The trusty Jonzbox — before the internet, this radio showed me what the rest of the world was about.
I was thinking about this yesterday, during the furor over Trump’s administration suggesting cutting the funding for ‘frivolous’ things such as the National Endowment for the Arts. I mean, aside from my anger and annoyance that, once more, the arts gets the shit end of the stick while other things get overfunded. [You know my feeling on that: ‘oh, we don’t have the money to support arts at your high school…but god forbid we get rid of football!’]
It occurred to me that there are numerous reasons why I got into college rock, and in effect fell headlong in love with alternative rock, a crazy infatuation that sticks with me thirty years later. It’s more than just the sound of the music. Sure, a big part of it was that it introduced me to a circle of great friends that I’m still connected with to this day. And it’s more than realizing that I could be a goofy self-professed nonconformist in a small town high school.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that college rock, and in effect college radio, made me realize there’s a much, much bigger world out there than what was being given to me. In the afternoons on through the late evenings in 1987 through 1989, I’d hear the brutalist electronic dance music of Belgium, Slovenia and Germany, the Thatcher-era malaise of the UK, the high weirdness of Californian experimental bands, the several versions of American punk, right alongside the local collegiate sounds of Boston and the Pioneer Valley. Sure, I loved what I was hearing, but I wasn’t just listening to everything that was played; I tried to understand the emotions and the meanings behind it.
Years later, and I have the internet at my fingertips. As of this moment, I’m listening to Radio BDC, an online station on the opposite coast, playing a song by a band from Denver. My current music purchases include bands from London, Oklahoma, Boston, Tennessee, and Los Angeles.
Why do I bring this up? What has this got to do with anything?
Well, this is because apparently I’m an elitist.. Or a snowflake. Or a libtard. Or an overly sensitive, politically correct cuck. Or whatever the hell else they want to call me. At least that’s what the self-proclaimed Deplorables want to label me. In 1988 I was probably called a fag a few times by the local jocks. In the 90s I was a slacker. In the 00s I was un-American. And this decade I’m a lazy-ass looking for a handout. [I mean, really, people. Why are you so proud of being deplorable? When Denis Leary sang “I’m an asshole, and I’m proud of it”, he was making a joke. In fact, I’m 99% certain he was making fun of people like you.] And there’s one thing conformists hate the most, and that’s the square peg that won’t fit into their mold.
Call me what you want, I don’t care. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve kept my eyes and ears open to new things, thanks to those formative years. I may have made a few mistakes, said a few stupid things, but I’ve owned up to them eventually. I’m a work in progress; I don’t want to be stuck in a mold at all. Nor do I like to be passive, not like I once was in my preteen years. I hate being easily influenced. I hate being ignorant.
This is why I keep my eyes and ears open to new things all the time. Music, books, movies and TV, news, whatever. Seeing things from different points of view is not an elitist action at all.
It’s about learning what the world is truly about.