Wednesday, March 22, 2006

We Can't Be Heroes

Maybe this is just to get some practice in uploading pictures, but I may also try to regularly feature pictures from my collection with a short story behind them. (Probably just pictures of me or places/things, as I don't want to overly embarrass anyone else in my life.)

This picture is of me, taken some time in the winter of 1983. I know it's winter because I'm wearing my cut-up sweatshirt. Please note that I was doing this way before the movie Flashdance made the trend popular. I borrowed the style from Dad, who had a habit of taking sweatshirts and cutting off the sleeves and collars, putatively because when he worked on the family cars in the spring or fall, he could be wearing something ratty, in case he got oil or grease on his clothes, yet have his arms free to move around. (Of course, he got into the habit of dressing like this most of the time ...)

(Sidenote: Dad's penchant for working on cars was the bane of my youthful existence. He did this constantly, and purposely bought used AMC bombs, probably because the cars themselves were cheap and parts were easy to find in local junkyards. In my time, I've driven a Pacer and a yellow Hornet station wagon, and there was a Gremlin somewhere in there - in case you're wondering why I never got laid. But Dad had an irritating habit on the weekend of dragging one of us out to help him work on the cars, rain or shine, freezing or sweltering. I didn't get it as bad as my brother J, but I got my fair share. I'd be sitting there, just settled in with a nice bowl of cereal, maybe with the latest issue of Creem magazine, when Dad would bust in and demand help. "Motherfuck," I'd think to myself, "doesn't this guy ever hunt or go bowling, like normal dads so?" Play this scene out a few hundred times, and it's no wonder that not until the past few years have I had any sort of mechanical inclination.)

While I comb my hair like this now (and keep it much shorter), at the time, this was a goof, as, like most small-town guys, I combed my hair straight down. (And wore flannel shirts, jeans and sneakers to school every day.) It's not obvious by looking at the picture, but I was trying to imitate David Bowie on his Heroes album cover.

There were a few things that occurred to me once we got the pictures back from the supermarket. One, I would have had to borrow Mom's make-up kit to get anywhere near that look. And two, I'd have had to lose another 30 lbs. to get anywhere near the emaciated rock star look Bowie had going. At that time, I was probably about 5' 11" and weighed 160 lbs. - the thinnest I've ever been. I was running about four miles a day, lifting weights in the basement and in pretty solid physical condition. It was a bit unnerving to think I'd have to go on a Bobby Sands type hunger strike to get rock-star thin.

And, in tandem with my failure at learning how to play guitar, this is pretty much where I decided listening to music was better for me than playing it. My brother had bought a cheap acoustic guitar, probably at a pawn shop, a few years earlier. He tried to play it, and gave up. I tried, using some instructional book with a cowboy on the cover, and never learned more than rudimentary chords - I didn't even know if the damn thing was in tune. I actually had better luck taking my sister's sheet music for flute (she played in the high-school marching band) and transferring the notes into numbers, thus being able to play a bunch of stuff on the play-by-number organ in my Dad's bedroom. About the only genuine music coming from our house was my sister practicing her flute - which meant endless performances of the theme from Star Wars and Chicago's "Colour My World."

But this picture reminds me of that weird teenage phase when you slick your hair back, strike a new pose and ask yourself where it all may lead, even if you are messing around. Well, the answer is jackshitville, but I had a fun time getting there!


Drooch said...


Doc Rich said...

I was thinking Sideshow Bob!