“And Tommy doesn’t know what day it is…”
Actually, it’s Monday morning, 9:32 AM. Which is pretty strange, since I left L.A. on Saturday.
I flew Qantas. Didn’t Rain Man say it never had a crash? Well, I think since then they have, but if you think your aircraft is gonna crash, you probably shouldn’t fly to begin with. They say it’s the lack of control. I feel that when I’m not behind the wheel. Felice and I were driving, actually she was driving, to Glacier Point in Yosemite, and if you miss a turn, good luck, I was pumping the imaginary brakes, but on an airplane, you’ve got to have faith, even if George Michael himself is gone.
It was an A380. One of those double-decked thingys. They’re not gonna make any more. Turns out the flying paradigm has shifted, now it’s about shorter flights with smaller, more fuel-efficient aircraft. And now they’ve got these long-range 787s… As for the 737 Max, it’s not the MCAS that concerns me, it’s the whole concept. Rather than compete with Airbus’s new plane, Boeing gussied up an old one, the 737 launched in the sixties, when there weren’t even jetways at most airports. So, the Max had to fit engines on wings with a low height and then came up with software to accommodate the lack of balance…this is kinda like making digital vinyl records. Sometimes you’ve got to throw out the old to get started with the new. Or, as Dylan put it, “you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone.” The times are certainly changing, but what’s weird is to a great degree they’re changing back, with populism reigning, a return to what once was that can never be regained, but that does not stop people from believing they can return to an era that wasn’t that good to begin with.
So they gave you pajamas. I shit you not. Was there going to be a rush on the bathroom, for changing?
At first I finished Elton’s biography “Me.” Wherein the music is barely mentioned, it’s all about interior dialogue and experiences, a revelatory music bio. Should you read it if you don’t like, care or know Elton? Probably not. But if you want to know what it’s like to be one of the biggest stars in the world… What’s amazing is how many people Elton knows and stays in touch with, at least when he wasn’t isolated in his bedroom on a coke binge. He talked to Ingrid Sischy every day! But at this point, most people probably have no idea who Ingrid was. But if you lived through the seventies, when Warhol still had impact… Think about that, a visual artist ruling the cultural world. Warhol sold out upfront, which constantly left you guessing, was it art or a joke, was it commerce or conception? That’s back when art was all about challenging perceptions, before it became a second-class citizen all about scrapping for cash. Were Brillo boxes art? Are Marvel movies art? One thing’s for sure, Marvel movies are all about the money, I mean has there ever been a comic book that has been anointed as great, key to the cultural fabric? Oh, I’m not talking about today’s graphic novels…the whole world has gone lowbrow, and the highbrows are so out of touch that they should be ignored. And where does this leave us? With no direction home.
So they had a lot of good movies on the plane. I wanted to watch “Booksmart” and “Yesterday,” but I never got to them, I was too busy reading. After I finished “Me,” I turned to Gary Shteyngart’s 2002 novel, “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook,” written before social media, when everybody decided they were a winner. Used to be you graduated from college and then…who knows? You tried to find yourself, get loaded, have sex, try to identify yourself before you were tied to kids, a mortgage and car payments. The funny thing about “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook,” is the interior dialogue is much more intriguing than today’s art. You know, doubts, dreams, reflections on one’s parents, your upbringing, where you fit in the social structure… All of this has been wiped clean. In music, you have to boast or blast. In movies the characters aren’t even real. But there is hope in television, for now anyway.
So I changed into my pajamas and slept quite well. And when I woke up it was only forty five minutes till touchdown. So I went to the bathroom to change and…there was a line. So I ended up changing under the covers. I mean I couldn’t wear my PJs into the airport!
But I’d missed the instructions. And when I got to the machines, I didn’t know whether to use them or not. And just when I was ready to pull my passport, voila!, I got a ticket, allowing me to avoid the line.
Don met me and we got into his Audi and he told me how he was eager to get a Tesla. He talked about the acceleration. Yup, the upper middle class are the trendsetters in this case, and none of them are going back to gasoline cars. But what’s really weird is in Australia they drive on the wrong side of the road. I know, I know, it’s the right, but how come we can’t all get on the same page here? I guess for the same reason the U.S. never adopted the metric system, even though Canada did. It’s easy, like taking candy, from a baby. And we could switch overnight in the States but somehow that would be unpatriotic, we’d be sacrificing our freedom, to be ignorant, left behind. What kind of country do we now live in where up is down and vice versa? One in which the underclass is so far behind it has contempt for the educated and successful. Income inequality has consequences, but the rich don’t want to suffer, they believe they’ve earned their cash, as if they could have made it without customers, i.e. the hoi polloi.
So we’re driving away from Sydney, to Cronulla Beach.
You see it’s spring here. Which is so weird, having exited L.A. in the fall. You can feel the rebirth, even though there was a Christmas tree in the airport. But I guess they didn’t have snow in Jerusalem.
You feel the optimism, even though statistically more people commit suicide in the spring. Then again, what do we have to live for anymore? Art, baby. And sex. And art that explains sex. It’s all about the human condition, but we’re denying that.
So I’m here for Australian Music Week. Doing interviews, doing press.
Funny how you can go to sleep in one time zone, and then wake up halfway across the world. Where rugby and cricket supersede the NFL and MLB. But where football/soccer is making inroads, just like back home. Yup, just you wait, we’re all gonna be kicking the ball soon, it’s just a matter of time.
But no one thinks the future will ever come. Even worse, in the States, everyone wants to be inoculated against its consequences…I can’t lose my job, my standard of living… But just like yesterday’s music does not top the chart today, things change, and you’ve got to change with them or fall behind to your detriment.
Then again, learning, education, has a stain on it in America. You see it generates elites, who think they know more, who think they are better than the rest.
Only in America can bettering yourself be seen as a detriment.
Now I’m a big supporter of a social safety net, no one should starve, everyone should have a roof over their head. But the truth is while you’re busy denigrating the achievers, you’re falling farther behind.
How did this turn into a political screed?
I guess in an era of social media backlash, you can cower, protest that you are not worthy and get out of the way or…
There are more ways to get ahead than jumping through hoops. Believe me, I’m not in a hotel room overlooking the beach because I’m a lawyer, my SATs have got nothing to do with it, baby.
The truth is I went down the road less taken. Which most people are unwilling to do. I ain’t got no kids, I sacrificed. But that’s the only way to get to the unknown, to the pot of gold, which in many cases isn’t even cash.
You get there via art, via music.
There’s no degree that will get you there, you fly by your wits.
But the payoff… People don’t do it for the money, they do it for the experience, the learning. Then again, in a culture where cash is put first, it’s all gone to hell.
Keep your eyes open. Figure out how to go your own way, and not the one Lindsey Buckingham was singing about.
As Jim Carroll put it, “I’m just a constant warning to take the other direction.”
It’s those that do who change this world. Money has no chance against art, it’s all about hearts and minds, baby.
And as Bon Scott so famously sang…
“It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n’ roll.”