Sunday, November 1, 2020

Listening to Tusk and Waiting for History to Happen

The weather in New Jersey has been damp and rainy of late, with today being no exception. That combined with the feelings of the worlds of the living and dead coming into close contact with each other that always happen around this time, has depressed my mood. (There' a reason the ancients chose this time of year for Halloween!) I mean this literally, by the way, in that my emotions are feeling less intense than I expected on the eve of such an important election. 

I feel like I am waiting for history to happen with knowledge that it will be happening no matter what in two days. I just don't know what it will look like, and instead of worrying have labored hard save my energy for what I expect to be a post-election landscape where that energy will be needed. My thoughts on this can run wild, from "this will be a blowout of such proportions that there can be no doubt" to "will it be my fate to be run over by a pickup with Trucknutz driven by a Three Percenter at a protest to save democracy?"

This week starts my first full official week of hybrid teaching at my school. I don't need to go in until Thursday, and who the hell knows what will be in store before then? I planned out all my classes this week anyway, because what else can I do?

As usual music has been a faithful emotional companion. I have been listening to Fleetwood Mac's Tusk album over and over again, pun intended. (The first track practically invites you to!) For a long time I didn't rate Fleetwood Mac because of Bill Clinton. I was in the depths of my punk phase when he used "Don't Stop" as his campaign song in 1992 and all the Boomers seemed giddy about it. I've always hated Boomer self-regard, and I'd also read that the original 70s punks were directly opposed to this kind of music. Like a lot of overly doctrinaire teenagers, I bought the fundamentalist narrative.

Years later I became more sympathetic through some friends whose music taste was so unimpeachably indie and cool that I wouldn't feel like a sellout for spinning Rumours. By that time I had also come to the conclusion that most punk rock beyond the vital core was formulaic (which is why bands like the Sex Pistols imploded at The Clash moved on to a more diverse sound.) In the midst of this discovery I was living in rural East Texas and happened upon a pristine vinyl copy of Tusk at the local Goodwill. 

It came into my life at the right time, in the midst of a personal crisis. It's a strange sounding album, full of Lindsay Buckingham's desire to learn from the punks and impress them filtered through a snowstorm of cocaine. Tusk is also the sound of the "survivor" trope of the 1970s. It's the sound of the sixties being over and drugs and excess being the only things left and now they've done their damage and failed to fill the hole. It's the sound of exhaustion, the dark night before the Reagan Dawn in the conservative narrative. For me it was what I listened to late at night while brooding, and early in the morning when I had to face another day I didn't want to see. It got me through a lot.

Back then my thoughts of dread were connected to my personal life. I was living 1500 miles from my wife. I had close family members falling ill. I didn't like where I lived and was getting bullied at my suboptimal job. Nowadays I am far happier in my personal life, but the dread is for my country and its future. I don't know if democracy is going to survive, nor how much bloodshed will take place killing it or defending it. For the next 48 hours I just need to distract myself in ways that are far calmer that doom-scrolling. 

As good friend in Texas said on a particularly tough night as we say outside listening to music, "This isn't a problem Tusk can't solve." 

No comments: