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Entries in Aerosmith (3)

Tuesday
Feb192008

Wings of Warmth, Pools of Sorrow…

The day after my mother died, I woke disoriented. We had been estranged for years, so it wasn't the loss of a day-to-day presence in my life -- or even someone who'd been part of my thoughts. And yet, I had to grasp the notion that I now really, truly, absolutely was an orphan… the end of the line… the last of the vein.Somehow, numbly and without thinking, I drifted through the day. A day I recollect almost nothing about -- except my best friend's sister's second child was christened, it seemed like there were no chaise lounges at the Colony Hotel's Florida shaped pool and I did some laps across the street at their quiet pool when the sun wasn't searing my flesh in that slightly cool, definitely blunted, but deadly way of early fall. Lying there limp, it was another one of those moments -- in a cranberries-strung-on-fishwire-holiday-garland kind of way -- a moment unnoticeable, yet defining of who I'd come to be. Suspended with no expectation, not even the passage of time registering, and yet it was a moment full of every moment to that point. There is nothing to do. Beyond stay in the moment. And that is how I've come to live these last few weeks. Stay in the moment. Know there's nowhere to go where anything will change. Do what is required. Be hypervigilant for joy and beauty. Seek what is good. Hope it will lift. Have faith that it will. In the blur of what has passed since, much has past. Recognitions of what had to go unseen -- and the wreckage of every moment shattered by the knowledge. It is an almost nails scraping flesh from one's bones sensation, but the numbing that sets in holds, so it's more a heightened state of shock. A zombie-like existence with polaroids and postcards dangling before one's eyes and in the back of one's mind… It is a deal made with the conscious to survive the shock and the pain, an order out of chaos that is neither wanted nor invited, yet must be endured to be survived. There are -- in the wake -- moments of reclamation along the way. People who emerge or return, found like buttons in the deep pocket of a coat, fallen off, but kept to be reattached {rather than merely lost or forgotten about) when a moment presents itself to do so… The riches emerging from sorrow, offering solace and the sparkle of renewed friendship. My friend Ben, always audacious, appearing at the front door with a bottle of French red and a wry smile. He knew my mother, had had an ongoing relationship with her -- one that may've included miles of missed details, but certainly a definite appreciation of the force of her personality. This was a man introduced to me more than two decades ago at my very first Fan Fair, a once downhome gathering of the hillbilly stars and the tribes who adore them out at the hot and dusty Tennessee State Fairgrounds, by a talented not-quite-popped-yet musician named Vince Gill who said, “Anything you won't say, she will… and anything she won't say, you will.” Vince Gill was soothsayer. Though my friend Ben and I have less than no sexual attraction, we have had adventures, Christmas shopped, commiserated, been thrown out of bars (we were so much younger then), been used as bait (well, me) and bodyguard (well, him) on more than one occasion. Our lives interwoven, our truths polemic, our intense passion for living defining. But Ben grew up and became a wine broker. I remained a polisher of stars, a confidant of the famous, a writer of all that I saw. In the gap, the friendship faltered -- not out of indifference, but just the actual physical demands of demand, schedules and location. One draw of the cork, though, and two lives pour from the bottle with the bruised/blood colored liquid. Sorrow binds people together. Nothing quite like the valley of the disconsolate to learn about surrender -- and floating to the top when there's no fight left inside. My friend Ben, whose father died in the past year, understood… and he appeared. As did seeming strangers with deep intimacy and phone calls from friends who recognized the abyss-depths of my emotions. Seeming polarities, intertwined in the notion of finding some refuge from the storm -- or the offer of haven unknown until it arose in a moment. Once upon a time, golf pros would take me to Nighttown , a boite in the intellectual stronghold of Cleveland Heights, to make me feel grown-up. But somehow I ended up there with a man my own age, trying to recapture some innocence and youth lost -- tales spun of the gaps between what was seen, what was known and what was imagined. Cavernous distances that can't quite be closed with red wine and stories, laughter and tears. Yet somewhere in all of that, there is enough genuine hope and a willingness to show and be seen that a connection can be forged, one that embodies the notion of who someone might have been with the courage of getting to where they are today. In the midst of it all, a phone call… from a singer of songs, a dreamer of dreams and a companion of the farthest reaches checking in. Knowing all that had transpired with the death and the loss, Rodney Crowell had battled his own raging