Subconscious Reminders

This all started, however unbelievable it might seem, because of a 540 tailtap. For three nights last week, I dreamt of doing 540 tailtaps; the good kind, spinning 360, landing manual, letting the bike come back around, then nosediving back into the transition.

Why? I had no idea. All I knew was, part of my subconscious mind wanted me to do a 540 tailtap and that I should probably get it done so that I could move onto other (more important) areas of my psyche while in REM sleep.

Of course, it’s February. And unless I want to make a round trip drive of 100 miles to the nearest indoor park and pay admission, it’s a bit hard to do a 540 tailtap. So on a whim, I decided to go to Sayreville Skatepark. It was a Sunday night; 31 degree temperatures, with 27 mph wind gusts and snow still on the ground. Luckily, that snow was melting throughout the skatepark, and after about 20 minutes of dodging snow and puddles before, on top of and behind the 5-foot concrete quarter on the street course, I successfully pulled a 540 tailtap that was good enough to hopefully please my subconscious mind. So I loaded my bike in the car, stopped for gas, and thought, “What now?”

Sayreville is about five miles from the town I grew up in, a bay-area suburb called Matawan, so I decided to take a detour. I’d check out the house I grew up in, see what happened to the place I worked at throughout high school and college (a Stewart’s Root Beer drive-in restaurant which just announced it was shutting down for good) and maybe stop at the local watering hole for one beer.

The last time I was in Matawan, and really took the town in, was 2003. So it had been a while, and as time often has a way of doing, my former home had changed. The 7-11 had moved. The Roy Rogers which had turned into a Boston Market was now an Asian Bistro. The kosher deli I once washed dishes in was now an acupuncture studio. And the McDonald’s was still there, right in the same place, packed full of cars.

My first stop was the house I grew up in (from approximately 1986 to 1996 with time away for college.) The house is located on a quiet cul-de-sac in a quiet neighborhood. I pulled the car up, left it running, stepped outside and tried in vain to take a photo of a too-dark house on a too-dark cul-de-sac on my phone, and it wasn’t working. Ultimately, even though I don’t remember it quite this way, my former neighborhood was extremely quiet and dark. And then it occurred to me that I was now a stranger to this neighborhood, invading the street’s quiet solitude, standing in the middle of the road with the car running, trying to take photos of a house I once called home. More succinctly, I could tell that I looked sketchy. So with the curtains inside my former home opening to see what I was up to, I ducked back in my car, put it in drive and got out of there. Part of me wanted the new residents to automatically understand my plight, invite me in and let me show them where I used to sleep every night. But that only seems to happen in movies.

And as I made my way down my former street, I came to the realization that even though myself and my family no longer lives in that exact physical location, it’s still a part of us, despite the current residents, the shifting tides of change and the passage of time. I paused at the end of our street, took a photo of the street sign that reads ‘Woodman Place,’ and drove off into the cold Matawan night.

Stewart’s Root Beer didn’t quite leave the same impact. It was a job, and I made some great friends there, but as any teenager in the history of the world will tell you, flipping burgers for 40+ hours a week during the summer is still just a job, despite whatever enriching anecdotes one might attempt to attach to the noble position. And the place had barely changed since I left through the rear kitchen door sometime late in the summer of 1996. In the window hung a sign written by the owner, thanking the customers for years of business, capped off with a smiley face. I heard it’s getting knocked down soon. I’m not exactly happy, but I also won’t mourn its end.

By this time I made a loop of the town, and even though the roads haven’t exactly shrunk, my 16-year-old perception of the town as a vast and sprawling metropolis had drastically changed, making the town smaller and simpler. It was time to head home. I gunned it for Rt. 9, hit the Turnpike and drove the 30 miles back to Jersey City.

What significance did the trip have? I’m still thinking that one through. But so far, what I have is this: Sometimes I miss my family, and all the good we enacted while together. In a way, it was nice to see the last place we did that as a cohesive unit, but I think just seeing that physical space was my own little way of jogging loose some cherished memories that I haven’t really touched upon in quite some time. And maybe, in my subconscious world, doing a 540 tailtap was my brain’s sneaky and subtle way of saying, “Don’t forget where you came from.”

Medical Dramas

For the first time in a long time, I was forced to take antibiotics last week. The culprit: a cold that started in the chest, went to my head, then changed its mind and went back into my chest. At first, I figured, this is bearable, just stay in, don’t do too much and it’ll go away. Only the cold didn’t. Like a Gremlin being fed after midnight, it was gaining strength, and forcing me to uncontrollably cough up a rainbow of primary-colored mucus (with the exception of blue.)

So I went to the doctor, got told that I actually had what I knew I had (an upper respiratory infection) and was given a week’s worth of antibiotics. By the end of the week, my respiratory system was doing much better and my mucus was again colorless. But victory didn’t come without a price, and that price, in this case, was a boatload of collateral damage on another system in my body, the digestive system. (Antibiotics kills every bit of bacteria in your body, including the good kind, the bacteria that aids digestion.)

Presently, I can breathe, and am no longer clutching a handful of used tissues, but my stomach no longer wants any food to cross its path. In more simpler terms, my body replaced coughing and sneezing with farting. And I can’t really say which is more socially acceptable at this point. I’ve been around people on the train with bad coughs and thought to myself, “You better breathe through your eyes or you’re gonna catch whatever they’ve got,” but I’ve also been on the train next to people who don’t even mask the fact that they’re openly farting in public and thought the same thing. Only I don’t think farts are contagious, so I probably just repeated the “Breathe through your eyes” part to myself.

