Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Trouble Man

I'm a lousy housekeeper, and by the end of the week dishes are stacked on every available surface of my kitchen. The thought of cleaning them is overwhelming. So I've developed this ritual. I slip my feet into thick, cushy Dansko clogs, tie on an apron my grandmother sewed when I was a girl, put the green plastic tub in the sink, fill it with warm water and biodegradable dish soap, and carefully lower in as many crusty bowls and plates as possible. Then I turn on Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man. It begins with a two-beat wail -- whaa-whaa, ohh-whaa -- whatever instrument it is, it sounds like a voice, like it's singing, whaa-whaa, ooh-whaa, like a creature from another world who's made contact with us earthlings. And then the horns echo it, as if we earthlings have caught on and we're signaling that we come in peace.

The music turns lively, upbeat. It's perfect music to listen to standing up. I dance around the kitchen as I carry dishes to the sink, carry dishes from the drainer to the hutch my boom box sits on top of. I break out a bottle of organic brown rice sake I bought at the same place as the biodegradable dish soap. Trouble Man is the soundtrack to a 1972 blaxploitation film that's no longer in print. It's a soundtrack that has outlived its movie. So now the movie is me washing the dishes, and I'm feeling pretty good. The kitchen table is half cleared, the dish soap smells like oranges, and the sake is kicking in.

When I found a washed out video of Trouble Man on eBay, I snapped it up. It's an action flick where actors jump backwards before fists hit their jaws, so their backward plummets look more like spasms of some neurological condition than any effect of a fight. Mr. T., the hero played by the impenetrable Robert Hooks, is a debonair private eye, with more of a sense of politics and community than James Bond. The film opens with a long tracking shot of Mr. T in a luxury sedan on the Los Angeles freeways. The title song blares through the speakers of his car radio. We don't know where he's going, he's just moving, and the camera follows him with the unnerving distance with which it later followed O.J. Simpson's flight into Brentwood. Throughout the film Mr. T doesn't say much, but he seems never to stop thinking. He's always one step ahead of the game. The scarcity of words on the soundtrack is emblematic. When Gaye's voice breaks through it's usually as a moan or a sigh. Trouble Man, the soundtrack, is not about action or representation, but about a state of being, and the film only slightly more so. In Trouble Man's dystopic mindscapes, community is everything, but nothing helps the angst, the existential pain of being alone; thus the retreat to the nonverbal.

In my kitchen the music switches gears. It gets sadder and sweeter as dissonant elements intrude. Now it reminds me of the chiming of a clock, its urgent forward momentum warning me that time is running out. And then the music opens to a lagoon of stillness. Track 10 is called "Life Is A Gamble." Its rhythms stop and start, weird synthesized twangs intrude -- the alien creatures are upping the ante. Water's running, dishes clank, the sake's tasting better with each sip, I'm swaying at the sink, my mind wandering, and then track 10 comes on and pulls me back in. I stop everything -- the coffee mug in my hand frozen midair -- and listen. The simple melody of ooh hoohs is plaintive, beautiful. Without words, Gaye's voice is a body crying out, loving and losing, with nowhere to hide. I say to my husband, "If I die I want this played at my memorial service."

I've been to few conventional funerals over the 27 years I've lived in San Francisco, but I've attended many AIDS memorials. There's never a body, just photos and favorite music. The dead person has usually chosen the music ahead of time, like a DJ from beyond the grave. Common selections are Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell. The music makes people laugh. The music makes people cry. "When you hear 'Horses,' remember me." "Life Is a Gamble" is what I'd like to be remembered by, melody so beautiful you could die to it.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Claudia Gomez‘s sound showers with Trio Gadjo and Besos de Coco

“Playing again has lifted everyone’s spirits.”

I'm a lousy housekeeper, and by the end of the week dishes are stacked on every available surface of my kitchen. The thought of cleaning them is overwhelming. So I've developed this ritual. I slip my feet into thick, cushy Dansko clogs, tie on an apron my grandmother sewed when I was a girl, put the green plastic tub in the sink, fill it with warm water and biodegradable dish soap, and carefully lower in as many crusty bowls and plates as possible. Then I turn on Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man. It begins with a two-beat wail -- whaa-whaa, ohh-whaa -- whatever instrument it is, it sounds like a voice, like it's singing, whaa-whaa, ooh-whaa, like a creature from another world who's made contact with us earthlings. And then the horns echo it, as if we earthlings have caught on and we're signaling that we come in peace.

The music turns lively, upbeat. It's perfect music to listen to standing up. I dance around the kitchen as I carry dishes to the sink, carry dishes from the drainer to the hutch my boom box sits on top of. I break out a bottle of organic brown rice sake I bought at the same place as the biodegradable dish soap. Trouble Man is the soundtrack to a 1972 blaxploitation film that's no longer in print. It's a soundtrack that has outlived its movie. So now the movie is me washing the dishes, and I'm feeling pretty good. The kitchen table is half cleared, the dish soap smells like oranges, and the sake is kicking in.

When I found a washed out video of Trouble Man on eBay, I snapped it up. It's an action flick where actors jump backwards before fists hit their jaws, so their backward plummets look more like spasms of some neurological condition than any effect of a fight. Mr. T., the hero played by the impenetrable Robert Hooks, is a debonair private eye, with more of a sense of politics and community than James Bond. The film opens with a long tracking shot of Mr. T in a luxury sedan on the Los Angeles freeways. The title song blares through the speakers of his car radio. We don't know where he's going, he's just moving, and the camera follows him with the unnerving distance with which it later followed O.J. Simpson's flight into Brentwood. Throughout the film Mr. T doesn't say much, but he seems never to stop thinking. He's always one step ahead of the game. The scarcity of words on the soundtrack is emblematic. When Gaye's voice breaks through it's usually as a moan or a sigh. Trouble Man, the soundtrack, is not about action or representation, but about a state of being, and the film only slightly more so. In Trouble Man's dystopic mindscapes, community is everything, but nothing helps the angst, the existential pain of being alone; thus the retreat to the nonverbal.

In my kitchen the music switches gears. It gets sadder and sweeter as dissonant elements intrude. Now it reminds me of the chiming of a clock, its urgent forward momentum warning me that time is running out. And then the music opens to a lagoon of stillness. Track 10 is called "Life Is A Gamble." Its rhythms stop and start, weird synthesized twangs intrude -- the alien creatures are upping the ante. Water's running, dishes clank, the sake's tasting better with each sip, I'm swaying at the sink, my mind wandering, and then track 10 comes on and pulls me back in. I stop everything -- the coffee mug in my hand frozen midair -- and listen. The simple melody of ooh hoohs is plaintive, beautiful. Without words, Gaye's voice is a body crying out, loving and losing, with nowhere to hide. I say to my husband, "If I die I want this played at my memorial service."

I've been to few conventional funerals over the 27 years I've lived in San Francisco, but I've attended many AIDS memorials. There's never a body, just photos and favorite music. The dead person has usually chosen the music ahead of time, like a DJ from beyond the grave. Common selections are Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell. The music makes people laugh. The music makes people cry. "When you hear 'Horses,' remember me." "Life Is a Gamble" is what I'd like to be remembered by, melody so beautiful you could die to it.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Orchid zealots, brave beekeepers, pit bulls not so bad, vicious seagulls, San Diego birds surveyed, a cactus will take a bullet

San Diego's extreme plants and animals
Next Article

San Diego watersheds trashed by street sweeping negligence

"Many routes with high debris are designated as low priority," audit finds
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close