Thursday, July 31, 2014

Don't ask why.




I guess I will always be this sixties brat. Except that now I AM sixty, a fact which makes my head spin around. And it's strange that I wasn't a Doors fan then - not much, except that you'd have to be dead not to respond to Light My Fire and the even more hypnotic/seductive Hello I Love You. Morrison just seemed too pretty somehow, and besides, I had my Dylan, whose poetry blew Morrison out of the water. Well, maybe.

Dylan at least had the divine or mortal gift of longevity, didn't fall prey to that awful "27 curse" that even reached into the '90s and beyond with Winehouse and Cobain. I think anyone trying to be a poet while Dylan was on the same earth must have been intimidated and automatically suffered by comparison. So I didn't do the Doors particularly. But when I saw a recent PBS documentary called When You'rs Strange (narrated, wonderfully, by Johnny Depp, a Doors sort of person), I began to dig it, man. Really dig it.

I dug, most of all, or was impressed by, their prodigious outpouring, flood really, of hits, most of real quality and substance. I mean, Riders on the Storm! Touch Me Baby! I was astonished and impressed a few years ago to find out they'd covered Kurt Weill's Alabama Song, an unheard-of choice for a '60s rock group. I knew the song better than most, for it was blasted at me - embarrassingly - on the stereo after school, while I tried to sneak my bewildered friends past all that racket and upstairs to my bedroom so we could listen to Freddie and the Dreamers.







I had a weird upbringing. I am grateful for some of it. I was much, much younger than the eldest child. My sister, it now seems to me, got out of that house like a bat out of hell at the first opportunity and lived in Europe for several years. Munich. She spoke fluent German, did her Masters thesis in German, for reasons that are still not clear to anyone. For you see, nobody is remotely German in our family. You'd have to go back to the Vikings or something, or old pre-Chaucer English with all its guttural sounds.

Anyway, our den, where the TV was so we spent a lot of time there, was lined with books. Books books books books books. My books weren't anywhere to be seen, as they were safely stashed upstairs in my bedroom. But the books, well, I don't know how some of them got there. It was a junkyard, a repository of high culture and slightly tawdry randomness.







I just remember covers. There was a novel called I Should have Kissed her More with a picture of a smarmy-looking older gentleman. There was A Rage to Live by John O'Hara (with passages in it that fascinated me, though I can't say I understood what a "climax" was). There was Don't Get Perconal with a Chicken, a collection of cutely-misspelled writings by children, and Ted Malone's Scrapbook, a book of lamely sentimental poetry designed to be read on the radio. 

Though I thought I imagined it, I just proved to myself that there really was an outright-racy book by Mordecai Richler called, wait for it, Cocksure. Sons and Lovers, by D. H. Laurence, looked promising, though I'll be damned if I could find the dirty parts. A red-leather-bound, fat, falling-apart old book of local history called Romantic Kent had a few flaky old wax-covered pressed leaves stashed in it.







And there were innumerable books in German: Goethes Werke, Schiller Werke, and the complete works of Sigmund Freud. IN GERMAN. 

I just made a connection this second, something that seemed puzzling before, how I always "diss" Germans in a way that is supposed to be humorous, but is in fact kind of mean. My sister posed as a German, wrote her Master's thesis IN German, and as a matter of fact, it was all about The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. 

With its famous song. Not hummable, but famous: the Alabama Song.

Show me the way to the next whisky bar
Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why
Show me the way to the next whisky bar
Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why
For if we don't find the next whisky bar
I tell you we must die
I tell you we must die
I tell you
I tell you
I tell you we must die

Oh, moon of Alabama
We now must say say good-bye
We've lost our good old mamma
And must have whisky
Oh, you know why.

Show me the way to the next pretty girl
Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why
Show me the way to the next pretty girl
Oh don't ask why, oh, don't ask why
For if we don't find the next pretty girl
I tell you we must die
I tell you we must die
I tell you
I tell you
I tell you we must die

Oh, moon of Alabama
We now must say good-bye
We've lost our good old mamma
And must have a girl
Oh, you know why.

