Ricketts Glen in Ice

Ricketts Glen in Ice

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Peter Gabriel "Book of Love"

Excerpted from Toledo, Ohio. And yes, I do know Magnetic Fields did it first, but his voice isn't as good as Peter Gabriel's.

To be a good storyteller, a person has to believe that the things that he or she says are things that people want to hear. The best way to do this is gauge that the speaker / writer is saying things that he or she wants to hear emanating into the world. In this, if we don’t feel egotistically awesome about the things that we are saying, we must conclude that by definition, our readers have absolutely no interest in hearing what we say. Being egotistical is everything.
The best writers are people who find their voices in telling stories and captivating audiences. I think about the writers that I really love, those authors who write in the personal narrative story kind of way. For instance, Chuck Klosterman and Bill Simmons are fantastically comic and inspirational writers that helped me to find my own voice. In the same way, many of the things that Dave Eggars wrote about in A Staggering Work of Heartbreaking Genius were equally compelling. I can’t say that I feel any more attachment to MTV’s The Real World for what he wrote about it, but I will say that I flew through the pages to see where it went.

Nevertheless, there is a drawback, and that is that authors who do this often try to make their lives a book or movie while it is happening. That’s not necessarily the healthiest thing in emotional, mental, or social ways, but it’s something that we cope with. Like a person who doesn’t have an arm, we compensate and work around things. If we’re truly finding a way to be healthy and to move beyond our neuroses, we learn to interact with others instead of thinking about our interactions, and yeah… that’s the point of everything.

Thus, without judging these men’s writing as truly products of functional lives, because I only know what I know about them by what they write, these men do write very well. If I wanted to add a female voice, I would say that Laurie Notaro does, too, but I don’t read her enough to think she has an influence on my life other than that I enjoyed her book The Idiot Girl’s Action Adventure Club. Nevertheless, this book isn’t try to rewrite that one or to give a shout out to her for showing me how to show that I’ve done some stupid things in my time… even if I have done some incredibly stupid things in my time.
In addition, I will say that the spoken word expression of Henry Rollins, a comic and extreme set of rants and stories from the early 1990s, which could captivate and engage listeners for hours on end, did more to help fuel my expression in both speaking and written ways than pretty  much anything else out there. And even if I once offended him after barging into his dressing room, I must say that without Rollins, I would be lost in life.
I was also influenced by the works of Nick Hornby, in particular High Fidelity, which has been described in the preface, and Songbook, which is pretty much a direct inspiration to what I am writing here except his collection was more direct and brief, with a few exceptions. Since there are already passages in here that go on forever and ever and ever, I can see my difference with someone who is writing with a word count limit. Also, I should say that Nick Hornby is less scattered and prone to the random side trips down neural pathways that I am. In this, I am way more in the same genre as Chuck Klosterman’s Killing Yourself to Live. Granted, Fargo Rock City and all of the essays books that he wrote were also good, but my voice is something that comes from those direct influences plus a healthy measure of Jon Krakauer and Kurt Vonnegut, though I wouldn’t expect to find them in here. The same could be said with poetic works like those of Walt Whitman, e.e. cummings, and Edgar Lee Masters. Great stuff that knocks my socks off, but that said, I’m not a poet and have no interest in trying to be so. You won’t find “Song of the Open Road” in here other than to say I was influenced by it tremendously. Then again, my travel writing could be the prose version of it. You never know.
But no matter what this is or it isn’t, what I am after is the expression of memories as an episode to the story as a whole. Here, there are stories that I tell that flow forth in the most simple and logical order of all. Individually, each one could stand alone, but together, they represent the entirety of something larger and more important. In this, they are just like the television show How I Met Your Mother.
From its creation in 2005, this show defines the quest for hopeless romantic Ted Moseby to find the love of his life by telling how every single woman or bump in the way helped to make him that person by not letting that person be his all consuming be all end all wife. In the pilot, he comes off annoying in that same way that Ross on Friends did, and this doesn’t seem to offer much hope for the show. However, unlike with the crapfest that The Big Bang Theory was in the time I watched it (about 5 minutes total), I didn’t shut How I Met Your Mother off after 5 minutes when I realized that I would have to endure Roseanne’s annoying son in law, Johnny Galecki, and his overly nerded out friends. Not that I have anything against the geek factor, since, hell, I am a knowledge junkie geek of sorts myself, but that show just sucked.