I realize this isn’t a topic too many people want to address, so I’ll end it with a solution: probiotics. It’s a supplement one can take to replace the good bacteria lost during an antibiotic-al purge, found at drug stores such as Duane Reade, which brings me to my next venture.

Another part of my body in constant need of repair is my back. Today, I had a chiropractor appointment, book ended between work and a trip to Duane Reade to purchase said probiotics. The irony here is that to correct my back problems, and purchase supplements to correct my digestive problems, I must first pass through a fictional hospital drama being filmed in the downtown area of our home, Jersey City, which is easier said than done.

Mercy, a medical drama which actually takes place in Jersey City, is filmed on and off again throughout the year in our town. I’m sure it brings money into the city through zoning and employment, but it also creates a serious congestion problem (of the traffic variety) in and around our downtown area. So to get my back adjusted, and purchase supplements for my digestive system, (in essence, to solve my own medical dramas) I had to navigate through a microcosm of television crews aimed at creating fictional medical dramas.

And while waiting to cross the street during a take, which was lasting upwards of ten minutes, the irony of the situation hit me. The crew was filming a mock St. Patrick’s Day street fair, and everything was covered in green, much like my mucus one week earlier. Then the take finished, my stomach grumbled and I made my way to the chiropractor, who said he was sick last week too.

In Defense of Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm

In the summer of 1993, I liked Jawbreaker and Jawbox and Samiam. But I worked in a fast-food kitchen with 3-4 other people at all times, none of whom shared my tastes in music. Our solution was quite simple: Whoever came in first to open the kitchen picked the radio station. Some days it was classic rock and some days top 40. But when it was my turn to open the doors, cook multiple pounds of bacon and arrange individual stacks of tomato and lettuce into neatly assembled, ready-to-go hamburger toppings, I chose Modern Rock at the Jersey Shore, FM 106.3.

This would be the first place that I was introduced to the Canadian folk-rock group Crash Test Dummies, and their only hit on US radio, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.” At the time, I remember thinking to myself, “This is a really strange song.” That it was doing so well throughout the world (except in the band’s native Canada) was even more baffling. The song was, well, unique to its place on the pop charts.

For one, there is the chorus, or lack thereof a typical chorus. At least no words are sung. It’s simply Crash Test Dummies lead singer Brad Roberts humming “Mmm mmm mmm mmm” on three separate occasions during the course of the song. In typical radio-friendly pop songs, humming isn’t something you run into everyday, nor is Brad Roberts voice, a deep baritone. In fact, both were true anomalies to the Cobain-rich days of August 1993. Perhaps we didn’t know it that the time (perhaps because irony didn’t exist yet) but “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” may have been a direct middle-finger reaction to the Pearl Jams and Alice In Chains of the day. And if that wasn’t the purpose of the song, then perhaps Crash Test Dummies unique approach to song writing was simply in the right (almost-post-grunge) place at the right time, just before an even more radio-friendly version of grunge would arrive in the form of Stone Temple Pilots.

Still, I’ve spent too much of my life trying to blame the world’s problems on the effects of grunge in the early ’90s.

Bill Clinton’s infidelity? Cobain’s fault.

The success of Titanic: The Movie? Definitely the work of Pearl Jam.

So from here on out, I’m drawing a line. You can relax now Vedder. Rather, I should examine the lyrical content of “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.” Each verse of the song describes the isolation and suffering of children. The first two suffer from apparent physical abnormalities, the third, religion. On the surface, maybe Crash Test Dummies are equating religion with unexplainable physical attributes, but I can’t say for sure. Deeper still, I think it could be that each child is struggling to deal with some form of abuse, but aren’t sure what to do (or who to tell.)

What I always found interesting though, was that Crash Test Dummies doesn’t seem to offer any solutions to these scenarios. Instead, they hum, which I interpret as a sort of non-answer to the variety of problems. And that was always resonated with me: the lack of closure within the song (another anomaly in popular music of any kind.) People don’t want to be left wondering, they wanna believe we put a man on the moon, went Lenny Kravitz’s way and or could be shaped into a great pet for Perry Farrell.

In the end though, Crash Test Dummies had the last laugh. Despite the many accolades “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” would receive for being a notoriously “bad song,” despite being called the “15th most annoying song ever” by Rolling Stone, and despite being ranked #31 on Blender’s list of the “50 Worst Songs Ever,” Crash Test Dummies went on to sell over 1 million copies of the album that contained “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,” not to mention being parodied by Weird Al Yankovic and used as part of the soundtrack in Dumb and Dumber. All for writing a song that sidestepped the expected norms of pop music, without a traditional ending, and humming as the chorus.

This is what I remember from that one summer when I got really good at cooking 5 lbs of bacon at 9 in the morning.

Jody Good

I spotted this on Flat Matters yesterday and wanted to give it some attention. It’s from Jody Temple, and it’s really great. But the strange thing about the video is the name given to it on YouTube: Jody Good. If you don’t believe me, watch the above video, then click on the YouTube link to watch it over there. Great video, strange name. Maybe a more appropriate name would be “Jody B. Good” or something like that…