This week I’ve been spending time in my hometown, Spokane, WA. It’s totally distressing. I’m here to help out family members that are ill, but I’ve brought my son along, who’s on summer break now. If you ever wonder why people leave small cities and head for larger metropoli, it could be:
A: The 12-year-olds at the skatepark I take my son to that talk like truckers and smoke like chimneys.
B: The meth addicts in the local mall parking lot that proceed to drag each-other out of a car and fight right in front of us.
C: The parents who bring a pellet gun to the local playground where my son is riding his bike through the trees, and proceed to target practice into the tree area, where said son is riding, while ignoring their two young children begging for pushes on swings.
Oh well, at least i was able to fill my tank for $2.95 a gallon!
It gets pretty depressing. The only thing that has saved me from utterly flattened feelings, is my reading of Homer’s The Odyssey and listening to The Iliad on CD during the long drive here.
My son recently finished a childrens version of The Odyssey and got me thinking about how much of it was cut out to be palletable for kids. The childrens book actually did a remarkable job of relaying Odysseus’ original Job-like travails, mostly just taking out sex and all out gore. But the originals of both are stunning, the language, the metaphores, the beautiful descriptions of battle…. Especially in times like these. Reading and hearing what war looks like and sounds like seems overly relevant in our media censored world.
So I am also reading this during what for many will be Gay Pride Week, and The other day I listened to a beautiful passage that described Achilles love for his cousin and friend Patroclus after Patroclus is killed in war. Insantly my “gaydar” started to ring, and I was almost moved to tears at how the god-like Achilles (after all he is the son of the immortal sea nymph Thetis) grieved for his beloved “friend”. Tearing his hair out, pouring sand on his head, wallowing in ashes on the ground while crying and writhing in pain for his slain friend.
Before that, he had been angry at the other Acheans (Odysseus, Agamemnon, Menolaus, Ajax…) who had allowed Agamemnon to take a girl from Achilles spoils without proper payment. So he refused to fight the Trojans with the other Achean warriors. When his friend Patroclus begs him to fight, because the Acheans are being slaughtered, Achilles relents a little and lets his beloved Patroclus wear his “unbreakable” armour out into battle to help defeat the Trojans.
The armour was only unbreakable to mortals, and Apollo, who was on the side of the Trojans, was not happy at Patroclus’ luck in fighting against him, so he broke the armor, opening him up to a fatal blow from the Trojan leader Hector that killed Patroclus.
But what delight to me in all of this,
When now Patroclus, my own dearest friend,
Hath perish’d? Him - him whom of all my host
I honour’d most, loved as I love myself -
I have lost him!
Incidentally I’ve also been listening to this album by Wishbone Ash lately. Argus is a masterwork of the early ‘70’s. The amazing thing to me is how “Indie” it sounds, while predating “Indie” music by decades. It’s slightly unpolished, yet highly listenable sound is what distinguishes it from it’s contemporaries. Well, that and the unique duo-guitar sound of the band.
Wishobone Ash had two lead guitarists, Andy Powell and Ted Turner, who used dual guitar lines to weave really beautifully intricate lead solos that are elvated by the interwoven melodies. The vocals, mostly by Ted and bassist Martin Turner are very young sounding, kind of reminding me a little of Built To Spill. They weren’t the overdrenched blues-y vocals that were so popular back in the ‘70’s. They’re a little more sunny and naive sounding. All of this gives the album a really light feel, even though some of the themes are pretty heavy.
Why does this all seem to be affecting me this week? Well there’s the theme of second comings and renewals in The King Will Come, which even though it’s a more about biblical themes, leaves me feeling a little less overwhelmed at the amount of emotional work that is called for when helping sick family members.
And Warrior, which aptly conveys how I felt crowing up in this small town hell hole. Whether you are fighting for justice, peace, ar just to keep your head above water, growing up gay in a small town, the lyrics:
I’m leaving to search for something new,
Leaving everything I ever knew.
A hundred years in the sunshine
Hasn’t taught me all there is to know.
Time will pass away,
Time will guard our secret.
I’ll return again
To fight another day.
I’d have to be a warrior -
A slave I couldn’t be -
A soldier and a conqueror,
Fighting to be free.
And the final song on the album, with the amazing guitar solo at the end, Throw Down The Sword.
Throw down the sword,
The fight is done and over,
Neither lost, neither won.
To cast away the fury of the battle
And turn my weary eyes for home.
It aptly sums up the War in Iraq, the political/moral fight for the conscience of the U.S., the fight for my own feelings of independence, both from home and from oppression of growing up different in Spokane.
Anyways, can you see why someone with all this swirling through his mind can attach themselves to an album like this?
Happy Pride. End the War in Iraq. Samples, of course, are at my blog.
Ps. Incidentally, the cover for Argus has the greek soldier looking over a field, and in the distance you can barely make out a flying saucer in the golden air. The cover, by Hipgnosis is pretty famous. So why on the Remastered CD version I have do they leave off the U.F.O.? Is it a mistake? On purpose? Seriously, that seems like a major fuck up in the CD’s design!