Sunday, October 14, 2018

Boston | Lefsetz Letter

Well I love that dirty water
Oh, Boston you’re my home

But it’s not. But it was my mother’s. She grew up in Peabody. Which is not pronounced like Mr. Peabody and his Pet Boy Sherman, but Pea-BUDDY! Kinda like San Pedro if you live in SoCal. Outsiders would pronounce it in Spanish, but locals know it’s San PEEDRO!

So I’ve spent a lot of time here, but not recently. The Salem Witch House, the Salem Willows, candlepin bowling…they’re in my blood. Along with blueberry muffins from Jordan Marsh. That’s what too many bakeries get wrong today, the ratio of fruit to muffin, it must be HIGH!

So I left Dublin at the crack of dawn and just got here. Why is it there’s always something broken on airplanes. The divider between Felice and myself wouldn’t go down, and her seat was wet, and when you’re paying beaucoup bucks you feel ripped off. But the truth is the world is really small. I used to luxuriate in long plane flights, reading, I never buy the wifi. But the respite is just not long enough to disengage. And I flew through Chicago which makes no sense, I know, but the airfare game is a riddle wrapped in an enigma and I was waiting for my flight back east and…

A guy started hassling me. First he told me the flight wasn’t boarding and then he kept refusing to let me on the plane. I was Group 1, I may have been jumping the gun, but he was a self-appointed cop keeping me in line. And it was then that I realized…

I was dealing with east coast people.

Yes, it’s one nation, with mostly one language, but the people are oh-so-different. You don’t do this on the west coast, you don’t get in people’s business, you lay back, you’re mellow, of course there are exceptions, but California is all about live and let live, so now I understand the divisions in our nation better. I actually asked this guy why he had a problem with me, he didn’t respond. And I realized how people got in fights and got kicked off planes. I held myself back, I wasn’t going to play his game, and then I peered over at his ticket and freaked out that he might be sitting next to me, but he wasn’t, and I didn’t let it bother me, which kinda shocks me, which is all to say THIS is why I live in California. I moved because of the Beach Boys, because of sixties television, but I didn’t realize I was going to a place where where you went to college and what your parents did for a living didn’t matter. Hell, nobody even knew what Middlebury College was until they shouted down Charles Murray, and that was fine with me, if you want to get ahead in Los Angeles have a good rap, get a good look, an education is secondary.

And the beefy guy next to me was watching a movie on his iPad Pro smudged with fingerprints, eating the carbs, but it wasn’t until we were ready to exit that I noticed the MLB tag on his backpack. I Googled him, turns out he’s an umpire, Mark Carlson, here to officiate at the Red Sox game. Now I’m not saying I used to know all the umps, but at this point I don’t even know most of the players. Sure, some people do. But baseball used to be everything to me and now it’s just another diversion. I still love the game, but I loved it more when I still played, I felt embedded in the culture. And then I realized nothing’s that big anymore these days, everything’s a sideshow.

And when I got to Boston the baggage belt was creaking up a storm, and it made me think of infrastructure, how we have to invest, how we have to pay taxes to keep up our country. And then I could hear in my brain the people saying money is wasted. And I know, erect any edifice and there is waste, but does that mean we have to stop all construction?

Seems so.

Which gets to politics, the sports of today. With the teams and the cheating and the desire to get revenge. I just read a statistic that most people were against the confirmation of Kavanaugh, but that game has been played, there is no instant replay in politics.

And I’m scrolling on my phone. Stay in the air for a day and you’re convinced you’ve missed something, and sometimes you have, but not today. Yesterday the stock market crashed, today it rebounded. And everybody’s on Twitter giving their take, that’s the world we now live in, everybody gets to speak but nobody listens. Makes you want to move to Alaska and live off the grid, at least before the polar ice caps melt and we’re all swept away. That’s another thing, now hurricanes are like school shootings, we’ve seen too many of them, now they happen and we shrug our shoulders.

