Another Surrealist Epic Post-Thanksgiving Poem

I begin with a correction: the following epic poem is technically Dadaist, not Surrealist.

Two years ago…well, two years ago everything was different. Outside of places like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”), almost nobody had ever heard of COVID-19. The race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination – a preview of the general election – was barreling toward the opening rounds in Iowa and New Hampshire. In fact, with two exceptions, that was all I was writing about in November and December 2019. The first exception was the first of two deeply-personal, albeit lighthearted, essays about the Netflix series Stranger Things.

The second, which I published on December 6, took lighthearted to a gloriously absurd level. After describing the development of my Thanksgiving cleaning ritual since 2012– “complete with full on singing and dancing. Cavorting, even.” – I added…

In preparation for Thanksgiving 2019, I curated a playlist of 55 tracks totaling 3 hours and 50 minutes on my classic flywheel iPod. I usually make the playlist a bit too long, finding myself wandering around listening to the last few tracks, but this year I actually had to restart the mix, playing the first two tracks again while I took out the garbage and recycling.

Darn, what a shame.

To honor this mix, of which I am quite proud, I decided to create a surrealist epic poem consisting of representative (read: the ones I most enjoy singing) lyrics from each track in sequence. As three tracks are instrumentals, two serve as overtures to the two parts of the poem, and one introduces the dramatic conclusion.[1]

Because of COVID-19 – as well as the entrance of my mother-in-law into a Memory Care unit[2] and a severe illness in the family – my wife Nell and I barely celebrated Thanksgiving last year; there was minimal cleanup and no new iPod playlist. This year, however, even though there were only five of us (Nell and I, our older daughter, our younger non-binary born-female child and the cousin, an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, who officiated at our wedding; other family members checked in via FaceTime), there was a substantial amount of cleaning.

Oh, The Admiral put in a welcome appearance as well.

I somehow had not anticipated this much cleanup, so I did not construct my playlist until our cousin had left and everyone else had retired to their bedrooms for the night. Having recently rediscovered – and humbly reevaluated – the pop-culture shooting star that was Culture Club, I quickly purchased five more of their tracks – as well as Love & Kisses’ title song from the woefully-underrated Thank God It’s Friday – for this mix.

As I had two years ago, I underestimated the time it would take to complete the entire cleaning process, so the 37 tracks I carefully ordered ended about 15 minutes earlier than I did (excluding the final emptying of the dishwasher). In a nice bit of unintended symmetry, I again opened with the mix with the Stranger Things theme. This year, however, there was no third instrumental track before the concluding track.

My eclectic taste in music is well-established, and this mix is no different – even with eight Culture Club tracks; each is, like Thank God It’s Friday, a nugget of pure pop joy. And, you know what, after two years of pandemic shutdowns and restrictions, unhinged claims of electoral fraud, protests and violent counter-protests, supply chain disruptions and reemergent inflation, and just general societal grumpiness, that is exactly what we need right now: unbridled, downright-goofy, exuberant nonsense.

Just as in 2019, this year’s mix is heavy on the generic classifications of “New Wave” (11 tracks) and “Post-Punk” (3), dominating the 21 tracks released between 1980 and 1988. That said, the 11 tracks released between 1985 (The Cure’s “A Night Like This”) and 2005 (Coldplay’s “Talk”) are mostly “alternative rock” (7), with two “shoegazing” (Lush), one “indie pop” (Lloyd Cole and the Communications) – and one “AOR”[3] (Journey). Unlike two years ago, however, the seven tracks from the 1970s are plurality hard rock (Aersomith, Van Halen), followed by one each classified disco (Love & Kisses), pop (Hall and Oates), post-punk (Joy Division) and “unclassifiable rock”: Michael Nesmith’s synth-pop gem “Cruisin’.” That leaves two brilliant pop songs from the mid-1960s: Bobby Darin’s “If I Were a Carpenter” and Spanky & Our Gang’s “Lazy Day,” the opening vocal harmonies of which never fail to astound me.

The only repeat track, again unintentionally, is Heaven 17’s “Let Me Go;” this is what the past two years are now telling us: let me go already, it is time to get on with the rest of your lives.

