I used to think I was a rock and roll dude, and I mean totally … when I was around a bunch of polka people. I may never have been as avant garde as I thought, but I’ve been informed, of late, that I’ve become anything and everything but rock and roll. I’ve become polka. I found this out when a “real” rock and roller rebelled against a polka comment I made. It didn’t completely surprise me that she considered me the vanguard of traditional thought –that needed to be squashed for the purpose of her attaining a rebellious, rock star personae– it did surprise me, however, to find out that I was only polka, but I liked it.
I, too, used to regard societal norms as something that needed to a good squashing, snarky comment by snarky comment. I used to believe that those that ascribed to traditional thoughts did so in a 1950’s, Leave it to Beaver, and uninformed manner. That’s what Saturday Night Live taught me, and George Carlin, and that’s what all the rock and roll kids said in their rock and roll circles.
I wanted some of that on me, when I wanted to be a little rock and roll. I wanted to be dangerous, risqué, and avant garde. I didn’t know the true definition of avant garde, and I still don’t. There was a time, however, when I wanted to be a little bit rock and roll so much that I was willing to do just about anything, and say just about anything, and be just about whatever I had to be to have one person confuse me with a dangerous, Jimmy Hendrix lick, or a controversial and provocative John Lennon lyric. I wanted to be indefinable, complex and cool, because I didn’t know how to fill my blanks yet, and it disgusted me when others, so sure of themselves, did. What my friend said to me the other weekend was that indefinable, rock and roll something that I would’ve said to my polka people, twenty years prior, and my reaction to her comment was as silent as my recipients’ were.
Why was I silent? I didn’t know what she was trying to say, and I didn’t see the value in it. If I had displayed confusion in the face of that comment and said: ‘What?’ She would’ve gotten off on that. I know I would’ve, in my rock and roll days.
‘Nothing,’ is what she might have responded had I made the fateful decision to say ‘What?’ And she would’ve done so in a deliciously dismissive manner. ‘You wouldn’t get it if I told you, and you probably never will,’ is something she might have added. It would have been delicious.
It dawned on me that I used to say such things to the polka people that surrounded me, and it was as confusing to me then as it is now. It dawned on me that I wanted to portray that apathetic, complicated nihilism that so many teens did in so many teen movies. I thought they were so cool rebelling against complicated matters, they knew nothing about, and their dismissals were so delicious that they gained a persona that suggested they were the only ones that knew what they were talking about. It was a persona I wanted poured all over me.
“What are you rebelling against?” was a screenwriter’s line a female actor used in the movie The Wild One. “Whaddya got?” The male actor responded with another of the screenwriter’s lines.
Translation: ‘I don’t know. I’m too young, and too uninformed to rebel against anything of any substance, but isn’t my indefinable rebellion cool?’
What is this it the rock and rollers rebel against? They don’t know, no one does, but if you are enlightened enough to think you know, you know enough to know that you’re not supposed to ask. Those that do know, know that it’s something beautiful and indefinable. It’s something that the important, dangerous, and attractive know, and if you don’t, what are you doing here anyway?
I spent some time around rock and roll dudes, in my rock and roll days, and they were all adamant about the fact that “I don’t get it, and I probably never will”. “I don’t,” I said when I reached an age where I was confident enough to admit it. “Explain it to me.” No one can, and although I’ve never been the best student of what it is, because I’ve never had it, I’ve come to believe that it is an idea steeped in superficialities. If you have an it look, you have it without being required to do anything to display it. If you don’t, and you want in, you may have to engage in some debasing worship of those that do. I was not one of those anti-cool kids who believed there was some intrinsic value to being uncool. I would’ve loved being tossed the keys to the “it” world, but it wasn’t such a driving force that I was willing to do whatever it took. Therefore, I’m now a little bit polka, and a little bit rock and roll, or if I’m not the least bit rock and roll, I know what I have to sell to get it.