flu -- and was now emerging from the miasma to see how his “dear one” was coping, to remind the woman who'd closed down her father's house a few years before with a last letter written from his favorite chair listening to the Grammy-winning songwriter's “I Know Love Is All I Need” with its opening line of “I am an orphan now…” and the recognition that it is in dying that we are set free from our mortal shackles. Indeed, it is. And it is in living, breathing, loving each other that we become so much more vibrant. In our pain and that ache that throbs our veins, makes breathing such an iron-forged-act of will, that we recognize the power of those things we feel. With lunch over, there are still a few hours to be killed. Moments to waste in a way that makes them precious -- recapturing what wasn't with a net of what is ephemerally permanent. It is the actualization of a line by never-quite-huge-rocker-yet-local-hopesafe Michael Stanley that reminds us to be present in the minutes and the seconds: “All you get to keep are the memories/ So you better make the good ones last.” Cold sweat on a green glass bottle, five dollars fed into the jukebox. In a bar with picnic tables littering the floor, scuffed felt pool tables and neon behind the bottles, it is confessions of doubts and what ifs, you didn't knows? and oh, you're kiddings. It is the innocence of Hansel & Gretel, a time reclaimed that wasn't quite lost, just never actually experienced. It is Aerosmith's “Dream On” played through tinny speakers, and the hollow sound of a cue ball striking a 7-ball. In that suspended time, nothing is important, everything resonates and the years wash themselves of everything but what matters. What matters… That's what death shows you. The things that end up being erased and the things that come to the top are object lessons in truth and value. It is the nightmares that shiver you in your sleep, the things that go unseen that become absolute “don't”s in how we walk through the world, but also burdens that become too heavy to continue to carry and too intense to continue to hold back. Sometimes marinating in innocence and wonder, the easy sweetness of nothing more than right now, there is a clarity that emerges. There is an intense past of shared memories -- the roll of a fairway, the feel of a wood floor in a school cafeteria, the bands that were raging, the way being young and not knowing was so thrilling… and that is plenty. As the miles and years roll by, that basic reality gets lost. It's not something you can hold on to, nor something that can exist beyond those rare suspended moments. But it was real -- and it can come to life in the shared recollection, shine and shimmer with the mother of pearl essence of something truly precious. In a pool of grief, those moments are refuges from the anguish. In that clearing of the sorrow, you realize how lucky you are to be able to even see it, taste it, touch it. You're thankful for that beaming smile, that nod of recognition -- and you know that you can somehow go on. It's like putting in The Houston Kid, listening to “I Know Love Is All I Need” again. It is a song that releases the pain and keeps the best intentions. It offers a notion that whatever torture there was, it's over -- and the lost soul is, perhaps, getting the peace they dreamed of. It reminds you, too, that love is something that is created out of appreciation, recognition and embrace. We find love along the way… companions for the journey who see us as our better selves and inspire us to grow in that gentle glow. What we find, we sow… We harvest crops of people who make our lives tender when it hurts, and we try to offer what we have in turn. For Rodney Crowell, calling from Nashville in the wake of the funeral for a friend's mother, it was one more cobblestone in a journey that had been co-mingled most of my adult life… and yet, it was a milestone as much as a rock used as paving. If Guy Clark sang “old friends they shine like diamonds,” it is so. Not much needs to be said in those moments. It is understood -- and just the sound of a voice that is known by heart is plenty. The profundity is as simple as the lost soul turned up: it is understanding that without words, this person understands your pain, your heart, your reason -- and they want you to be okay. Faith in the falter. Faith in the other's ability to rise. They know, and you know they know. Like when Pooh reaches for Christopher Robin's hand only because “I just want to be sure is all…” There is something about the concrete, the tangible that is more than plenty. Nothing more is really needed. Just the there. And in the there, there is everything. Perfectly absolutely all of the solace, the compassion, the mercy that salves us 'til we can make it on our own. And so more time and tears have passed. Sorrow rises and falls, ebbs and flows. It is what it is, and as the tides recede again, it becomes more an act of knowledge than blind faith -- but, whether it's knowing or believing, there's the trust that this, too, shall be weathered with grace, dignity and love. In that, one can let whatever happen however it needs to. That is the greatest truth of all in a valley that seemingly has no end.