Nevertheless, after about 8 episodes of investment into the show, How I Met Your Mother started to move toward something, and my wife and I agreed to go for another disc. And so, this was the benefit of catching a show many years into its lifespan. You, or in this case we, can get the discs from Netflix or the library and watch them one after the other and take everything in to get up to the current state of the show, and we can also not have to worry about cliffhanger endings…
Because cliffhanger endings can suck the life out of the show.
That was what was so great about seeing episodes of 24 on disc. When I got into that show, it was Season 5, and I was able to watch the first couple of episodes back to back save the killing of President Palmer, since my dad had taped them except for the gunshot that killed my all time favorite president not named Jefferson or Lincoln. Nevertheless, after the first 8 hours or so, I would have to wait 7 days for a 1 or 2 hour installment, depending on what Fox needed to broadcast in the episodes that week, and yeah… it was a drawn out and mentally draining process to get to the end of the show. However, seasons 2, 3, and 4… the great ones, were available to take in the full 24 episodes, roughly 18 hours in a period of 36 hours that included sleep, shower, and bathroom breaks mixed with an occasional additional trip to the library to take back discs that had been watched so that I could get more discs. Such is the pain of a limit of discs that a person can take out at one time.
Years later, my wife and I would be on the Utah / Arizona border, in a hotel in Page, myself alternating watching of the show and being sick out both ends from some food poisoning incident that had happened earlier that day just so I could see what would become of Jack Bauer in the final episode ever of the show (author's note - the show has since been announced to be returning to prime time). How my wife put up with me in that moment, I’ll never know, but because of it, I’ll never begrudge her watching things that feature Kim Kardashian or the word “Real” in the title. I may make fun of them viciously, but I won't begrudge her!
But How I Met Your Mother never was a race of life and death, and it also never felt like we had to get to meeting the mother (author's note - until this season - it's just going on way too long now). Sure, her yellow umbrella was in there, but it wasn’t as omnipresent and necessary to the plot development as the interaction of the characters were, even if that’s the title, and even if we know that someday it was going to happen. Sure, we were teased that she was there, but it’s not like we were in a state of suspended animation until the 167 and a half hours between episodes of the show aired. With 24, that’s what it literally felt like. However, for fans of How I Met Your Mother, we knew next week that we wouldn’t get her, and we learned to live with it. It would come at the end of the show’s great run, but until then, we would just enjoy the characters. And even if my wife and I didn’t religiously watch the show in prime time every week, it was just nice to know that it was still there and that the episodes would be moved to syndication soon. And let’s be honest, when it did move to syndication, it was literally on multiple channels at a time for hours on end, to the point where having seen an episode twice meant that it was too soon to see it again for the third time, even though the viewings had spread out over the course of a year.
But for the most part, my wife and I did find a way to enjoy them all too frequently since they were a fair compromise between the porn network that is MLBTV, filled with money shots of classic home runs, excellent defensive plays, and witty banter about what is and isn’t and might be going on while the hot stove is trying to keep us all warm while Brian Kenney is explaining to us the beauty of numbers that is Sabermetrics AND the reality shows on Bravo and E about dysfunctional humans that I know she watches. I can’t say that I know what they really are about, but I know that my wife does and she loves them, so how can I make fun of her for watching reunion shows that feature angry women from Beverly Hills and Atlanta when I watch grown men relive screwing up pitches and defensive plays years and years ago? Thus, the compromise comes with sitcoms.
And How I Met Your Mother works perfectly in that because it could be us. Jason Segel’s Marshall could be playing the grown up version of the same goofy ass that he did in shows like Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, but we relate to him because he is real. He isn’t pretty. He isn’t brilliant, even if he plays a lawyer. He isn’t rocking a 6-pack like Ryan Gosling or an unreal 8-pack like Ryan Reynolds. He is just someone who could very much be any of the guys watching the show. He could be me, even if I would never let my bits hang out like he did in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It takes a “big” man to do that, or at least one who’s comfortable with what he has, and frankly, I don’t know what he has since I looked away, but I know that he was brave enough to do it.
