August 1999
s m u g
by Joe Procopio

Dude, You Rock!

I had a dream. I had an awesome dream. In my dream I was fifteen again. I was playing hackeysack in the parking lot outside Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate New York, pint of peach schnapps in one hand, half-gal of orange juice in the other. In between courageous attempts at chatting up dangerous looking, hair-band-half-T-beshirted shed-vixens, my friends and I never once debated whether or not we would spring for scalped tickets to that night's event, which I believe might have been a Bryan Adams double-bill with special guests the Hooters.

My greatest fear from those days forward was the inescapable probability of getting old before I died. Becoming what I so carelessly mocked. Lying down in the middle of the road. Swimming the mainstream. I was a living, breathing teen anthem, the walking protagonist of every whiny-assed Rush song. As time went by, that fear manifested itself as self-examination and, while I never lapsed into dread, I almost always found a spare moment to check my taste.

Do I really want to get into Lenny Kravitz? Does R.E.M. suck yet? Wait, I still hate Dave Matthews, don't I? That kind of thing.

I wanna rock. I was born to rock.

Rock is a murky term at best, and it encompasses so much more than just music. On that level, grunge rocked. Punk rocks. A good deal of rap and about half of jazz rocks. Pop can rock, if it's smart. Surprisingly, rock usually doesn't rock. Disco is still the anti-rock. Metal never, ever rocked, except Ozzy. Lilith Fair, try as hard as it might, won't rock until it actually gets out there and, well, rocks. But Chrissie Hynde rocks.

Rock is not so much a movement as it is a calling and, as is to be expected with any higher order, it's not always an easy decision to throw down your hammer and follow. I mean, you can only wear so much black before you start looking goth. You can only smirk so long before you become a cartoon. There are only so many ticks on the clock before certain rock-like actions garner you the mid-life-crisis tag. I'm pushing thirty like Sisyphus. I have to take these things into consideration.

It's tough to name more than a few veterans who rocked convincingly for an entire lifetime. I've always had this recurring nightmare in which I wake up one morning and look into the mirror only to come face to face with a less interesting version of Dr. Johnny Fever. I know this lifestyle choice is inherently doomed to end poorly. Like hooking. I had always assumed I would grow up to be the rock version of the ex-whore turned pudgy model housewife, constantly suppressing the awful secret of my checkered past. Or maybe I'd simply pick a spot that looked comfortable and jump off the crazy train, doomed to remain forever frozen in a moment, trapped in a life consisting of State Fair nostalgia tours and waiting for Nick-at-Nite to catch up with me.

So I never imagined, not in a million years, that my angst would outlive my youth. For the life of me, I always thought I would someday put down Rolling Stone and shut off MTV and stop laughing at must-see TV because I just didn't get it anymore. Not once did I figure that I, as an adult, would read an article on who's hot and who's not and know deep within my gut, "Wait a second. They're not hot. They're not. They're so not!"

It turns out I rocked my twenties.

Now, one would think this self-satisfaction with my own sense of chic-security would resolve all those issues that plagued me as a teenager. One would think. But the fact that I've made it this far without compromising my rock criteria has only allowed another equally hideous anxiety to come bubbling to the surface.

What if I'm niche?

The nightmares of my youth have suddenly been replaced by a new dream. In this one, I wake up, look into same said mirror and I find myself staring at a slightly more annoying version of Janeane Garafolo. Or at least the bent, bitter, emotionally starved caricature of herself that she played in Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion. Also, in the dream, I'm taller, I'm wearing black eyeliner, and I talk in a thick Scottish brogue. Note to self: See someone about this.

What if I've gone so far over to the outstream that I'm subconsciously blocking out any form of entertainment or artistic endeavor even remotely smelling bourgeois? What if I've been such a harsh critic that I've lost any sense of judgment and, by rote, everything sucks? Then someday I wind up growing old and lonely in a very trendy apartment with a lot of cats with names like Westerberg and Grohl.

The solution, I suppose, is to avoid leaning in any direction. To accept each new experience with an open mind and allow myself to learn from all corners. To temper the prejudice of being hip with the kinship of the human condition. To forge a new type of cultural expression that bears not some long-dead anachronistic concept of loyalty, but an understanding of the message concealed within the work itself.

Wait. That's crap.

Never mind.

Long live rock.

in the junk drawer:

feature car
ac/dc gun
compulsion vise
posedown cheese
and such
and such
blab fan

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