Friday, December 14, 2018

I Am A Rock | Lefsetz Letter

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December

I was freezing my balls off on the Tea Cup Express. The plan had been to ride the Orient Express up to the poma to ski Bolshoi Ballroom, but the light was so flat on the Poppyfields I decided to exit back to the front side, but in order to do that I had to endure the Tea Cup Express.

They call them “Express” because they run two and a half times as fast as the old fixed-grip lifts, the Expresses detach when you get on and off, and whoosh you at high speed in between, Tea Cup in the great wide open of Vail’s Back Bowls, without a tree to block the wind. It was just me and the elements.

And I loved it.

It’s hard to explain, from back when the world was bigger, when living in the country meant you were disconnected, out of the loop, dependent upon friends and alcohol to get you through. With internet and cheap jet travel no place is that far away these days, and something’s been lost in the process. Not that I want to go back to the days of isolation, but stuck on the Tea Cup Express my mind drifted to college, where I spent four years in this environment. The sky was spitting snow, it was far below freezing, and I was loving every minute of it. It was a homecoming of sorts, even though it was thousands of miles away.

Then again, after college I spent two years in Utah, what a bizarre place that was. Living in the flats of the Salt Lake Basin surrounded by young families. Like a fish out of water, only in this case a ski bum out of snow. There’s little snow in the Basin, but as you climb the highway up Little Cottonwood Canyon…

And when I lived in Utah back in the seventies, you were stuck there. Sure, you could drive to L.A., but that was twelve hours away. As for airline travel, that was a no-no. You got behind the wheel, put cassettes in the deck and went off on a solitary journey, just you and the landscape. And it’s lonely and comforting all at the same time. I mean I love the city, I can’t imagine living anywhere else but L.A., with all that’s going on, the opportunities, but I remember when my pursuit of skiing led me to the hinterlands, and you can never get rid of the memories, like an old girlfriend.

And I’ve got four layers up top and two below and the wind is cutting through me and “I’m A Rock” starts playing in my head. It was the lines above.

And as I thought about it, I realized it wasn’t quite winter, it’s still fall.

And it’s early December, not deep December.

But it was certainly dark. The two previous days were broad sunshine, and we remarked about the shadows, with the sun so low in the sky. But on this stormy day, it was all gray, funny how the lack of color can inspire you.

Now I went to see Simon & Garfunkel in the lull, before “Mrs. Robinson” and “The Graduate.” The headliner was Soupy Sales, he was riding the success of “The Mouse.”

But Paul and Art had a slew of hits. And “I Am A Rock” was the third one, not counting their foray as Tom & Jerry back in ’57.

“The Sound of Silence” broke in the late fall of ’65, when the Beatles were still riding high, but there was room for new acts. And we thought it was a made-up moniker, a one hit wonder, but the sound of the record, it was eerie, that’s one thing that’s been lost in the internet/social network/hip-hop era. The darkness. The haunting. These records descended upon us from another universe, and then they became our everything.

Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island

The quiet. After the storm, but primarily during. It’s like God has put a pair of noise-canceling headphones upon the world, there’s only room for your thoughts.

I’ve built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain
I am a rock
I am an island

That’s what bonded us music fans, our aloneness. We were not cheerleaders, we were not star athletes, we didn’t fit in, we lived in our heads, and the music spoke to us.

We wanted love, we had friendship but we yearned to be popular. We were spinning our wheels, trying to start.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

This was before the great economic run-up. Back when we were mostly middle class. And our pursuits and culture were everything. Reading, being in the school play, those were activities, not being an entrepreneur. The only thing we were starting up were bands. We were on this great adventure, surfing the zeitgeist, not knowing we were in the midst of a generational revolution.

We had time to waste. We weren’t booked 24/7. Our rooms were everything. As a matter of fact, “In My Room” played in my head as I got off the Sourdough Express on the front side, after my flight of endurance in Tea Cup Bowl.

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

I was feeling pain, I was frozen, but I knew it was useless to cry out, as for extracting my phone to text Felice, that was never gonna happen.

But that was physical, Paul Simon was talking emotional.

The funny thing is baby boomers have come full circle. Burnt by failed romances, they’re wary about starting again, they want to keep their good feelings intact. There’s a growing loneliness amongst my generation. After all the striving, after all the achievements, we’ve realized it all barely matters, that we’re the same, we want to bond, we want to connect, but too often we’re afraid.

But we’ve got our music.

I Am A Rock


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