Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Here's something I scribbled in my Mead notebook a few months ago when I was in Germany. I was sort of bored/in a melancholy mood this particular day, just hanging out in a Starbucks that sat across from a big Gothic cathedral in Aachen, the country's westernmost city. Enjoy.
Aachen, August 16, 2009
Sitting here in Starbucks, not too many people, feeling a bit lonely on a Sunday. I’ve noticed while in Germany that one thing that makes me feel homesick is music, American music. American rock 'n' roll, to be exact. American rock 'n' roll seems to capture, or hold, an innocence, an intensity, an optimistic and fun-loving intensity, which Europe lost with its two World Wars. And forget Germany.
A few minutes ago, one of the baristas here stopped the cafe music that’d been playing. I thought the place was shutting down. But no. She was just switching CD’s. The new CD was a rock 'n' roll one, a “best of” compilation: everyone from James Brown to Elvis to the Temptations. The music got my foot tapping and if anything I was glad the cafe wasn’t closing early. Most stores in Germany don’t even open on Sundays.
Anyway, the music was pleasing enough but then one song came on that really awoke something in me: Jerry Lee Lewis’ 1957 “Great Balls of Fire.” Once I heard the gliss at the beginning, I was “shook” out of my reading. Lewis’ voice was just so full of energy and excitement. The song is a bit horny, actually. All right, it’s overtly horny. But that’s OK; it can be. It can be flirtatious, crazy and a bit boisterous, too — which it is.
And not only did the song shake me out of my reading, it also moved something in me. It transported me for a minute to America. Lewis’ voice made me feel all the excitement, energy and hope that typify the American experience.
No, America is not Europe. Europe may have its museums, its theatre houses, its wine, its architecture and its long history. But America is the land of incredible possibility, of constant change, of dynamism and friction, for good or bad. America is the land of rock 'n' roll.