Here’s a song that conjures up a couple of very different, yet equally surreal, memories for me. The Wall, the album, came out my first year in college, so my first experiences with this particular song are more general, fuzzy, involving candle-lit dorm rooms, glistening-eyed students lounging around playing Pink Floyd at extremely high volume (as it should always be played) somehow managing to be way-laid back and ultra-intense at the same time. Kind of like Pink Floyd themselves, now that I think about it.
Then about a year and a half ago we were in New York City for a wedding reception, and a large portion of the guests were staying at a hotel across town from where the party boat was docked, so the bride arranged a fleet of towncars to pick us all up and transport us to the site. As a late summer dusk was falling over New York, we piled into our shiny black towncar in all our finery and started weaving and bobbing through the honking mass of vehicles. Our driver had a classic rock station playing and was enthusiastically singing along to all the songs in a melodic Dominican accent. Then, Another Brick in the Wall came on, and I, being of the opinion that Pink Floyd should always be played loud, cried out “Crank it!” which our very accommodating driver did. The rest of the trip through the heart of New York, the entire car sang every word of the song at the top of our lungs while we four Seattleites swiveled our heads left and right, back and forward, trying to see everything we could of the city. When we stepped out of the car we were all just pumped! Like I said, it was surreal.
Last night a friend of ours, John, was playing with his band, a fun cover band aptly named The Art Thieves, just a mile away from our house at Joe’s old grade school. Loyal friends and supporters of the arts, and armed with the knowledge a few of our friends would be there as well as a bar, we went. It was an all-ages show, in what used to be the chapel when Joe (and John) attended this Catholic school, but now converted to the gymnasium/theatre. We walked through the doors and I instantly flushed with my I’m-so-out-of-place feeling, because the only person wearing as much black as I was the priest who was wandering in and out of small pockets of children and moms and dads, the patrons of this school and church. But people were having a good time, dancing and socializing, so I relaxed and enjoyed the music, hanging out with the bad kids by the promised bar. Thinking all the while, “I feel a blog coming on….”.
As I was visiting the restroom I heard the unmistakable deep-bass opening to Another Brick in the Wall. The instant irony of John’s band playing this particular song in his old parochial school, filled with the ghosts of funny-smelling, ruler-wielding nuns (Joe has told me stories…) thrilled me! Then as I turned the corner to re-enter the gym I saw a large portion of the crowd line-dancing. To Pink Floyd! The horror! Do I see cowboy boots? Is that the priest out there? They need to be stopped, I told Joe! Then as I watched them, their slow swaying rhythm, hearing their footsteps dully thudding on the gym floor in time to the music, I realized it was perfect; a double-irony (does that cancel the other out?). Here are all these good people, whole families, from little girls in spring dresses to moms in clingy sweaters dancing like automatons to this incredibly dark song. I’m sure I clapped the loudest, in sheer (evil?) delight, as the last strain of the song faded away. And later, as we slid out the door, (feeling a bit like crashers, because it had reached a point where we either helped these mostly-strangers clean up or leave), I looked up to the starry sky over the church across the parking lot, hand in hand with Joe, and thought, “Haven’t been struck by lightning yet!”