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Wednesday
Jan022008

i don’t wanna miss a thing…aerosmith live in nashville 9.19

When a man gets to be a certain age, you can count on certain things -- the knees, the hair, the hydraulic lift in the pants -- to go. It's not that God is cruel, it's that he believes in leveling the playing field -- and the (in theory) addition of wisdom has to be tempered with other lessenings. Not that you could prove it by Aerosmith's bucking, pawing assault on the senses at AmSouth. Though Steve Tyler, Joe Perry & Co. have snorted, sucked and spun through every excess known to Western (and many Eastern) civilizations over seriously extended periods of their 30 years as rock and roll heroes, there's been no diminishment of powers. Indeed, it's as if they've distilled the knowledge of excess and put it between their ears and legs, in their throats and fingers. Lessening? Not in that painfully taut Perry's 6-pack abs (replacing, no doubt the 24 bottle case previously consumed) which is flexed as he unravels stinging, sinewy guitar lines that entwine around the columns of pain and passion streaming from Toxic Twin Tyler's throat like hissing electricity needing a place to charge. Not the always androgynous Tyler in his shredded red and white striped t-shirt, his pants defying gravity as they clung to those swiveling hips in much the same way the Boston-based yowler's fingers wrap themselves around the mic as he leans into yet another seek-and-destroy vocal performance. For Aerosmith, whose Just Push Play marks a conscious decision to return to the grit and the street -- forsaking Diane Warren's turbo-hit-balladry for a band-driven, hard as diamonds take on no frills yard dog rock, the 2001 tour is about reclaiming the truth of their roots. Largely forsaking the Geffen Permanent Vacation-era hits, which heralded a return to the commercial fore for the AOR jurassics, this was a show keyed to where they sprung from and showcasing Play's leaner, meaner reality. A legitimacy grab can be a dangerous thing, especially when the act in question has drawn out a strong concentration of fans who weren't born when their first album was released. And no doubt, the superficial 'smithheads were lost for much of an evening filled with blues-based powercrunch. But for anyone who would surrender to the pummeling backbeat and take a lesson in dynamics, the sweep would carry them along until the gaps made sense. Resurrecting bawdy jewels such as "Big 10 Inch (Record of Rhythm & Blues)," which was given a randy burlesque patina -- jauntily going barrelhouse as the graphics reinforced the music being whirled out before the capacity crowd -- Aerosmith knew no shame, just torque and release, torque and release, and delicious, near-carnal-crazied laughter. Lick it off your fingers, make THAT sound, feel the moment and let the moment move one's tropic of cancer or capricorn. Defying the gender reality, is this a show that's double X? Or is it XY? Or is it about both inside us? And is it a literal read on the aforementioned? Or is it about a merger of the two chromosome combo-packs for the greater pleasure? If it's Aerosmith, it's both. There were moments, Tyler and Perry -- gaunt cheekbone to gaunt cheekbone at the mic, singer leaning into guitarist as one peeled off another acid-dripping solo --where one could only hold their breath, wondering if they were going to the wall or mattress in some hedonistic merger that would defy homoerotic splendor and dissolve everything we've ever been raised to believe about gender orientation. And that's the beauty of America's hardest working, hardest rocking rock'n'roll band: they blow our minds, our carbons out of our carburetors, our longheld biases with their full-frontal ability to dissolve longheld conceptions about what sex, what rock, what catharsis feels like. It is them and us and a long Freudian tumble without words down a narrow tunnel to a place where there's a cigarette and a wet spot -- and truly nothing more needs to be said. Not that this show was merely about the hurtling towards impromptu musical combustion. With the military precision of high tech, large production grand rock spectacles we as consumers have come to expect, Aerosmith hit their marks -- and used the resistance of "being there" to heighten the tension built. Even what should have been a stiff little moment -- moving the band en masse from the stage, through the crowd to a flyer stage in front of the lawn -- came off as a bit of solidarity with the peeps. Though being surrounded by a phalanx of beef (surely