Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lighted Fools to Dusty Death

"Might" - Archers of Loaf (mp3)
"Web In Front" - Archers of Loaf (mp3)

The two biggest goals of Generation Y are, according to numerous surveys and reports, to get rich and be famous. I would mock them, but lightning might strike me.

My mother comes from a generation of busy-bodies. I acknowledge that without a hint of mockery or scorn. For her and most of my relatives between the ages of 60-80, to be sitting and doing nothing is a clear sign of failure and pathetic to boot. Unfortunately, I also acknowledge their restless hunger to be productive without much envy. God how I wish I envied them, but I can no more manufacture envy than I could force myself to love someone.

Was it around the time the government injected our precious bodily fluids with that Commie drug flouride that our obsession with fame sprouted from the dirt? This particular plant -- a society's lust for fame -- might have spent its first few dozen years growing slowly, but it seems to have accelerated in the past decade.

The Baby Boomers and my generation -- "X" -- seem to fall somewhere between the obsessive busy-bodies of my mother's "Greatest Generation" and the glitz & glamour trappings of Generation Y. I think that mostly just means my generation prefers lazing above all else.

I distinctly remember being a teen-ager and feeling certain that Greatness awaited me. Greatness was my prom date, and my only purpose in college was to find out when and where the prom would be held, and where to pick up that hot slut Greatness so I could get what was comin' to me after a few dances. Does most everyone feel this way at one point, that naive sense that we're Bound for Glory? Aren't we all victims of the Lake Wobegon effect, even in matters of fame and fortune?

When I landed one of the five coveted spots as an op-ed columnist for UNC's newspaper, I felt I'd finally taken that crucial first step. Over the course of that year, on a very small but very real scale, I encountered Fame. I could walk into bars on a weekend and have someone approach me about one of my columns. I probably had a dozen or so people buy me beer or shots for no other reason than because they recognized me from my column. I had a fraternity offer to throw a party in my honor because of a column I wrote (this was both a badge of honor and shame). The chancellor of the school sent me letter thanking me for one. My Valentine's Day column on "Love v. Lust" netted me a half-dozen letters (this was before the email revolution) from females asking to meet me... and it also was the column that introduced my wife to the psycho she would fall in love with two weeks later.

The experience was so enthralling I ended up making my next career move in the desperate hope I could be the next Dave Barry slash Paul Krugman. (Unfortunately, there's a very good reason these two men are not the same person. Even more unfortunate, I'm neither as witty nor as world-wise.)

With all of my might I do this.
It's a waste of my time to pursue this.

I'm so full of self-indulgence to think that you'd like this song.

We hunger to be appreciated and yearn to be coveted, even though nothing good much seems to come of fame except a guaranteed stint in rehab and the chance to have your own moment in Reality TV five years after you've returned to meaninglessness.

Fame is heroin chic for the domesticated and lazy.

People perform in Karaoke bars for just a whiff of Fame, like the scent of sex on week-old panties. Many secretly fantasize there's a Simon Cowell sitting in the corner shadows, desperate to find that Next Big Thing. Others go to poetry readings where they sit patiently, making grocery lists in their heads while other people read their poems. Yet others write blogs, thinking just maybe some really influential people might stumble across their brilliance and offer them a book deal or connection to a newspaper.

(I'm guilty of the trifecta.)

Bottom of the Glass does not exist to bring us Fame. Might I have wonderful 3 a.m. fantasies that it brings us such? Natch! But I also have wonderful 3 a.m. fantasies that I play point guard for the National Champion UNC Tar Heels, that I am part of a platinum-selling rock band that gets critical raves while also filling arenas, that I write best-sellers that survive the scrutiny of generations.

The good news, for someone like me, is that the fantasy of Greatness is much cheaper than heroin and much more nuanced than mere Fame. And I can enjoy that little perversion while sharing some random thoughts and a few cool songs along the way, with friends both old and, hopefully, new.

Archers of Loaf were hit their peak in Chapel Hill and in the national alternative scene at just about the same time. They tasted Fame, albeit an alternative post-grunge version. Their songs managed to be painfully off-key and catchy at the same time. Off-key with purpose and direction. "Web In Front" and "Wrong" are both off their first album, Icky Mettle.

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