Monday, June 04, 2007

All the people we used to know...

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood yesterday. I reminded him that he was going to tell me (again) why he likes their veterinarian.

“Because he went with his instincts, and saved our old girl a lot of stress, and saved me the cost of some fairly expensive tests.”

This is the cat who had some sort of lung problems?

“Yeah. We took her in for tests, but the doctor thought that the anesthesia would put too much stress on her kidneys, and he thought that maybe an anti-inflammatory would help her.”

So what is wrong with her?

“He called it a consolidation in the lung lobe. He described it as mucus or debris collecting there. He put her on an anti-inflammatory, and it was like throwing a switch – she stopped coughing, and started eating everything in sight.”

Does he still want to do those tests at some point?

“I think so – we’re taking her back in at the end of the month for evaluation.”

And the other cats are doing well?

“Far as we can tell. The other old girl is going in for a checkup a week from Saturday – she’s sixteen now, so the vet said it would be good to check her at least every six months. And we’re going to take the big guy in, to make sure he’s doing ok after that last cancer surgery.”

It is tough to watch our animals get old, isn’t it.

“Yeah. Which brings me around, sort of, to my theme for this weekend.”

Animals getting older?

“All of us getting older. I ran into someone I knew in high school, last time I was visiting my mom. She and her husband were in the grocery store, and we made small talk for a few minutes, and she asked what I did for a living, and I told her, and she said something to her husband like ‘back in high school, we all thought that Will would be a famous scientist or something, he was always the smartest kid around.’”

Your point is…

“I never did become a famous scientist or something. I just do insurance.”


“Sometimes I think that I did not do all that I could have with my life.”

Will, you’re only fifty. It’s not like your life is over.

“I know. I was just thinking about some people, like – ready for my list? – Graham Parker and Jon Langford, and Loyd Auerbach, and the Cosmic Psychos.”

Umm – I know the first two you mentioned…

“I saw GP and Jonboy at the Old Town School Saturday night. Good show. Langford was the opening act, and let me think here, during his set he mentioned Barbara Manning, Kevin Coyne, Grant McLennan, and aboriginal country music.”

Go on.

“I’ve gotten the impression before that Jon is disappointed that some of his favorites have never had the success that he thinks they deserve. He introduced one song as something he wrote for Barbara Manning, and like one or two people applauded her name.”

And Kevin Coyne?

“Jon did one of his songs, and again, like one or two people applauded at the mention of his name. I had heard the story that the last time Coyne played in the US – he died a few years ago, I think – he played to a very small crowd at the Old Town School. Supposedly Langford was calling up everyone he knew, to get them to go to the show.”

Grant McLennan also died recently, didn’t he.

“Jon said he died right before a party, that was being thrown to celebrate his engagement.”

All kinds of happy stories there, Will.

“And Jon talked about playing some festival in Australia, and how most Australian country music is pretty bad, but aboriginal country music is pretty great. He played a song by an aboriginal singer – I wish I had written down the guy’s name, or the song title – it was really good.”

So to sum up so far, we’ve got you and your concerns about your life, and Barbara Manning, who never really sold many records, and Kevin Coyne –

“—who was fairly successful in parts of Europe, I think, but never sold anything over here in the U.S.”

And Grant McLennan, who I have heard of, with The Go-Betweens.

“On the other hand, you have Graham Parker, who has had a long career, but doesn’t sell nearly as many records as Elvis Costello, to whom he used to be compared.”

And Jon Langford, who has also had a long career, with The Mekons, and the Waco Brothers, and his solo stuff, and his artwork -- but has never sold a lot either.

“And I’m trying to get to the happier part of the stories here – both GP and Jonboy, they just keep on keepin’ on. They’re still making good music, and they’re not pretending that they’re still in their twenties – I hate to use the phrase ‘growing old gracefully,’ but they are growing old without compromising the qualities that made them worth listening to in the first place.”

Who else did you mention earlier – Lloyd somebody?

“I’ll get to him in a minute. I was listening to a live cd in the car this morning, something I downloaded online, by an Australian band called The Cosmic Psychos. I was reading the notes that I got with the music, and it said that the guitarist died recently.”

Another happy story.

“You know that I really like a lot of Australian bands – The Church, Celibate Rifles, Hoodoo Gurus…”

The Hummingbirds, Midnight Oil, Kasey Chambers

“...and aside from Midnight Oil, and maybe The Church, those bands never really had a lot of success.”

But they kept on keepin’ on, as you said. Is that our moral to our story today?

“Could be. Then there’s Loyd Auerbach.”

Who is…

“I knew him back in college. Weird dude, really into comics, and science fiction. I saw his name in the latest alumni newsletter. He is a parapsychologist.”

You’re kidding. A real Ghostbuster?

“He writes books, too. I was reading his Wikipedia profile – which I suspect he wrote – and it says he’s been on Oprah, and Letterman.”

How does he fit in to our stories here?

“I don’t know. I just wanted to make the point that, back in college, we all kind of laughed at his career plans – he was going to do graduate work at some school in California –“

In parapsychology?

“You know, I think it actually was in parapsychology. Anyway, the point is, that most of us got out of college with no idea of what we wanted to do. Loyd had a plan, and he stuck to it, and now it’s almost thirty years later, and he’s still doing what he wanted to do.”

You mentioned that he has written books.

“I also checked Amazon. I think three of his books are in print, and the rest – like four or five, maybe – are out of print. The book that’s selling the best is ranked number 432,745 at Amazon.”

So you’re acknowledging that you’re kind of happy for Loyd, that he’s doing what he wants to do…

“And I’m acknowledging that I’m kind of happy that he’s not selling a ton of books.”

Didn’t you tell me awhile back that someone else you knew in college was an author?

Sharon Shinn – she writes fantasy novels. I have seen her books at Borders, so I think she probably sells a lot more than Loyd does.”

Can I add one more person to your stories here?

“Go for it.”

Brian Rosinski.

“Singer or author?”

Baseball player. When I was working and living in Evanston years ago, I knew people who went to high school with him. Supposedly, he was the best high school baseball player in the area in many years, and people thought he would be a big star.

“I’ve never heard of him, so I’m guessing that he was not a big star.”

He was drafted by the Cubs in the first round, like the fourth player overall, but he never made the majors.

“Couldn’t hit the curve ball?”

I think he got hurt in the minors.

“Your point?”

Ummm… sometimes we don’t have the career that we expect, or that we think we deserve, sometimes we get hurt or sick, or our cats get sick.

“There was a nice moment during Jonboy’s set, when he talked about listening to Graham Parker’s first record, and being blown away by it, and how great it is that Graham is still around, making good music.”

Can I say “keep on keepin’ on” again?

"Go ahead."

“The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew…

All the people we used to know
They're an illusion to me now.
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenter's wives.
Don't know how it all got started,
I don't know what they're doin' with their lives.”

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