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Monday, October 04, 2004

Never Better

An old song comes on the radio and I am immediately brought back in time to a bygone era. Things were simpler then. Men were men, women were women, and surgeons didn’t make fortunes making men more like women, or women more like women who suddenly need much bigger bras. I am flooded with memories all because of a song on the radio. As I listen and remember I also get around to remembering that I hate that song. Not only did I not like that song back then but now I am listening to a remake of that song by some new pop star who annoys the living crap out of me. I have never been one to dwell in the past and now I can’t wait until it is three minutes in the future so this song will be over.

Whenever someone asks me how I am doing I always respond, “Never better.” This almost always takes the person by surprise as they are expecting you to give a usual conversation-ender like “Fine.” They don’t really care how you are doing but when you say “Never better” people often become annoyed by the overwhelming cheeriness of that answer. “Really?” is how people usually follow up. I think that it makes people feel that they aren’t living up to their own potential to hear that someone else has never been better. They probably think that I read a better self-help book over the weekend than the one they wasted their time reading.

If I am pressed far enough I tell people that I just say that for fun. Their relief is so transparent that you can practically hear them think, “Thank God he’s miserable just like me.” Although “never better” is my joke response I think that on an existential level I have never been better. I would hope that with every passing day I am a more distilled and better version of myself. I hope that I have been learning something every day. But what does all this have to do with a song on the radio?

I have noticed that most people—most people—have fairly shallow and parochial views about music. Do you know people who are struck in the same musical era they inhabited while in high school? This nostalgia becomes creepy when these people move into their 30’s and 40’s. I also have noticed that lots of people generally don’t like music they don’t recognize. I had a young woman tell me that a John Coltrane song was ‘elevator music’ because it was instrumental and elevator music is instrumental. I shudder to think of what makes up her music collection.

I tell people in their 20’s to start learning about jazz and classical music now because if they are still listening exclusively to what they listen to now when they are 40 they will be brain-dead zombies. If they are listening to a cover of some crappy song they listened to in high school when they are 40 they will be retarded brain-dead zombies.

When you ask people what kind of music they like almost everyone says that they like all kinds of music. Then they will qualify that by saying “except country and heavy metal” or some other exclusion. Open up to music and you will be better than ever.

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