Schmilsson

I’m watching this documentary about Harry Nilsson.

I was born in 1979 so I didn’t grow up with the 70’s. I grew up with its implications and legacies. Where my lifeline started, everyone who was older than me had collectively experienced them. It was real…to them.

And to hear about it, I missed out on the coolest decade that ever was.

I was steeped in someone else’s realness with its orange and yellow tones and stagflation and 14% mortgage rates and post-Vietnam malaise and episodes of I Love Lucy and Leave It To Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet.

I never lived it. But I’m watching this documentary and I know every single song. And how they impacted collective lives through his originals and everyone else’s covers.

I remember sitting in the front seat of car rides home at night between Tucson and Nogales. The windows blacked out except for the stars. My sisters asleep in the back. 92.9 on the radio. And me trying to understand who my mother was through the music she loved. There had to be a reason she connected to this profound music.

She loved music. Good music. I just wanted to understand this enigma of a human being. And if I unlocked the lyrics maybe I’d understand her secrets.

I didn’t live through the 70’s. By the time I started paying attention, everything was shoulder pads and perms and new wave and Facts of Life and Silver Spoons and The Love Boat. And Reagan.

But the adults in rooms where my ears were turned on were still processing a time I never lived through. The older kids were saavy to all of this nostalgia. When they popped out of the waffle iron, they came out sarcastic and referency and cool. They were Janeane Garofolo smoking Marlboro Reds in bell bottoms, using a metal Muppet Show lunchbox for a purse.

Things changed just before I was old enough to do anything like that. By the time I popped out of the waffle iron, none of that nostalgia was cool anymore. Everything was looking toward the future. Towards 2000. It was Britney and Paris and Swedish style pop.

The older kids who taught us what cool was shut the door behind them at that point and sort of tuned out to anything new.

In 1997 you could look back or you could look ahead. And all of that I had to figure out at the age of 17.

My lifeline stops a few different times. I got to reset and choose a different adventure. It comes with consequences. It’s like a betrayal to anyone who swears allegiance to the 1970’s to love anything past a certain date.

Wanna know what’s funny? The kids coming up today would hand over their back teeth to live in the 90’s. Not the real 90’s. The 90’s they were told existed that seemed so cool.

Time keeps folding in on itself. I don’t feel like I belong to any of it. I have no allegiance. I just stand here on the rings of Saturn and watch it all like some beautifully elaborate and tragic ant farm.

They describe Harry in a way that resembles the parts I don’t like about myself. Crippling self-doubt and lack of self-esteem. Fun, on reflection. But dangerous in the moment. A death wish. By the time he’d sampled what it meant to be grounded, he’d painted himself into a corner. He got to feel love and connection but while juggling chainsaws.

That’s what I worry about. Getting myself to deliverance and not having the wherewithal to enjoy it. I need grounding. I can handle the whimsy portion of the evening. I just want to be healthy and financially capable to enjoy the good times rolling. Beyond that, I don’t ask for much. I don’t need status symbols. I just want something resembling a sturdy home. But who am I to that person?

Is that part of the damage seeking healing or is that damage looking for trouble?

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