It was a cold, gray, windy Monday on the planet Ann Arbor. Monday February 11th 1974 to be exact. Though now that I was no longer soldiering through Europe with my pack on my back, I wasn’t keeping a journal and writing down the dates. Overnight, the blowing snow had covered the outside of my one small basement window, the one I could see from my mattress on the floor. I had been out earlier in the cold wind shoveling the snow away from the window, and the rest of the driveway, per the list of chores my mom had left me, that I was determined not to get behind on and risk getting a negative comment from her.
She was off at work at her new phone canvassing job at ISR. David was off at Commie High, in the midst of his junior year and the newly reconstituted YTU. Jerry was back up at school in East Lansing. Clark, Avi, Lane and Angie were all busy with school during the week. I had been looking for a job in the want ads, but hadn’t found anything yet. I’d called on one job opening at Village Corners, but they said they were looking for someone with retail experience, which I really didn’t have.
Clark had been so sweet to “lend” me another joint of his killer Mexican stuff until such time as I got a job and pay him back in kind. It was sitting down there in its special container in my dresser, as yet unsullied. I had gotten exceedingly frugal in its consumption, since taking several tokes off a joint was really an inefficient way to ingest the stuff, as it kept burning away between those tokes. So leveraging the skills I had learned in college (ha ha ha), I had devised a small “air bong” out of the cardboard cylinder of a toilet paper roll, with a hole in the cylinder and a small bole created by a piece of aluminum foil pierced with small holes using a toothpick. That way, I could put one “hit” of weed from the jay into that foil bole. Then with my mouth over one end of the cardboard cylinder, and my hand covering the other end, lighting the small quantity of weed in the bole and sucking gently until it all burned and turned into smoke in the cylinder. Finally releasing my hand on the far end to suck all the smoke into my lungs, eventually delivering the most buzz for the weed consumed.
I fixed my goto breakfast of Kellogg’s Concentrate, mom’s favorite and always stocked in our cupboard. I had it down to a science, gently scattering small amounts of the tiny fish food like flakes evenly on the entire surface of the two-percent milk in the bowl. Not so much at any one location at any moment to cause the weight of the cereal flakes to sink into the milk, but instead creating like a one eighth of an inch layer floating all across its surface. Then each spoonful plunged through the suspended field of flakes would render a mouthful of delicately crunchy and tasty wheat mixed with the added sweetness of the milk.
So I decided to go with the cocooning inwardness of the day, and try some of Clark’s weed, before lunch even, how deliciously sensual and decadent. I descended back to my “lair” and took out of the top dresser drawer the old cigar box that contained my ersatz TP roll “air bong” and the rather ample jay that Clark had rolled for me, along with a little box of kitchen matches. I sat on the futon I had acquired recently from mom’s friend Carol, who was getting rid of it in the process of remodeling her basement. I undid one twisted shut end of the paper and gently rolled its shaft so that some bits of weed fell out into the bole of my contraption. I lit a match and executed the first of four supremely managed tokes from the thing, holding each in my lungs for thirty seconds or more before exhaling. If I was going to be decadent, at least I was going to be highly efficient about it!
The furnace hummed and groaned, running constantly this cold morning. Though the ducts delivered air to the rooms above, the thing itself radiated enough heat to keep the basement sufficiently warm. Midnight watched me from his perch on top of the dryer, not really looking the least bit interested, but still observing, then sniffing the air as the smell of burnt weed reached him. I had let him in earlier from his normal overnight outdoors prowling the neighborhood, his black fur all puffed up to keep him warm. Presumably still picking fights with the neighbors’ cats, due to regular nicks off his ears and wounds behind them. It had been years since he interacted much with us humans, other than to come around whenever he smelled food, his or ours. It continued to crack me up that mom called this big gnarly black beast “Middie”, like some cute little kitty cat.
