Sunday, May 14, 2006


I'm mobile. Free! Unplugged!

For Mother's Day, my darling husband and children presented me with a new notebook computer with wireless connection. I'm sitting in the peaceful evening atmosphere of my kitchen right now, surrounded by family. I can take this thing to the living room...the bedroom...the deck...

First it was the iriver and now the notebook. My Spage Age Husband is bound and determined to bring his wife fully into the 21st century.

Jane Jetson has nothing on me.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

More Def Leppard: Thoughts From An Old Lady

"Thank you for your patience, ma'am," he said as he handed me my double tall nonfat toffee nut latte through the drive-up window. His eyes were brown, twinkling, his smile sincere. It felt like looking into the eyes of my own son sometime in the shadowy future. All I could do was smile back and drive away.

Being called "ma'am" has never particularly bothered me. After all, it isn't an age thing, really. Really. It's supposed to denote a married woman, not necessarily an old one. Unfortunately, perception is reality, and common use of "ma'am" has turned it into a word synonymous with old. As in, you could be my mother or my teacher, or the lady at the library with the tortoise-shell glasses.

Well, why shouldn't he call me ma'am? I'm easily twice his age. I was driving a minivan loaded with two young children, littered with empty Capri Sun pouches, cracker crumbs, and a crumpled note from the PTA. My sunglasses couldn't quite disguise the tiny lines on my face, the little marks that betray more than just the passage of time.

Ever since my Saturday afternoon on the couch, I've been listening often to my Def Leppard CDs, and that moment was no exception. Even "Armageddon It" couldn't save me from the truth, and that truth was that in all likelihood I'd been listening to that same song before the young brown-eyed man's father had even met his mother.

I wonder how that can be. I haven't changed so very much, have I? The breeze through the open car window still whips blonde hair into my eyes. The sky seems as blue as it ever was, and if I listen carefully enough, I can still hear the sound of the traffic behind the big screen at the France Avenue Drive-in.

Time doesn't confront us with a shout. It doesn't wave an orange flag in our paths, and it doesn't phone ahead. It sneaks up on us, surprising us, and we're left to wonder if it had been following us all along. It's in the moments when we look into the innocent eyes of a toddler and reach out to clasp his chubby hand before realizing that his hands have grown strong and lean, his body tall, and his eyes knowing. "When did that happen?" we think, straining to reconcile this new person with the flannel-wrapped package we brought home from the hospital not so very long ago.

Time starts and it stops, capturing like a snapshot one small moment and another, and it starts again, moving faster and faster, leaving in its wake breathless confusion.

I took a sip of the latte as I rounded the corner, headed for the bank to make a deposit, resisting the urge to shush the young children in the backseat, preferring instead for that moment to hear their voices, recording each giggle and squeal to replay later, over and over.

The sound rose and fell over the stereo, mixing with long-familiar guitar riffs. Today the door of time was a revolving one, and as the coffee shop receded behind me in the distance, I smiled at the thought that it was indeed possible to be two places at once.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Def Leppard, Steve Clark, and a long time ago...

I became a Def Leppard fan the first time I heard "Let It Go" from the High And Dry album at age 15. Some time after that, they were cemented in my heart with the release of Pyromania.

And...I'm a sap. Maybe. I don't know.

I was on the living room couch this afternoon, nursing a headache, and a I caught a showing of VH1's Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story. I'd seen it before, some time ago when it was first aired. The show was near it's end, focusing on the triumph that was the Hysteria album and its promotional tour. Afterward, in the ten-minute gap between the end of the movie and the start of the next show, they aired two Def Leppard videos ("Hysteria" and "Photograph"). I watched the images of Steve Clark with a sense of wistfulness that grew to full-blown sadness. I thought about the difficulties he'd faced in his life - "difficulties" being an altogether inadequate word - and the senseless, tragic way he died. It's been more than fifteen years since his death. Vivian Campbell has been with the band now longer than Steve himself was. And still I can't get over that vague feeling of sorrow over what once was and what might have been.

It's more than just my affection for Steve. It's particularly about my affection for the band in its earlier days, its heyday, and about the visceral memories the music can still bring to the fore.

Hysteria was released at a time when my life was undergoing the biggest changes I had ever experienced. The summers of '87 - when the album was released - and '88 - when its biggest singles became monster hits - were summers of simultaneous joy and dissatisfaction, times of beginnings and endings, possibilities and regrets. My favorite music remained constant, and many nights I'd lie on my sofa bed, the stereo on for company, my eyes closed, and the songs enveloping my entire self, seeming to come from inside. I was lonely often. Steve and Joe and Phil and Rick and Rick kept me company on many a balmy night in a ground floor apartment, a baby sleeping in the next room.

Even now, the music takes me back. I can hear one note and be overcome by an almost intoxicating sense of time suspension, surrounded by a strong sense of blue skies, thick humidity, and my friend Lynn and I good-naturedly arguing about which one of us would get Joe Elliot. If I lost that argument, I always chose Steve Clark next. I was young and uncertain. The music always returns me to that vulnerability.

After Hysteria, Def Leppard began work on a new album. During the recording of that album Steve died, early in 1991. Released after his death, Adrenalize was the last album featuring the work of Steve Clark.

And I lay there on the couch this afternoon, the whole rush of it came back to me at once - the me that I was those summers eighteen and nineteen years ago, the flashes of memories like a slide show, one after the other, rapid and never quite complete, and the sadness for the death of a man I didn't even know.

The tears came.

For me, for Steve, for what might have been...I don't know. And somehow I didn't feel any better when they stopped.