Friday, April 17, 2009

Top 9 Childhood Influences

I could, and therefore, probably will do another one of these that only covers sports-related influences. By the way, please continue to pardon our tardiness with the listing. Rob is like, graduating, and I am like, lazy.

Murder By Death
Oh gosh, I watched this constantly as a kid... didn't get half the references or the dirty jokes, didn't recognize a single person in the once-in-a-lifetime cast, but it flat-out killed me. Neil Simon is just a brilliant, brilliant guy, ya know? And casting Peter Sellers as a Charlie Chan parody? If that isn't an inspired bit of genius, I don't know what is.

8. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
I think these guys might actually have been the inspiration for writing this list in the first place. Last week, I started listening to their first few albums on repeat, basically... just out of the blue. All these memories flooded back--me in my living room, listening to my dad's vinyl copy of Deja Vu, my parents harmonizing on "Teach Your Children", getting the twenty-five-years-too-late gossip about Judy Collins and Stephen Stills. I could listen to "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" a million times and never get sick of it. (Fun fact: in high school, Matt and I wrote a movie and a key plot point was one of the characters listening to "Love the One You're With" thirty seven times on repeat. Anyway.) That was kind of how I learned about love, as a kid. You fall for someone, you write a song. They break your heart, you write another. It just makes sense. Mr. Stills says it even better: "There are three things men can do with women: love them, suffer for them, or turn them into literature. I've had my share of success and failure at all three." God, I hope I say something like that some day.

7. Dr. Doolittle
There was a period of my life--it may have been a year or so--where I watched this every day. I actually don't remember a lot about it, to be totally honest, but at the time, I was convinced that Rex Harrison was a god. HE COULD TALK TO THE ANIMALS. (I had not yet fully grasped fiction.) The last act of that movie is the most ridiculous, drug-infused explosion of madness, by the way... friggin' huge snails?! An islander dude named William Shakespeare X?! A MOTH THAT FLIES BETWEEN THE EARTH AND THE MOON?! This was my childhood.

6. Elton John's Honky Chateau
This was the main casette in rotation in our car's tapedeck. Every song on it is perfect. I had "Rocket Man" memorized by the age of four or so. I fell in love with a girl named Amy in kindergarten, so "Amy" became my favorite song for like, a day. We had a cat named Honky, so "Honky Cat" was a big hit with me. For some reason, I loved "I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself", too... which distressed my parents to no end. And John's delivery of the word 'shackles' in "Slave" always got me really psyched. The standout track is probably "Mona Lisas and Madhatters" though, which I rediscovered when it showed up in Almost Famous, and again when I moved to New York for college.

5. The Adventures of Robin Hood
I've already gone off on my love for this film a few times, most recently here... suffice to say, this is where I learned what heroism looks like. (Heroism looks like Errol Flynn throwing a dead deer onto the king's banquet table, incidentally.)

4. A Prairie Home Companion
I can't count the times that Garrison Keillor's voice was the last thing I heard before falling asleep. Okay, that sounded intensely creepy. Um, anyway... best living American story-teller? Maybe?

3. Into the Woods
Okay, so, I know I don't mention this a lot, but I'm kind of a musical theater person. And Into the Woods is why. I mean, for my money, there isn't a better musical out there. There also aren't many better examinations of parent-child relationships or morality or the concept of story or the idea of what consitutes a happy ending... I could keep going. The only thing that kills me is that I never got to play the Baker. (I played the goddamn Steward, just in case you're wondering. Don't. Get. Me. Started. This concludes the gayest rant on PaRMLoT.)

2. Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks
So whether this album is ALL about Sara or TOTALLY inspired by the short stories of Anton Chekov, this album takes that artist-plus-artist's-beloved-equals-art equation and runs with it to friggin' Mexico. (Not that it has a Latin vibe, or anything.) I remember one summer, after my high school girlfriend and I set a date for our break-up... I was working maintenance at my dad's college and she was running the new student orientation. I spent all day driving around in a truck, listening to this. My buddy Trey tried to steal it from me, I think, so I could move on... both to another album and to another girl, I guess. Sometimes you just have to listen to Blood on the Tracks over and over and over until you get it, though.

1. Cat's Cradle
Hands down, not-even-close, best book ever written. Changed me for good, and continues to change me every time I read it. When Laksh bought me a new copy for Valentine's, I was like, "This girl is golden." There is simply no other document that explores the interplay of science, religion, and humanity than this novel. And my dad gave it to me to read when I was eight.

Thanks, dad.


Anonymous said...

You're the child I forgot to have. Just wanted to tell you I loved this blog.

Trey said...

Blood on the Tracks is great, but sometimes you gotta take a three minute break and see what Nick Lowe's "Cruel to be Kind" can do for you. Looking back, even though your dad wanted to take it away, Blood on the Tracks was probably the perfect record to listen to that summer. I miss all the discussions about it. Drop me a line sometime...

aysha williams. said...

I just wanted to say the only reason why I read, came across, your blog is because your father had us read the list of literary elements for creative writing class. And I couldn't help but be intrigued by the compilation and subject matter of which you make lists of. I love lists. So, I thank your dad for making us read that blog.
Also, for my good grade. Lol.