Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Out With the New, In With the Old

Yesterday brought two significant shifts in my home entertainment world. First, Dave, a super sweet cable guy that reeked of pot and cigarettes, dropped by to take away my cable box. My new 2007 'Let's Get Heather into Adulthood' budget plan means I've got to live leaner and let the networks, YouTube and Netflix fill the Comedy Central gap.

Dave was awash in guilt for arriving beyond the designated 1-3 p.m. window. I assured him it made no difference to me, working at home and all. He was so relieved I didn't yell at him and demand his boss's name, that he hung around to make sure all my VCR-DVD-life support wires were still functioning. He then noted that he was conveniently "fresh out of" a key piece of equipment, a 'blocker' which does exactly what it sounds like. "So, like, you'll still get the same channels but only be paying for basic," he said. "They won't notice unless they do a random check. Sign here, please."


The next lovely man-angel who came to my door was a studly UPS driver – is there any other kind? He brought my father's Xmas/Birthday present – an Epson Heritage Music System. It's one of those old time-y looking stereos that unites all music playing capabilities of my pre-iPod lifetime minus the beloved 8-track – CDs, cassettes, radio and, best of all, records. Remember those?

Last night, I set it up and dove into my long-neglected stack of albums, trying to decide which one to play for the ceremonial first spin. Perhaps Tijuana Brass? It was the soundtrack of my childhood, after all. Maybe the Slim Whitman album I purchased years ago but actually have yet to hear? Sex Pistols? Led Zep? Duran Duran? Holy shit … Shaun Cassidy???? Looking back can be fucking scary.

After a few embarrassing flips through the dusty collection, I came upon The One, the album that rightfully deserved to kick off a new era of phonographing fun: "Cheap Trick at Budokan." During my twelfth summer, this album was played so many times, over and over and over again - I was quite surprised to find it still in one piece. This may have even been the point in history when the phrase "ad nauseum" was born.

In 1978, I faced some unwelcome changes in my life. For one thing, my parents were getting a divorce. Though my word-weary pal, Allison, assured me that this would translate into a lot of guilt gifts and trips to amusement parks, I was not comforted. My Dad moved out and my world shattered.

This news arrived about the same time that my body hit puberty like a brick wall. I tried to ignore the B-cup boobs that arrived nearly overnight, even tried to ace bandage those babies, to no avail. My 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Merrill, finally sent a note home to my mother: "Buy this girl a bra." There were only two other girls my age in school who had breasts – Amazonian bullies named Janelle and Cheryl who heartily slapped me on the back and took joy in snapping my new bra strap on crowded playgrounds. Good times.

Of course, with this new body acreage came acne. Oh yeah, that was AWESOME. Overall, I felt like a bullhorn abruptly came down from the clouds – or perhaps, up from the oozy tar pits of hell – and flatly announced: "(Ahem.) Attention! Attention! Heather Clisby: Your childhood is now OVER." There was no gentle easing into Womanhood for me – it came on like a bucket of ice water. (I'm mindfully sparing you the menstruation aspect to this story, gentle readers and Fang.)

So, to cheer me up, Dad and I and packed up his new mid-life crisis toy, a Jaguar XJ6, and we hit the road. He was headed to his 20-year high school reunion in Minnesota and would drop me off for a month at his sister's Iowa farm. It was an unforgettable trip – I read to Dad from a trivia book I found (Do you know that only 27 percent of women can whistle?) and my right arm became beautifully bronzed. I had a blast with the cousins – 'walking' the beans, feeding the hogs, chasing the chickens, having dinner for lunch and 'supper' for dinner. However, I also spent a large portion of my visit in their basement, reading "Amityville Horror" – which scared the bejesus out of me (and I didn't have a lot to begin with) - and listening my new Cheap Trick album.

Keep in mind, kids, that entertainment used to require some dedication, some focus and the willingness to get up off the couch, time after time, and move the needle back to the beginning. I took great joy in this – something comforting and Buddhist-y in the repetition of the act. By the end of the summer, my six-year-old cousin, Ryan, (who grew up to become my San Francisco roommate) was even singing, "Surrender" – only it came out "Suwwender!" because he had an adorable lisp.

All these comforting memories came flooding back last night as I put the needle down once again and heard lead singer Robin Zander declare, "I want YOU .. to want ME" which I always thought was a fair request. Against my better judgment, however, my heart had been drawn to the cigarette-dangling, spectacled drummer, Bun E. Carlos, mainly for his obvious defiance of what a 'rock star' should look like. Seriously, he looked like he could be the band's sloppy but lovable accountant or maybe sell insurance. The other two, Robin and Tom, were predictably man-pretty, which never really works for me. Okay, maybe sometimes.

Hearing the first roar of all those screaming Japanese school girls … Zip! Those 29 years sure flew by! I finally made peace with my boobs, my acne has been replaced by wrinkles and my Christmas holidays are finally spent with BOTH parents at the same time, in the same room – a major familial advance that began just three years ago. This time, however, I had the power of the Internet … (Insert trumpets blaring here.)

I was quite pleased to discover that none of my beloved CT boys had overdosed but were, in fact, thriving. Bun E. had quit smoking (!) and looked happy, despite never receiving my love directly. Rick Nielsen remains quite relevant, having written the theme song to 'That 70s Show' and 'The Colbert Report.' The band still releases albums, appear on Howard Stern, get referenced on 'The Simpsons' and they even gave a free concert in New Jersey last fall. They also founded their own record company, Cheap Trick Unlimited. Says Nielsen, "Running our own label has been a lot of fun. One day Bun E. gets to be President and one day I get to play President."

Glad to hear some of us never quite grow up.


Kath said...

CT and Live at Budokan ROCKS!

Had it in LP, re-bought it in CD version this past summer at Costco.

hotdrwife said...

Great post, Heather!! Loved this.

hubs said...

Fun post. Please refer me to your cable guy.

Tamburlaine said...

My first rocked concert featured Cheap Trick at the Louisiana Superdome, along with Christopher Cross (!), Ted Nugent (!), Foghat, and Heart. Ah the 70s ...

One minor note -- Cheap Trick only perform the song "In the Street" on "That 70s Show." It's actually by Big Star.

Fang Bastardson said...

Thanks for sparing me the details of your menstrual ordeal. And this after you were there for me when my hemorrhoids went AWOL. I am a selfish, sucky fuck.

I'm also a big fan of Cheap Trick at Budokan and boobs. Great post!


Howard said...

I LOVE Christopher Cross, but then I'm geeky that way.

Great post! I recent through what little vinyl I have (the rest WAS in South Carolina, but my mom said it had somehow disappeared -- I'm sure it wasn't my mom, let's just say) and went to my friend Hayes, who still had a turntable and converted a bunch to electronic format. You know rare stuff like Boomberang's remake of "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'". :)

It was fun going through all of that old stuff.

I'm glad you didn't find your boobs in that same box and that they are still attached.