Saturday, December 9, 2006

David Bowie-Heroes

So, those of you familiar with the invite-only Glam-Racket 2 My Space page know that I recently bought a house, recently was made aware that I am expecting a child, and that I quit my job yesterday. I’m tired of explaining the events that led to this spur of the moment decision and I’m well aware of the implications, especially considering the aforementioned announcements. What it boils down to is that Todd Totale doesn’t appreciate being treated with disrespect, he has issues with authority (particularly ones that are utter douchebags), and that he doesn’t have a contingency plan for this unemployment.
This resignation marks the first time that I have left an employer without any formal notice. It was deserving, trust me, and there’s a little bit of punk rock when one can utter the words “I quit…effective immediately.” There is nothing punk rock, however, about worrying about shit like car payments, mortgages, and lack of health insurance resulting from uttering the words “I quit…effective immediately.” Who am I kidding: there’s nothing punk rock about being forty.
To look for a familiar frame of reference here is impossible, as life today is unlike anything else that I’ve been through. I suppose that this is a good sign; it means that my life has progressed somewhat and that I’m encountering new experiences. It also means that I think I understand the lines to that Dylan song that goes “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”
The events have me thinking about the obligatory “Mix Tape For The Unemployed,” or specifically, what albums was I listening to when I left a source of income without having another source lined up. It needs to be said that this is something that Dad told me never to do. Sorry, Dad.
But it’s happened twice in my life now, and as usual, I can tell you the soundtrack to one of those events.
The first time came right after college. Actually, it was the fall after I graduated college in the spring of the same year. I had successfully managed to keep working at a part time radio job that paid just enough to pay rent, utilities, and provide a few nights at the rock club. Then, I was informed by my parents that it was time I found a big boy job.
Honestly, I had only half-assedly looked for work and I’m fairly confident that my parents understood this. It probably contributed to their newfound micro-management and their curious demand that I return home to look for a full time gig. In retrospect, I probably could have resisted and avoided the self-imposed ridicule of being an-adult-still-living-at-home-with-the-parents, but I was too weak to fight them.
So I packed up the records, unloaded the furniture I’d acquired in school to various friends, and made the trip back home in the 1987 Ford Tempo.
Upon arriving, my Mother suddenly became a tyrant, berating me about my lack of initiative in sending out enough resumes and that I was “too picky” in my employer selections. She also didn’t like the fact that I would go out drinking, spending my diminishing savings on liquor and sleeping in late. She was working and found it hard to suppress the anger when coming home to find her adult son asking “What’s for dinner?” while on the phone with friends, coordinating what bar they’d be hitting in a few hours. Her anger, in retrospect, was completely understandable.
At the time, it was oppression. To tackle this perception, I would come home late at night, sneak a few hits of weed in my old bedroom (which had been remodeled since I first left) and play David Bowie’s Heroes.
Smoking weed as an adult living in the parent’s house takes some planning. I implemented strategies previously used while living in the dorms of the public university. There was a strict ban on pot smoking, burning candles and incense. Thankfully, the R.A. on our floor was too consumed with controlling the belligerent drunks and understood that our group was relatively harmless. Every once in a while he’d remind us of the policy and then we’d remind him that the guy across the hall puked all over the carpet in the hallway. He’d realize that three or four pot smokers were the least of his worries; not once did was he forced to call maintenance on our behalf and we were very conservative with our music volume after midnight.
In addition to placing towels at the bottom of the door to prevent marijuana smoke from escaping the room, we used an additional technique to circumvent the odor. We’d take empty paper towel tubes and stuff them with Bounce sheets. Then we’d exhale our smoke through the tube, filling the room with the fresh smell of a dryer sheet.
I used the same technique at home and was able to achieve the same winning results. The weed, which was a fairly large quantity transported from my college house and which was wonderfully potent, was primarily smoked from a one-hitter, thereby conserving the drug and limiting the exhaled smoke.
For whatever reason, the crowd I ran with in my hometown was not deemed to be deserving of my chronic; they were primarily drinkers anyway, so why offer something so good that wouldn’t be fully appreciated?
I’d return home from the bars and retreat to my bedroom with a large glass of ice water or juice in case of a coughing spell. I had the CD player hooked into a boombox. I felt the accommodations would be temporary enough, so why bring out all of the stereo components.
I purchased Heroes used and wasn’t immediately drawn to it. It’s a difficult album to recommend to a passing Bowie fan. Unlike anything in the Bowie catalog (with the exception of the other two albums in the Berlin trilogy: Low and Lodger), its an album filled with atmospheric soundscapes and isolationist arrangements.
Hunky Dory and The Man Who Sold The World were more my speed at the time.
I kept at it, probably because the vast majority of my cd collection was still packed away, and suddenly, it came to me. It’s not lost that the isolationism reflected in the music of Heroes mirrored that of my own isolationism, secretly smoking pot in my parent’s house, struggling to find work and finding excuses to leave acquaintances behind at the bars.
On dozens of occasions, I found myself alone with the quiet of the house, sparking up to the opener of “Beauty And The Beast,” doing a bit of reading before nodding off to the instrumental portion of side two. It’s as if there wasn’t a more perfect album for me at that time and it, like the weed, was an album that I didn’t share with many others.
But really, Heroes isn’t an album that’s suited for social settings. Its strength can be found when you’re with it alone, carefully studying the intricate layers of sound. Because it requires such focus, it enabled me to forget the reality of my surroundings and, at least for forty minutes, to forget that I needed to find work.
It may be time to dig out that copy of Heroes again.


SuperCat said...

I can't believe how old I am either, or how radically different things are from what I expected.

I'm actually at what seems like my most isolated right now; all my friends are either married or have become addicts. The fact that I live in a part of town where no one I know lives and no one wants to come visit only adds to it.

My self-imposed "no girlfriend until I have a degree" thing has become not only easy to maintain, but disturbingly so. I see the girls at school and realize what a huge commitment it would be to get involved with any woman under the age of, say, 28. Whenever I go out at night and meet women at bars or somewhere, I realize most women near my age who are out in bars have just as much to learn as the girls at school.

At school I realize I don't really know what I want to do most of the time. When I think I know, I realize I could probably make a better living doing construction or something.

Oddly, I'm not aware of being unhappy if I am. Still, I can see me picking this CD up tomorrow.

Also, good luck finding work!

DJMurphy said...

Yeah, Todd, good luck with finding meaningful work, something that won't crush your soul. Keep your head up, man; you're a great guy.

Kendall-Jackson said...

Yeah. Great album. In isn't one somuch for mixtapes or parties. It works best with headphones.

Vicki Kelley said...

Don't worry....things will fall together. My biggest hobby is worrying, and every time I realize how much energy and shit I waste thinking and worrying only for things to turn out like they would have anyway (even if I hadn't worried). Your convictions were strong the day you said goodbye to your job, so it really was time for you to go. Who the whole picture of life this will be barely a blip on the map. You have a lot of positive and exciting new things to look forward to. Look forward.
Merry Christmas, Todd.

Your pal,