I have worn many hats in my time: husband, father, lawyer, author. But my highest calling is as a roving resource for America’s youth. If a kid is walking down the street and needs to know who threw the pitch that Carlton Fisk deposited over the Green Monster to win Game Six of the ’75 World Series (it was Pat Darcy), I’m there. If a group of Cub Scouts is debating which actor, movie for movie, was in the highest quality films (it’s John Cazale), I’m there. If a middle school science club ponders how Bobby Fuller met his end (officially, it’s unsolved, but appears to have been murder-by-gangsters), I’m there.
And I was there this past Sunday night, when I made a quick grocery run at halftime of the Packers-Giants game. I flew through the aisles in hopes of making it back in time for the second half kickoff. The place was all but empty when I blasted past the meat department, where two kids (about 17 or 18, one of each gender) who work there were talking. As I made my turn and headed for home, the young man said something to me. “Sorry,” I say, “what was that?” “Who’s your favorite band?,” he replies. Understand that the place I live, while quite nice, is not even remotely cool, and this is not a question one is likely to be asked by strangers in this neighborhood.
Nonetheless, and needless to say, I am happy to be asked. I offer that I’m a fan of The Hold Steady of Brooklyn, NY, a declaration that is met with quizzical looks. I ask if they know the Replacements, and they nod approvingly. The Hold Steady are the new ‘Mats, I declare, and I think my work is done.
But before I can head toward checkout, the guy asks if I know Animal Collective. Sure, I say. He informs me that they’re the best band in the world right now. I give him a smile and a look that says “grasshopper, you know not of what you speak.” He asks if I like bands from New York, which is a bit like asking if I like people from earth. “Some of them,” I reply. He mentions Sonic Youth, and we trade opinions about Daydream Nation. He asks if I like Pavement. I reply that I did when they were still around, and that I even saw them way back when, and I mention something about the quality of Steven Malkmus’s contributions to the I’m Not There soundtrack. He says something about Wilco, and I tell him that I saw Jeff when he was still the kid bass player in Uncle Tupelo. I then briefly extol the virtues of the Ike Reilly Association and Spoon (more quizzical looks), and head on my way.
Somewhere in Parkville, Missouri tonight, a kid hears “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” for the first time. Or laughs with his friend about the old-time rock and roll geezer who cast his shadow on the meat counter last Sunday night.