As I sat cross legged on the cushion waiting for the buzz to juice my brain, I pondered the state of things, the concentric circles of life “within and without” me as George Harrison sang. The song played on my mind’s jukebox…
Try to realize it’s all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you
“Within me”, physically at least, I was basically healthy though nursing the post nasal drip end of a mild cold. But here I was beginning a day getting stoned where I had absolutely nothing planned, which felt kind of cozy and cocoony in one sense, but discomforting in another. I had been back in the States for two months now, enjoying the circles of friends and family I had missed so much during my backpacking journey. And following the intention I had set during the lonelier days of that odyssey, doing what I could think to do not to take those circles for granted, particularly my mom, dad and brother David. The next step in that regard was finding myself a job, and I spent an hour each afternoon scanning the want ads in the Ann Arbor News and calling regarding job openings that looked like stuff I could do, though I did not want to go back to cleaning hotel rooms again like I had done last summer.
Something was nibbling at me deep inside, a sense of inertia or ennui even, as all those in orbit around me were busy moving forward with their lives. After eleven weeks backpacking in Europe, where I had a new plan every day, destinations in my present locale or to the next locale on my always evolving itinerary, this felt very different. It had been more than a month now since all my local fellow travelers had returned to school or work, on their programmed paths. Why was I not launched into the next thing? Was I still recovering from my odyssey and all the facets and fissures it revealed in my psyche. It was truly an accomplishment, I acknowledged that. But in pushing myself to continue my journey after Angie bailed, had I done so at some psychic cost as well?
Finally reaching the “without me” part, in local happenings, the HRP had qualified a ballot initiative to use preferential voting for city council and mayoral elections. The HRP felt their growth as a third political party in town was hampered by the charge from Democrats that voting for HRP candidates was “throwing away” your vote. This evidenced by Republican James Stevenson winning the 1973 mayoral election in our very liberal town with a plurality of only 47 percent of the vote, the rest split between the Democrat and HRP candidates.
And in the larger world of activity by radical groups, it had been just a week ago when the Symbionese Liberation Army and kidnapped Patty Hearst in Berkeley California. A wannabe radical myself, I followed these events with great interest.
I contemplated the zeitgeist of all this as I felt the THC start to invade my thought processes and draw me back into the moment. Having gotten that loan of a joint last night from Clark, during yet another session of playing Blind Panzerblitz in Avi’s basement, it struck me that today could be my first opportunity to listen stoned to the two albums “Santa” had gotten me for Christmas. Two rock operas even. The Who’s latest album, Quadrophenia, and the Broadway cast recording of Jesus Christ Superstar.
My mom of course was Santa’s local agent and propagandist. Though never being much for Rock music, she probably had sought and gotten input from my brother David on the gifts. She had always told me, since I had confessed to her at age five or six that I no longer believed him to be real, that Santa Claus represented a powerful idea. In a society that she felt generally did not honor and respect children, he exemplified the opposite, celebrating each and every child by showering them with gifts. Though mom was not a Christian, and in fact believed organized religion was the scourge of the Earth, she resonated with the whole baby Jesus story. Though in her thinking, she felt that the wonder felt and the gifts given to that special kid in the manger should be showered on all children as well when they came into the world.
I ascended the basement stairs to the side door landing, feeling the cold of the white world outside along with its reflected photons, coming through the big glass pane in the top half of the door. As I turned the corner and took the last couple steps back up into the kitchen, the white plastic garbage can in the kitchen stared at me, as best as an inanimate thing can do, lacking eyes. The garbage can and I had lots of history together, it being ground zero for a past issue between my mom and I regarding taking responsibility for a chore when needed without being asked, versus doing it when asked. I would do the latter only, to her continuing frustration.
Now that I was back home again, in Coopster mode, wanting to be a fellow adult in this household rather than a dependent child, emptying that damn plastic thing when it was anywhere near full, without being asked, was a big fucking deal. I opened the lid and peeked in. It was about three-quarters full. Better not risk it and take it out. I made a brief foray outside, without a jacket and stepping gingerly through several inches of fresh snow in my sneakers, around to the side yard where the trash cans lived. The chill on my face and hands, then reaching inside the collar of my sweatshirt and below tickling the top of my butt, was almost erotic. Mother Nature here in planet Ann Arbor was seldom benign, and was capable of such a range of dalliances with your body. Hot or cold. Moist or dry. Soothing, sultry or shocking. Depending of course what sort of seasonal mood it was in. Just a couple weeks ago it had gotten up to fifty degrees, actually not uncommon for a spell in January, and some hardy people were walking around in t-shirts and shorts, just because. But today was way below freezing. The thought flashed through my mind that if I had another excuse to run outside briefly later, I’d try it barefoot too, to feel the snow and frozen earth on my actual body parts.
