Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Abba Intrusion

I have spoken often in this space about my commitment to providing the Jawa with a firm, interesting and slightly esoteric pop music base. I believe strongly in my responsibility to save him from Justin Timberlake, even as I am admittedly wide-eyed at JT's massive talents.

As I write this, however, there is an equal and opposing force trying to indoctrinate my Jawa in the evil dark musical arts. Sandra Bullock, whose interest in music has never gone any further than "it's got a good beat, I like to dance to it," spent the past weekend exposing my Jawa's fine-tuned ears to music rated no better than that which you would hear on a local top-40 station.

And now, this.

Tonight, as I scramble madly to record each nugget of wisdom that drops from the lips of my fellow Parent Association officers, the Jawa and his mother are joining the Hammer and her child at the Orpheum Theater, for a performance of ... Mamma Mia.

If I spelled that wrong, it was on purpose.

A word about Abba, the bass-challenged Swedish pop group whose circa-1979 music inspired Mamma Mia. Even as a pre-teen, I loathed Abba. I knew then that there was no place in my musical canon for glittery Swedes singing in phonetic English about royalty that dances and rememberances of dalliances with men named Fernando.

I shunned Abba even as they made their irony-fueled comeback in the 90s, sitting smugly on the sidelines each time a wedding DJ cued up an Abba tune. Not for me.

As I get older, I realize that I must give Sandra Bullock's taste in music some time. Not equal time, I mean, come on. The night Frank Sinatra died, I tried to get her to lie on the floor in the living room and listen to a few choice Frank cuts. She lasted all of five minutes. Lost in my own revelry, it took me that long before I glancedd over at her and saw that, rather than glazed over, her eyes were ablaze, reflecting the organizing and planning that was going on behind them.

"You're not listening to the music, are you," I said, flatly.

"I wonder if those chairs I saw in the Pottery Barn catalogue would fit next to the couch," she answered.

So before any of you start bagging on me for not considering her commitment to music equal to mine, think of that.

"You never know what they're listening to when you're not there," someone told me once. On Monday, I returned home from the craziest wedding I've ever been to, to find the Volvo's CD changer full of "their" CDs -- Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, Pure Funk, a couple of old Derailers and Old 97s CDs that I introduced S. Bullock to about ten years ago, and the dreaded "Abba Gold."

Did they distribute this CD to every woman who graduated from college between 1990 and 2000? Does the practice continue to the present? Is it included, already loaded, in the CD players of each Volkwagen Jetta as it is wheeled off the showroom to its new owner?

I should talk. I love John Cougar Mellencamp. And I eagerly remind you that my problems with Abba probably stem from the inarguable fact that I am no fun and not a good sport. Don't try to drag me onto the dance floor; you will lose a friend. Want me to karaoke? I'll leave first.

Meanwhile, Sandra Bullock is a great dancer, and effortless natural, and she has passed that skill down to her son. Theirs is a bond of physicality, of grace, where he and I bond musically on an intellectual level -- they are participants, while he and I are critics.

That doesn't make me sound all that good, does it. At least I'm honest.

I have had two positive Abba experiences in my life. The first came on a drive from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. My volleyball team all crammed into a Subaru Forrester for the three hour drive. So I was there with four of my favorite people in the world, plus a guy named Timmy Timmy -- I kid you not, he changed his last name to "Timmy" -- and someone decided that it would be a great idea to listen to "Abba Gold" all the way up. Five gay men and me in a four-seat car, plus "Abba Gold." How can you hate that?

Not strangely poignant, like when we stopped at the border and played George Michael's "Freedom." I'm serious. It was poignant. You had to be there.

The second time came when the Dinner Club, a social institution revered in our house, went to Japantown to do some karaoke. I will karaoke only for the dinner club, and only in a karaoke booth, and only when it was my idea in the first place and we didn't tell anyone until we got there what we were doing, and even then only when we are drinking Budweiser out of cans because the karaoke bar doesn't have a liquor license and even though we are all pushing 40 and at times the combined income of the two guys singing Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" is something like $500,000 a year. I will karaoke then. I will open the evening with a duet. Ken Dunque and I will sing "Like a Virgin."

After that, Princess Grace will abruptly grab the mic out of my hand and launch into her version of "Everybody Wang Chung Tonight," or something like that.

But eventually, the Golden Boy and his Golden Wife will insist on singing Abba's "Fernando," and I will realize that, although the Golden Boy and his Golden Wife are smart, attractive, successful and funny, both of them are tone-deaf, which in no way dimmed their enthusiasm and in fact made their reading of "Fernando" unique and fabulous in its own exceptional way.

God gave everybody something, but he didn't give anybody everything.

I plan to slip into the Jawa's room tonight, quietly put some headphones on him, and play him a few tracks from my iPod. Something to clean his pallet. Something obscure and important. To me, at least.


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