Shock and Damage

“You face forward, or you face the possibility of shock and damage.”

~ Brody Bruce, just before walking head-on into a barricade in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats (1995).

 

“Would you crack the fuckin’ window open, man? You know, it’s proven that second-hand smoke is a carcin, carcin, uh – you know, a cancer agent.”

~ Carl Showalter, Fargo (1996)

 

It’s important to listen to lots of the Dead Milkmen on the day you learn your stepdad has cancer. This is what I’ve learned today. Nostalgia’s been the rule as of late, and it’s been a process laying waste to the forward-looking tendencies of our collective consciousness. In my own house and life as of late, it’s epidemic: Disney movie records from the secondhand shop, old photos, and today, lots of Dead Milkmen and the Beastie Boys. As we fly through our 30s and our fourth decade, and plunge into our 40s, reality is hitting us hard, and sometimes, it really bites. Parents continue to age and are falling ill, in droves. Grandparents – if we’re lucky enough to still have them, and outliving our parents in some cases – are sadly following suit. The “Greatest Generation” and the Boomers are beginning to slip into obscurity, and if you’re anything like me, the idea of this is TERRIFYING.

Let me explain.

Yes, it is very difficult and sad to lose those that we love, those on whom we’ve depended on our entire lives. But for those of us who were blessed to extend our childhoods even past our 20s, the prospect of really becoming the ADULTS is just stunning. Most of us have had a serious taste of it, to be fair. Maybe job loss or job gain did it. Babies and mortgages, sick relatives, other miscellaneous life crises, whatever. Sure. As more young bodies are born and coming up, and those before us are becoming more frail and needing our assistance and care, the opportunities to act like children are becoming fewer and farther between.

And on this day, May 4, 2012 – it’s just too much. So I am blasting the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill in my headphones, and trying NOT to think about how one of our musical and spiritual heroes died this morning. It’s been three years in coming. Adam Yauch had been fighting that stupid fucking foe cancer for three years, but most of us were in denial. Not MCA. Not one of us. Nope. Not in his 40s. Not the beautiful, poetic, kind soul that we thought might still be here for a few more decades, to help gracefully and maturely usher us into our middle ages. We were in it together, from 1986 and the release of this incredible album that changed our lives, until today.

It might be a good time to try waxing poetic, come up with an elegant way to complain about this huge smack-across-the-face from reality.

But no. It just really, really fucking sucks.

Sorry we can’t do better than that for you, Adam. Please forgive us, from beyond.

 

“My name is MCA, I got a license to kill,

I think you know what time it is, it’s time to get ill.”

 

I’m listening to “Paul Revere” in my Skullcandy headphones and wondering what the hell to say.

I first heard this song when it was just a few weeks old, in the girl’s locker room of my middle school. Big boombox, cracked shell of a cassette tape. Lots of awkward 12-year-old posturing, quick ducks into the shower room, half-dressed shyness over budding breasts and chubby tummies. Slightly terrifying and humiliating scoliosis tests, courtesy of the scary middle school gym teacher while bent over forward from the waist. And wait, what is that sound, loud but echoing and muffled, from the other side of the lockers?

 

“… did it like this… did it like that …
did it with a wiffle-ball bat.”

 

What in the HELL were we doing listening to this, in the sixth-grade gym locker room? And given how awesome it is, any surprise we turned out as awesome as we all did? THIS is what we were listening to? Seems impossible now, in an age when the middle schoolers I know are spinning Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus.

<Pause for a brief prayer of thanks – to the gods of time, and my loving parents – who in their infinite wisdom brought me and my compadres into this world in the mid-1970s – and not 2000. God forbid.>

Now that I’m over three times the age of that shy, curious girl in the middle-school locker room, I really cannot believe that we were listening to this. No prude, it’s not exactly because it’s somewhat graphic and edgy (although the wiffle-ball bat thing always did seem a bit much – and we all LOVED it).

No, it’s not that, exactly. It’s more that it’s just so good. So wonderfully, rebelliously, uniquely good. Amen.

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