Returning to the inside of the toasty house through the side door, deliciously shivering, I headed up into the kitchen again and rummaged under the sink for a clean paper grocery bag to shove into the kitchen can. I even went so far as to get the sponge from the sink and scrub off some dirty spots on the lid and sides of the shiny white receptacle made out of decayed dinosaur juice. Its post wipe sparkle was a beacon of my newfound love and respect for my mom and our little household.
Looking through the opening from the kitchen into the sitting room I saw mom’s painting on the wall. “Flowers” she called it, though abstractly so, a bunch of dots of paint – whites, blues and reds – among black veins and barely visible lines. It had the elbow sized circular indentation in the bottom right corner from when, nine years ago, she confronted dad about his affair with another woman. She was in such a rage that she had grabbed the box of aluminum foil she was using in the kitchen, and had swung at him with it like a club. In the process, besides denting the painting, she had cut her hand open between thumb and forefinger on the metal cutting edge of the box, and left drops of blood spattered all over the walls as dad called up to me that he was taking her to the emergency room. After they left I came downstairs to find the blood spattered walls. David and I used to joke years later that some of the red dots on the painting might actually be mom’s blood.
But thank god, that was a long time ago! She was in a much better place now, with good friends, a guy or two that she was dating. And dad, no longer dating Mary, salted away two hundred miles to the south, still providing child support for David and I, and even coming up to help out with stuff when mom was sick or otherwise needed him.
As I contemplated the painting and its provenance, I noticed Ra looking down at me from her perch on top of the pie cabinet. She had been named by mom for the Egyptian sun god because of both her fiery orange coat and her beatific disposition, and was for the most part unflappable and unmoved by the course of earthly events, though more intrigued by us humans than the beast in the basement. One past summer day, she had been sitting in the middle of our street in one of her statuesque poses when a car turned the corner and approached her. The car stopped waiting for her to move. She just looked at it for about ten seconds unfazed, as if to say “I was here first!” Finally she rose slowly and sauntered to the curb, assuming the pose again and allowing the car to pass. Ra studied me with her eyes but did not otherwise move.
I walked around through the sitting room and into the living room, past the storied painting and the sun goddess, and started up the staircase to the bedrooms. As my fingers were about to touch the wrought iron bannister there was a crackle and spark of electricity from my fingertip, a small jolt of pain as I reflexively jerked my hand away. In the wintertime with the furnace running, the air in the house got so dry that shoe soles rubbing on the carpeted floor would create a significant static electricity buildup. David and I used to have fun with this, shuffling our shoe clad feet on the carpet while holding one of our saucepans with a copper bottom. Approaching the bannister with the copper bottom of the pot, we could under ideal circumstances generate a half inch arc to our oohs and aahs.
Overcoming the distractions and obstacles, I finally made it up to David’s room where the stereo resided, such as it was. His was the biggest of the three bedrooms, with a very big casement window opposite the door to his room that looked down on our neighbor’s driveway and beyond to the basketball court and the shelter in Burns Park. There was another small window at the far end of the room by the head of his bed against the north wall of the house. When we first moved in, when mom and dad weren’t divorced yet, David and I shared the room, and the third bedroom was dad’s office. After dad moved out, I had eventually decided I wanted my own room and had moved to that third bedroom. Now things had come full circle of sorts, it returning to being an office, though now mom’s rather than dad’s. But even after I had made the move to my own room, David’s was still the hangout for him and me. Many many hours of he and I playing together, or separately there, me setting up my Aurora slot car track on the floor beneath the big wicker table under the large window while David sat on his bed with his sketch pad drawing. All the while listening to one side of a stack of LPs on the record player, music or comedy, as needed to soothe our souls.
