The River

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Fire on a Cold Day

So, yeah, there we were, all of 16, maybe 17. What were we doing? What was the day like? Maybe like this, a bit cold, wintry gray-white sky. Tree limbs bare. We would have jackets on, or coats, depending. I wasn't really into sweaters then. I'd wear a t-shirt and just put a coat over it. Maybe a flannel shirt.

So we, my friend N. and I, had a plan. This is what teenage friends did then, and I suppose what teenage friends always have done and always will do. Hang out and just talk. Say any crazy thing you could think of, and you could think of a lot, because that was one thing you were suddenly quite good at, one of the few things. I suppose we appreciated each other's craziness, but mostly our common bond was music. Working class angst music, Bob Seger, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen. Punk music. Raw, if modulated for public appeal, for FM radio. The roots were there, though, and we could feel them. The roots said, "baby if you want to be wild, you gotta lot to learn. Close your eyes let them melt, let them fire, let them burn." Learning and unlearning. Burning it down to build it up again new.

The plan, such as it was, was born and animated by this common bond, this love of rock's brash and passionate statement. "I'm not a number, damnit, I'm a man." The plan was indeed to let it burn. Burn it to the ground. Creative destruction? Nah, nothing so high-falutin. Creative desperation, maybe. Defiance. A gesture. And, as is all too common, an innocent victim far from the true target.

You cannot, you cannot even listen to that music -- art rock, they called it -- and understand our worldview. That stuff will suck the life right out of your soul. It will rot your brain, I tell you. It represents everything in this sorry excuse for a world that our heroes are fighting against. No way could we even this well articulate our -- no, not rage, we were far too full of life, at least when we were rappin over the slashing guitars and crashing drums -- our disappointment, our disbelief, our uncomprehending horror.

How, J., how could you listen to that "rock" band Yes. How could you, with an air of superiority, maintain that Yes was much better than Springsteen.

This cannot stand! We won't accept it. It's freaking wrong. How? Wha?

It just can't go unanswered. We'll get a Yes album, we planned, we schemed, "Roundabout," whatever, the cheapest one at Turtles.

Did you get it?

Yeah, here it is.

Let me hold it.

Look at the thing.

What is this silly picture?

Yes? Uh, no.


So then, on a cold evening, fading quickly into night, as I "remember" it now, we doused that sucker with lighter fluid, lit it, one of us did, I'm not sure which, rang J.'s doorbell, dropped the newly ignited record on the street in front of the house and ran like hell.

I still feel bad about it. I hope J. took it in stride as a salvo with those nuts he'd been arguing with over Yes, although it pretty much put an end to all conversation between us.

It must have been chilly that day, although I really have no idea. I just like the idea of a fire on a cold day.

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