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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Your Nobody Called Today

Last night, though tired and sleepy from a long day of working, I decided to stay up a little later when I saw my PBS affiliate airing an encore presentation of When Dallas Rocked, a recently-made documentary. Focusing on the 70s and early 80s of blues and rock musicians, as well as the radio personalities and journalists, everything seemed like a nice overview. That is, until I got to a section towards the end. When I heard what was being said, I rolled my eyes and proclaimed, "Bullshit!" (I did a similar thing as I watched the end of Downloaded, a documentary on the rise, fall, and impact of Napster.)


I take a lot of umbrage with people who make generalized statements like, "Nobody buys records anymore" and "There aren't any record stores anymore." Couple that with a comment about how barely anyone goes to local shows now and there are barely any venues to play.

Why I take umbrage is because this is not entirely true. People buy less records today, but people still buy downloads, vinyl and CDs. Chain stores like Tower Records and the Virgin Megastore did close, but locally-owned stores like Good Records and Mad World Records are doing better business than ever these days. And there is no shortage of places to play in the Dallas-Denton-Fort Worth area, from a garage to a theater. (I know since I've covered shows in all kinds of places and I've played in all kinds of places.)

I've slowly accepted that people think something completely disappears when it doesn't generate revenue in the millions anymore. It's why people claim things like disco is making a comeback, or metal or punk or emo. But I cannot tell someone that sort of partial truth/partial lie, given my uptight, purist, semantic-stickler view of things. As a historian that tries to be as impeccable with his word with documentation, blanket statements like these don't usually come out of me. (If they do, I surely regret making them.)

A few months ago, a journalist I admire (and he usually has his facts straight), said something very off-base in a podcast interview. Claiming off the cuff that "nobody" bought Jimmy Eat World's Clarity when it originally came out, I felt like sending him an angry note. As someone who bought Clarity the day it came out and someone who knows plenty of people who did the same (and saw the band on that tour, with hundreds of other people in the venues), I begged to differ. But what was said was said.

Just because something isn't sold en masse doesn't mean it stopped existing and being relevant. It may be irrelevant to you, but chances are good is relevant to someone younger than you. The younger person will have his or her own way of getting into something. And just because it's different than the way you did doesn't make the experience less valid.

I've been very careful with wording with the conclusions of both of my books. When I was writing Post, I held out hope that younger people would see through the rock star posing of popular emo bands that didn't want to be called emo bands. A younger generation did, and they're currently making great and influential music. With When We Were the Kids, I wrote a passing mention of where the scene went after all of its pioneers moved away for college. One of the characters remarks, "Ask somebody else" in terms of what happened in the following years. Because these kinds of matters thrive.

As I continue to work on documenting things that matter to me and many other people, I choose to stick by these ideas. I can't let lazy generalizations comparing the present to the past fall into black and white simplification. Because they do exist, I choose to keep working on what I do.

Friday, August 15, 2014

8 Mile Road

I set out on the healing road to think about the past and focus on the future. This summer, I've been to Round Rock twice and Houston once. This past weekend, I went to St. Louis, planning on seeing a show and making up my plans before and after the show.

The day before I left Dallas, I received a text from my friend who plays in the band I wanted to see. He said the show might be cancelled and he didn't want me to waste a nine-hour drive. I told him that I needed a road trip and that I would understand if the show ended up getting cancelled. The venue they were originally scheduled to play in was shut down and they had tentative plans to play the venue next door.

Starting early Sunday morning, I drove through Oklahoma to get to Springfield and then St. Louis. The drive was long, but it wasn't too short or too long for me. I enjoyed the sights of mountains with the cooler (for summer) temperatures. I listened to a variety of tunes on the multiple CD mixes I made. (One was filled with Beatles songs, inspired by a road trip my friend David Hopkins did once.)  Once I checked in my hotel, I had a large calzone at an Italian place I found online. The sun was setting as a Pandora played soft rock hits from my childhood, like James Taylor and Boz Scaggs.

The following morning, I hit up the City Park Museum, a place that came highly recommended by friends of mine. This was the only museum I've been to where I slid down slides, saw cases of doorknobs, crawled through old planes, and walked through a bank vault. More of a David Lynch set than a museum, I had a great time.

I walked down to the famed archway that looks out the Mississippi and took pictures. As I walked back to my car, I received a text from my friend that the show was cancelled and that I should be safe. I was completely unaware of what was happening nearby in the town of Ferguson at that moment. When I found out later in the day, I completely understood why the band decided to cancel.

To make the most of my final 24 hours in town, I went record shopping, ate a local pub/grill and got frozen yogurt. I was up early and hit the road, this time driving through Arkansas. I stopped for lunch in Conway and met up with my friend Donna. I had a wonderful talk with her and ate some fantastic barbeque pork tacos. When I came back to Dallas, the sun was setting and rush hour had passed.

Coming away from the experience, I felt happiness of making plans when original plans fell through. I didn't have the desire to be mad about people who acted or talked about things differently than me. I could exist and take care of myself.

With more days to take off this year, I'm plotting more brief and inexpensive trips. I hope to meet up with my friends in Round Rock again after their child is born. And I plan on doing a quick trip to Los Angeles to be a guest on a podcast.

These kinds of adventures are the kind that I've been wanting to do for the past few years. But factors partially in my control and mostly out of my control prevented me from doing such. It's nice to have that freedom again.