And with that – the epic journey begins.

**********

Part 1

Overture: Theme from Stranger Things by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein

So you take a picture of something you see

In the future where will I be?

You can climb a ladder up to the sun

Or write a song nobody has sung

Or do something that’s never been done

Or do something that’s never been done.

I been to the edge

And there I stood and looked down

You know I lost a lot of friends there baby

I got no time to mess around.

You don’t know

You don’t know

It’s not there

You don’t care

You’re still inside of me

Beneath the cotton core

My pictures smile at me

And soon they’ll rise and soar.

Some sweet hog mama with a face like a gent

Said my get up and go must’ve got up and went

Well I got good news, she’s a real good liar

‘Cause the backstage boogie sets your pants on fire.

All the advice seemed so unkind

“If you don’t stop, you will go blind.”

Tell you it’s none of their business

Then console you with a big kiss

On the lips and on the back of your neck (oh hey).

When they ask me

“What are you looking at”

I always answer

“Nothing much” (no much)

I think they know that

I’m looking at them

I think they think

I must be out of touch.

Don’t make me feel any colder

Time is like a clock in my heart

Touch we touch was the heat too much

I felt I lost you from the start.

Maybe I should feel guilty

Is that the American way?

But I just look at myself

As if I were above me

You must be thinking something

But you ain’t saying nothing

You remember me

I have been here always.

Watch me clinging to the beat

I had to fight to make it mine

That religion you could sink in neat

Just move your feet an’ you’ll feel fine.

Blue sky, Sunshine, what a day to take a walk in the park

Ice cream, Day dream, ‘til the sky becomes a blanket of stars

What a day for pickin’ daisies, and lots of red balloons

And what a day for holdin’ hands and bein’ with you.

It’s not a case of telling the truth

Some lines just fit the situation

Call me a liar

You would anyway.

An excuse is all you’re in for

The abuse is all you crave

Sure you just what is in store

Wait and see if I’ll behave

To the center of the city, where all roads meet waiting for you

To the depths of the ocean where all hopes sank, searching for you

I was motion through the silence without motion, waiting for you

In a room with a window in the corner, I found truth.

Fire

Ooh there’s a fire in his eyes for you

For you she cries

Ooh do you know she still cries for you

Fire

Ooh there a fire in his eyes for you

Ooh nothing stands between love and you.

Bet you make the fool run

Bet you know how

To make it last forever

But you know I’m never really sure

If you’re just kissing to be clever.

Let me in I’m cold

All messed up but nowhere to go

You got indecision, and indecision is my enemy (well)

Unlock the cabinet door, hey hey hey (hey hey)

I’ll take whatever you got, got, got

Now I’m on it, now I’m on it

And you’re done.

Part 2

Overture: Face Down, from Café Flesh, by Mitchell Froom

Now I think of every hour

When you still retained your power

And the precious nights we’d share

When we’d breathe in common air

The feeling now you’re gone

This wretched life goes on

The knife inside of me

It turns just like a key.

Ooh, you know I

I found the simple life ain’t so simple

When I jumped out, on that road

I got no love, no love you’d call real

Ain’t got nobody, waitin’ at home.

It’s easy to lay down and hide

Where’s the warrior without his pride?

You may not like the things we say

What’s the difference, anyway?

Hey,

Put a smile on your face,

Things are coming your way,

Out there somewhere tonight,

(It’s the right time and place).

White boys fall out

In a world of decisions

Show me what is

Then show me what isn’t

A heart too slow

That’s how we know

That’s how we know

Your white does the blood flow.

‘Cause it don’t bleed

And it don’t breathe

It locks its jaws

And now it’s swallowing

It’s in our heart

It’s in our head

It’s in our love

Baby, it’s in our bed.

Somewhere the sun is shining

On this world, but not for me

Two lovers’ hearts a-rising

Oh, how long before I’m free?

Words are few

I have spoken

I could waste a thousand years

Wrapped in sorrow, words are token

Come inside and catch my tears.

Oh oh I can feel the magic of your touch

And when you move in close a little bit means so much

Ooh yeah, you’ve got to understand baby

Time out is what I’m here for.       

