She's a Real Mother

Mutha's got eyes in the back of her head.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

We Won't Get Fooled Again

I grew up hearing The Who played in my house, but not as much as the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and (believe it or not) Yes. Such was the life of the youngest in a big family. And even though The Who continued to record while I was growing up, even though I remember the kid next to me in art class tearing up when he heard Keith Moon had died, I can't say I was ever a fan. I just missed the boat, or bus (as a real Who fan would now).
It was my husband who first turned me on to them. I life-long fan, he knew what would get me hooked was seeing footage of them playing live in their early days. It was the ticket, but more than anything else, I became a fan by falling in-love with Pete Townsend.

How could any straight woman get past the flowing curls, bare chest, outrageous fringe, and expert mike-flinging of Roger Daultry long enough to even notice the skinny nose-heavy guy to his right? Even in earlier clips, when Daultry sports a velvet jacket and shag haircut that could help him pass for a member of the Partridge Family, it is the even skinnier kid playing guitar that pulls my eye.
It is Townsend's look to kill. Daultry screams and smirks, Moon looks as if he might explode, Entwhistle seems determined to play his bass through think and thin, but it is Pete who stares and beats his guitar to prove to you that the lyrics are his, that the words being sung are the ones from his mouth and he wants you to listen.

I saw a recent interview with Pete in which he commented on the song Teenage Wasteland. He was disappointed, it seemed, that the public had interpreted the song to mean that the kids were all high. He said he wasn't talking about drugs alone, but real waste -- waste of life, waste of purpose. He stated plainly that even in the early 70's he was frustrated with his own generation, because they had complained about the world and were doing nothing real to change it. That was where the line, "Here's the new boss/ same as the old boss," was inspired. Here was Pete writing about rebellion when he hadn't seen anything substantial come from it. He explained that he wanted the fans to know that he was that boss and that they should go off and think for themselves. Don't get fooled again.

And yet, here are my sons, watching the Who for the first time -- in awe of what Daultry can get a microphone to do, cheering for Keith Moon when he tosses a drum clear off the stage -- but they are both mesmerized by Townsend. I am reminded again that even with what is old hat now in stage theatrics, there is the stare, the challenge in the stage presence and the lyrics themselves. It makes me disagree with Townsend's lament. Things do change when art changes and giving voice to the struggle of class, ideology, and even the plight of growing into adulthood is a worthy expression of art. It is when those challenges to the status quo don't happen that we are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel...something I am wondering about these days as I see the kinds of movies and music that are churned out.

But my six-year-old renews my faith by whispering excitedly, "When's he gonna jump again Mom? When's he gonna smash his guitar into the amp?"

He wants to be a musician.

The art world just does not know what it's in for.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Do You Know How to Strut?

Aaaah the Mummers! Never heard of them you say? Only heard nasty rumors about drunken public cross-dressing? Then you have come to the right place. Not that I will dispute any of that -- just give a little context and a couple of heart-warming stories of a girlhood in Philadelphia.

The Mummers dress in elaborate costumes, wear full faces of make-up, long wigs, and manage to all be men. Every New Years Day (except when it this past one) swarms of Mummers make their way down Broad Street in Philly, organized into groups through social clubs. The first ones down are the "Clowns" and my GOD, they are terrible. They give the impression that they got together the night before, started drinking, ransacked a costume shop and never looked back. The groups then get progressively more sophisticated until you come to the String Bands and what my Grandmother called the "Fancies." The string band music is an acquired taste involving brass and banjos -- BUT this is when you get to the good stuff as far as I am concerned: this is when they start to really strut.

The Mummer's Strut is a kind of walking dance, a series of steps forward and then back all the while grooving with the shoulders. It is similar in some ways to the promenade I have seen funeral society bands do as part of their finale -- except these are mostly Polish and Italian white guys from Philadelphia and South Jersey. And yet -- some of them definitely have the moves.