I pulled my two new albums out of their slot in the piece of furniture under the stereo. I assumed the seated position on David’s bed that was so often his, my back against the metal head of his half of our original bunk beds, with his pillow cushioning in between. The small north facing window behind my head let in enough coldness to tickle the back of my neck as I sat. I could feel David’s energy as I sat there.
I was pleased that both albums had come with lyrics on an insert inside the double album sleeves. Since Christmas I had heard each of them several times and was now trying to decide which to listen to first. Though both rock operas, they were very different from each other in tone and focus. Jesus Christ Superstar was about historic, civilization changing events played out on the big stage of ancient Jerusalem. Quadrophenia, on the other hand, was about the interior of a young man’s soul, trying to navigate his way through his difficult teen years. I decided to start with the latter, and its “journey to the center of the mind”, as the Amboy Dukes had framed it some five years earlier. I put the needle to side one and laid down now on his bed, closing my eyes to fully listen with no visual distraction.
I focused on the rhythmic fuzz as the needle in the groove approached the first cut, anticipating, but not in the moment remembering what came next. Then I heard waves crashing on a shore, and rising out of the noise of the surf a piano cycling through keys along with some other weird instrument moaning in the background almost like a human voice. Finally an intelligible human voice…
I am the sea
More waves crashing and then french horns announcing with a flourish, finally a questioning voice somewhat off in the distance calling out…
Is it me for a moment
“For a moment” echoing off into the distance. Then a different gnarlier, uglier voice…
Again echoing off. And then that previous voice, again off in the distance crying out a statement this time…
Love… reign o’er me
More waves, subsiding. And then the voice, still quiet but closer and now more energized, again questioning…
Can you see the real me?
Can ya, can ya?
Then I startled as boom… guitar, bass and drums started up in full rock n roll and Roger Daltrey sang “The Real Me”, asking his shrink, his mother and a preacher…
Can you see the real me?
The real me… who or what the hell was that? I was masquerading now as the Coopster, at least no longer little Clubius the dubious. That was something, a step forward in my judgement.
I went back to my mother
I said, “I’m crazy Ma help me”
She said, “I know how it feels, son
`Cause it runs in the family”
Did it run in the family? No longer an iconic parental figure, I had seen pretty much every deep dark facet of my mom. Her dreams, her desires, her fears, her anxieties, that either drove her or held her back. How she could be so put together or come so completely apart, her heart seeming to always be on her sleeve, aching, burning. Was I riven and driven by the same sort of themes and threads inherited from her? And what about my dad? At some level, I still was clueless about who he really was. But I was his son and at least to some degree was carrying his weight, somewhere deep in what made me me. I knew I had to somehow figure this all out.
The record had now transitioned to the title cut, “Quadrophenia”, an instrumental piece and not unlike a musical’s overture, touching on the melodic themes of songs to come. Starting with those powerful two-chord piano couplets riff with the high, gently screeching guitar line above it. I was now out of my mind and swept into and under by the music, in the moment, dragged along by the cadence of plucked guitar strings and pounded piano keys.
Finally the piano line changed, softening, and I anticipated a singing voice again…
Why should I care
If I have to cut my hair?
I got to move with the fashion
Or be outcast
I was drawn into the character of the lead of the story, Jimmy, a teen person like me but a couple years younger. God that seemed like so long ago and far away. He was living at home, but tenuously so, and I thought how lucky I was that my residence here with my mom and brother was a much more solid thing that I could count on. Not that I didn’t know tenuous, after eleven weeks going from town to town often with no plan yet where I was sleeping that night.
But I just can’t explain
Why that uncertain feeling
Is still here in my brain
Indeed. That uncertain feeling was still here in my brain. All those threads and themes I had likely inherited from my parents. My dad’s steely don’t get mad get even. My mom’s need to burn and shine, and feel things so intensely. I think my dad felt things just as intensely, but he didn’t tell anyone.
Why do I have to be different to them
Just to earn the respect of a dance hall friend
Have the same old row again and again
Why do I have to move with a crowd
Of kids that hardly notice I’m around
I work myself to death just to fit in
God. That was junior high for me. Killing myself to fit in, or at least stay out of anyone else’s crosshairs, with most everybody else I guess doing pretty much the same. As a result, none of us noticing who each other really was.