for their safety, but it did create a barrier in the see-me, touch-me, fuck-me, rip-us-to-shreds illusion they conjure), the maneuver didn't detract from the impact of giving it back to the cheap seats. Yes, the filmed vignettes were posturing and unnecessary. But as an entire lawn was lit by extended lighters, swaying gently back and forth during "Dream On," it was all forgivable. "Dream On," with its meandering melody and trippy lyrics started out all those years ago as irony cast as wisdom, but something to (hopefully) be grown into… Today it is a telling truth, a rock and roll survivors pledge and promise. Lost in the build, one can forget it's a song about wisdom, loss, desolation, aging and the price of rock & roll dreams. That there is clarity here may've been lost on the crowd, but the huddled masses yearning to be hurled against the continuum to break on through the other side got the pining and the want, that need to make more out of what's left of the ruins wreaked through excess and unknowing. "Even when light…like dusk to day" Tyler purr/whined, "Everybody's got the dues they like to pay-AY-ay" - as heads bobbed in recognition. It was a truth, one that may not have been recognized as such, but one that is tattooed on the back of the mind of every salient or even blotto concert goer. It is the bottomline -- time passes, we toil, it's all equal in the end. And, wisely and classily, the song was not sent out towards the Trade Center/Pentagon reality. Not that the tragedy was sidestepped in its entirety. Tyler congratulated the crowd for not letting anyone make them victims, for standing up and rocking. His bite-off and spat-out predecessor's taunt "Beyond Beautiful" was all acid and bile for the man whose been replaced - and that malicious napalm wince may've been just as effectively sent into bunkers where the terrorists hide. But this wasn't a show about world crisis or politics, beyond the politics of screaming guitars, stiff members, sticky nethers, kicking out the jams and finding the groove that will lift you up and leave you spent. With emphasis on "the old stuff," this show was a roiling valentine to why this is arguably the greatest rock band ever produced in America. Beyond living the lifestyle beyond the definition, Aerosmith pawed and spat and bucked and kicked their way through ferocious blues and looming heavy Zepplin-esque moments. "Sweet Emotion" is -- and was at AmSouth -- loaded with the threat of something major, something with danger, something dark and foreboding, while "Walk The Way" snapped and popped with the voltage of Sparky waiting his next prey. Even "Draw The Line" with its bass runs and charging guitar bursts found a new vitality. It reminds the faithful to bolt when necessary, but to stand and hold one's own with force and fire. This is a song of us against them -- and it was delivered in a way that broke down the sense of star and crowd. It was a violent thing in Tyler's shrieking, but it was also about empowering people to maintain the strain. Take it any way you can, but get your's while it's there for the getting. And while the street shoots through your veins, offering emotional and kinetic thrust, keep reaching for something more. If it's the trippy psychedelia that marks the brand new "Sunshine" or the circular musical form that is "Jaded," a cautionary tale of being too molded by forces that will shape, then abandon you, you can have more than given if you keep dreaming and stretching. Yes, they did the bloated "Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" -- sending it out to Faith Hill in what was either popcommentary or a reference to "breathe" in the first line -- and "Crying" got the full-on swing-it-around-a-pole vamp, but these moments weren't the soul that fired Aerosmith this night. Near the end of a long drawn out summer tour, the boys were about taking it back. Musically. Spiritually. Attitudinally. For them, it was communion of the street, a sacrament of the scrappy ne'er-do-wells who ever so occasionally as no less than the American poet Tom Petty promised "even the losers get lucky sometimes." For one night, rock and roll surged in the home of country music -- and it was good. Indeed, it was more than good: it was fire and rage and hormones and a man in a feather boa reminding everybody about that most primal tingle, whether the next morning was to bring school, a cubicle or a long day with a blue collar. For the cogs, to forget that and feel the pulse, that is the job of rock'n'roll salvation. For one night only, the reverends Tyler and Perry were putting it down -- and the sold-out masses were picking it up with the kind of fervor usually reserved for snake handling, tongue talking and full-immersion redemption. I'll give you an A-men, but it'll be wearing a short plaid skirt + a pair of four inch platforms beside. -- Holly Gleason