Okay, not these guys...which brings me to the age-old tradition of the Mummer's Parade: Drinking.

I became aware of the drinking at the Mummer's Parade when I was very little. Sitting on the freezing sidewalk, drinking hot cocoa from my thermos, it was hard to miss that the guy next to me didn't smell like cocoa -- but a twelve hour buzz. I could also see that despite the weather, every guy looked EXTREMELY jolly and warm as toast -- or sweating like a pig as the case might be. I was also aware of the belief my Grandmother pushed forward until the day she died -- that none of the Mummer's actually drank during the parade. This was because she had some variation on a nephew who was a member of the world famous (okay -- only Philly and just north of Camden) Polish American String Band. She said she knew from him, in fact he had promised her, that they did not drink on the parade route. This would make my mother give a skeptical snort. No Polish blood on her side and only eye rolling for the Mummers.

When I introduced the Mummers to my West Coast-born husband I did so with pride. And for no other reason than they are FREAKS! Philly's own strange Freak Brigade. I take endless delight in a ritual that seems like one big dare amongst drunken men.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Three Things I Find Hard To Admit

#1: I watch a lot of strange television. This means that I am able to tell you who won each year of Project Runway, but have only seen three episodes of Friends. I know which channel and at what time to find the show Mystery Diagnosis, but don't know anything about any of the various CSI shows (Don't even know what CSI stands for...). I LOVE the BBC show Cash In the Attic but have never watched the Sopronos.

#2: I have developed a crush on Justin Timberlake. I had somehow avoided ever consciously listening to a Justin Timberlake song until recently and I have never once responded to his looks. I guess the whole package has caught up with me now at forty-two. Do you think I am part of the demographic he is going for?

#3: I write a blog. I have told very few people that I write a blog...but now I have two, so it seems like this may have progressed to a secret. I read on Al's blog recently that his wife "outed" him to friends. I cringed for him -- but he explained that it wasn't all that bad. Friends didn't find him weird or silly....or maybe weirder or sillier. Hmmmm. Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Wait a Second, Say That Again #7

"Cowboys Drop Heartbreaker on Muffed Snap"

If that doesn't sound dirty...I don't know what does.

Friday, January 05, 2007

What Did You Watch After School?

Recently I heard someone younger than I referring to a messy personal situation as an "Afterschool Special." Now I knew what that meant to me -- but was surprised that someone in their 20's would. The ABC Afterschool Specials were a thing of the mid to late seventies, after all, programs for kids that tried to tackle some tough topics, such as runaways, divorce and even (gasp) substance abuse.

It got me to thinking: Are the Afterschool Specials of my childhood lurking out their on DVD, TV Land, etc? It made me want to revisit them and wonder aloud if anyone out there remembered these gems, had favorites, or had I made some of them up in my own mind?

By far the most memorable for me was My Mom's Having a Baby because it was the way I learned about such things. My mother, as the FDR-era Irish Catholic, wanted no conversation beyond a quick orientation to the menstrual cycle. So, she was thrilled. She found it in the TV Guide and planted me in front of the private TV in her and my Dad's bedroom. I felt as if I was being trusted with important knowledge that was simply too fantastic to be absorbed. But to be truthful, the single thing I remember the most about it was that the cartoon sperm wore a top hat, like Fred Astaire.

The Boy Who Drank Too Much was also a favorite because it featured Scott Baio as the abused, hockey-playing son of an alcoholic. Scary stuff, but all wrapped up in a reason to feel sorry for Chachi with the big brown eyes. I also couldn't believe my parents were letting me watch this naughtiness -- Scott stealing liquor from his old man and getting wasted! Cool!

As was the style at the time, one featured Jodi Foster (although I can't remember the plot) and another had a kid named Richie who got high in this little crawl space off his bedroom. This prompted my friends and I to smoke pot in a similar space when we were teen-agers, all giggling over the fact we had our own "Richie Room."

Not quite the outcome I think ABC was looking for.