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Trouble in River City

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Q.  Al and Tipper break up after 40 years — FORTY FREAKING YEARS!!! Are you fucking kidding me? What’s the point? They aren’t getting divorced (yet). I don’t get it. That’s a lot of time. Is this completely baked or only half baked?

A.  Yes, yes and yes — sort of gooey in the middle and scorched on the outside, like something might be wrong with the oven. Maybe the pilot light blew? (When trouble-shooting, I’m always drawn to the simplest fixes). One would think that a hundred-plus million dollars could get that fixed. I know — money can’t buy happiness and mo money mo problems — but we’re talking a boatload of dough here and that goes a long way to at least try to continue making the effort.

“Why not get a divorce years ago?” I assume that’s what you were asking when you so randomly tossed the F-bomb. Seriously??? There might be kids reading this.

Maybe this IS the effort — dueling mansions 2000 miles apart. In that case, I suspect the pilot was out long ago. A marriage of convenience? How the hell am I supposed to know? Why are you asking me anyway? Like I’m the go-to source.

I will agree that it stranges me odd to leave someone after you’ve already made it this long. What part of “I no longer wish to be around you” is not dealt with sooner?


Might a well-placed heart-to-heart may have saved these two 10 or 20 years of going through the motions? It’s so difficult to make it 40 years and most marriages don’t. You got this far!! Ride it out and learn to deal with each other. This should be a time of reward and celebration, instead it acknowledges that the Y2K convention night tongue swap was likely as forced as it appeared — like when Michael Jackson kissed Lisa Marie on MTV only slightly less creepy.

A lot of people are already asking the most important question: what will this do to the price of carbon credits?

What seems odd to me is how the man with forecasts into the constant not-so distant 20-year future didn’t see this coming. Maybe he did and just didn’t mention it. He surely lost a huge opportunity to showcase his persuasive gift for prognostication beyond the field of environmental science.

Was one of them cheating? Maybe Al sabotaged the pilot light in an effort to save energy at home — falling 500 votes shy of the presidency is bound to damage the hard drive so a physical change is totally understood — however this fails to take into account a seemingly carbohydrate-driven weight gain and that’s your oven-fresh cookies, cupcakes, Tater Tots and Freschetta pizzas.

I’m not even focusing on the flawed science. Not really a shocker there. Science supports a political narrative for the sake of funding. It’s a circle that only reaffirms that money will produce any answer you need.

It irks me that politicians prey on emotions by predicting conditions in Year 2030 when the finest minds in meteorology are unable to claim faultless forecasting accuracy on any given weekend and nothing reliable beyond 10 days. The future is always so bleak to some people and it’s just a stone’s throw to destroying the next generation — no maple trees in New England, the polar bears will die. Meanwhile, reality is buried and debate isn’t tolerated while policy is pushed. Today, there’s nothing comparable to the pollution that choked our cities 40 years ago, that’s because of efforts in legislation and giant leaps in swaying public opinion. Urban decline has led to urban renewal. There’s never a time to reflect on progress that’s been made, always another dour tug on the chain and 20 years of doom if we don’t act today. Lighten up, I say.

A school day in 1975 elementary taught my young mind that the poles where changing — north becomes south and south becomes north — and the resulting polar ice cap melt would see the Statue of Liberty underwater by 1999. Scary stuff that perked my ears. According to Gore, the Arctic ice cap continues to shrink and may be completely gone by 2014. He frames an argument of doom using the natural fluctuation of Arctic sea ice and has been touting this for a generation already so my question now is why Battery Park hasn’t flooded at the very least? Show me the money. I ponder this as my glass of ice water slowly reaches room temperature but never seems to overflow, leaving me at a loss for a good metaphor.

I’ve always seen Al as Robert Preston in “The Music Man” but without the cool hats — as well as the ability to act outside of a controlled setting or take questions, a traveling salesman nonetheless — and for years, I never knew what the trouble was in River City. I saw it when I was a kid and only remembered the tune. “Trouble with a capital C that rhymes G and that stood for something,” I just didn’t know what. Growing up without the lyrics, it was comforting knowing that the trouble could be just about anything, as long as it rhymed. A lot of freedom having this option available.

“With a capital V that rhymes D and that stands for gonorrhea.” That doesn’t work. You get the point.

