No, I don’t mean Lou Reed, that man can’t hold a match, let alone a candle to Elmer Bernstein. I remember the opening credits and like to play that scene again when I need a lift in spirits. Such power, such elegance, such supple grace in music, man, he was the genius. The Novel is good, much in the same vein. Nelson Algren, a writer so many have forgotten, was a man of the forties and fifties with a talent that could be raw as the winter wind whipping through the streets of Chicago and just as elegant as Audrey Hepburn creating characters that defied the conventional cataloguing. Hemingway described Algren’s writing as so powerful he could easily knock you out with the easy swing of his fist. His stream of consciousness made Mrs Dalloway looking like a babbling idiot. Algren was not a writer to sit in residence and receive the shills with pleasure. Like the notes in music, writing is all about the arrangement of the words. One night of praying, six nights of fun, the odds of going to heaven, six to one. Listen to the beat as those syllables swing by the lips and fly through the night air in search of melody and mellodrama. Oh, the visions one can conjure with sound whether the language be music or talk. The driving tymphony, the horn section in perfect chords, and a B-3 Hammond organ humming the low notes and singing the high ones while the chords march on in perfect syncopation.
The world seems incapable of writing music and stories like that any more. We listen to fifty-cents and read whatever the New York Times best seller list says is the must read of the year or month or whatever. We are in a period of cultural distress, a land of the arid and the inane, the vulgar and easy virtue of little though all because we have technology on our side (yeah, the Rolling Stones would have used those lyrics if they had thought about it). The sirens are the immediate, the instant, sung by the I Want It Now chorus as we bury our heads into small boxes and proclaim social media a social success. One need not appear in person now that bluetooth covers the airwaves. Reality is an illusion is a technology is the real thing is the instant now is untouchable. Only your iApple knows for sure. I will not go into that gentle good night without kicking and screaming and shaking my angry fist at the foibles of life and the stupidity of fools. I do not play nicely with others simply because society values niceness above living and being true to oneself. Placid smiles are no match for the frowns of life and experience.
Well, I am in a funk this afternoon. Oh, that’s right, I date myself. No one under fifty-five knows the meaning of the word. The young have never heard of a one note samba and the Girl From Ipanema died over five years ago. No, this is not the world of nostalgia, it is remembrance of life kicking the doors down. I claim that spirit of life living in a fearless world of ideas, of strong men and strong women who could express feelings without permission or need to curtsey to society. You lived life because it was life, not because some moral guardian decided how and why one should act. I did not need permission or an adult to walk miles of neighborhood or a helmet to ride my bike where I thought right and proper. We played softball at school recess and dared any teacher or principal to say no. We played hardball after school and tackle football without pads. How dare you try to protect me from myself!
So the rebellion goes, I march to the tune of my drummer. It is not a distant sound nor is it your sound, it is mine and mine entirely. You want to know what’s wrong with this country, this world? Authority wants to all walk alike, listen only to their drummer, curtsey to their leadership, let them tell us what is good and what is not. We must all learn the same things the same way and any deviation is not permitted. The advantage of having my own large library is that I can read what I want, not what you demand. So I collect my volumes well, range far and wide and beyond the realm of official reading. I listen to the music that moves my soul, that gives me pleasure, and that lets me see far into the future. I can feel the notes wrap around my body and let the rhythms tattoo my skin with their pulsing beats. Does it matter if it is big brass bands or small string quartets? No, just as long as the melodies sway through the air on golden voices and dulcet strings into the hearts of men and women. We keep them there for our discovery when there is silence, when there is boredom, when we need more than noise for our daily commune with society. Music to dance on the graves of the young, that’s what I want. Lots more grave dancing music, you young pups. Feeling more like the Flim Flam Man, sound track and all. There is a whole other world that awaits those brave enough to leave the safety of social correctness. Lights! Cameras! Action! Don’t need no script, write my own as I go. Don’t just say your lines, live them! Damn it! And don’t worry about editing the mistakes, this is not a blockbuster film we’re making. Don’t need to charge admission, just need to be in the scene right now. Life is as you make it up, now some damn script concocted by your mother or your father or your teacher. Stomp the floor a little, show people you are alive. I’d rather have fun with the sinners than cry with the saints. Walk on the wild side.