Thursday, April 25, 2013

'Thrift Shop' is Not Better than 'Stairway to Heaven'

I sat on the couch next to a full bin of Lego parts, helping to make a big fort. I made a kitchen with windows. My kitchen had a stove, a fireplace, and a table with chairs around it. It also had a double dog door and a diving board for the pool that was going in outside. When I was done, I handed it to Nick, who sat with Adrian on the floor. They had spread Lego parts across the floor, making a dungeon and a forge and populating them with evil characters. They wanted to create implements of torture. I wanted a sunny kitchen and a diving board.

It's nice out, but Nick is still a bit sick. As usual, a melody ran through my head, 'Stairway to Heaven.' Where did that come from? I whistled that classic beginning.

"Hey Adrian, are you still learning how to play the guitar?"

"No, not so much."

"Too bad. You could learn to beginning to 'Stairway to Heaven.'"

"What's 'Stairway to Heaven'?"

Now, Adrian is the more musical of the two boys. Nick likes jazz and pop music, but doesn't plug himself into a headset to escape his life yet. Nick likes everything. Adrian's a music critic. And he's never heard 'Stairway to Heaven.'

I got up to start dinner, thinking about all those hours I spent figuring out that melody on my guitar when I was a teenager. I pulled out my ring binder stuffed with recipes and collected all the ingredients on the counter next to a pound each of sausage and ground beef. Meat loaf. How many other millions of kids learned to play the intro to 'Stairway to Heaven' at the same time I did?  I looked at the pile of dirty dishes. It was time I took the education of these two boys into my own hands.

Instead of emptying the dishwasher, I logged onto my computer. I love that I can cue up a random piece of music that I no longer have in a playable format. I don't have a cassette player, but I have a cassette of Led Zeppelin. I don't have disk or anything by Led Zeppelin downloaded onto my iPhone. Why is that? I'm so lame when it comes to sitting at my computer with iTunes. A while back, I downloaded a bunch of Mark Isham and Van Morrison into my phone. But then, I ran out of time and my playlist was way out of balance. I stopped listening. Why didn't I ever add other music? I'm lazy. I really am.

So I got Led Zeppelin going on the computer and set the volume to its maximum. It's a lame sound system, but it'll do in a pinch. I sang and swayed at the kitchen counter while I mixed up my meatloaf. I thought about how I'd listened to this song in my room while I pretended to be doing my homework. When it was over, I let the silence ring for a bit and I went back into the living room.

"So, what did you think?" I asked.

"I liked it," Nick said. He's in an agreeable mood. You know how you feel when you're sick? Today, he told me he loved me at least six times and he tended to hug me whenever he got off the couch.

"Eh, it was okay," Adrian said.


"Do you like 'Thrift Shop' better? I asked.

"Oh yeah," he said. "Definitely."

And then I realized. 'Stairway to Heaven' could not possibly be a great song to Adrian because I, a very old person from Adrian's point of view, thought it was great. He would have loved it if he'd discovered it himself. I'm telling you. It's true. I remember when my nephew tried to introduce me to this great band, Queen. It was funny to see his enthusiasm. Why couldn't he own it too, I thought. Why did it have to belong to my generation?

Then I put on 'Whole Lot of Love.' That should get his attention. It was a good thing I went back into the kitchen. Those lyrics are embarrassing! The music itself is the rhythm of sex. I hear other moms complaing about the lyrics to new songs, but have they forgotten the songs they listened to when we were young?

I didn't run in and turn it off. It would only have made them pay closer attention. They continued to pretend to ignore the music when I walked back into the living room.

"So, what did you think about that one, Adrian?" I asked.

"It was alright," he said.

"Just alright?"

He shrugged his shoulders and went back to his Lego demons. When I was a kid, I hated listening to Elvis Presley. Oh man, it was so lame, I thought back then. Now, as an adult, I have to admit that I like some of his music. The problem was in the presentation. If my mom loved Elvis and played 'Hound Dog' over and over, I could not possibly like the man. She was so old and her music was so out of date, at least from my perspective. I mean, she was thirty-eight whole years old after all.

Isn't that sad? To Adrian's ears, I'd just played Elvis Presley.

Led Zeppelin. Elvis Presley.

No comparison. Led Zeppelin rocks.

Thank you for listening, jb

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