Silence. Then another signature riff (my mind saw Pete Townsend repeatedly slashing at his guitar strings) announced “The Punk and the Godfather”, a real political anthem of sorts with it killer opening riff, that I had taken to the first time I heard it on the radio. An epic dialog between the strongman leader and one of his lowly subjects, pointing out the problematic dynamic between them, the cooperation of the oppressed in their oppression. Now with the THC really juicing my brain, feeling all the more visceral in this current hearing.
The punk speaks first, candidly calling out that dynamic…
You declared you would be three inches taller
You only became what we made you
Thought you were chasing a destiny calling
You only earned what we gave you
You fell and cried as our people were starving
Now you know that we blame you
You tried to walk on the trail we were carving
Now you know that we framed you
The strongman, always trying to co-opt and to claim that he is the embodiment of his subjects, just doing what they would do if they were thrust into his position…
I’m the guy in the sky
Flying high flashing eyes
No surprise I told lies
I’m the punk in the gutter
I’m the new president
And I grew and I bent
Don’t you know? don’t it show?
I’m the punk with the stutter
My my my my my
The godfather justifying his lies by saying that the punk would lie too if they were in his position. And I loved that he even invoked his earlier iconic classic, “My Generation”, with its stammering young protagonist.
The punk continues his verbal assault, hammering away at his leader, but it becomes painfully clear to the listener that the punk is keeping the godfather in power…
We tried to speak between lines of oration
You could only repeat what we told you
And then I presumed it was the godfather that has a moment of introspection where he gets the dysfunctional relationship between shepherd and flock…
I have to be careful not to preach
I can’t pretend that I can teach
And yet I’ve lived your future out
By pounding stages like a clown
Indeed stuck in this dysfunctional relationship, the punk can only go back and recycle the words of his first verse rant.
But now deliciously stoned, I was caught up in the grandiosity of the whole thing, the crowds cheering in the background, and determined that my cohort, my g-g-g-g generation, would learn this lesson and when it was our turn, lead the true revolution that would transform the world.
The song concluded, and there was the soft clunk of the tonearm pulling the stylus off the spinning platter and bringing it back to its resting position. My mind returned to the room and the cold winter air tickling the back of my neck. I flipped the black disc over, reactivating the mechanism for the tonearm to bring the stylus to the outer groove of side two of four. Wearing my McLuhan hat, I marveled at its electromechanical technology, the key acoustic medium of the industrial age.
On side two Jimmy’s story delved into the details of his day to day life, of the older fellow working class men who tried to give him advice, as he longed to have what others have that he seemed to lack. He wrestled with it all until he finally decided he’d had enough…
I’ve had enough of living
I’ve had enough of dying
I’ve had enough of smiling
I’ve had enough of crying
I’ve taken all the high roads
I’ve squandered and I’ve saved
I’ve had enough of childhood
I’ve had enough of graves
I’ve had enough of dance halls
I’ve had enough of pills
I’ve had enough of street fights
I’ve seen my share of kills
I’m finished with the fashions
And acting like I’m tough
I’m bored with hate and passion
I’ve had enough of trying to love
All the items on his list washed over my stoned mind, and I realized how grateful I was to be born into a much less violent world than Jimmy’s. And as his enoughs slid back down the beach into the sea, my own list went with them, though not so nicely metered or rhymed. Being shy. Being “just a child”. Being my mom’s little “Clubius”. Being afraid to be the bigger than life character that I fantasized I could be. Endlessly longing for a lover but never actually pursuing one. Being too timid to stick my neck out even when there was a chance for something great.
The click and clunk of the tone arm brought me out of that cathartic release. I put on side three. Again I hyper focused on the rhythmic tick of the needle in the groove. The piano chords signaled my favorite song…
Why should I care?
Why should I care?
It was a profound question. Why should I care about this world that my parents’ generation had created. It needed to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch.
Then the full weight of the song burst forth and crashed against my ears, with keyboard, base and horn section. My whole body shivered and the goose bumps raised hard all over my arms, which happened whenever I was thrilled or otherwise moved, particularly by a piece of music.
