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The soundtrack of our lives

If we’re all just ranting from our respective enclaves, then We Live In A Society really is a memeworthy gag and nothing more.

And a good time was had by all.
And a good time was had by all.

A moment: a cloudless Saturday afternoon, Balboa Park, just in front of Cabrillo Bridge, maybe 200 people — couples, families, friends — lounging on the grass in the spreading shade of the Moreton Bay fig trees, enjoying the fine, free stylings of a six-piece band — a couple of saxes, a drum, a trumpet, a sousaphone, and a trombonist who sometimes takes a break to sing through a megaphone. Just now, he is pleasing the crowd with a straight-faced cover of Britney Spears’ breakthrough 1998 hit, “…Baby One More Time,” getting everyone to shout along with the chorus’ big finish: Hit me baby, one more time!

The Heartbeat of America…that’s today’s Chevrolet.

I remember back when the song came out, hearing longtime San Diego DJ Mike Halloran explaining to listeners that “hit” in this context did not mean “punch,” but rather…something else. He didn’t say exactly what; perhaps he was hesitant to discuss, on air, a sixteen-year-old girl’s desperate plea for sex. (As Nicolas Cage reminded viewers in the first episode of Netflix’s recent History of Swear Words, “fuck” likely started out as a medieval Dutch verb meaning, “to hit.” Thanks, Nic!) Way back when, some folks actually knit their brows at the sight of a teenaged former Mousketeer dancing around on television in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit and invoking old Dutch verbs. How quaint. But then, nothing’s shocking once you get used to it.

A week ago, Reader writer Ed Bedford paid a visit to the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market. He opened his story with, “Teagan saws away at her violin right by the entrance. She’s playing Ariana Grande’s ‘34+35.’ Sounds really cool. Actually, this whole scene is hard to beat. Saturday morning, sunshine, cool breeze to balance things out.” Cue the grim chuckle: a week before Ed, I had my own encounter with the song, in rather less idyllic circumstances. A boom box thumps away at the beat right by the entrance. It’s playing Ariana Grande’s “34+35.” Sounds really jarring. Actually, this whole scene is hard to fathom. Friday morning, fog, chill breeze to shiver the skin…

All the world’s a stage, including this stage at Mt. Helix. Perform accordingly.

It’s 7:30, and I’m up here in the Mt. Helix Park amphitheater with my two-year-old. She likes to climb up and down the “big stairs” that form the seating rising up from the stage. I climb along with her and call it my morning exercise. I’m not alone in my halfhearted quest for a healthy heart; a group of women amble slowly around the stage area, stepping to the music, sort of. Normally, I get a kick out of seeing fellow slow-starters in the race to physical fitness. But gosh all get out, they’ve got the volume up loud, and here we are at former Nickelodeon star Ms. Grande’s chorus. Can you stay up all night?/ Fuck me ‘til the daylight? Thirty-four, thirty five… (Why, 34+35 is…69! I can hear Beavis and Butthead chuckling with delight even as I try to distract my daughter, who is enjoying the music.)

It doesn’t do to complain about such things. You wind up lumped in with The Simpsons’ Helen Lovejoy, faintingly crying, “Won’t somebody please think of the children?” (Not just my two-year-old; there’s also the boy they’ve brought with them, sullenly banging a loose rock against the stage wall as he waits for Mom to finish her workout. I want to comfort the lad, assure him that not even Ms. Grande actually expects a guy to perform until sunrise. She’s on record about this.) Or worse, you’re memed in with George Costanza and The Joker, proclaiming that We Live In A Society. (“We’re supposed to act in a civilized way!” Thanks, George!) Or still worse, you’re aping Ben Shapiro as he reads the lryics to “WAP” — a bit of culture wars outrage-mongering that was almost instantly turned into a joke. (“Yeah you effin’ with some wet-ass p-word — ‘p-word’ is female genitalia. Bring a bucket and a mop for this wet-ass p-word.” Thanks, Ben!)

And really, the problem here is me. If I had a problem with the song, I should have said something, not sulked off and written something. If we’re all just ranting from our respective enclaves, then We Live In A Society really is a memeworthy gag and nothing more. My dad, he said something, pausing our monthly racquetball games to visit the next court over, explain to the filthy of tongue that his son was in earshot, and politely ask that they refrain from swearing. And what do you know, it worked. Me, I just waited it out and stewed. A couple days later, when I happened upon a crassly festooned truck on the way to work in still-gentrifying Golden Hill, I felt more shame than anything else. Because nonsense like that is what happens when people don’t step up and say something. And just like with Britney, just like with Ariana, we’ll all get used to whatever comes, to the point where it’s nothing more than the soundtrack of our lives.

A few days after that, I got a chance to do something right and think of the children — my own. My son was in the car, tired and frustrated after a lousy day at work, waiting for a friend to join us. “Hurry the fuck up!” he shouted into the night air. Apparently, I had failed to pass on the notion that certain speech is not appropriate for the public square. He seemed genuinely surprised when I objected. I am fond of telling my kids that charity, like everything else, begins at home. Time to add a few things to that list about being a citizen.