Not that Logan is decaying, the airport was pretty modern. But it was hard to figure out some of the signs. And when I ultimately made it to the Uber stop it was loaded with people. And I texted my driver exactly where I was and then he called me and…

I couldn’t understand him. I mean there’s so much noise and he’s got such an accent and now I have to be weary of appearing racist, it’s just that it’s funny that so many Uber drivers are now the old taxi drivers, doing it for a living. And for those who say I should take Lyft… I find Uber arrives faster, but that’s not the point, boycotting Uber is like boycotting In-N-Out, which cannot be done, even though left wing politicians in California tried. And at least these Uber drivers have a gig, I saw so many people sleeping on the street in Dublin, it looked like Santa Monica, is this how our world has evolved, where the left behind are ignored? They lift people off the streets in tech-laden India and we keep putting them down in the western world.

And sitting in the tunnel, where I had signal, I read about Lindsey Buckingham’s suit against Fleetwood Mac. Aren’t bands gangs? And if you act atrociously they kick you out? Lindsey’s quoting California partnership law and I’m laughing, weren’t the acts supposed to exist outside the system, be an antidote thereto? But that was before money triumphed over message. That’s what everybody in the arts today says…WHERE’S MY MONEY? As if they’re entitled to get paid, as if there’s federal welfare for musicians. Certainly not in the good old USA, where some of the musicians are now fascists anyway, hell, I hear from them.

And then sitting in traffic the buildings started to look familiar. And I was wondering whether it was a trick, but it turned out my orientation was correct. To my right was Myles Standish Hall, where my sister lived during her freshman year at BU. But they’d given the building a cleaning, it looked nearly new, I wonder if it’s still a dump inside.

And then that record store on the corner, in Kenmore Square, what was it called, “New England Music City”? Where I bought “Mad Dogs & Englishmen.” It’s gone, it’s something else now. And no one would ever know.

Actually, Boston’s been spiffed-up. All of America has been. The changes are palpable if you were around back then. No one flew on a whim. Now people fly to sporting contests, or concerts, and think not a whit about it. And there was bad food everywhere, you ate a boiled hot dog on a spongy bun. But now you expect gourmet options wherever you go.

And I’m reading about the television wars on my phone. How AT&T is now gonna compete with Netflix, Wal-Mart too. Used to be we had our favorite bands, now we’ve got our favorite TV distributors! And Netflix is rock in an age of soporific pop. We thought it was HBO, but that was just a harbinger. Netflix doubled-down. Invested. Caught everybody unawares. Hell, they just bought a studio in New Mexico. Who wants to work in New Mexico?

Can I say that?

On one side we have people who can say anything, insult and tell lies.

On the other, one that issues trigger warnings, is so busy protecting special interests that it hobbles itself.

And I’m thinking about what Bob Geldof said, how rock infected us, was everything. Even music isn’t everything these days, everybody’s a hero on social media, fighting for attention.

And those in the business, the fans, keep expecting music to triumph once again. As if it’s entitled. But I’m not sure. Mariah Carey broke nearly thirty years ago, that’s how long vapidity has lasted. And we’ve got Kanye West self-destructing right in front of our eyes. This guy is absolutely bipolar and is denying it, now saying he was just “sleep-deprived.” But the truth is bipolar people hate taking the meds, because they miss the highs. That’s what Kanye’s on right now, a high. That’s where all the EPs came from, the SNL rant, the Trump appearance. But rather than labeling him sick and having sympathy we’re just watching the show, waiting to see what’s next, we’re not that far different from the Romans, when Kanye jumps out a window it’ll be like Christians being fed to the lions in the Colosseum.

Then again, the antics, the penumbra, are much more compelling than the music.

And the rants, about being a genius, about inventing a new plane…

Then again, today Elon Musk announced Teslaquila, and it doesn’t seem to be a joke.

As Felice’s father used to say, it’s a Barnum & Bailey world.

Then again, the circus is gone now too!


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