Brainiac On Banjo #093: “What the Hell Was That?”

One day I feel so horny / Next night I feel so bleh / Guess well have to take the whoppee! / along with the bleh / Each night I ask the moon up above / Why must I be a septuagenerian in love? ––Tuli Kupferberg, “Septuagenerian in Love,” from The Fugs Final CD, Part 1, 2003.

Well, this is goddamned strange. Not at all what I expected.

It’s not that I’m big on birthday celebrations. I have a hard time remembering such events; it’s an often embarrassing failing. The only reason I remember my own is because I’ve renewed my driver’s license approximately 18 times, thereby making it a habit. Well, I’ve just put my new driver’s license in my wallet – which was kinda fun because I didn’t have to break quarantine to get it — so unless something terminal happens in the next 24 hours, I turn 70 tomorrow.

OK. Fine. That’s no skin off of my rather attractive ass. But it’s really strange to gain my septuagenerianhood in the dark. If I was given the opportunity all I would have asked for is a nice meal at a really good barbecue joint with a handful of my close friends, perhaps with the added joy of sticking my daughter with the tab.

The Great Quarantine Burn, evidently, is one I share with a couple billion Earthlings so I’m not bitching about the unfairness of it all. Actually, I firmly believe the entire concept of “fair” is a utopian fantasy. “Fairness” is neither a material thing nor a force of nature. When it comes to getting along with the planet, what is, is, and our choices are to deal with such events ourselves or to succumb to the vicissitudes of reality. More often than not, this is the more functional choice. But like most others of my general age who are not, or are no longer, Republicans, for the past five months I’ve been stuck inside of El Casa del Oro with my wandering boot heels again.

I think I can speak for the several billion of us who think that really sucks. But if I were going to take a dive into that big cyanide pie, it ain’t gonna be Covid a la mode… most certainly not without an absentee ballot clenched in my fist.

Brian Bolland’s Godzilla. Not a self-portrait.

So I’ve been vaguely depressed, but not at the prospect of turning 70. Yes, there are a hell of a lot of my closest friends, my mentors, and damn nearly all of my blood relatives who have not made it to August 4 2020. As I told my father a couple decades ago when he was in that same position, “Well, I guess you won.” He thought about that and smiled a little bit. “I guess that’s true,” he sadly acknowledged. We left unspoken the observation that the race itself sucks, sort of like a geriatric version of Logan’s Run.

I willfully succumbed to the Peter Pan complex long ago, and am proud to say I figured out how to make a living off of that decision. Birthdays are, literally, just a way of marking time and as regular readers will note, time is just a construct. In the short run — we hope — the Covid quarantine is now another, far less fulfilling way to mark time.

What’s left is my ability to turn everything in my path into a philosophical treatise. Nothing new there, and I still have a lot of metaphors left to shovel into that great furnace of life.

Montik, gornisht / Dinstik, gornisht / Midvokh un Donershtik gornisht / Fraytik, far a noveneh / Gornisht pikveleh / Shabes nach a mool gornisht – Tuli Kupferberg, Nothing Nothing, from The Village Fugs, 1966.

The phrase “What the Hell Was That?” that gives us today’s headline was, allegedly, the epitaph poet/songwriter/singer/pacifist-provocateur Naphtali “Tuli” Kupferberg desired. It is Tuli’s words that lead today’s column and finishes it as well, and it is to Tuli’s spirit that I dedicate the next 70 years of my life.