Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Had a Magical Moment at Trader Joe's

I'm walking along the aisle, looking at vitamins, and The Beatles' Hello, Goodbye comes on, and as I'm walking and humming along in my head, a woman walks past me.

She's early-fifties, I would say, although I revise that estimate upwards when I see her shopping companion, who I would peg at sixty, not like it matters. I noticed her because she was mouthing the lyrics, in perfect time with the song, unconsciously and very naturally, with a complete lack of realization as to what she was doing, and as I looked at her doing that it hit me like a tidal wave: When she first heard that song, she was twelve.

Assuming she's fifty-five, she first heard Hello, Goodbye when she was twelve. TWELVE.

She stood there, in her baggy Gap jeans and her grandmother pixie cut and her yellow cardigan and her respectable shoes, the picture of a casual Seattle grandmother, mouthing along to a song from an act that shocked the world, an act her parents probably detested and wouldn't have in the house. Suddenly I saw her as she would have been, the grandmother pixie cut grown out to her waist, strawberry blonde hair tied back with a bandanna headband, big sunglasses on, in hip huggers, maybe singing along to the song at home with her big sister who saved up her money and bought the record to play on the phonograph at home, one of the big sets with the speakers that took up a whole wall like a buffet. The Beatles were just a sign of huge things to come for society, for the world, for women's rights, for free love and too many drugs and things changing faster than anyone could possibly keep up with, and now here they were, being played in a grocery store.

We can't really understand today how SHOCKING acts like the Beatles were to our parents' parents, since oldies is now easy listening music played at grocery stores and in elevators and over phone lines, but it was: it was shocking. It was strange, it didn't sound like music, it had weird lyrics that didn't mean anything, and worse, it made you want to shake your hips. I asked a mid-forties co-worker not too long ago what some of his most memorable albums were from his youth, and he said, "Boston. Kansas. The Scorpions. Poison."

I'm not sure I could name one Scorpions song without prompting. And Boston? BOSTON? Aren't know...terrible?

And I'd consider myself fairly well-versed in music, not the kind of snob who thinks anything made before Nirvana is only fit for the old folks' home. (I mean, come on, that would leave out Guns N' Roses, arguably some of the sexiest music EVER.)

I followed the woman around Trader Joe's for a second or two, trying to see more glimpses of the past. No such luck--the moment was over. And then I realized that I didn't need to follow her, because in another 25 years, in 2035, the Trader Joe's--if there is such a thing--will be playing Nirvana's Polly. And I will be there, in my short practical haircut and tennis shoes, and I will know all the words, and I will remember when that song was demonized as a Sign of the Decline of Youth Today, banned on the radio and at my school, and we had to listen to it on CDs, which were new, and scribble it on the inside of our notebook covers.

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