Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Before You See the Light, You Need to Find the Socket

When I saw The Pixies at the Greek last Sunday afternoon, I thought there'd be more young people there. People in their 20's. I don't know why-maybe I expected the same crowd as when I first saw the Pixies, on July 24, 1989, at the Fillmore. I was 18. Somehow I thought that audience would be transported across the bay and through fifteen years. It wasn't something I thought about consciously; otherwise I would've realized what a stupid idea it was. I wasn't even aware I thought that way until I walked in with my date-gorgeous, 36, and like me, a parent-and my mind surveyed the scene and said, “What are all these old people doing here?”

Maybe it was because the only person I'd talked to about going to the show was a 24-year-old friend of mine, a friend I'd been crazy stupid enamored of a few years back, as I cut the ribbon on my 30's, jamming the shovel into the permafrost at the groundbreaking ceremony of my impending old age. Obviously, I was clinging to my twenties, when being crazy stupid in love still sounded like an option, not an affliction. At the same time, I employed clever euphemisms like “enamored” as a sign of my imminent 30-year-old maturity.

But she'd bailed on her PIxies tickets to fly to Kansas after a boy, another Dorothy caught up in a cyclone of love. Scratch one person in her twenties.

Maybe I thought the new generation of kids would be there to pay homage to a band so joyfully deranged, to scream along with Black Francis (once again): “You are the son of a motherfucker.” To get that melty feeling when Kim sings, her voice so sweet after all the years, the bouts with drugs and bands that just weren't as important. But if there's one thing “the kids” don't necessarily appreciate, it's music that's important. Or great. I left my office the Wednesday before the big Pixies weekend to see kids lined up in front of the Concourse Exhibition Center at 7th and Brannan for Franz fuckin' Ferdinand. How lame is that? The Pixies birthed mclusky; Franz Ferdinand will give us what? More insipid eurodisco to wipe off the soles of our shoes, if anything. I guess there are people my age who'll admit to buying The Wonder Stuff tickets, but to my way of thinking there hasn't been a decent band out of Scotland since the Rezillos. It's like seeing kids shooting smack: you want to take them by their shoulders and shake them: there's something real, you don't need to indulge in that shit.

Which left the rest of us, the thirtysomethings. We'd bloomed into our thirties like flowers on a windy hillside, all the more beautiful for having been battered, stronger for having to cling to thin, rocky soil. We'd stopped moving across country to find love or escape; we were Zen by default. We'd long since realized wherever we go, there we are. And look, there's our baggage. We had to pay extra for it, because it was over the weight limit, but it made the trip.

We'd been transported through time, all right, but the old-fashioned way. The hard way. We had the scars and blown-out tattoos to prove it, our bald spots shining gloriously in the sun. But we had new tattoos with our kids names on them, tattoos that weren't done in our friend's bathrooms while we were drunk; tattoos we paid good money from good jobs for. We were a little thicker around the middle, sure. We had gym memberships-and we needed them-but we also had better things to do than go to the gym. As Francis said to Joey while admiring his shirt: “Do they make that in a husky size?” Three out of four Pixies had their heads shaved, no longer content to stand idly by and watch their hairlines run away like wild horses over the hills. No more denial for them, or for us. No more us, no more them, for that matter. The band, the crowd, we were one, and we were in fine form, I'm telling you. We had better friends, even some lesbians; when we got bored, we moved to California-but not chasing love. We were fucking glorious; the Pixies made us feel young again, without going through all the torment of being young.

This was our show, our time in the sun. We'd become the balanced, level-headed, ponchy punkers we hated a decade back. And we had this to say to our former selves: Fuck you. What the hell do you know? Our twenties selves didn't know their assholes from light sockets until they plugged in the clock radio-and even then it was a toss up. They hadn't been through what we'd been through. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

A reminder: we should be gentle with our past selves. Take our reckless, feckless, drunk-driving, heartsick, naturally scrawny selves under into our sagging wingspans, give ourselves a hug, pat our own backs like Dee Dee Ramone at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and whisper, “it'll be okay.” That girl-don't be so upset. Maybe you don't need to buy her that skateboard for her birthday-in three months you'll be broken up, and in four there'll be someone else. And hey, stay on the meds-the prescription kind. Maybe even up the dose, and half the dose of that “other” kind.

We might've sat for the show, not being as young as yesterday, but we had no problem standing for the ovation. Some of my friends didn't make it: Alan shot himself in the bathroom with a forty-five at twenty-five. Justin nodded on smack for the final time; his band, Lithium Milkshake should've been as important as the Pixies. I'm sure there were others, too, whose maps got burned up while passing through the fire. They stood with us as we reminded our former selves: Follow what's good. The Pixies, like that girl, will be break your heart, but unlike her, they'll be back.

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