Before (2000)

I saw it a few years ago and imagine my shock to learn that the pendulum tip towards the apocalypse in River City was the introduction of a billiard table.

The point was that it could be anything. The townsfolk buy into it and Preston is brilliant in his salesmanship. And while we’re all left wondering how exactly a pool table will lead to youth deviancy in our town [the science is settled, it’s indisputable, the debate is over], the salesman accelerates the story [global warming evolves into climate change, which can be anything it needs to be] and does so by seducing Marian the librarian, mainly to avoid verifying his credentials.

After (2007)

Marian proves to be no picnic either. To recall Tipper’s days of greatest influence, the end of civilization was cradled within lyrics of songs by Def Leppard, Cyndi Lauper and Madonna — essentially anything that sold well. The PRMC jumped the shark when it became apparent that Tipper didn’t ordinarily listen to songs like “Eat Me Alive” by Judas Priest. When she spoke the ills of Black Sabbath, Frank Zappa and Rick James, she used the words of a woman who clearly did not have these artists loaded in her Walkman. What may have started with good intentions became a going out of one’s way to be offended. Who made these particular people the arbiters of what’s acceptable? One day it hits you that the supposed cool kids from the 60’s have grown up to become the town leaders in “Footloose.” They’ve evolved to become everything they once rejected.

Do you think for a moment those same kids back then would have gotten behind unelected government boards and panels that sought to micromanage fast food, thermostats, gas mileage, soda, the types of cars you can buy, light bulbs, music, salt, transfats, bottled water? They’d be losing their minds. They want to so wish they aren’t John Lithgow but this is how they’ve matured. I’m totally cereal.

In the name of saving the world, (fill in the blank) is being used to control aspects of our lives. Were song lyrics ever really the problem? Was it a bad thing that Prince wrote “Sugar Walls” for Sheena Easton? That had upside all over it.

They claimed “Darling Nikki” was about masturbation. It wasn’t like this was something we didn’t already know. The PRMC should have been thanking Prince for mentioning “masturbation” in the first verse — you know what you’re getting pretty early with that one. Did this song cause more teens to pleasure themselves in hotel lobbies?

Fact is, the PRMC only drove more kids to the song. Eventually, the Parental Advisory sticker was what you looked for to find the coolest stuff and Rolling Stone Magazine endorsed Al for president in 2000 despite claiming he was married to the anti-Christ 15 years earlier. Strange bedfellows.

Snowblind” gives you the mindset. (song here; lyrics here)

PRMC:  The song has to be about cocaine with “snow” in the title and “blind” from doing so much of it.
STYX:  It’s an anti-drug song. It’s about the helplessness associated with drug use.
PRMC:  It’s full of metaphors with words like “lines” and “mirror.”
STYX:  Right, it’s about the helplessness associated with drug use.
PRMC:  Styx is the river between the Earth and the Underworld so it must be Satanic.
STYX:  Huh?
PRMC:  Play the song backwards and you hear hidden messages.
STYX:  What?? No you don’t.
PRMC:  Yes you do.
STYX:  Then don’t play the song backwards.
PRMC:  That’s exactly what a disciple of the Devil would say.

There was no taking of no for an answer. So Styx crafts a new album in response to all this horseshit, Kilroy Was Here sucks like most bad albums only dream of sucking and the band’s career curve tears its collective ACL. Thanks, Tipper.

Did this accomplish anything? Have lyrics become less explicit? Doesn’t taking a girl to the candy shop automatically mean you’ll let her lick the lollipop? Do rap songs not blow away ANYTHING the PRMC was railing against 25 years ago? And is the offending music du jour now better kept from teens? Hardly. This is the core purchasing demographic and downloading has only made it easier.

These two are from same cloth. They know what’s best. We benefited from Tipper’s interpretation of lyrical nuance just as we will more time-lined meteorological presumptions from a man who likely can’t elaborate in any detail the differences between Stratocumulus and Nimbostratus. I don’t see a winner here. I see two losers.

Agree — either end it at halftime and save yourself the respective misery or finish the damn game, ride it out and learn to tolerate each other in your golden years. Quitting in the 3rd quarter is such an odd admission. At least Robert Preston’s “Professor” Harold Hill stayed in River City and made things work after nearly driving the town apart at the seems.

© 2010 – 2013, Soapy Johnson. All rights reserved.

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