the diary thing 
ouchJOEY RAMONE IS DEAD. There are, I'm sure, a lot of people -- some of whom actually knew the man -- who are terribly upset by this news. I'm not going to throw a lot of ashes on my head about it, but I have to say that 49 isn't terribly old, and I was, I'll admit, a bit taken aback when I saw the obituary in my online news service. When the Ramones passed from the music scene five years ago, I thought it inevitable and proper -- their heyday (or should I say, gabba-heyday) was over before I left high school, and I tend to greet the news of bands breaking up with a sigh of relief. Rock bands, I've long believed, have a shorter shelf life than mayonaise.

I was never a big Ramones fan. Of all the New York bands, my favorite was Television, and besides, I was just an underage spectator during the "golden era" of punk. A few years would have to pass before I had the discretionary income, the age of majority necessary to really follow a musical scene. My "salad days" were spent listening to third- and fourth-generation punk bands like Black Flag, Hüsker Dü and the Minutemen, bands without even the slightest hope of the commercial "success" or mainstream profile that the Pistols, Blondie or the Ramones had, albeit briefly. It was hair-shirt punk, a bit grim and self-righteous, but it was my youth, and it formed me, as much as Pierre Trudeau and the Catholic Church.

I never owned a Ramones record, but I did think they were a great singles band. I never heard them played on AM radio, but I always thought that was where their tinny, frantic sound belonged, next to "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow". One day, perhaps, there will be an oldies station that finally plays the Ramones in the context in which I've always thought they belonged.

Back in the golden years of early punk, I used to hang out at a vintage clothing store called Flying Down to Rio. It was a pretentious little shop in Yorkville, the city's onetime hippie haven, now an overpriced shopping district that harbours what passes for eurotrash in this town. I spent time at Rio just when Yorkville was on the cusp between the two. 

Rio sold skinny ties and laundered white shirts, crinoline prom dresses and go-go boots. (Rio was a lot more "upscale" than the vintage stores on Queen Street East, where the white shirts were usually yellow and unlaundered, but cheaper.) It was the golden age of vintage clothing, when "new/old" stock was being dragged up from dusty shop basements, and the skinny ties sometimes came in their original box, with the original price crossed out in pencil. A glass display case by the cash register contained nylon stockings still in their packaging, and I'd discreetly check out the older, "hipper" punk chicks who bought these -- to me -- titillating items. One day, I fervently hoped, I'd have a girlfriend like that, a sexy hip chick who wore great underwear and cut little wannabes like me dead.

Rio had a jukebox, an old Wurlitzer that actually worked most of the time, stocked with Sixties garage and girl group 45s as well as current "hits" by the Pistols and the Ramones and local acts like the Diodes. The perfect oldies station of my imagination is, basically, that jukebox.

I used to budget a quarter for the jukebox whenever I went downtown. I tried to buy something, even just a tie (which I could wear to St. Mike's, after all), in order to justify inflicting my woefully obvious selections on the painfully hip, condescending staff. I'd get three tunes for my quarter, and I always made sure that one of them was a Ramones tune: "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" or "Rockaway Beach". The Ramones never sounded better than when they blasted out of the throaty, rumbling speakers of Rio's Wurlitzer. 

So long, Joey. You've taken a little bit of my youth with you.

"I just wanna sniff some glue / I just wanna have somethin' to do."
"I Just Wanna Sniff Some Glue"
- The Ramones

Timeless words, from a timeless time.

A bit of nostalgia, some politics, and cats. The new spring colour is here, I'm glad to report.

I WAS RIGHT. I knew I was right, and gloating is terribly unattractive, but I don't have a newspaper column, so I have to get my joy wherever I can, especially when my bouts of political ranting are proven correct.

Back in the last days of the U.S. election, I itemized the reasons for casting a vote for either Gore or Bush (or Nader or Buchanan, in the most extreme cases.) I stated that, if you deeply cared about the environment, at the expense of any other issue at stake, then you were obliged to vote for Gore. Political logic, of course, dictated that Ralph Nader, the candidate of the Green Party, was the "natural" choice, but I didn't agree. 