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Friday
Oct042002

Dreaming On…Aerosmith, Andy Parker + the Ghost of Slow Dances Past  

"Every day, I look in the mirror/ All these lines in my face gettin' clearer/ The past is gone…" It is a benediction, an acceptance, a truth projected forward rather than backwards. It is the opening of Aerosmith's meandering "Dream On," a song that's most likely about regret and reconciling how it was with what it might have been -- and scratching up enough hope to continue. Because no matter what -- life goes on. As has America's greatest rock & roll band. As have their fans. As have the people who have no idea who they are or why they matter. Time rolls forward, sweeping us up -- or if we fight it, in spite of ourselves. But there is no choice, only knowledge accepted or denied. And still it rolls. "Dream On" with its filigreed melody, its melting rhythm, its eroticism that is something far beyond carnal. It was a beacon of things unknown, things murky, things necessary -- even as they terrified the uninitiated. For all the promised mystery, though, it was mostly an as-yet-unlived siren's song for a youth lost to waste and beauty surrendered in the name of ephemerality. The young believed its promises, held their lighters aloft and screamed to join up, hurling their futures at the feet of the wanton rock gawds recklessly treading about upon their innocence like moth-chewed Persian rugs. Standing under the pavllion at what was -- and to me will always be -- Starwood Amphitheatre outside Nashville, Steven Tyler sent out this hymn to the wages paid into the night. Ardor. Ardent. Aching. For the man who defies gender and blurs sexual definition, it was a song about surviving the circus, but also an elegy for a former wife recently passed from cancer of the brain. Cyrinda Fox, a platinum blond child of New York's new wave, a punk princess paramour of New York Doll David Johansen, the inspiration for David Bowie's "Jean Jeanie," was gone. A flicker and out -- and Tyler was holding his voice aloft like so many disposable lighters on the hill of puke and sodden grass, a memory to burn itself into the eternal with no uncertain passion. "Sing women, just for today/ Never tomorrow/ Good lord might take you away…" If Tyler sang for a love that had passed, so many memories can fill each individual's gap. We all have those friends who've gone… the ones you've put your shoulder next to and howled the truth that was defiant and scary and challenged us to live broader, fuller lives. And for me, swept up in the jagged rasp, time cracked open and a too temperate cafeteria, humid from the cranked and pumping Midwestern steam heat, appeared. There was a mountain of down jackets in light and navy blue, emerald green, the occasional olive and khaki and a cherry on top dot of crimson littering a far corner. There were the wooden tables for the proper U. S. boys to have their lunch at each day -- now lining the walls beneath the windows, to maximize floor space, but also to offer a place to perch for those of us not yet dancing. The not yet dancing… in our Shetland sweaters and straight-legged cords, our topsiders and our squeaky clean stick straight hair glistening under the rainbow-gelled overhead lights. Watching the brave and the bold gyrating as white midwestern kids do -- herking and jerking in hunt-and-peck time to Bad Company and Foreigner, Mott the Hoople, AC/DC and T. Rex and being Cleveland, Ohio the Michael Stanley Band's nearly threatening "Let's Get The Show On The Road." The boys, of course, were across this vast expanse of polished wood and churning bodies. They were watching us watching them -- as not quite sure what to do as we were not quite sure what to expect. The joys of single sex education -- you know you're either the quarry or the hunter, but you're still not quite sure what to do when you're in proximity of the other. So you narrow your eyes, run your fingers through that wash of ebony or butter silk, shift from side to side, crack your gum, turn away. It all seems so ridiculous… so silly… so fraught. Until. Until that boy is suddenly standing before you. Unsure. Terrified to speak. Terrified not to. Responding isn't much easier, because… well, what does it mean? What are you supposed to say? And so it was that I'd crawled