I’m going to see Marilyn Manson, who is apparently so down on his luck he’s performing solo-style at people’s houses. I’ve arrived at the house, which is somehow also a Taco Bell, I spy my friend Megan in the parking lot, which is shiny with fresh rain, little puddles all rainbowed with gasoline.
Inside, it’s like being in the Good Room at your grandmother’s house, full of fragile, uncomfortable furniture done up in old lady florals. An entertaining parlor no one ever uses. My friend Charlotte is there, and it seems we are the only ones here, or at least we’re very early, which is odd, because before I came inside, out in the parking lot, I’d seen Manson, wearing a bathrobe with his hair wrapped up in a towel, leaving his dressing room and waving to fans who were pressed up against the house/Taco Bell’s huge front window.
There is a low, baby blue sofa in the parlor. Charlotte goes to sit down on it only to realize there are two huge great danes the exact color of the sofa resting on it. There is also a white ferret skittering about.
It is the custom for Manson—despite being reduced to playing house parties—to open his shows by having two of the Blue Angel stunt planes fly overhead, and dangerously low. The first plane screams over, to wild acclaim. No one actually goes outside to watch. Rather, from behind the stage, a large mirror is attached to the very top of the wall, where it meets the ceiling, and we can watch the plane as it passes over us. The first flyover is a huge success but the second much less so. The plane crashes, bouncing back and forth between parked cars before bursting finally into flame.
No one says anything for a time. It’s a somber moment. Will the show be cancelled?
It will not. Manson, in his Mechanical Animals androgynous bodysuit, enters the parlor, mic in one hand, and begins leading everyone in a happy, handclapping singalong.
It made you doubt he’d make it. So many things not even fully pressed yet into view: thick catalogs of threats awaiting each. Nature ought to pass a law against so much susceptibility in a single creature. Bradley made me think of damage as the world’s one constant. Even bees, which some consider lyrical, are really martial in their readiness for anything. So all the honey in the world, dense amber vats of it, is balanced and offset by one microscopic duct of poison. —-“Breathing Room”, Allan Gurganus
At my job, one of my coworkers, Walter, is always—always—talking. He’s a good dude, and I like working with him a lot, but man he never shuts up. I’ve gotten used to it at this point.
He’s always telling these stories about women he sees at the club he and a bunch of the other guys often go to, and he describes them in the vaguest possible terms—”she’s a redbone, light skinned, pretty as a motherfucker. Had a nice little ass on her, too“—and whoever he’s telling this story to—though it’s not really a story, is it?—always knows exactly who he’s talking about. It’s amazing.
I was surprised to find, on landing in Pittsburgh today, a really high number of likes and reblogs on the “teen werewolves” screencap I’d posted. People seemed to recognize it, to have seen it before; I’d missed any previous go-rounds of the story, which post-landing research indicates was a…
I’m not really much of a re-blogger, but this is worth reading. I’m forever impressed by Darnielle’s sense of empathy and compassion.
Every night I hope and pray a dream lover will come my way A girl to hold in my arms and know the magic of her charms Because I want a girl to call my own I want a dream lover so I don’t have to dream alone
It feels sometimes like I’ve lived with this album for so long. I’ve had the horn riff from “You Can Call Me Al” stuck in my head for probably twenty years—I hum it to myself or tap it out on the steering wheel when I’m alone, or bored, typically without even realizing I’m doing it, without even making any conscious connection to the album, or the song. It’s soaked down deeply enough into me that it seems its own elemental thing, idependent of me or any other association.
I only knew “You Can Call Me Al”, though, until I was fifteen or so, and the church I attended got a new pastor. He and his wife were both young—I’d guess maybe in their early thirties—and had two small children, and were definitely not bound to remain in the small town they’d settled in. Our church was very small, and populated mostly by elderly people, and of course very conservative, which contrasted greatly with Charlie and Angie, who probably in all honesty were not all that radical, but compared to the congregation in general probably came off as a couple of hippies. They remained at the church for a year or so, I think, and then left to become missionaries in Africa.
I was pretty close to Angie, and she gave me a copy of Graceland—and also The Joshua Tree: they were those kind of Christians—and I just let it wash over me. There’s no telling how many times I’ve listened to it. Enough times that I don’t have to listen to it to hear it. I just know it.
I let some time pass, though, without playing the album. I almost forgot about it, I think. Then one late night on my way home from work, “Homeless” was on the radio, and it absolutely went right through me, the hair literally standing up on the back of my neck.
There was a documentary on PBS about the album on TV last night, and watching it, I was struck by how, apart from Graceland, I’m pretty ambivalent about Paul Simon. I wouldn’t argue that he’s a great songwriter, and his hits are all good, but there’s always seemed a kind of coldness to his work, almost an overintellectualization, that keeps me at a distance. Really, even his presence on Graceland might be the thing I’d miss least, and I suspect that it’s because the best songs on the album are the ones that are based—to what exent I’m not entirely sure—on the existing South African songs Simon was accused of pillaging for the album.
I never knew all that much about the whole “colonialism” thing, and I shrugged it off as kneejerk PC liberalism. But watching the footage and interviews with Simon, I felt myself sliding the other way. There really was something disquieting about watching Simon on Saturday Night Live, front and center, while Ladysmith Black Mambazo dance around him, a man on vacation grinning for a photograph. And then finding out that some of the songs—“The Boy In The Bubble”, for example, one of the best songs on the album, and one of Simon’s best songs ever, by far—are more than “based” on popular South African singles, but rather are those singles, with Simon’s words and melodies on top, my own suspicions of Simon and his motives grow darker. But I don’t have any problem with sampling, and Simon gives credit to his cowriters, so what’s my problem?
What’s my problem? I don’t know. I think the album and its music is bigger than whatever controversies do or do not exist, and bigger even than Simon or of myself. Which of course is some kind of rationalization, probably even the worst kind.