Show me the way to the next little dollar
Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why
Show me the way to the next little dollar
Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why
For if we don't find the next little dollar
I tell you we must die
I tell you we must die
I tell you
I tell you
I tell you we must die

Oh, moon of Alabama
We now must say good-bye
We've lost our good old mamma
And must have dollars
Oh, you know why.

Bertolt Brecht

And it was the soundtrack to this, with Lotte Lenya endlessly wailing in her testosteronic baritone voice, that I tried to hustle my friends past, the endless dark sinister and really life-hating, dystopic, anhedonic sounds of Alabama Song: please show us the way to the next whiskey bar. Oh don't ask why. Oh don't ask why.





I could get into how it was with my sister, that is, when she was actually around. She was a thwarted singer who, when she sang at all, sang very morbid folk songs about rotting horses and death. Her exposure of me to her "friends" was such a disaster that I honestly wonder if I will ever be able to deal with it. But nothing was done because there was "nothing wrong" with what was happening, nothing wrong with an older sister inviting her pudgy, lonely, misfit 15-year-old sister to her parties. Oh don't ask why. 

And don't ask why the whiskey flowed so darkly, and why the men groped and shoved, and why I dared not speak. Why I threw up the next day with my mother pretending not to notice. And don't ask why I was the mascot, cutely topped up and topped up and encouraged and softened up and, I now see, groomed. Even my brother's best friend had a go at it while his wife slept in a room upstairs. But then, we were both so drunk it didn't count anyway.





So when I hear Moon of Alabama in Morrison's smoky, seductive, doomed voice, I see that he is singing the hell out of it as Lotte Lenye with all her strident Nazi bleating never could. Morrison is actually going to die. He was a Rider on the Storm, way out on the farthest edges of acceptability and even sanity. He is gone now, long gone, his molecules have come apart to the point that he no longer exists, not even in the farthest reaches of space. He's an idea now, a sound wave, a song interpretation. I continue, feeling forever strange, and yes, no one remembers my name. 




A few post- thoughts. As usual, it's far too late to be up, but here I am, up. It's been a hard day emotionally. I lost a long-term beloved pet,and now all I can hear is his sweet peeps when I pass his door. That room will always be "the bird room" to us, but with his huge cage moved out, it looks cavernous.

I edited this post because it got a little too honest about my sister, an emotional vacuum on legs who inflicts her bile on everyone by insisting it all originated with you. Bait and switch, or something. She's gone out of my life now, and the little I know about her suggests life in a sort of cave of isolation that she would vigorously justify and defend, unless she's gone completely off her nut. Which would be justice, since she expressed such contempt for mental illness in any form.

I still don't know why she pretended to be German - the connotations really are sort of creepy, now that I look at it, which maybe I haven't up to now. Why she travelled to the other side of the world like that, immersed herself in a language and culture she had no real affinity for. I don't remember any enthusiasm from her at all about Europe, she didn't even talk about it, except to say the men fucked better and had fewer hangups.



Oh, and her sex life. Yes, and. The descriptions were endless, the lovers all married, except for the 20-year-old guy, and then the descriptions were endlessly anatomical. Until she turned her back on the whole thing, and now anyone who even thinks of having sex is beneath contempt. It's damaging to be treated like that for so long, then to have it dumped back in your lap. My sister, if she's alive, has a very deep case of narcissistic personality disorder that has basically poisoned her life and done tremendous damage to anyone who ever cared about her. Her one big genius in life is twisting other people's emotions so bizarrely that they no longer know who or even where they are. Is this evil? I wonder about that. She eats her young without even thinking about it, casually, even with no need for it, just on a whim. If the absence of love isn't hate, then what is it? I think of those shadows on the cement in Hiroshima. A person who isn't there.




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2 comments:

  1. There's a killer on the road. His brain is squirming like a toad. Take a long holiday, let your children play...

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  2. It was a pretty strange upbringing, though I was the one labelled "weird". I haven't even gotten into my schizophrenic brother Arthur, whom I was closer to than anyone. He went crazy and died. It's a miracle I got through. Now with Caitlin, blame is being assigned down the generations. Is there an echo in here? When does the blame stop? Somebody has to lay down their weapons, I guess.

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