The same could be said for Lily. For the show, she is still the band geek with the flute from American Pie, but she is a more mature and quirky adult version of said bandcamper, and we could see her being someone that we fell in love with, befriended, or associated with a lot easier than Megan Fox, a woman who may be attractive in that airbrushed and aerobicized way that Maxim has for making women think that they should be this gorgeous, this aerobicized, or at the very least, this promoted as some object of sexual desire and longing. But still, just seeing her or some unreal fashion model that Leonardo DiCaprio or George Clooney is sexing up until she gets too old to be arm candy doesn’t make us want to hang out with her or even be naked with her body beside it. Sure, men can be convinced to drool over anything, and yes, isn’t that the story of Mila Kunis, but what man really wants to be with someone who is this high maintenance and skinny and full of herself? Can the sex be that wondrous, life-changing, and acrobatic in that way that Jerry Seinfeld imagined it would be with the gymnast that he once dated on his self-titled television show? Probably not. And so what’s left is a 2-3 year shelf life of commercialized soft porn with bathing suits and lingerie hotness until nature takes over or the actress calls her current director a Nazi-esque tyrant. And for this, I thank the good Lord that there are people like Steven Spielberg out there who can still bring people like Megan Fox back down to Earth because in the end, she’s not near as real as Alyson Hanigan or Cobie Smuthers (author's note - this sexing up just never worked for Alyson or Cobie). She’s just… a disposable pair of eyes, lips, boobs and an orifice that doesn’t even seem real still waiting to find out that her flavor of the month is about to come and go.
Granted, Cobie comes from the fine tradition of Canadian women with weird names, see Avril and Alanis, but let’s just say that she still seems down to Earth and real in that she could actually be a part of your life or that she might be willing to leave the house without makeup. How we’re to believe that she’s really the 9th most attractive woman on the planet in the year 2011 is beyond me, but such is the nature of publicity. Nevertheless, does she seem like someone we’d steal a blue horn for? Probably. Just as Segel and Hannigan could be real people that we hang out with at the Appleby’s when we don’t want to eat alone, Cobie Smuthers could be someone that we would see at Thanksgiving dinner or at the office. 
The whole cast is to a degree real, even if it’s hard to take Neil Patrick Harris seriously in his role as a womanizer since we know that somewhere in the course of the series, he removed himself from the closet and “came out” in the real world. Nevertheless, it’s less impossible to see him in these acts of heterosexual man-whoring than seeing Jodie Foster lying in bed after a theoretical act of sex with Matthew McConaughey in Contact. Then again, part of this probably has to do with the fact that Mr. Naked Bongo Playing is supposed to be a religious guy who chose not to become a priest since it was too hard to give up doing the “wild thing.” So yeah, it’s a great movie with great actors, but... for all I love that movie, and I do, the fornication scene was more annoying than those of Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman in Star Wars Episodes 2+3, and that’s only because Christensen was deliberately trying to showcase the DNA annoyingness that would pour into Luke for the original Star Wars, which as we all know is actually Episode 4, but yeah… when you’re George Lucas you can do anything that you want and still be considered a genius.
Hell, this was the man who gave us Jar Jar Binks.
But Neil Patrick Harris, AKA Doogie Howser M.D., allows us to find a certain reality in his comic extremity. Like Mike Meyers, he doesn’t do a lot of scenes of affection with people he’s not in a relationship with. Where this culminated with the same accents over and over and over again to kill Mike Meyers’ comic genius, we don’t mind it here since anything else would kill off an element of this show that now seems absolutely necessary. But the years have changed Harris’ Barney to reflect something more than walking out of the bar with another nameless bimbo who we are to assume that he will get butt wild and crazy in the sack. In this, when he opens himself to love for Cobie’s Robin and finds his life changed by their interaction, he somehow becomes something more than just the guy who had a perfect week or who hooked up with Britney Spears during another episode. His maturity is something that we see in ourselves, for after all, aren’t we all just people who have done dumb things, pursued dumb and or meaningless relationships with people who looked that hot because we thought that was what was expected of us?  Haven’t we all loved and lost those people who meant something to us because of our boorish behavior? Haven’t we been lost on the tides for ages and ages, only to find ourselves in some barroom week after week, wondering when we would be with someone or at some place that would make us who we were going to be? Haven’t we all done things with other people just to not eat alone at the local Appleby’s?