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And a good time was had by all.
And a good time was had by all.

A moment: a cloudless Saturday afternoon, Balboa Park, just in front of Cabrillo Bridge, maybe 200 people — couples, families, friends — lounging on the grass in the spreading shade of the Moreton Bay fig trees, enjoying the fine, free stylings of a six-piece band — a couple of saxes, a drum, a trumpet, a sousaphone, and a trombonist who sometimes takes a break to sing through a megaphone. Just now, he is pleasing the crowd with a straight-faced cover of Britney Spears’ breakthrough 1998 hit, “…Baby One More Time,” getting everyone to shout along with the chorus’ big finish: Hit me baby, one more time!

The Heartbeat of America…that’s today’s Chevrolet.

I remember back when the song came out, hearing longtime San Diego DJ Mike Halloran explaining to listeners that “hit” in this context did not mean “punch,” but rather…something else. He didn’t say exactly what; perhaps he was hesitant to discuss, on air, a sixteen-year-old girl’s desperate plea for sex. (As Nicolas Cage reminded viewers in the first episode of Netflix’s recent History of Swear Words, “fuck” likely started out as a medieval Dutch verb meaning, “to hit.” Thanks, Nic!) Way back when, some folks actually knit their brows at the sight of a teenaged former Mousketeer dancing around on television in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit and invoking old Dutch verbs. How quaint. But then, nothing’s shocking once you get used to it.

A week ago, Reader writer Ed Bedford paid a visit to the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market. He opened his story with, “Teagan saws away at her violin right by the entrance. She’s playing Ariana Grande’s ‘34+35.’ Sounds really cool. Actually, this whole scene is hard to beat. Saturday morning, sunshine, cool breeze to balance things out.” Cue the grim chuckle: a week before Ed, I had my own encounter with the song, in rather less idyllic circumstances. A boom box thumps away at the beat right by the entrance. It’s playing Ariana Grande’s “34+35.” Sounds really jarring. Actually, this whole scene is hard to fathom. Friday morning, fog, chill breeze to shiver the skin…

All the world’s a stage, including this stage at Mt. Helix. Perform accordingly.

It’s 7:30, and I’m up here in the Mt. Helix Park amphitheater with my two-year-old. She likes to climb up and down the “big stairs” that form the seating rising up from the stage. I climb along with her and call it my morning exercise. I’m not alone in my halfhearted quest for a healthy heart; a group of women amble slowly around the stage area, stepping to the music, sort of. Normally, I get a kick out of seeing fellow slow-starters in the race to physical fitness. But gosh all get out, they’ve got the volume up loud, and here we are at former Nickelodeon star Ms. Grande’s chorus. Can you stay up all night?/ Fuck me ‘til the daylight? Thirty-four, thirty five… (Why, 34+35 is…69! I can hear Beavis and Butthead chuckling with delight even as I try to distract my daughter, who is enjoying the music.)

It doesn’t do to complain about such things. You wind up lumped in with The Simpsons’ Helen Lovejoy, faintingly crying, “Won’t somebody please think of the children?” (Not just my two-year-old; there’s also the boy they’ve brought with them, sullenly banging a loose rock against the stage wall as he waits for Mom to finish her workout. I want to comfort the lad, assure him that not even Ms. Grande actually expects a guy to perform until sunrise. She’s on record about this.) Or worse, you’re memed in with George Costanza and The Joker, proclaiming that We Live In A Society. (“We’re supposed to act in a civilized way!” Thanks, George!) Or still worse, you’re aping Ben Shapiro as he reads the lryics to “WAP” — a bit of culture wars outrage-mongering that was almost instantly turned into a joke. (“Yeah you effin’ with some wet-ass p-word — ‘p-word’ is female genitalia. Bring a bucket and a mop for this wet-ass p-word.” Thanks, Ben!)

And really, the problem here is me. If I had a problem with the song, I should have said something, not sulked off and written something. If we’re all just ranting from our respective enclaves, then We Live In A Society really is a memeworthy gag and nothing more. My dad, he said something, pausing our monthly racquetball games to visit the next court over, explain to the filthy of tongue that his son was in earshot, and politely ask that they refrain from swearing. And what do you know, it worked. Me, I just waited it out and stewed. A couple days later, when I happened upon a crassly festooned truck on the way to work in still-gentrifying Golden Hill, I felt more shame than anything else. Because nonsense like that is what happens when people don’t step up and say something. And just like with Britney, just like with Ariana, we’ll all get used to whatever comes, to the point where it’s nothing more than the soundtrack of our lives.

A few days after that, I got a chance to do something right and think of the children — my own. My son was in the car, tired and frustrated after a lousy day at work, waiting for a friend to join us. “Hurry the fuck up!” he shouted into the night air. Apparently, I had failed to pass on the notion that certain speech is not appropriate for the public square. He seemed genuinely surprised when I objected. I am fond of telling my kids that charity, like everything else, begins at home. Time to add a few things to that list about being a citizen.

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