Music is number two on my list of the five best things in life. Number one is love. That includes both friends, family and lovers. But music is number two. I love jazz, rock, some country, folk and blues. I love hearing new stuff. I'm not a fan of hip-hop, but I could be. I love learning-I just need someone to help me select the good stuff---whatever does not include cocky people rapping about how much money they have, or bitches and hos etc. But I digress. Having grown up in the late 60s/early 70s, I guess the classic rock genre defines me the most. Early in December I watched the HBO special "Rock and Roll Anniversary Hall of Fame Concert." Mostly I watched it because of the presence of my musical hero, Stephen Stills. But several more of my lesser heros also showed up, and it affected me to the soul. Their faces are weatherworn, and their voices are careworn., but the music....ah, yes; the music. If I had to pick some songs that defined me, they are probably all by Jackson Browne. I remember in 1972, when "Doctor My Eyes" came out, it made me stop and sigh. I know that adolescent teens are pretty impressionable, but that song hit me hard. It made me a rather unlikable person in some ways because it gave me permission to stop thinking about issues and decide where I stood. I was very sure when I got to that point. Very unshakably sure. Since then I've realized that some of those things I was so sure about were wrong, and some just evolved over time. And it has led to me wondering at times which comes first, the teen angst, or the songs about it? By the time he got to "Running on Empty" and "The Pretender," I was done for. After Jackson Browne played came Simon and Garfunkel. Their songs have also stirred me. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "Sounds of Silence" were the songs that all the guitar playing girls in my high school performed for the talent shows...and all the other high school girls in the audience sang along. But "The Boxer" made us weep. All those feelings came rushing back through the three hours of the concert. Bruce Springsteen came along at the end of my teen years. I was never a fan..."stadium rock" was not at all for me. As you can probably guess, the 80s were not good musical years for me. But I have a great deal of respect for Bruce when I hear him perform his blues/folk style. I'm became convinced that he simply followed the wrong muse, though with all his fame and money, why he or anyone would care about my opinion is beyond me.
Of course, it could be that my lack of gainful employment, the holiday season, the short days simply made me nostalgic for a time when my life was in front of me and regret was something I couldn't imagine. But it could also be that the television is on too much, and the concert provided a much needed "sanity break" from the free credit report and Overstock.com commercials. When I see that beautiful woman in the white coat singing, "O, o, o, the big, big O" to the tune of Jingle Bells, I wonder what my husband would think if I gave him a gift in a box with a "big O" on it. Would he think, "Cool, I'm off the hook," or "What is she complaining about?" "Where the ads take aim, and lay their claim on the heart and the soul of the spender." These rabbit chases aside, the song that has haunted me ever since that evening is "The Pretender." Yes, I've reached an age when looking back and seeing both what was and what wasn't is a frequent activity. And like the pretender, I had some big dreams that never happened. In all honesty, each one of these failures is ultimately because of one decision or another that I made, so this is not a whine about how life has let me down. This is about how a few great artists have captured the feelings of regret and disappointment that come at times with looking back. "I want to know what became of the changes we waited for life to bring. Were they only the fitful dreams of some greater awakening. I'm aware of the time going by. They say in the end, it's the blink of an eye. And when the morning light comes streaming in, we get up and do it again." It circles in my mind when I walk my dog, and when I look for a job or cook or put laundry away. "I'm gonna rent myself a house in the shade of the freeway. Gonna pack my lunch in the morning, and go to work each day. And when the evening rolls around, I'll go home and lay my body down. And when the morning light comes streaming in, I'll get up and do it again." I was going to be an actor. A writer. I was going to study environmental science and public policy and work to make the US greener. But I'm looking for jobs as a secretary. Or in a retail store. Or a call center. Anything, because I'm "caught between the longing for love and the struggle for the legal tender." Ever the egalitarian, I've always held that there is nothing to look down on about honest work of any kind. So why do I feel that I should have done something "bigger?" Is it because of the self-esteem movement? Because I'm a Leo? Because I spent so much time reading books and seeing movies about people who achieved huge dreams through sheer luck. It doesn't really matter why, "where the sirens sing and the churchbells ring and the junkman pounds his fender. And the veterans dream of the fight, fast asleep at the traffic light..." How long does that veteran dream of the fight once the war is over? Is he able to find another way to define his life?
I've been writing this posting in my head for a month. I began putting it down earlier this week, but tellingly, I'm finishing it on New Year's Day 2010. I've been unemployed for four months, and had only one interview in that time. I try to stay optimistic about finding a new job, but that is tough sometimes. Like so many others in this country today, it just seems that I'm spinning my wheels and my unemployment is about to be cut by twenty percent."They strike at the world with all their might, as the ship bearing their dreams sails out of sight." But this is not only the first day of a new year, it is the first day of a new decade. There are so many reasons to feel hopeful, and not to feel hopeful. On Monday I am very sure that my phone will begin to ring, and some of these applications will begin to play out. I wonder where the "Pretender" is, thirty years on? Could Jackson Browne give me any words of hope? Or does he know someone who is hiring? Because "out into the cool of the evening strolls the pretender. She knows that all her hopes and dreams begin and end there."