Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What's Good For Buddy Isn't For Eric

I've been home today with Cooper as he recovers from some pretty major dental work. Earlier, as he was watching some inane YouTube videos, I started watching ERIC CLAPTON: A LIFE IN 12 BARS. We've since switched over to old Tom and Jerry cartoons, which I don't object to in the least, but my thoughts keep lingering back to the movie.

If you know anything about me, you know that Eric Clapton is one of my top five favorite musicians. The biography is riveting and informative (though an ailing 5 year old takes precedent over what I want to watch) even if you aren't a Clapton fan like me. The film relies on photos, grainy home movies and concert footage of varying quality with a heavy dose of voice overs to piece together the narrative. I really like documentaries like this. There's a visual element while still relying heavily on words to tell the story. (Someday I will write about ESPN's 30 FOR 30: JUNE 17th, 1994 and THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE!) There was one thing that really struck me while watching the movie. Eric Clapton NEVER smiles. Not in photos. Not during concerts. Not while he's playing. Not even in home movies with friends and family.

Okay, NEVER is a hyperbolic absolute. Footage of Clapton smiling is so rare that it's jarring when there is evidence of him smiling. One sequence where he smiles a lot in the film is used to punctuate his complete surrender to addiction. Was that the only time he smiled? Why? Here is one of the greatest musicians of all time, an, a god of rock and roll...and he never seemed happy. Ever.  My other musical idols smile. Dave Grohl smiles. Dave Matthews smiles. Both have made a career out of being known as kind of happy go lucky, good guys. But Eric doesn't.

Like so many artists before him, Clapton was haunted by demons and seemed set on destroying himself bit by bit. (Why is it always the great ones?) Drugs, alcohol and infidelity plagued Clapton. Did this rob Clapton of the sheer joy that comes from creating? You never get the impression that he felt burdened or frustrated by his greatness when you hear him talk. There is no doubt he loves the music and is passionate about it. But there's never a sense of fun that should come with rock music. Maybe that's not it.

Is it the content of what he's singing about? I thought about what he sings about. Forbidden and unattainable love. Loss. The dangers of addiction. Grief. Unrequited love. Both Daves write and sing about those. You can't compete with Pink Floyd when it comes to heavy subject matter in their material, can you? (They wrote a whole album about one of the founding members literally going insane.) But there are smiles. Maybe not during the performances, but after there's a sense of pride, happiness and even relief that they played a song that addressed that serious issue. I don't expect my rock stars to be Buddy the Elf, but there's a limit. I don't think that's it. But that video may contain the answer.

The manager tells the overly cheerful Buddy to make work his favorite. Maybe that it. Maybe the happiness comes from the work itself. Clapton worked at his craft. He loved his craft when people didn't view the craft with the same love he did. They viewed it as a job, not work. The documentary shows his frustration at the way the recording process became stagnant, lacking innovation to achieve the right sound. He was never interested in being popular, just creating great music. Perhaps Eric Clapton was just so focused on making great music there wasn't room for smiling.

I wonder, do I smile while I'm writing? I enjoy it. I love it. I don't think I'm great at it yet. But I'm pretty sure I don't smile...not until I'm done. Then I smile. A lot. Because I like smiling. Smiling's my favorite.

For now, I'll leave you with this video. While LAYLA will get the lions share of praise for being Clapton's opus for it's mastery and epicness, my favorite will always be WONDERFUL TONIGHT. Perfect in its simplicity, this version, recorded live at Prince Albert Hall, is a haunting masterpiece. Maybe it'll make you smile a bit.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

To Hell With Your Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Today, November 1st, is my favorite part of Halloween.

It's over.

I don't like Halloween.

Easy. I know there are many of you that absolutely LIVE for Halloween. Good for you. I'm not a goalie. I'm not going to stand in the way of you enjoying it. I just don't . I'm not sure when that happened, because what kid doesn't like Halloween? Somewhere along the way, I soured on it.

Maybe it's that I don't like pranks. Never have. I don't think that's it. I've never been a fan of the horror genre. What about the candy, you ask. Growing up with a peanut allergy in the pre-safe room 70s and 80s meant that easily half my candy was inedible to me. It sucked.

Really, it's none of those things. The truth is that they don't exactly make costumes for fat kids. I mean you can only dress as a ghost or newspaper stuffed scarecrow so many times. Even today, I find costumes, masks and wigs hot and confining. I was fortunate that my mother was pretty handy with the sewing machine. This meant that every so often I could be creative and come up with a fat kid costume, though I'll never top the year I dressed as TJ Big Boy and people literally thought I was the official mascot.

I don't completely hate Halloween. I love seeing kids in costume, especially really clever ones that they obviously put time in or are really passionate about. Being a parent also changes your perspective a bit. Costumes are more inclusive and accessible. And my kids love costumes. My son runs around in his fireman or police or army uniform all the time. He had a ninja costume for a while too.

My kids know my disdain for Halloween. It's not a secret. The night before Halloween, my daughter expressed her excitement over and over. I listened, smiling dutifully but clearly artificially. She's too smart to fool. She looked over to me and said, "Daddy, I know you hate Halloween, but just for tomorrow, could you love it?"

Ugh. Talk about crushing devastation. My kid knows me. She knows how to play me.

So, yesterday, I loved Halloween. For Natalie.