Thursday, May 26, 2016

Alice Cooper – "Under My Wheels" (1971)

I'm driving in my car now
Anticipating fun

Earlier this week, I drove my mother’s car (a 2012 Chevrolet Equinox SUV with only 4000 miles on the odometer) from Joplin, Missouri – where she’s lived for virtually all of her 90 years – to Rockville, Maryland, the Washington suburb where the assisted-living facility she is moving to is located.

As I was driving, my sister flew with my mother to Reagan Airport in Washington, DC.  My son met them at the airport and drove them to her new home.

I crammed my mother’s car full of all kinds of stuff.  

For example, I transported a flat-screen television, which I’m hoping will be easy to hook up to cable at my mother’s new building.  Whether she will actually watch the TV or just stare at the wall – which is what she’s spent most of her time doing since my father died – remains to be seen.

I’ve packed up a couple of boxes with framed family pictures.  The walls of my parents’ home were covered with dozens and dozens of pictures of my sister, me, and my four children.  Some were taken over 50 years ago, when my sister and I were very small.  Others are from the recent weddings of my three older children.

I also brought back about a dozen plastic storage containers filled with unframed photos:

Most of those photos feature one or more of my four kids.  But there are quite a few of me as well.

Here's one of the oldest ones of me:

Don’t tell anyone, but I also brought back about $19,000 in cash – for some reason, my parents had squirreled away all that money in their safe-deposit box at the bank.

Part of that cash was hidden in a small toy savings bank that resembled an old Sinclair Oil gas-station pump.

Mucho Benjamins
I also had what must have been a couple of hundred pounds of silver dollars and half dollars, which we accumulated before the price of silver shot up dramatically in the mid-sixties and people like us began to hoard such coins.  (I don’t know what I’ll do with those coins, but this may be the only time I’ll ever drive back from Joplin rather than fly.  There’s no way I could fly back with those coins in my baggage.)

Three or four hundred Walking
Liberty silver half dollars
Last but certainly not least, I brought back a lot of my old stuff that I never got around to schlepping back from my parents' home to my home.  I'm talking LPs, high school and college yearbooks, copies of student newspapers, sheet music, and much, much more.  (Some of you are wondering why I don't toss all this flotsam and jetsam, but some of you don't know me – I would rather cut off a body part of two than throw away these precious artifacts.)

I covered some 875 miles on the second day of my drive – I averaged 65 mph, which means I was on the road about thirteen and a half hours.  That's not counting stops for gas, food, and so on.

I got home at 1:30 am.  Ugh.

*     *     *     *     *

If you ask me, driving a car isn't any fun.  Stop-and-go traffic brings out the worst in me, and sitting behind the wheel for an extended period of time is very hard on my 63-year-old body.

Flying is a pain in the ass, too.  There’s nothing enjoyable about waiting in the security screening lines at the airport, dealing with flight delays and cancellations, and folding my six-foot-two, 200-pound self into a middle seat. 

But the condition of being on a trip – far away from my home and my office – is a wonderful (albeit temporary) escape from everyday realities.

My favorite New Yorker cartoon of all time depicts a businessman/lawyer type standing behind a large desk and talking on the telephone.  “No, Thursday’s out,” he says to the person on the other end of the phone.  “How about never – does never work for you?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fantasized about responding to a client’s or colleague’s request by saying “How about never – does never work for you?”

(It turns out that this 1993 cartoon – which was the creation of New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff – is hugely popular.  In fact, Mankoff titled his autobiography How About Never – Is Never Good for You?  Click here to read a 2014 New Yorker piece Mankoff wrote about his cartoon.)

When you’re in an airplane or driving across the country, it’s very easy deflect people who want you to do something you don’t really want to do.

“I’m sorry,” you say.  “My flight is about to take off."

Or “I really can’t help you right now.  I’m driving from X to Y – I’ll be in the car all day.” 

That’s why I look forward to airline flights and all-day drives.  Not because they are pleasant experiences (which they aren’t) but because you have carte blanche to ignore the rest of world for as long as you  are in the air or on the road.

Once upon a time, you were free once you left your office for the day – anyone who called you after 5 pm didn’t really expect to hear back until the next day.  

If you got a call from someone who had waited until the last minute to ask you to do something, it was OK to say, “My schedule’s pretty full today and tomorrow – I won’t be able to turn to your project for a couple of days.”

But today, people expect you to read and respond to e-mail on nights and weekends.  And they don’t understand why you can’t drop everything else and solve their problem immediately – after all, doesn’t every client believe he or she is the most important client you have?

* * * * *

“Under My Wheels” is the first track on Alice Cooper’s 1971 album, Killer.

John Lydon (a/k/a Johnny Rotten) of the Sex Pistols once said Killer was the greatest rock album of all time.  I don’t know if I would go quite that far, but I do know that “Under My Wheels” is a silly-bazilly song.

Here’s “Under My Wheels”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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