I think the storm has passed. Good thing I didn’t wait for the rain before I decided to go running. I would still be sitting at this table. Please give me a few moments (or paragraphs) to be unbelievably ridiculous and sentimental while I wait for my gluten free brownies to bake.
I can’t remember when it all started, but I can still hear the music. I remember watching MTV, ya know when they played music videos, mesmerized by three punkish kids bouncing around rattling rhymes about defying parents and being, well, punks. This chubby, glasses-wearing geek loved the sense of rebellion that oozed from the television. “Fight for Your Right” was our anthem. I was too young at the time to fully realize the impact those lyrics had, but soon enough I was able to apply them in full effect. High school brought on a whole set of challenges for me. Quite frankly weren’t we all in the same boat – awkward, pimply kids looking for acceptance? My best friend drove a car – a red Probe to be exact. There’s nothing cooler than buzzing around town with your best friend, sun roof open, smoking butts and listening to the Beastie Boys…OVER AND OVER. I can’t remember how many times we listened to Ill Communication, but we spent those afternoons drilling the music into our heads. I was “that kid in the corner”* slouched in the passenger seat with my sunglasses on, looking cool, um, er, whatever. There are some days that I can still pick up on that ‘late Spring’ scent with the faint odor of a freshly lit cigarette. The thought brings a smile to my face.
The Beastie’s music matured and so did I, to a point. As high school came to a close I sadly became consumed by so much anger. I practically sped off to college for an education in who-knows-what. Leaving home would allow me to finally be myself (whatever that meant). My expectations burned into my every day realities of college socialization. On the surface I adapted well, but deep down I had no friggin’ clue or concept of how to advance my life. My valiant efforts of staying straight were met with small defeats along the way. “I’ve been through many times in which I thought I might lose it. The only thing that saved me has always been music”**. I recall a night during my junior year where I was delivered some disturbing news. I immediately picked up the phone, dialed my girl Jenn and within an hour, I was in a car headed from Staten Island to Jersey. We flew across the Goethals Bridge with the windows open – yup, it was another Ford, but definitely NOT a Probe. I cupped my hand over the edge of my Newport and lit the end. While taking a long, relaxing drag I made a few decisions that would be carried out. The car speakers rattled in exhaustion from the funky bass lines while I checked my head back into the rest. I exhaled and sunk further into oblivion. I eventually made it back to campus, a few days later, resigned as president of my sorority and dropped out of school. Well, maybe I talked with admissions and had them take me back a few days later. Regardless, my life was changed forever, but that music kept me going; it kept me alive.
I eventually cleared my head and got some of my shit together. It took some time to detach myself from the poisons that surrounded me. I threw myself into my studies – literature, to be exact. Simply, I was in the business of intense reading comprehension. I enjoyed diving into the cryptic Shakespearian plays and tearing apart the fairy tales of my childhood. I grabbed this developing analytical skill and applied it to all Beastie music to date. Weeks at a time I had their albums on shuffle, pressing pause only when I left my dorm room. I had matured past the bass riffs and staccato raps to really appreciate the “Flowin’ Prose”***. I distinctly remember the release of Hello Nasty – I woke early, for a college student, and made my way (via bus) to the local record store (back then they still had tapes AND records). I walked out of there with the first copy of the long awaited album and rushed back. The other CD’s were carefully removed from the changer in order to give Nasty the spotlight. After about two weeks of continuous play, I reintroduced the older albums back into the mix for the ultimate in shuffle play.
I could speak forever about seeing them live six times, taking a yoga class with Mike D or getting a high five from Yauch during a show. The excitement in hearing To The Five Boroughs, a kick ass shout out to NYC, almost made me implode. I must have checked the website daily in anticipation of Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. Their music was the progressive soundtrack to my movie – the movie of ME. Those three white rappers from NYC taught me a lot about being confident, being myself and just being real. Not a moment goes by, while listening to any of their songs, where a memory isn’t sparked by a lyric. The shocking reality of Adam Yauch’s passing reminds me that life IS short. The world lost a music pioneer, philanthropist and gentle soul. Today, my soundtrack ended, but it will forever be on repeat.
“A butterfly floats on the breeze of a sun lit day
As I feel this reality gently fade away
Riding on a thought to see where it's from
Gliding through a memory of a time yet to come
Smoke paints the air
Swirling images through my mind
Like a whirlpool spin beginning to unwind
And I stand at the edge cautiously awaiting
As time slips by
Carefully navigating by the stars in the sky
And I sit
And I think to myself
And on the horizon the sun light begins to climb
And it seems like it's been so long since he shined
But I'm sure it was only yesterday
A cold chill of fear cut through me
I felt my heart contract
To my mind I brought the image of light
And I expanded out of it
My fear was just a shadow
And then I voice spoke in my head
And she said dark is not the opposite of light
It's the absence of light
And I thought to myself
She knows what she's talking about
And for a moment I know
What it was all about.”
*Beastie Boys. “Sure Shot”. Ill Communication. Capitol, 1994
**Beastie Boys. “Professor Booty”. Check Your Head Capitol, 1992
***Beastie Boys. “Flowin’ Prose”. Hello Nasty, 1998
****Beastie Boys. “Namaste”. Check Your Head Capitol, 1992