It’s high tide

In the still of your room

And the big snake’s a crawling

Through the smoke and perfume

To be your baby

I will not be your man

I will be around when you fall.

Lucy and Ramona and Sunset Sam

People on the streets tryin’ to find a plan

People on the streets lookin’ for the land

Lucy and Ramona and their brother Sunset Sam.

War, war is stupid and people are stupid

And love means nothing in some strange quarters

War, war is stupid and people are stupid

And I heard them banging on hearts and fingers

War.

Save my love for loneliness

Save my love for sorrow

I’m givin’ you my onlyness

Come and give me your tomorrow.

My splendid art

Oh, my sad profession

Now stick with me and I’ll betray you

For should I lose my bad depression

My splendid art

I will betray you.

Uptown their sound

Is like the native

You send her

Junction

Function

The boy with pop is slender

Did he say maybe

Or I’m not sure

He’ll be a boy for you

But you need more.

Here in my humble room at night

I often wonder what goes on out there

What makes them run so scared

I often stare at the people passing by

But they can’t see me through my window shades

Just like I’m not even there.

I tried but could not bring

The best of everything

Too breathless then to wonder

I died a thousand times

Found guilty of no crime

Now everything is thunder.

Guns that cross the street

You never know who you might meet

Who’s in disguise, who’s in disguise

Ooh as you blow a storm

There’s no one there to keep you warm

It’s no surprise there’s something in my eyes.

I’m coming to find you if it takes me all night

A witch hunt for another girl

For always and ever is always for you

Your trust

The most gorgeously stupid thing I ever cut in the world.

Fin

The conclusion of the 2019 essay rings just as true today:

Perhaps, just as Jews on Passover spread the reading of the Haggadah across multiple family members and guests, you could use these stanzas to defuse your next fractious gathering. Simply have each person present read a stanza, cycling through everyone until the final one. I expect the utter nonsense of the successive passages will serve as a much- needed distraction.

And, of course, here is the actual playlist:

Stranger ThingsKyle Dixon & Michael Stein2016
TalkColdplay2005
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout LoveVan Halen1978
Superblast!Lush1993
Sweet EmotionAerosmith1975
Desperate But Not SeriousAdam Ant1982
Left of CenterSuzanne Vega1986
Time (Clock of the Heart)Culture Club1982
It’s a LaughHall and Oates1978
Church of the Poison MindCulture Club1983
Lazy DaySpanky & Our Gang1967
Play For TodayThe Cure1980
ThumbDinosaur Jr.1991
ShadowplayJoy Division1979
Girl Can’t Help ItJourney1986
Miss Me BlindCulture Club1983
GentlemenAfghan Wigs1993
Face DownMitchell Froom1984
Nothing NaturalLush1993
Runnin’ With the DevilVan Halen1978
Dog Eat DogAdam and the Ants1980
Thank God It’s FridayLove & Kisses1978
White Boy (Dance Mix)Culture Club1982
DebonairAfghan Wigs1993
Belly of the WhaleBurning Sensations1982
Do You Really Want to Hurt MeCulture Club1982
One On OneHall and Oates1984
Big SnakeLloyd Cole and the Commotions1987
Cruisin’Michael Nesmith1979
The War SongCulture Club1984
If I Were a CarpenterBobby Darin1966
Charlotte AnneJulian Cope1988
I’ll Tumble 4 YaCulture Club1982
Private LifeOingo Boingo1982
Let Me GoHeaven 171982
It’s a MiracleCulture Club1983
A Night Like ThisThe Cure1985

You are welcome.

Until next time…please wear a mask as necessary to protect yourself and others – and if you have not already done so, get vaccinated against COVID-19! And if you like what you read on this website, please consider making a donation. Thank you.


[1] I am deeply indebted to a wide variety of online lyrics website for help in deciphering most of these lyrics.

[2] Precipitated, in fact, by a bad fall while staying in our previous apartment for Thanksgiving 2019.

[3] Album-oriented rock

2 thoughts on “Another Surrealist Epic Post-Thanksgiving Poem

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