black, and the fact that there is a black family in the White House who is not there to polish the silver is to them a frightening abomination.

It’s nothing new. I remember how frightened conservatives were that Jack Kennedy would let the Pope run the country, or that Jimmy Carter would make us all go to Sunday School.

So, let me make a promise, and hope I can keep it. I promise to take a deep breath, and try to focus on issues. I won’t promise not to share posts like the one above if they are clever or even simply funny. But I promise, no more personal snide remarks, certainly not in this, the meanest political season I can remember.