Isn’t there a feeling of being Ted, falling in love with Stella and being willing to move to New Jersey to be with her and her daughter, leaving New York City and the old life behind once and for all? After all, isn’t this the maturity and growing up that goes with telling a long winded story to our children, somewhere ages and ages hence, and knowing that we’ve grown for our stupidities instead of sitting with our buddies and telling the same dumb stories from age 20 over and over and over again at age 50 and realizing that we should have listened to Muhammad Ali and changed over those 30 years to not waste our lives away to nothing?
And while I don’t like to think of myself as a wannabe hipster from the Big Apple like Ted, I do have things of my own that I know that I have left behind in my journey to find my wife. Given away, thrown away, sold to the world, moved away, and transitioned beyond… all of these things are in the story of my life, just as the same can be said for things that my wife has changed in her own life. Would we change any of this to end up somewhere else?
In a word, no.
While there has been compromise and a feeling of needing to arrive at these places through time and love and togetherness, in the end, I never want to look at a shelf and wonder where something is or think how I would like to have some part of myself from the past back. I never want to think that I want to be that same guy that I was in 2005. The 2012 version of myself (author's note - 2014 is the same) is a good person to be, even if he is still a work in progress.
The only thing I would ask for is more years of my younger life to know that I didn’t waste so much meaningful time that I could have to share with so that we will always be able to have youthful, non-white chin hair and balding head time together.
And for this, just as Ted lost Stella to Tony, there are people that we have all lost, people who seemed like they should be around forever since we thought that their run on our shows would last forever, but they were never truly the person that was for us (even if we know there were parts of them that were that good). The music played behind them and defined the show to the point that the story and the music were sold on the soundtrack and the photo memories filled our scrapbooks and defined who we were in those days, but that’s all it did. And when it was done, it became history. It’s over, gone, finished, living with the dinosaurs in tar pits beneath the surface of Los Angeles. It is no more, and for that, the relationships relegated to the past. Let it stay there. None of it defines us now in anything other than it was knowledge and events that made us ready to learn to be the person that we are now.
And if we ask ourselves honestly if Stella, AKA Sarah Chalke, AKA a Canadian woman with a normal name, a phenomenon that appears to be a rare occurrence, was ever really going to mesh well with Ted? She was equally the sometimes daughter of Roseanne, who was married to Mark, but she never really meshed well with him, so are we to really believe that she can just find love anywhere? In the end, there was only ever one place for her to be, and that was on Scrubs as the on again off again on again off again and finally on again girlfriend / wife of J.D., a character who was either the most annoying or most lovable character on television on those years when Scrubs was the best comedy on television. That said, the jury is still out on his worth in television history, and to be honest, for Zach Braff to have a fighting chance at being that lovable guy, he’ll have to make sure that he never does ANY acting in movies again since other than some of Garden State, his movie career was dreadful.
But Elliot… even on Scrubs, she was an emotional nightmare that went through her share of bad relationships to get to the good one. Then again, she probably should have married J.D. at the end of season 3, but there is something to be said for carrying potential situations and sexual tension on ad infinitum. In less than 10 episodes, she managed to do much of the same with How I Met Your Mother. How long can a person be the same unlovable person and stay on a show?
So was this her fault or her supporting actors?
Add this to her time in the Prep and Landing cartoons, and you have her worth as an actress, which is more than most, but still, it’s fairly limited except where it works best, and that takes her back to Scrubs playing off J.D. and Turk and being best friends with Carla and annoying Dr. Cox into constantly calling her Barbie over and over. And somehow, that and all of the other parts of the show worked together, and it just fit and it was good, and it was music to my ears… until it got overplayed in reruns and it died in the newer episodes, and even worse…
Then, it hit Scrubs Interns, and it truly sucked and for all of us who remembered the good times, it died a merciful death before it could destroy the fact that for the first 5 or so years, it was a great show. Sure, plot devices like Turk and JD being way too close as friends got old and over-used and seemingly politicized as some potential romantic interest, but the mix of interaction between Dr. Cox and the young doctors was incredible. The side characters were also brilliant and equally important, even in brief roles. We cared about the characters in life and love and death. In this, the death of Brendan Fraser and Laverne, the nurse who was befriended with Carla in a peripheral role for the first few years, were tragic moments. Even characters that came onto the show for a single episode or a short stint were meaningful to the story as a whole.