Girls of fifteen
The ushers are sniffing
Eau de Cologning
I had always thought the first line of the lyric was, “Only fifteen… sexually knowing”, and had been so jealous that at fifteen, or even still now almost nineteen, I was not. But this time, hearing the song with no auditory or visual distractions, I finally heard the actual lyric.
Whatever the words, it still stung. I thought of the only two young women I had ever kissed, Camille and Lane. Camille and I had actually both been fifteen. It had been at a party at my girlfriend Jamie’s house. Ironically, Camille was Jamie’s best friend. Jamie and I had been kind of boyfriend-girlfriend all fall. We had held hands, hugged, and I had even laid on top of her, with our clothes on. But we had never kissed I was always afraid to initiate such a physically intimate connection, and I guess she as well. So here was cute Camille, sitting next to me on the couch in the midst of the raucous party, she was teasing me about something. We were flirting, attracted to each other, and she playfully put her head in my lap. And suddenly we were kissing, tongues touching and everything. It was the end of my relationship with Jamie, and Camille for that matter. I was so mortified I barely spoke to either of them again, let alone discuss what happened and our feelings about it. It had been an ill-conceived but still awesome first kiss, being forbidden fruit of sorts, that I had given up everything for.
With Lane a year later it had not been such a trainwreck. We were buddies and attracted to each other. Alone on the couch of her parents’ house one night, me reclining against the couch arm, she had straddled me and kissed me. Who knows where it would have gone from there. But somehow I bailed. Made an excuse and rode home late at night on my bicycle. God that still stung bad. Guess that qualified as a trainwreck too after all. Stupid timid me!
My mind refocused on Roger Daltrey growling the lyrics…
Magically bored on a quiet street corner
Free frustration in our minds and our toes
Quiet storm water, m-m-my generation
“Magically bored” and “quiet storm water” had been such confounding oxymorons whenever I had heard the song, but now, stoned, not overthinking perhaps, just letting the words flow through my mind mostly unparsed, there was a sense they created. A sense of contradiction and juxtaposition. In this moment I got it, at least sort of, though if you’d asked me to explain it I couldn’t.
Uppers and downers, either way blood flows
Ah the thrill of being buzzed, drunk, high, stoned, fried, wasted. All those altered states you could inhabit. But for our lead Jimmy, alone on the train watching and thinking about the world from within his buzz…
(Inside outside) Leave me alone
(Inside outside) Nowhere is home
(Inside outside) Where have I been?
Out of my brain on the 5:15
That last line made my whole body shiver again. I liked the “all in” of it, but not something you probably would ever catch me doing. Then more contradictions…
Gravely outrageous in my high heel shoes
Tightly undone, know what they’re showing
Sadly ecstatic that their heroes are news
No easy meanings came to me but the seeming oxymorons, “gravely outrageous”, “tightly undone” and “sadly ecstatic” still rang true at some level below explanation. But “in my high heel shoes” made me proud that I had strutted through Europe for eleven weeks on my own.
Jimmy’s tale continued with “Sea and Sand” and “Drowned”…
Let me flow into the ocean
Let me get back to the sea
Let me be stormy and let me be calm
Let the tide in and set me free
I thought of my dad and the song that had been one of his favorites when I was kid, “Don’t fence me in”…
I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
Don’t like hobbles and I can’t stand fences
Don’t fence me in
Then back to Roger Daltrey’s voice with Jimmy’s narrative…
The beach is a place where a man can feel
He’s the only soul in the world that’s real
“The only soul in the world that’s real”. My mind spun off in multiple directions. Was I now becoming a “man”, with all the complicated connotations tied up in that word. As Alice Cooper sang, eighteen and not knowing what I want. I had always thought of myself as a “kid”, or just me. I recalled Mark Twain’s chilling Mysterious Stranger, where the Satan character tells the protagonist Theodor that the entire universe is Theodor’s creation, he is the only reality. A question struck me, alone on that beach, could I love myself. I loved other people, why didn’t I deserve my own love. But then the narrative continued…
Well I see a face coming through the haze
I remember him from those crazy days
Ain’t you the guy who used to set the paces
Riding up in front of a hundred faces
I don’t suppose you would remember me
But I used to follow you back in sixty-three
I thought of politics, social change, being a leader, being a follower. What would be my contribution to the transformation of the world. I felt like I would burst forth and do something profound, at least in my megalomaniacal imagination. Then Keith Moon’s growling voice startled me and dragged me back…
Bell Boy, I got to get running now
Bell Boy, keep my lip buttoned down
Bell Boy, carry this baggage out
Bell Boy, always running at someone’s bleeding heel
Ah the working stiff! My tour of duty working for “the man” last summer at the Briarwood Hilton had not been so under the thumb as Jimmy, but I totally got it.
