Page Two: You Always Remember the Dance
First steps, two step
You get up too slowly in the morning, in a totally different way. You rarely have to be anywhere early but you never don't have work that you need to be doing. Once you bolted out of bed, raced through a shower and were heading out eight minutes later. No breakfast, not the greatest grooming, the world ahead of you, so much to do.
It's not that you are any less enthused. Maybe a bit more practical as to how much you can get done. Coupled with knowing you will get it done, not even worrying about that. When it used to be you could almost never sleep because every task at hand seemed so impossibly overwhelming. Probably because so many of them were.
Last night listened to Waylon Jennings beyond all reason, and then Little Feat and the Rolling Stones. You realize you almost never dance around the room alone anymore. Ever. Used to do it every morning to get started and late at night because you couldn't help yourself.
You don't dance anymore, but you could.
You remember discovering the Modern Lovers while living in a one-bedroom that was 90 bucks a month and you still moved into a giant closet so you could have a roommate, paying even less. Money to purchase books and records beyond all reason. No VHS or DVDs yet. You still hadn't turned the corner on punk so Richard Dorsett had forced a copy of the Beserkley release on you. Steve Swartz was crashing there. Half a duplex on Speedway shared by three people, that must have been a million years ago. Started listening to the album only to fall in love with Jonathan Richman's "Roadrunner." Playing it again and again while wildly dancing around the tiny living room, Swartz waving a cane.
And everything seemed possible. And everything was. Which didn't mean so many things weren't. But you had no idea as to what was going to play out and what wasn't, neither the extraordinary adventures or soul-crushing tragedies awaiting you.
You both just rocked and swayed away that whole afternoon. As you have now danced and sang and smiled and barely listened and sobbed to "Roadrunner" so many times since. Your library boasts a collection of versions, all different. "Roadrunner once, roadrunner twice/ I'm in love with rock & roll and I'll be out all night!" With the Radio On!
The Radio On! You think of the Kim Fowley sessions, first recordings by the Modern Lovers among the later releases. Sure he was a rascal and a scoundrel but it's impossible not to remember Kim Fowley kindly, a towering stilt-walker of a man, who transformed every landscape he inhabited into his own by way of Tim Burton. You think of room service steak dinners while he ran verbal marathons when he lived at the Driskill. You wonder, you have to wonder, if the story of Kim being a rapist that just surfaced is true. You never spent a second of your time thinking Kim was normal, nobody did. But this is the harshest charge.
What you do remember is watching the Runaways movie, thinking Michael Shannon was terrific as Fowley but though this was carefully scripted by writers, not one line (and Kim never spoke in sentences) he utters in the movie comes close to the free association, mad verbal beat poetry of Fowley careening around the vast history of popular culture as though citing medieval precedents while delivering a debater's killer closing like Cyrano taunting his antagonists.
Thought of him coming up to me at a closing SXSW barbecue and softball game with three brothers urging them to sing a cappella for me. As they began, I charged away from the just-about-to-be-signed Hanson brothers.
Running faster than I've run in years I'm sure. This morning was water ballet slow; that deliberate, that contemplative. Awkward.
We put out a Chronicle a week ago and the week before that and we'll put out another this week and next week and the week after.
Jonathan Demme once pitched jazz freak Harvey Pekar on filming his American Splendor comic books by sketching a sequence where a kid would be waiting in line in a supermarket, wearing earphones. The supermarket would be quiet. But coming through the earphones, tearing the top of this kid's head off would be outrageous, loud punk. Which pretty much shut down Demme's chance to helm the adaptation, Harvey told me.
The Chronicle has long been in our heads way too loud and unreasonable.
All you are doing now is thinking about the Chronicle again, getting it in your head, behind your eyes, running through your bloodstream, tied to the nervous system as fiercely as ever. Having left the artificial laboratory-birthed Frankenstein monster life you too long led for other lives driven by different energy sources, at this late date you've returned to the beginning.
Dance with the ones who brung you. Richmond, Daniel Johnston, the Kinks, Love, Moby Grape, the Clash, a hundred Austin bands. Then two hundred. And three hundred.
Ed Lowry and you lived together on Hollywood in East Austin the year before starting the Chronicle and then the first year it published. The best and then the worst years of your life, often running together in confused memory with no chronological integrity.
Ondine, Sterling Morrison, Paul Bartel, Kenneth Anger, and Demme passed through that living room with a projector at one end and sheets permanently hung over the windows at the other. You first met Brent Grulke in that house, and he you.
The Chronicle, as much as anywhere, was birthed there. The good year, before the Chronicle, Ed and you got up every morning to "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel," the long version on Sugar Hill Records. And you danced like mad. And everything seemed possible. The future was rich and bountiful.
The next year combined Joseph's seven bad years in Egypt into one that saw life as you had come to know it devastated.
But that first year:
"You say, you say, you say, yousay, yousay, yousay/
"Fab Five Freddy told me everybody's fly"
A few weeks back we walked through Harlem with FFF to visit the drug store on Lennox where I worked when I was 12 and 13. It was still there, but I couldn't go in.
Saturday the stoops were packed with everyone getting ready for Saturday Night! Men conking their hair, women straightening theirs. The numbers runners working the streets because everybody played.
Everybody was dancing back then, even in Harlem. Especially in Harlem. And later we danced like crazy through the clubs and apartments and houses of Austin. The parking lots and too-late-night street corners bathed in phony moon tower light. We danced like mad people who believed in everything and expected nothing. None have more hope than the hopeless, few believe more passionately than those who refuse to believe.
This morning I woke up, trailing the dead while getting dressed: Richard Dorsett, Ed Lowry, Paul Bartel, Sterling Morrison, Brent Grulke, Kim Fowley, and Ondine. I didn't dance but thought of dance. Drove to the Chronicle where we have been telling stories and making meaning.
"You say, you say, you say, yousay, yousay, yousay ...."
And we talked and talked of the stories to tell.
Overly ambitious dreams and unrealistic fantasies are gone. But so are the cheap fears of failure and the stomach-destroying concerns over completion. There is still magic to be made and wonder to be shared.
Awkwardly putting my bad foot into my pants there's a lunatic hint in the corner of my eye. I do a very slow two-step and a twirl. No one notices. Lighter on my feet I wobble across the floor. Maybe I no longer trip the light fantastic but in my head every move is perfect and graceful. To dance is to love again and in love begins all dance. Time passes. You may not remember the steps but you always remember the dance.