And when the show got absurd, we didn’t care. We loved it all the more. Tara Reid pretty much played herself for season 3 and ended up with the Soup Nazi and pretty much every other character along the way and at Turk and Carla’s sort of wedding, which made for comedic genius at its finest. Here, we just wanted to laugh and feel and imbibe on what was delivered to us as the closing of the season ended with Ted’s Band playing “Eight Days a Week.”
And it was delivered well along with music that came to us and helped define our own lives in much the way that it defined the characters. The first episode I ever watched of the show before I borrowed the first season from my friend Pete was the first episode of season 2. Here, Colin Hay of Men at Work did “Overkill” on an acoustic guitar as he walked along with J.D. as he worried “about the implications of diving in too deep” into all of the things that were said at the end of the first season by Jordan to the entire cast in a spiteful bit of revenge and vindictive pettiness. I didn’t know at the time what it connected to, but I thought it was brilliant, and I searched out that song. It became a staple of my musical playlist ever since, most notably on the mopey CD of 2002 that was entitled Burning Eureka.
There would be other songs that I would seek out as well, and I would find songs from my collection on there in new forms as well. As my songs were important to me, they also became important to the producers of Scrubs, who used them perfectly. In the first season alone, Everclear, the Shins, and Guided by Voices showed up while I added stuff I had already heard like Cheap Trick to my collection on their “recommendation.”
However, it wasn’t until the final season, a season that time and better taste had forgotten, that the most important and best song of all would be added. Originally sang by Magnetic Fields in that Crash Test Dummies kind of voice, “Book of Love” became an instant sensation for my life as it was sung beautifully and poignantly by Peter Gabriel. In the same way that the Beatles sound on “In My Life,” Gabriel gets right in there and is as good, if not better, than anything he has done since “In Your Eyes” when it comes to reflecting what life and love mean to a union of people. Be they family, lovers, friends, all things… the Beatles reach out for them, but for Magnetic Fields, it’s all about love, love, love… and surprise, surprise. This song is off of 69 Love Songs.
And just as that song by Peter Gabriel from Say Anything blended beautifully with the music behind it as John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler, a guy who once summed up his youthful enthusiasm and philosophy in the line, I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that,” so too does “Book of Love” when it moves out of J.D.’s long walk down the hallway, a journey where  he goes back and sees the friends and family and co-workers that he has known for 8 years of the show. There are loves that he has left behind or who didn’t work out. There is also Hooch, and he’s still crazy.
Everyone is there, and it moves to a movie screen where he sees images of a life spent married to Chalke’s Elliot. We can imagine that this is similar to how Ted Moseby might feel when he finally finds the woman who is right for him. It may not be Chalke’s Stella, but then again, J.D. isn’t having these feelings and future visions with Amy Smart’s Tasty Coma Wife character either. He never was going to be, but we found it fun while he was with her, just as we did when he was with Mandy Moore. Instead, he’s having these thoughts about a woman who makes him complete inside. We can imagine Billy Joel feeling this way about Elizabeth Weber Small, Christie Brinkley, and maybe even Katie Lee, though I tend to suspect that Katie Lee was more about feeling the same youthful body of a twenty-something woman repeatedly and meaningfully one last time before his 60th birthday.
I can imagine many things about this montage. From Christmases spent with loved ones and friends to children grown up and finding love themselves. The whole series of videos is a tear-jerking vision of life… the same as it is in many of the songs that Scrubs features: “This is life, and everything is all right.” These are the moments that make us complete.