Finally I flipped the second disk and launched the final side four. Back on David’s bed, eyes closed, the wind and sea surrounded me again. Back on that beach, Roger Daltrey’s voice of Jimmy gets gnarly…
Laugh and say I’m green
I’ve seen things you’ll never see
Talk behind my back
I’m off the beaten track
I’ll take on anyone
Ain’t scared of a bloody nose
Drink ’til I drop down
With one eye on my clothes
Jimmie decides to take arms against a sea of troubles. This sort of fierceness, fighting back, was not me, or at least not part of any persona I was willing to inhabit as my self. But I understood it and had played characters on stage, young men, and tried to express that fierceness. Thick headed Maurice in Lord of the Flies, standing guard fiercely with his sharpened wood stick of a spear.
What is it? I’ll take it
Who is she? I’ll rape it
The second time through this chorus, the cadence of the violin bows banging on the strings after that last line accentuated his determination. Fierce enough, angry enough, to risk going outside the bounds. But could I rape someone? Could I even play a character on stage who could sexually assault someone? Could I even entertain what it would feel like to have that kind of anger and entitlement?
Doctor Jimmy and mister Jim
When I’m pilled you don’t notice him
He only comes out when I drink my gin
It was that gin drinking “Mister Jim”, Mister Hyde as it were, that I could not even fathom. I had met some guys like that, full of rage and feeling like they had true cause to act on it. They scared me to my very core…
You say she’s a virgin
But I’m gonna be the first in
Her fellah’s gonna kill me
Oh fucking will he
I’m seeing double
But don’t miss me if you can
There’s gonna be trouble
When she chooses her man
Mister Jim thinking his rage and his power to forcibly possess this young woman and her body would convince her to choose him over the other guy. Was that fundamentally what sex was all about? A hunter’s conquest? She giving in to my aggressive assertion of my masculinity. If not rape, surrender leading to conquest.
But then we were back to regular Jimmy, beyond the personas he had been wrestling with…
Is it me for a moment
The stars are falling
The heat is rising
The past is calling
Was Jimmy capable of invoking Mister Jim. I totally resonated with the Doctor Jimmy persona, but Mister Jim?
The instrumental “The Rock” followed, beginning with its martial drums, horns and riffs but transitioning into an introspective plucking of amplified, distorted guitar strings, followed by replaying of various themes from the opera. Throughout I was still riven by Mister Jim and how he could even exist, and what his existence meant for all the rest of us.
Finally the familiar theme pounded on the piano keyboard ending with the cadence of a repeated three keystrokes…
Can make it rain
The way the beach is kissed by the sea
Can make it rain
Like the sweat of lovers’
Laying in the fields
In choosing love was Jimmy rejecting Mister Jim? Maybe so, but the fact that Mister Jim even existed as an idea, as a possibility, was profoundly disturbing to me. How could I ever engage in deep physical intimacy with a woman with any semblance of Mister Jim out there lurking, even as an idea? A component of the Quadrophenia of a male type person living in Mary Jane’s “patriarchy”. Would my lover somehow want me to show some flash of Mister Jim? I could not even pretend to invoke him.
Love, reign o’er me
Love, reign o’er me, rain on me, rain on me
The call to love rang hollow, with Mister Jim at large somewhere.
Being able to evoke the power of lyrics and music is a gift. Thanks for sharing.
It is indeed Reuben… that gift has meant a great deal to me!