If you cared deeply about the environment, then you'd want to hope that the protection of natural resources and enforcement of environmental laws stood a chance under the next president. Since not even Nader could hope to see himself in the oval office, the choice, it was obvious, was Gore. The worst aspect of Nader's campaign was his cynical assertion that there was no difference between Gore or Bush, and that a left-liberal voting for Gore was a compromised vote, a dull, unprincipled "sell-out". I'd expect this kind of manichean political rhetoric from an undergraduate living in co-op, but not from a taxpayer who actually reads newspapers. Events, I think, have proved me right. 

So, if you were a lifelong Democrat who felt "underwhelmed" by Al Gore's charisma deficiency and vaguely burned by the indignity of the Clinton regime, living in a key state (like Florida), who decided that Nader was probably right, that there wasn't much difference in the end between the two, that campaign finance was a key issue, but an issue that just showed up the candidate to be the corporate puppets that Bill Maher always said they were, and based on that vague unease, you decided to vote Nader in an attempt to register some indeterminate sort of protest (to whom, though? -- it's a secret ballot), then you, my friend, are an idiot. An idiot. Stop watching "Politically Incorrect", and by all means, remember that Christopher Hitchens might be amusing and compellingly self-righteous, but he's a Brit, and this wasn't his battle, after all. You've been had, by yourself. Enjoy the next four years, moron.

OPTING OUT OF THE KYOTO protocols isn't a huge surprise, if you knew anything about George W. Bush's political worldview. Bush is the least sophisticated kind of fiscal conservative imaginable, a godsend for his corporate backers, the kind of citizen whose distrust of science and scientists is both inchoate and insecure. They seem to do their best work harnessed to the yoke of industry, after all, so why should we listen to them when they stop outside of this deeply, historically valuable role? They've been wrong before about this kind of thing (insert a garbled joke about Malthus that you overheard some guy from the National Review tell at a party) so why should we believe them on this global warming stuff? It's all just a way of extorting more money out of the First World to pay for those shitty little tinpot countries whose dictators the French and Germans are always visiting. Damn the Europeans anyway, they've gotten us into enough trouble. Nip this thing in the bud, that's what Daddy said, and besides, there are studies -- big expensive reports, dammit, I've seen them -- paid for by the oil companies that show how wrong those Kyoto eggheads really are. Besides, A few more degrees hotter in the summer, a few warmer in the winter -- I don't see what the problem is, do you?

WE'VE BEEN CAT-SITTING for a month or two now, taking care of my buddy Franc's cat while he gets his life in order, following a bit of a domestic rupture.

Three cats is a lot of cats. It's not quite the "insane cat lady" household, reeking of ammonia and sour kibble, the air semi-solid with drifts of fur. Still, it's more like everywhere you go, anywhere you are, at any time of day, you're being examined by a pair of unblinking cat eyes. At any point between the bathroom and the library, you're likely to find yourself triangulated by a three pairs of eyes, as all the cats sit quietly, passively, making their presence known. 

Trixie, Franc's cat, is a long-haired gray tabby, a little princess of a cat who reminds me too much of Nato. Minutes after being dropped off, she staked off the bedroom, and hasn't really left it except for a drink and a piss. The other cats can enter the bedroom, but Trixie has primacy, and spends the night on the bed with us. 

Keebly isn't terribly put out, though I suspect he'd like to use the bed. Tado is fascinated by Trixie, and sits staring at her for minutes at a time. They have near-fights, where Tado will lunge at Trixie, stopping short, trying to get her to run, to inspire a little bit of a chase. For the first time since I've had a cat, I've stopped short and wondered at how unusual it is to share our living space with small, furry animals who do little, if nothing, to help. Lying in bed, one cat across my knees, another staring at me from a perch atop K.'s wardrobe, the third wandering in and out of the room, meowing for food, I thought that we might as well have monkeys, or birds, or lizards, scrambling across our dressers and kitchen counters, bolting from room to room, suddenly erupting into motion, squabbling and shifting invisible boundaries. They're cute, I'll admit, but the strange nature of parasitic relationships has become abruptly apparent, at least for a brief moment.

writing ©2001
Rick McGinnis
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