Floundering Around at 40 (with Music)

My theory of life and maturation is that we have to go through all the stages of life sooner or later. I missed out on my adolescence, so I had to make up for it. This happened in my early 40s. I was floundering around trying to figure out where to go next with life and this transition — the one I’d missed — was necessary if I was going to move forward. Since I don’t want to write a true confessions here (fascinating though the story is!) suffice it to say that when I think of the music I grew up with, I think of bands like Primus, Alice In Chains, Nine Inch Nails, and Ministry, not The Beatles. I was a huge fan of industrial punk music (still am). It was a natural transition from loving hardcore in the 80s.

I have a clear and happy memory of going to a movie with some friends and sitting in the back seat on the way to a bar, singing “Jesus Built my Hotrod” with Gavin. “Jesus built my hotrod. It’s a love affair, mainly Jesus and my hotrod.”

So, Gen X? Thank you for the music.

What was it like being 19 at age 41? For one thing, I wasn’t underage, but I might have had to buy a six-pack at a 7-11 for friends (from Europe, truth). The people I hung around with were mostly in their 20s. I was pretty well-preserved (at that point) and the only giveaway (according to one of my friends) was my “old lady hands.”

Music. The Boys on Bikes (with whom I hung out more than anyone else, the kids in my neighborhood) were at the age when people define themselves by the stuff they listen to. My truck had a tape deck (88 Ford Ranger) and out of that thing blared Metallica (often) Pearl Jam (not for long) and then the day came when Jimmy (age 16) said, “You’ll like this,” and plopped a Sex Pistols tape in. Of course I liked it. I’d always liked it. That was followed by Dead Kennedy’s (“Holiday in Cambodia” was their favorite but it’s profoundly truthful so why not?) Then there was Fart No More.

That whole moment of my life was filled with hiking, mountain bike riding, concerts, friends and music. Teaching? I was earning a living. I remembered thinking that the whole idea of a midlife crisis was stupid but I was having one.

As I write this blog, I listen to a radio station in Kansas City that plays this music every morning between 9 and 10 (their time). It’s great. Brings back my youth.

(featured photo: Hallowe’en costume. It made people scream because they didn’t see it until they got close enough)

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/rdp-monday-flounder/

Love Songs

This is the first time in decades I don’t have a story to work on. What I thought might be a good idea is looking more and more doubtful. I’ve been reading about and in the work of the Goliards and it’s — they — are notable for being priests who wrote love songs. 

Whoop-dee-do. And songs about drinking, the corruption of the church, the absurdity of doctrine, and poverty. But mostly love songs. Sometimes naughty love, but love. And if you’re a priest, is there any other kind of love? Maybe these are not my people. 

Sixty-two years ago when some crooner was crooning on the radio in the family kitchen, I asked my dad, “Why do they sing about love all the time?”

My dad gave me a startled look, like, “She’s only four, WTF?” then said, “Because love is the greatest thing in the world.”

“Why?”

“Helen, can I have a little more coffee?” 

Way to change the subject, Dad.

I’m not convinced that romantic love is the greatest thing in the world. There are lots of other really great things like the range, horses named Old Paint, exploration, adventure, art, and nature. It’s true there are a few anti-love songs, but love is still the main subject.  

One of the things I’ve always liked about Punk Rock is that while there are love songs, there are songs about other things. The more hard-core the Punk, the less likely there is to be a love song. It’s awesome. Often, when a Punk band sings about love, it’s not sappy love but something else. The Dead Kennedys’ best love song is “Too Drunk to Fuck.” Sorry, but there it is. Realistic, funny and ironic. 

I’ve been listening to The Pretenders a lot lately, and Chrissie Hynde has a few sappy love songs, but her love songs are mostly not. 

“I wanna do it, do it on the pavement.” That is not sappy.

Anyhoo…. Since I find all this love song stuff de-inspiring, I don’t know what’s up next. I’m not anti-love or bitter on the subject. I congratulate — and have deep respect for —  all of you who found your great love and are busy living happily ever after. That just isn’t my story. 

But why?

The model in front of me growing up wasn’t particularly happy, that’s one thing, probably, then I never wanted kids. I wanted adventure. For a while I thought a boyfriend or husband would also want adventure, and we’d go off into the world adventuring, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Even the most adventurous men I knew longed for wife and family, the ties that guys like in the movie K2 struggle against. Except one. He wanted adventure more than wife and family, and I think his romantic life has gone pretty much like mine. There is a kind of love between us, maybe a shared love of mountains, adventure and words, mutual esteem. Anyway, I treasure it, maybe partly because it’s love that doesn’t show up in love songs. 

In any case, I wonder what the protagonist will do so that I can write his story? I see him influenced by Goliard love songs, in a moment of heated passion impregnating a girl, then facing the betrayal of romance, thrown out of his monastery, sent wandering over the Alps to teach Martin to paint and then in his own Paul on the Road to Damascus moment realizing there is no better lover than art and returning to the monastery, seeing it as his best bet for a life as an artist. Maybe he’ll go that way. 

Ars longa, labilis est dilectio