And when it comes to the final lines of the song, the part about giving wedding rings, the summer of 2009 is where it needs to be going. H ought to give me a wedding ring, and I should give one to her. Of course, we are engaged by this time, and other songs will represent the soundtrack for that event when we do give each other wedding rings. And thus, while Scrubs stole prominently from me for that engagement song (author's note: Old 97s "Question), I can’t say as I fault them. The song was perfect, and so is this song that I am stealing from them for our wedding.
And maybe Ted’s story is long and boring. And maybe the book of Scrubs went on way too long, but just like with H’s and my lives, there are instructions for dancing. If we listen to Lee Ann Womack, they have to do with when we “get the chance to sit it out or dance,” she hopes we “dance.” We don’t often think of how simple or perfect some of the words for Hallmark cards turned to songs are, but after not hearing that song for a decade, I heard it again when H and I drove back from West Virginia in the summer of 2011. It coupled so nicely with all of the other music that we had heard that weekend. This was music for listening to when we drink iced tea out of mason jars. Be it King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight,” the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” or various other mellowed out hippie music that was played on the sound system of that dive restaurant outside of Douglas Falls, it was all good.
And so is “Book of Love.” Not because it’s some complicated orchestral arrangement that will be praised by critics as if it was one of the songs from Pet Sounds or Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but because it’s just beautiful and simple and it touches the soul. Sure, the deep booming voice of Magnetic Fields is either something that works for you or doesn’t, and I must say that I feel that they can have a lot of their songs back. In fact, you can cut it down to about 5 Love Songs. At least at this point in my life, I feel this way, but that said, I do like their version of that song and a few other songs that they do. As I said, I think it’s about 5, give or take.
Nevertheless, Peter Gabriel gets their songs and he improves it as he makes me understand what is important in life. And so I will read cheesy romance novels to H every Christmas. I will do all of the female voices the same. And my male characters will all have that feeling of, “hey babe… how would you like me to come over and visit?!!” And there will be talk about playing the ponies or tapping that ass or whatever unreal thing that I can sneak into the words of Harlequin’s most… “romantic” of adventures. And some will be housewife appropriate graphic tales of oral sex and deep penetration despite not leaving the characters or listener to be thrilled to the point of a wide ass grin and hands on cheeks for having won a gift basket of lubes, vibrators, and other sexual devices at the local adult entertainment super center (author's note - this is not a reference to 50 Shades of Gray, but rather to a billboard I used to pass on the way to work every day).
But they will be good and happy memories.
And I will sing my songs as we drive to all of the places that she and I long to go. And I will never stop dreaming my dreams for the places that I want us to go. Someday, we will make it to the Caribbean (author's note - we did), and we will make it to Europe, and we will go back to the Colorado Plateau, but only after we go to Yosemite and Crater Lake and the Cascades. Alaska and Hawaii sound really great, too, but then again, so too do a million flowery places. And if the political world of things south of the border was different, I could envision going to see some waterfalls in Venezuela. We will also need to get to Yellowstone before the 2012 Mayan Calendar debacle (author's note - we never did, but we do have time, apparently), but if we have to, we can call Lloyd Dobler and ask him to drive the bus to get us out of there, should that be necessary.
In this, dreams are everything and the future is everything because it has H in it. It might not have taken the better part of a decade to realize it like it did for J.D. and like it seems to be doing for Ted Moseby; hell, I knew that H was THE ONE by the 10-month point so I popped the question when it was ripe enough. Nevertheless, I had been watching that blossom by about 6-7 months. Nevertheless, I was looking for the right way to make it happen later in the year, Christmas perhaps… and then I realized that it was an alone thing, not a communal event, and the weekend to be just sort of happened, and I would trade any of it.
Because when it happened, that it happened, and that H and my love is still happening… that is all good. And I still love it when H gives me baseball cards to watch my eyes light up as I open the packs in the same way I love to bring H flowers home just because I get to see her eyes light up when she cuts off the stems and arrange them in the vase and gets to stare at them for a week or longer. I love it when I tell H that she is beautiful and she feels so warm inside because I said it and H knows that I’m telling her the gospel truth.
Most of all, I love it that H and I gave each other wedding rings.
Mine feels so powerful on my finger.
I love my wife.

No comments:

Post a Comment