Tuesday, January 5, 2010
"The boatman has heard, it has bound him..."
Among the many reasons why I have championed Nickelodeon's short-lived "THE ADVENTURES OF PETE & PETE" as not merely a fun artifact of the early '90's but possibly one of the best family sitcoms in modern history is its understanding of the importance of small moments in a growing child's life. Much as the more heralded Judd Apatow's "FREAKS AND GEEKS" understood that a teenager's great moment was not necessarily taking the Homecoming Queen to prom but just mustering the nerve to ask any girl to go in the first place regardless of her reply, Chris Vicardi and Will McRobb knew that things we gloss over as grown-ups (especially if we have joined the ranks of the International Adult Conspiracy) are quite significant in our pre-teens.
A prime example of this is the first-season episode "A Hard Day's Pete." Little Pete Wrigley, who like most middle-schoolers is more interested in grosseries and gossip than art, starts a typical morning furiously biking to school to avoid being late. But on his ride, he hears a garage band playing a song, and for reasons unknown, it stops him cold and he must sit there and listen...
Little Pete has experienced an important rite of passage: his first favorite song. He doesn't even know its name or who sang it, but it's been immediately branded on his soul. And if he doesn't find out how to find the song again, it will be heartbreak on a grand scale, a loss equivalent to Mr. Bernstein's lament for the girl with the white parasol. What can be worse than to know that you loved something, and not even be able to summon up the means to remember or describe it?
A favorite song is one of the most important things we acquire in our lives. Sure, there are thousands of songs we can load into a player that will elevate us, make us happy or melancholic, take us back to an earlier time or help us see a possible future. But at some moment of our lives, we discover That Song.
And how is That Song different from all other songs? It just is. A deity enveloped in chords found you at a pivotal moment and you saw each other.
Consider John Peel, a man literally responsible for exposing over a thousand songs to millions of grateful listeners like a flesh-and-blood iPod. Even a man with such an expansive palate knew in his heart That Song, what captured in verse and guitar his soul, and would accompany him to his final rest.
Maybe your mother sang it to you just as you were forming words in bed. Maybe it told you to put that knife away and just have a good night's sleep instead.
Or, like me...maybe you were not yet in double digits...you didn't know about sex but you did know of pretty girls and how wonderful it was to be around them...you saw the adult world for both its hedonistic promise and its boring reality...you loved Top 40 radio and your 45's so much you dreamed of owning a real jukebox...and one night you stayed up past your bedtime to watch "DON KIRSHNER'S ROCK CONCERT" (or was it maybe "THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL"?), and somehow you missed the announcement of who was performing next, and you saw a blonde lorelei sing a deceptively upbeat tale of romance gone bad...
You knew you would die if you never heard that song again. And today, you know you want to hear that song one last time before you die.