Nostalgia

Come On Pilgrim was a pass that hit me in mid-stride when I was sixteen years old, and I ran with it all the way to…

Well, that’s the problem: it’s the occasion of my forty-first birthday, and I, like many men approaching middle age, find it to be an occasion made for nostalgia, of what I wanted to be and could have been and am not. I remarked to myself, upon waking up to the depression of another milestone on the way to that cold, open, worm-filled hole, “I’m so disappointed: I figured the world would be fixed by now, and that I would have played a notable part in fixing it.”

Alas, not. We were in high school, training away to win the big game (and I did and did not), to hit the high note in the big finale (and I did, sorta kinda, when I held my arms out just so), and training to pass the big exam (I won the big scholarship by means of which, life’s Raison d’être). And then: Pixies, a screaming rage. A song about caribou? It was exactly right.

I hate this street! I repent! Caribou!

What does it mean? It says absolutely nothing, and it means everything, screaming and screaming and screaming, the Generation named by the Baby Boomers, who name everything with respect to themselves, as X because they hated their own children (may it never be!), children who could not stop screaming long enough to grow up. We made them filthy rich: Come On Pilgrim was genius followed by the sublime Surfer Rosa, complete with boobies covered by a sticker, and if you were really cool, like me, you had the vinyl record, hidden away where mom couldn’t see it, but it was the biggest version of the boobies you could get. And, to be honest, those boobies were a thing of beauty, far from pornographic, but, still, verboten, captured perfectly in the notions explored in “Where Is My Mind?” a song about nothing, again, but chaotic and confused, all those growing bodies with no compass to correct and reprove them, just set at liberty, like so many baby birds in a forest full of hawks and owls.

And then…and then…and then, Doolittle, the magnum opus, complete with its pop songs fit even for the movies, but with the real pièce de résistance, a song called “Hey,” featuring a chorus of whores, again, a pitch-perfect note for the fear and anxiety we were feeling while we hurtled into adulthood with absolutely nothing to do because all the big games had been won.

In retrospect, these three records came so close together as to become a soundtrack for high school, but something happened: I think the money they snorted up their noses and tracked into their veins took the anger away. They were happy, and no matter to what extent they tried to tamp down their ecstasy with raging guitar hooks and screams and pulsating rhythm lines, the happiness percolated forth. Bossanova is an excellent record, but it became a soundtrack for a different kind of movie, for the blossoming, the successful, the joyous, for those in love, especially if the girl fit the description of “Is She Weird?” And, boy, did I love that song, and that album, and that girlfriend. I dated her over and over again until I finally found one to marry.

Trompe Le Monde was just as good, but the supernova had spent its fuel. The band was finished, and it showed: they were lost in space, a perfect ending for those whose rockets shot off in rage, directionless, wandering, homeless, with no way to come back to where it all started.

No identity? Not quite: we have an identity; it, for the meantime, is swallowed up by the gnashing of our elders’ teeth and the clamor of him who wears the square pants, whom my children do not watch, not by fiat, but by free will.

If you find yourself lost in space, build a colony. After all, we’ve already won every trophy and sung every song and passed every exam. Now is the time to be happy, not to achieve. The world will just have to go on without the benefit of my genius: I’ll reserve that for those under my roof.