up on top of a table, feet firmly planted like baby oaks into the bench beneath me. Leaning forward, elbows on knees, chin on hands, guileless smile on face. Even in the 7th grade, I loved to watch, to see the waves of rhythm, feel the sweet energy of kids seeking some kind of solace and connection beyond anything they'd ever found. Lost in the moment, I almost didn't realize there was boy in front of me. Blonde headed, pale skin, middle height. In a pin-striped oxford cloth shirt, tender consternation embroidered on his face… lips knotted in confusion. "Would you, uhm, like to, ah… dance?" he finally pushed out. I tilted my head. Took him in. Realized it was a threshold to cross -- and knew it was a bridge that while I could never cross back over was one I'd been waiting for all night. Joe Perry's serpentine guitar part was twisting around the melody, Tyler'd not yet begin to yowl his paean to the price he'd pay. I lifted an eyebrow, savoring the moment, half smile upon my lips because this was the moment where it was all about to change. Into what, I didn't know… just that it was Andy Parker took my hand, well, my fingers really -- encircling them like fragile bits of china or baby bird bones that he might crush. Almost as if he wasn't sure what little girl digits would feel like, hoping they'd be soft, relieved that they were. Feet just the tiniest bit shuffley, heading to the middle of the semi-crowded clot of barely pubescents, shifting from side to side… "Even as dusk to dawn…" came the confession that wouldn't, couldn't resonate in real time for a bunch of children with shining eyes and faltering courage. Bridge of nose to shoulder, then the puff of cheekbone resting on graceful young boy collarbone, eyes closed as the the eyes of all the little girls not yet chosed singed into my back. The damp palms on the widest part of my shoulder blade, the part my wings would've sprouted from -- not that I wanted to fly away. No, I wanted to be right there, right then, feet barely moving in the smallest slowest circles, a young boy's breath fetid, suppressed, hardly escaping into my ear. It was so intimate, so close, wrapped up in a dancing school boy's arms. Him so tentative, so polite, so not wanting to ruin the moment, not sure what he wanted really. Me, feeling the proximity, the penetrating heat of another -- that sense that whatever was happening wasn't too risque, wasn't too fast, wasn't something to fear. Just relax and feel the jagged edges of Tyler ranting. "Sing women, sing for the years, sing for the light, sing for the tears…" And when the song ended, there was that extended moment of not knowing what to do -- not wanting to let go, not being able to stay engaged. An innocence defined and a want to that's neither seedy nor overwhelming. The end of that first slow dance is a lot like life… heady, yes, but uncertain. You can want. You can maybe even have. But what does it mean? There in the darkness of the University School lower campus dining room, it was about what was to unfold, to happen, to catch you on up and take you away on a current of blood-boiling desire. But it started sweetly, with a boy who was as startled by the pooling of something curious in the tummy, as not aware of the way it would all turn out as I was. Just as suddenly, the heat broke and a bit of sweat rolled down my front. It was sticky under the pavillion, as the tropical storm that was named Lili had rolled through Nashville just that afternoon -- and Music City was more humidor than commodores. Up on the grass, Steven Tyler was giving witness to what dreams can mean, the danger and the delight of the price paid, the reckless pleasure and the white knuckled prayers of the survivors. Somewhere up in heaven, Cyrinda Fox -- long divorced, but still an indelible part of his soul -- smiles with eyes like pinwheels and lips like thick, slick glass. Somewhere Andy Parker has no clue. May not even remember the girl in the yellow monogrammed sweater and pink buttondown shirt. But in that moment, I looked at my friend the gossip columnist, smiled brightly and winked. We didn't know each other until much later in life; but during "Dream On," we recognized the deepest secrets the other held and laughed. The promise of what could be stretched before us somewhere in another long past night. That's the beauty of great rock and roll: there's a transparency that let's us see ourselves. For Aerosmith, hands down America's greatest rock band, it was the mirror calling the evening black. --Holly Gleason 6 October 2002

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