Tuesday, June 27, 2006

baet simpson

My host Marshall in Eugene, Oregon informs me that it's actually Springfield I am in, and that neighboring Springfield, Oregon is actually Shelbyville. The town square does indeed bear a vague resemblance. Look to the odd pioneer statues of one Eugene Skinner, to the preserved homestead of the man that stands near the Willamette River. By the muddy banks, I fully unravel and feel the vacation kicking in; hours pass just watching the patterns that leaves make in the wind, dappling sunlight and shade across my chest as I sprawl in the soft grasses and read or else stare into the sunny sky. The grass is different in Oregon. (Uh, not that kind.) In Texas, the landscape accosts you like cops do; stickers and burrs gouge, there are sharp crenations of weeds. The blades themselves make you itch. And where there aren't mosquito swarms doing fly-bys, there is always the threat of being brutalized and burned by fire ants. Plopped down in the grass here, all feels benevolent. And I don't even need to pull out a hackey sack or digeridoo.

Staying with Marshall is mind-boggling in a way; he played such a crucial role in my development and appreciation of music when I was sixteen years old that it's hard to believe that were still in touch a decade hence. Were it not for him and his band, El Santo (who will always be my favorite group next to Nirvana), I might've never made the connection that music is actually made by people, and not these distant, untouchable entities.

Guess that is punk rock's most profound lesson. As a child growing up, you usually interact with popular music on a completely alienated, wholly untenable level: here are these peculiarly-dressed people that you will never have a chance to meet. This is what you think rebellion looks and sounds like. But it is a lie outright. You know no one that even looks like them in either your extended family or at your school, despite what the Goths and heshers may appropriate as their 'style.' These strangers make a highly-stylized music that the major label record company then sells you at the mall. I grew up listening to Poison, to G'n'R, to Beastie Boys, but no one in my realm of existence bore even a remote resemblance to these figures.

There's an early piece I wrote for Pitchfork about a lost mixtape that may hint at yet barely makes explicit just how important Marshall (and his immense record collection) was for me. Interacting with him as an aspiring guitarist and music fiend was paramount for making music a part of my everyday existence. There is a flame of gnosis to be attained or to lose to the annihilations of time, and I can think of no other person’s tastes and wide approach to listening that influenced me more in this regard.

So it's strange to be here on vacation, the iPod tucked away, with zero interest in proactively listening to music with Marshall and his family. Sure, I've been digging, thrilled to find this Eddie Kendricks record I’ve spent three years searching for as well as Goblin's OOP soundtrack for Suspiria, but I'm in no hurry to audition them now. Instead, random records plucked at recent yard sales get put on during our days together as we do chores, dress the kids, get ready for bike rides. There’s some fine bluegrass picking record called White Lightnin', a synth-heavy Tony Allen record from '84, some unpronounceable African record with a triangle player, some Mexican kiddie-pop, a schizophrenic Nitty Gritty Dirt Band record before they realized how much they loved Merle Travis, an incredible French accordion-jazz record with an R. Crumb cover, and some Thin Lizzy (okay that's my pick). The kids only want to hear one record though: Mr. T Experience. Listening to Milk Milk Lemonade and this record with a Lite Brite on the cover, seeing how neat-o the red vinyl looks as it spins, it never occurred to me that Lookout!s true record-buying contingency was in reality kindergarteners (hence the longevity of Green Day?). Now I realize this shit's way more fun than Raffi.

Eugene's other claim to notoriety is being the location for Animal House. Of course, said house has been torn down, to where only some dorm rooms remain. The best joke of the whole town though is the location of the Planned Parenthood offices: it's on the corner of 17 & High.